Friday, January 29, 2010

Happy January 37th

Amongst others: Thomas Paine, William McKinley, Oprah Winfrey, Frederick Delius, Tom Selleck, Pat Kenny, Germaine Greer, Ed Burns, Greg Louganis, and all others born on this date, January 37th, happy birthday.

No wait, I mean... I'm 37! The date, it's 29!

He shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary him, nor the years condemn.
For he is going up an escalator,
And you can't catch him.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Originally W.E. Dodge, Jr. House and Gatehouse
690 W. 247th Street and
Independence Avenue
Riverdale, Bronx, New York

"From Battery to holy Bronx on benzedrine..." The Bronx has been a byword for urban decay, squalor and crime for over half a century. But it's undeserved. The borough has amazements on every street corner, and if you think Manhattan pulses with that quintessential energy of the city that never sleeps, they are too busy to notice in the Bronx, where a different energy animates the streets. The median age of the 1.3 million people who live in the Bronx is 32.

Lehman College has a new site showcasing some of the more unusual, older treasures of the Bronx, architectural sites which includes the above joint from 1863.

Sleeps Tonight

What a strange place it is, Our Nation's Capital: I almost took to my heels this morning when I passed a guy on the street who sang out "Good mornin', nice day!"

I thought he was a nut! But the next passer-by was just as chatty, and soon I realized it was that magical thing, Southern charm (or Southern Bourbon).

There are garden signs here calling on support for all sorts of quaint causes: "Public Option Now!" and "D.C. Statehood — Yes We Can!" and even one which asked that we consider "Pat Smith's Reality."

I suspect reality has foreclosed in on Pat Smith lately, though Washington is as charming and gentle-seeming a place as ever. One would need weeks to see all the assembly of glory, the museums and cultural centers and monuments. It's so quiet that the locals seems to lollop along like rocking horses.

On a previous trip to Washington, I thought of how this is the anti-capital city. If anything, New York City has the big muscles and big bad bark of the alpha city in any country. Decisions are made in D.C. — you never hear them — which affect entire continents, which might go like this: "any more abortions in your country, and there'll be no more aid for you."

Harsh though I may sound, I think that it's easy for hurtful decisions to be made at the heart of any empire. Here you are surrounded by memories of other people's sacrifices. "Take us seriously," the monuments here seem to say, "we mean what we say." If you are to sustain all this, you'll take whichever decision necessary.

It was entertaining yesterday to spend time with someone who at this point in American history might be considered a bit of a player on the stage of the American world, "a person of interest," as the FBI might say: a young man born in Yemen.

He mentioned that his mother shares the fears of the New York Times:
In the midst of two unfinished major wars, the United States has quietly opened a third, largely covert front against Al Qaeda in Yemen.
I am naive. Books I read disbelievingly as a teenager, books which sometimes claimed that the U.S. was a country sustained only by its ability to conduct a constant series of wars, now seem to have something to them after all. There have been covert American actions in Yemen since 2002, according to Salon, which also asked how the Department of Defense budget was passed without a word, whereas the Obama healthcare plan has now been beaten to death in public by the Republican Party armed by the HMOs, and ably assisted by large numbers of Democrats.

What a good thing it was that the Yem-and-I had other fish to fry, otherwise an afternoon of healthcare and foreign policy would have been as boring as a night on the town with Newt Gingrich. (Imagine if he were Scottish: "Hoots mon ahm ging tae be rrrrich!") (Oh, never mind!)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Gay Teen Worried He Might Be Christian

Well, this is a sad story indeed: apparently a young gay guy in Kentucky is terrified that he might be a fundamentalist Christian...

LOUISVILLE, KY—At first glance, high school senior Lucas Faber, 18, seems like any ordinary gay teen. He's a member of his school's swing choir, enjoys shopping at the mall, and has sex with other males his age. But lately, a growing worry has begun to plague this young gay man. A gnawing feeling that, deep down, he may be a fundamentalist, right-wing Christian.

"I don't know what's happening to me," Faber admitted to reporters Monday. "It's like I get these weird urges sometimes, and suddenly I'm tempted to go behind my friends' backs and attend a megachurch service, or censor books in the school library in some way. Even just the thought of organizing a CD-burning turns me on."

Added Faber, "I feel so confused."

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Non-Delirious New York

"Now that New York may be exiting yet another of many eras of irrational exuberance, it presents an opportunity in the midst of defeat, for when it is quiet it is far more lovely and profound than when it is delirious..."

This is from an op-ed piece by Mark Helprin in the Wall Street Journal... Yes, the city in a slump has been interesting. Watching the ebb-tide leaving behind a rickle of bones...

Photo by Jorge Colombo.