Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Never move. Ever. Never. Seriously, it's not worth it. It's too difficult. Too stressful.

I need a pill.

Two nights ago (or was it three?), as I was driving home from my second painting session of the day, thinking about all that remains to be done, about money, about the rattling can sound emerging from the engine when I depressed the clutch and taking the car to the shop, and about finances again.

It was two or three o'clock, and as I passed through the industrial area around the Gowanus Canal, I spotted a stray dog sniffing around some trash. I knew he was a stray because he was a little unkempt, but mostly because he gave me a long, searching, pleading look. He looked lost, scared, and hungry.

I thought about what to do. I couldn't bring it back to my apartment. Neither my wife nor cats would appreciate it. (She would understand, but the cats would not.) I couldn't bring it to the new apartment. My cell phone was dead, so I headed home not too far away to call 311 and find out if there was a 24-hour stray intake center somewhere in the city. I did, and there wasn't.

So, I really had to face it. I hopped back in the ailing car and headed over to where I last saw the dog. I drove around and couldn't find it at first. It wasn't too long before I found him less than a block away from the original spot. He gave me that same look. I parked the car and got out, not knowing what I would do with this dog until I could turn him over at 8:00 AM, but I couldn't face the thought of him being alone and maybe being hit by a car. He didn't approach me; in fact, looked away at the nearest trash. I whistled and got his attention, but when I took a step toward him, he took a step away, clearly afraid of me. I wasn't all that close: maybe 15 feet. I bent over and offered him my hand. He stared, wary, unsure what to make of this. I held it, and he decided I was not a good risk, turning and trotting away, across the street. I got back in the car and followed as as he headed into an alley lined by warehouses.

I lost him shortly as he hid among some parked tractor trailers. I drove slowly by, spotted a huge rat, never got back out of the car, accepted that I wouldn't be able to catch him, and was relieved to be absolved.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Mannequin Manque

First, my apologies. To my few readers, I must excuse myself because I have been very preoccupied of late. I have been hunting for an apartment, which, having signed a lease, I have been spending every free second painting, cleaning, and bug proofing. It's a great place, great price, great location, but apartment building appears to have a little roach problem. (To think I've made it all these years in the big city without confronting this.) Any advice on how best to extermin the vermin would be appreciated.

Second, and more to the point of the title: at what point did all mannequins become headless? I noticed today as I walked by a bunch of storefronts that nary a one employed dummies with anything above the neck. Some go so far as to sever all appendages, leaving a disembodied torso to model the clothing. And the prevailing color is grey. I presume the idea is so that consumers are not distracted form the product. It is effective, because the oddity of these partial bodies never quite struck me before. In fact, it was one in a different position thatn the others that made me aware. Something about a jaunty young mannequin sitting on the ground, leaning back on one are, one leg stretched out, the other bent, sporting a Hawaiian shirt and khaki shorts, and minus a head, was very very odd; much more disturbing somehow than the others. Though maybe the strangest I saw was a trunk-only model that actually hung from a clothing rack by a hook that emerged from its neck. It looked like something out of a horror movie. I don't object as much to the erect-nipple mannequin phenomenon, but I also am not sure I like having making a sexual association to an off-white torso propped up on a metal stand.

Speaking of truncation, when there is something especially stressful or difficult, I tend to obsess over it. I focus exclusively on it and am unable to take pleasure in much else. This is not good for me and I know it, but very hard to avoid. I tend to think that by thinking about something every second of the day, I will move more steadily toward a solution, though very often, a little time off would make the work go more smoothly.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Men in Charge

I normally leave politics to those better qualified, but I feel compelled to discuss a couple things here.

First, the Bush crew is doing a wonderful job pumping up military spending while slashing taxes, which is in line with the conservative strategy of starving the beast. If they force the government into fiscal crisis, programs will be slashed. In their sights are medicare, social security, arts funding (abysmally funded as is), and public schools. It's an underhanded plan being executed in plain sight, and we are accepting it.

I lately have been satisfied with the fact that GWB is a lame duck with the worst approval ratings in modern times. However, as I watch the illegal immigrant issue get more and more play, I realize how dangerous he and his cronies are. The repubs are set for a big fall in the midterm elections unless they can scare the tar out of the country again. The war in Iraq is no longer doing it for them, but illegal immigrants stealing their jobs sure can. Watch how fast this issue dies after November. They're doing it with Iran, too. The buildup has mirrored the buildup to Iraq with such eerie similarity that I'm afraid it just might work. I wouldn't have thought they'd get away with the same lame PR con job twice in a row while still wallowing in the mess they've made of Iraq. Now, I'm not so sure. How about the US renounces its WMDs and stops supporting brutal and repressive regimes? That would be huge step toward democracy in the middle east and the world over.

Finally, just a quick note on the warmed over subject of Stephen Colbert. The day after the NY Times and other papers justifiably caught flack for not mentioning his performance, while dutifully covering the rest of it. So, the Times followed, two days later with a snarky little puff piece about the effect of Colbert's performance on the blogosphere. The article mentioned that the Times had failed to cover it, but dismissed its omission with the claim that the routine wasn't very funny. Well, I thought it was fairly funny (except for the video segment), but its lack of humor value is not why it didn't get covered. It failed to get press because his harshest and most apt criticisms were aimed at the press corps for being so cowardly and uncurious in its approach to the White House. He called them out and they petulantly and unprofessionally decided that they didn't think it was very funny and refused to cover it. Well, Colbert got the last laugh judging from the unprecedented volume of downloads the clip generated.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

In the Desert

I returned from CA at dawn yesterday from my first prolonged encounter with the desert. A friend just wrote me saying that the desert always made him feel small. I can understand that. The scale of the thing is just enormous. And one of the feelings I always seem to get from wilderness trips is a sense of perspective. Backpacking reduces life to its essentials: food and shelter. Sadly, it's usually missing a third essential: sex. (Insert Brokeback Mountain joke here.) We do cheat on the essentials by using all sorts of fancy gear, but we don't get much practice at this type of stuff. And while food becomes one of the main focuses of the day, we certainly don't catch it ourselves. That involves skill way beyond what I posses, and I can't imagine the lengths one would have to go to in the desert (catching a jackrabbit would be a good, if very difficult, start).

But I digress. I can see how the desert could make one feel small, but what struck me most about it was its stillness. We were there during wildflower season: at what seemed to be the peak of plantlife in the area. Still, while the calls of birds were common, missing was the rustling of trees. Nothing had leaves. All was spiny, thin, lacking in much surface area. There was wind, but the overall effect was one of almost overwhelming quiet. Every sound seemed to stand out in isolation. And the sun and heat being what it is, moving quickly is often not a good idea. For much of the day, there is no shade, and the animals seek shelter from the sun. Even the lizards and snakes, who sun themselves for energy, retreat under rocks during the hottest part of the day.

I learned the wisdom of this on our second day, a day in which we gained somewhere approaching 1,000 ft. in elevation. We started the morning with an unencumbered hike further down the trail, then returned to wait out the worst of the day in our tents. 2:00 seemed like a fair time to head out. But the two hours or so it took to make the climb under the unrelenting sun sapped me like nothing I've quite experienced before. When we reached the plateau and had finished climbing, I felt as if I had lost a good deal of my lung capacity. I couldn't breathe too deeply without coughing, and I felt flushed and dehydrated. I drank water greedily. It was another few hours, after the sun's power had begun to wane, and after I had sat in the shade of a massive granite boulder group and slugged down nearly two liters of water, that I began to feel better. Still, I felt somewhat asthmatic until the next day.

Which is to say that I think my discovery on this trip (one which some might call self evident) is that the desert does not reward frantic effort. It is a place of waiting. Slowness, stillness. And whether the heat, the constant sunlight or all the sand in the air and in my lungs were responsible for my condition, had I followed the example of the animals that live in the desert, I might have been slightly more comfortable.

I make it sound like I had some kind of gruelling time. I actually loved it. I enjoyed the conversation, the scenery was the best I've seen since I camped in the Sierras, and sleeping under the stars without a tent or hordes of insects to bother me was incredible. The night sky is not something I get to appreciate often here in NYC.

We did well, all in all. We carried in 10-12 liters of water each and used almost all of it. I don't think a trip much longer than 2 days/2 nights would be feasible. After all, I don;t relish the idea of carrying more than 12 liters of water. And we did not see a single drip of water while we were out there. It is, after all, a desert.

Animals seen:
newts (or something like them)
larger lizards of unspecified species
horny toad
a few other birds I can't name
a snake (smallish. can't remember the name)

Flies large and small
Red ants (whether fire ants or not, I don't know. What I do know is that I was not happy to pick up my pack to discover I had set it down on a red ant hill and that it was now crawling with ants)
A tick (happily not in my vicinity)

Not Spotted:
Coyotes (though their tracks were evident in several places)
Gila monsters

High Temperature: around 85
Low: around 50