Monday, March 31, 2008
Here's a sad article about the state of affairs for a gay couple who moved to Idaho from New Jersey. One of the guys in the couple is no longer protected under his partner's health insurance because Idaho has forgotten the basic tenets of our constitution.
America has always had a bad record of being oddly selective when it comes to the basic promises set forth by our founders. i guess it starts at day one, when the declaration of independence made all it's great claims, but was specific to white wealthy straight men only. slowly and begrudgingly, through civil war and civil unrest, these specific definitions were widened to include larger groups of people, like women and minorities.
even to this day it's obvious that even these newcomers to freedom and america's promises haven't yet been fully included. differences in socio-economics for these groups are still very lopsided. but where i think we are most egregious and mostly still confused by basic ideals, is with the issue of gay marriage.
how is it that people STILL don't get it?! why is it still ok to say that a group of americans DON'T deserve the same rights as another group of americans. why are we still arguing whether or not being gay is a choice. WHO GIVES A FUCK IF IT'S A CHOICE?!?! are we not allowed to choose our religion? are we not allowed the freedom to enjoy our lives and feel protected in our choices? the gay genes question is obviously a red herring that further removes the argument from the real issue. that people need equal rights to live the lives that america promises.
In San Francisco, I had the pleasure of driving by city hall every morning while Gavin Newsom's office was dolling out marriage licenses to same sex couples. it was a moving sight. a line of people going down the steps and around the corner. all dressed up, all ecstatic to be able to do what every body else just takes for granted. its not just about insurance and protecting your loved ones, its about love itself. these people were in love and up to that point were told by the rest of the country that their choices, although tolerated, were not afforded any legal standing, or any recognition at all.
i can understand the few religious jerks across the street yelling about hell fire, because i am willing to accept that 5% of any population is dysfunctional and incapable of rational thought. i understand that there are people who quote scripture that was written by people who threw stones at women because they went outside while having their periods. i get it. not everybody is blessed with a full set of cards. those people i can ignore. but in Idaho, 69% of the people voted to deny gays basic rights. that's more then just the dysfunctional having their say. that's a majority of people denying the rights of a minority. there's really no other way to look at it.
i wonder if these people realize that when america finally figures it out, in maybe 10-20 years, that it will be footage of people like them, that we watch on the history channel and are shocked at how hateful, and stupid they are. the same way we do now when we watch old footage of white supremacists in the south shouting about the evils of integration in the 60's. wake up people of Idaho and america. rights are not selective. marriage and love is universal. protecting the one you love is an inalienable right. just look at the top picture. if thats not true, unadulterated love, then i don't know what is. when i saw that picture i realized that these two women probably know more about love then billions of heterosexuals on this planet. billions.
the fact that i feel the need to even explain this should be seen as a humiliation for america. a fundamental shortcoming of a system that was meant to cover everyone. it's like getting a slap on the wrist from an adult. actually, i'd love to hear some dissenting point of views. like why it would destroy the sanctity of marriage? does it really? anybody who thinks that their marriage is in danger because of gay marriage is clearly having internal issues with their own gayness. the only marriages that would be in trouble are the ones that include people who are closeted about their actual sexuality. and for those sorry souls who can't be honest with themselves or their spouses, a change in the law is not going hinder OR help them.
UPDATE: May 15, 2008
Looks like California just beat New York in recognizing the rights of gay people. As a New Yorker I am humiliated and disappointed. As a human being, I am excited for this happy turn of events. it's obviously just a matter of time for until the rest of this stupid country to see the error of its ways...
I have had the opportunity to take jobs and live in 3 cities besides NY. Tel Aviv, which was brief but extremely dramatic and informative as to how to go somewhere far and different, completely by myself and without connections. as well as L.A. and San Francisco, which i allowed more time for, and really got to experience fully.
Where this has left me, is in something of a confused state. now that i am back in my hometown 6 years after moving west. i find myself caught between nostalgia for a NY that really doesn't even exist anymore, and this changed city which i can't really understand since i feel like i outgrew it, or it outgrew me while i was away. the aspects of new york, and my old friends who live here, are so drastically different then they were just over a half a decade ago, that it's as if i returned to an unfamiliar place. one that i hadn't even really lived in yet. I have become somewhat schizo about what place i identify with the most. where before, i always assumed that NYC was the only place for me.
It's one of those things where, while i was in california, i had this static idea of NYC in my mind. one that stayed put. i missed certain places, certain people, and certain activities. but it's never like that. everything moves. the places change, the individuals change, and naturally activities follow.
the lesson learned for me, is that it's a waste of time to miss a place in such a way. especially a vibrant city that has so many moving parts. i have this in mind now, when i consider the sunny weather, year long beach and mountain access, and creative edginess of the cali cities. the people i miss there are certainly not the same as they were, things have changed there while i have been living here in the east. so i shouldn't be bothering myself with the idea that i would be having a better life in SF or LA if i were there. It wouldn't even be the same place i am picturing, if i were to go back now. I have to think about these places in terms of logistical differences, not social ones.
one logistic is weather. making it through this (relatively mild) winter has certainly shown me the importance of sunshine in my daily life. now that i am all too aware of how easy it is to pick up and move 3000 miles to live near the beach. believe me, i consider that every time i wake up here and see grey sky out the window. i consider it while picking which thick jacket i will need to wear to brave it outside. it has given me all that much more respect for california transplants who weather years in NY after growing up out there. it's HARD to adjust. I had no idea about this before i left. Winter was winter and the seasons just did their thing. but its more then that now. i HATE sitting in my car waiting for it to warm up. I hate wearing a winter hat and getting an itchy head. I hate worrying about where to put my jacket in a bar or lounge. Its the little things that add up.
it's almost a curse for me, because had i remained in NY, none of these things would be bothering me right now. the absolute gentrification that has taken place since the 80's was something that i adjusted to as it went. it was something that coincided nicely with me getting older, and more gentrified in my own tastes. i really don't need to worry about my mom or sister walking home anymore, or running constantly from roving groups of "wilding" punks. i am kind of passed that in my life. plus it happened so slowly that while i lived here, it was hard to notice. its only really obvious if you leave for a while, or if you think back to specific memories, like smoking joints in the 84th street quad movie theatre. WHAT?!
but, i am not passed loving being in a colorful city. a place where it's too crazy and creative to be over-ran by financial advisers and bankers with nannies and strollers. a place that has some grit to it, yet isn't so far off the beaten path just to be affordable. in new york, these places have been shrinking and receding to the suburbs. to the point where you have to go WAY uptown or to an outer borough, like brooklyn. of course, for me, if i wanted to live in an outer borough to have affordable rent and grit, where having a car is more needed and possible, well then i would move to LA.
brooklyn to me, is like LA or Oakland (or even cleveland). flat, not really urban, not really country. it misses out on the best of both worlds and ends up with none. Venice California is like that, only without the bad weather, with a beach thats sunny all year, and with just as many pretty, young, and creative people living in bigger, much nicer apartments and houses. it also seems less desperate about its self image. i get the feeling when i am in brooklyn or downtown that everyone is almost insecure about being hip. hipness here is aggressive. its like a dying breed raging against its own slow defeat. downtown needs desperately to differentiate itself from the rest of the island, because it is aware of it's limited lifespan and how soon it will have to leave. Venice just started, and it seems to go at a slower pace in changing. probably because people end up staying longer.
There's also San Francisco to consider. SOMA is a lot like brooklyn too, only its right in the middle of the city proper of SF. you can walk there from union square. its hip, its edgy, artistic. and affordable. you can go surfing and snowboarding in the same weekend, in places that are completely wild and dramatic. A lot of san francisco is like what NYC was 15 years ago. it's wild and crazy at night. there's a sense of freedom there that NY has lost. again its little things like noticing that people are smoking a joint in the movie theatre yet that's OK. the police have streets to mind so they don't bother people who don't actively harm other people. its a place that still has normal priorities. a place that puts social programs, gay rights, the war, and the environment way out in front of nationalism and unregulated markets. new york was once like that.
Of course, there's also a grain of salt. i speak about certain areas only. north of russian hill is totally gentrified, completely uncreative, and down right stuffy. as well as foggy. places like the mission and soma are much better weather, as well as much cooler areas. so SF is changing like NY. i just can't tell how far a place like that can take gentrification, since the market and the money there is on a smaller scale. San Fran is 1/10th the size of NYC. something that you can feel after living there for a year or more. i started noticing how often i ran into the same people. ESPECIALLY when i was single. it was more or less confining in that aspect. imagine being on a date, being sat down at a table one over from an ex, and then realizing you had also dated the waitress. that's San Francisco.
New York is a great city, but it is one that is highly transient. it gets flooded by people from all over, who have no awareness of the city's dirty history, they stay a while, and then move back out to the suburbs. so the city basically has no awareness of itself from a few years before. like in my neighborhood, i can't even find a place that puts a normal amount of cream cheese on a bagel. this isn't because cream cheese has increased in price. it's because the people hired to spread it, and the people who order it, have no idea what the normal amount was a decade ago. there are no expectations set in stone. so there I am, the only one standing there going WTF?! it can be isolating being a native here.
i walk through a neighborhood that used to be small hip great cafes, and small mom and pop pizza places. now there's starbucks, which is 4-5 bucks for a cup of coffeee that isn't fresh, and then there's a domino''s pizza. domino's pizza is so far below what ny pizza is supposed to be, that it's ASTOUNDING to me that Domino's can even exist here. who is BUYING that stuff? why did they move to NY and spend so much money, when they just want food from a mini mall in ohio?
and then finally, what is obvious about people in ny, is that more and more of my old friends are moving further and further out, some as far as california, actually. compared to the friends i made in california, they are much more uptight about small things, like making plans. its a lot of effort here, because distances are growing, where in california car culture, going far is normal, and in SF, there just isn't much distance to cover. people work much harder and many more hours in general so schedules are limited here.
plus you can't go out without waiting an hour to get seated, places worth going to are often so sceney or crowded that half your energy is spent on just sitting down. people are less likely to invite people over, because homes are so cramped. backyards and front yards only exist outside of the city proper.
of course my take on this is specific to my own situation and experiences. i left NY in my twenties, a time that seems to be NY's sweet spot for fun, a time where you would trade in comfort for excitement and so would all your friends. now that i am older, my priorities are shifting more to quality of life then proximity to the center of the universe. but who knows what's better? it's all about timing anyways.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
one great way to vent young angst and energy was the Mosh pit. when i was in high school there was a surge in popularity for hardcore music and thrash. sunday matinee shows at CBGB were basically a place that you could go to fight wildly like a madman, punching and kicking and completely losing it, WITHOUT fighting. there was nothing personal about getting punched in the face in a mosh pit. it was a zone free of personal politics and was more or less sanctioned ultra violence.
my friends and i could do it just about anywhere. we used to do it in confined spaces, like small bedrooms and elevators. my friend Ami has even made a short based on it. the characters in his animation are real people. the long haired guy was Lorca, a friend of ours who was a real new york heavy metal character. he died in a hit and run in LA about 10 years ago. LORCA R.I.P., the guy playing the guitar is Lips, he's now a musician. the big guy reading a newspaper i think is Blitzer, he's an ad exec now. the skin head in the corner flipping through records is no doubt Lefty, and i think the room is supposed to be his old room. Ami is most likely the guy on the bed drawing. he's an artist whose site is in my list of links.
the animation reminds me of how we used to be so quick to explode and unload punches and kicks on each other. Ami is very tall and one particularly hardcore mosh session where lorca smashed into the corner of a door and left a big lock of his flowing black hair stuck hanging from it, Ami somehow managed to jump from the bed and smash his head through Left's big round light fixture. it was one of those large glowing orb lights and Ami's head disappeared into it like suddenly was wearing it like an astronaut helmet.
It was a great way to use up that young energy in a way that didn't victimize anybody. the only victims were us, and we liked it. punching your friend in the face and not getting angry is a magical thing.
Friday, March 28, 2008
often my dreams have the tendencies of a storyline, with a purpose and a well laid out environment. like imagined cities and worlds. sometimes they are fragmented and often cross reference themselves, and occasionally they even taunt me.
the dream i had the other night had all of these tendencies. A purpose, a well laid out map, a lucid moment, and then taunting. It started with me in a large wooden castle, with large halls and a huge arts and crafts fair. there was an announcement that the land needed people to sign up for the navy because there was a submarine out in the ocean that needed to be nuked. the nukes were small and could be fired by a bazooka like gun, over the shoulder.
so, OF COURSE i volunteered. the next thing i remember is that i met my platoon Sargeant, or whatever you would call it in the navy. he looked kind of like Louis Gossett Jr. when he was the drill sarge in an Officer and a Gentleman but was bearded, another skill i have. creating random characters that i have never met. he turned out to be very nice and said that he knew i was just a regular citizen and that he would go easy on me if i listened and did my job. i liked him and wanted to stay on his good side, so when he ordered me to go get my uniform and gun i immediately ran down some stairs to go to the place where uniforms were handed out.
suddenly i realized i didn't actually know where that place was in the castle. so there i was asking all these old arts and crafts ladies where i could find the uniforms. every lady i asked told me something different and i ended up running all over the labyrinthine castle to no avail. it was getting more and more frustrating, then i heard over some loudspeaker that the mission had already left for the ocean.
it was at that moment that i realized i was dreaming. so, what usually happens when i realize that, is I suddenly conjure up super powers. any kind of power i want. my frustration with the lady who was currently giving me bunk directions made me lose my temper. i remember yelling something like, "i don't need this shit! i am LATE!". i then raised my hands at the roof and just willed the entire castle to explode up. the roof and most of the walls blew out into a million splinters and everybody was running around covering their heads.
then i flew up into the newly revealed blue sky and arched out over the ocean. i flew for a while at incredible speeds, dipping low down to ocean surface and running my fingers over the tips of the large dark waves. my control over things was complete at that moment. i was playing god, or superman, or better yet, Northstar from Marvel's Alpha Flight. he could fly super fast. his only flaw was that he was canadian.
i spot the battle ship off in the distance approaching fast. you know, the one that i was supposed to be on but missed. there, i find a bunch of my friends and the sarge fumbling with the nukes and not being able to load them into the bazooka. so again, i knew that it was time for the super powers.
i said "stand back, i'll take care of it." much like a superhero would, all proper and what not. i flew up again and further north. over some icebergs and an ice shelf. i looked down to find the submarine but realized that the water was really dark and looked really cold. that's when my dream started to taunt me. commonly, when i am in super power lucid mode, i get cocky. it's like i am dealing with the greek idea of hubris, and wont let that behavior stand. or maybe i just lose confidence in the fact that i am dreaming.
i start to show off for my friends. that's when the powers start puttering. the best part about that, is its never a complete shutting down. its like i can only do barely cool things, often flying ability becomes the ability to just float up about a foot and hover. or my ability to smash things with my mind becomes more like the ability to tap on them and make them rock in place a bit. something anybody could do with their hand.
in this dream i started to lose my flight. getting lower and lower to the cold dark water. it was scary, but mostly annoying because i knew my friends were watching. then i got fed up and just decided to end the dream. fucking super powers. never there when you need them.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
the one job that i took, that was free. and free to a point that i don't think CEO's can even understand since EVERYBODY has a client, or somebody to answer to, even clients. no, bike messengering was kind of a solo show. all i had to do was maintain a relatively distant relationship with one dispatcher. a guy who could care less when or where i made my first call from, or if i did at all. there were absolutely no rules, except that packages should make from point a to point b in less then 2-3 hours. that's as easy as it gets. of course, the faster i delivered, the sooner i could move onto the next package and rack up money. but i had low rent, and a roommate. so i had no pressure to ride like the wind. instead, i worked at my own pace, which was a pretty good pace since i did like to ride fast, and i did find that the mystery of the next destination was enough to motivate me. i would go from a secretive back section of the U.N. to some sweatshop in chinatown, to a modeling agency, to city hall. all before lunch.
the narcissist in me loved the way receptionists looked at me like a wild beast, or a free spirit. they had both a bit of fear and longing in their stares. some pretended superiority, but i knew the truth. they were miserable. i was having a blast. i was out there, all day, in the concrete jungle. seeing more in an hour then they saw all month. it was perfect for somebody like me, right out of college. not yet ready to ready to be a "yes" man, but ready to be self sufficient. it also allowed me my final truly informative and reflective relationship with the city. it was 1995, and new york still had a little bit of grit. a small amount i'll give you, but it was still there. i wore my kryptonite chain lock over my shoulder for quick access, just in case. occasionally grabbing it threateningly to ward off aggressors, be they car-born, or foot-born.
many incidents fill my memories of that time. one absolutely humiliating fall happened right in front of the entire female freshman class of NYU. hundreds of girls were collected out in front of one of the school buildings waiting to sign up for their first college classes, it was a warm day at the end of august. there was a row of cones set up to block traffic in a line a few feet out from the crowd. they were a perfect improvised race track for me to do some quick showing off to the hordes. i proceeded to swerve in and out of them like a freestyler would. it was all going beautifully until the cones suddenly, and without warning, doubled in frequency from every ten feet, to every 5 feet. i tried to quickly double the snap turns i was making but ended up immediately overwhelmed. my tire hit a large cone dead-center sending my handles sideways. the front wheel locked sideways, and i flipped over forwards violently. i totally cleared the handlebars and rolled twice until i hit a parked car.
the fall must have been so bad looking that i didn't even earn any laughter from my audience. just some gasps of astonishment, and a few "ewww"s. needless to say, the pain i felt all over my body was not nearly as bad as the stinging humiliation i was going through. these girls were probably experiencing one of their first days in the big city, and there i was, playing the town idiot. i brushed myself off, tried to smile, and then jumped on my bike. of course, my front tire was a taco, so that added to my embarrassment. i had to pick the bike up and limp it around the corner to lick my wounds and quietly fix the bike in peace.
another, somewhat crazy situation came up when i was off my bike, crossing 6th avenue for a double delivery (two deliveries on the same block). i was waiting for the light, standing in a cloud of pedestrians which i guess, had drifted out into the street a few feet. you know when there's enough people that those out front drift and everybody follows without thinking that they might be in the line of traffic. well all of a sudden, everybody jumps back as a herd, and i am suddenly face to face with a fast moving taxi. he was no doubt swerving close to people to make a point. that it was his street while the light was green.
well, i just barely jumped back in time. the obvious intent of the driver annoyed my instincts and i slapped my hand on his windshield. only i didn't factor in his speed being additive to my hand's speed. my hand was completely flat and opened so it simply compressed, but didn't break. what did break was this asshole's windshield. i didn't even notice it except for a guy behind me asked me if i was ok and told me the windshield appeared to have smashed. i looked at my hand which was, indeed, covered in a glassy dust. it seemed a bit numb, but was otherwise ok. the cab made the turn at the corner and i then shrugged and started walking.
about a block later, the cab driver grabbed my arm. he must have jumped out and chased back after me. he started yelling about how i broke his windshield. i calmly explained to him that it was my arm, which he had in fact hit with his car. i realized that he probably didn't realize that if a car hits a body, even if its a hand, then the car is liable. pedestrians do have the right of way no matter how annoying we are.
he said that he was going to call the cops, so i shrugged, feeling pretty sure that i was in the right. cabs can't be used as threatening missiles just to make a point, which is what he did. but then, when a cop car was passing by, he waved them over and proceeded to fabricate. he told them, right in front of me, that i had hit his windshield with some kind of hard object. i was incredulous. i immediately showed them my red hand and said he hit me with his car. they looked at each other, very bored and annoyed, and then said they would call it in since they were on their way somewhere else.
so they pulled away and he got on a public phone to make a call to his dispatcher. i realized that everybody who might have seen the incident was already blocks away and that it was going to be my word against this guy's word, most likely in court. it seemed like some bullshit i didn't need or deserve since i had almost gotten creamed. so i switched modes from indignant citizen, to stealth master escapee. waiting for an opportunity to make myself sparse. as soon as Mr. Creative Storyteller turned his back to me i sped off through the crowd towards the subway entrance.
but knowing the train's propensity for being absent when you really need it, and knowing that this guy would assume instantly that i had gone down the stairs, i knew well enough that going that way would be a dead end. instead i ran around the steps and headed into the lobby of the building right behind it. i slowed my speed as soon as i was in sight of the doorman, and then coolly announced that i had a package for the 10th floor while showing him my bag o mail, and my sign in sheet. he nodded and i slipped into the elevator.
i remember thinking how crazy the situation was. how suddenly i was fleeing the scene of an "accident". and that potential for trouble had just doubled. so i put a cap on from my bag. i reversed my jacket. i took my messenger bag off and grabbed it by the top handle, so it would look more like a briefcase. i then rode the elevator for a minute. got off, and walked out calmly in the opposite direction, like there was nothing wrong. i saw out of the corner of my eye, the driver was in the middle of the street spinning around trying to find me. but i looked too different and wasn't in a rush.
i walked around the block and got back to my bike which, ironically, was right next to his parked cab. which, DID indeed have a smashed windshield. i got on my bike and rode off. out of pure spite i flipped him the bird, just in case he was looking my way. that's what he gets for swerving into pedestrians and then lying about how his windshield broke. justice was served that day. at least that's how it seemed to this guy. maybe he actually got stiffed for the windshield by his company and docked his pay, while his sick wife was in the hospital. or maybe he learned not to make a point with his two ton vehicle. i like to think it was the latter.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
I was riding the subway home through the Bronx one evening. it was well after dark because i was on the Fieldston soccer team and practices ran late. i remember i was with three friends, Ages, Dear, and Andy (Andy didn't tag so i can't think of a good alias for him, hence his actual name). Ages and Andy were both stars of the football team and pretty large in stature. Dear is a relatively large guy too. but up there, at that time of night, their kind of size didn't come in all that handy.
we had just binged on chocolate milk and Twinkies, as was the norm after practice. there was a deli right before the 242nd street station that gladly unloaded it's junk food on all the kids going home. i guess i had eaten rather quickly because my stomach was killing me. i was also blasting KRS-ONE on my walkman and i always had huge headphones at that time in my life. we were basically the only people on the train, as often happened because we were going against traffic headed into Manhattan. plus it was late and we were in the Bronx.
at 232nd street, about 15 very large, very intimidating guys got on our car. they took one look at us and immediately we were surrounded. back then, it was always good to run at the first sign of trouble. but sometimes running was too late, and would just turn violence into a certainty. plus my belly was starting to feel really funktastic in a bad way.
immediately there were hands darting in and out of our pockets, and one of them was already wearing my headphones. he seemed like the comedian of the bunch because he started dancing and saying "the white boy likes BDP, yo!", they slapped a few pounds after one of them made another joke about my whiteness. something i grew used to back then. whenever somebody tells me i can't possibly know what racism feels like, i just think that they didn't grown up being a pale jewish kid in a domincan/peurto rican neighborhood. believe you me, i took plenty of lumps for my ethnnicity, or perceived lack of. i know thats not the same as the historical socio-economic injustice of racism, which i don't face, but at least i know what it's like to bleed because of my *lack of* color. but i wasn't getting offened, namely because i was feeling like i had a brick in my gut.
so there we were, wondering when the fists and kicks would start flying. andy's eyes were darting wildly around, looking for an out. then, for no reason and like a complete fuck up, andy said "yo gabe, why'd you give up your headphones like that?". he said it loudly enough so that everybody heard him. Dear gave me a look as if questioning "what the fuck!?" about Andy. i could have kicked him right there if things weren't already so tense. but instead, all i could think of was the huge pain in my belly, and how far i was from a toilet. the ache had swiftly evolved into a large explosive pressure on my intestines. the danger of the situation had actually been demoted to priority number two. it was sudden enough that i didn't even get a chance to respond.
the jokester who had my headphones on looked at andy somewhat annoyed, and started reaching inside his jacket. he pulled out what looked like a curved walking stick with something metal running along side of it. he said, "yo bitch, if we wanted to take your shit we would, you know?" and to make his point, he flicked the wooden handle, and out flipped a fucking SAW. with teeth and everything. this crazy mofo was carrying a wood saw under his jacket. andy nodded at him and fell silent.
the tension was now at an all time high, but so was the pain in my stomach. all i could think was that i must be having a baby. it was moving south, and i was just more then ready for whatever to come out, even if it meant shitting in my pants in front of everybody. the pain was incredible.
so what happened next, is an amazing event, one that has me owing my butt hole for more then just relief. it saved my ass in more ways then one. it ignored the tension in the train car, and just did what it had to do. it, or i should say I, farted.
it was one of those huge, bass toned, seat vibrating explosions. kind of like a fog horn. the guys who had placed themselves so carefully as to cut off my escape melted back from me yelling and screaming," oh shit" and "god DAMN". before i was even through releasing all that Twinkie and Nestle's Quik pot pourri, the gang had retreated to the other side of the car. then there was silence. we looked at them, they looked wide eyed at me. and then the laughter started. the fart had flipped the situation completely, and these guys clearly thought i was crazy. or funny. either way, i had somehow managed to earn respect, because in a few minutes of "yo, you crazy!" to "damn son, what did you eat?!". we were all exchanging names, and i was given back my headphones.
they went to the school down the hill from us, De Witt Clinton. a school where i had wrestled a guy who had a beard and a wife and kid. a place that was ROUGH. but somehow we all managed to enjoy the rest of the trip. without saws, and stomach cramps.
i love this blog:
Gotham City Insider
our crew's favorite spot for murals was a test in extreme graffiti writing. it pushed your ability design under confined spaces and perspective, while testing your balance and disclipline. kind of like a kung fu movie.
there was a large wall at the very end of the west side. it held up the neighborhood from the lower tracks used by metro north. before trump plopped his foul yuppy towers and populated the area with snooty bridge and tunnel a-holes, there was abandoned grass and this mammoth wall. the wall had a ledge about 3 feet wide running along it above the tracks. the ledge was about a story and a half above the tracks and it was PERFECT for graffiti since it allowed you to paint very high up, high enough to be seen from the west side highway.
it was a perfect place to do murals, out of the way from most people and cops, and it did have audiences, in the form of amtrak trains full of commuters to watch us as we worked. there were no cell phones so we could even moon the trains without worrying about some good Samaritan reporting us to 911 as they whizzed by at 50 mph.
we also learned to work in a huge scale, like 25 foot letters, WITHOUT the ability to back up and gauge how they were looking. we learned to use arm widths to make sure we were staying to the correct scale. it was a serious task, and the design skills learned there are useful for me to this day. i even painted it in college to pay homage to it. i posted a pic of the painting above.
one moment stands out. there were many moments there, like the time we used 30 buckets of paint and a roller brush on a pole to make a tag that was at least 100 feet wide, to be seen by new Jersey or a plane passing over. but the moment i think of was when my friend Self, an incredible and focused artist, took a backwards digger off the ledge. possibly proving that you can sometimes be TOO focused.
we had been working on our murals for an hour or two. i guess he had taken perhaps one too many deep breathes near the can, basically huffing spray fumes. add that to limited visibility, and then possibly stepping back a bit too far to look at his work. i was busy spraying my own masterpiece so i only heard him cry out, and looked just in time to see him start to fall backwards.
luckily, it was spring, and several small saplings had sprouted out of the filth right below where he was on the high ledge. so he ended up falling backwards through these saplings, tearing off springy branches as he fell. what should have landed him in the hospital just landed him in this anecdote. he had fallen backwards 15 feet, all in the name of his art. he proved himself like a shaolin monk. he know-the-ledge now. Self was now the guy who flew backwards of the wall, and lived to tell the tale.
native new yorkers should recognize this poster. it was one of those highly detailed drawings where you could find all sorts of shit if you looked closely. there were pimps, hookers, people shooting up, muggings, lunatics, garbage and all sorts of sundry old new york stuff. this poster doesn't apply at all anymore. a newer version would include, at the worst, tourists, disney stores, starbucks, ipod touting suburbanites being rude because they think that's is how you blend in with the real new yorkers. this poster is "dated". this is my ode to the chaos and flavor nyc has lost...
I went abroad for my Junior year in college. my sophomore year had been kind of bumpy at the university of Wisconsin, i had lost three friends. one had drowned in one of the two lakes in Madison Wisconsin after a party, one had died in his sleep suddenly from an aneurysm, and another had simply disappeared without a trace. he had disappeared under such suspicious circumstances that there were detectives and police looking for him. probably still are. plus, i was in bumpy standing with my college girlfriend who had just come back from a year abroad, and the unfortunate truth about how faithful either of us had been was out.
So i grabbed the offered opportunity to go abroad and chose Barcelona. best time of my young life, at least it was the most sustained fun and adventure i had ever had to that point. i also got to travel for over 6 months as i planned to stay almost a year, but was only studying in spain for about 5 months. i had many crazy adventures and experiences during that year, many of them i plan on going over here, but one just pooped into my head and i wanted to put it to pen.
I decided around may, that i needed to see Scandinavia, the guys who i had been traveling with at that time wanted to go to amsterdam. i had been there, several times before, so i decided to break off from them. i was a bit worried about traveling for so long alone, but that was trumped by my need to see something new. so i made a plan to meet them in paris in a month and jumped on the first train north out of Basel switzerland.
immediately i realized that everything changes when you are alone. people stop assuming you are from so far away, because they don't hear your accent or dialect and don't see you as part of a group. people are also a LOT more likely to interact with you because i guess you become less intimidating and more like them. i made friends in seconds. i thought i would listen to a lot of music that trip, but i probably listened to less music if i had been with my friends. people never stopped addressing me.
i partied all night on the overnight train with a group of young swedes who got me nice and drunk and told me about an old ship that was converted into a hostel in stockholm. they also swore that i would love chewing tobacco because it clears your thoughts. i took their word for it since they seemed to know so much stuff that i had never heard of. my glorious memory of finally arriving at stockholm in the early morning hours, was with half my body leaning far out of the train compartment window with two swedes holding my legs, while i sprayed vomit all over stockholm's welcoming platform as the train was slowing down. my thoughts really didn't seem all that clear from the tobacco, in retrospect.
i found the ship hostel and got a small cabin with a little round ship window that was half under water so i got both a view of the city across the water and the fish world underneath the surface. after that i made friends with the guys who ran the place and they convinced me to go to several parties with them in the city. they turned out to know everybody and ended up going to several underground parties. things i would have never have gotten to see with a group of fellow Americans. the next day, nursing my hangover, i was in a park in stockholm, eating a budget style bologna sandwich i had made. a group of young people sat down in the grass near me, and beckoned for me to join them for a picnic. they turned out to be a church group. not the kind you might encounter in the US though. they had no interest in pushing there beliefs on me, they were legitimately interested in what i had to say and what things were like in NYC and america. i felt very comfortable with them, and even got a flirtatious vibe from one of the girls in the group. they invited me to a dance that night that their church was having. i showed up and ended up hanging out with them all night, and even doing a little kissy kissy with the girl, whose name was Sif. i swear to god, she even had pigtails.
after a week or so there, i moved on to oslo and then crossed the mountains of norway on one of the highest trains in the continent. it was daylight almost 24 hours a day up there, so i remember it as being always light and inviting, but really rugged and dramatic. one thing that caught my attention was the fact that the train would stop, literally in the middle of nowhere on the side of a snow covered mountain, and some people, including old people, would get off and strap on skis, and just shush off into the wilderness. they were like spartans of the north. the cheer and sunlight around me was constant. although it's probably quit the opposite in january, these were the people who populated wisconsin and minnesota, after all.
then the train slowly started descending into summery green forests and the rocky viking coastline and into Bergen. this small town in Norway wedged between two fjords. it defies all your imagined visions of what this kind of place should look like. it is an ancient viking town, with two dramatic mountains spilling into a rugged coastline. there's an old viking castle out on the water that really has the effect of transporting you back a thousand years to pagan times and norse gods.
when i arrived, i was immediately taken in at the train station by a nice lesbian couple who offered me a bedroom for cheap. they turned out to be great people, and they had a really cool young kid who was hell bent on showing me all the skateboard spots in town. i spent a day with them seeing sights, and then shopping for dinner. at dinner they explained to me how great scandinavia is for people of all lifestyles and how helpful the social services are. it was very interesting stuff for me because i was really into political economics at school.
then on the second day, i was just sitting in the town square. i remember watching in awe, as a crazy festival that marked their Independence day, their school graduation, and also seemed to have something to do with flying, was going on all around me. there was bungee jumping in the town square, while there were dozens of hang gliders flying down from the mountains above and landing in the town fountain. while groups of revelers dressed in blue and red were drinking and laughing everywhere. it was a crazy sight to be in the middle of, alone. i sat at the edge of the fountain looking around for maybe 15 minutes before two girls about my age sat down next to me.
they said something to me in norwegian and i just shrugged and said i was from NYC. that was it. i was in. they immediately took a liking to me. they asked me all about my mix tapes and they introduced me to a large group of their friends who had joined them during the chat. one of them was a guy who wanted to know everything about rap and graffiti. after a few hours of talking, he insisted that i get my stuff from the home i was staying in, and stay with his family because his sister had just moved to sweden and left her bedroom empty. so i ended up spending over a week with him and his family, i found myself a sort of brief romance with one of the two girls that initially spoke to me, and i have this amazing batch of memories, as if there was a lifetime where i was a norwegian. i had a Norwegian family and fiends. we met up around lunch everyday and just trooped around the town and went to various hangouts. it was amazing. i think this was only possible due to my young age, my tendency to not walk away from uncertain opportunity, and the fact that i had chosen to travel alone.
i had made good friends in other places. i lived in Ireland for a whole summer when i was 12, with my mom and sister. we lived in a house in the irish countryside, my mom had home swapped with a poet. the place looked medieval and i spent days trying to catch one of the sheep roving the hillside behind the house. i ended up meeting the local crew of boys my age from the town nearby. we became a close knit crew, we stole candy, we found hide-outs, we terrorized the local girls, we threw rocks at cars on the small road in the area. that happened until we hit the windshield of the local police chief and he chased us through a field with an angry bull in it. that was crazy. we got away, but when i showed up at home, my mom was waiting at the door with a really bad look on her face. i guessed it was a small town.
another thing to note on that summer, was i ended up winning a big break dancing contest in the annual Clifden town festival. i was up against a guy from paris who had a mean windmill and backspin. it was 1985. my best move was the worm and straight electric boogie. i have a picture of me inverted on my head with an audience watching. for realz. (i think i need to get a scanner and digitize some of my old pictures for proof)
anyways, that summer felt like another lifetime too. if you get to really go to a place, to get bored in it, to be alone in it, sometimes you get the chance to REALLY become a part of it. then when you think back to it, you realize you actually LIVED there.
it was already over a year ago. but it's an experience that am still devastated by. i know i am going to come off as being a sappy weird cat guy. i assure you that there's no way you would ever guess this about me if we met. i'm a manly man. i revel in bodily functions, i have a hairy chest, i spent years of my life actively looking for fights, i have NEVER organized my sock drawer, and i can't imagine what women can possible find attractive about men. that being said, i had this perfect little fluffy fwend for 10 years whom i loved silly. silly silly.
i saved Mao from some crazy lady in Brighton Beach Brooklyn in 1998. he was all cracked out and starved and mistreated. i saw that he had a beautiful face though, and i chose him wisely from the other cats. he turned out to be an angel.
i used to leave my house, walk about a block, and then suddenly worry that i hadn't locked the door, or that i had left the stove on, which would put Mao in danger. i would then go all the way back despite being late for work. funny thing was, i was so anal about him that everything was always secure. i NEVER left the door unlocked or the stove on, ever. it might have been OCD, but since it never happens anymore, i know it was some kind of parental love related protective instinct. i was weird about him. i couldn't sleep over at any girl's house, not even a girlfriend whom i dated for over a year for concern that he would be alone for too long. finding him a home when i went away was a major source of trauma for me. especially when i lived in San Fran and didn't know too many people i trusted with my baby.
I always did, and still do feel horribly guilty for all the time he spent at home alone. i never commited to another cat, and he rarely got along with other cats. at least he didn't at first. i also felt guilty about being a smoker for several of the years i had him, i always wonder if i had anything to do with his cancer. was it me and my exes smoke? was it the food i fed him? was it something in one of the NYC, LA, or SF apartments? could i have been a better parent? sometimes these questions still twist at my gut in the early morning hours. i can't rationalize it.
i can say, without bias, because even non-cat people agreed who knew him, that Mao was the best possible cat ever. he had this spirit that was all love, he was extremely intelligent, he knew when i was sad or down, he always did exactly what i asked him too, he spoke english, he was also, hands down, THE MOST BEAUTIFUL CAT EVARR. his large light blue eyes pierced my heart every time he looked at me. his sweet and eloquent meow was like a young girl speaking french, musical and innocent. he liked to play fetch with mardi gras beads. he liked to take rides with me when i lived in LA. he came with me for several road trips. he was my best friend, my baby, my pride and joy. he made coming home positive, even when home signified the place i had just broken up with someone in. i still couldn't wait to have him run to the door and start headbutting me and then to roll over at my feet and show me his white belly. he was the best animal i ever had the pleasure of really getting to know.
i figured he's be with me into my mid 40's at least. until one day in february of 2007. he stopped eating. i remember that morning he suddenly ran across my body very quickly while i was sleeping. i thought it was odd, but wasn't alarmed. but then he didn't eat the next day either. i took him to the vet, and i was still not worried since he was such a large strong cat. but the vet came out and told me that he had abdominal cancer, that it was in many bad places, and was something he didn't even advice treating except for pills. he told me Mao had anywhere from a month to 6 months left.
i was blown away. completely and absolutely destroyed. i managed to get 3 opinions including one of the top oncologists at UCSF. he was a goner. i tried to buy him every kind of food possible. i fed him steak and sushi. he only nibbled it a bit and would then throw up. i was forcing about 10 pills down his throat a day (which he quickly swallowed and didn't hate me for it), i was taught how to give him an IV. and i fucking HATE needles. i would hold him down, and hang this bag of fluid from my closet doorway, and then put the needle into him and open the valve for a minute. it was HORRIBLE. he looked so miserable and there was NOTHING i could do about it. i remember being awestruck that mankind could build the golden gate bridge, but we couldn't save my perfect cat. i cried every time i saw him try to walk for those few weeks. i would break down in the middle of work, which was especially hard to explain since i was working on princesses and castles and butterflies. i would break down crying in the middle of driving 80 mph on the 101. it was ridiculous.
finally, after 4 weeks, i threw in the towel for him. i realized that he would have been dead already if it hadn't been for me force feeding him through the IV. he wasn't purring anymore when i pet him and it was just selfish of me to hold on. i drove him to vet near the beach because i knew i wouldn't be able to do anything after that besides fall over in the sand. of course it was a perfect day. i remember holding him in my lap while driving, knowing that these were our last moments. i remember wondering why all the hardest days have perfect sunny weather. the day my stepfather died in a taxi of a heart attack was like that, september 11th was like that. perfect weather.
it was a very graceful procedure. i held his head as he lost consciousness and i was petting him and holding him until he twitched one final time and was still. remembering that time still fucks me up pretty bad. i had to leave that apartment a month later. actually, thats when i moved back to NYC.
now i have a new cat. i saved him as well. he was actually going to be euthanized at one point. i saw that he looked like Mao and just assumed he would be the same. he's the Pet Cemetary version of Mao, kind of similar but something is definitely missing behind those blue eyes. he's kind of a jerk face. maybe it's better that way.
here's another guy who understands the loss of a great cat
an oil painting i did in 1993. thats me on the descent.
i think i have always been dealing with regret in one form or another. i regret the loss of certain relationships in my life. i regret ever having had some relationships. i regret things i did in anger. i regret things i did in lust. i regret not having done things when i should have. it's really amazing when i think about it. it's the Yang of the Yin in my thoughts, and it gets almost half of my time. is it some kind of inner quality control? does regret sharpen my sense of what i want for the next event? does it have the ability to improve me in some way? i get the funny feeling that it really doesn't. i can regret a memory in one line of thought, and then celebrate the very same memory in another. it just depends on what the line of thought actually was, and how i was supporting it by referencing that memory.
it seems to be just a way to make me feel anything. it dramatizes and creates that subtle pressure or pull on my chest that i find more enjoyable then the total lack of any sensation. like regret is better then nothing. i'd rather mourn something then not care that it was gone. its almost as if i CREATE regret by molding it in my mind. because regret never has the whole story. regret sees events only as it wants. it won't ever admit that i did things for many complex reasons. its always "THIS IS WHAT YOU LOST BY DOING THAT". regret is as picky about it's facts as today's media. it's all about the spin, the hype, the emotional toll.
as is happiness and affirmation, actually. even when i consider those events and actions that i get joy from, i have to be aware that the joy needs to make basic generalizations, it needs to not see the full picture to celebrate itself so completely without allowing regret to creep in and remind it of the things it is overlooking. maybe that's what makes life important to me. its a place to feel everything. the roller coaster ride. the higher the peaks, the deeper the canyons, the more i'm going to want to try it again when its over.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
"In a newspaper interview, Mahoney said if the convention is deadlocked and either Clinton or Obama suggested a Gore-Obama or Gore-Clinton ticket, the party would accept it."
And here lies our only chance of getting out of this GOP lock on the white house. has anybody on the coasts ever BEEN to middle america? have they ever gotten out of their hybrid car and actually spoken to the hordes of republicans that populate this once great nation? do they understand the lowest common denominator that votes? i get the feeling, that especially places like new york and california, which voted for Hillary. that most coastal Dems have no idea what they are up against. foreign policy? political experience? Joe Shmoe from alabama has NO IDEA what that even means. i guarantee that there won't be a non-white, non-male, non-southerner winning this year, nor will there be any young intelligent black men in office for a while. the only way to de-throne the GOP is to rally behind a guy like Gore. if only he would run.
He has a southern accent (don't under-estimate the importance of this, Bush wouldn't have even gotten his parties nomination in 2000 had he not been pretended to be Texan and had admited his Ivy background). Gore is no longer boring (a man who has won an oscar AND a nobel peace prize by being the star of a film cannot, by definition, be called boring anymore). he's got experience, he didn't ruin the planet the last time he was in the white house, and he hasn't been slinging mud for the last 5 months. he is our only hope america. pair him with anybody. i think he would even have a chance to win with Obama on his ticket as VP. look at it this way, Gore WON the last time he ran. and that was BEFORE bush sent the globe into this tail spin. He won despite most of the country being actively sick of Democratic rule. Imagine what he would do now?
I think the Democratic party has WAY too much faith in the average citizen.
Democrats really need to keep their eyes on the ball. the key issue should be ELECTABILITY. and although, i like Obama's speeches, and i truly think he would make a great president, i just know that this country is still getting over segregation, some people are probably still mad about it. no matter what happens, if we get McCain, we get more of the same. more iraq, more irresponsible foreign policy, more fear mongering, more no bid contracts, more tax breaks for the insanely rich. and most likely, no Osama hunting either.
i know this because one fateful weekend, about 10-11 years ago, i had to barf while riding my motorcycle behind my dad, who was driving his. it was on the west side highway around Harlem. most people will wonder why i didn't stop, or slow down, or why i had agreed to ride in that state in the first place. well, it was because my dad had signed us both up for an awesome expert motorcycle riding course out in jersey. the kind of course that teaches you how to skid out and do high speed maneuvers with confidence. something that you normally wouldn't learn until it was too late. i had happily agreed to join him because it "seemed like a good idea at the time" ( i use this phrase lovingly, and in reference to my dad because he has always stated that he wants it engraved on his tombstone. my dad is a very funny individual). he had even called me the day before to remind me not to go out partying that night because he knew from experience that i can show up on saturday mornings looking like an over grilled tofu burger.
so, in the usual act of defiance, i went out drinking until the wee hours, refusing to quit at the usual opportunities for some unknown reason and soldiering on until about an hour before i needed to leave with him for jersey.
i got home, jumped into the shower, and then suited up for the drive. i was still drunk, so i think i probably thought that i actually was feeling *good*. it wasn't until about 116th street that my body suddenly shifted gears and explained to me how wrong i was in the assumption that everything was a-ok. it made its point quite forcefully. it decided to make its point by purging right there and then.
suddenly i realized what was going to happen. my biggest concern was really that my dad not know what was happening. i couldn't stand to hear the old "didn't you listen to what i said?" i couldn't let him be right, again. i needed to pull off a very complicated physical maneuver and stay alive doing it.
so i pulled in right behind him. i figured if i was dead centered to his tail i would be in his blind spot. i then raised my face guard (a VERY important step). without a second to spare i turned my head and just let her rip. needless to say, it was messy. my face must have transformed into something resembling a comet with a long tail of debris flairing out behind it. i can't even guess how far the trail went before misting into spray and settling on the highway.
i have tried to picture what i must have looked like to other drivers on the road that morning. it wasn't all that hard to gauge its effect because i got to see the faces of a family as they passed us. they looked like a nice, normal family, headed out to visit grandma or go fishing. well, the absolutely astonished look of horror on their faces is something i will always be proud of. it was obviously the stuff of nightmares. kind of like the fat guy in the Meaning of Life who sprays puke all over a nice restaurant after over indulging. i noticed that they had Canadian plates and thought, "welcome to new york!".
my guess is that i left a thin line of puke behind me that stretched for a mile or so. besides the slight lurching of the bike, as my abdominal convulsions peaked and ebbed, i basically was able to maintain my line of travel, and keep my dad blissfully unaware of the outrageous situation happening right behind him.
as always, during those young years, i felt instantly better after barfing and was basically psyched to learn how to skid on my totally rad bike.
his first question was simply "whats your fucking problem?". we were stunned by his directness, as well as his audacity, as we liked to think of ourselves as appearing somewhat dangerous to most people. Ages, a gregarious Dominican from the Lincoln projects answered flatly, "fuck off kid." that's when OJ drew a small pocket knife. needless to say, we immediately liked this kid. how could you not? so we threw him down (that means we made him a member) with our crew, NBC (nation's best creations)
it was all fun and games, being young lunatics, until one day when we got the idea to go subway tunnel bombing in the middle of the day. i think i was about 16 and he was 14. we were hanging out one wintry day down near my mom's house in the village. i guess we had managed to rack a large amount of paint (that's how a real writer gets his/her paint. steal it from a hardware store. writers who buy their paint are actually just creative fruitcakes). we wanted to do some serious bombing with our latest haul. i am pretty much positive it was his idea to go hit the tunnels. it made sense at the time because it was the afternoon and even OJ wouldn't go daytime bombing in the village. it's just too much light. so we decided to go down through 14th street and head south on the uptown side.
it's surprisingly easy to just casually walk to the end of the platform and when nobody is paying attention, just disappear into the darkness of the tunnel. once you're in, the only danger comes from, of course, the trains, and the occasional crew of work bums (the guys with the reflective vests are usually not too nice to writers and are always armed). the only problem with the dark wet musty tunnels, is that the spots that are worth tagging, are all window level on the subway car, and just under the lights that happen about every 100 feet or so. these spots were only possible on the two walls on either side of the tunnel. the pillars in the middle are way to thin and aren't illuminated enough to be seen. in order to hit high enough, you had to climb up onto the ledge where there is a small space between the tracks and the wall, mostly for the workmen to use when trains pass.
down at 14th street there are 4 separate tracks, 2 up and 2 downtown. i started hitting the east wall and OJ decided to cross the four tracks, jumping over the third rails carefully to get to the west wall. within a few seconds of his crossing i heard the sound of a quickly approaching express train. i turned to see where he was and saw him running across the third track. the train was moving so fast that when i yelled to him it was already so loud that there's no way he would have heard me. so that train whips by, and to my relief, i was sure it was on the track he had already crossed. but then, before that one was even finished passing, the train in the opposite direction rolled through. and then the local on the farthest track. so, there were three trains passing at around the same time. i had no idea if OJ had made it across yet, and i kind of doubted it. the local train blared it's horn, which in that tunnel, was so loud it shook my already shaking rib cage.
i couldn't believe what was happening. all in an instant, i might have just witnessed my friend's demise. as the last of the three trains faded off into the distance, and the tunnel returned to its dark and silent state that it had just been in moments before, i started to half yell, half whisper to OJ. i got no response. i dropped my paint and quickly ran along the ledge south, trying to see if maybe he had ran further then i thought he had had the chance too.
nope. he wasn't up ahead either. my mouth was drying up from the panic that was bubbling up from my belly. where the fuck was OJ?! what the hell should i do? its at this moment that i realize that i am not some brave warrior marking my territory, but just a dumb kid who is in a place he really isn't supposed to be. i was also a kid, who might have gotten his friend killed by a train. possibly the most horrible way to die i could think of at the time. i knew somebody whose mom had commited suicide by jumping in front of one, and that had sparked off all kinds of imaginings about how that must have gone down. metal, flesh, wheels, electricity. it was a horror movie turned real. it was at that point that i noticed bobbing lights coming from the south. it was work bums, probably alerted by the train of somebody in the tracks.
my flight instinct kicked in and i ran north, back towards 14th street. i ran out of the station, covered in dirt and without my paint. i ran for my friend's life. i had already decided that i was going to go straigh to my mom. she always knew what to do in a situation, and would also defend me from whatever wrath i might have exacted by going down there. after all, she was a lawyer for children in the court of manhattan. so i ran the few blocks to my house. i turned the corner on my block, and there he was. OJ was sitting on my stoop with a shit eating grin on his face. "Yo, dude".
"what the hell happened OJ?!" i was so happy to see that he was ok, that i hadn't thought to be angry at the fact that he was NOT still in the tunnels answering my calls.
"I saw those trains, dipped back to your side and just ran south to Christopher street station and then headed here. hey, what happened to your paint? I don't have enough for the two of us"
So OJ became something of a mascot for my crew. he was always in the middle of any shit storm and he always had something fun to do for us. He was also a great guide, if you needed to go down into the tunnels on riverside because he was on friendly terms with the homeless people who lived in make shift shanty towns down there. I remember coming back from college in wisconsin as a sophomore. just walking down broadway, soaking up the city in all its glory, trying to re-center my sense of belonging. when i noticed a crowd forming out in front of the burger king on 81st street. i walked through it to see what was going on. it was OJ with some guy in a headlock. it looked like he was doing alright so i was like "OJ, whazzahhh?!" he looked up at me, smiled, and between head punches said "Zen! you're back, gimme a sec." and i knew i was home.
OJ is still around, he is even more himself then ever. it's great to witness his incredible longevity. his propensity to baffle statistics and remain alive and strong. he's had some seriously close calls. he probably just had one right now, while i was writing this.