Monday, June 30, 2014

Best Friends of June

Ah, June. You're just about over. But let's reflect on some of the happenings that happened during you.

June, you were a month of departures. First Kim left.

It was not easy on any of us.

And then Jesse left, too.

We had her a going away gathering at the Frying Pan. Which is a dock. That is a bar, or club? It floats, you sit at your table and eat Old Bay french fries and think about how much you are or aren't moving with the tide.

We goodbye'd Jesse well into the night. Last stop: Some frozen yogurt place in Chelsea.

But for every departure there was a joyful celebration, too. For example, I had the honor of attending Lexia and Adam's daughter Coco's first birthday party. And I got to take home a lot of pizza.

This under-photographed event was attended by good people I don't see nearly enough anymore, like Rich and his wife and kids. Rich is married now and has two kids and is a BISHOP in Brooklyn. This is what happens when you stop paying attention.

I've been partying here and there on rooftops, too, making new friends with fellows like Andrew. 

Jessica was in town to shoot a wedding.

I went with her and Pearl and had ice cream at Morgenstern's, the latest in the wave of advanced ice creameries hitting the city.

This kid in the window was just killing it while all us chumps waited in line to get inside and get that ice cream.

And this photo represents a much bigger blog posts that cannot be written about the meal I had in New Jersey with Paul and Tara and Stacie and this fellow Bobby who runs a restaurant called Dinallo's. He fed our stomachs with a grand bounty of food and fed our ears with stories of gangsters and catering you would not believe. But I believe!

And you might wonder, Did I make it to see the giant sugar lady like everyone else?

Yes, come on. Of course I did.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Best I Read This But it Took a While

Last week I finished reading this book called The Recognitions by William Gaddis. I believe I started reading it in February? I remember that I started reading it at a pizza place in midtown at lunch time, across the street from the Nintendo store. If I can find my receipt from that meal I might be able to determine how long it took me to read it. Anyway, why'd it take so long? Oh, because it was another gigantic book (960 pages, give or take) and it was a tricky, tricky read. Last year I read a Gaddis novel called JR that I really liked, it was only 700'ish pages but written almost entirely in unattributed dialogue. It was a monster. The Recognitions, fortunately, has narration, but it's still tough going. Once I was reading JR on the train and a guy across from me asked if I had read the Recognitions. I told him I had started it (which was true, I had, four years ago, it didn't take back then) and he said "That sounds about right." But this time I stuck with it, in case I ran into that guy again.

But enough about me.

What was the Recognitions about? Basically the life of a talented artist who becomes an art forger and the people in his orbit during his life. But also the plot shoots off in completely different directions and examines the lives of other characters for gigantic sections at a time. It is very well written, full of obscure and popular references to obscure or popular things—fortunately for me there is a very good set of summaries and annotations for the book online. I found myself reading the chapter summaries before and after and during each chapter to make sure I didn't miss anything important and then browsed through the annotations for the translations I might need or to confirm the references I thought I had caught.

When Thomas Pynchon started to be popular and was all withdrawn and mysterious, several a critic suspected Pynchon was an alias of Gaddis's (And Gaddis is also notoriously non-public in his persona). Reading the Recognitions, particularly the opening chapters that tell the tale of the main character's parents' trip by boat to Spain when he was little, I really saw where those suspicious readers were coming from.

I recommend the Recognitions for people who are looking for a good tough read with lots to wring out of every paragraph. I also recommend it for anyone that wants to spend multiple months on a book. Or I do not recommend it to anyone who can't commit fully to only one book for a good long time. And, honestly, who really can do that? Anyway, I'm glad I did. Now that it's on my shelf it's quite the trophy, another nice twelve point buck on the wall in my hunting lodge.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Best Big Crowds Lately

Summertime is a great time to find yourself in a crowd. Here are three crowds I was in recently.

Crowd #1: Smorgasburg
A few weeks ago I went to Smorgasburg for the first time and boy, was it crowded! 

Crowds, for me, always equal getting separated from my friends.

Everywhere you look at Smorgasburg there's another stand selling some particular ethnic or specialty food, almost always with a punny name (like I saw a place called "Bon Chovie" that was like a rock n roll anchovie sandwich stand) Or rhymey (as seen below. I had the Persian nachos, they were delicious. Next time I'll try Siamese.):

Trust the guy with California tattooed on his face to make your taco.

Fancy Williamsburg living.

Waterfront and poor framing.

I found my people standing in line for the famous Ramen Burger. There are two big lines at Smorgasburg: for the Ramen Burger and for Mighty Quinn's BBQ.

Lyndi shared fries to help us get through the wait. I stood and waited in that line with everyone for fun because I knew I wasn't going to get a Ramen Burger. Has never appealed to me, not even on a curiosity level. I don't know why it gets treated like the Cronut of burgers. 

Although Sara Beth and others assured me I was foolish in my stance.

Crowd #2: Big Apple Barbecue Block Party

And then a week or two after that I went by myself to have a look at the famous Big Apple BBQ, this even where dozens of barbecue places from around the country come to Madison Square Park to sell their slow cooked meats.

I got there in the middle of the afternoon when each establishment had an outrageous line, so I mostly just looked at pork being pulled and ribs being grilled.

And pitmasters being interviewed.

See? Crowds.

See? Ribs?

Have you seen those new mobile planters Fiat invented?

Crowd #3: Beirut at the Northside Festival

And then two Saturdays ago I went over to Williamsburg to see Beirut perform at the Northside Festival. I'm not positive what the Northside festival is, except it seems to have been happening on the north side of Williamsburg for a few years and there was a fake lawn up and down Bedford, with art and performers on it.

Something you could say to other people in Brooklyn that afternoon was "Did you see the finger guy?" Because they would answer "Yeah! I saw the finger guy!"

I went to the show with Rachel and Alpha. At first there was not a crowd. 

Except for a little one at the TGIFridays food truck. Because it was giving away food.

But by the time the openers Rat King started it was looking crowded. 

And once it was time for Beirut it was full-on crowded.

The band played their gypsy music from dusk 

To dark

And then it was back on the streets with us and the Williamsburg crowds (here looking a little dispersed).

Monday, June 16, 2014

Best I've Been Thinking About Ulysses Again (Happy Bloomsday!)

Well guys it's Bloomsday again. You know, June 16th: the day that James Joyce's Ulysses takes place, memorializing his first date with Nora Barnacle, the woman Joyce would spend the rest of his life with and eventually marry. Around here at this blog I don't like a Bloomsday to go by unmemorialized.

As I was thinking about what I'd say about Ulysses this year my little interior monologue flitted from Ulysses thought to Ulysses thought until I found myself asking myself very quickly "Wait, does Ulysses follow the Hero's Journey?" Which is a silly thing to ask yourself when it only takes a split second to realize "Well, of course it does, it's modeled after the story of Ulysses, a very classic example of the Hero's Journey in itself." Running the monomyth model very quickly and not very precisely, Ulysses contains at least two heroes journeys because it has at least two heroes: Stephen Dedalus and Leopald Bloom. Both are displaced from their homes for the day, uncertain of if either they have a home to come home to at the end of the day or if their home will still be a home when they return, they adventure, they each face a day long Road of Trials, and eventually find each other and make a way home. Separation, Initiation, Return.

Listen I'm trying to be quick and brief and non-academic about this.

BUT then I had this brainstorm realization. This past year I've been thinking about the Hero's Journey and how it applies to scriptural texts, how neatly they sometimes fit into the mold. Which makes perfect sense, Christianity can be viewed as an interpretation of the monomyth just like many other religions, myths, and forms of spirituality which share strange similarities. But the thing I think about is what if one of these religions isn't a branch of the monomyth but the trunk. What if there's a religion who's fundamental Story is what inspired the belief systems and stories of cultures around the world? To me that's so interesting to think about. And so I look at my own belief system and its Story, its understanding of man's journey from home, into a lone and dreary world, and back home again as a journey of challenges and learning. And then I realized something: Ulysses, after the phase of challenges and learning has completed, after Dedalus and Bloom have Met With the Goddess and Atoned With the Father, the entire penultimate chapter is told in question and response, literally the style of the chapter was indicated by Joyce as "Catechism." And after these questions are completed (some certainly more mundane than others), Bloom is admitted into his own Holy of Holies (his bedroom) and enters another world (sleep, dreams). Isn't that kinda cool? Kinda? A little bit? I mean it's just a detail, but come on?

Listen, 10 years ago when I started this blog I wrote these sorts of post a lot more often.