Been & Going

[Kicking Back with Jersey Joe] Drinking a Moscow Mule

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Jersey Joe and his friends gather at a local restaurant to sample a Moscow Mule.  How this adult beverage became popular on the East Coast, before traveling to the West Coast, and back!


THE 411

Name: Moscow Mule

What: alcoholic adult beverage

Ingredients: ginger beer, vodka, lime juice

Traditionally served in: copper cup



It’s another one of those drinks that was popular in the past and is making a comeback.  Craft cocktails are now all the rage, so more drinks like this will be added to bar menus.  It’s interesting how this became a fad in New York City, then went west, only to be mostly forgotten in the East.

I still think it would be better frozen, though…

And remember… drink responsibility!  Sorry kids, 21 and over – please!

[Trenches] Things LA Theatre Does

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I’m not dead, and neither is Theaatahh in Los Angeles. So I’ll hunt it. Because it can take it. Because it’s not our hero. It’s a silent guardian. A watchful protector. A dark night out in a bad neighborhood with poor parking and no decent nearby restaurants or bars to party at before or after.

Shitty Realism

I have spent more cumulative hours on a Manhattan Apartment set than I have spent in my actual apartment. My actual apartment, which is in the Valley, with a broken fridge and broken air conditioning. I’ve taken to mopping my brow with the cat. He’s not into it.

We keep diving into this trope because, for some reason, it’s not glamorous enough to be sweating balls in the most naturally gorgeous area to live in the continental United States, in barely-affordable lodgings mastered by indifferent slumlords of indiscernible, yet extreme, untempered ethnicity. We all have to pretend that living in a closet for twice as much rent makes your struggle somehow more legitimate, handily discounting the heady privilege that comes with being able to flirt with moving to New York in the first place.

Yes, that bookcase of disused, worryingly-stained Goodwill books, painstakingly chosen to somehow reflect the plot. Yes, that same family of Ikea chair, painstakingly reinforced because actors will persist in using their environs with the verve and aplomb usually afforded to our simian cousins. Yes, 9/11 Iraq war Bush 2 obscure restaurant name-check clever literary reference white people problems, because coming to terms with an America where you simply can’t get ahead just by showing up and working hard anymore is too uncomfortably immediate for drama.

Let’s all rage-watch Girls and drink Popov shots with Sriracha every time we catch the pungent whiff of nepotism or, against our best judgment, feel feelings. What we wouldn’t give to waste away in that concrete jungle that dreams are made of! That aggressively passive-aggressive Xanadu! That Margaritaville of the grudgingly enfranchised pseudo-elite! That Candyland of the gluten-averse, world-weary joyless! Let’s pretend to have hurricanes, frozen rain and sufferable transit, like the glittering capital of human effluence from which all True Art™ flows, just so that our problems are theatrical enough to be considered worth sharing!

Derisory Magnificence

Los Angeles has elevated mediocrity into a commodity. The vast irony looms of hipster enclaves in the sweaty, hilly bits to the east and the sweaty, beachy bits to the west churn twee intimations in a myriad of variety. Woven with mustache-tickled kisses, twelve dozen whispers of casually enjoyed popular pursuits of yesteryear are enjoyed with a new pseudo-fervor. It somehow became noble to just exist and have worryingly prevalent opinions about esoterica. You can write a blog about how your tomatoes are feeling and not get beat up.

LA Theatre is not immune to this. I’ve weathered hours of stirring speeches on the well-trod boards (or weary masonite) of the small houses, only to sally forth into a bold four weeks of near-anonymity. I love a St. Crispin’s day speech as much as the next Shakespeare iconoclast, but my give-a-shit has long been suffering from erectile dysfunction.

Rather than embrace the heart-crippling beauty of our evanescence, we seem desperate to assign meaning and value to the most inane of pursuits, often steeling ourselves against a miasma of mephitic apathy with the affirmation that we few, we happy few will lead the revolution and somehow coax an obligated audience of well-wishers and ex-lovers to revolt and somehow convince everybody that this is important.

The abecedarian, fresh-off-the-bus, pilot season day-tripper is usually the most culpable, but with so little else to believe in, who can forgive them their solipsism? They are, after all, totally for sure and absolutely for-real-reals about to Make It!™ in the most antagonistic climate since the last time somebody whipped out their smartphone to check the temperature. Fuck solar; if we could power America with naivete, Los Angeles would be the energy production capital of the world.


U mad bro?

A real member of the #community would be out of their mind with how up in arms and sheer ability to can’t even they are apoplectic with by now. I haven’t even started listing the accomplishments of so many companies who are trying so hard and totally getting noticed. Everything anyone spends the time to make is worth a look, which you would know, if only you were adequately indoctrinated into the insular world of theatre people. Clearly, you aren’t, and that’s obviously your fault. Why, if you only had access to the wealth of knowledge readily available to all of us firmly entombed within the #community! I could give you a few recommendations, but you probably wouldn’t appreciate them. Derisive sniffing intensifies.

Derivative of Cinema

Oh, is LA a movie town? You wouldn’t know it.

The language of cinema is pervasive. We are all sensitive to the tropes of the Movies – ask a theatrical video designer why he doesn’t just produce short films for a living. We’re all so dialed-in that it leaks out in weird ways. Daycare providers are expected to have craft services. Fast food workers carry themselves like assistant directors on the day of shooting the big battle sequence. Everybody calls Clothespins C47s, which pisses me off because what even is that?

It seems people are uniquely bothered by entertainment that doesn’t somehow indulge obsession with our hometown industry. Low-budget musical comedy parodies of movies soar (with unfair vanity) while powerful deconstructions of a film’s message and social context languish in obscurity. We don’t want to think about or be challenged by our perception of the popular product of our neighboring community, we want to indulge in tearing it down to our level, that of the lowest common denominator.

Perhaps that’s what you get when a town is mostly populated with the dream-shattered erstwhile-naive from earlier in this article. I guess film had it coming for not casting all of us within the first six months of stepping off the Greyhound/American Idol finals/shitty Mazda crammed full of our meager possessions.

Not Really Minimalism

We only have fifty bucks, but we’re going to try and re-create a restoration comedy with full costumes and dozens of consumable props. Why? Because it’s important to us, so logically, it has to be important to someone else! And there’s a lot of them! And because we’ve done such a good job miming all of the accoutrements we’re too poor to afford, but we have incredibly convincing teacups full of tepid water, they will come in droves! Droves, I say!

I’ve seen dozens of performances with two set pieces or a complete prop list that even the most harried stage manager could easily ferry between performance venues in a stately hatchback. The sad truth is that most productions will invoke the privilege of minimalism precisely when it suits them, but happily ignore it for the most arbitrary of reasons.

Excellent costume rental hookup? Awesome! A few shabby end-tables that can be anachronistically re-appropriated to stand in for their specific counterparts? Let’s do it! Can we solve our problems with more fabric and curtains? Watch me! O, what a delight it is to live in this world of iambic kings and nobles!

I think it’s mostly futile to attempt to capture the halcyon days of the Globe in a forty-seat theatre in the outskirts of North Hollywood with a single semi-functional bathroom you have to cross the stage to use. Most of the time, the insistence of quality in the absence of resources or utility is a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Worse, after Game of Thrones, nobody wants to see the Scottish play if Lady M doesn’t get her tits out.


I love theatre in LA. I honestly mean it. The rest of this article is a cunning diversion to keep you from getting to this point, because if you really, truly need to say something, you’re going to have to fight to say it. That’s what the theatre of this town is trying to do. It’s alive and things are happening here that are incredibly exciting.

People are telling stories because they have to. They gather in meeting halls, off-duty churches and parking lots to spin wild yarns with puppets and crazy musical numbers. If you’re still reading at this point, after that slag-fest, you’re one of those people I actually want to talk to. We make the most exciting, immediate and lively art in the world, on a scale that cannot be rivaled and at a rate that cannot be matched. We are hungry and we absolutely have to express ourselves.

Bright colors. Wild characters. Way not enough tech time. This baby is coming RIGHT NOW, so get ready.

Naked people shouting poetry and covering themselves in paint. Failed rock stars mumbling into half-busted microphones while an octogenarian ballerina creaks her way through a beautiful swan-dance of hauntingly beautiful fragility. Improv people. It’s happening here, and it’s happening because it has to, because we have no choice but to do what we do as loud as we can. We don’t have the luxury of being quiet. We don’t have the privilege of being refined. We have to run out into a room full of strangers who hate us because they didn’t get cast and deliver the good time we promised every waking moment of every day leading up to this night, because it will never happen again.

Nobody is filming us. Everything that happens tonight will be forgotten. A truly great show in Los Angeles will destroy your expectations and spoil you forever.


We do what we must not because we can; we do what we can because we must.

Nobody cares. Our tiny community of die-hards is routinely ignored by the elite, because old insults die hard. LA’s theatre scene is the screen door on capital-T-Theatre’s Polish submarine, and while the world has moved on to consider such humor in bad taste, it would seem the world left Theatre behind. Our tiny industry’s greatest aspiration has been stymied by desperate attempts to attract ticket sales, while the savvy rising stars contribute their brilliance to the occasional movie musical. Is “Let It Go” not ubiquitous?

They may not realize it yet, but everyone putting in real work in the trenches of Los Angeles Theatre at this point in history is learning vital lessons about what is truly essential in performance, from the improv theatres to the big-money comedy cabarets, from the 99-seaters to the depressingly few mid-sized venues, from the karaoke bars to the latest pop music reality show. While television ungracefully dies in the cauldron of web production and the cinema is buried by meticulously planned, long-form storytelling, there will be a swing of the pendulum back to well-crafted live performance. The generation of amateurs today slaving for the love of the art will one day be the professionals helming a new renaissance of work that acknowledges the enduring vitality of vibrant storytelling.

Nothing we do is important, and yet everything we attempt will one day very important indeed.

So go see something. It’s not all shit, and even if it is, you yourself may just learn an important lesson that will bring you one step closer to elevating your art. Do not be a passive audience. Take it upon yourself to declare “I am not dead.” Neither is theatre in Los Angeles.

[California Seething] I Seethe New York Part Two- Holy Crap! What Happened Here?

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ultsteaksI was at the Palm Restaurant in lower Manhattan when it all became terrifyingly clear. It was the culminating dinner of the leadership program that I had traveled to New York City for. This is significant in three ways:

1. There was a large group of us there from around the country
2. It was a free meal
3. The fact that anyone still thinks of me and “leadership” in the same sentence means that clearly not enough people are reading this blog. Must revisit our Marketing Plan (Step One: Siri, what’s a Marketing Plan? Siri? Siri???? SIRI!!!!!! TALK TO ME!!!!! Oh wait, right, this is a Blackberry. Crud.)

Anyhoo, there were four items on the menu Salmon, Steak, Roast Chicken in Something Something Sauce and Token Vegetarian Slop. When I looked at the menu, I remember thinking “hmmm..steak feels kind of heavy- I think I’ll get the fish” and I ordered accordingly without thinking more of it. Well, after a few minutes, the waiter arrived in white jacket and tie and began dealing out steaks to everyone at my table like sizzling, delicious blackjack cards. On every plate was a huge, juicy lump of meat – manly and thick like an offensive lineman who blocks arteries instead of linebackers. And on my plate- there was a pale, anemic, flaky piece of fish that was probably terrified of dodgeball when it was alive and almost certainly allergic to peanuts. I looked around my table and saw my colleagues shoveling spoonfulls of creamed spinach from steaming tureens and building enormous Druid burial mounds out of sliced mushrooms to honor the dead cows on their plates.  While on my plate was a cold little iridescent yellow dab of bland corn relish- not so much a compliment to my entrée as a snide remark- a sarcastic little “Nice fish. Whatsa matter? Can’t chew beef cause your vagina hurts?” of an asshole side dish on my plate. And, it was at this point, I realized that the unthinkable had happened- I had turned into the sort of person who ordered fish at a steakhouse- AND I WASN’T EVEN PAYING FOR IT. I had become, and there’s no nice way of putting this, a Californian. New York may have changed a lot in twelve years- but evidently I had changed even more. At least I didn’t get the Token Vegetarian Slop- I would have had to light myself on fire to protest my douchebaggery- which would have been totally at odds with my raw foods diet. Thank God I moved to LA not to Portland.

So….New York. Yeah. My relationship with New York is like my relationship with Saturday Night Live- I discovered it when I was young, was really into it for a while, got kind of sick of it and left before it got lame and now there’s no way I could possibly stay awake late enough to enjoy it. This is actually a common phenomenon which psychiatrists refer to as the “Belushi Curve” – which, depending on how old you are, can also be referred to as the “Piscopo Parabola”, “Farley Bulge”, “Fallon / Fey Update” and the “Samberg….uhm….Whatever is applicable to Andy Samberg”CalSeething-120213-Hans – Andy Samberg- that’s a thing right? Google- what’s Andy Samberg? Google…GOOGLE!!!! Oh, right, this is a banana. Crap.

My New York era was the mid – late 90’s. Good years, if not great- the equivalent in SnL terms let’s say to the Dennis Miller, Hans & Franz, Church Lady era. Everything was changing in the City- Bill Bratton was working hard to lower the crime rate and Giuliani was working hard to take credit for it and as a result the City was edgy but not really dangerous. Like Green Day, I suppose, if we lived in some magical world where Green Day didn’t totally suck- so, maybe like The Offspring- but Self Esteem Offspring- not Pretty Fly for a White Guy Offspring. Wow, this is getting weirdly specific. Ok, let’s just say it was still very much a Lou Reed kind of town- only he was Waiting for the Man at the Starbucks on 79th St. Sure, there were still heroin dealers on Avenue B, but they seemed more quaint than menacing, more like animatronic pirates  than possible killers. CBGB’s was still open as a photo op for German tourists in their unstylish jeans and absurdly stylish eyeglasses (are they compensating for the red jeans with the glasses? If so- not working.) . It was getting harder to find an apartment below 96th Street, but also getting harder to be murdered there.  And if you did find yourself living in Brooklyn, you would do the honorable thing and make excuses for it. (“Yeah, I know- but it’s a totally amazing apartment. Two bedrooms, big kitchen, laundry in the building- and it’s just, like $1250 a month.  And if I take the N to the F to the B train, it’s just 37 minutes to midtown. My parents are totally freaking out about it but I’m, like, relax, it’s Park Slope. It’s totally safe- there’s Starbucks here, for God’s sake. It’s not like I’m living in Williamsburg. Can you imagine?”) For a year or so, I was one of these Brooklyn apologists, but then I wound up like so many Suburban Expats in the Upper Upper Upper East Side – or SoSpa as we called it (South of Spanish Harlem) in a world of white paint, white shirts and white people. We lived in a box up four flights of stairs with panoramic views of an Airless Shaft and Some Guy’s Kitchen- landmarks familiar to many New Yorkers, and we desperately held on to this overheated little neo-tenement like a the roof of a car in a hurricane of gentrification until we were finally worn out and requested an airlift to California where it was warm and safe and dry and boring.

That was 12 years ago, and I hadn’t been to New York since until this past week. I have to admit I was a little apprehensive about returning. Living in New York, for me, you see was a hard habit to break- almost as hard as it will be to get that fucking Chicago song out of my head now that I’ve used that phrase. Damn it! This is almost as bad as when Stacy introduced me to her mother who, I’m sad to say, had almost nothing going on. Anyhow, I was hopelessly addicted to the relentless energy of the City- the lights, the sound, the throbbing crowds always pushing forward and the sparkling promise of something amazing just out of reach. It was like living in a casino where I gambled with time- justCalSeething-120213-blur one more day, one more month, one more year- if I can just get up at this club, nail this audition, direct this play, get this agent, meet this manager and go go go go go go drink this, eat this, smoke this, take this go go go go go- up at 8, work at 9, rehearsal at 5, stand up at 9, rehearsal at midnight, drinks at 2, diner at 4, crash at 5, up at 8, work at 9, puke at 10 and go go go go go go just one more year, things are just starting to change, just starting to happen, just starting to cook for me I’m gonna be big, I’m gonna be huge- just one more month, one more day, one more year until, at 28, I looked around,  counted the days I had lost and got the hell out.

I was married by then and had started to slow down, anyhow, and I realized that I could find anything I could possibly ever want in New York except a semblance of normalcy and a dishwasher. Cause living in the City warped my perspective. Sure, I could casually walk by a one legged trannie debating the merits of rim jobs with a midget with no nose and not bat an eye, but take me to a Target in the suburbs and I would stare agape with wonder like a child at the North Pole at the unbelievable variety of stuff I could just buy in one brightly lit enchanting place- and the space! Aisles so wide you can roll two carts down them! A whole aisle devoted to picture frames! PICTURE FRAMES! Produce that isn’t actually rotten, yet!  Paper towels sold in unimaginable quantities- a 24 pack of Brawny???? No one could possibly store that many paper towels in their home- it’s unthinkable!! What kind of castles do these people live in? Donald Trump couldn’t store more than a 12 pack into his kitchen, and that includes the space above the fridge. And yet, outside the City- all things were possible. I remember weeping unabashedly, like an Israelite by the rivers of Babylon, as I watched my sister do laundry in her house without quarters. It was clearly time to go.

So, yeah, I was ready to leave the City when I did- but I still worried that it would be hard to come back. I afraid that I would catch a whiff of that City smell- that intoxicating blend of food cooking everywhere, stale tunnel air shoved up through subway grates by passing trains and faint, unmistakable traces of urine and it would like plunking down an open bottle of Sambuca in front of a long sober alcoholic- I may not fall off the wagon, but the horse would sure as hell buck and it would be a long, bumpy ride before he settles down again. But, instead….I felt nothing. Well, that’s not totally true- not exactly nothing- there was kind of a bemused curiosity tinged with nostalgia and the ghosts of affection- like having coffee with an Ex years after you broke up. I was glad to see the old place, genuinely happy that she was doing so well for herself, a little taken aback, at how different she looked and mostly just astonished that we were ever able to stay together for so long.

OK- just to be clear- this is my perspective on the situation. New York, for her part, could have given a shit. She took my money, posed for some photos and watched me go without saying a word. That bitch! I can’t believe we lived together for six years.

So, yeah, in some ways, like not giving a crap if I live or die, New York hadn’t changed one bit. In others, though- well…here’s what I saw last week:

Times Square

CalSeething-120213-timesI used to go into the City from Albany every once in a while with my Dad. We’d park at Port Authority and as we took the bus east on 42nd St, he’d look over to me and joke “wanna see a movie?” and I would smile knowingly and laugh, cause I knew just what he was referring to. All down 42nd St was an endless assortment of 25 cent porno theaters (I know right- 25 cents- can you believe it? Imagine having to pay for porn! #lifebeforebroadband.) And, in between the porno theaters, a wide range of sex shops with more appliances than Maytag (my favorite – a dildo that a man can strap to his chin called “The Accommodator”. Just in case any of you gentlemen are looking for an alternative to the Pandora charm bracelet this Christmas. Remember not EVERY kiss begins with KAY.) Outside on the streets, little dark men in orange vests, who came to New York for a better life, were barking for sex clubs in heavily accented English (strictly speaking, this actually was a better life for them than the one they left behind- but that’s more a commentary on the unbelievably horrible world we live in rather than proof of the veracity of the American Dream. ) and, of course, hookers in all shapes, sizes and gender identifications. For a kid from a one whore town like Albany, this was mesmerizing. To me, this was what the City was all about- gritty and raunchy and thrilling and raw- with a level of depravity that I could never experience at home- not even if I drove to Troy. Never mind the fact that we didn’t actually get off the bus in Times Square (are you out of your fucking mind?) and that we actually spent the day at Zabar’s, Tower Records and the Museum of Modern Art- just the fact that we had to get to those places by running the gauntlet of smut on 42nd Street made even the most routine trip to the City a crazy adventure. Plus – cold cuts from Zabar’s- that’s it’s own kind of porn.

Now, the old, smutty Times Square was already long gone by the time I left New York. After all, I was living there in the 90’s when Giuliani X284235 TS604partnered with Disney to transform the neighborhood. I wasn’t ready, though for how much Bloomberg had further transformed Times Square from “Rudyland” to “Mike’s Vegas”. There were enormous screens and LED’s blaring from every building façade, pedestrian walkways and outdoor seating areas and millions of tourists from around the world- it’s just like a parallel universe Vegas – like Vegas with a goatee, only it’s lame rather than evil because instead of casinos there’s a Toy’s R’ Us and an M & M store, the weather is lousy and the only drink you can walk around with is a goddamn latte. Thanks Bloomberg! You transformed an iconic neighborhood in the greatest city on earth to a family friendly knock off of fucking Reno. Well done! This is truly the heart of the Bloom York, a safer New York, a cleaner New York- a New York that would be totally livable if anyone could afford to live there. But, then again, Bloom York isn’t a City for the dirty old residents. They just make things complicated with their rent control and their affordable housing and their social services. Who needs em? No- Bloom York is tourist Manhattan. It’s Venice with subway tunnels instead of canals (Venice, Italy- not Venice Beach. Venice Beach, thank god, is still a shithole- Whole Foods and home prices be damned.) The streets are still vibrant and packed with people- but look closely and you’ll see that everyone is walking around with a camera and a map and a tear in their eye from the Ground Zero Memorial. Come to Bloom York- see a show, take a picture, buy a hat. It’s OK to stare- just please don’t feed the homeless. They think they’re people.

All that being said-the transformation is something to behold. Whole sections of Broadway blocked off to cars with tables & chairs and coffee carts selling pastries. Kids oohing and aaahing at the lights, while their parents stand beside them amazed that they are actually bringing children to Times Square at night. It’s a true example of redevelopment through public / private partnership- I just hope there are some New Yorkers who are still left to enjoy it.

The Village

CalSeething-120213-espressoSo, when I started going into the City on my own or with friends in college, we would spend most of our time in the Village. First stop- a cappuccino at Dante’s or Figaro’s. Keep in mind- this is when you could only get espresso drinks at 3 places in America and the espresso had to be brewed in massive, elaborate copper domed contraptions – not so much coffee makers as Mussolini era memorials to Italian grandeur with knobs, wands and dials like a futuristic factory in a silent movie and a copper eagle perched on top staring at you like “Don’t ask me, dude. I don’t know why I’m up here either. Fuckin’ nuts, these Italians. They make tanks this way too. No wonder they lost the war.” Then after paying $5 for 2 oz of coffee and feeling like intellectuals for doing it, we’d hit Washington Square Park for a dime bag of tree trimmings that we would all tacitly agree to pretend was weed when we smoked it so as to not feel like saps (Ha! Tree! Sap! I’ve got a million of them! No, wait, that was it. Thank God.) This may be the reason it was so hard to crack down on the drug dealers in Washington Square Park- none of them were selling any actual drugs, and not even Bill Bratton could justify tickets for “selling yard waste without a permit”.

Anyhow, from Washington Square Park, we’d head east towards Saint Marks for a little bong browsing- maybe a quick falafel at Mamoun’s or cabbage soup at Veselka or cheap Indian food on 6th St at that place which had a Grand Opening special for 12 consecutive years before transitioning to a Going Out of Business Sale (crap, I’m getting hungry now. Is there any of that Manischewitz brined turkey still left in the fridge?) and then we’d hit the bars on Avenue A- where the drinks were cheap, the vibe was cool and the only ID they needed had a picture of Andrew Jackson on it (that’s a $20 – don’t feel bad- I had to look it up, too. SIRI!!!!! Oh, right. That’s a turkey leg.) and if we were feeling particularly bold, we’d do a little junkie spotting in Tompkins Square Park and wind up at Save the Robots on Avenue B spending $35 on pills that we all tacitly agreed to pretend were actually Ecstasy. “Dude- I can totally feel it- can you?” “Oh….yeah….sure…I’m…uhm…. totally tripping right now”.

With my one free day in the City, I decided to follow this path, more or less- like a scavenger hunt for the younger me. And what did I discover? Well:

  1. My internal NYC compass is completely fucked. As a result, 90% of the time I was walking west when I thought I was walking east and walking north when I thought I was walking south. This meant I was regularly staring at street signs, screaming profanity and going around in circles. On the bright side, I fit in quite well in the Village.
  2. At some point over the last 12 years, Body Snatchers must have snuck in and replaced all the regular age NYU students with 8 year olds in NYU t-shirts cause there’s no other possible way to explain how fucking young everyone looked.
  3. New York is still the only place in America where I can order an egg and cheese on a roll and actually get an egg and cheese on a roll- no lettuce, no tomato, no Siriracha sauce, no bullshit. This alone may be sufficient reason to consider moving back.
  4. Nobody offered me a dime bag in Washington Square Park. This is either the result of more effective policing, urban redevelopment, or the fact that I look like a fat old lame-ass. I’m sticking with the first two options and la la la la la la la la I can’t hear you I can’t hear you.
  5. There are playgrounds full of children in Tompkins Square Park, and magnificent trees aglow with orange and gold fall foliage. It’s like fucking Vermont with more old Chinese ladies and a couple of lost hippies wondering when they lost and why nobody told them. So, yeah, sure, it was beautiful, but there’s nothing more surreal than leaf peeping in Junkie Central.
  6. As I took the bus west on 14th Street to the High Line, I saw a crotchety old Jew get on carrying two Trader Joe’s wine totes bulging with 2 Buck Chuck. Mind goes boom. This may have been the craziest thing I saw when I was there. Who ever thought TJ’s would take over Manhattan? Sigh. I really loved that D’Agostino’s – loved that Dag, Dag Bag.
  7. The High Line. Amazing. There’ s nothing I can say to crap all over this- they took a disused old rail line and created a beautiful and CalSeething-120213-HighLinewelcoming elevated park overlooking the Hudson River for everyone to enjoy. It’s seriously great. Leave it to Bloomberg to come up with the coolest possible way to see Jersey. It’s like he’s saying “Hey, paupers- look over there? Nice, right. And just imagine the size of apartment you could get- two bedroom, big kitchen, laundry in the building. And if you take the PATH train, it’s just 37 minutes from midtown. All you’ve gotta do is give up that rent controlled apartment that your family has had for generations and this could all be MINE!!! Uhm, I mean – yours.” Hey- how about that? I managed to crap all over it after all. And you were worried. And yes,  I do know Bloomberg isn’t the mayor anymore- but who the hell knows anything about this new guy? All I know is that Carlos Danger lost because New York wasn’t ready for a Latino mayor.

Even though the High-Line wasn’t around when I was in New York, this is where I saw my younger self. I mean- comfortable seating, great views, clean bathrooms- New York Eric would have been all over this shit. It would have been my office, dining room, rest stop and cheap date destination all wrapped up in one. Damn it! I knew I should have stayed just one more year.

So- the Village still mostly kinda looked like New York to me- but it was still disturbingly safe and clean. Was there no part of the City that was just as I remembered it? Well…


CalSeething-120213-joanOn the flight to JFK, I got into a conversation with the poor, suffering individual who was squeezed into the seat next to me about whether Joan Rivers was sitting in First Class. We were pretty sure it was her, but she had so much work done that her face was barely recognizable. Sure the skin was smooth and the lips were plumped- but everything had been so pulled and tugged and shot with Botox that any identifiable facial features had been entirely eradicated and replaced with the generic cat-mask of the aging rich. There would be no way to tell for sure if it was her unless we heard her voice. Some things, a person can’t change.

This is what it was like being in the City- it was sort of the same, but there had been so much work done that I kept looking for that one unmistakable thing that couldn’t be changed. Well, I found it on the subway. The cracked tiles, useless PA, rats on the track, approaching lights, deafening clang, and rush of air as the train blows by like a beer can on its side with two hard plastic benches. And inside the train- no one makes eye contact. Necks cranked unnaturally in a million different positions like a painting by a Dutch Master (“Girl with Cracked iPhone”) so that nobody accidentally looks anyone else in the eye. And, of course, the smell- the Dorito smell of the homeless, piss that can never be cleaned and, best of all, vomit. Ahhh. There you are New York. Nice to see you again. You haven’t changed that much- still have surprisingly drinkable tap-water, street vendors that all call me Boss (they must have known I was there for a Leadership program), oily pizza for a buck that’s better than any other pizza anywhere else in the known universe fuck you Chicago. I’m sure the new wave of young people who are just discovering you still think you’re the greatest place in the world- just like they think the Jason Sudekis cast was the greatest- and who am I to tell them they’re wrong? (Although they are clearly wrong. Three words for you, kids- “I’m Gumby Damnit”. Hulu that shit.)

I thought about how much the City had changed as I was flying home. I guess the thing that surprised me the most (though it really shouldn’t have) was all the Normalcy I encountered. I saw old friends, made faces at their kids, had dinner in their homes and drank beer on their couch. It was just like being any other place- I think they may have even had a dishwasher, though I don’t want to spread crazy rumors and start a riot.  Who knew that was there all the time? Maybe it wasn’t New York that was so crazy in the 90’s, maybe it was just me. It’s a moot point now though, I’ve got my tiny house in Palms with its halfway decent yard. Got a dog and a mosaic tile backsplash and I haven’t paid for laundry since, I think, 2004. I’ve turned into the sort of person who says “Hi there!” to the pizza guy instead of “yo, lemme get a slice” CalSeething-120213-LAand when somebody smiles and says hello to me while I’m walking down the street, I no longer glare at them like I’m going to stab them in the eye. I thought about all of that as I was descending into LA. I saw the endless sprawl of lights spiderwebbing like cracks on a frozen pond out in all directions.  As we got closer, the lines of light formed themselves into columns of cars going up and down, east and west- endlessly somewhere in both directions. I started to see signs poking out of the mist- Ralph’s, Shell, In & Out (POETIC LICENSE WARNING: I have no fucking clue what signs I actually saw. Gimme a break.) I felt the energy building up inside me like the Santa Anna’s coming down the mountains and sweeping through town. The plane touched down. I was waiting on the runway. It seemed to take forever to get to the gate. All I could do was sit back, take a deep breath, and go…..



[California Seething] I Seethe New York – (Part 1)

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The best part about Citrucel Sugar Free Powdered Fiber Supplement is that it is vaguely reminiscent of Tang. So when I drink it, I can pretend that I’m not just some middle aged schlub choking down a cold glass of gritty orange crud to soothe my perpetually irritated bowels (yes, that’s right- I suffer from IBS. Also, evidently, from TMI.) but an ASTRONAUT zooming through outer space-  a goddamn Right Stuff American Hero seeking out new worlds and new civilizations, boldly going where no one has gone before and right before I get there- taking a quick time out to choke down a cold glass of orange gritty orange crud to soothe my perpetually irritated bowels. Because on a claustrophobic, unventilated little space craft the guy who says “Who’s got two thumbs and horrible space-shits? This guy!” is almost as unpopular as Mr. “Did I Leave the Door Open Again?” or the dude who won’t shut the fuck up with the “Houston, we have a problem” jokes already. “Houston, we have a problem- WE’RE ALL OUT OF PRINGLES!”, “Houston, we have a problem. SOMEBODY’S A LITTLE GRUMPY TODAY”, “Houston, we have a problem- I’VE GOT HORRIBLE SPACE SHITS. No seriously, my stomach is killing me. Who the fuck drank all my Citrucel???? For the 10,000th time you guys- IT’S NOT FUCKING TANG!!!” Anyhow, you get the idea.

I thought of this when I was packing for my trip to New York this week and trying to figure out how to pack my Citrucel. I couldn’t exactly bring the entire container because they don’t sell this stuff in dainty little “oh I’m just taking this for a couple of weeks til things settle down in my tum-tum” packages, they only sell it in big-ass “who ya kiddin’ bub? You’re gonna taking this crap for the rest of your stinkin’ life so shut up and get used to it” enormous size.  And, sure, I could transfer some of the white powder to a plastic baggie- but then there’s the inevitable misunderstanding and funny funny body cavity search- or worse yet, the cop’s gonna dip his finger in there to do the heroin pinky tasting thing and find out I take fiber and I couldn’t live with the shame although, oddly enough, I feel no shame sharing with you people and the entire internet. I’m complex. Anyhow, the point is, the last time I was in New York, fiber was the last thing I was worried about because the last time I was in New York, I was but a lad of 29 with a world of possibilities and intestinal difficulties ahead of me. I didn’t feel young, though. Hell, after six years of hard living on the still-sorta-mean streets of Guliani’s New York struggling to make it even when I didn’t have super-clear idea of what “it” was I was trying to make, I felt ancient-  like a grizzled old prospector panning for stage time in the Klondike wilderness of late night comedy clubs or a Vietnam vet with a dried up human ear clipped to my belt for every incredibly shitty day job I had (“They can’t send me to hell, cause I’ve already been to Santaland”.) It wasn’t til years later that I realized how young I really was – unfortunately the only cure for feeling old is getting older.

Anyhow, the point is, it’s been a dozen years since I’ve set foot on the urine soaked streets of Manhattan (they are still soaked in pee, right??? Tell me they’re still soaked in pee. DAMN YOU BLOOMBERG!!!!) and as I packed I could feel the energy of the City building up inside me like helium in an Eric shaped float at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade til I was bouncing around the room uncontrollably like The Cat in the Hat in a windstorm. It’s that feeling I used to get when I was on a Greyhound bus coming back from Albany stuck in traffic waiting to enter the Midtown Tunnel or clank-clanking slowly uphill on an impossibly tall roller coaster or sitting in a dorm room on a Friday night waiting for the Acid to kick in. The feeling that tantalizingly soon, but excruciatingly far away the madness will begin- and all I can do is sit back, take a deep breath, and go….

Living in New York, you see, is like living on another planet. No, that’s not it exactly. It’s like New York is Planet Earth and everywhere else is Outer Space with an Applebee’s.  Whether it’s Poughkeepsie, Michigan or Alpha Centauri- tell a New Yorker you live there and you’ll get the same condescending look of total disinterest. As a result, you may think New Yorkers are dicks and, of course, you’d be right but that’s Cal Seething- 111813- Sandranot the only reason they’re acting this way. After all, NYC may seem like an overstuffed, overheated ball of chaos, commerce and crappy apartments but there is a rock hard logic to the place. Life there is guided by certain immutable laws, as fixed as the laws of physics and, once you adjust to these laws, it becomes the only planet you can live on. Take a bus to Albany, for instance, and you get off in outer space- it’s dark, it’s cold and it’s quiet and all you can see are are stars. All those rules you lived by that seemed as solid as concrete just fall apart like a $3 umbrella in a gentle breeze and you’re tumbling though the streets like Sandra Bullock sobbing  “my baby!”. You try to get your bearings but you can’t even tell uptown from downtown and nothing makes sense. Even things you think you understand don’t work the same way. Sure there are taxis- but you actually have to call them on the phone and then wait for hours for them not to show up. Sure, there are homeless people, but you’re actually expected to acknowledge them when they talk to you and not just blow by them like they’re part of the scenery- just there for atmosphere like animatronic junkies on Bloomberg’s New York ride. And then there are the life forms you encounter- sure they look human enough but they’re all white and squishy and smile all the time and talk to the homeless and shop at Walmart. What the fuck is a “Walmart”???? Somebody get me out of here!!!! But nobody comes to your aide. In Albany, no one can hear you scream.


Anyhow, about a dozen years ago- I left my home world of New York for the distant galaxy of Los Angeles- and if you want to understand Los Angeles- all you need to do is picture New York wearing Ugg Boots and a scarf in 80 degree weather with a mini skirt, angrily posting about GMO’s and asking for gluten free options at Denny’s and you’ll end up with something which, well, doesn’t fully reflect LA at all though it is a terrifying vision of what New Yorkers can turn into when they move out here. So beware! Remember- just because you’re in California, doesn’t mean you have to be a douchebag (though it helps). Anyhow, this week – for the first time since departing I’ve returned to NYC. And, for the past few years- all I’ve been hearing from people is how much it’s changed since I left- and how I’m barely gonna recognize it and how Bloomberg has either saved or ruined the place, depending on how disgustingly rich you are, so I’m here to find out for myself- and what will I discover? Well, I just got here so how the fuck would I know? But – have no fear, I’ll be posting all of my opinions once my journey is complete (I know how scared you are of not knowing what my opinions are.) Will I recognize my home world or will I wind up on my hands and knees screaming at the Statue of Liberty “You maniacs! You did it! You cleaned it up! Ah Damn you! God damn you all to hell!!!” – kind of like I did when I first came home from college and saw that my mom gentrified my bedroom. God, I’m a drama queen. Fortunately that means I fit in pretty well in New York- or, well, I used to anyhow- DAMN YOU BLOOMBERG!!! GOD DAMN YOU TO HELL!!!!

Cal Seething- 111813- Heston