Thursday, January 29, 2009

i miss danceteria

I was grooving to some songs on the iPhone as I settled into the office with no one around this morning, when this thought popped into my head: I miss Danceteria.

Apparently I'm not alone, as they have their own blog (the club's been closed since 1986.)

I thought back to how fun a place it was to go while I was in art school in NYC. It was a night club, and probably as sleazy as any other, but it never really felt that way. It just felt fun. It was a place where I could go and dance, of course, with different things happening on each of its four floors, so there wasn't much opportunity for boredom, unless that was your goal. It was also somewhere in the big, bad city where I felt that I could go out on my own, either meeting friends there, or occasionally, just by myself.

I remember one occasion where I had been going stir crazy in my Brooklyn apartment and called a bunch of friends, but they were all settled in for the night and didn't want to venture out. But I could go to Danceteria. I set off for the subway, got to 21st Street, got waved through the door (somehow the bouncers could tell the locals from the bridge and tunnel crowd) and made my way in. I think I danced, had a drink or two, and ended up on the top floor where they were showing music videos. Not much different from what I could have done at home, but I was out in New York, and that was important on that night.

Mostly I remember going there with friends and dancing, to music no one would dare call disco at the time, like Michael Jackson and Madonna before she became sinewy, and Fine Young Cannibals.

I also remember seeing a few famous people. Billy Idol, not budging from the bar, the Clash's Mick Jones, hanging out with his friends who would later become the band Big Audio Dynamite. I loved The Clash, but I remember not really knowing what to say to Jones, because my favorite was Joe Strummer.

Probably the only occasion I have to go dancing these days is at somebody's wedding. With the 80s revival in full swing, the DJ is bound to play something from that era, and if I close my eyes, maybe for a moment, I'll be back there on 21st, between 5th and 6th, on the second floor-until my adorable dance partner, my daughter, squeezes my hand and brings me back to the present.

Monday, January 26, 2009

singing rocks

At the National Museum of American History there are singing rocks. No, not rock singers, although they do have Prince's guitar. There are singing rocks, which warble folk and American musical theater tunes as you stroll the patio.

I am fascinated and repulsed by these objects, which are actually "naturalistic" speakers-made out of plastic, of course. But I can't help thinking of the myth of the Sirens, or some other suitable mythology.

I don't think I will go crashing into these rocks anytime soon, along to the soundtrack from Guys and Dolls or a classic Woody Guthrie song. But I do wonder why the museum thinks that outside space should be filled by noise, no matter how "historic."

Sometimes it would be nice to give peace and quiet a chance.

Friday, January 23, 2009

love train

This is how I'm feeling these days...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

already Obama's making things better

I got a free hot chocolate at the National Gallery Sculpture Garden cafe this afternoon.

I was standing in line for my hot chocolate and the server skipped me and started to take the next group's order.

"Excuse me," I said politely, "I think you skipped me."

"What do you want?"

"Hot chocolate, please." She then proceeded to wait on the others, getting them their sandwiches and taking their drink orders. The lady next to me had overheard my order and thought hot chocolate sounded good, too, so they ordered two hot chocolates with their food. The server started to pour the hot chocolates - two - and pass me by. Again.

"Excuse me, but I think you skipped me. Again."

She frowned and passed one of the hot chocolates to me. I advanced to the register where the young lady behind the counter said, "Don't worry, I've got you covered." I tried to pay, but she smiled and waved me ahead.

As I sat down with my free hot chocolate I figured that she was trying to make up for her surly coworker.

As I unbuttoned my coat, it also struck me - maybe it's the bling on my lapel?

And Obama closed Guantanamo today, too.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

it's Washington, not Lincoln

The president most on the mind of our new Prez?

This is one of those convex/concave illusions, from Mount Vernon - it was a historical weekend!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

president Rocko Bama

That's what my daughter calls him.We headed down on the buspast the National Guardand various souvenir shopping opportunitiesjoined the crowd heading towards its destinationon the chilly National Mallwatched history happen on the jumbotronlistened to a great speechdealt with a not-so-great exit strategy (security clenched when Barack and Michelle decided to stroll down Pennsylvania Avenue)on the way home it was the march of the penguins, I mean Obamafansand much, much later Mexican chocolate with the Obama puppet

Sunday, January 18, 2009

yes we did...

...attend the We Are One concert with about 500,000 of our close personal friends, neighbors and allies.

More to come...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

more Mall action

...still trying to figure out how to see any of this...

Koons sculpture (my daughter has dubbed him "Tin Man," but we're not in Oz anymore) contemplating the MSNBC courtesy/VIP trailers across from the Hirshhorn.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

getting ready for Tuesday...

It takes a lot of work to get the nation's capital ready for an inauguration. At least it does this time around. I was here for the last two ones, but don't remember such hullabaloo.

Out with the old...

Don't even think about parking there...
A sea of port-a-potties encircle the Mall and its museums...So many, many gates and barriers...Lots of merchandise...Even the buildings are excited...God bless us, everyone.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

the only question is...

...will they last until Tuesday?

Friday, January 09, 2009

ham loaf

The other day at lunch one of my co-workers casually remarked that she and a friend had bought 20 lbs of ham loaf to take back with them after the Christmas holidays. 20 lbs you might say? Forget that, what the heck is ham loaf?

Now before I get started, I must admit that although I was born in the U.S.A., my bringing up was more child-of-immigrant-family-comes-to-live-in-NYC (even though my dad was born in this country, sort of - da Bronx) than Middle America.

My family never made a green bean casserole, mac 'n' cheese, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, or any other traditional American comfort food. My mom admits that when she married my dad she didn't even really know how to boil water, so my Sicilian grandmother taught her how to cook. So the rare times we had anything "American" like meat loaf - you can be sure that it was served with spaghetti sauce! I'm not trying to be snobbish here at all. This was my experience. Like a lot of other aspects of my childhood, we marched to a different drummer than most of our friend's families, most obviously, culinarily.

So ham loaf wasn't anything on our horizon. I've never even had SPAM (although I adore the Python routine.) Dad was fond of ham steak, however, much to my brother's disgust. I tend to like salty stuff, so that didn't bother me, as it always could be accompanied by tons of applesauce. My maternal Grandmother loved ham salad, something I never had until I started visiting her in Florida at fourteen. I have to admit that sometimes I see it in the supermarket and have to get it, because it makes me think of her. I guess we are what we eat. Or we eat what we know. Or something like that.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

do I expect too much?

From people, I mean.

Case in point. Yesterday my boss took her "crew" out to lunch - the folks most responsible for keeping her sane and getting the work out there - you know, the shlubs - me and a few other folks. Anyway, she took us out to lunch at a nice restaurant where we had appetizers, an entrée, dessert, the whole nine yards.

We have been working (for years) to try and coalesce this group into a real team. The cast of characters of course has changed over the years, but a few key players have remained, including me. Now I should add that I have no illusions. These people are not my friends. Nor would I really want them to be. I have other friends here at work. But still, you want to get along with folks who you are forced to work closely together for an ungodly amount of time each day when you would rather be with your family or shopping or sleeping, right?

I noticed during the course of the quite-long lunch that a few times when I was starting to say something someone else just interuppted or started talking. Hmmm. Now, this of course happens with family and friends, too (I'm guilty!), but when you're with your pals you can say, "Hey, I was talkin'!" or something even ruder and not worry. Not so much at a work luncheon. So I went back to my soup or my scallops and sighed inwardly.

But the real kicker came after the lunch, as we all got up to go. I asked and was directed to the ladies room. The others had all checked their long, heavy, coats and I had mine, so I figured I would dash in while they retrieved theirs and meet them out front and walk back to work. You know what happened. They all ditched me and took off.

Why am I the only one surprised? None of this behavior was pointed, just thoughtless. Was I kidding myself that the fact that we were in a posh setting that manners and civilty might ensue? Am I over-reacting? Do I expect too much? Am I a dinosaur? I just know I wouldn't have walked off, leaving one of them. Team, my ass.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

maybe print isn't dead...

...yet. How else to explain a Laura Bush book deal? I mean, who exactly is the audience for this tome? Certainly not a moose-trappin' hockey mom.

Actually, there is an excellent book to be written, something to get inside the mind of a woman who would be carried along with the tide of one of the most ambitious families and one of the worst world leaders in recent history. But unfortunately it won't be written by this lady, who has never loosened up, or shaken off the deer-in-the-headlights expression that she has worn.every.minute. for the past eight years.

Good luck, Laura.

For a glimpse of true evil, there is however, this book.

Monday, January 05, 2009

why celebrity sucks

The "internets" can be a glorious thing, connecting new folks, reacquainting old friends, globally linking art, music, science, providing tons of useful and useless information, opening avenues of expression, etc., etc. But the wealth of information can be too much, too. All of this 24-7 access is erasing any notions we have of privacy. If you're perpetually plugged in, when can you turn it off? Can you ever?

The fact that Steve Jobs had to issue a statement about his health today pisses me off immeasurably. And this sort of online dredging and continuation of the speculation makes me sick. I know that Jobs is the godlike figurehead of Apple, and so much of its recent resurgence can be traced to him, so of course the industry attaches importance to the possibility of a change of power at the helm. But he's a person, too, with a family, who shouldn't have to talk about his health until (and if) he's ready to.

What is a "celebrity's" responsibility to the public? Should the Travoltas have to release a succession of statements after the tragic death of their son? Should the public try to tear apart the wording of all of these statements, and if unsatisfied, speculate as to their accuracy? At such a confusing and unhappy time how accountable should they be? Why shouldn't they put out their version for the masses? What do they owe us? And why is the "internets" more interested in the parents' private romantic lives than the story at hand?

Of course both of these stories are dramatic and interesting. But the vulture-like death watch and seamy interpretation of a minor's death leave a bad taste in the mouth. I have been interested in the lives of the rich and famous, like anyone else, I suppose. When I lived in NYC I saw more famous people than I can count. Some I actually was lucky enough to speak to, or have small interactions with, like David Bowie, Steve Martin. Some were pleasant and charming surprises, like Richard Gere, Sharon Stone. Some I just happily caught a glimpse of: Michael Caine, Andy Warhol, Mick Jones, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Michael Palin.

Sometimes it's best not to meet an idol, you might be disappointed when you encounter them in real life, as they might be too real. But it was always fun, that moment of recognition. Of course the internet wasn't really happening then. If there were rumors floating, they were by word-of-mouth, and folks treated them with the proper seriousness or disdain, depending on the current blood-alcohol level of the moment in question. But today, with the internet, and anyone being able to write and post anything about anyone, this sort of gossiping has just gotten out of hand. No matter how full of b.s. a statement is, somehow, when it is in "print," it carries more weight.

This all reminds me of a story my dad once told me, about when he was a political reporter for the Newark Daily News. He was on the beat in Trenton, N.J., and was hanging out with the other reporters, probably pals from the Asbury Park Press, Star Ledger, etc., when someone burst into the room and announced that so-and-so politician, who had earlier delivered a speech, was currently upstairs in the hotel with a girl, not his wife. My dad said the reporters all looked at each other and then told the guy to get lost. That wasn't news, and it just wasn't done.

I guess many people would think that we need more transparency, and my dad and his colleagues were "covering it up," or something. I'm not sure. Politicians are after power, always have been, always will. Sex and sexual liaisons come with the power, for some. I'm not naive, so the situation doesn't shock me. I'm not sure how relevant that politician's affair or fling was, however, to anyone but he and his wife and the woman upstairs with him.

I'm not advocating for us to all stick our heads in the sand. But human nature, and its frailties, are a given. What we have a choice about is whether we want to help stir the mud.

Friday, January 02, 2009

100 things to do before you die

a fun list, via marmite lover's blog:

1. Started my own blog - yes
2. Slept under the stars - I'm no camper, but when I turned twenty, I was visiting my parents in Waretown, NJ and went out in the back yard and lay down in the grass and stared at the sky for a half hour or so, enjoying the rite of passage
3. Played in a band- sang back-up on a friend's song
4. Visited Hawaii -no
5. Watched a meteor shower - no
6. Given more than I can afford to charity - $$$ no, but I purge and donate stuff regularly
7. Been to Disneyland/World - yes, both
8. Climbed a mountain - no
9. Held a praying mantis - no
10. Sung a solo - yes, in an off-off-off Broadway show, Return to Glutten
11. Bungee jumped - no way, not ever!
12. Visited Paris - yes, once on my own twice on tours/trips
13. Watched lightning at sea - no
14. Taught myself an art from scratch - yes, drawing, painting, etc., etc.
15. Adopted a child - no
16. Had food poisoning - yes
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty - no, lived in NY almost 20 years, but never went
18. Grown my own vegetables - yes
19. Seen the Mona Lisa - yes
20. Slept on an overnight train - yes
21. Had a pillow fight - yes
22. Hitchhiked - no, my dad had written too many stories...
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill - yes
24. Built a snow fort - yes, attempted, at least
25. Held a lamb - no
26. Gone skinny dipping - no
27. Run a Marathon - no
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice - no, but have been there twice, walked all over the beautiful city, experienced acqua alta...
29. Seen a total eclipse - yes, on my dad's telescope, even
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset - yes
31. Hit a home run - yes, 7th grade, won the game for our team, too (then puberty hit, never got another hit)
32. Been on a cruise - yes, cruised the Nile, and to Freeport for a day
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person - yes
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors - yes, I've been to England and Torino, still need to get to Palermo
35. Seen an Amish community - no, just seen them visit my cities as tourists
36. Taught myself a new language - yes, French, Spanish, Italian
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied - money doesn't satisfy, but if I'm not worrying about it, I'm OK
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person - no
39. Gone rock climbing - no
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David - yes
41. Sung karaoke - yes, my brother had a karaoke wedding reception!
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt - no
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant - no
44. Visited Africa - yes, Egypt so far, but would also love to go to Botswana, and also see animals on safari
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight - yes
46. Been transported in an ambulance - no
47. Had my portrait painted - yes by my dad, my mom, my ex, myself
48. Gone deep sea fishing - no
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person - yes
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris - yes
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling - no
52. Kissed in the rain - yes
53. Played in the mud - yes
54. Gone to a drive-in theater - yes
55. Been in a movie - yes, I think - not sure if it was ever released
56. Visited the Great Wall of China - no
57. Started a business - no
58. Taken a martial arts class - no
59. Visited Russia - no
60. Served at a soup kitchen - no
61. Sold Girl Scout cookies - no, but sold plenty of oranges and grapefruit for the drill team, now wrapping paper for the preschool
62. Went Whale Watching - no
63. Got flowers for no reason - yes
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma - yes
65. Gone sky diving - no
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp - no thank you
67. Bounced a check - yes
68. Flown in a helicopter - no
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy - yes
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial - yes
71. Eaten caviar - yes
72. Pieced a quilt - yes
73. Stood in Times Square - yes
74. Toured the Everglades - yes
75. Been fired from a job - yes
76. Seen the Changing of the Guard in London - no
77. Broken a bone - no
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle - no
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person - no, so far just flew over it
80. Published a book - no
81. Visited the Vatican - yes
82. Bought a brand-new car- no
83. Walked in Jerusalem - no
84. Had my picture in the newspaper- yes
85. Read the entire Bible - no
86. Visited the White House - no
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating - no
88. Had chickenpox - yes
89. Saved someone’s life - maybe
90. Sat on a jury- yes and found someone guilty - it was horribly depressing
91. Met someone famous - yes
92. Joined a book club - no
93. Lost a loved one - yes
94. Had a baby - yes
95. Seen the Alamo in person - no
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake - no
97. Been involved in a law suit - no
98. Owned a cell phone - just one?
99. Been stung by a bee - yes
100. Ridden an elephant - yes

It's fun to be reminded of some of these things that I've done, maybe surprised myself with some, and realize that there's plenty left to do!