Nov 4, 2012

Superstorm Supermarket Scene

This was taken at the A&P Fresh supermarket on Lemoine Ave in Fort Lee, NJ around 4PM on November 3, 2012.

We are only five days post Sandy, and much of the area is still without power. The market was only partially lit; people were using cell phones as makeshift flashlights.

I believe people thought the store would be offering more than it was. Nothing was left but water, some canned goods, cleaning supplies, and a shitload of cucumbers (for some inexplicable reason). None of the refrigeration equipment was operational. People were wandering the aisles empty-handed and with barren carts. Notice the number of abandoned baskets as you watch the video.

The pet food area was where most of the action was taking place. The liquor section had taken a beating too.

Just a bizarre scene all around.

Oct 5, 2012

The Times, They Ain't a-Changing

Every morning, I get ready for work while listing to 1010WINS newsradio. They give the current time and temperature with a Tourette’s-like frequency. And yet, I usually still don’t really “hear” it as I am a disaster before noon. But on Wednesday, the mellifluous voice of anchor Judy DeAngelis rose above the morning chaos of the running shower, the battery-operated toothbrush, and my internal dialog (“No, you CAN’T call in sick...”).

“64 degrees and cloudy.”

It took forever, but I finally figured out why that particular weather combo stopped me in my sleepwalking tracks. Does anyone else remember the opening sequence of Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” video?

If you don’t, it’s ok. Because it was released in 1992. 20 fucking years ago. Yes, people who weren’t even born when it cleaned up at the MTV Video Music Awards are able to vote in the upcoming election.

Speaking of...

Wednesday was also the day of the first Presidential Debate so the radio station did some kind of “man on the street” bullshit where people chimed in to say if they are better/worse off financially than they were four years ago and, therefore, if they will vote for Obama/Romney. Well, at least I’m pretty sure that’s what happened; I’d be lying if I said my Unisom-addled brain was paying attention at a percentage greater than that of Obama’s latest approval rating.

But it got me thinking: is four years the benchmark at which we should really be measuring our current status? Anecdotally, people close to me have been doing quite shitilly for MUCH longer than that. And, indeed, the stats back this up. According to one recent article, The Federal Reserve stated the median net worth of American families in 2012 (adjusted for inflation)  is back to where it was in 1992. For those keeping score at home, this is biggest drop in wealth since the Great Depression. After some further poking around, I found another source which stated the “average American taxpayer” is pretty much earning the same yearly income ($33K-ish, adjusted for inflation) as they were 20 years ago.

This means the “average American Taxpayer” hasn’t made financial headway since the very year “Jeremy” was released. Pretty gloomy...64 degrees and cloudy for two whole decades.

But enough of the bad news. On to the weird news!

You see, on Wednesday’s broadcast, the radio station also reported an oddball story that Six Flags Great Adventure—a NJ theme park—“banned heavy metal.” This edict was instated on the heels of violence that occurred at a weekend concert, comically called “FestEVIL,” by a bunch of ridiculous bands that I’ve never heard of.

Wanna take a wild guess when the “Explicit Lyrics” label, a compromise to early PMRC efforts to ban heavy metal and other “objectionable” forms of music, was required to be included on an album’s artwork (as opposed to a sticker)? Yep…1992.

It would seem the old adage “the more things change, the more they stay the same” is hackneyed, but it’s also proving true.

However, as with every broad stroke we paint, we indiscriminately cover the exceptions. So while this post may make you think about how, personally, 1992 compares with 2012—how your financial situation blows, how you are still driving some form of a Toyota Corolla (shit, maybe it’s even a 1992), and how your “new” fall wardrobe consist of leggings, booties, studded leather, and leopard print, try to think of the ways you HAVE “evolved.”

It will make you feel better.

To get ya started, I offer this bit of nostalgia—my 1992 high school yearbook photo. Now, I still wear matte red lipstick 98% of the time and am a blonde (after nearly 20 years of purples, reds, and black). However, my look has changed drastically as I no longer wear my hair like this:

Because, as reported on the news the other day, there is a ban on heavy metal at least somewhere in New Jersey.

(Author's note: I am not bashing Obama or Romney, specifically. I am bashing the whole lot. Politics are a corrupt fucking joke, and the whole two party system is absurd. Rock on.)

Sep 9, 2012

Something Old, Something New

Intrigued by an ad in the local paper for the Edgewater Cultural & Historical Committee’s “Edgewater Ford Assembly Plant Auto Show,” which was to take place behind the McDonald’s on River Road, I set out for a little adventure this afternoon.

The car show was a bit of a wreck. The site doubled (tripled?) as a jitney stop for the concurrent Edgewater Arts & Music Festival and bordered the drive-thru entrance of the Mickey D’s. As such, many of the folks milling about couldn’t give a shit about cars, history or anything else aside from themselves or their Dollar Value Menu selection. 

Oh, wait, I’m lying. 

There was this weird “Adopt-A-Pet” truck that literally had dogs and cats stacked in glassed-in cubbies that attracted quite a crowd. For some reason, it made me recall an episode of HBO’s “Real Sex” where johns in Amsterdam got to pick their prostitutes from shop windows. 

Anyway…back to the car show.

I think it was supposed to be mostly classic Fords, but somehow shit like this got in:

And who invited this boat? I mean, where the hell are the rest of us gonna park? Ha!

Shelby Cobras usually don’t do it for me but there was a phenomenal color scheme on this one – a dried-blood, plum/maroon/brown metallic with a beige stripe and beige interior. It was as classy as anything with red-eyed snake head knobs all over it is gonna get, I suppose.

Of course, no Ford-focused show would be complete without the refreshing, minty deliciousness of a 1957 Thunderbird.

And, naturally, the weirdest guy there was the only fella to talk to me. Not about cars, but about the morals charge on which Sinatra was arrested in 1938. He was impressed that someone half his age (yes, he asked how old I was) knew the whole sordid story. 

But all this is beside the point. 

You see, I was on a mission to find out WTF this “Ford Assembly Plant” tie-in was all about. As I suspected, there was no one readily available to answer my questions. So I hit the Starbucks across the parking lot and awkwardly ordered a “tall black eye” from a tall, well, umm, African American male. Then I hit River Road for the three-mile straight shot back to my apartment where the geeking out commenced.

I was well aware that Edgewater had an industrial past. There are presently acres of land that serve as home to skeletal factory remains. Most of these mausoleums of manufacturing are Superfund sites and stand in stark contrast to the current crop of meticulously built and landscaped luxury housing and shopping complexes. However, I had no idea what a vital role the borough played in US manufacturing and goods transport during the final years of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th.

Edgewater’s birth as a borough of industry can be traced back to 1894. This is when the New York, Susquehanna & Western Railroad cut a tunnel through the rocky cliffs of the Palisades to connect the borough to its Jersey City line bringing coal, among other resources, to the area. Deep water piers along the several miles of Hudson River waterfront also allowed for the convenient import of raw materials and the export of finished goods by ship. These railways and waterways also facilitated public transportation for factory workers and executives who lived across the Hudson in NYC. 

My focus here is the Ford plant but, just to put things in perspective, many other industries and big-name companies called Edgewater home for many years during that time period. Among them were manufacturers of chemicals; builders of aircraft; refineries of sugar, metals, and oils (petroleum and plant-based); processors of food products; repositories of coal; and various producers of consumer goods such as clothing and books. Some names you may recognize include Valvoline, Hess Oil, The New York Edison Company (Con-Ed), Jack Frost Sugar, Walden-Hinners, Alcoa Aluminum, Lever Brothers, Hills Brothers Coffee, and the Archer-Daniels-Midland Company. 

So, yeah, the Edgewater Ford Assembly Plant.

It was the brainchild of the firm of noted architect Albert Kahn, who built scores of factories for Ford (River Rouge, Highland Park, Richmond, etc.), and facilities for Packard and other manufactures of large-scale assembly-line products. He also designed the Willow Run Bomber Plant as well numerous Ford showrooms, university buildings, and iconic office structures including the Fisher Building in Detroit. 

Kahn even initiated the building of the Dodge Chicago Plant, which was leased for a very brief period by Preston Tucker and his Tucker Corporation, but Kahn died before that factory was completed.

The Edgewater Ford Assembly Plant, a complex consisting of several structures, was built between 1929 and 1931. The complex encompassed 38 acres of land and water bordered by the Hudson River to the east, River Road to the west, and the tracks of the New York, Susquehanna, & Western Railroad to the west and north. Because part of the main assembly building was constructed over wetland, an intricate beam structure of capped pilings was erected to serve as the base for the ground floor.

Meticulous attention was given to the layout of the complex (most of the 950,000 sq. ft. main building was two stories, which was unusual for that era) to ensure the infrastructure would support a streamlined assembly process: a line that would facilitate high volume and low overhead to churn out an affordable, mass market automobile. Of course, the state-of-the-art machinery within the building enabled that end. 

According to several Internet sources (yeah, I know…but I don’t have a time machine to fact check) the Edgewater Ford complex was considered the most advanced and efficient auto plant of its time. It was very self-contained and included the main assembly building, an access overpass connecting the railway area to River Road (for pedestrians/workers and motorcars), its own power substation, water tower, boiler house, oil house, and tank pond. 

It operated from 1931-1955 and assembled 1.8 million units ranging from Model As to WWII military vehicles. Today, it’s the site of some fancy-pants condo complex. 

Now, I can go on and on about this having spent the better part of the day soaking up information like Superfund soil absorbs toxins. But, I suspect I’ve probably lost most of you already. 

So to begin closing this out, I am going to post something a tad unusual. On the somewhat emotionally challenging evening of August 23rd, I took some time to sit on the Hudson River bank near the permanently moored, broken down Binghamton (the last surviving steam ferry still afloat built to serve New York Harbor) and took this photo south river. Note the highlighted portion.

Click to zoom.
Today, I found this undated photo of the Ford Assembly Plant. Again, note the highlighted portion.

Click to zoom.
Neat, huh?

I was just joking with a friend a few weeks ago that when I’m stressed out, I don’t retreat to nature. Instead, I prefer to stare at “civil engineering” – the older, the better. And if it’s on a waterfront, that’s a bonus. After writing this, I think I finally understand why. There is always a connection to the past – designers, pioneers, and idea people who mastered a task and whose work lives on to tell the tale – whether we are aware of the details or not. I guess it’s that connection to the past that I find comforting.

Well, at least it beats the comfort that anything from the McDonald's Dollar Value Menu can offer. 

Sep 8, 2012

Silver Lining

On the heels of a tornado touching down in Queens earlier today, the National Weather Service has issued a severe thunderstorm watch for the region.

The local weatherman urged the viewing area to "stay indoors for the next several hours." So, I'm going with that warning as my excuse for spending another swingin' Saturday night at home.

Here's a photo from my balcony of the first round of storms rolling in about two hours ago...

Click to zoom

Aug 25, 2012

Why Random People Rock

I received this comment tonight from a fellow who came across this nonsense I posted on YouTube.

In all honesty, I think it's kind of sweet. Especially since his channel is comprised solely of videos of various transportation vessels and industrial shit blowing itself sky high. You know, the stuff all guys with "feelings" love to spend hours pouring over.
MrDriftspirit has posted a comment on your channel:
Thanks for uploading the transformer electric failure video. awesome and amazing sound and electric arcs!! don`t care about the haters on yt. your breathing at the end of the video is natural, and everyone who says the difference is a lyer or a poor person without feelings. 

Aug 12, 2012

Believe Me

For your viewing pleasure, here is an iPhone video I shot of the Royal Teens performing their 1959 Capitol Records hit "Believe Me" at a Music and Movies Under the Stars event at the Fort Lee Community Center on 8/11/2012.

This song was co-written by Fort Lee native Tom Austin and legendary songwriter/producer/arranger Bob Gaudio (an original member of the Royal Teens who went on to work on numerous hit records and projects, including those of Frank Sinatra).

Tom Austin, drummer for the Royal Teens, also wrote a fabulous book on The Riviera, a defunct Fort Lee night club and carpet joint that operated from the 1930's-1953.

Enjoy the audio...because, believe me, the video sucks.

Aug 11, 2012

Iron Moan

Here is a quick video of the chaos that woke me up this morning. Unfortunately, the "announcer" was not blaring over the crap PA, no one was blowing their air horns, and no helicopters were flying overhead. So I apologize for the fact that this clip does not represent the full experience. You will notice that the bikes are going in both directions. That is because the southernmost turn of the cycle route loop is right outside my building. Jesus Christ on a bike.

Oh, and as I am waiting for this to upload, the "announcer" just came on and said "Only 66 more miles to go!" Yes, I can hear him loud and clear with all my windows closed.

Happy happy joy joy....

Aug 10, 2012

Hijinks on the Hudson

For the first time ever, the Ironman U.S. Championship – a triathlon – will be held in the NYC-Metro region. This day-long race will bring an estimated 2,500 athletes and 10,000-15,000 spectators to the area. The Ironman is hardcore: Athletes will swim 2.4 miles down the Hudson River, bike 112 miles along the Palisades Interstate Parkway, and then run 26.2 miles. The 140.6 mile course will have athletes coming and going through Fort Lee before they finish big in NYC.

Usually, I would not give a rat’s ass about such overachieving nonsense but this competition hits home. Literally. My street – the lovely Hudson Terrace – will be closed from midnight tonight through approximately midnight tomorrow to accommodate this race.

To appease the folks on the sidelines, as well as the holed-up residents of Hudson Terrace, event organizers have promised activities and incentives including, but not limited to, DJ entertainment and fair foods.

As if witnessing thousands of hard-bodies who can run, swim, and bike over a total of 140.6 miles of cliffs, dales, and river from the sedentary confines of my balcony is not going to make me feel enough like an utter failure, let’s add insult to injury.

Bring on the deep fried Twinkies!

The Iron Stomach U.S. Championship: Everyone Loses!
However, the grease-trucking might indeed be cut a few hours short for those of us who have nowhere to go and all fucking day to get there. Why? Well, because nothing can ever go smoothly, it turns out that there was some kind of sewer line break that is requiring a “controlled discharge” of several million gallons of chlorinated raw human waste into the Hudson River a day before the race. As such, Ironman officials are considering sinking the swim portion of the competition.

Many triathletes are, understandably, not happy about this because rendering the race a biathlon (duoathlon?) will not only undermine their rigorous training, but it will hurt athletes whose strength is swimming. It will also impact the ability for winners to compete at the next round. Don’t ask me how; I didn’t consult the rule book.

OK. Now you are ALL thinking it. Why, of course an event planned to take place in New Jersey was gonna somehow be stymied by millions of gallons of shit! I mean, who didn’t see this coming from 140.6 miles down the busted pipe?

But before we cast the blame on New Jersey, I would like to make it known that the gasket blew in Tarrytown, New York. Yes, New York, NOT New Jersey. Though I suspect it doesn't really matter. This is not the first time New York’s crap washed up on our shore and we had to deal with the stink.

And it certainly won't be the last.

Anyway, it’s getting late and I gotta go stockpile “provisions” before the stockade surrounds my street. And by “provisions” I mean Blanc de Noir. Because in honor of the swim portion of the Ironman, I plan on making like the Hudson River and polluting a “controlled discharge” of Chandon.

Aug 4, 2012

What’s Hotter Than Argyle Socks?

I have no secrets, I have no shame. Yes, it’s Friday night and I’m getting busy…with the archives. So, without further ado, I present tonight’s installment of midnight mid-century madness.

You see, sometimes something is so wrong it becomes right again. And this ad from the August 11, 1952 issue of LIFE Magazine is one of those things. The shocking image, the layout (which results in an odd floating chair effect), the “maybe I did it on purpose” look on the wife’s face, and the copy all work together to produce the most fantastically bizarre ad I’ve come across in a long while. Oh, the line “…woe be unto you!” is just brilliant. The biblical connotations alone – the juxtaposition of purity and punishment – render it sheer copywriting genius.

Thou shalt see for yourself:

Click to enlarge.
Furthermore, in picturing myself over the knee of Mr. Suspenders (cuz that’s how I roll), I can’t help pondering the terribly dire repercussions of my next trip to the grocer's. You know, when I come home with tea.

Alright, enough of this fooling around. Back to the grind.

Aug 3, 2012

Last Laugh

Some of my pals seem to be of the opinion that I have lost my sense of humor lately. I assure you that is indeed NOT the case, and I promise I'll be back in the blazing saddle with all sorts of dry jokes and off-color comments before too long.

But in the meantime, here is a little "Natalie Kochmar original" piece – in the striking medium of ballpoint on legal pad – to show you that I'm still flexing my creative muscles.

Jesus, where's your sense of humor?!?!?

Jul 29, 2012


It’s 3:40 in the morning. I set out to light a candle's wick and ended up igniting a bomb's fuse. I wanted it to glow, not blow.

Nonetheless, the danger of it all is simply intoxicating. No wonder I can’t sleep. The radioactive fallout is captivating: shiny and unstable and unlike anything I've ever experienced. And it is doing what it could be expected to do – irradiating the bad to a slow and certain death, but also taking more and more of the good with it with every storm. And, fuck, these last few days it was raining down in slick, wicked sheets.

But how much am I willing to sacrifice to shed the old, the bad? How long before what’s new, the good, turns into a target of my resentment? How long can I keep manufacturing squalls of this sparkling, black, atomic stardust before I completely burn the fuck out? I'm not sure if its creation is worth the effort. I can't even tell if it's priceless or worthless at this point.

All I know is I'm exhausted. And I've lost.

Jul 12, 2012

…Practiced at the Art of Deception

Several months ago, I attempted keeping a journal. The results were mixed. While it proved to be somewhat helpful for keeping the short-term memory straightened out, it seems the “therapeutic” value was lost to my critical, artistic, and impatient nature. In short, I was self-editing like mad and then getting pissed off because it read like rambling and wasn’t incredibly insightful.

I began to beat myself up about the fact that I was failing at something that legions of pre-teen girls have mastered for centuries. What was my fucking problem?

The whole idea of keeping a journal is to log the day-to-day, mundane as it may be, with the intention of interpreting it all at a later time. But that’s not what I was doing. I was kind of impatiently writing my own story rather than my own truth. It seemed I was “fictionalizing” my life with an increasing frequency. It was an odd thing; I knew I was doing it and I knew it was counterproductive. Yet, I couldn't stop. Why?

I boiled it down to the fact that self-examination is both an indulgence and a form of torture. But I am a sucker for luxury and a glutton for punishment, so this journaling shit should have come naturally, no? I mean, I guess there are much finer pleasures in life and much more interesting punishments, but that still doesn’t explain why I was lying in my diary. It’s not like I was avoiding the practice of writing, I was just being weird about it.

Then it hit me during a Rolling Stones cover band concert.

The situation reminded me of the season 4 finale of Californication where Hank Moody walks on to the lot where Fucking and Punching (his autobiographical book-turned-movie) is about to begin filming. It’s a somewhat surreal scene where his actual friends co-mingle with fictional counterparts of his loved ones on a set made up of mock-ups of scenery from his real life. With spartan dialog, the scene is set to a song. Yes, the song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

I realized that, over time, the distinction between what I wanted and what I needed had become all kinds of fucked up. Everything had become so painfully real that the only way to face life (or at least the shit I was expected to put down in my diary) was to entertain the possibility that it was at least partly an illusion – a sort of movie magic, if you will. Just like that scene, I seemed to be inserting shiny surrogates of home and heart into my existence via my journal rather than wrestling with what was actually going on.

And the ending of the scene. Yes, the ending. The concept of driving at speed into a prop also seems to make a lot of sense to me right now. Everything in front of me is speculation – 2 year plans, 5 year plans, blah, blah, blah. It may all be bullshit, but as long as I realize my complicity in the bullshit, what harm is it to play along? And, who knows, it could be great. We get to have happy endings in movies. In fact, we are expected to.

I think we can all benefit from asking ourselves if creating our own stories and facing our own truths are really mutually exclusive exercises. When you think about it, the only absolute truth is that we all design our own destiny to one degree or another. By creating a kind of script in our head, we can do what we are taught is impossible in "reality" – choose our past and craft our future. As long as you are true to yourself, fuck everybody else. I've learned I don’t owe an explanation to anyone, and neither do you. What's wrong with making it up as we go along? All due respect to MJ, I do believe it is possible for us all to get what we want and what we need. It’s just that it may be more a matter of creative thinking than opportunity and determination.

So, there it is: what I’ve learned from “journaling” by not actually “journaling.” And, if you’re one for taking the advice of a mixed-up, dreamy contrarian, here’s one for you…

Put down the fucking diary and walk away. Run away. Drive into the “reality” of your creation. Live your life now and make sense of it all later.

…and, of course, enjoy this clip.

Jun 7, 2012

At Some Point, I'll Write Again

But until then, here is a picture I took from my roof this evening and the words to a song that always makes me cry for some inexplicable reason.

"The Rainbow Connection"

Why are there so many songs about rainbows,
and what's on the other side?
Rainbows are visions, but only illusions,
and rainbows have nothing to hide

So we've been told and some choose to believe it,
I know they're wrong, wait and see
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection
the lovers, the dreamers and me

Who said that every wish would be heard and answered
when wished on the morning star?
Somebody thought of that and someone believed it.
Look what it's done so far

What's so amazing that keeps us star gazing,
and what do you think we might see?
Someday, we'll find it, the rainbow connection
the lovers, the dreamers and me
all of us under its' spell, we know that it's probably magic

Have you been half asleep,
and have you heard voices?
I've heard them calling my name.
Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailors?
The voice might be one and the same

I've heard it too many times to ignore it,
it's something that I'm s'pored to be
Someday we'll find it the rainbow connection,
the lovers, the dreamers and me

Music and lyrics by PAUL WILLIAMS and KENNY ASCHER
Copyright © 1979 FUZZY MUPPET SONGS

May 15, 2012

In One Basket

While out in the hallway walking my bag of trash down to the chute, I caught a whiff of someone cooking eggs and bacon. It was well after midnight. At that moment it struck me that eggs are fundamentally a “lonely” food. That is: quick, uncomplicated, and great if you’re on a bit of a budget. When you live alone you don’t have to think of things like “proper” dinners, but you do have to get bang for your buck. Eggs. It smelled good and I imagined the person doing the frying was probably drunk. I thought I’d like to be drunk too.

I opened the fridge to grab a beer and looked at the empty compartment permanently labeled “Eggs.” I haven’t kept eggs of the “farm fresh” variety since I’ve been alone. In fact, it was on the very first shopping trip after the separation that I replaced the real thing with a carton of vitamin-infused egg substitute. My brand of choice is something called “Better‘n Eggs.” Sounds almost wholesome doesn’t it? It’s got a real down-home ring.

Despite its bucolic branding, Better‘n Eggs is a peculiar substance. Who would even think of it? I mean, in addition to their convenience and affordability, eggs are a nutritionally sound, basically perfect food. Even their lore is solid – universally held as a powerful symbol of purity, fertility, birth, and rebirth. Who would want to substitute that?

Then I remembered why I stopped buying nature’s version in the first place. They’re fragile and they go bad. They were never meant to be consumed. Eggs were intended, by divine design, to be the vehicle in which development is fostered. They are supposed to hatch into new life, not be farmed, harvested, cooked, masticated, and digested. Jesus.

But at least their existence is natural, even if their role as human sustenance is suspect and their shelf-life is limited. These cartons of whatever-the-fuck will still be here with the Twinkies and cockroaches after the apocalypse. I realized that as I have neither snack cakes nor pests in my kitchen, the Better‘n Eggs will have to serve as evidence of my time on this planet to whomever does the digging. Oh, well.

I took a bottle of beer from the full compartment permanently labeled "Crisper" and half-laughed at the word "crisper" for no apparent reason. But before I closed the fridge door, I remembered it was well after midnight and I hadn't taken my medication. I grabbed my handful of pills from the daily dispenser and my eyes went right to the tablet of Premarin. Ha! The ultimate egg substitute.

“Expiration date, my ass,” I said out loud to the empty apartment. Down the hatch.

May 3, 2012

Back That Thing Up

I’ve been far too spaced-out to write coherently as I’ve been in “design mode.” So until I can get a grip on the less flighty aspects of my personality, I’ll leave you with this photo I took today.

I call it “A couple of nice rear ends spotted in the gym parking lot.”

Laugh with me, folks.

May 2, 2012

Leave a Message

While doing some spring cleaning, I found my first cell phone within the recesses of my "junk dresser." The damn brick still had a charge and the home screen had a "welcome" message on it that I had all but forgotten.

Click to zoom.
They sure don't make 'em like they used to.

Apr 22, 2012

Soggy State of Mind

On this depressing, dreary day of drenching rain, here is an oddball phone pic of a puddle in the shape of New Jersey. The magic took place outside the back entrance to my apartment building.

Apr 15, 2012

212 Feet

The latest “successful” George Washington Bridge jumper took his life on April 1st. Before that, it was March 7th. And that seems about right. Or as right as something so wrong can seem. See, Port Authority Police do not make a habit of releasing statistics on George Washington Bridge suicides in an effort to deter copycats. But, based on existing news coverage, journalists say the GWB averages about one jumper per month.

They also say locals choose the GWB for their suicides as the structure itself serves as the iconic, inescapable backdrop for their emotionally draining lives.

I understand how someone can grow to hate it here. How being up so high can become a source of anxiety and even panic. How the feeling of being “on top” can impose a particular type of intolerable pressure; it is a long way down in so many respects.

Mid-span, the clearance to the Hudson River from the GWB is 212 feet. That’s about four seconds of 75 mph free-fall before impact. Four seconds before their bones shatter in a way so violent that the crushing of spirit that brought them to this place, physically and mentally, seems like a tumble in the fluff cycle.

Sure, I climb up there and look down thinking: “What if?” I thought about what would have happened if there was no fence when I slipped in the wet leaves while alone on the Long Path last New Year’s Eve. Would you have thought I did it on purpose? Where would that bottle of champagne be today? Surely, not in the apartment with the view.

But what about the out-of-town jumpers? What brings them here? There have been several articles written on “suicide tourism” a phenomenon built upon the hypothesis that folks seek out grand landmarks from which to jump to their deaths in order to make a bold statement about their lives. These architectural masterpieces represent the triumph of human accomplishment on one hand while simultaneously serving as a reminder of failure to those whose final break occurs in the cities they symbolize. Cities, like New York, that offer the dichotomy of isolation and inclusion. You may be lonely, but you’re never alone. There is always someone watching--though there is no guarantee they are paying attention, let alone care.

I (and countless thousands of others) was feet from my own window when that fellow jumped two weeks ago. I didn't see a thing, but my blindness was not for lack of heart.

Ginsberg wrote of the monstrosity of the high rises: “eyes are a thousand blind windows.” But we know buildings are not inherently evil. Ginsberg was high as fuck when he penned “Howl.” Everything is scary when you are detached from reality. Come closer to the window. We can't always see you, but we're here. We aren’t monsters.

Maybe that’s why I’ve always taken comfort in the view. For a reason I can’t quite articulate, I feel like I can’t fall. If I jumped, I imagine I could just take flight. And if I tired and began to descend, the arms of the entire city would catch me. Millions of hands to make for a soft landing and to provide a gentle push to get me back to where I belonged. Like launching a bird. You always said I was a little bird.

Nonetheless, I feel for the jumpers. I know what it’s like to have your dreams disappear, to not be able to visualize what’s next. I even know what it's like to have your life flash before your eyes. And I know what it’s like to be propelled by some kind of irrepressible impulse. All you can do is recognize it as a need to succeed. To accomplish something. Anything.

Perhaps that's why reading the term “successful suicide” today took me aback. I suppose success really does mean different things to different people. The jumper’s destiny is sealed a mere four seconds after stepping over the rail. Success, for them, is defined as an ending. A quick and certain ending that is 99.9% unfuckupable.

However, success defined as a beginning puts the reins of destiny into hands far less predictable than the grim grip of gravity. It’s still a free-fall of sorts--but one that takes place far, far slower than 75 mph. And it's a journey that can all shatter in far, far less than 4 seconds.

Apr 3, 2012

Mad Men

“March Madness” officially came to an end yesterday when the University of Kentucky captured the men’s NCAA basketball title. Now, I don’t give a shit about college sports, and I certainly don’t give a shit about Kentucky. But, as someone who has at least a passing interest in humanity, I was intrigued by the “riots” that followed Monday night’s victory.

Post-championship wilding is certainly nothing new. In fact, Lexington police had a pretty good idea of what to expect as over a dozen out-of-control fans were arrested on Saturday when Kentucky advanced from the Final Four.

According to reports of yesterday’s incident, hundreds of police in riot gear were deployed to keep an estimated 15,000 fans from going apeshit like they did just 2 days prior. However, the police presence proved inadequate. Over 50 fires were set, more than 20 people were hospitalized, and at least one poor shmuck was grazed by unintentional gunfire.

I get that there is generally nothing doing in Kentucky and that people can be very passionate about their sports. But I really have trouble comprehending why people would go so far as to risk an arrest record to celebrate a college basketball win in such a chaotic manner.

See, I could at least understand if it were the players who went berserk. I mean, you’re all pumped full of adrenaline and whatnot. But we are talking about FANS. They personally didn’t win anything yet they saw it fit to celebrate by overturning cars and groping women? I suppose it has something to do with mob mentality and the fact that people like to take credit for things they did not achieve.

Like John F. Kennedy said, “Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.”

He liked to grope too.

Anyway, it goes without saying that those who participated in this nonsense lacked good judgement. So, before they sent their flaming sofas into the streets, they probably did not give much thought as to where they would sit to watch the madness next March.

It looks like the time they’re not spending on the dean’s list will now be spent on Craig’s List.

Eh. I’m probably just wasting my time trying to figure out the “why” behind this behavior - attempting to attribute it to school pep or sportsmanship when it’s probably just the result of youthful exuberance and alcohol. I should just accept that I’m not meant to understand it because I am old and know how daunting finding a new living room set can be.

Or maybe my lack of empathy is due to the fact that “my” team, the New York Mets, haven’t won a damn thing in 26 years. Forget setting furniture ablaze in the name of extreme team spirit. The only thing I’m lighting these days is a candle to St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes.

Mar 30, 2012


The lady behind me in the check-out line at the local A&P had a very peculiar order. Even more peculiar, the guy in front of me thought all the containers were mine. And, even more peculiar than that, I felt the need to vehemently dissociate myself from the whole mess.

"You must really like yogurt, huh?"
"No, it's not mine."
"Ha!" He smiles. "You sure fooled me."
"Why would I make something like that up?"
I grab the plastic order divider thingy and wave it. "You SEE?!?!"
He looks at the lady in back of me and starts laughing.
"Oh, so it's YOURS."
She looks away, mortified.

She should have expected such a reaction. I just hope she didn't see me take this photo:

I really hate being part of the problem.

Mar 23, 2012

Playing Games

Mary Pols, a TIME columnist, wrote a piece appropriately entitled “Why I'm NOT Taking My 8-Year Old To The Hunger Games.” If you are reading this, I’m guessing (at the very least) your secondary address is “under a rock.” Thus, like me, you have neither an 8-year old nor a clue as to what The Hunger Games is.

But, just like there is no need to run out and adopt an 8-year old so you can deny them life experiences, there is no need to view the film The Hunger Games to play along with this post. Here is my secondhand summary of the book-turned-movie: in a post-apocalyptic world (surprise!), teens are sent – via a government-sanctioned lottery – to the wilderness where they battle each other to the death while on the TV. According to people who have time for this nonsense, themes of this story include oppression, poverty, self-preservation, power, and downfall.

If that's the case, maybe everyone should skip the box office and just let the 8-year olds talk to anyone over 35.


Pols points to the film’s vivid violence as the main reason why THG is inappropriate for youngsters. An illustrative quote:
Nearly two dozen kids aged 12 to 18 die by machete, sword, blows with a brick, a spear to the chest, arrows, having their necks snapped. All damage inflicted by each other.
And we thought WE had it rough with dodge ball in junior high gym class. Ah, those halcyon PRE-apocalyptic pubescent years.

As extreme as this violence sounds, me thinks Pols needs to pop a pill. And I should know as I am an expert…on film violence, not pills. You see, I was raised on horror and graphically violent films, which is precisely why I spurn them as an adult. My mom, who mad-crushed on Tom Savini and named my younger brother after the lead character in A Clockwork Orange, watched them with us and explained things like “special effects” and “imagination” to me and my siblings. In hindsight, I think it was a valuable life lesson. I mean, we may have grown up into a bunch of fucking weirdos but, as kids, we were never frightened or fooled by movie magic like stunt fighting or elaborate makeup.

Perhaps Pols can take comfort in the anecdotal evidence that exposure to gore at a young age completely turned me off to it in later years. Really, I couldn’t care less if my eyes never see “fantasy violence” again. Furthermore, I feel the experience has contributed to my character in several other positive ways. For one, it has helped me develop one of my more special talents: the ability to give sarcastic running commentary during horror films thus spoiling the fun for anyone who generally enjoys the genre.

And this baptism by celluloid carnage has also deepened my dark sense of humor, which a few oddballs actually appreciate. True story: I once chased a Jehovah’s Witness around with a bag of fake blood saying “I’m going to transfuse you!” in the most Dracula-esque accent I could summon. Though, in that context, my actions were more along the lines of psychological/spiritual thriller than horror. But, I digress.

So, having established my authority on the subject, I've got a message for Pols and any other adult who is about to forbid their kid a ticket to see The Hunger Games. There is obviously a shitload of peer-pressure on pre- and young teens to see this film. If you don’t take them, they will find a way to see it without you. And if this crap really does cover the themes it is purported to, your kids will need you there to explain it to them. So take them; turn it into a teaching moment. And, while you are at it, seize that opportunity to also explain that movies are not real, that violence is usually unnecessary, and that junior high gym class really isn’t that bad.

Mar 11, 2012

Spirit In the Sky

While catching up on the news of the week, I was particularly drawn to the story of the American Airlines flight attendant who went berserk. If you haven’t heard, a cracked cabin aide took control of the intercom and delivered a diatribe which included such gems as "Oh, I forgot to take my meds,” and “Captain, I am not responsible for crashing this plane.”

Members of the flight crew as well as passengers physically subdued the poor thing while she screamed: an outburst described by one witness as “demonic.”

According to experts, this incident was the inevitable consequence of extreme workplace stress. It seems the airline industry is fraught with hectic hours, comparatively low pay, and a challenging work environment.

Say, how is that different from the atmosphere at any other workplace? In fact, I just read an article on how Chinese factory owners literally wrap their facilities in wire netting so workers can’t jump from windows to their deaths. You don’t see the Chinese melting down or otherwise making escapes via emergency slip and slide thingies with mini liquor bottles in tow. Oh, right. The netting.

Anyway, my point is that I tend to think the stress level in such a place may be slightly more intense than it is at American Airlines.

And that is precisely why I’m siding with the onlooker and sighting demonic possession as the lone and only reason for this event. The problem isn’t corporate greed at the expense of the worker. Nonsense! It’s the Icarus-like hubris of man to think he is worthy of flight. God did not give us wings. As punishment for our pride, Satan’s stewardess paid the price for all of humanity who finds it acceptable to fly, if you will, in the face of God’s plan to keep us grounded.

But where does that leave us? Airline travel is a multi-billion dollar juggernaut that not even the Almighty can abolish.

I have an idea. And while it may only be a Band-Aid measure, I think it can work. I propose the US Government mandate an undercover exorcist on each and every flight. Not only will this calm the nerves of passengers on the heels of this news story, but--more importantly--it will prevent any possessed flight attendant from serving up pea soup the hard way.

Keep flying the fiend-ly skies, folks.

Mar 1, 2012

Oh, Baby

Several weeks ago, I came across a bit of a discovery regarding the Lindbergh baby, whose kidnapping occurred 80 years ago today. While the famous crime took place in Hopewell, NJ, it turns out the child was actually born in north NJ's Bergen County – just a few miles from where I live and mere blocks from where I work.

It seems the Morrow/Lindbergh clan had a special hospital built on the Morrow family's Englewood estate in order to provide the most kind conditions under which to welcome Charles Jr. into this cruel world. Ironically, this estate – unlike the Hopewell house – was under heavy security due to the prominence and celebrity of the Morrows and Lindberghs.

The estate now functions as part of a K-8 private school which was founded in 1930 by Elisabeth Cutter Morrow, the Lindbergh baby’s grandmother.

Here is the Morrow estate as it existed in 1934:

And here it is today:

Simply fascinating, I know.

While my imagination was captured by this bit of history, it was damn right held hostage by the realization of the sheer amount of activity that goes on TODAY regarding this kiddie caper. And it’s not all just rehash of old news; there are actually people on the interwebs who claim the emergence of new evidence in recent years. Yes, “breaking news” on the Lindbergh baby. There is officially a message board for everything.

Don't get me wrong, I am not one to throw stones at folks who file Freedom of Information Act requests as my window of weirdness has been broken for years. File fast and frequently, I say. Make those Federal workers earn their pensions.

You see, what really left me reeling were the pages upon pages of stories I found of people who convinced themselves that they actually WERE the Lindbergh baby. Among the more outlandish accounts was one by a Black woman from NJ’s own capital city. The following appeared in an article on originally published in 1998:
In 1989 Geneva E. Cato Fields of Trenton filed her "claim," backing it up with a self-published memoir entitled "I Located Myself, The Lindbergh Baby Alive."
Ms. Fields, who was raised in Oklahoma, wrote that in 1978 she learned from a friend about "the Skin Dye Procedure my Banana-Split Sex operation and seeing my birth records stating Born MALE-WHITE, My mind blocked the fact and I wrote this book, as you can see, as if I had never been told, Until my skin dye started to fade in March this year I still kept blocking the fact I did not want It to be true. But it is."
Yup. As theories go, it’s as crazy as the day is long. But it does speak to a more overarching reason why this story is still alive and kicking. Well, at least more so than Charles Jr.

There is something universally appealing about this 80-year old saga. Sure, life loves a tragedy. Especially when it involves the trifecta of rich folks, government conspiracy, and children.

But people are also intoxicated by the idea of “what if?”

In this case, the “what if?” is not just contained to the facts surrounding the closed case – the who-dun-it, the potential police cover-up, the classified FBI files – it extends to the possibility that the baby did not die in 1932. The appeal is the fantastic idea that any person who fit the description on the poster (and, apparently, Ms. Fields) could be someone other than who they thought they were for their entire life. A proposition that, for some, is worth all the ransom money in the world.

Feb 25, 2012

First Love

Before I came to know most of the people, places, and things I've loved throughout my life, there was dance.

Feb 24, 2012

Call It

Yes, I am aware there is a typo in the clip title. It's not MY was taken from YouTube. Just watch the freaking thing. It's great. Ok?

Feb 14, 2012

Love Letters

It’s Valentine’s Day.

Today we celebrate the martyrdom of the “commonly accepted” St. Valentine. You know, the fellow who was murdered by a barbaric beating and beheading at the behest of Emperor Claudius of Rome.

In the thousand or so years between the death of Valentinus and the writings of Chaucer, the feast of St. Valentine morphed into a holiday that celebrates romance. But, just as the spirit of the “original” Valentine’s Day has become lost, so has the very notion of romantic love.

Or so says CNN.

According to a CNN Living columnist, romance is going down the shitter because of the internets and the iPhone. You see, the under-30 crowd is no longer hand writing love notes or even using whole words to express feelings and urges commonly associated with this thing called “love.”

The youngsters have developed a code—a lust lingo, if you will—which enables them to suggest, request, or otherwise communicate acts of contact without actually communicating or making contact. Yes, I know what I just wrote. It’s a mad, mad world!

The piece even included a “Decoder” (yes, that is what it was labeled) sidebar for the 30–and-over set. Here is a partial list:

AOC = Available on cell
LH6 = Let's have sex
BTYCL = Booty call
53X = Sex
GYPO = Get your pants off

IMO (whoops), some of these abbreviations are suspect. Really – typing “53X” is, character-wise, the same length as the real word. If you are texting, it’s actually more of a pain in the ass as you have to toggle between the letters and numbers. But I guess in these situations the rational mind gives way to the primal instincts. And we are talking about the youth here: when it comes to booty, they know no bounds.

But, before we all start with the hell-in-a-hand basket stuff, we must also remember what else February 14th stands for…it’s not all just decapitation and candy.

It’s also Jack Benny’s birthday.

I would not blame you one bit for scratching your head right now, but this will all make sense in a minute; hang on and view the video below. To keep this moving (though I do hope you save it for later), skip right to the 7:45 mark.

LSMFT = Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco

Well, it looks to me that Jack Benny was texting. And he was so ahead of his time that he did it without the interwebs or the smartphone. Sure, it was advertising and had nothing to do with the tawdry typing of today’s teens. But then again, he was “39.” Maybe he just knew it best to skip the 53X and go straight to the cigarette.

Feb 10, 2012

Put On (or) Notice?

This “lost & found” bulletin was in my bulding’s elevator. I apologize for the poor quality of the image; the note was in a glass case and I had my hands full.

Since you probably can’t read it, I’ve typed out the body copy below. Just assume a big force field of “[sic]” shields the whole megillah:
A light blue plastic Valet with a: “Women Finance” written on it, was founded on the 4th floor. 
The owner of property please see (redacted) or Doorman on dutty.
Please feel free to ask if any question regarding this matter.
Questions? Don't mind if I do!

Am I in a Hitchcock film? Is this some kind of code? Is this a put on to see who shows up to claim the “valet”? Will it be a MAN?

And while I added the redactions to protect the innocent and heighten the clandestine effect, those things that look like human hairs are not Photoshop magic. There were two strands stuck to the paper (under the glass, eww). The operative clearly needs some schooling in keeping their DNA to themselves.

Jan 28, 2012

Condemned: A Haiku

Absence, without leave
In such a nice neighborhood
Let’s hope for fire

Jan 26, 2012

Just Beat It

This afternoon I rode shotgun on a coffee run to Palisades Park. I’m waiting on Mel when a festively dressed gang of Korean seniors comes rolling down Broad Ave with an arsenal of hand-held aural assault weapons.

Simultaneously confused by the racket and amused by the uncanny ability of Koreans to work pom-poms and visors into any ensemble, I regret that I hesitated in drawing my iPhone. By the time I tapped the record button, the joyful noise had ceased. I tried to get them to start up no avail:

Just after they passed the gas station, they inexplicably began banging away in front of the pharmacy. WTF?!?!

As it turns out, this band of merry-makers is not just “local color.” According to a Broad Ave business owner, this stunt is a monthly occurrence. The gang bangs these drums up and down the main drag of town in order to “drive demons” from the shops. What's more, they return to the scene (presumably in business casual) and demand donations for their deed.

While it's certainly the weirdest “protection” scheme I’ve ever heard of, it certainly deserves an “A” for originality. Aside from being a super-cute shakedown, I’d guess it’s also a damn effective one. Who can say “no” to either a demon-free establishment or a Korean with pom-poms on their head?

Jan 24, 2012

Foiled Again

A tin foil hat is a piece of headgear made from one or more sheets of aluminium foil or similar material. Alternatively it may be a conventional hat lined with foil. One may wear the hat in the belief that it acts to shield the brain from such influences as electromagnetic fields, or against mind control and/or mind reading; or attempt to limit the transmission of voices directly into the brain.

The concept of wearing a tin foil hat for protection from such threats has become a popular stereotype and term of derision; the phrase serves as a byword for paranoia and persecutory delusions, and is associated with conspiracy theorists.

Source: Wikipedia

Jan 15, 2012

The Girl With The Tucker Tattoo

One of the 47 remaining 1948 Tucker sedans, Tucker #1043, will be crossing the auction block at Barrett-Jackson this Saturday. As it is a presumably pristine vehicle from the Pratte collection, I believe we will see a princely sum paid for this piece of history. A hammer price of $2 million is not out of the question given the mad money recently commanded by Tuckers in comparatively poor condition. For added insurance though, it is being offered with a reserve.

I religiously watch B-J and follow a good number of other classic car programs, publications, and websites. In "real life," I've visited some fantastic public and private car museums. In short, I've seen have wildly impressive vehicle and automobilia collections and know how expensive the "hobby" can be. And as accessible as things likes TV shows and museums are to the middle class, it's easy to see the money involved and feel completely left out.

But why let my lack of a few extra million bucks ruin my fun?

While I'll probably never come close to owning anything beyond a few auto-themed collectibles and my "daily driver" (a 2005 Chrysler Crossfire Limited Coupe) for a good long while, I think I've nailed a truly unique piece this past summer.

I got a tattoo of a Tucker from artist Amy Nicoletto (from the TV show LA Ink). You can read about the adventure here.

It's in a difficult-to-photograph area as it wraps around the my calf (yeah, it's big). But this is the gist of it:

For those of you not so immersed in Tuckers (or my oddball thought process), the tattoo is a "mash up" nod to the NASCAR Tucker, Nick Jenin’s Fabulous Tuckers traveling show, and the early '50s Marshall Teague Fabulous Hudson Hornet. Finally, the "13" race number is a tribute to Pat Swigart whose #1013 was the first Tucker I had the pleasure of planting my tuchus in.

Sure, it's not real thing. But in the world of collectibles, it's a game of numbers. And "one of one" will always be king.

Jan 13, 2012

Bored Again Christian

An opinion piece in today’s New York Times asked the question: “What will life be like for the wives of Roman Catholic priests?”

Yep. Wives. Of Roman Catholic priests.

See, the Vatican recently organized a “special division” of the Catholic Church—the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter—that will allow already married Episcopal priests to become Roman Catholic priests. As with all things Catholic, a consecrated host of rules surround this special dispensation. Nonetheless, it is remarkable news as Catholic priests have not been able to keep wives since 1123. Not to mention, the Vatican doesn't exactly have a reputation for instituting sweeping changes. Sweeping things under the rug is more their MO.

The article, written by a history professor, gave a synopsis of why the canonical kibosh was placed on clerical marriage. It also served up some surprising sociological insight on how wives of priests were viewed by the great unwashed of the 11th century. It seems clergy wives of old faced all kinds of mad hatred. You know, that special kind of abhorrence of which only Christians are capable. Ugly stuff.

At the very least, Medieval types saw wives as a distraction to the work of priests. I get that. Nearly a century later, work-life balance is still an issue for most. But what I found truly bizarre was that many believed marriage somehow sullied the priest. And “the priest who handled the body and blood of Christ should be uncontaminated lest he defile the sacred corpus.” Let me clarify that by “sacred corpus” we are talking about the disembodied flesh and blood of Jesus. Guess you can never be too clean to cannibalize your savior.

So, as our only frame of reference for the day-to-day existence of Roman Catholic clergy wives is coming up on 900 years old, the author’s initial question is a valid one: What WILL life be like for the ladies this time around? Being intellectually curious by nature, I say we find out. And not by way of a well-done documentary or responsible journalism, but via America’s entertainment of choice...a realty show. Let’s strap some cameras on the Real Rectory Wives of New Jersey and go where the Holy Spirit leads us.

But why stop in Jersey? The RC Church is global so, shit, we’d be remiss if we didn’t make it a franchise. We could hold each season in a different city. We could have specials where the parishes go to Hawaii and Europe...even Vanuatu. And don't forget the potential for crossover episodes: “Next week on Real Rectory Wives...Saint Francis Church of Hoboken invades the Church of the Madonna in Fort Lee. When tempers flair, it will be hotter than Hell.”

Think about it: the resentment, the temptation, the clash of old school priests vs. these wanton ex-Episcopals! What will ensue? Will it be nuns vs. wives in tabernacle Twitter wars?

God, I haven’t been this titillated since I typed “defile the sacred corpus.”

Real Rectory Wives offers a natural a framework for a reality series. I mean, we are dealing with a “special division” of the RC Church. The way I see it, we are already in spin-off territory, and it can only grow from here.

Man, do I hope someone picks up on this winner of an idea. The Real Rectory Wives franchise could be more popular than Jesus.

Jan 5, 2012

Lit Up

The Port Authority of NY/NJ works in mysterious ways. Especially when it comes to illuminating the George Washington Bridge. Since I've lived here, I've seen the cable "necklace" shine pink in October for Breast Cancer Awareness and glow green this November for some nonsense having to do with Girl Scouts. But my favorite lighting configuration is when the stanchions beam bright white from within.

This seems to happen, more or less, on National Holidays. However, they weren't lit for New Year's Day though they are lit tonight. It's kind of hit or miss.

Perhaps they are celebrating Twelfth Night? It's anyone's guess at this point.

Anyway, I hope ya'll will enjoy tonight's view form my roof as much as I have. And I promise I'll get back to actual writing and stop with these bullshit iPhone photos very soon.