Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hallo from the Weltuntergang!

Greetings from the end of the decade, and from the looks of it, the end of the world! Life at the close of the aughts (oughts) is an untenable place, but bittersweet like everything else. It was the best of times (my blog, the Jersey Shore) and it was the worst of times (Joe Lieberman, my station in life) Staring down the barrel of this decade shows us two undeniable trends, and not silly New York Times Style trends like beer bellies on men and nasaly voices on female twee icons, like Kristen Schall and Sarah Vowell... but really, what is up with that? Twenty first century female Castrati in the name of quirk, if you ask me.

Oh yeah, so the ubiquity of vampire romance and apocalypse in the cinema must indicate something sinister about our modern moment, and whatever it is, it's not looking good. Finally! Something herein you can relate to! Sexy vampires and 2012 conspiracy theories!

Another marked trend in contemporary museum programming is a fascination with art from the Weimar Republic, which is actually the precise intersection of vampires and the apocalypse. The MOMA is currently showing and exhibit on Bauhaus. Designy stuff always makes me feel like an aesthete failure because I think it's boring, and I'm all, "If I wanted to look at tables and chairs and shit I would've gone to IKEA!" But if you too want to get your Deiter on, then check out "From Klimt to Klee" at the Neue Galerie.

My last dispatch from the Neue involved me beating my breast and crying for mommy in the middle of a gallery, the pictures were so scary.


And little has subsequently changed. Although a guard did inform me thaat it is strictly verboten to drape one's coat jauntily across one's forearm while perusing the galleries. Patrons must either put on or check their outerwear. I know I look skanky and shabby and should probably wear a snowsuit or burqua at all times, but come on now! Then I remembered where I was, a museum dedicated to the Germanic arts, so fascism is just part of the experience. Although if you ever visit Germany, any hausfrau or hinterwaldler will quickly remind you that Hitler was Austrian and Beethoven is German!

They say that the symbols of post- World War I Germany are the war cripple and the prostitute and you will certainly see those two along with many other unsettling and pervy images. Ok, full disclosure, the works from this exhibit are Weimar- ish, dating from the late 1800s til like the late 1930s or a few months ago or whatever, but give me a break, I'm promoting a thesis here! At any rate, the German raison d'etre is a constant quest for rules and regulation, for creating order in chaos. Sustaining that kind of anal retentive zeal results in inscrutable artistic subversion, like depictions of nude preteens and men in ladies' undergarments, for example.

You can find momentary solace in the elegant Enrst Kirchner woodcuts. Although enjoying these prints is like reading Raymond Carver: it seems too easy, so you must be missing something. You mean it's not just a story about getting wasted and drawing a cathedral with some blind guy?!

I wish it wasn't the case, but when I look at works like this finger painting thing by Paul Klee there will always be a tiny philisitine in my ear whispering something to the effect of "I coulda done that in pre- K! Why is that piece of shit in this museum?"

That impulse reminds me of what Joan Didion said about the Getty Museum in Los Angeles: "The Getty collection is in certain ways unremittingly reproachful, and quite inaccessible to generations trained in the conviction that a museum is meant to be fun, with Calder mobiles and Barcelona chairs." Except I feel like a member of the generation that came before that one, people wanted to see "'fine art,' in the old- fashioned didactic sense."

Harumph! So, put your inner- philistine at ease and go see this exhibit, if only because you will see things by men with immeasurably awesome names, like Otto, Egon, and Max (pronounced Mocks). Nuthin' wrong with that. And frolich weltuntergang to you and yours!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Anthropology: The Mating Rituals of WASPs

One of my favorite jokes is as follows:

Q:What does a WASP say after sex?
A: I'm sorry, it will never happen again.

Oh, now don't go and get all offended from my inflammatory ethnic profiling, I am a WASP, or at least a half breed (though the other half hails from Appalachia and grew up eating squirrel pie, but no matter!). So I am a self- ordained authority on WASPs and consequently have license to make sweeping stereotypes for comedic purposes while revealing the hypocrisy and tawdry underbelly of a culture. Just think of me as the caucasian Chris Rock.

So I spent this past Thursday evening safely ensuring that I will never have sex again at a Young Republican bacchanalia, hosted at Orsay on the Upper East Side. I used to live just a few blocks away, and never went inside the restaurant but did find some delectable vittles in the dumpster just behind after being shooed away for pressing my nose against the glass. Anyway, this was a gorgeous soiree, all the boys busted out their best pocket squares and all the girls their most potent sedatives. Everyone was in high holiday spirits. Even Lauren Bush was in attendance, who I threatened to "jump" outside, but quietly and under my breath, to my plus- one (Brooke D). Despite all the poetic and physical justice I planned on delivering to a member of the Bush family, this sadly did not transpire, as the party was open bar and the only thing that got jumped that night was Brooke D when I pushed her into a pile of garbage. The open bar drove Brooke D in a more amorous direction rather than violent, as she spent the majority of the night staring at her own reflection on the mirrored walls, enraptured by and victim of her own beer goggles.

WASPs display curious social mores and proclivities. For example, if you ask a WASP where they went to school, they will invariably respond with the name of their high school. What the?! A small group of swans exchanged looks of utter bewilderment when they asked me this question and my response was "Doherty Memorial." "Oh, I've never heard of it, where is that again?,"one bauble- headed lovely asked me. "Yeah, it's really exclusive, it's in Worcester." "Oh, England?" "Uh, yes."

When you ask people how they know each other, they will often respond with "the Vineyard." When a man in a tie emblazoned with the Edgartown Yacht Club symbol asked Brooke and I how we knew each other, I quickly interjected with "Necker Island," which impressed this group momentarily, until they looked down at my polyurethane Forever 21 shoes and knew I was lying. Brooke's unbridled elation at the fact that "the drinks are freeeeeeeee!" didn't help our case either.

It's also completely appropriate for heterosexual [questionable] males to wear pink pants. What else do these haberdashers like? They like cuff links, truffles, gin, dancing in circles with other men to Neil Diamond cover bands, and not me. This one guy with movie star good looks and a Harvard MBA handed me his empty glass after he was finished with his umpteenth Maker's. As if I were the help. WASPs, curiously, are offended by the generous proportions of my rear end, which they find vulgar, but is always a hit in Harlem. These boys hadn't seen anything this wide since the finish line at the Head of the Charles!

I studied the fair- haired ladies in the crowd to see what I was doing wrong. First of all, their dye jobs are much more of the Bergdorf Blonds variety rather than Courteny Love, which is what I've got going on currently. WASPettes (yes, I WILL invoke Jersey Shoreese at this juncture) seem to have an affinity to monogramming, scowling, and anorexia. Also, the theme of the night was "speak softly and carry a big bag." Gotta keep that Xanax somewhere!

Stranger in a strange land.

And this is where the evening ended, like many others that came before. But it did not come to a close until after being chastised by a group of high school girls when Brooke dropped her slice of pizza and the floor and proceeded to consume it without the slightest moment of hesitation. As we parted ways, I turned to Brooke and said, "What shall we do to-morrow? What shall we ever do?" And I threw my head back and laughed with a voice full of poverty.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

American Beauty

When the anvil of unconditional love for one’s fellow man drops upon your nebbish little pinhead, the only thing to do is run, not walk, out into the unforgiving world and flit about in it for a while. Harboring a significant crush on the world, walking around town with a grin on your face like a big gaylord propels us forward against the series of disappointments and ennui that is the human condition. These, my friend, are moments of grace, and they slink back to Graceland as quickly as they come.

So in a fit of unbridled stranger love, I hosed myself down, put on pants for the first times in several weeks, and flung open the door of my tenement building. I minced on over to the Metropolitan Museum (no, it's NOT the same thing as the M and M store you fucking retard, alliteration notwithstanding. The M and M store is a Times Square tourist trap, really, you should think before you speak, even in the solitude that surrounds you after having lost all friends and acquaintances due to these fatuous outbursts) and found my love for humanity momentarily extinguished, and then dramatically rekindled by lots of purty pitchers.

Robert Frank’s book the Americans was released in 1958, after two glorious years of bourgeois bohemian ramblings sponsored only by his vagabond wits, I mean, a Guggenheim Fellowship. Frank is from Europe, Switzerland to be exact, meaning that he is "neutral" i.e. hates freedom. Usually, I find it loathsome when foreigners, especially smug Europeans, or worse yet Canadians, take the subject of our great Republic into their soft hands. But oh man I am forced to rescind my comments once again because I felt like this exhibit was made for me! Like Edward Weston’s photographic rendering of Leaves of Grass, Frank’s images could play roadside companion to On the Road. Truly, because they “burn, burn, burn, like fabulous roman candles,” et al. Why did the Beats say everythingng in threes threes threes?

The exhibit is about values. The photos show the pomp and circumstance of the democratic process in political rallies led by union bosses in Chicago, marching bands, boater hats and all. You’ve got the diner waitress as an exhausted beauty, the Hollywood starlet and her adoring public at a premiere. Consequently, the photos also show what Americans do not value. Images from Charleston, South Carolina show a black nanny holding a white infant, and the masthead for the exhibit captures Jim Crow in a New Orleans trolley car. There are flimsy road signs compelling wanderers to repent in open stretches of western split lane highway, trucks hauling migrant workers to the fields, Puerto Rican trannies in Harlem, and hobos sleeping in public parks in Cleveland. Who knew there were public parks in Cleveland?! The only thing missing was Pentecostal snake handlers. I love that. Next time the Met brings me on board as an art consultant, I’ll be sure to mention that.

I tried so hard to restrain myself from whipping out my moleskin reporter’s pad and recording all my brilliant insights for the day.

I resisted doing so during the Welsh mining boys and indigenous Peruvians in bowler hats, two more favorite things. Then I came to the photo of the blind accordion player, and all bets were off.
As I stood in front of the glass admiring the grotesque beauty and journaling (Yeah, I said it, so what who cares?! You judgemental judge, you should dedicate all that judgy energy into practicing the alphabet) about all the contradictory feelings it brought up in my belly, I felt the cumbersome, unmistakable gaze of an unsavory man’s eyes burning into places that should not burn. “Where did you get those shoes?” the smarmy fellow asked. I mean, I was wearing amazing shoes; I can’t condemn him for admiring, but what a homo pickup line, right? Then on to, “Why are you writing? Are you a student?” “No, I’m writing for a publication.” “Which one?” The Paris Review.”

And then I fled the scene of the crime, lest anyone realize that I am pathological. But no matter! This buoyancy was unsinkable, not even the unscrupulous overtures from museum predator could bring me down. I've said it once and I'll say it again: God Bless America!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Let's Go to the Movies!: Nights of Cabiria

Not since Bridget Jones or the male lead in 500 Days of Summer has a protagonist resonated more profoundly with me than Cabiria in this Fellini classic. Of course, my cinematic taste hovers between the tawdry and the deplorable, faves including Joshua Jackson vehicle The Skulls and cultural patrimony of the Dominican Republic Sanky Panky.

I really related with Cabiria for several reasons. First, she's a prostitute, but not a very good one, just like me. Instead of slithering into pencil skirts and teetering along the cobblestones of Rome in hooker heels, she abounds in stripes and flats. I enjoy donning matching stripy outfits with unsavory characters and taking photos. The resemblance is uncanny. Between Cabiria and I, dummy, not that guy upon whose head I am posing provocatively.

Cabiria's umbrella shares about 80% screen time with the actress, and as I watched this whole psychodrama play out between the fickle rainclouds and our heroine, I thought to myself, "Oh my God, I carry an umbrella on my person at all times too!" She even checks it at a nightclub, which I have also done, after using it to lambaste the doorman and "make a scene."

The nightclub scene really struck a chord, especially when Cabiria entangles herself in a velvety curtain over the entrance to the dance floor. She then proceeds to humiliate her dance partner by clearing the floor with exaggerated mambo number. Not that I've ever done that, per se, but let's just say the members of my party and/ or security may have requested that I descend from the cocktail table while throwing my skirt over my head and doing a bastardized Charleston/ Jamaican dance hall thrash that could easily be confused with a seizure, all while demanding that a busboy pour tequila in my mouth like that time in Puerto Vallarta. Oh well.
But the crux of Cabiria's character lies in the fact that throughout the entire film she is routinely shat upon by men, but never gives up on true love. While that may sound like some hooker- with- a- heart- of- gold conceit, I assure you it's not. Cabiria is a rebel, rejecting the notion that her experiences are the rule (that members of the opposite sex only show any remote interest in you because they are motivated by malicious intent like pushing you into a river and robbing all your earthly possessions, for example) and that they are the exception instead. Two different dates make attempts on her life TWICE, bracketing the film with a lugubrious symmetry. A guy hasn't tried to kill me (yet) but one did steal my identity. Would you believe that there is a check- cashing operation in Plant City, Florida, owned and operated by an Albanian named Paloma Zenaida?

Just listen to what Fellini himself said about his film:

"The subject of loneliness and the observation of the isolated person has always interested me. Even as a child, I couldn’t help but notice those who didn’t fit in for one reason or another—myself included. In life, and for my films, I have always been interested in the out-of-step. Curiously, it’s usually those who are either too smart or those who are too stupid who are left out. The difference is, the smart ones often isolate themselves, while the less intelligent ones are usually isolated by the others. In Nights of Cabiria, I explore the pride of one of those who has been excluded."

Okay, so I definitely fall on the latter half of that elegant equation, being all but shunned by my peer group and society at large, under the charge of "unorthodox social interactions" and violent dancing. But what of it?! Like my heroine Cabiria, I refuse to accept circumstances as they are, despite every signpost and omen otherwise. To the river!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

On the Waterfront

Have you ever circumnavigated the island of Manhattan? Does eating swordfish on City Island appeal to you? Would you like to ride the Staten Island ferry on a sweltering August afternoon, semi- noxious fumes from the Buttermilk Channel cooling your sweat mustache? Ok, asshole, how about drinking a Schlitz while you ogle handsome individuals in DUMBO from behind dark glasses? I knew we would meet somewhere in the middle...

Well, if any of those scenarios appeal to you even slightly, or if you've ever fetishized working class heroes like longshoreman or fish mongers, then you must visit the photo exhibit "The Edge of New York: Waterfront Photos " at the Museum of the City of New York, on display until November 29. It is an enchanting exhibit that might bring up feelings or ideas like loneliness, industry, fragmentation, tradition and change, fear of terrorism by port entry, empathy with your neighbor, and man's place in the natural world. And the entire exhibit will take you less than fifteen minutes from start to finish, and you can seamlessly resume your daily regimen of kicking cats and gobbling down non- FDA approved diet pills.

The exhibit is split between contemporary depictions of the waterfront and historical photos, many of which were shot by Works Progress Administration (WPA) workers in the 1930s. Was there ever a better government program than the WPA? Now that is what I call cultural heritage. Why can't they create a WPA for this recession? I know a few individuals who need a state guidebook to write or a mural to paint, and I'm not even taking about myself surreptitiously, then again... If you look at the photos by Berenice Abbott (WPA all the way!), you actually start hearing "Rhapsody in Blue" and smell roasted chestnuts and pickle brine wafting through the air. No, not literally, you simpleton. But maybe you will, given your proclivities to hallucinogenics. What if you, like, went to a museum on, like, PCP man??? Imbeciles, all!
Here's a collage I made, inspired by the exhibit. This creative portrayal would suggest that I am a classically trained visual artist, but nope, that's just raw talent. Note the self- standing design and the unsettling slope of my desk. The Museum of the City of New York will next be showing an exhibit entitled "the Leisure Time Hobbies of Paloma Zenaida: The Demand for a New Works Progress Administration."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

We All March Together!

"Is there anything worse than a staunch woman?" No there's not, and all bets are off when a staunch woman concocts an homage to her reclusive hero and her show biz dreams. Thus spake Little Edie Beale, whose scarf I feebly attempted to fill this Halloween. Edie wore didn't wear clothes, she wore"costumes," as she referred to her eccentric sartorial choices. This costume in particular really captured my essence. I was SO happy all night, mincing around with my flag and 'do rag, and I fucking hate Halloween (but not Halloween candy). Even when I accidentally stumbled into the Bowery Hotel, and a thousand eyes glowered over thirty dollar cocktails and prompted some very self- conscious feelings about the state of my thighs in short shorts, I still felt awesome. I wish I could wear this costume everyday, but that would probably prompt imprisonment, and even more gays following me around, like this guy for example.

Please note the soldier. He offered his services in defending my person from swarms of admirers. Hagiography is not for the faint of heart!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Mitzvah: Joy Behar and Susie Essman at the 92nd street Y

In 1990, Susie Essman played the role of a Hasidic woman named Malka in the Hallmark TV movie "Loving Leah." Barbra Walters interviewed Essman on the View about her research of the role earlier this year, asking what the actress learned about the ultra- orthodox community. She answered, "That they're not very good dressers." Of course, this flippant and hilarious comment attracted ire from many. In order to rectify the situation, Essman suggested that the View host a Hasidic fashion show. Joy Behar said that in the lull of summer programming, the producers seriously considered it.

How did I learn such juicy showbiz gossipy bits? BECAUSE I was seated last row (literally dead last, vertigo- inducing last) at an Evening with Susie Essman and Joy Behar at the 92nd Street Y last night! I just adore these two brassy broads and purchased tickets ages ago and told my so- called "friends" to do the same. Of course, none of them did, they are all very preoccupied crafting their slutty Halloween costumes (Chris has been working on his "Downward Dog" creation all week and Brooke D's "Nancy Kerrigan Nasty" is just skating along) and experimenting with new jello shot flavors (Anna is perfecting "malt liquor and sriracha " and Brooke G will soon patent "college dorm room"). I was the sole Gentile in the audience and companionless. Needless to say, I felt like a curious aberration in a sea of peri- geriatrics and Larry David doppelgangers. Brooke D, Brooke G, Anna, and Chris: If you are reading, I hate you.

But no matter, just more Behar and Essman for me! Joy "So what, who cares?!" Behar instigated a lively conversation with Essman, so much so that you really felt like you were just having cawefee tawk with a couple of yentas. They reflected at length about hustling as female stand- up comics in the '80s, which sounded like a cross between Punchline starring the cast of Beaches taking place along the Trail of Tears. Susie Essman had so many pearls of wisdom to share, for example:

On rambling stories:
" I hate detail- laden stories. Give me 'salient point, salient point, punchline.'"

On Curb Your Enthusiasm character, Susie Green:
"She suffers from high self- esteem."

On how to know if your husband is gay:
"If you catch him blowing the neighbor or reading my book."

On aging:
"I don't give a shit what anyone thinks of me anymore."

Totally! I give, like, 15% less of a shit in my 26th year than in my 25th... by the time I hit thirty I'll be clogging traffic on the sidewalks of Park Slope with my Rascal, wearing a nightshirt emblazoned with a kitten face and emerald rhinestones as its eyes, having ballooned up to 300+ pounds, wearing my hair in two long braids. Age shmage, some of us do not have that far to fall.

You can readily define any individual who deigns to ask a question in the Q and A period of a lecture, can't you? First off, you know they are bold and brazen, I (contrary to popular belief) am debilitatingly shy when it comes to public address, way too shy to pose any questions in front of an AUDIENCE, even if they can be written on note cards and handed in anonymously. I can barely make eye contact with the bodega guy. Here are some stock personalities and their corresponding questions:

1. The Pundit:
"Joy, why didn't you really give it to Ann Coulter when she was on your show?" [Ed. note- That person is an asshole. How dare you criticize your host, about something so trite anyway? Ill- mannered cretin, have you ever turned off Air America and left your apartment prior to that moment?.]

2. The Benevolent Sycophant:
"What can we do as a community to promote women and women comics?"

3. The Rabbi:
"Susie, you say that the acting on Curb is spontaneous, but that you often will shoot up to 25 takes for a single scene. How can one act with spontaneity after 25 takes?"

4. The Comedian:
"Tell me a joke"
Essman's response: "I don't tell jokes. Go fuck yourself."

It was a wondrous night, a star- studded Spectacular of ball- busting, Judaica- referencing (mentions of brisket: 3, shout- outs to the JCC in Boca Raton: 1, discussion of various medical ailments: too many to keep track) Did I mention that I walked directly into the impressively sturdy frame of Dan Aykroyd in the bathroom? I felt so shy! He is Elwood! Also because I was in the men's bathroom... See what you missed, friends?! When the next uplifting cultural event comes around I'm sure they'll be huddled in line at the blood bank trying to sell their platelets.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

To The Lighthouse!

In Virginia Woolf's day, when ladies got the post- partum or wanted to do something crazy like work outside the home, they were sent to the nervous hospital. Or they went to the lighthouse, or to the waves as a final act of defiance: "Against you I will fling myself, unvanquished and unyielding, O Death!" Today, when ladies are teetering upon the edge of losing their shit, they take a long weekend to Block Island, Rhode Island. Not that I would know, I just wanted a holiday in the country... Here's what I did:

I spied behind rocks.

I served as a mercenary against the white man for the Pequots. Oh right.... sad.
... the elusive Riis Beach monster of summer 2008 surfaced on the sands of New Shoreham, RI.
... as did the oft- mythologized Block Island boulder humper.
I destroyed.
The town historian gave a provocative lecture at the Indian Cemetery, entited "Totem or Totemic?: King Philip's War and the Southern New England Tourism Industry."
I found boyfriends.
I stumbled upon this perverse mascot of small town inter- species breeding: the Rhode Island cow horse.

Have you ever stopped toponder the significance of the Rhode Island state flag? I thought so! Roger Williams, upon the founding of 'Lil Rhody in 1636, quoted Hebrews 6:19- "Hope we have as an anchor of the soul." Indeed! pRIde!