Tuesday, July 31, 2007

More Trip Photos

•Bullfight at Plaza de Toros.
•Beavis and Butthead have fun with Italian signs. Fabbrica is factory, and Oreficeria means goldsmith, but that's not as amusing. Still don't know what a Boner is.
•Spooky guy on the bronze doors of San Zeno.
•Two shots of the frescos in San Zeno, the most beautiful church in Verona, with graffiti dating from 1390 and 1588. Always an urban scourge.
•Beautiful Verona on the River Adige.
•Julia with Verona behind her, from the Teatro Romano.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Dia de Quatro Sebs

Today was a day of Sebastians: hiring a new assistant of same name, coddling a high-maintenance fashion photographer, the somewhat tacky hair product company soliciting our company for an issue, and parking in front of St. Sebastian's Catholic church in Woodside when getting dinner. Coincidence?

The Postive and Negative

Good: seeing Shelter Island & friends after a year of absence; playing sand volleyball; meeting one-week old Ronan Burton in Greenport; Two A/Cs creating a world o' central air at 110 Calyer.

Bad: Pulling muscles I didn't even know I had; Lexapro; Mosquito bites, always on my feet; Home Depot on Northern Blvd any goddamn time of the day.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Ways to Ingratiate Yourself to New Clientele

This bar opened up literally 50 yards from my front door about two weeks ago. It's bar number 7 down on the Franklin Street corridor, for those of you keeping count. This one is owned by a nice fellow who I vaguely know from him working at Spuyten Duyvil for a few years. As you might guess, it's a big beer geek bar, while also offering about 6 wines by the glass or bottle.

I figure I stop in there regularly until I can basically walk over in my slippers and not have it seem all that weird. I stopped in for a nightcap last evening, and not only did the owner offer me several wines to taste while we bullshitted about wine and the neighborhood, but he also gave me 2/3rds of a bottle of a tasty Muscat to take home.

New favorite bar! Nice.

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

•I realized that Madrid has changed in the past nine years from a cosmopolitan-yet-still-very Spanish city into more of a generic, European Union one. Globalization strikes again. Walking and eating in Madrid continues to be great fun, especially on the narrow streets of the Malasena district, and doing a tapas bar crawl to start your evenings before dinner is always good. I was able to see some of my favorite art again at the Prado via Francisco Goya's series of 14 creepy images called "The Black Paintings." Another highlight was spending a morning working (discussing Jason's unfortunate departure via phone with my bosses, damn) at Chocolateria San Gines while having churros con chocolate.

•I went to a bullfight at Las Ventas in Madrid that Helen, Julia and I all found disturbing. First of all, there's no "fight." The bull is going to die, and he's definitely going to lose. Six bulls are on the card each night, but we could only stomach two. The first one was pretty horrible, as the bull was not given a quick, clean death. He simply wouldn't go down and bled and bled and bled. The second one made a little more sense, as we watched the intricate interplay between bull, three matadors, the cape and the crowd. While I'll go to any type of spectacle or sporting event in an effort to understand a culture better, this event is a little tough to handle. BUT: Hemingway's Death in the Afternoon is in hand because the whole thing is definitely intriguing. (But I hate Hemingway.)

•I ate horse meat (the dreaded cavallo) not once but TWICE, including cavallo carpaccio with greens. It really IS on about half the menus in Verona. Julia and I only made it part way through that plate, for the more we talked about it, the closer we both got to needing to go outside to vomit. My take: leaner, saltier, with not as much flavor as beef. And I probably don't need to go there again.

•I had a few-day affair with a very funny, blue eyed trombone-playing Italian named Diego from the Verona Opera orchestra...because ten days in Verona means you have enough time to have dates, and enough time to see two operas in the 2,000-year-old Roman Arena. (Plus, go "backstage" to visit. Too funny. And familiar.) Seeing these operas in the arena on a clear warm Italian night is something I am not going to forget for a long time (even with all the mean Germans around us who refused to smile). Magical, and although I have no appreciation or clue about opera, I caught myself tearing up a little bit in one part. Who knew?

•I spent five days in Production Geek Summer Camp at the always charming Hotel Elefante in Verona (home of 20 pet peacocks wandering about!) About 8 other people from various publishers were there doing press OKs at the same time I was, along with my friend/sales rep and her family, so there were loads of people to talk shop with while drinking wine at random hours in the garden. While these work trips usually stress me out at some point when things go horribly south, this one was the best one yet, and the next issue of Vis (called Private with a Louis Vuitton case) will be out in October. I realized I am very fond of Verona, and will miss it until I go back again (maybe next spring?), but having visiting cohorts in Julia and Jason certainly made it all the better.

•My Spanish and Italian improves the more I ghetto-talk my way through things. And I learned some seriously dirty words in Italian.

Hey Porter!

Porter Wagoner opened for The White Stripes and Grinderman last night at Madison Square Garden. (Have to admit, I was a little thrilled to be on the floor at the Garden, to look up from about center court and see all the banners and retired numbers surrounding me. Thought about dunking but didn't want to show off.)

Porter played just under 25 minutes, with the first 10 minutes one of those instrumental jams led by Marty Stuart that really huge stars get before they take the stage (Ray Charles was big on that, too). He was dressed in a royal blue Nudie suit, as you'd hope and expect. He shows his 80 years, seeming very frail with a tremulous voice and needing help on and off the stage. Dismissing the lead-in (The Wagonmaster's Comin'!!) and lead-outs by the band, Porter did five songs: something off the new one, Green Green Grass of Home, Rubber Room, The Cold Hard Facts of Life and one I didn't know. Still, it was a awesome to see him. He's on Letterman tonight.

I bailed on the Stripes 45 minutes in, half because I was tired and half because the sound seemed kind of...muddy and too vibrate-y to me. Not crisp. Maybe too big of a place? I dunno. It wasn't working for me, whatever the problem was. And I had already seen the excellent show at Irving Plaza. Grinderman was good, intense, and about what you expect from the always entertaining Nick Cave: lots of stalking around the stage, big theatrical movements, interesting anecdotes. Most interesting to me was that most of the music was pre-recorded: The drummer was live, but the bass and guitar were used only sporadically, to emphasize a bar or two. Half the crowd HATED them, giving their biggest cheer when Cave said "this is our last song". Maybe this was due to to all the uses of "motherfucker" that came across the speakers right before they hit the stage, or perhaps the straight-up-in-your-face SEX quality of the music, including "No Pussy Blues," didn't help their cause. People did not know what to make of them. The parents of all the 12 yr old kids there didn't seem amused. I was.

Street Food

Why do people dump their old food on the street "for the birds"?? Or for pigeons, rats, roaches and god knows whatever other kind of vermin. Drives me crazy when I see a big heap of moldy bagels sitting on the sidewalk. Soooooo gross. Seriously, in what world is this a good idea?

Exhibit A from the corner of Howard and Broadway this AM. (Yeah, now who's crazy--I know I know....)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Dear Loyal Readers (Hi Pat!)

Been back at home since late Friday; was not murdered in Italy by La Cosa Nostra; work is nuts due to my dear assistant Jason giving notice 3 days into the Europe trip (his last day is tomorrow and the interviewing begins...arghh), and did anyone else see Junior's highlight reel tonight?? I think I missed Baseball Tonight.

Will be back shortly with things to say, no doubt.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Spain: Cordoba

Out of NYC on July 4th, and 18 hours of travel through Frankfurt took me south to two nights in Andalusia, Spain, and more specifically, Cordoba. Cordoba is about 2 hours south of Madrid via the fast train and was the capital of the western part of the Moorish empire that ruled in Spain from 711-1492.

It was the most modern city of its time in Europe, with street lights, running water, huge libraries and a population that was split between Jewish, Islamic and Christian factions. I stayed in the former Jewish section of town, the Juderia (at the charming, clean and recommended Hotel Lola) where the streets were designed crookedly to keep the blazing sun from pounding directly on the streets. Cordoba is reportedly the hottest city in Spain, and I'll attest to that, for it was about 105F on both days I was there. Everything closes between 4-8pm, and afternoon naps hiding from the sun for a few hours are almost a must.

The big sight in Cordoba is the Mezquita, a huge mosque begun in 785 and modified into a cathedral in the early 1500s, after the rise of Ferdinand and Isabella (Columbus's benefactors) when they tossed the Jews and Moors out of Spain in 1492. I didn't see much more than the old quarter of the city, but it's a gorgeous, quiet place, even with the gross tangle of souvenir shops a la Canal Street around the Mezquita. Lots of mosaics, the air is warmer, the golden glow of the sun until 10:30 pm, and the perfume of the place is exotic from the Moorish influence. I had a fantastic meal of pork cheeks at Casa Pepe de la Juderia while sitting on their roof deck, as the sun set, and birds flew in and out of the bell tower of the mosque. It was one of those magical moments of travel where I take a deep breath and positively know there is no place I'd rather be than that exact moment.

I'm glad I started my trip off here slowly. I want to go back and explore the south of Spain on another journey, inclusive of Cadiz, Saville, Granada, etc. for I was instantly enchanted by how different this part of Spain felt. Although I haven't been in Spain in 9 years, thus began my mantra of the next few days as I worked my way through loads of tapas and Spanish reds: I Love Spain.

Pix below as follows: three pictures of the exterior of the Mezquita; oil vessels in a chapel in the Mezquita (general holy, baptismal and sick from left to right) ; interior of the Mezquita; old city wall in the Juderia; and a (ubiquitous) horse head in the former Royal Stables.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I'm Here

Not dead, just a dearth of decent internet connections in Spain and Italy. It's unreal how hard it is to get on a wireless connection. Work begins full-on today; more TK shortly.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Top 50 Songs of All Time

Per the challenge posed by godihateyourband, here's my list of the Top 50 songs post-1950, in no particular order. Although the polling fascists are counting this as my 1-50, instead of assigning each song an equal 25.5 points as requested, here we are. Apologies for Crimson and Clover getting 49 points.

This would no doubt change next week, if I did it again.

Jumpin' Jack Flash - Rolling Stones
Crimson and Clover - Tommy James
I'm So Lonesome (I Could Cry) - Hank Williams
Tryin' Times - Roberta Flack
Pretty Polly - The Stanley Brothers
Psychotic Reaction - The Count Five
I Wish I Was the Moon - Neko Case
Papa Was a Rolling Stone - Temptations
Fever - Peggy Lee
You Can't Always Get What You Want - Rolling Stones
Wichita Lineman - Glenn Campbell
Atlantic City - Bruce Springsteen
Wonderwall - Oasis
Whole Lotta Love - Led Zeppelin
You Send Me - Sam Cooke
Tangled Up in Blue - Bob Dylan
Superstition - Stevie Wonder
Rocky Top-The Osborne Brothers
California Dreaming - Mamas and the Papas
Landslide - Fleetwood Mac
Little Fury Things - Dinosaur Jr
The Weight - The Band
Downtown - Petula Clark
What'd I Say - Ray Charles
Blue Moon of KY - Elvis Presley
Love and Happiness - Al Green
Waterloo Sunset - Kinks
You Said Something - PJ Harvey
Summertime Blues - Eddie Cochran
Dancing Barefoot - Patti Smith
Hallelujah - Jeff Buckley
Jolene - Dolly Parton
Walk on the Wild Side - Lou Reed
Fairytale of NY- Pogues
Papa's Got a Brand New Bag - James Brown
Marquee Moon - Television
Loose - Stooges
Message of Love - Pretenders
I Can't Explain - The Who
Monkey's Gone to Heaven - Pixies
Los Angeles - X
Touch Me I'm Sick - Mudhoney
Here Comes a Regular - Replacements
Don't Let it Bring You Down - Neil Young
How Soon Is Now - The Smiths
Rocky Mountain High - John Denver
Windfall - Son Volt
Venus - Shocking Blue
Moon River-Henry Mancini
Blank Generation - Richard Hell

On the cusp, mostly totally gay and thus irrelevant:
Steve Earle - I'm Nothin' Without You; Someday
Jane Says - Jane's Addiction (i hate this band, but love this song)
TLC - No Scrubs
Tom Petty - Free Fallin'
Bon Jovi - Wanted Dead or Alive
U2 - Beautiful Day
Nina Simone - Feeling Good
Commodores - Easy (Like Sunday Morning)
Elton John - Tiny Dancer
Eminem - Lose Yourself
Little Feat - Willin'
Gram Parsons - $1000 Wedding

I'm Pissed

This article in the Times says New York is second only to Miami in incidents of road rage. I'm a little surprised (infuriated by it even) but as Heater once said to me while she was driving "don't bring your road rage in my car!" She was right, yet I enjoy a bit of aggressive driving when on NYC roads. It's fun. That is, until the bike messenger you flipped off chases you down East Village streets swinging a bike lock at your back window. Or a giant howyuhdoin mook comes to a dead stop, jumping out of his car in the middle of Flatbush Avenue to grab the car door handle, and call your friend a 'fucking bitch'. Or someone throws a bottle at you, just to name a few charming incidents of good times on the roads of NYC.

I'm about to get on a plane to Europe for two weeks, where I will try control my New York ingrained habits of walking too fast, swearing too much and getting annoyed too easily, but I'm with the author of this article who says:
I’m not suggesting it’s fun watching people endangering themselves or others. But come on, who doesn’t enjoy a good fight every now and again?
I surely find getting in an altercation on the city streets or subway funny and strangely liberating, especially if one of the parties goes overboard and really vents. It feels good. Plus, it's our right in being second best.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Worse and Worse

The Reds fired manager Jerry Narron last night after they lost to the Cardinals, and officially became the team with the worst record in baseball.

Some more fun stats from the article: they are on pace to lose 100, the most since 1982. They've had seven consecutive losing seasons, their deepest slump in 50 years. Arroyo hasn't won since early May. The much-touted Homer Bailey has been beat up in the past few starts, although he'll come around with some more experience to become a #1 starter.

My take? Trade Dunn and Griffey for some pitchers, especially for help in the bullpen. (leading the NL in losses, btw). I loved that Junior came home, but since he's not gonna get a ring in Cincy, we might as well let him go while he's worth something. And some AL team should jump all over Dunn.