Episode 114 – Roller Coaster

Virtual Memories Show:
Brad Gooch – Roller Coaster

“History and culture are the rooms in which a person is living.”

Brad Gooch joins the show to talk about his new memoir, Smash Cut: A Memoir of Howard & Art & the ’70s & the ’80s (Harper). We discuss his long relationship with director Howard Brookner, his need to chronicle the New York City scene of his youth, the transitory nature of so much of the great art of that era, the Life-During-Wartime aspect of the AIDS era in the city, survivor’s guilt, how he stumbled into becoming a literary biographer, and why 63 is the perfect age to become a dad. Give it a listen!

Brad Gooch on The Virtual Memories Show

“One friend told me, ‘Sixty is the perfect age to get married. If I’d known, I wouldn’t have had three divorces.'”

Seriously. That guy is 63. Sheesh.

Anyway, we also talk about the influence of Frank O’Hara’s poetry and life, the many faces of Rumi, why he’s hooked on Knausgaard, the differences between writing biography and memoir, his career as a male model, and how it feels to get retweeted by RuPaul and the Elton John Foundation. Go listen!

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! You might like:

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Brad Gooch is the author of Smash Cut: A Memoir of Howard & Art & the ’70s & the ’80s (Harper) and Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor (Little, Brown, 2009), which was a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and a New York Times bestseller. His previous books include City Poet: The Life and Times of Frank O’Hara; as well as Godtalk: Travels in Spiritual America; three novels–Scary Kisses, The Golden Age of Promiscuity, Zombie 00; a collection of stories, Jailbait and Other Stories, chosen by Donald Barthelme for a Writer’s Choice Award; a collection of poems, Daily News; and two previous memoirs, Finding the Boyfriend Within and Dating the Greek Gods. His work has been featured in numerous magazines, including The New Republic, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, New York Magazine, Travel and Leisure, Partisan Review, The Paris Review, The Los Angeles Times Book Review, Art Forum, Harper’s Bazaar, The Nation, and regularly on The Daily Beast. A Guggenheim fellow in Biography, he has received a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship, and a Furthermore grant in publishing from the J.M. Kaplan Fund. A professor of English at William Paterson University, he earned his Ph.D. at Columbia University, and lives in New York City. He is currently writing a biography of the Sufi mystic poet Rumi.

Credits: This episode’s music is Beautiful Child by Rufus Wainwright. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Gooch’s office on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of Mr. Gooch by me.

Podcast: Theory and Practice

katietcaf

Virtual Memories: Katie Skelly – Theory and Practice

“I’m never gonna be a parent, but if I were, I’d be like, ‘We’re skippin’ this Goodnight, Moon thing; you’re goin’ to Pale Fire.'”

cov175Cartoonist Katie Skelly joins the show to talk about her new book, Operation Margarine (AdHouse Books), which is really just an opportunity for us to talk about Barthes, Edie Sedgwick, and The Maxx, before getting to the moment when she was 15 and read the least “YA”-friendly book ever for all the wrong reasons. Along the way, we also talk about how she manages to work on her comics while holding down a (respectable) full-time job, why she’d rather hunt for a rare comic than buy something new, what it was like to belong to a high school anime club that only had two members. Go listen!

“6 o’clock hits, it’s time to leave the office; what are you going to do with the four or five hours you have before going to sleep?”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! Related conversations:

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Katie Skelly lives and works in Queens, NY. Her first graphic novel, Nurse Nurse, was published by Sparkplug Books in 2012. Her latest book, Operation Margarine, was published by AdHouse Books in 2014. You can find her on her website, on Tumblr, and on Twitter.

Credits: This episode’s music is Katie’s Been Gone by The Band. The conversation was recorded in my hotel room during the 2014 Toronto Comic Arts Festival on a Zoom H2n (I had some weird distortion/flutter on my usual Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder, so I went with my backup recording). The intro and outro were recorded on Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Ms. Skelly by Amy Roth.

Podcast: Mimi Pond – The Customer is Always Wrong

Virtual Memories: Mimi Pond – The Customer is Always Wrong

“With some of the people in the story, I thought, ‘What if they get mad? What if their feelings are hurt? What if they say, “That’s not the way it was!”,’ and then I thought, ‘Y’know what? Let THEM try to spend 35 years trying to figure this out! I’ve devoted my life to telling this tale that needs to be told.'”

oe_coverMimi Pond joins us to talk about her New York Times-bestselling graphic novel Over Easy (Drawn & Quarterly)! We talk about the book, which offers a semifictional version of Mimi’s life in art school and working at a legendarily kooky diner in Oakland, CA in the late 1970’s. We also cover her life in New York in the early 1980’s, how she met her One True Love at a puppet show, the big break she got from a paper described as “The Village Voice for the Upper East Side,” the difficulties of balancing mom-hood with art, the variety of ways she was screwed over by book publishers, her fixation on the Patty Hearst kidnapping, what she hopes young people get out of Over Easys rendition of its era, and more! (It’s kinda hard to believe we got to all that in less than 40 minutes!) Give it a listen!

“One of the great things about the ’70s was the liberation of both sexes. But the slut-shaming nowadays is such a double standard. . . . I made plenty of mistakes, but I learned from them and I married the right person. “

Mimi Pond on The Virtual Memories Show

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! Related conversations:

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Mimi Pond is a cartoonist, illustrator and writer. She’s created comics for the LA Times, Seventeen Magazine, National Lampoon, and many other publications. Her TV credits include the first full-length episode of The Simpsons, and episodes for the shows Designing Women and Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. She lives in LA with her husband, the artist Wayne White.

Credits: This episode’s music is Busy, Pretty Waitress by Stellavision. The conversation was recorded in a study room at the Toronto Reference Library on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones, feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. The intro and outro were recorded on Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Ms. Pond by me.

Unrequired Reading: Jewel Eye

It’s time for another month’s worth of my tweets from twitter! First the retweets (the ones that begin with RT) and then the marginally more original ones! Remember, you can get these regularly by following groth18!

In honor of July 4th, we’ll start off with a bang!

RT @felixsalmon (Felix Salmon):

 

* * *

RT @radleybalko (Radley Balko) – Letter from Cory Maye

* * *

RT @sharilynj – Read about @marcmaron‘s powerful keynote address, opening up this year’s #JustForLaughs #jfl

* * *

RT @kylevanblerk (Kyle van Blerk) – A bear. Made out of 20,000 zip ties. As you do.

* * *

RT @susanorlean (Susan Orlean) – Wonderful!! “@NewYorkTheaterNiagara Falls lit with colors of rainbow on 1st day of N.Y.’s Marriage Equality

* * *

RT @LettersOfNote – There’s so much to love about this photo of Jimi Hendrix

* * *

RT FishbowlDC – Find out how the bridge of someone’s nose figures into The Atlantic‘s Megan McArdle’s (@asymmetricinfo) interviews.

* * *

I don’t have kids, and that’s why I side with #GayTalese on dropping serious cash on clothes: #notthatIspendTHATmuch

* * *

Because I don’t like kids, that’s why.

* * *

Heartbreaking article about treating vs. screening #DownSyndrome

* * *

Chinese govt. tries to disprove adage that there’s no such thing as bad publicity: #weallcrashedthetrain

* * *

The art of #RickyGervais.

* * *

The #JewishAutonomousRegion sounds like the Off-World Colonies in Bladerunner: #Jewsinspace

* * *

A Bentley SUV? But what if the NBA lockout doesn’t end soon?

* * *

I’m disappointed the Hercules machine isn’t on this list: #pinball (Hercules is over here)

* * *

Beetlejuice in NJ, via @nycscout

* * *

I thought #PillowTie was the best Skymall product ever, but it’s no match for #DribbleBib

* * *

Oh, look! It’s the scariest goddamned thing ever! #dummyland #ventmyrage

* * *

Oliver’s Army is here to stay: #andiwouldratherbeanywhereelsethanheretoday #cromwell

* * *

Timmy, have you even been in a Norwegian prison?

* * *

The Midgard Serpent sleeps below Park Ave.

* * *

Just #FranLebowitz and her awesome car

* * *

@SimonDoonan on getting married to Jonathan Adler.

* * *

A “thoroughly generic bookstore” (as per my 40th bday post) is closing: #bookberries

* * *

Euroleague’s greatest hoopster is from West Memphis. #MarcusBrown

* * *

Freelove: sister of Increase, mother of Wealthy: #nydutch

* * *

“I’m looking for something hipster-y“: http://nyr.kr/p5opGB

* * *

Can you tell us more often in 1 article that there was no internet in 1981, please? #shittywriting #tigerwoods

* * *

Set taser to #KTFO: #zotz

* * *

The #StopMakingSense fashion collection: #thisisnotmybeautifulcoat (does @davidbyrne know about this?)

* * *

To quote #Nirvana, I think I’m dumb.

* * *

(Hilarious) summer fashion trends, courtesy of @simondoonan.

* * *

Leopard goes ape: #donotconfrontangryleopard

* * *

5 major factors in the #Borders collapse: #bookswithoutborders

* * *

Speaking of: Proving that people surrounded by books can still be total retards: #bookswithoutborders

* * *

Bob Colacello, whose #Warhol memoir Holy Terror I enjoyed the heck out of, auctioned off his portrait by AW.

* * *

On escaping and not escaping #Auschwitz

* * *

Interview Your Own Damn Self!” the #Nabokov way: http://bit.ly/nrtMZQ

* * *

Boy, #SeanBean sure does get killed a lot.

* * *

Transocean: the “I didn’t do it” kid of the gulf oil disaster

* * *

#WoodyAllen on Rilke, selling out Hannah & Her Sisters, and that new movie of his

* * *

Lovely photos of writers & their dogs by #JillKrementz (no greyhounds, I notice)

* * *

“Using .NET is like Fred Flintstone building a database”: Why #Myspace went boom

* * *

Why is weed wacky? #potluck

* * *

M(ormon)BA: Mormons are the new Jews? #wedressbetter

* * *

Does the mind rule the body, or does the body rule the Ren? #renandstimpy

* * *

Holocaust theory: #saturdaynightreading

* * *

Busch-basching: http://buswk.co/pJrg9k

* * *

Peter O’Toole on being awesome. #doublephallicname

* * *

Nothing harder than getting laughs from a room full of comedy writers: http://bit.ly/poW20I

* * *

I miss Karen Allen, but I’m still glad I skipped that last #IndianaJones flick.

* * *

A stoic and a zen buddhist walk into a bar…

* * *

Neat profile of @MaerRoshan that i missed till now: #offmyradar #harhar

* * *

#Hitchens, on the Gandhi myth

* * *

Mob scene: #mafiaTV

* * *

Psst! It’s a secret bookstore! #brazenhead

* * *

Pad See Yew Later, Addiction! #ThaiRehab

* * *

Writer procrastination: (I bought a super-cheap PC laptop and deleted everything but @ommwriter) #mustdisablewifi

* * *

Final meal . . . Cajun-style! (via @wadecortez) http://bit.ly/rukM1M

* * *

Signal-to-noise and old-cooterism, by @binarybits: onforb.es/nRWJTq

* * *

Crisis in Swedish Ballet Training: #WhyILoveMonocle

* * *

The next generation of painkillers will come in small nuggets that you heat up in a pipe and inhale. #drugdelivery

* * *

I still think that #CCTV building’s gonna tip over

* * *

I guess it’s a good thing Brooding Persian isn’t on Twitter. #associationsanddisassociations

* * *

Hegemony from column B: http://bit.ly/ott95H #SinoTheTimes

* * *

Chimpanzee that! He’s a photographer! #GoApe #monkeynews

* * *

@SimonDoonan on the Cute & the Savage: #notanewsoapopera

* * *

Sometimes the gorilla gets the banana, and sometimes the banana gets the gorilla. #GoApe

* * *

Nowhere, special: #NoUtopiaWithoutToddRundgren

* * *

Orwell vs. God

* * *

Building the perfect #KingLear: #Shakespeare

* * *

#WinstonGroom on #TrumanCapote: #getyourmindouttathegutter

* * *

I just want to stay ahead of my illiterate dad: http://bit.ly/kuJPUt (okay, here are all the books I’ve read)

* * *

Chess computers are using PEDs?

* * *

High school time capsule, courtesy of #BourgeoisSurrdender

* * *

In this particular instance, I’ll chose NOT to #belikeMike, thank you: http://bit.ly/iYSriE

* * *

The accordion market gets squeezed: #bwahhaha

* * *

John Lindsay: one suave mofo: #mayorofcool

* * *

To end this month’s installment, I offer 1 Lap of Manhattan in 26 minutes (soundtrack set to Underworld, of course):

What It Is: 12/13/10

What I’m reading: I sorta defaulted into reading Black Swan Green, by David Mitchell. I was feeling kinda meh one evening this week, and it was on my Kindle, and I thought, “What the heck?” I’m enjoying it, but I’m waiting for the bizarre structural trick that characterizes Mitchell’s novels. Since this one seems to be a novel about his childhood and his stammering problem, it’s possible there’s no pomo wackiness to it. I don’t want to look it up to find out, preferring to let the book unfold itsowndamnself.

What I’m listening to: Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1, We Are Born, The Lady Killer, and the Monocle Weekly (from Helsinki!)

What I’m watching: More In Treatment (almost done with season 1), and Ric Burns’ American Masters documentary on Andy Warhol. It wasn’t as good as Andy Warhol: The Complete Picture, which I caught on PBS a year or two ago. There were a few problems with Burns’ doc: it grinds to a halt when it covers Warhol’s filmmaking (much as Warhol’s films were exercises in inertia), it has to mess with timelines for its segment on “casualties of the Factory,” it overemphasizes Edie Sedgwick and her death, and it spends about 15 minutes (of a total of 4 hours) on the post-shooting Warhol. After reading Bob Colacello’s book on the post-1968 era, Holy Terror, I think that phase of his career is immensely interesting, but Burns gives it pretty short shrift. That other doc I mentioned also does a better job of showing Warhol’s relation to his family, and the sheer weirdness of his mother living with him in NYC for 20 years. Anyway, the first half of Burns’ doc is pretty good, but I felt that it lost its way from about 1965 on.

What I’m drinking: Nyquil. Not for recreational purposes.

What Rufus & Otis are up to: Posing for Christmas pictures.

Where I’m going: Nowhere!

What I’m happy about: An old pal got in touch with me for general shooting of the breeze on Friday. It was great to just catch up with her.

What I’m sad about: The way this year’s just whirled by.

What I’m worried about: Getting most of my year-end 500-page issue done by Friday.

What I’m pondering: Whether I’ll finally get around to writing that “favorite books of the decade” post that I delayed since January.

Ad It Update

A day after I finished my ramble about how advertising tends not to get mentioned in articles about The Future Of Magazines, I read the following passage in Holy Terror, Bob Colacello’s “insider’s portrait” of Andy Warhol. Mr. Colacello ran Interview magazine for about 11 years, shortly after its launch.

Selling advertising also helped me become a better editor: It forced me to focus on what kind of readers we wanted and how to get them, to see the magazine as a complete process, with editorial feeding circulation, circulation feeding advertising, advertising feeding editorial, rather than separate parts working against each other. That didn’t mean doing everything the advertisers wanted, though we did a lot, and Andy would have had me do more. It did mean that a certain kind of reader led to a certain kind of advertiser and vice versa. And in explaining the magazine’s editorial policy to advertisers, I was also formulating it for myself — defining it in sharper, clearer terms, giving it direction, identity, finding not only its niche in the market, but also its place in the culture. There was another thing I liked about selling advertising: Success could be measured in dollars and cents, pages and half pages and quarter pages, and like Andy, I was soon counting them and measuring totals against the previous year’s. I liked the feeling of building something from the ground up.

As an editor who is involved in the advertising side of a magazine (trade, not consumer), this entire piece resonated with me. Except my boss doesn’t wear an outrageous white wig and invite me to parties with Bianca Jagger.

What It Is: 8/2/10

What I’m reading: Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Close Up, Bob Colacello’s bio of Andy Warhol. I also updated the On My Nightstand page, if you’re interested in seeing other books I hope to get to. Here’s a little bit from Mr. Colacello’s book:

Sometimes I wonder if Andy wanted it to work. I wonder if any of it — the video projects, Interview, even the movies, anything other than the art and the selling of the art — was meant to be serious. Paul was serious about the movies, Glenn and I cared about the magazine, Vincent was committed to coming up with a TV show that worked — but was Andy? He certainly never minded the typos and other mistakes in Interview. “Why do you have to spend so much time proofreading?” he’d always ask. He liked things to be “bad,” he liked things to be “boring” — concepts that may or may not have worked in the realm of art, but were not of much use in the movies, magazines, or television. Sometimes I found this attitude refreshing; other times it was just discouraging. If Andy didn’t really care whether anything came of our efforts, then how should we Maybe all these side businesses were just a way to keep himself busy, to surround himself with creative young people, to put friends on the payroll, to run up expenses and tax deductions against the art profits, to promote the sale of art and make Andy more famous, to spend the days and kill the nights, to ward off his fear and anxiety and emotional distress, to not be alone.

Or maybe Andy genuinely believed that if we took ourselves too seriously, fretted and sweated and tried to be professional instead of just doing it fast and easy and cheap, the end result would be stale and dull instead of turning out different and modern, magic and new.

What I’m listening to: Sir Lucious Left Foot, Rattlesnakes, You Could Start a Fight in an Empty House, Night Work, Walking Wounded, We Are Born, and Spirit of Radio.

What I’m watching: Zombieland and A Single Man. Reviews tomorrow!

What I’m drinking: Stella Artois, and 209 & Q-Tonic, although I didn’t drink much last week.

What Rufus & Otis are up to: Hiking! To Ramapo Lake! And Monksville Reservoir! (and then sleeping a lot.) And getting into their first-ever fight on Sunday! I fed them and went downstairs to read, figuring they’d follow me down after they finished. Instead, I heard loud barking. Near as I can tell, Rufus, as is his wont, finished his bowl quickly and headed over to Otis’ to get whatever bits his brother left behind. Maybe he pushed for the bowl a little too early, because it seems Otis wasn’t having any of it. By the time I ran upstairs, Ru was standing in the middle of the living room, with a little nibble taken out of his cheek, tail pretty firmly stuck between his legs. I looked them both over for any other wounds, but didn’t find anything. Ru hurried down the hall and stayed with his mom for a while. I’m glad Otis stuck up for himself, because I’m always telling Ru to leave him in peace when they’re eating. Sigh.

Where I’m going: Scotch Bowl next Saturday! Charity bowling night for our greyhound adoption group, Greyhound Friends of NJ!

What I’m happy about: Taking last Thursday and Friday off, and not once looking at my work e-mail, checking my voice-mail, or otherwise staying on top of work.

What I’m sad about: I’m going back to the office today.

What I’m worried about: The dogs will eventually figure out that jumping into the back of the car sometimes leads to long-ass, overheating hikes, and they’ll stop being so willing to head off on any old adventure involving the Subaru. On the other hand, my wife is pretty sure Otis is flat-out retarded (this post convinced her), so the chances of them figuring this out are pretty slim, I guess.

What I’m pondering: Undertaking another ruthless purge of my bookcases. Is it an overreaction to my impending 40th birthday, this compulsion to look at a stack of books and tell myself, “You will never have time in the remainder of your days to read (or re-read) this book”? How do other people deal with their mid-life-thing? I sure don’t want to end up like Stewart Lee.

High Line, Low Key

[There’s a slideshow, which will be much more interesting than this post, I’m sure. This is one of those lengthy rambles / reminiscences / meditations (ha!) in NYC.]

Last week, I had a conference in NYC, so my co-workers and I stayed at The Inn on 23rd, a great little hotel (14 rooms). Amy & I were in the Skylight room, which is on the top (5th) floor, in the back of the building. Awesome space, really quiet, and the skylight was just marvelous (except when I was leaving the shower to gret dressed and realized that I may have given a free show to the people in the adjacent office building).

The hotel was a 1.5-mile walk from the convention center, so I managed to get in my customary 3+ miles of walking each day. It wasn’t the same without Rufus & Otis, but I figured they wouldn’t take well to the din of the city. Or the cat who lives in the lobby of the hotel.

On top of the round trip (and the extensive walking inside the convention center to visit clients and sessions), I walked another 2+ miles on Tuesday evening, to meet up with coworkers and advertiser-pals for dinner at Il Cortile, a wonderful Italian joint on Mulberry Street. I’d never been down Mulberry before; my only exposure to it was the Billy Joel song and a dream-sequnce from Moonlighting, c.1988. As Mulberry heads south toward Canal St., almost every storefront is either an Italian restaurant or a souvenir shop. Each of the restaurants had a guy on the sidewalk, trying to talk people into that joint for a meal. I don’t recall ever seeing that in the U.S. before. As opposed to having seen it in every single European city I’ve visited. So that was nice.

I decided to take that walk after a day at the conference (rather than cabbing down to the restaurant) when I opened my RSS reader in the evening and found a note that a couple of cartoonists I like — Frank Santoro and Dash Shaw — were going to have a conversation / Q&A at McNally Jackson Books in SoHo. I’d never been to that bookstore, so I thought I’d walk down, see it and Frank and Dash, and dash.

McNally Jackson was fine, but walking among the shelves made me lament the fact that bookstores don’t mean as much to me as they used to (because of online accessibility and the immensity of my personal library, not because I don’t read anymore). On the other hand, the conversation between Dash & Frank was awfully entertaining. I only got to stay for the first portion, which consisted of Dash asking questions and Frank answering while also discussing a number of panels and page layouts projected on a screen behind them. Frank, whose work I’ve seen but haven’t read (I’ll get to Storeyville this week, before I see Frank a week or so from now at TCAF), had some very ‘interesting’ remarks about his approach to drawing. As someone who’s seemingly incapable of visual thinking, I find it illuminating when artists talk about how they see / render the world. (Speaking of which, you should read this article about Jaime Hernandez in the Village Voice.) In this case, I enjoyed hearing Frank’s takes on how he can’t use photo-reference, the benefits of collaboration and the assembly-line style of mainstream comics production, the importance of grounding scenes in space, why he won’t use gutter space between panels (because of the “black dot” optical illusion at the intersection of perpendicular gutter spaces) and why he’ll sometimes write “LAKE” in a landscape sketch rather than draw waves, shading, etc.

I sorta blissed out over this stuff. See, I was in the midst of three days of conversations about the pharma industry, contract manufacturing, bankruptcies, executive idiocy, the decline of the West, and the like, so it was really just a joy for me to hear two smart guys talk about making comics.

SO: the rest of the week was the aforementioned pharma-conference, which went fine. I got out Thursday afternoon, picked up the dogs, got home and promptly fell asleep for 45 minutes, till my wife called, so I could pick her up at the bus stop.

Friday was an absolutely frenetic day at work, trying to get the May issue into shape. My production manager was supposed to return from an 8-day tour of Italy the previous weekend, but the volcano in Iceland left her stranded in Rome. There was no sign of her as of Friday, so I just took care of everything I could, and hoped all the ad materials will be in place when we send the book out this Tuesday. (She got home over the weekend and spent most of Monday busily trying to get our magazine together.)

And then there was Saturday, which brings me to the center of this post. Amy had a photography class / seminar in NYC on Saturday afternoon, so I drove her in and then spent the next four hours wandering around. I was really looking forward to just strolling through the city in a different way than I did during the week: no suit, comfy shoes, bright sunlight, and no work-emails to keep up with.

I had a few destinations in mind — LEO Design, The Liquor Store, Porto Rico Importing, and maybe Beto Hernandez’ book signing at Midtown Comics — but really I just wanted to wander. Like the way I’m doing now!

My first stop was LEO, following a recommendation by The Sartorialist a few weeks ago. It was a cozy store, with three friendly staffers behind the counter, one of whom talked me into buying a pair of cufflinks that I should not have spent quite so much money on. That said, they are gorgeous little things, aren’t they? I mean, I am an editor, right?

I chatted with the clerk (owner?) for a bit, and perhaps too eagerly mentioned that I had the afternoon free because my wife was in class (as we all know, of course, no man can resist my charms). He asked me if I’d visited the High Line park yet. I hadn’t, and Amy & I had talked about it during the drive in. I asked him where the best access point is, and he directed me to 14th and Washington St.

For those of you not in the know, the High Line is a stretch of abandoned elevated rail line on Manhattan’s west side that was recently converted into a park. Well, a 10-block length of it was; there’s another mile or so that they’d like to rehabilitate, but I think that’s under dispute with the MTA. I saw part of the unconverted line last week during my walk back from the Javits Center and I thought, “Boy, that sure doesn’t look like a park.” Also, on one of my walks home, I took 7th Ave. and discovered the irony that the Fashion Institute of Technology operates out of a monstrously ugly building. But that’s just New York.

Anyway, I took his advice, stopped off at The Chocolate Bar on 8th for a coffee and a brownie, walked up to 14th, and took the elevator up to the High Line (the stairs were blocked by construction).

The High Line is a symbol of everything that’s wrong with Bloomberg’s New York. Or it’s a symbol of the city’s revitalization, or its Disneyfication, or something else altogether. I forget. I can tell you that it’s pretty up there. The views aren’t breathtaking, but it’s an adorable oasis. I mean, it’s not like people are clamoring for a view of Chelsea and the hideous new architecture. You should take a break from this meandering post and check out my pix from the High Line. I’ll wait.

* * *

Enjoy it? I even cataloged a bunch of those awful new buildings for you! I’m the best.

Anyway, after the park, I decided to take a long walk to TriBeCa and visit The Liquor Store, J. Crew’s men’s boutique. Amy & I tried to go there on Easter Sunday, after a brunch with some friends in the Village, but discovered that it was closed for the holiday. I was bummed, because it was a longish walk and Amy didn’t have the most comfortable shoes on. Still, she’s a trouper. Also, I think she’s just happy that I’m finally interested in dressing well. There’s a whole other lengthy / self-justifying post about my new-found interest in (understated) fashion, but I don’t have the heart to write it just yet.

That Easter walk was down high-fashion-retail-centric West Broadway, which was crammed with shoppers and outdoor-brunchers. Last Saturday, I walked downtown via Greenwich St., two(ish) blocks from the Hudson, and the population grew sparser with each block. Crossing Houston was a non-event, in contrast to the usual frenetic crossing as you head further east. Here, it was all office buildings and occasional storefronts. One of the most telling signs of its business-only vibe was when I saw a Starbucks that was closed on weekends.

Canal St., on the other hand, was marked by the endless procession of cars trying to get to the Holland Tunnel. I crossed that at a light, headed over to Varick, and made it to the Liquor Store pretty quickly. Of course, it was a disappointment. The shop carried a few things unavailable at a regular J. Crew men’s and the catalog — like $250 straw hats (!) — but the store really wasn’t anything special. Even the layout, a converted liquor store, worked against it, as 6 or 7 shoppers and a couple of staffers added up to a cluttered, unnavigable space. Still, they conned me into making the trip, so I guess that’s working for them.

Crestfallen-ish, I headed back up to Canal St. The volume of people grew rapidly and I began getting a little antsy. Foolishly, I turned up Broadway to head back north. The funny thing about Broadway between Houston and Canal is that it’s like an outdoor version of New Jersey. Seriously: it’s just one mall clothing or shoe store after another. There are a couple of other NYC neighborhoods that also make me feel like they’re aspiring to be a high-end NJ mall, an irony that I’d find funny if it weren’t so sad.

Anyway, bugging out from the sudden overload of noise and bodies, I ducked into Muji, one of the only B’way stores that isn’t in NJ. Readers with too much time on their hands may recall a Muji visit in one of these meandering posts a few years ago. For those of you who don’t, I put the link there for a reason.

The Muji (Japan’s Ikea) store was busy, but I found it immediately calming. Something about the simplicity of the designs on display just puts me at ease. I found my thought patterns mimicking those structure of that Warhol book I just finished, except I didn’t come up with any good aphorisms.

There are some neat passages about shopping in New York in the book. I went into Macy’s on 34th St. one day last week on the way home, and it reminded me of the part where A goes underwear shopping with B. Warhol ‘writes,’ “I would rather watch somebody buy their underwear than read a book they wrote.” I found a casual dress shirt at Muji and convinced a couple of women to buy their famous fold-up cardboard speakers. I thought about buying one of their notepads, but I have too many notepads that are nearly empty. I haven’t written in my journal more than once in the past three weeks. I need to get back to a weekly early-morning breakfast at the Skyline Luncheonette, where I’m the weird guy who starts writing after finishing his meal.

After Muji, I returned to the fray, hurrying up Broadway to get back to NoHo and put some distance between me and the madding crowd. Not likely, on such a lovely day, but at least it’d be a different madding crowd. I stepped into Porto Rico Importing to buy some coffee beans, since my regular brand seems to be under embargo. The store was busy and crowded, but the smell of all that coffee was as comforting as Muji’s clean lines. I used to go to Porto Rico’s store on St. Marks Place, but the charms I once found on that street have largely dissipated. It was a mutual breakup; the street got more touristy-punk and my interests in buying comics and used CDs has waned. I still have a sentimental attachment to the neighborhood, since St. Marks Bookshop is where my wife & I first laid eyes on each other (in person; our first contact was online, so it’s not like it was a totally blind date), but New Jersey-fication has crept into this area, too.

With 24 oz. of coffee beans wrapped up in my pack, I stopped for a schawarma around Minetta & MacDougal, where I listened to a couple of NYU kids discuss how prep school didn’t prepare them for the possibility that they’d get poor grades for not attending classes. I laughed to myself, then thought about how these kids were literally half my age, and stopped laughing. A few years ago, a pal of mine who’s an NYU prof invited me to one of her classes. I thought maybe it was a grad class and the girls were in their mid-20’s; they were freshmen, mostly 18.

For some reason, I then subjected myself to walking through Washington Square Park. Parts of the park are being worked on, so the tourists and students were packed into a much smaller area. No one offered to sell me weed this time, but no one mistook me for a narc this time, either. At the center of the park, as the leaf-canopied path opened up to bright sunlight, I was reminded of the bridal photo-shoot Amy did here last November, and what a lovely time that was, even though I was sick/exhausted in an undefined way.

From the park, I walked up to Forbidden Planet, in hopes of finding the new issue of Pete Bagge’s Hate. Embarrassingly (for them), they didn’t have any copies. I did manage to pick up Brendan McCarthy’s new comic, so it wasn’t a waste of time. I wrote off a stop at Midtown Comics early in my wanderings; trekking up to 40th would’ve been too out of the way, and the neighborhood would’ve reminded me too much of the previous week’s walks up to the Javits Center.

Instead, I headed back toward the garage where I’d parked on 13th St. It was near 5 p.m., and Amy’s photo-class would soon be finishing, so I’d have to pick her up around 28th. I had a coffee and a gelato at an Italian-ish dessert place that would have been laughed at by the Mulberry St. crowd, but I’m as much of a tourist as everyone else.

She called, and I picked up the car and headed west along 13th to 8th Ave., which would take me uptown. Under normal circumstances. In this case, sawhorses blocked off 8th Ave. at 14th St. for a street fair, forcing all traffic west or east along 14th. I phoned Amy and told her to head over to 10th Ave., so I could pick her up there and then head over to the Lincoln to get back to NJ.

8th Ave. was a crawl. Traffic police were only waving through a few cars at a time, mostly from the designated left-turn lane. I was trapped in the center lane, waiting for my turn. At one point, the two cars ahead of me were waved through, but as I started to advance, the cop held up the open palm of “stop.” I flinched with rage, and he walked over to my car. He gestured for me to lower the window. I did, and he said, “Sir, I know that you’re frustrated, but –”

I cut him off, saying, “– Oh, I understand. It’s just that the car ahead of me pushed his way through and ended up getting rewarded for being a douchebag. Don’t worry about it.”

“Well, there’s a lot of volume because of the fair, and technically, this lane isn’t even allowed to make a left turn,” he told me.

I looked at the street fair, then back to the cop. “Hey, man,” I said, gesturing at the fair, “I can drive straight through that, if that’s what you’re saying, but I really don’t think you want to deal with the paperwork.”

“. . . Good point,” he said, strolling back to the intersection. I soon drove away, under the High Line, to pick up my One True and return to the only home I’ve ever really had.

[Here’s that slideshow link again. Thanks for sticking with me.]