Friday, November 16, 2007

Pretty Hate Machine

portrait of the author by Marilyn Cullen

I don't know why, but lately I just hate everything and everybody.

It could be the change of seasons. Perhaps it has something to do with my advancing age and diminishing hormones. It might even be about the 70 hour weeks I've been putting in for the past month or so. I am fairly exhausted, and my mind doesn't seem to be firing on all cylinders. In fact, only the part of my brain that controls my snarling mechanism seems to be functioning correctly.

I was reading this morning about how awful our life is going to be shortly, due of the effects of the writer's strike. Apparently, our insatiable appetites for crime dramas, explosions and cheap sexual innuendo are not to be whetted any time soon. The threat of having to wait until next year to catch up with "Lost" is looming largely on the horizon. And I thought, how does this affect me? And I realized, it doesn't. At all. I guess between reading and my computer, I've mostly weaned myself off the boob tube. Does Project Runway count?

And if America was so convinced a few months ago that Britney Spears is a talentless slag, then why did her album go to No. 1? Who's buying this tripe? The other day I had cause to notice that Robert Plant and Alison Krauss' new album Raising Sand was the #2 seller on Amazon, which made me want to know what the #1 choice was. That sound you heard was my head exploding when I discovered that spot occupied by Josh Groban's Christmas album. Is this the price we're paying for not teaching Music Appreciation in our schools anymore?

Who are the people moving into all the new glass condominiums going up all over my neighborhood and it's environs? A couple of years ago, I bemoaned the destruction of two century-old edifices within a block of my apartment. The church was torn down, save for it's Manhattan schist steeple and a 26 story NYU dorm is nearing completion in it's place. Just what my poor neighborhood needs is another thousand freshmen with entitlement issues arriving next September. The handsome old theatre, also demolished at the same time had been standing peaceably for over 100 years, starting life as a nickelodeon, then continuing as a neighborhood movie theatre, a grind house and finally reborn as a legitimate theatre. It had a beautiful neon marquee that, when I first spied it in 1969, seemed to be a welcoming beam, inviting one into an older city with a different scale. It was replaced by a 21 story glass ice cube, with floor to ceiling windows, interspersed with the odd blue or green panel, giving the whole project the air of a rather overblown cabana. Signs were posted on the building's framework announcing studio apartments starting at $885,000.00. The one and two bedroom apartments were considerably more, and I wondered who in their right mind would pay such prices to live on Third Avenue between 13th and 14th Streets. Not exactly a glamorous setting. Well, the project sold out immediately, and the owners have been moving in for the past few weeks. You'd think if you were spending that sort of money on a glass cubicle with floor to ceiling fenestration, you'd give some thought to your window treatments before you moved in. This is not the case with these millionaires. Third Avenue strollers have been treated to a display that rivals Calcutta as the new inhabitants have attempted to gain some privacy and light control by hanging garbage bags, shower curtains, cardboard boxes, anything but the floor-to-ceiling sheer curtains these residences scream out for. The effect is both comical and unsightly. Lately, a few residents seem to have caught a clue and hired the designers they should have in the first place. I can see that my binoculars will finally come in handy.

And what's with the casual homophobia I've been seeing among young people lately? Tim and I had dinner on the Upper East Side last Saturday. It was a chilly evening and we broke our leather jackets; mine an ancient Schott Racer, Tim's a handsome motorcycle jacket I had custom-made for him last Christmas. We stood at the bar and enjoyed a couple of beers while waiting for our table. When we were finally seated, we were exposed to 15 minutes of pointing, snickering and whispering behind hands by the two heterosexual couples seated opposite us. At first, I tried to ignore it, thinking I was just being paranoid. Finally, it reached such a frenzy that I asked Tim if he had noticed it. He had, and mentioned that it had been going on since we were at the bar. As usual I was oblivious. Finally, I just stopped, met their stares with a scowl and looked at them. At first they looked back, but my scowl deepened and I growled "WHAT?" at them. They quickly averted their eyes. I remembered then that my ex, Robert, had taught me to fight many years ago, concerned about situations just like this. When they next looked up, I was sitting back in my chair, punching my right fist into my left palm and staring at them. They never looked at us again, quickly finishing their dinners and leaving silently. I'm not sure what set them off. Two men dining together? Our leather jackets? Who knows? It's 2007. I didn't have to deal with this in 1977 and I'm certainly not putting up with that kind of bullshit now.

Finally, I just came back to the office from a meeting with a very nice client (my age!). She'd shown me around some upcoming projects and introduced me in an extremely complimentary fashion to her boss. I was putting my coat on and saying goodbye when I noticed an exceptionally handsome young man walk in, and speak with the receptionist. As I was taking him in, in all his glory, my client called him over. She then took me by the elbow and said:
"Mark, I'd like to introduce you to my son............"

Crabby? You betcha.

Maybe it's the moon. Or something. All I know is I have to shake this off, and fast. After all, it's the holiday season.