Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The New Graffiti

The thing about New York City is this - if you leave it for more than six months, don't expect it to be the same when you come back.


Last Saturday night, I took a Metro North Train into the city for a friend's birthday. It had been about eight months since I'd be in the city, so I knew I should brace for some change or another. And it didn't take long, either. After basking in the familiar, enveloping majesty of Grand Central Terminal, I made my way down to the subway to take the Shuttle to Times Square. And that's where New York's latest change smacked me right between the eyes.


It's called wrap advertising. I'd seen this on buses for years, but I'd never seen it on a subway train until last Saturday night. Wrap advertising is this - an advertisement covers an entire bus or subway train, windows and all. It's intention is to impress upon your senses via the boldness and enormity of its scope.


When I moved to New York in 1994, widespread urban graffiti was just about dead. A new culture had snuffed graffiti out as a quality of life crime. The New York I moved into of the early nineties was a far cry from the chaotic urban wilderness I'd recalled from my youth. I was moving into the nascent years of alleged reform. A new optimism crept into the city and the seemingly overnight vanquishing of graffiti on subways accompanyed the sterilization of Times Square and a newfound limitless excess of Wall Street. In hindsight, I wonder if we'd all have been as enthusiastic, had we known that the economic and social juggernaut that overtook New York would also vanquish the city's personality as deftly as it took away it's cosmetic undesirables.


Perhaps it's because we look at graffiti artists differently now. When the city was rounding the corner on graffiti in the late 1980's, a countering school of thought came forward to view graffiti as an art form. Some graffiti artists, such as Seen or more notably Jean-Michel Basquiant would be embraced by mainstream art culture. People began to see that graffiti was complex - as much a performance art as it was a visual art.


But back to wrap advertising - and I'll be blunt. I fail to see how this newfound commandeering of a subway car by a corporation is any different that the commandeering of a subway car by a graffiti artist. I know I possess somewhat liberal sensibilities. And I fully realize that corporations that place these advertisements on subways provide revenue to the city that citizens ultimately benefit from. I get that.


But back to the concept of graffiti as a quality of life crime. The arguments that always shouted down graffiti artists during their 70's/80's heyday was - "why should everyday citizens have to be subjected to that?" A fair argument.


And now I'll ask it again. Just because a television network pays advertising dollars to the city...from a purely aesthetic point of view...why should I have to be subjected to the sensory experience of being overwhelmed by the advertisement for some horrid cable television program that I'd rather die than give an hour of my life to?


Ultimately...how is this:

....a crime, and this:





is okay????

Friday, October 1, 2010

More

I've added a few more images from the project I'm working on: Uncle Slimbo's Book of Saints, Primitives and Fearfully Ignorant Animals.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

This is next

I've started a project called Uncle Slimbo's Book of Saints, Primitives, and Fearfully Ignorant Animals. I don't know what all this will mean. I'm just letting it all happen. I'll let you know once I know what's what.






Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Rodeo

I suppose I'd forgotten what they do at rodeos. Our family was up at Lake George, NY for the Labor Day Weekend, and the Rodeo at nearby Lake Luzerne seemed like a good idea. Early on in the proceedings, the calf roping event got underway and I realized I hadn't prepped my kids for the sight of a calf being roped, jolted rearwards, thrown to the ground and then given the humiliating leg tie as a finale. My son and daughter recoiled at this sight, looking to me for answers for what all this meant. I came up empty.

Don't get me wrong. I eat veal like anybody else, but midway through this rodeo, I started rooting for the animals along with my children. But here's why:

As we initially got to our seats, a rather lengthy opening ceremony was just getting underway. A mounted cowboy emcee was asking for all veterans to stand and be recognized. I was happy to chime in with the well deserved applause of appreciation. But then things got weird.

The emcee then announced that it was time to bring out a lady who'd been around for over two hundred and forty years (Old Glory, the Stars & Stripes). At this time, one end of the pen opened up and a woman, bedazzled in a flashing red, white and blue cowgirl outfit came racing out on horseback holding an American flag. Well deserved whoops and hollers greeted her.

But the national anthem I was expecting at this time had to wait as the mounted emcee began a long address about what the spirit of the stars and stripes really meant. And you know what? I'm all for a good American patriotically rendered boo-yah, but when his address led to gratuitous September 11th gravitas, I had to take exception.

I'm willing to wager a fair sum that of all the contestants and spectators at that rodeo that night, no one there had as hellish a 9/11 as I did. I don't want to say this to put myself on some sort of pedestal as there are so many who endured worse than I did that day and who've told their tale far more eloquently than I can. But I was across the street from the North Tower. My desk shook when American Flight 11 slammed into the North Tower. I went running in the streets with the crowds wondering if this was the end of the world. So...that lecturing cowboy with the microphone at the Painted Pony Rodeo? I don't know where he was that day. But I know where I was.

So, needless to say, I didn't appreciate the sloppy layering of 9/11 into his opening remarks. And I could tolerate it until the point when his lecture blasted: "it's the spirit found in that man who called his wife that day and told her 'you tell my daughter every day that her daddy loves her' just before he and those brave men brought that plane down in Shanksville, PA.")

His address ended with the trite macho declaration: "These colors DON'T RUN!!", delivered with a pro-wrestling cadence. I couldn't help but to be relieved that he didn't add: and they don't have to press 1 for English!

By this time, our National Anthem was a welcome relief. But as soon as that beautiful song concluded our emcee came back with this: "Now we're gonna exercise OUR FREEDOM OF RELIGION and say a prayer for all our contestants tonight!!"

Now, I was completely exasperated. I just wanted to shout out, "Dude, I just wanted to show my kids some cowboys. Can you ease off on the fabricated culture war crusade?"

This was my breaking point. If he'd just said, "Hey everybody, let's all bow our heads and say a quick prayer for our contestants..." - I would have been fine. But this whole bellowing (again with pro-wrestling cadence) 'freedom of religion' thing reeked of self-pitying right-wing nonsense. I went there that night with the expectation that we'd just take in some great rodeo. But suddenly we'd been thrust into the pathetic agenda of someone wanting to turn this event into some diorama of an isolated, imagined America that's never really existed. It was sad.

Thankfully, the competitions got underway and the bombastic rhetoric eased. Though the emcee made a muted Obama remark I wished I'd caught. (Another Expedia commenter had remarked that an anti-Hillary comment had blessed her visit).

So anyway...if you're visiting Lake George, NY....AVOID the Painted Pony Rodeo.

Oh yeah, their BBQ buffet beforehand was overpriced, the service was rude and the food was awful.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Slimbo's post on These Places

Check out my post on These Places about New York City.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Restoring America's Honor

Yesterday, Glenn Beck led a rally on the very site, on the very date of Dr. Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech. Thousands of people showed up fueled by the Tea Party ranks who have swelled the heartland's population as of late.

The day was titled "Restoring Honor". This event was planned as being apolitical, and largely seemed so as it was mostly punctuated by an endless stream of amorphous battle cries for 'Freedom' and 'Liberty' - the shouted, veiled language that the American Right use when unable to constructively address the complex issues facing us today.

Reverend Al Sharpton has been the most vocal of opponents to this event, claiming that Beck's presence on this spot, on this day, goes against everything Dr. King stood for - namely social justice. Beck, who has decried 'social justice' as evil and who has said that President Barack Obama is a racist (with a "deep seated hatred for...the white culture"), has been given a complete free pass on his latest comments that he wants to "reclaim the civil rights movement".

Conservatives will point to Sharpton's opposition and declare he is merely trying to keep and old wound open, or perhaps deriding African Americans as trying to claim a proprietary right over Dr. King's legacy. But these voices are missing something entirely, and Sharpton has not been exacting enough in articulating why we who love Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are so saddened by Beck's defilement of this day.

Before Dr. King died, he'd been working with severely disenfranchised sanitation workers in Memphis, TN. He saw this fight as part of a greater war against poverty and for the dignity for the working poor. He'd planned the Poor People's Campaign, whereby he was going to organize a million poor and marginalized people from the worlds richest nation to descend upon Capitol Hill and raise awareness of unacceptable realities. King wanted to press Congress to declare an Economic Bill of Rights. For this, he was absently labeled a communist, most notably by J. Edgar Hoover who harbored an obsession on Dr. King which ultimately contributed to King's death.

Dr. King's message of peace and social justice, for the dignity of ALL people was directed by the Gospels, not Moscow. Somehow, the criminal act of those who labeled him a communist has eluded history. And now it seems a torch has been passed to Beck, to flippantly label anyone and everyone he sees fit, 'communist'. He cleaves the nation into sides, declaring some communists and others as his brethren.

Yesterday, Beck, to his credit, toned down the crazy and turned up the humility. But he also received yet another free pass at explaining where exactly America lost her honor. Oh, he'll point to some amorphous 'turning away from God', but this is more Right-wing code words for 'Democratic leadership'.

Recently, a construction site in Murfreesboro, Tennessee was vandalized and equipment was burned. A mosque was going to be built there for Muslims who'd been living in the community for decades. This event occurred while our nation's unquenchable thirst for rage has been directed at incinerating the plans for a community center in New York City, blocks away and unseen from Ground Zero.

But now it seems a candlelight vigil has been planned by people of all faiths in Murfreesboro as a sign of solidarity with the Muslim community there.

Mr. Beck, while you bankroll millions by preying upon America's lowest fears, more of America's honor is being restored by that vigil than by anything you can fabricate.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A few more paintings


Brother Steven


I received an invitation today for the 20th anniversary of my high school graduation. This blessed event is taking place in Memphis, Tennessee. Slimbo, being a New Yorker, will be unable to attend. But this invitation did conjure memories of the great Brother Steven, who I've represented here.

I feel this work's colors and tone are a bit too severe in light of the fact that I recall this man with great affection. He recognized an intelligence in me that rote suburban obedience had almost demolished. He taught English. And in his class I, for once, experienced the sensation of being able to work in a discourse of ideas. And I did this in a way that distinguished me from the rest of the mindless herd. For once I was no longer just that pathetic entity skulking in the shadows, hoping no one would fuck with him amid the gladitorian hallways of an all-boys Catholic school. He helped me see that I was better than all those bastards. He was a great teacher. And I'll never forget him.

Self-portrait discussing clothes

Friday, August 6, 2010

Paintings II


I'm going on vacation next week - not that I've been a dutiful blogging daddy for you. So I'll leave you with another painting whilst I go away to tropic shores, hoping my Mets implode gracefully and hoping my nation's short attention span doesn't quickly fell us under the authoritarian nightmare of the regressive theocrat from Wasilla.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Paintings

I've started painting again. I painted nonstop between 2006 and 2007 and then I stopped. In 2008 I started writing again, and thus was born The Shelf. But now I am painting again, and thus, you Shelf readers (numbering in the single digits - but I love you!) have not been hearing much from me in the past few months.

So anyway, I'm putting together a catalog of my paintings to send out to galleries. Here's a sampling:


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Desk

Eli Manning and the New York Giants


If you have kids now or have ever had them in the past, you know how torturous the end of the day can be. My son is going into the 3rd grade and he needs to do some summer reading every night. It's tough...because sometimes, after a long day of work, when I have to sit down for book-time with the kids, I really do believe that monastic living might have been a good option.

Kvetching aside, my son (thank God) is a good reader but it is a struggle to get him to take to the task. Enter Matthew Sandler with Eli Manning and the New York Giants. The book gives a very basic, kid-friendly outline of Eli Manning's arc - the youngest of a dynastic football family, the struggles of playing in New York, the impossibility of the '07 New England Patriots and of course, the miraculous win in SuperBowl 42.

Of course, as much as I appreciate this book and its opportunity to indoctrinate my offspring with my own sports obsessions, it can not possibly deliver the sensation of what it was like to savor that Superbowl win.
For those Shelf readers who might not be sports savvy - I only ask you to watch THIS. This is like if Poland could have kicked Germany's ass in 1939.
(as an aside - for the record...when the Giants defeated the Packers in the NFC Championship Game that sent them to SB42...I was on an Air France flight to Paris. I missed the whole thing. I know. I hate myself enough for this.)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Harvey Pekar


Last week I was in Ohio with my family, just north of Sandusky on Lake Erie. While on vacation, I tend not to check in with the news of the world or the bother with the exploits of whichever seasonal sports team I'm obsessed with. I find it cathartic to let all that go and just relax. Now I've just learned that while I was gone, Harvey Pekar died in his home in Cleveland on July 12th. I had no idea.
A lot has been made of the alleged malaise of Cleveland, unfairly fanned by the insignificant news of Le Bron James' circus-like decision to leave the Cavaliers for Miami. But as I drove through Ohio last week, pondering 'malaise' and 'Cleveland', my mind focused mostly on Pekar, unknowing of his passing.

Pekar was the creator and writer of American Splendor, an initially underground comic which took the medium from its original restrictive world of superheroes and fantasy, and moved it into the infinite possibilities of documenting regular life. His portrayal of a man struggling to make ends meet while working as a clerk for a VA Hospital gave voice to the overwhelming anonymity and numbing inauthenticity of working life. His writing was blunt but carried a consistent honesty that drew you in and counted you as an equal.

I loved Pekar because he was an outsider. He was an artist but never vaulted himself into our culture's whorish, self-congratulatory realm of exceptionism. In Slimbo's Shelf, I've often posted up my own attempts at illustrated narratives. Pekar was always in my mind when I made these attempts.
Pekar is often maligned as a depressive misanthrope intent on documenting only the negative of Americana's day to day mechanics. But I would contend that Pekar rose above this. He saw beyond the deadening drone of everyday life; that there will always be small pockets of beauty and magic, often unseen to most. If his work exuded angst it was because he knew that we lived in an infinitely beautiful universe and that most of the souls we encounter on a day to day basis were oblivious to that beauty.
Harvey, I will miss you. And I thank you.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A few things

USA won bracket C today. If we hadn't scored in the 91st minute as we did, the boys would be packing their bags right now. All of America should be really proud of these guys and I hope the soccer-hating media changes their course. These guys deserve serious recognition. Ghana is next and you can't help but to feel good about our chances - we got momentum.

The Mets are playing really, really well. My son and I have tickets for Friday night thanks to my inordinately generous cousin. I am ecstatically excited to hang with my guy at Citi Field.

I'm reading Kazuo Ishiguro's Nocturnes right now and it's really good. I'll keep it brief and spare you the usual Slimbo's Shelf review, but I will say Nocturnes is a collection of short stories that explore the strain time puts on romance. Music is a common salve amid these characters, sometimes a much needed buffer - sometimes a painful reminder. Ishiguro was featured in Granta's The Best of Young British Novelists back in 1983. In his author description it is written that he sleeps all day and then at night, he eats enormous quantities of food.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Happy Fathers Day

More World Cup Thoughts


I love soccer. And almost everyone who knows me knows I love soccer. And now they're all calling, asking me to explain the various scenarios by which the United States might advance from our group (England, Slovenia, Algeria) to the knock-out group of 16. Honestly, when I am called on the carpet to explain our chances, I just make it up.


  1. 1. SO! France lost. And why did France lose? Karma! Remember France should not even be here. A mysteriously uncalled handball facilitated a goal against the Republic of Ireland to get France into this World Cup. They don't deserve to be here, so payback's a bitch, ain't it? (Though, in all seriousness, Ireland should have cleared the ball and never let him get that faux Gaul goal).

  2. I don't mean to malign France. I just saw Paris je t'aime, a wonderful film. And I am mulling the thought of writing a novel about the '68 student uprisings in France, as told from the perspective of a Gaulist policeman. Oh God, I love France. (And when I say I'm mulling a novel, I mean to say another eccentric, wildly unmarketable novel).
  3. So England drew 0-0 against Algeria today. A few months ago, I had picked these guys to win the whole cup. But you know what? They're punchless. Honestly, they can't consummate the deal because their home nation puts such ungodly, malicious pressure on them, that they freeze up in the moment of truth. And I don't mean to malign the English. I love you guys. My children are part English - as much English as they are Irish. But you people are killing your own team.
  4. Slimbo predicts Argentina takes The Cup. Holy crap, those kids are running on all cylanders. Plus, they are managed by a complete crazy person.

_______

Separately...the Mets just won their seventh in a row...beating the Yankees in Yankee Stadium (and by 'Yankee Stadium', I mean that new cold corporate monstrostity that was built to replace the now vanquished baseball temple).

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My World Cup Thoughts Thus Far

  1. The Vuvuzelas make me want to claw my brains out. Awful.
  2. Spain lost today to a defence-minded Swiss team. I love it. Just love it. I have to say that soccer and American Football are two sports where, dagnamit, defence alone can win you big games. (Uh, I play central defender Monday nights, in case you were wondering).
  3. So...USA-England. 1-1. Holy Crap! First off, I feel terrible for Mark Green. He's a good guy and he plays for West Ham United, which is essentially like playing in London's version of the Bronx. Good luck Mark. Nice knowing you.
  4. USA-England - not sure if anyone noticed this, but when the two teams came out for national anthems, they played God Save Our Queen first. All the England players stood apart from one another, hands behind their backs...just another day at the office. Because really - it wasn't USA-England that day. It was USA vs. Chelsea/Man Utd/Liverpool. When the Star Spangled Banner played, all the US players had their right hands over their hearts and their left hands on the right shoulder of the teammate to their left. It was beautiful (granted they all looked scared shitless, but I loved the show of camaraderie).
  5. This is a beautiful event and all America's media seem capable of offering is a pathetic, shameful and embarrassing anti-soccer venom. We have a group of guys busting their asses right now in the name of our nation. You don't have to love this sport, but every time some assclown journalist shits on soccer, usually some cheap attempt to appeal to that fat git-'er-done segment of America who couldn't run ten yards without heaving up giant chunks of deep-fried onion blossum , we are kicking these brave World Cup warriors squarely in the nuts...and they don't derserve that. America's media need to lead the charge in showing support for this crew and they have failed miserably. Wake up America! Anti-soccer malaise during this intense tournament is small-minded, isolationist bullshit!

Simplified Strat-o-matic Redux

I've written before about a simple baseball game my son and I created. On a green felt baseball diamond we lay out baseball cards we've chosen to be our teams. The team at bat rolls two die with the numbers 2 through 12 being assigned as outs, singles, doubles, homers, etc.

The pool of players we choose from are a combination of my son's baseball cards and my old cards. The resulting teams created are a wonderful, oddball mixture:

My Son's Team:
C - Joe Mauer (MIN)
1B - Eddie Murray (BAL)
2B - Jose Lopez (SEA)
SS - Jose Reyes (NYM)
3B - A-Rod (NYY)
OF - Mickey Mantle (NYY - don't get nuts...it's a 2009 Topps commemorative issue)
OF - Xavier Nady (NYY)
OF - Carlos Beltran (NYM)
P- Nolan Ryan (TEX - card given to him by his inordinately generous uncle)

My Team:
C- Sandy Alomar (SDP)
1B - Paul Konerko (CWS)
2B - Robby Thompson (SFG)(?)
SS - Ozzie Smith (STL)
3B - David Wright (NYM)
OF - Claudell Washington (NYY)
OF - Oscar Gamble (CLE)
OF - Carlos Quentin (CWS)
P - Jack McDowell (CWS)

He won 3-2.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Insomniac Movie Reviews - L'Age des tenebres

(Apologies for the paragraph break problems. Google Blogger services seem incapable of properly placing spaces between paragraphs).

Dissatisfied upper-middle class suburbanite struggling with reality. Wife whose machinations have transformed her into a cold Real Estate shark. Teenage daughter doesn't want to acknowledge your existence. It all sounds like 1999's American Beauty, right?

Wrong. It's 2007's L'Age des tenebres (Days of Darkness) directed by Denis Arcand, a wonderful French Canadian response to its American counterpart. Yet, it's wrong to portray this film as a knock-off - there are definite differences. Beauty is a far more complex story, carefully taking you into each of the character's lives, forcing you to see how each has a superficial existence balanced against a far more complex inner world. L'Age des tenebres focuses almost exclusively on Jean-Marc and his grip on realty is far weaker than Spacey's Lester Burnham.
---L'Age's Kevin Spacey, this Jean-Marc LeBlanc, is played by Marc LeBreche. He works as a bureaucratic drone, more reminiscent of Terry Gilliam's Brazil, than of Spacey's hyper-corporate pigeonhole. While Lester Burnham's fantasy world is fixated on one of his daughter's friends, played by Mena Suvari, Jean-Marc's fantasies are far more abstract, almost comic book-like heroines, most often anchored on Diane Kruger, who plays a nymph-like companion who materializes before Jean-Marc whenever he is at his loneliest.
--- But whereas Spacey's Lester Burnham's fixation on his daughter's friend is rooted in a desire to redeem his own self worth by possessing a young girls as a sexual object, Jean-Marc's fantasies of Diane Kruger exist at another level. In a painful scene, Jean-Marc lies in bed as his wife fields work-related phone call after phone call. He has just had a painful visit with his mother who lives in a nursing home. He catches a moment between his wife's phone calls and tries to talk to her about the visit, but she brushes him off nonchalantly.
--- Jean-Marc's mind quickly transitions into his fantasy world and Diane Kruger now joins the scene. Suddenly she and Jean-Marc are sitting in front of a fire in silk pajamas. She strokes Jean-Marc's hair as he tells her of his anxieties of his mother's condition and how his mother is the only remaining link to some intangible plane where he once felt grounded and secure. Rather than launching into some ephemeral sexual release that Spacey's Lester might have been seeking, Kruger's character runs her hands through Jean-Marc's hair and says, 'this all must be very hard for you.'
---That's all he's wanting. His greatest desire is to be acknowledged.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Why We Will Win



At 2:30pm EST on June 12, the United States faces England to begin the 2010 World Cup. England looks at this contest as an easy win. And that is why they will fail.


We will win because never before has our team spent so much time in the trenches of the best European leagues.

We will win because of the confidence we built up after beating Spain in the Confederations Cup and because of the way we played Brasil in the final.

We will win because Beckham, Rooney and Ferdinad are hurt (sorry, Wayne...sorry Rio).

We will win because England's third striker, Emile Heskey is older than I am.

We will win because England is putting David "Calamity" James in goal.

We will win because Tim Howard is the best keeper on Planet Earth.

We will win because it is our time.

Go USA.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Slimbo knows current events!

Not sure if any of you Shelf readers remember this post I'd made about Terrence Malick's film The New World. Well anyway, looks like the actress who played that film's lead female role of Pocahontas, Q'orianka Kilcher, slipped a big dose of crazy into her Starbucks today, and tried to break into The White House. Read about it here.

Apparently it's all over some crazy shit about the President of Peru visiting President Obama, blah, blah, blah.

She's still stunning though.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Awesome Shea Cards - Part III; Bill Buckner


Before you stands a young confident first baseman, William Joseph Buckner of Culver City, California. This card is from 1974, his Dodger days, which preclude his Cubs days, which preclude his Red Sox days, with one of those days being an awful, awful day. (For those non-baseball oriented Shelf readers, I offer you with this clip to explain Buckner's tragedy - a blown play at first base that would have sealed a Red Sox World Series. Eventually, the title would go to the bad guys: the Mets).

When Bill Buckner committed that error in the 1986 World Series, he was my age and I now find myself instinctively defending this man. "No 37 year-old could have fielded that play, that fast, against Mookie - the fastest Met ever". [I'm a Mets fan. I have no vested interest in Buckner's vindication. But as a poet, I can not turn a blind eye to his plight].

So I find myself looking at this 1974 card of Buckner. He offers us that smart, haughty look on his face as he stands amid a sun-drenched Shea Stadium, the place that, over a decade later, would host his greatest undoing. Could it be that maybe, just maybe, on the summer day captured in this snapshot, that young haughty William Joseph Buckner committed some egregious cardinal sin, some visceral desecration of the Shea soil I love so...and that the seeds of retribution were sowed then...laying in wait?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sunday, May 23, 2010

From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil Frankenweiler

By the time I'd read E.L. Konigsburg's From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankenweiler, I'd been to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art many times. My parents took us there, mostly to amuse themselves. Looking back, I think they'd visit the museum in an attempt to break the crushing monotony of Long Island suburban living, an admirable goal. But I don't think they realized how those visits infused the imagination of a young boy who, perhaps they'd just brought along as luggage.

The Met was one of the first places that introduced me to the notion that human existence was perhaps something greater than the banal suburban landscape I'd known. The Egyptian wing, the hall of armour, the pseudo-sexual statue of Perseus holding Medusa's severed head, the lush, massive historical European murals - I processed all these things and although I did not understand their context and discourse...I understood that this palace-like building housed an experience providing a toehold into wonder and dreams.


I'd read From the Mixed Up Files in seventh grade and never forgot it. Claudia decides her parents need a lesson in Claudia appreciation, so she decides to take her younger brother Jamie and run away to live in the Met. That's when this book hooked me. Besides the fact that there was a male character named Jamie (my name), the main characters were kids and they were fearless of the dangers of 1970's New York City.

As if I needed another reason to adore Wes Anderson's work, when I saw The Royal Tenebaums in 2001, I nearly leapt out of my seat and screamed during the film's opening sequences. Young Margot and Richie Tenebaum are shown camping out in the 'African Wing' of the 'City Archives' building. The beauty of The Mixed Up Files is that it captures the spirit of uncorrupted children seeking an adventurous sense of beauty before they are shackled with the stagnant doldrums of adulthood. (Anderson's Tenebaums is rooted in a Franny & Zooey-like exploration of the rigors of adult disappointment).

I checked this book out of my local library and raced through it. It was like remembering an old friend, from a simpler time. Considering I've been toiling through Proust's In Search of Lost Time. This was a light, welcome distraction.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Monday, May 10, 2010

Pegged!

I delude myself with the fabricated notion that there is only one me and no one is complex enough to understand the intricate and amazing Slimbo.

Then something comes along, whacks you between the eyes and tells you that you are actually one of a multitude and that all these attributes which you think compose your identity, are tracked, charted and even predicted as though you were just another hamster on a wheel in life's totalitarian laboratory.

On a very fun and superficial level, there is the wonderful list/website, Stuff White People Like. By the name you might think they're aiming for a sly dig at the low hanging fruit - NASCAR or trailer parks. But no, dear hipster reader, they're gunning for you and I. The uber-liberal, East Coast, highly educated, environmentally and politically conscious navel gazer is the prey SWPL aim to skewer, and skewer they do. What's on the list? - Yoga, tea, camping, humus, Bob Marley, Non-profit organizations, moleskin notebooks. Put on your painfully fashionable chic-framed reading glasses and take a look.

My initial amusement at SWPL quickly turned to panic, as their list went on and on because I realized that their portrait of the narcissistic Gen X'er felt familiar and repulsive at the same time. Oh crap, I begin to wonder, am I this much of a schmuck? The list went on and on, hitting home...public radio, The New Yorker, Claiming to Hate Television, Hating Corporations, loving Soccer. That's the brilliance of SWPL. It has put the harsh spotlight on my generation's cadre of self-righteous, insular urban hipsters and forced us to realize that perhaps, all we've done is conform to a culture of non-conformity that ultimately feeds into the machinations we claim to protest. All with a coffee in our hands that cost $2.69.

Then on Sunday, I open the 'Week in Review' section of The Times to find A.O. Scott's article, Gen X Has a Midlife Crisis. 'Oh crap, I'm gonna get skewered again', was all I could think.

So what is Generation X? I dunno. In the middle of the Twentieth Century, we had 'The Greatest Generation'. They survived the Great Depression and saved western civilization with their sacrifice in World War II. But unfortunately, they procreated. And the generation they spawned has engulfed America like a hostile alien invasion, intent on sucking all natural, financial and spiritual resources dry.

And then they had kids. Generation X, it is. A lousy label created by pompous ex-hippies; a sly dig intended to insinuate that we don't care or believe in anything. Bullshit. I'm tired of defending my generation against our parents' generation who abandoned all their faux counter-culture idealistic laurels to become divorce-mongrel, Gordon Gekkos, masking their shallow greed as 'ambition' and 'industriousness'.

But I digress. Generation X is getting older. We now have grey hair, and Scott's article explores the paradox that GenX'ers are aging despite the fact that their alleged identity is rooted in the claim that they've never actually grown up.

I'm not sure what caused me the greatest dyspepsia - the poignant portrayal of struggling with midlife:
[The driving impulse to shake the straight jacket of adulthood...when it happens to dad, it's a 'crisis'...when it happens to mom, it's an 'awakening'...].

Or was it the paradox inherent to GenX itself. We claim to ache for authenticity, ostentatiously rejecting the materialistic gods of the Baby Boomers (and finding The Big Chill insufferably precious), yet we ourselves are equally guilty of our parents' navel gazing.

Just as Stuff White People Like hit close to home, the following line from Scott's article cut me and put me in my place: "...two-thirds of GenX'ers have written memoirs that they dream of reciting on This American Life..."

Oh crap. They got me.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Monday, May 3, 2010

Nick Drake - Pink Moon


So I'm sitting here watching the Mets tortuously take a game against the Reds into extra innings, with a golden opportunity unseen (the Cardinals are beating the Phillies).

What the hell was I going to talk about? Oh yeah, Nick Drake.

So I'm sitting there and a commercial comes on and I hear Nick Drake's From the Morning, the last track on Pink Moon. I've wanted to talk to you about Pink Moon for some time but I haven't found the right launching point. Now unfortunately, it's been forced upon me by a commercial for Verizon (or was it AT&T, or Sprint - it's all the same bullshit - either way, you can tell I despise the fact that whoever owns Drake's catalogue chose to sell out to this).

Drake himself could not release this song for this commercial because he's dead. He's been dead for almost as long as I've been alive. But whenever I hear the songs of Pink Moon, it feels as though a very beautiful and complex person has taken up residence with what I always assume to be an impenetrable emotional place. Drake's songs are moody explorations, meditating on life's utterly unanswerable questions. His vocals are accompanied only by his ponderous, lyrical guitar playing. This is early morning music. When I'm waiting for my coffee to make its way to my bloodstream and I seem capable of only blankly looking out a window, Pink Moon is what I'll listen to.

It's heartbreaking to know that this work of quiet magic has now become the stuff of boardrooms and focus groups. It's heartbreaking that the man who made this music lived in commercial and critical obscurity, lacking the egotistical machinations to escape anonymity. It's heartbreaking that Nick Drake took his own life at age 26.
Anyway, yeah cell phone coverage! Woohoo!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Awesome Shea Cards - Part Two


When I was a kid, the Braves were never something you had to worry about. Eventually, the 1990's and beyond would change all that and the Braves have relentlessly haunted and humiliated the soul of every Met fan since.


But these cards come from those earlier innocuous years. Paul Zuvella's career stats boast a .222 batting average, just two home runs and 20 RBI's. His biggest claim to fame might be that spent time in the minors with the Durham Bulls (as in the film Bull Durham). I love this Shea card as its vantage point has you looking directly into the Shea visitor's dugout, which at the time was adorned with brown faux wood paneling, reminiscent of a suburban Long Island basement lounge.

Davey Johnson is another story entirely. At the time this card was made, Shea had not been kind to Davey Johnson. As an Oriole, he had made the last out to give the Mets the World Series title in 1969. In this card, we see yet another of Johnson's struggles. This card is often considered one of the most humiliating baseball cards ever made. We join Johnson mid swing, badly missing a ball which you see just to the right of him above his rump.

Johnson's card is perhaps a good life lesson. Here is a man we might assume to be beset by some Shea Stadium curse. But years would pass and circumstances would change. Johnson would become a manager. Of the Mets. And lead them to the world title in 1986.

Awesome Shea Cards - Part One

I have written about baseball cards before, largely because Josh Wilker, owner of the blog, Cardboard Gods (and now author of the book Cardboard Gods), has inspired neurotic misfit baseball-obsessed writers like myself to do so. We thank you, Josh (even though I reluctantly must forgive you for making the transition from anonymous blogger to acknowledged, Times featured author). And as I am entirely locked up with a sort of H1N1 version of writer's block, I'm afraid you (few) faithful Shelf readers are going to be subjected to some more baseball card blather. You see, it's the end of April and the Mets are somehow in first place. So despite Slimbo's usually indomitable ennui, the Mets have infused a renegade hope that now batters about, lightening my landscape. So I turn to the baseball cards of my childhood and I write.

Shea Stadium is gone. Shea is where I saw my first baseball game as a 4 year-old (Mets vs. Padres - Mets lost). It is where my team won the World Series in 1986. It is where I spent many a night in the 1990's cheering on an immeasurably flawed but incongruously likeable team. And now it's all gone.

But in baseball cards, Shea lives forever.
Here we have the blessed, sun-drenched images of Dick Tidrow and Graig Nettles from the 74-75 season. Like-minded, obsessive baseball fans should be adequately disturbed by the sight of Yankee pinstripes against the backdrop of the Shea's vacuous curves. One must remember that this is the year that Yankee Stadium (the old one) was being renovated into the lifeless, neutered entity it would be from 1976 through its eventual, excessively fawned closure in 2008.

So these pictures come from the year when Shea Stadium somehow managed to host the Mets, Yankees, as well as the New York football Jets and New York football Giants.

But something bothers me about these two cards. These Yankee icons stand in the sunlight projecting an air of ownership and entitlement. The smug look on Tidrow's face seems to preclude the success he would experience while contributing to the Yankee's championships of '77 and '78. Nettles coils back, almost challenging you to tell him that Shea is not his.

Monday, April 19, 2010

For my Dad


Today is my Dad's birthday. I did the above illustration as a gift. I've made my parents handmade cards since I was a kid and it looks as though I always will.

My dad does volunteer tax work. He helps folks who can't afford a tax accountant or who need that extra help to navigate the labyrinth of tax codes in order to maximize their credits and benefits.

It's interesting. I look at my dad and see all that he has achieved in the world of business. He created a life of comfort for our family as a result of hard work, keen instincts and a lot of luck.

I see so many men of his generation though, and when they'd attained the success my father achieved, they retreated into a world of material possessions and narrow minded convictions.

But my father isn't like that. He's different. In his retirement, he's gone back to school and committed countless hours to volunteer tax work. He's taken classes at his local college because he believes the world is an infinite place of wonder and no joy in life can replace the joy of knowledge. He does volunteer work because of his faith, and it's not a blind dogmatic faith, but a faith that believes we should always put up a fight against the darkness of our world despite humanity's immeasurable faults.

Maybe when he's doing tax returns for poor families, he remembers the times his family was broke and he had to live in an apartment with his grandparents, Irish immigrants from Galway. He knows that the slings and arrows of life can be random and senseless and that the last thing you should ever do is judge. When I was a young boy, he told me never to call anyone a 'loser'. I've never forgotten that. It's all because he knows, despite the success he attained, the last thing on earth anyone should ever do, is wall himself against the world around him and do nothing. And this is why he does tax returns for poor people.

So when I see the Tea Parties, and all the financially comfortable fat white people exhibitionistically whoring themselves into this nonsensical victim-discourse, wanting to 'take their country back', I think of my father. He's a man who's bold enough to say that despite the mountains he's conquered, he doesn't have all the answers and that maybe, the best thing to do is go back to the trenches, suspend judgement, and fight for the little guy.

Love you, dad.

Slimbo

The Green Genie

I played my first game of soccer tonight. It's been about six months or so. I love the game. It delivers such a narcotic sense of being alive. It's one of the things that keeps the Green Genie away.

Friday, April 16, 2010

And Where Has Slimbo Been?

I'm here, really I am.


A lot has been going on, so I'm going to give you some Slimbo's Shelf Cliff Notes in convenient Q&A format:


April 15th has come and gone. Why have we not been given the usual Slimbo diatribe about the importance of paying taxes as a by-product of the most rudimentary edicts of civic consciousness?


Because I fear Tea Baggers. The local paper I submit to, The Examiner, has frequently been giving immeasurable space to a local Tea Party jackboot named Bill B_____. Essentially I am afraid of the day he and his ilk show up at my doorstep.

Chicken?

Yes. Really, I'd keep kvetching on and on about Tea People if I could muster the energy but I've lost all energy for this nonsense. And I think that America has lost patience as well. Come November America's attention span for this will have fizzled out.

Charles M. Blow had this great article in today's Times about his experience attending a Tea Party in Texas.


Ahem...The New York Mets?

Oh, the Mets. People are panicking here in New York but I'm not. It's way to early to panic. But I do predict that Jerry Manuel's days are numbered, unfortunately. I liked him. Yes, I predict Manuel will be out and the Mets won't go to the post-season. Some panic at this, but I have just come to accept it.

What are you reading?

I'm halfway through Vol 1 of Proust's In Search of Lost Time. I'm hoping to finish all volumes before I turn 50, which is thirteen years away. (Holy shit, I turn 50 in thirteen years!)

I'm looking for something else to read while reading Proust. Do you ever read two books at once?

Who?

You.

Me?

Yeah.

No, I'm just the voice in your head asking you questions. I ask the questions here.

Sorry.

Are you painting?

No.

Are you writing?

No.

Nothing?

Well, I did submit an article about summer jobs I held back in my Memphis days. I submitted it to the Commercial Appeal but haven't heard back yet. I'll post a link if they pick it up.

Other than that, I got nothing.

You suck.

Thanks.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Diabeetuz

I want to talk to you about your diabeetuz.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Highway 61

It is universally understood that Highway 61, that stretch of road that extends south from Memphis into Mississippi, is sacred ground. This road has been immortalized many times, most famously by John Hammond's two trophy bookends, bluesman Robert Johnson and icon Bob Dylan. Should someone should ever ask you, 'hey, where you headed?' I'm not sure that any resident of Planet Earth could offer any answer cooler than: 'I'm headin' down Highway 61."



Highway 61 begins in Memphis - downtown Memphis. [The church I used to attend is there, St. Peter's, a Dominican parish]. Downtown Memphis has two Downtowns. The 'North End', also called 'the Pinch', was where the European immigrants (and there were many in the 1800's because of The River) settled. The 'South End was an African American neighborhood. This is where Beale Street could be found. This is where the Lorraine Motel is. This is where the real Highway 61 begins.

Heading south, Highway 61 quickly frees itself from the mechanics of downtown Memphis and an anonymous industrial area greets you next. Next is a fleeting abyss of strip malls, cheap hotels and temporary storage unit facilities. Then Highway 61 unfolds into the rolling rural stretch of road that I've tried to portray in this illustration.

[I write this having encapsulated this place as it was in 1992. That was almost two decades ago. God knows it must have changed. ]

There are Casinos in Tunica, Mississippi. They arrived in the early 90's. Casinos seemed to have infiltrated incongruous and legally ambiguous places throughout America and now I'm never surprised to stumble across one.

In the early 90's, I'd just relocated to Memphis. It was hard and I'd been consumed with an intransigent depression brought about by the pain of homesickness and the ache brought on by the absence of females in my all-boys school.

But then I found the guitar. My newfound love of blues music propelled me to align the guitar into my life and I realized I could play it well. Then I found Memphis' WEVL, a listener supported station that played blues standards deep into the night. I'd found blues. I'd found some something, and it made me feel that the abyss I carried about was not something penitentually unique but rather in sync with something cosmic, beyond me, perhaps an unseen discourse awaiting my participation.

______________________________

Drive south from Memphis. The hills will roll and the trees will close in. You will pass over a ridge. I'm hoping that my illustration gives you a fraction of what this moment might be like. You pass over this bluff. And shortly thereafter, your car bottoms out into the flattest place you'll ever know.

This is the Delta. But before you hit this point, your car negotiates these mystical bluffs, wondering what's coming next...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Inspired by Louis Simpson

The following work was inspired by a poem by Louis Simpson called 'The Unwritten Poem". I made these drawings in 2006 when I was in a bit of a crisis. I knew I had to get away from Lehman Brothers, but I had no clue what else it was I could be doing with my life.

The final lines of Simpson's poem are:

You must rise to the sound of the alarm
and march to catch the 6:20-
watch as they ascend the station platform
and, grasping briefcases, pass beyond your gaze
and hurl themselves into the flames.

And so here is Slimbo's rendering: