January 22, 2012

I wished that we would always be terrified of death.

Oh my god. OK. I decided to pick up the November 2011 issue of Esquire again tonight. It's been sitting on my desk, near a large, continually growing pile of magazines. I hate looking at it because it stresses me out to think that a) It's contributing to the disorganized mess on my desk and b) I'm not reading enough or as much as I'd like to. But I finished some of what I had to do today and decided I'd finish this issue so I can finally store it in my bookshelf with all of the others.

I decided to start from the end and found Esquire's Mental Health 2011 package, hidden between the end of the Style section and the credits/ads. I almost feel like they didn't want anyone to find it. I couldn't find it on Esquire.com, but found this pdf instead.

I was going to skip it but noticed that "Panic" was written by Chris Jones so I kept reading. He didn't say he was the subject until the 4th graf. It took me by surprise.

Someone asked me the other day if I had any fears or phobias. And in the moment, I really couldn't think of one to say. I love heights, I'm not afraid of needles, sometimes I'm afraid of the dark (but isn't everyone spooked if they find themselves in the darkness alone?), and bugs freak me out, sure, but I'm not around them enough to have a fear of them.

How could I forget? I'm scared of dying. Which seems so morbid to admit. Death is not something I think about obsessively, but it's... always there. That sounds so odd, but, I don't know. I feel gratitude every day and a sense of relief when I make it home. I'm just so scared of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, of dying in some freak accident as always reported in the news. I've developed defensive habits. When a train is arriving, I always take a few steps back on the platform, etc. The first excerpt I post, the one where he talks about the perfect time--I think about that a lot. I always feel like somehow I've escaped death by the seemingly insignificant decisions I've made: sitting in a certain car, walking on a certain side of the street,  running back to grab something else.

I don't think I could ever kill myself because I'm always grasping onto life so tightly, so afraid I'm going to lose it. I was so touched by his honesty, and his revelation. The second excerpt (the end) was especially beautiful. Chris Jones! I think I can put this issue away now.

"Whenever it was that my own blackness took hold, I didn't feel a thing. It must have been sometime that past fall or winter, months before the bridge. It surfaced at first in little hiccups and tics, a life gone slightly askew. I developed obsessions, weird ideas of perfection. There was a period when I couldn't bring myself to leave the house, because I'd decided that there was one perfect time--when, if I left just then, my day would go smoothly, and every other departure time meant some disaster awaited. But of course it was impossible for me to know when that one perfect time was, so I never left."

"I walked very quickly to the hospital; I was almost running. There was a bench, and I sat down to catch my breath before I checked myself in. I was struck by how many people there were outside, even though it was in the middle of the night. There were maybe a dozen patients, some of them having come out for a smoke or just to feel the cool of the night, propped up against the walls or wrapped up in their wheelchairs. I sat among them, and I felt stronger for their company. I felt as though we were all in this together. There are so many dead, but there are so many of us still alive; there are so many of us still in love. I sat on that bench and realized that I'd walked so quickly to the hospital because I was scared of dying. My heart nearly burst open. It was the best feeling in the world. I felt so good that I never did go inside; I spent a few hours on that bench, in that company, and that was all the help I needed. I watched my breath turning solid in the cold, and I looked up at all those little lights in the sky, and I made a wish for me and my friends: I wished that we would always be terrified of death, every last one of us, that we would spend the rest of our lives running away from it, that we would dream about dying and wake up screaming, that we would be pathological in our fears--scared of heights, scared of bullets, scared of trains. Oh, spare us, I remember thinking. Spare us, please spare us, because there are so many ways to die."

January 16, 2012

Always stay humble. It's the only way you can't get humiliated.

Meaning of Life, my fave! Personally, I liked last year's better, overall. But there's good stuff in this one too. And it's a good theme ("the other guys" sans George Clooney). A few:

George Clooney
"There's ten of us, we've been best friends for thirty years. Ten guys. And their wives, and their kids, are all family now. I'm not big on keeping up on the phone, none of us are. Some guys I won't talk to for two months and then you pick up the phone and hear, "So, anyway." There's no guilt or where have you been? or what's been going on? or why haven't we talked? There's an ease to it.
I remember when Richard Kind's dad suddenly died. This was about seven or eight years ago--maybe more. Richard's a really wonderful character actor. He loved his dad, and he was very grown-up about passing on the news. He called and left a message: My dad died, I'm in Chicago, the funeral's going to be in New Jersey tomorrow morning. I'll talk to you when I get back. This was five o'clock at night. I was in L.A. Rick is a Jew. They bury the next day. They don't screw around. They get you right in the ground. So I called up Michael, Grant's brother, and told him Richard's dad died. He said, "We should be there." The guys were all around the country. One was in Denver. One was in San Diego.
So I got a jet and we spent the whole night flying around the country. San Diego, Denver. We landed in Trenton, New Jersey. Richard didn't know anything about it.
We got to the synagogue, this giant synagogue, with the people up front. And Richard didn't know we were going to be there. We're sitting there, the nine of us in the back row. And Richard gets up to speak about his dad and he sees his nine best friends there. And what I loved about it was that all of us understood that there are moments in your life that are real passages. Your father dying is a very big one. Because you are now the man of the family. We understood how important that was at that time."

Joe Biden
"My dad used to say, "You know you're a success when you look at your kids and realize they turned out better than you." I am a success. But I should have had one Republican who wanted to be an investment banker and make a lot of money so that when they put me in a home, I get a window with a view."

Gary Oldman
""Fuck 'em." Shortest prayer in the world."

Vanna White
"People don't know the real you unless you tell them."

Jon Cryer
"Critics can say horrible things. It only hurts when I agree with them."

Jeffrey Tambor
"The secret of life is to be surrounded by people who get you--just the people who get you."

Scottie Pippen ; Really liked this one, hard to pinpoint one quote, you've got to read 'em all together. It starts with:
"The first NBA game I ever saw in person was the one I played in."

Charlie Murphy
"I was sitting in this mogul's house. My brother was there, and they were having lunch. It was real nice, going down to the beach and everything. And then we see this woman walking on the beach. It's Diana Ross. I ran down there and got her. So now we're sitting in this room. Diana Ross is sitting with Eddie in the mogul's section. I'm with some common folk on the other side. We're talking, having fun. One guy happens to use the f word. And Diana Ross comes all the way across the room and says, "Excuse me, I don't know who you gentlemen are, but I don't tolerate any profanity in my vicinity." Now, we're not at Diana Ross's house. We're in another house. We don't work for her. That's what we were all thinking. And one guy goes, "Fuck you, Diana." She was stunned. Her face, it looked like pieces of it were falling off. No one was sorry. Because what sticks out in this story for me is: Why are people kissing Diana Ross's ass? Is she God? No. She sang on some records and did a good job! I give her her props. But that doesn't make you more of an adult than me. That doesn't give you any more rights than me. Being your fan is optional. If you forget that, because everybody's been blowing sunshine up your ass, you're putting yourself in the position to take a fall. That's the moral of the story. Always stay humble. It's the only way you can't get humiliated."

"For me, it was an instant. The first night I met Tisha was on a boat. She was having dinner with her friends. She didn't know who I was, and I asked her to come with me. Her friends told her not to go. But she did. We drove straight to my brother's house. My mother was there. My stepfather was there. Eddie was there. They were all in the kitchen. I walked in and said, "This is my future wife."

"We fit. I don't believe that you can meet another person that fits just like that. She wasn't even another person. She's a mirror, you know what I mean. It was like that for twenty years."

"I come home and she's in the kids' room, crying. That's when she told me. Cervical cancer. You don't really grasp it. When the person tells you they're going to die, you go crazy. You become a different person from the moment you hear those words. A young woman like that--don't drink, don't smoke, don't do drugs. I know people that's ninety who do all of that. She's a very organized woman. When she died, all the arrangements had been made. She made her own arrangements."

Allison Janney
"I got to know Paul Newman. I played ping-pong with him. He once told me, "If you ever need a favor, let me know." I never called him on that favor. I used to carry his favor around in my pocket like it was a Valium. Just knowing I had it in my pocket made me feel really confident."

"We joke in my family that my father learned to play the piano so he wouldn't have to talk to anybody. I wish I could play the way he did so I could go to parties and be present but not have to be called upon for small talk. Everybody loves the person playing the piano."

"I don't trust people who don't like dogs."

"I used to think Les Paul was a guitar. I didn't know he was a real guy. When I got to know him, I found out that if you're really obsessed, he was the guy you'd want to be like. He was always trying to find an answer for what he was looking for in his mind."

"It's not something you can find. There's a moment you arrive at--there's no words for it. A bunch of people come together at this place where a note hits your heart and your brain tells your finger where to go. It's an otherworldly thing, like when a painter gets the right combination of colors together."

January 15, 2012

I train in Krav Maga, do or die, so that way I'm prepared for any situation.

I've written before about how much I love when the sources tell the story so I absolutely loved the latest issue's "The Classifieds: A Workplace Confidential." Had no idea this was in the works. Some heartbreaking, funny, unusual, others disturbing, all honest. All worth reading. Excerpts from some of my favorites:

"You could ask, "Did Michael Jackson need a rhinoplasty?" Probably not. But he wanted one. If you look at his first rhinoplasty, it was very nice, restrained. But your client is Michael Jackson, and he keeps coming back to your office, so you keep going and all of a sudden it looks like a disaster. 
So when you ask, Is it Heidi Montag's fault or Michael Jackson's fault--or is it the surgeon's fault for not telling them?--you're in a gray area. My personal opinion is, it's always on you. You did it. 
As for my own views on physical beauty? You know, breast augmentation can be done well, and it can look very good, and it can feel good. And I guess the knowledge of that has changed me a little. Once you do it all the time, you get desensitized to it. When I walk down the street now, I look at people and think, "I can do this, I can do that." That's a curse. You become hypercritical. My wife--when I'm just standing there looking at her, if I'm not saying anything for a while, she'll be like, "What? What? You're trying to...!" I'll say, "No, I'm not!" But that does sort of happen."

"And of course there's the drug culture. It filters down in the most interesting ways. The kids sell Pop-Tarts in school like they're drug dealers. This one kid would go to Costco and buy in bulk and then sell Pop-Tarts in the morning. He actually made enough money selling Pop-Tarts to buy a car. So one day he got busted by security with a huge bag full of Pop-Tarts, and they asked him, "What is this?" He said: "They're my snack." And they were like, "No, they aren't." So he sat down and ate them all. He graduated and went back to Africa."

"We can tell a lot. We can tell if someone's a shopaholic or when they drink too much. The always order liquor--like daily. Drug deals, the dealers come in, they say "Um, I'm here to see...," and they say the wrong name. They go in and get out quickly. We can tell if a couple's divorcing. Usually, they're screaming and hollering in the lobby, like we're not even here. The husband or wife will apologize later, but still. Sometimes one of them will try to get us to take their side, but we can't really do or say anything. Cheating, we see plenty. But we never tell. This one woman, she had regulars every time her husband was away. Different guys. I felt bad for him, but it's none of my business. Sometimes I see things I shouldn't see on the cameras, like couples getting intimate in the laundry room. We like to watch." 

"It's really sad to see what the Mets have become: A great franchise, on the biggest stage in sports, is now a laughingstock. Ownership is trying to turn the Mets, a big-market franchise, into a small-market franchise. That's not just sad, it's disgusting. You know what I think when I read about the Mets nowadays? We've become the Oakland A's. We're the Pittsburgh Pirates. Our fans deserve better than that."

"Reyes and David Wright were the heart of that team. Those were the guy the Mets had to build around. But now that Reyes is in Miami, Wright will be traded by the All-Star break. If they're going to run this like a small-market team, that's the way it's going to fold. If I'm David Wright, I'd want to be gone."

"What makes it worse is being in the same market as the Yankees. Obviously they have more money, but there used to be a time when the Mets and Yankees were equals. Today, it's totally lopsided. But that's not to say I have a problem with the Yankees--I don't. I'm not jealous of them. They've given New York a product their fans can be proud of, like it's supposed to be. I like Derek Jeter, I think he's a class act. I read some of the good and the bad things that were said when he was renegotiating, but he ended up having a pretty decent year. Is he overpaid now? Sure, but he earned it when he was younger. The Yankees took care of him, the way you're supposed to. I'm waiting for the day when the Mets get back to doing things the right way. In the meantime, it's a disaster."

"Thank God for peepholes. You can see craziness at the door. That's one reason I decided to train in martial arts heavily. I train in Krav Maga, do or die, so that way I'm prepared for any situation."

"I've had guys last 30 seconds. I've had other clients who get really nervous and can't get it up. That happens a lot. It can be a little bit overwhelming at times for them, which I understand. Sometimes there's a client who has to inject his penis with something to get it up. There are some who are in wheelchairs. Money is money; sometimes you gotta grin and bear it, but it's not really the most enjoyable experience. It takes a lot out of you, actually, to make believe you are having a good time."

"Some people say they could never go into pediatrics because they couldn't stand the parents. But that's one of the best parts of my job for me. If you're taking care of an elderly patient, you walk into the room and it's just the two of you. With pediatrics, oftentimes, there's not only the mom and dad, sisters and brothers, but sometimes there's grandparents--it's like an audience. And I enjoy that the patient has other people there caring about the child ... But in pediatrics there's usually a very caring parent. Especially in Manhattan, you have the overbearing mothers--I love them. I understand them; I have one myself." 

"There's nothing more fun than to wait on someone who is genuinely interested in the food. You'll get a couple that comes in, and this is their one time a year, and they're just so happy to be at the restaurant. There was this kid blogger, he was like 16 or 17, and he had blogged about how he was saving up his allowance to come to Per Se. And he did. He came by himself and had lunch."

"Most of the VIP guests get to be VIPs because they spend money and tip well. The wait staff fight over the VIPs because of the way the system works. Basically, there's a service charge, so everyone gets an hourly rate, which is fantastic because that means the kitchen all get more money, paid vacation--all these other benefits come from that. Then, if people leave any money on top of that, which they normally do, the head server keeps half of it and the other half goes in the tip pool. So the captains will fight over the people that are ballers and spend a lot of money. The more senior captains can make anywhere from $6,000 to $10,000 a night. That's very rare, like once every two years. But there was a private party where these people left like $8,000 as a tip, so the captain walked with $4,000."

"There's a hierarchy based on position, so there's servers, bussers, back servers, runners. Then there's an ethnic hierarchy. There's a huge Bengali population that works in restaurants, and they all have their own hierarchy. You'll have the Spanish-speaking--Dominicans, Mexicans, and Guatemalans. They'll kind of get along, and within each group they'll have their own hierarchy. There's usually one key person who has hired everyone else or who has gotten their friends or family members to come work there. The staff is incestuous. I think half the staff is dating the other half of the staff right now. I mean, you spend 60 hours a week with these people, so what do you think is going to happen?"

January 08, 2012

After the slow introduction, the violins unfurl a gently swelling theme, made piquant by syncopations.

Adam Platt's list is cool, but I can't afford to dine at any of the places listed so I skimmed. But Justin Davidson's What Does A Conductor Do? is wonderfully written and provides great insight to an underrated, difficult profession.

"I have been wondering what, exactly, a conductor does since around 1980, when I led a JVC boom box in a phenomenal performance of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony in my bedroom. I was bewitched by the music--the poignant plod of the second movement, the crazed gallop of the fourth--and fascinated by the sorcery. In college, I took a conducting course, presided over a few performances of my own compositions, and led the pit orchestra for a modern-dance program. Those crumbs of experience left me in awe of the constellation of skills and talents required of a conductor--and also made me somewhat skeptical that waving a stick creates a coherent interpretation."

"I've chosen the Don Giovanni overture because it distills almost everything I adore in music: darkness, humor, violent emotions elegantly expressed, the subtle play of human interactions. In the opera, virtually every conversation is an argument. The Don bickers with his complaining servant Leporello, fends off the grasping Donna Elvira, humiliates the peasant Masetto, and seduces the young bride Zerlina. Mozart weaves this banter into the overture, developing a rhetoric of interruptions and contradictions. After the slow introduction, the violins unfurl a gently swelling theme, made piquant by syncopations. The phrase breaks off in mid-thought and skitters impishly back down for a couple of measures before being interrupted by fanfare full of bravado. Mozart, the showbiz professional, has introduced three moods, personalities, and styles in eight bars, all with seamless charm. How to translate this into movement? Will I just wind up exaggerating the contrasts with silly pantomime?"

"As I get deeper into the score, I focus on one crucial but difficult aspect of the job: preparing a moment before it arrives. Gilbert urges his students to stop living in the moment; giving a Get ready! cue just one beat head of a Now! creates a little shiver of panic. A conductor has to be simultaneously ahead of the music and with it, experiencing and expecting at the same time--manufacturing an extended déjà vu. When Gilbert works, you can see the pulse thrumming through his body, diggadiggadiggadiggadigga, yet he also projects a commanding serenity."

"In Italian, the word maestro also means teacher. As we power toward the final cadence and I exchange glance after glance with the young musicians, it occurs to me that they are bombarding me with unspoken questions and it's my job to convey answers. That's what a conductor does: mold an interpretation by filtering the thousands of decisions packed into every minute of symphonic music. The clarinetist inclined to add a little gleam to a brief solo by slowing down slightly, the tuba player preparing a fortissimo blast after twenty minutes of nothing--each will look to the podium for a split-second shot of guidance, and the conductor who meets those fleeting inquiries with clarity and assurance will get a more nuanced performance. My efforts haven't made me a good conductor, or even a mediocre one, but they have given me the glimmerings of competence--an intoxicating taste of what it might feel like to realize the fantasy of my boom-box days."


January 06, 2012

Reasons to love New York & Bread

I wasn't super impressed with the "Reasons to Love New York" list but there were a few items I liked. Not because I liked the reasons, but because I thought they were well-written, including: 4) After 64 Years Together, Louis Halsey and John Spofford Morgan Finally Got Hitched 7) There's Nothing Like a Great Old New York Hack (Except a Great New York Hack) 10) The Best Tabloid Story Was the One About the Owner 13) To Hell With the NBA. Go, St. Francis! 21) To Us, a Natural Disaster Is Just Another Excuse to Say Who's Better Than Whom 25) It Turns Out You Meet the Nicest People Huddled Outside in the Cold Trying to Kill Yourself and 26) The Skyline Is Soaring Again

What impressed me most from this issue, what I loved, was the BREAD package. Oh my god. Seriously, props to every single person who worked on it because it is fabulously executed. The Breads of New York slideshow = amazing. Props to Danny Kim (staff photographer) for taking all of the photos. I was pretty disappointed to learn I missed the day when they let staff have a taste of the samples.