"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."


Real quick I have to brag. Here's an excerpt from an interview with the lady I'm besotted with, done by her roommate amy:

Sasha: Although, we've been known to have a swooning affect on people.

Star: I've witnessed this swooning you speak of.

Sasha: eeeeeee! And I understand that you've heard some as well, I apologize.

Hehehe... the emphasis is all mine.

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Looking Up

My mother used to send me little laminated clippings from magazines and such in care packages when I was in college, and I would stick them around my dorm room or whatever. They were really pretty cool images: things like students in Paris rioting in '69 and a human egg being artifically inseminated. One of my favorites was an image of Ollie North on a television with the Oscar Wylde quote, "we're all lying in the gutter, but some of us are looking up at the stars," superimposed over the top.

As I traversed the city in the beautiful weather this past fine Sunday I began to regain some of my lost affinity for my fellow man. Occasional smiles from strangers picked me up in little ways, and the cosmopolitan heart of New York pumped strong loving blood, a lone saxaphone playing man on 5th and 43rd echoed soothing basanova through the hollow canyons of midtown. In front of the central park bandshell capable people were playing games with gravity. A band of unicyclists occupied one corner, while another was controlled by young men performing personal cicular acrobatics with tricked out BMX bikes. There were plenty of regular people too, rolerbladers and dog-walkers and dudes playing catch. All around were freindly, beautiful, open faces of many ages and colors. I watched it all, conversations and acrobatics, people being people, and I thought to myself, yes, this is America.

A little closer to the lush closed off green of the sheep meadow -- still off limits so the sodding process can fully take -- there was a band of dreadlocked men in outlandish garb and loudspeakers playing some world beat fusion with a crowd of uninhibited people, smiling people, dancing in an unconscious and gleefully unorganized way. I thought that, yes, this too was America.

Then on my bike again to Grand Central I had another thought about how I'd seen so many clean, fit people with nice clothes and nice toys -- the fashionable long-haired woman with the acoustic guitar she couldn't really play; "just a prop," she said to her friend -- and I realized with more than a trace of bitterness how much I missed hanging around friendly affluent liberal people. They'd abounded in college, coloring the atmosphere with freewheeling funloving optimism and an earnest, if inexperienced, progressive consciousness. In the years since graduation I've lived in more austere company, class lines and parental cutoffs reducing my social sphere to that of people more in line with my means, and for a moment I feel a sense of regret and longing, to be a part of the soft pretty world that so often comes bundled with a lack of material concerns.

On my way out of the park I passed a man trying, poorly, to teach his daughter the finer points of riding a bicycle in busy surroundings. "Main road," he kept saying to her in a disconcertingly passive-aggressive tone as she drifted toward an exit spur, prompted in part by my lead. "Main road." She clearly didn't understand and was upset that she was upsetting her father, and I remarked to my self on how easy it is to fall into a pattern of forcing things.

Walking into grand central there's a skinny young National Guardsman with a black military baret and a high and tight haircut cracking jokes with a African-American female NYPD officer. More America, in all its spelendor, right under my nose.

And so I begin to feel a little better about everything. I don't need to have parties all the time, but I do need to help people join the 21st century. In spite of all their flag-flying, my neighbors are to my mind kind of unamerican. With that realization it occurs to me that it's up for debate; the nature of this country. My thought on the train, an optimistic one, as I rolled north past 125th St and the sun set over Harlem, was that America is this -- all the beautiful things I've seen and a helping loving hand outstretched to the ugly and maligned -- but only if we want it to be. If we want it to be and we will work for it, it is. Because it's the truth. Equality. Love. Justice. These are the truth, and they always feel better.

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Well, we had a big party here last night. It was our usual 3 kegs/full bar extravaganza, but this time with more room in the basement and a few more people from the 'hood in attendance. I really like having people from around over to the party, even if it does occasionally cause a little tension. It's the future, as far as I'm concerned, and the future sometimes requires effort. However, things really took a nose dive for me when the neighbors got pissed.

The thing is, we've done this many times before and it's never been an issue. However, this time the man living next door (his father owns their building and is always outside smoking a cigar and listening to mets baseball) came in shouting, wanting us to clear everyone out and turn off the music or he would call the cops. I tried to reason with him but he was livid. Even after the music was off he persisted in complaining, saying there were "too many people" in our house. When he let slip a commet about "mixed races" I realized that I wasn't going to get anywhere with him that night. The truth was he was mad about the noise, but what he was really mad about was the sort of people we had over at our house. There's no reasoning with that, especially not at 12:15AM, and so I set in to wait for the police to arrive.

The 94 squad car appeared in due course -- our man Archie correctly predicting a delay because of shift change. I thought I would meet the police at the door and discuss the issue there, but they had other plans.

"We're coming in," they said.

"I don't think so," I replied, at which point they shoved open the door with the excuse "this is a public hallway." Bullshit. If it's a public hallway, then way are all the locks on that door?

At that point, I thought things were going to go wrong. Usually if you resist the police and they get past you it gets ugly, but the cops did a strange turnaround. Advancing three or four paces into the building, they stopped, simply told us to keep the music off, and then left, pausing only to warn me that if I got in their way again when they said they were coming in, then they were going to take me off in handcuffs. Not really all that constitutional, but I'll take it.

My take is that they quickly realized they had no reason to immediately bust us and that the guys next door were at the very least overracting. I also intuit that they've been called out by the guys next door before. Known complainers, perhaps.

At this point my evening was pretty much shot. There was no getting rid of the tension. It's still with me now. After making the rounds and trying to assure everyone that things would be ok if we left the music off, I retired with Sasha, who blisfully breezed in with a gaggle of beautiful people all wearing wigs. Thank goodness for that, or else I might have just broken down and cried or something.

In the morning, I found my camera was missing (so was Frank's wallet), which really makes it all worse. On the one hand, I'm very angry at my neighbor for blowing up essentially beacuse of the kind of people we have over at our party. On the other hand, I'm angry at whoever was disrespectful enough to steal from me when I invited them into my home. I'm also mad at myself for being dumb enough to leave the camera out, for which I again partly blame my neighbor for if I were not so agitated and stressed I wouldn't have made that mistake. The camera isn't even the issue. I can buy another camera, but I had some really fucking good pictures in there too. Intangable shit.

And so a lot of people still had a grand time, I hear. This is good. It's why I like to throw a party. From a safe distance, I'm sure this evening will provide me with untold hours worth of interesting spectulation. The manner in which groups behave, mixed up wonderful energetic groups, is endlessly fascinating to me. The delecate balance of creating a good vibe with people is something of an art. We were getting good at it until we had to expand our scope to take in the people next door.

But right now the whole thing is putting a damper on my faith in humanity today. Why can we not just be real and truthful with one another? It's possible. Example:as I was trying to keep the music off, one of the guys from the neighborhood kept turning it back on. He and I had a mild confrontation about it, which ended with me holding his hand away from the power switch and simply laying it on the line. "It's not about you," I said. "It's about me and my house and my neighbors and the cops and I'm afraid. I'm sorry and I wish I weren't but I'm afraid, and I need to keep the stereo off." At which point his resistance melted. The truth always feels better.

And now I'm off to Chappaqua. Peace.

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Anachronism (Smoking Chums)

Reading Mr. Capodice's comment in my most recent smoking-related post, I must once again commend his tobacco leaf rhapsody, the scallywag. To wit, I think it's beautiful and evocative. Perhaps while nicotine gives users little in the way of accute intoxication it teaches them valuable lessons about desire and longing. In any event, I'll take the poetrey where I can find it.

I resonate with Nick's sense of temporal displacement, the continual feeling that this is not the right time for me. While he longs for a rum-runner's card-sharking black and white classic paradise, I find myself wishing I could ramble the great green beatific earth in the era just before "peace and love" became a marketing slogan, when hard bop, bluegrass and the first strains of rock and roll were the tunes of the day, and real outlaw culture was creeping up everywhere in the shadows of main street USA. I've thought about this often in my day, and the only conclusion that I can come to is that living in the past is always an exercise in frustration. Are we with our affections for less popular species of retrospective living any less ineffectual than the hipsters who merrily wallow in their 70s/80s electroclash mishmash?

Today's youth are too reactionary for their own good, living submerged in passed-on fashions, the regugitated symbols of another generation. If we are to truly ride forward in our breif time alive, we'll have to really try and come up with something honest and powerful, more than just style. We must plumb the depths of our historical affections, not in search of arcane minutae to display for one another in the grand and primal tussle that is the social pecking order, but to seek out the pearls of truth and essances of being that are the source of an era's cultural gravity. These elements of an epoch transcend time -- I fully believe this -- and if we are to mint a bold new future, these distilled liquors of the past are a necessary ingredient in our progressive potion.

I still hold that the act of smoking itself -- or any drug use for that matter -- has little intrisically to do with the era that one is whisful for. It may be an elegant symbol, but symbols are merely signifiers of deeper, more tidal forces. What does sucking down the fumes of dried tobacco have to do with a vagabond's spirit? Surely it's a poetic gesture of self-immolation, but just as surely the gamut of human experience provides plentiful alternatives, perhaps even superior ones.

I believe the whithering we see in our world -- this slow creeping end to fun and intrigue and mystery and romance and truth and passion -- has much more substantial roots than our lastest public health pogrom. While is seems we must agree to disagree on the merits of this particular point of order, I'm ready willing and able to join with anyone and everyone who wants to strike a blow at the heart of stale smug fat bland starbucks-bathed cubicle-pushing euphamism-spouting bullshit 21st Century America. There's an alternative to all this plastic; if you will it, it is no dream.

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Smoking Guns

Some lively responses to the smoking ban post from Nick and Alex. Thanks for the input, even if it is contrary to my position. I suggest everyone read the comments, as they're good representations of the pro-smoking viewpoint from both a smoker and a (usually) non-smoker. I must say that Nick's rhapsodic appeals don't hit home for me. Two posts ago:

[NYC is about] sheisters, grifters, 'if a guy gives you a ration of crap, flick a cigarette in his eye and kick him in the knee', a city that was once owned by a one-legged guy from Amsterdam, a town where you actually get a buy-back if you drink a lot, where there are transvestites, where Limehouse Chappie opened up the first 'big store' in the 30's, the only place in the world that embodies 100% class and sleaze at the same time.

Other than the flicked cigarette part, I fail to see the connection between any of the above and smoking, but that's more likely than not because I'm not a smoker and have little emotional chemical to the chemical or the act. Smoking fails to resonate with any of the imagery he puts forth. Nick writes that "The cigarette is an INTEGRAL part of a style of living." Does that mean that as a non-smoker I will never have that same style of living? Being as I like the images he evokes, I hope not.

One other thing: "But it's a habit, and smart people will soon quit." No they won't. This is something I feel very strongly about. My father, a very smart man, smoked for 30+ years until prostate cancer gave him a wake-up call. My mother, a very smart lady, smokes even today, despite the fact that her brother -- another highly intelligent individual -- passed away of lung cancer after 20+ years of lighting up regularly. Nicotine is the most addictive drug known to mankind. More addictive than cocaine or heroin. The longer you use it and the earlier you started, the less likely you are to quit. Smoking is not a habbit, like picking your nose. It's an addiction. That's a fact, and it has fuck all to do with how smart you are.

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Westchester Sequestered

I'm headed up to hang with Pete for a day, maybe two.

In the meantime, enjoy this re-run from last year:

January 29th 2002: The Troubles

The troubles are with me strong. An abortive day. I made it all the way to Grand Central, eventual destination White Plains, when I got the call that the whole show is postponed until tomorrow. Then waiting around for the bike shop to open (need a new derailer) and it never does. Sitting in a trendy Williamsburg cafe, wanting not to look the part that I'm looking. Like a fucking hipster. In retaliation, I composed a list of ways to fight back:

  • Smile Lots (don't pout, whine, complain, bitch)
  • Love to Sweat (work, exercise, exert yourself)
  • Embody Raging Lumberjack Masculinity
  • Take a Western (as in west-coast) Attitude
  • Maintain Unbridled Optomism in the face of total narcissistic cynicism

Also, reading "Sometimes a Great Notion" by good old dead Ken Keasy. He's from my neck of the woods, and his writing makes me miss Oregon something powerful.

Sorry, I couldn't resist the idea of doing a "re-run." Hope everyone is safe and sane. FYI: Big party at my place on Saturday! Details? Email me.

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April Fool

Happy April everyone. I'm feeling foolish as ever. Last night I went with Sasha and saw this great band, Cover Me Badd, who play rockin' covers with a trombone instead of vocals. Some of it is just smart-kid irony kicks, but some of it was deep and soulful. Cult of Personality and a Christina Agulara tune were the faves. Drinking Pabst and talking with some of her friends, it was nice and real. I took my bike, so I raced her cab back to Brooklyn, arriving sweaty and getting blissfully sweatier into the night. The trust is growing.

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No Smoking

Well, Capodice made a comment, and so I figure I'd better register my opinion for everyone. Last night the smoking ban officially went into effect in NYC bars. People are pissed about this, and while I think the ban is of debatable ethical value, I have to admit I enjoy not smelling like an ash tray when I come home. For me the issue is one of aesthetics and not one of health, and on that level I'm pleased at what I've got.

So here's the deal. The legal rationale for this bit of legislation centers around workplace environment laws. It's an accepted medical fact that second-hand smoke is not good for you. There's some debate as to exactly how bad it is, but the round consensus is that there are negative health effects. As such, since people make a living working in bars, it's argued that they need to be smoke-free environments to protect worker safety.

This is kind of a bullshit rationalization. Not because "people who don't want to have second-hand smoke shoulnd't work in bars" -- if you buy that then you'd also have to buy that people who don't want to be sexually harassed shouldn't work for Clarance Thomas -- but because there are other ways of protecting workers from second-hand smoke. Theoretically, they could also issue resporatory protection devices to bar workers, but that doesn't serve the broader social agenda of deterring smoking.

And I suppose that's the crux of the issue: the legal part is a bit of a hack. I tend to support the broader social agenda to curtail smoking, mainly because it annoys me aesthetically and has contributed to the deaths of people I've loved, but I dislike the big-brotherish overtones. So I'm conflicted. On the one hand, people should have the right to smoke. On the other hand, I don't want to have to deal with their smoking when I go to a bar.

The whole "if there were a market for non-smoking bars, then there'd be non-smoking bars" is a red herring. See, because of the extremely addictive nature of nicotine (update: Luke sends me a study backing this up) and the inherant social dynamics of groups, there would never be a market for non-smoking bars in spite of the fact that the a good portion of the bar-going population doesn't smoke. Nicotine addicts are tenacious about their habit -- it's the most addictive drug known to man; look it up -- and are spread fairly thoroughly throughout the population. People tend to go to bars with other people, and more likely than not there will be at least one smoker in many of the groups that make up a bar's clientele on any given evening. So it becomes a question of exclusion. Non-smokers will willingly go to smoking establishments to appease their nicotine-addicted friends. Smokers are notoriously crabby when asked to make the same gesture in return. As such, there will never be a strong market for non-smoking bars.

The whole thing is complex because it's tied up in addiction and emotions and people wanting to be able to hang out with their friends. It's not a simple matter of law. Heretofore non-smokers have been forced to make a sacrifice, and not an inconsiderate one, to to go a bar with their friends. Starting today the tables are turned, and while it's not justice by and stretch of the imagination, it is also not unpleasent to be on the empowered side of the equation.

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Monday Morning Notes

Blurt blurt blurt. I wrote a lot here last night, so I'll take it easy now. Real quick: sorry to anyone who couldn't get here yesterday. According to my hosting provider, we were under a DDoS attack -- something I recently wrote about. No reason to beleive that it has anything to do with me though: I think there are about 100 domains on the server.

You'll note a new banner on my sidebar there: "Pussy, it's what's for dinner." My friends Jessica and Nicole have opened up a cafepress shop hawking various wares emblazoned with that inscription. I urge you to check them out and pass the link along!

Finally, I'm tickled that I got three "don't be a trator" votes on my poll there. I'm glad to have readers who don't share my politics.

But we all love America. Just now I was down at the Stop 1 (my local bodega) and waiting in line to buy half and half behind three Irishmen -- brogues so thick I thought they were polish at first -- and their black friend, loading up on buttered rolls before work at the latino-run market. That's something I treasure. Anywhere in the West you can see bourgeois internationals mixing it up, but only in America to the working classes so frequently comingle, god love 'em.

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Gallop Apace

Long politics post below this one, read only if you're ready to wade in the muck. Things are not pretty right now in the big bad world. I'm personally pretty content though, having spent much of my weekend atwitter with Sasha. It's almost frightening how good it's going -- we're collaborating on art, planning a party, acting like mushy maniacs and even feeling each other out for the summer.

The party idea is a pretty neat one, actually. We want to somehow print out a great vast map of NYC, place it on her spactious living-room floor and then invite people to write their memories on it. I think it will be grand fun.

Tonight we went over to a former student of her's house. Avery is 15, tall, strikingly good-looking and remarkably self-posessed. I pity the hearts she'll break and pre-emtively dispise any shambling young adonis who does her wrong. Sasha took a defininte shine to her last semester, and in the way of the great cool teachers and great cool students of the world, they've kept in touch outside the chemistry classroom. More topical to our visit, Avery's father, Greg, is a projectionist with a passion for all things transparent with light shining through them, an enthusiast and savant with coke-bottle glasses and an many tales of old New York. We were there to enjoy an afternoon of his obsessions.

The family shares a Tribecca loft that Greg and Jane (the mom) have occupied for 20+ years. While the bedrooms are cramped, there are two expansive spaces for art. One is a painting area, and the other a projection room stocked with all manner of anachronistic machinery. We screened a love-story musical from the 1930s and then some rather ingenious slideshows of original Greg-art and a viewmaster presentation. Amazing music to go along with those. Greg is an energetic fount of knowledge about all these things. At first I felt intimidated and unsure, surrounded by such unquestionably authentic bohemia and feeling a bit outclassed, but as I relaxed into my surroundings I was intrigued and stimulated by the intricate geekish rhapsody. All in all, I can't think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

It feels free and easy and wonderfully right being with this woman. She's astounded that I'm not freaked out by her silly and whimsical personality. I'm amazed that she's not bored with me and my underacheiving friends. In fact, the only point of tension I feel with her is around the war thing. She's decided to put herself on a media fast -- a respectable position -- where as I'm unable to keep my eyes off the latest news from the front. My inability to talk with her in detail about the war sometimes causes me to bite my tongue, but in the grand scheme of things it's not as though we disagree about anything.

Saturday night we coaxed ourselves out of her boudoir and over to a party at the casa Capodice. It was good to see everyone, and as usual there was more than enough to drink. His parties tend to have that boarding-school edge. My man Sam got in far too deep with the Wild Turkey/beer-chaser action and I had to take him out back to empty the old gutbag. Since he'd been drinking hard liquor, he proceeded to get even drunker drinking only water, really couldn't see or hear anything there for a while. I called him a car and slipped the driver a 10-spot in an effort to make sure he got home safe.

Sasha and I hiched a ride back to her place from good old Andrew, and for the life of me I can't remember what went on. Not that I was that dunk though. See, that night I dreamt repeatedly of various sex acts and surrounding innuendo, and in the misting Oregon-like morning I was unable to separate the dream from reality. Some parts I know were not real, but I can't place my finger on what actually occurred..

I take this to be a good sign. Not to jinx anything -- knock on wood -- but I belive an update to the love page may be in order soon.

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