Monday, May 21, 2007

My apartment has nice, thick old Manhattan walls, walls that sound when you tap them, like the side of a cliff.

And a wide-eyed lady down the hall with a yapping little dog.

And no one else, it seems, practically, on my entire floor. Either that or spectral figures, gliding in and out of their doors at exactly the times when I'm not. Very, very rarely I've shared the elevator with someone who pushes number 3. And they'll go the other way down the hall, away from my corner of the world after all.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

We are, in fact, fighting them there so we don't have to fight them here. What we are actually doing is sacrificing the lives of two or three young American soldiers (not to mention Iraqis; I'll play the ol' American interests game for now) each day so that we don't have to "fight them here." There's no progress we can point to over there, no measurable weakening of our enemy. On the contrary, they have thrived on the growing public outrage against us, on our botched and aimless measures, on our grief; they are gleeful to see us waist-deep in the mire of our pride. In fact we are feeding them with our own flesh and blood. Or more specifically, the flesh and blood of generally less privileged members of our society, often minorities, whose limited opportunities make this dirty work a decent option. We are, every day, leading a couple of them to the slaughter, simple as that. Virgins to be offered to the gods of terror so that we may carry on playing Xbox, leasing cars and watching "Lost." We'll feed the monster as long as we've got willing, wide-eyed sacrifices – consider them our martyrs if you will, our not-so-willing suicide bombers, sent down the gullet of that dark and hungry volcano. But their mission is really to appease, not to disrupt. Never mind whether this can or should sit well with us today. What will happen later, when we run out of other peoples' sons and daughters and the gods are hungrier and angrier than ever?

Monday, May 14, 2007

We went to the Highline Ballroom the other night to see the notorious Amy Winehouse. The place is a slick new nightclub with a stage and it seems to be run by Israeli secret service. Bald, thin guys with sharp suits and earpieces. Half-whispering to each other, guardedly, their eyes scanning the room. One escorted us upstairs to consider seats at a shared table on the mezzanine. It felt like a cop was tying my shoe.

We settled at a corner of the stage and I went for drinks. As I lifted them off the bar I got a sad and sickening feeling I'd never felt before – they lacked the heft I'd come to expect over thousands upon thousands of repetitions of this sacrosanct act. They were light. And by that I don't mean light in booze. I mean the glasses – a perfectly normal-shaped small rocks glass and highball glass – were made of plastic.

The very strange Patrick Wolf opened up. He seemed to be in the vanguard of some invisible '80s nostalgia trip, coming off as a Boy George sort of Adam Ant kind of Peter Pan. He wore shorts with suspenders and knee-high black socks and blue patent-leather shoes and something was up with his hair. Some of his songs sounded like Shriekback and others like the Fairport Convention. I found his performance dully unappealing yet also oddly terrifying. And then the stage was cleared.

A gray-haired old roadie soundchecked all the instruments, each a beautiful vintage axe with its accompanying priceless amp. He played the bassline from Marvin Gaye's "Inner City Blues" over and over, lazily playing an utterly false note at the end of the phrase each and every time. I cringed and lifted my featherweight drink to my lips.

He set Amy up with orange juice mixed with Jack Daniel's right at the base of her mic stand.

Finally she came out and took stuttery steps across the stage, looking down, but not demurely, and grabbed the microphone with an insolent and condescending air as her crack band, all sharp in suits but no ties (to suggest a touch of dissolution) fell into an immaculate groove, her backup singing men dancing in big unison movements beside her, and she swiveled her hips ever so slightly, exaggeratedly little in fact, and took tiny steps in place before the microphone, to the beat – her backup singers dancing widely, warmly – then swung her knees in turn, feet together, within a tight and measured space, mincingly. Her. And she held the mic out in her hand like she was handing you the phone. Then when she put it to her mouth to sing a remarkable thing came out, belying her tiny frame. A golden moan, molasses-rich and plaintive; disenchanted and weary too. A voice that's beautiful in spite of her, and all the more beautiful for that fact.

She seemed to observe some degree of amused contempt for her audience and the proceedings generally.

She's a perfect star.

Friday, May 11, 2007

May 9, 2007 at Yankee Stadium

I trained a wary eye upon the batter's box. We were sitting a couple dozen rows back, behind first base, in those good, good Union seats. I was juggling peanuts and their shells but keeping an eye out for dear life. Watch out, foul balls. Robinson Cano was up.

Sure enough he cracked one our way, sweetly struck, if early. It arced up to fifteen feet or so then curved sinisterly to the right, so that it appeared at first to be missing us to one side, then not at all, and then – it seemed to glance off someone's shoulder, perhaps, to our left, and then it flew toward us with a terrible, and I mean, velocity. It missed our heads by five feet or so and smacked into the railing behind our row with an awful, staccato ding. Ding. It.


And then it rolled upon the ground amidst the peanut shells for the fat old man across the aisle to fetch.
Todd's suicide note was the most embarrassing piece of drivel they'd ever read. Full of extravagant declarations of self-loathing; laughable, elegiac paeans to lost and unrequited love; dressed-up petty digs at made-up nemeses and pompous, maudlin pronouncements upon our sad and bellicose world; it read like a wicked satire of some stupid sap's self-important self-negation.

Except it was real.

And he pulled through.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

John is our taciturn doorman although, or perhaps for this very reason, he's pretty good. He seems to have aged beyond his years – bent back, misshapen feet. Slack and hopeless countenance, put upon; the look of a man who's opened a hundred thousand doors without ever stepping through one once.
The train from San Francisco to the Valley is the double-decker CalTrain, a whimsical configuration accentuated by the rows of single, privileged seats above, although CalTrain makes you think of cattle train and so do the tall, ungainly wagons. On the first morning I put my feet up on the seat across from me and sure enough was scolded by the conductor, I knew it, shoulda known. And it's outta the reverie to examine the world pass by outside: sunny towns, drowsy towns. Houses, sheds and muscle cars, stucco.

We arrived in Mountain View to find the air honeyed with sun. It was one of those days as though we'd drift into a dream and awake to face some unnameable beast with nought but our wits to protect us.

Instead we got aboard the company shuttle and crossed the bridge above the highway.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

There's that tired phrase we hear from time to time from Bush and his supporters: We have to fight them there so we don't have to fight them here.

I propose that what's really happening is a grotesque twist on that pat phrase: They're not fighting us here because they can already fight us there.