[2022/1/3> gonna try finishing our journal archiving in the coming weeks, here's the last 3 months of 2001, right after 9/11 (see post #967 4 b4 + after FX), when we took our 1st trip to Italy... ]
October 9, 2001 – NYC
Is this what 's it's like to be at the threshold of WW3? We are into the third day of pummeling the Taliban. Everything is quiet, here. More or less.
Yesterday I paid more attention to people than usual on the subway. I
usually zone out and read, but I decided to observe people. Not sure if it
is dependent on the mindset of the observer (projecting into the
environment) but sometimes the general feeling on the street is good and
sometimes it's bad. And when it's good, it's like a contact high that is
contagious. A feeling of camaraderie, where you feel like you belong. Where
you feel connected by being disconnected. That is, when you don't have
friends, or are not associated with anyone, you dissolve into the masses as
just another person. Other times, when it is bad, everything is suddenly
ugly and foul, and you think to yourself "what are we doing here living like
animals." Animals in fear. Packing onto the subways so tight that heads are
jarred, elbows are in your face, or your face is in somebody's arm pit, or
breathing their bad breath. No one dares speak, but you can smell everybody,
a soup of BO from every culture. Everybody looks faceless, a non-descript
nationality, kinda white, or kinda black, or kinda brown. Everybody just
blends together into a mass. Everybody frozen, waiting it out. Waiting to be
unleashed into the streets where they scurry to their cube of space in the
sky, surrounded by walls, and there they are kings. In my apartment with
[bedder-½], nothing else matters. That is our world. We've created our world of
comfort. Other's may have a world of pain. But it doesn't matter why you are
commuting, because at that time, you are one with humanity.
Usually I read and escape from that. Just finished The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles. Powerful book. Strangers in a strange land type of story. Odd that I should be reading this book now. Deals with Western "travelers" galivanting in Muslim Northern Africa, Algeria. There’s this certain disconnectedness that Bowles captures well, like the westerners wander aimlessly, fascinated with the Muslim culture but unable to connect. They are outsiders. The Muslims are aware, but no so curious, more just tolerant, sympathetic. He portrays the westerns to be desperate and ungrounded, susceptible. The Muslims are deeply rooted in tradition. And in the end, Kit is completely lost, with her husband dead. She wanders into the desert and ends up becoming a love slave to Belsaqqim, a dominating tyrant. Great book.
Now I am starting on Chekov short stories. What else. Just got an e-mail from Web Del Sol and got another publication in the works—"Abandoning the Mine". He wants to change a few things on it, but I am willing, not to attached to that story
in that state. Matter of fact, it is a pretty random story. Not much of a
story, but a slice of life. Bedder-½ is b-day is coming up. So is mine, and we
are going to Italy! Can't wait. Forgetting about Argentina for now. Was
going to go for Jeff's for his wedding, but that got too complicated, bad
October 20, 2001 – NYC
Bedder-½’s b-day came and went. I pulled of the surprise, kind of. Trying to arrange to have Gwynn, Peter, Jen, Biswa, So Young, and Andrea all meet us at Carmine’s for a surprise. I tried Nobu, but fat chance, and it was a good thing. Carmine’s was perfect. Of course, Bedder-½ thought it was odd that just me and her going, and I tried to tell her I just wanted it to be us, romantic and stuff. But she was getting suspicious, and So Young was with us, and she invited So Young, and then Andrea, and then she was telling me to invite Biswa, and then she started asking about Gwynn, etc. She came down and met me at the Russian Tea Room. We had Cosmos and gawked at the people having nothing better to do with their money. Then we strolled around down Broadway, and then Bedder-½ wanted to go to Ruth Criss steakhouse to see Gwynn. I told her Gwynn couldn’t meet us because she had to work. What was I supposed to say as she is walking towards Ruth Criss? She went in and discovered that Gwynn wasn’t working, and was befuddled. She tried calling Gwynn, and no answer luckily. Bedder-½ was kind of pissed actually, thinking Gwynn had blown her off, lied to her on her birthday. We continued down Broadway, and we were early so I was trying to stall for time, going in all the shops. Went in to Sephora and got her one of those kits with all the good smelling stuff and lotions. The one-gloved haughty woman took forever to wrap it, almost like she knew. Got to the restaurant and Andrea was there as planned, followed by So Young not much later (as also expected). So Bedder-½ is wondering why we are not going to our table, but I said they weren’t ready for us. Biswa shows up, which was kind of expected. Then Gwynn shows up, which was a total shock to Bedder-½. But no Jen and Peter. So we went and sat down. Bedder-½ didn’t notice that there were eight chairs and six people. I said I was going to the bathroom, and finally found Jen and Peter outside. Brought them in to add to the surprise. It was a lot of fun, lots of food and cheap wine, Bedder-½ got a lot of gifts. Jen and Peter humored us with their feisty role-playing and jealousies, which was comedy for us, and therapeutic for them as it thinly veiled the truth. So Young got Bedder-½ a really nice necklace from Tiffany’s, she got a lot of flowers. We got her a cake. Sang her happy b-day, it was great. Andrea had to blow out early, as did Jen and Peter. The rest of us headed for the Karaoke joint, stopping at a Korean grocer to grab a couple of six-pacs. Every once in a while wafts of the WTC stench would remind us of the times were living in. But otherwise, we got to our Karaoke place, popped the beers, busted out the microphones and started singing all these cheesy-ass songs. The biggest surprise of all was Biswa. He was so excited about this that he was bursting out of his skin, on the edge of the fake-leather couches. He had never done Karaoke before, but after seeing Gwynn and Bedder-½ do one song, he immediately grabbed the mike, jumped up and started sincerely belting out a Back Street Boys song. He was totally into it and his voice was actually really good. It was hilarious. It escalated from there. We were fighting for the mikes, fighting for the controller to plug in tunes. Those that didn’t have the mike were still singing without a mike, dancing, playing the tambourine. And the graphics behind the words were the funniest part. They are so bad and cheesy that they are high art. Like they would just go to a soft porn strip place and film these blonde dancers stuck in the 80s flashdance, or they would reenact some dramatic episode, girls and cars, trying to take into account the lyrics at some times, at other times complete abandonment at trying to make any connection. A good time was had by all, we ended up staying there for over three hours, tell 1:30 a.m. Biswa headed for the path, So Young and Gwynn headed for the A train uptown, and Bedder-½ and I jumped in a cab. Of course Bedder-½ was out immediately. She has this funny reaction to cabs now, the second we get in one it’s like she gets this narcoleptic response, her head bobs back, her mouth gapes open and she’s out for the count. Every once in a while, the cabbie pounds the brakes or the gas and her head bobs forward, followed by an unconscious, "Geez. Stop it, I mean it." over and over. Flying through the streets of Manhattan. Sometimes perfection is reached, the lights turn green right on cue, flying down Park avenue, thru midtown, light filling the wet black tar like a river of colors, the sounds free to flow deep into the expanse sheltered by the towering skyscrapers, like there is no limit, nothing to confine the sounds as they echo outwards, nothing to confine the lights. Every intersection the light is red as we approach, he calmly wavers between lanes, never stopping, and just before we reach the intersection it turns green. It’s perfect clockwork. The avenues are so wide and grand we can see for miles head. The symmetric line of red lights that turn to green as he hit them. Sometimes it can be so beautiful and perfect.
October 30, 2001 – Beverly Hills
5 a.m. at “Le Meridien at Beverly Hills”. La di da. The Circle Jerks song comes to my head, “Beverly Hills, Century City, everything is nice and pretty, all the people they look the same, don’t they know they’re so damn lame!”. And here I am.
But first, to last week. David came to visit on Tuesday night. We took him to dinner at Baluchi’s then went to the Comic Strip. Kind of weird scene, only a dozen or two people in the audience. They had a whole string of headliners, including the guy I already saw as the primer for the Daily Show. The comedians were concerned with lack of audience, and this seemed to be the brunt of their jokes. I guess one month since 9/11 and people don’t feel like laughing yet. But it was kind of strange and intimate and there were “jokes” about the incident.
The next day I took off from work and we did the whirlwind tour of NYC. Kind of cool actually, we took the ferry from 90th street down to the tip at pier 11. Perfectly good commuter ferry and nobody takes it, doubt it will stay afloat. A temporary idea they started a few weeks ago. I’d take it if it made sense to me, maybe when we move. We went down the river, it was a beautiful Indian summer day, in T-shirts and shorts. Traversed the skyline. Got off down at the tip, and walked through downtown down to the tip.
Ellis Island boats were running but not stopping on the island, so we opted out. Walked up Broadway, past the bull, down to Wall street. Security was high everywhere, constant reminders. Everything was permeated with the stench, some buildings that hadn’t been cleaned, coated with dust and ash. We kept getting closer, and soon you could see it over the crowds of gogglers and picture takers (of which David was one of them). Fire department and emergency workers everywhere. But really what remained was a construction site, or destruction site. Cranes pulling hunks of tangled steel from the steaming pile, jagged facades still intact, the buildings next to it thrashed. But what was more telling to me, were the closed shops in between the sidestreet glimpses of where WTC was, a greeting card shop coated in dust, many of the cards strewn about the store like there was an earthquake, and at first I wondered why, until I noticed the masks on the floor, and other first aid supplies. People were taking shelter in these shops. Other shops I saw the doors broken like people were desperate just to get off the street. A lingerie store caked in dust inside, the manikins still intact with blank stares. Some shops were just opening up after they had cleaned up. Next door to a Chinese restaurant whose awning was heaped with ash and bits of concrete. But what was really most disturbing was the smell, a smell I will never forget, the same smell as we were smelling all the way up at our apartment during the first week afterward, the smell when I got off work a month later and the wind was blowing north—this smell is infused into the fabric of the city down there. It’s like when a skunk sprays in your house and there is nothing you can do but wait for ten years or tear down your house. Even if the smell was gone, I think just being there would trigger the smell. And now pleasant memories I had associated with certain burning smells—hanging out by the campfire in Joshua tree, driving past the brick-burners between Chapala and Guad every morning, etc.—will be tainted, corrupted. Nothing will ever be the same for anyone in the USA, except for the next generation that will grow up with this just being the way it is, written in the history books. And, it’s not over yet. Supposedly there is more to come this week…
Slight digression, back to the NYC whirlwind tour, walked to Tribeca, then cut across town along Canal street, showed David Chinatown and then stopped to eat at Lunas in Little Italy. Got Canolis at Ferraras, the usual stuff. Soho, then up to the village, they were filming a movie in St. Marks square (Sweet Home Alabama), cut back over to the West Village, probably spent an hour watching the scene at the cage. Unbelievable, better then watching a game at MSG. This is primal, this is getting to the roots of sports. You could smell the testosterone in the air, dripping of their skin, in their breath as they screamed at each other. So much anger, screaming, cussing, but no fights. Makes you wonder how much of it is a ritualized from of aggression release, kind of how I feel about Punk rock and other high-energy music, therapeutic in that it is a healthy channeling of aggression, especially Basketball as they are getting exercise. But below that, they are establishing a pecking order, a social hierarchy. And above that, they are just damn good, raw, basketball players. Counteracted that with a stroll through the quaint west village, through the meat-packing district during the day, which was interesting to see that half of the meat-packing factories are still fully functional, right next door to trendy clubs and galleries. Only in NYC, it’s beautiful how this developed hand in hand. Then up through Chelsea, showed David the Chelsea hotel, walked up Fashion Ave, Garment district, Penn Station, Macy’s, cut across 34th street to the Empire State, went to the top without having to wait at all, hazy, but great view. More interesting now that I know my way around and you can see what it looks like from the air. Especially knowing we walked here all the way from the tip. And we weren’t done yet. Kept going, NY public library, where we went inside (my first time in), and then down to Grand Central at rush hour, then back to Rockerfeller and St. Patricks, down 5th avenue to the SE corner of Central Park, along Central park for a while, then Madison for a while, then Park avenue for a while, zig-zagging home to our favorite Sushi restaurant on 1st avenue (Guayamaru?) where Bedder-½ and So Young were waiting. Altogether a 13-mile trek, a half marathon.
Anonther night we went to De La Guarda and Hunan Cottage… which was intense! No your ordinary theatrical experience. We were ushered into a dark room, everybody standing in the middle like a herd of cows. Surrounded by black curtains on the sides, above by a thin tarp a few feet over our head. Then noises and lights started appearing, like out of your sub-conscious. Shadows flying across the fabric above us, glowing objects, mist, swooshing sounds, to the background of weird music. Slowly things became apparent. The performers penetrated the fabric, with plastic helicopters, a hand, then a screaming head with jam through. Then a spastic body, flailing and grabbing at the audience, pulling people up. The energy was riotous, enciting. Men and woman in business attire flailing upside down through the fabric, interludes of peace where suddenly the whole fabric was a glowing tarp of constellations, then they just ripped through the fabric and tore it up, the crowd was pulling it apart, revealing the space above. Their “stage”. They were flying everywhere, hurling through space upside down, butt cheeks showing, hair flinging, colliding, twirling, grabbing on to the rail like monkeys, climbing and then jumping, swooping. It was insane. Afterwards, reading the program, realized that most of them were experience climbers.
Some numbers involved water. Streams of water flowing from the ceiling on to the performers, splashing all over the audience members, or a fine mist, and I sware they were pumping in smells. Every once in a while, one of the performers would appear pushing his or her way through the crowd and kissing or dancing with random people, some they accosted and strapped to the bare butt cheek guy with the helmet and he straddled them and humped on them as they flew through the air. It was crazy. The audience was dynamic, constantly having to move as new stages and props emerged knocking you out of the way, some were wet, splashing water all over the place. No body was safe. If they pulled down their pants and started slinging shit I wouldn’t have been surprised. It was a zoo.
Four pages, and I am nowhere near my present location, in my pseudo-zen art deco hotel next door to the Beverly center. What else did we do? Five days was a bit much, especially as I had to get up to go to work, then felt obligated to spend every waking hour after with David, who could just sleep in all he wanted. Saturday woke up and went up the cloisters, met So Young for a while. The cloisters are always cool, walked through Tryone park, great views of the palisades with foliage in the full spectrum of colors. By this time the weather had turned drastically, now it was truly a chilly crisp fall day.
Then down to Mid-town for Thai food at the fish tank restaurant. Bedder-½ went home for a nap, but David still wanted to see the Guggenheim, they were having an exhibit on Brazilian art which was okay, I liked the modern stuff, but the other stuff was kind of boring. Then we watched the first World Series game, Yankees got their asses kicked, not sure who I'm rooting for, can't stand the Diamondbacks but hate the Yanks even more. Next morning, went to Breakfast, and then David and I went to the Design Museum, but it was closed, went to the Whitney but it wasn’t open, we looked around anyway in the gift shop, then walked down along the river, killing time. Just waiting for David to leave to get our lives back. Finally he left around 1 pm on Sunday, Bedder-½ and I immediately did a long work out. Then hung our relaxing, making love, bathing, eating, watching the World Series. Then the next morning I had to get up early and go to JFK, riding with a cabbie with some sort of Arabic prayer on his dashboard. Passing mosques. Everything a constant reminder, NPR in the background, WTC this, Muslim that, “since September 11th”, Anthrax, airlines, Taliban this, Air Strikes that. I go to get ice cream from the guy at the corner, he’s reading a newspaper in Arabic which he hides under the counter. I’d be curious to know what he is reading. I’d be curious to know exactly what are the beliefs of my limo driver, but is it kosher to ask? We ride in awkward silence. Me concerned that he is concerned about me judging him. And then at the airport. First I waited only to be told I had to have my boarding pass first, no more e-ticket. Waited half an hour for that, then a half an hour in the security checkpoint. Good thing I was two hours early. They checked ID again at the gate, except for Maria Bello, she was ushered thru by an agent, wearing a fur vest and Gucci glasses, far from the shy and simple character she plays. At least by appearance. But I think I was the only one who noticed her. Saw her again in first class. And of course flying is definitely weird, everybody looking at each other, wondering who could be a terrorist. Accusatory, suspecting glances. A quiet tension. Except for the same old annoyances. And the plane was packed, who said anything about the airline industry hurting? My ticket was $1400 bucks. American Airlines flight #1, JFK to LAX. A perfect target? Everybody clapped when we landed at LAX, haven’t heard that since flying to Mexico. Got my Hertz rental car, proceeded to miss the La Brea turn off, ended up downtown, stopped at Taco Bell and the lady proceeded to drop a large iced tea on my lap. It spun and flung all over the car and me. And I was wearing my only jeans… Finally got to the office, and met all the Wilshire folks. More of an artsy and organic bunch then the NY crowd, lots of Japanese influence. The Kalani guy who I interact with, looks like a Sumo wrestler. Aki, the new producer, is my main contact now. We sat down with Daniel Sakai and Donna and hashed out how exactly we wanted to work the online and offline help. Met some of the other folks, etc.
Just did some Yoga, and now I guess I should shower and get to work.
November 11, 2001 – NY
Let see, backtracking, got back from LA. Read House of Sand and Fog on the plane. Definitely suspenseful. Had to finish reading it when I got home. Hard to put on a chronological order to the events. Been working a lot. Going back to LA, worked 75 hours that week. Get up at 3 am, not able to sleep, stopped off for a bagel and my car was gone. Motherfuckers towed it. Had to walk to work and then got get the car from the towing lot. Stiffed me $150 and then another $60 on top of that… The Wilshire folks asked me to stay a bit longer. Not sure why. Couldn’t get much done, they played football in the offices, breaking windows, riding skateboards and playing guitars. Felt like being at summer camp. In the evenings I would go home and order room service and watch the World Series. Unbelievable games. Yankees were hanging on and coming from behind. Nobody in LA cared. I decided that LA really sucks. Spent most of my time driving from parking structure to parking structure. Driving around but unable to stop anywhere unless you know where you are going beforehand. Not like walking around NY where you can just be driven by impulse. When I got sick of the Wilshire office, I would go up to UCP up at Universal City. Driving around Hollywood and Beverly Hills. Strip Malls and nice cars. Wilted palm trees.
Today we met cousin Donald down at Penn station. He came to NY for a wedding. Had a bagel and coffee with him before he got a train back down to North Carolina. Then we worked out at the NYSC at Times Square, with cool views. Ate at Baluchi’s and then some deli on the corner of 55th and 8th ave caught fire and the streets were filled with smoke and there were dozens of fire engines, firemen with those surreal bleeper noises that remind me of WTC. They were going into the building with billowing smoke. Fireman with Italian surnames written across the bottoms of their backs. We watched as long as we could breath. The same deli that I bought an umbrella from one time when I got caught in the rain. Now gone. Our clothes still stink of it.
Now home, in limbo. A Sunday evening free, I guess I could be writing, but it’s hard to be focused when I have so much to do at work, and were going to Italy next week and I can’t wait. But now I just wait and just try to get as much work done as possible. Let the financial dust settle, I’ve got a $2700 expense check coming from my week in LA, but that was all out of pocket. And lots of money coming in from lots of overtime. But then I go to the dentist and he gives me an estimate of $1000-2000 for all the work I need to do. Some crotchety old Jewish dentist in the base of some apartment building. Wanting to talk physics while he's probing my mouth, I hate when dentists want to make small talk. Maybe I can just make enough money and then get laid off so I can just write for a year or something. I got another few pieces published in "Experimental Forest". The guy from Del Sol review has gotten back to me so I don’t know what’s up with that. I am talking randomly now. Procrastinating. Oh well, my next journal entry will be from Italy!
[a.I. on the 35th revolution round the sun]
November 18, 2001 – Roma [we posted more pics + these journals here, but reposting here for continuity]
Our journey started back in New Jersey. Saturday we took the subway down to Grand Central and then the bus to Newark airport. Dozens of National Guard troops lined the entrance to the terminal to make their presence know, but when it comes down to it the security people are just 19-year old punks making $8 an hour. We flew all night and didn’t sleep at all. Watched the Leonid meteor shower over the wing of the airplane. Just from the quarter of sky visible to me I was seeing about a meteor every ten seconds. Supposedly this was the most intense meteor shower since the Leonids on November 22, 1966. 35 years since I was born. So this was a special pre-birthday treat.
When we got to Rome we took a train from the airport to Termini. Then we took a taxi from the train station to Albergo del Sole, which was near Campo D’Fioro The taxi ride was a bit of a disappointment after all you hear about Rome taxis. Tame compared to New York. The hotel was “clean” as they say, but it did have a nice balcony and courtyard. Checked in and immediately set out exploring … walked up to nearby Piazza Navonna where the three Bernini fountains are, including the four rivers or wherever it was called. Unbelievable to see this stuff that I’ve seen in pictures so much, I still remember it from Humanities and AP Art history in high school. We had a pizza and cappuccino in one of the over-priced restaurants on the piazza just because you have to do it at least once. We people-watched and then it started sprinkling so we ducked under an umbrella. It was colder than we expected and I was unprepared (we only brought one day-pack between the two of us). Then we headed to Trevi Fountain where the main attraction was the annoying Pakistani or Indian guys who were trying to sell really stupid touristy shit. Kept shoving shit in your face while you were trying to look at the fountains. These guys became a main feature of all the tourist attractions in Rome. If you could see through these guys, Trevi Fountain was beautiful, but a little faded and blackened from the brilliant white marble and aqua blue pictures you see. When we were there, there was all this commotion and suddenly this horse goes galloping buy full speed with a buggy in tow, but no one at the helm. The sounds of the hoofs on the cobblestone echoed through the streets as everyone stood dumbfounded. An old Italian woman turned to us when the Pakistani men bothered her, saying “mama mia!” … like what is this world coming to.
Somewhere in there we saw the Spanish steps, which not to be negative, were a bit of a disappointment. Just some steps leading up to some church which a bunch of wanna-be-seens sitting lounging all over the steps. Maybe it’s more beautiful in the summer when they plant flowers and all, but now they were under construction with unsightly barriers set up. Nevertheless, a good view at the church above on the outskirts of Villa Borghese. The Spanish steps are in an area that is Rome’s equivalent to Madison Ave. All the top designers there. And the Italian people actually wear that stuff that when you see it paraded on the runway you think “who in their right mind actually wears this shit?” The Italians do. Fur-lined mod coats and the ridiculous J-Lo tinted glasses seemed to be the rage. Lots of fur products actually. Looked just like an Armani ad.
After the Spanish steps we wandered down around the Quirinale, and then our first taste of the Forum, which was truly mind-blowing. All these ruins smack in the middle of the city. So much to see, huge skeletons of structures that gave you a hint of what their ancient Rome must have been like. Pieces of marble columns just strewn about haphazardly. Wild cats everywhere. We walked along Via del Fori Imperiali taking in all the magnificent structures and remains, eventually reaching the Coliseum. Then it started to rain. Suddenly the annoying Pakistani vendors turned into umbrella vendors. Enterprising, had to admit. We bought one and huddled in line to get in. The Coliseum is pretty intense to think that it is bigger then any coliseum we have today and it was built way back when. We wandered around imagining what it was like when they had the gladiator battles. You can even see down in the infrastructure below the field where they orchestrated all the behind the scenes stuff.
It was still raining when we finished with the coliseum, and by this time it was starting to get dark. We huddled in the metro station with the masses, wondering what to do. Finally we said fuck it. Wasn’t raining too hard. So we wandered through the Forum in the rain, taking pictures from under the umbrella. At least there wasn’t that many other tourists around. The rain didn’t let up. Matter of fact, it steadily came down harder and harder. We took shelter in the Curia, which was a massive structure that was relatively intact. It was dark and ominous in there. But we just got colder waiting there. So we continued to venture on. After a while it became comical … we were dodging around trying to see the sights, “there’s the Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II” with the chariots looming on the roof. “Quick, take a picture” I would hold the umbrella while Bedder-½ took the picture.
We tried to go to the museum there that had a Klint and Egon Schiele exhibit, but the line was way too long. So we through in the towel and decided to head home. Couldn’t get a taxi as everyone else was in the same boat without a paddle. Got lost as we could barely see with the rain. By this time it was a full on downpour. Everyone had umbrellas and it was impossible to get along the sidewalks. Bedder-½ was a trooper. She would go into hysterical laughing fits. And then a bus would drench us even more when they drove by. Finally made it back to the hotel but we were soaked to the bone. Didn’t even bother to change to go to dinner (why bother to get another set of clothes wet, not that I had another set to change into). Ate at some dungeoness tourist place in Campo D’Fioro that was okay.
[bedder-½ in Positano]
November 19, 2001 – Positano [which 20 years later we recently revisited for comparison]
After our rained out day in Rome and a long night of interrupted sleep we woke up and decided we needed to go to Positano and just chill. We already get our fill of big city life, what we really needed was to detox in some small coastal town. We had breakfast (read “cappuccino and croissant”) in the sun in Campo D’Fioro, then got our bags and wandered through the streets of Rome. Came across the Pantheon, which we had managed to miss somehow the day before. Unbelievable. I love the proportional shape of it, the color combinations of the marble work and the hole in the ceiling. It really feels like a Roman temple gone church in the center of Rome. And it was empty. Then we passed Trevi fountain again, threw another coin, so this one was the wish. Then got a train to Napoli at the termini Roma. Spectacular scenery from the train. Things got sketchy in Naples. There was lots of police in the train station there. After asking around, we managed to cram on a “train” which was really a subway, to Sorrento. Passed Vesuvius and Pompeii on the way. We just missed the bus in Sorrento, so we had to wait for an hour and a half. Had pizza and beer while watching cheesey Italian videos, then got on this crazy bus down the windy and dark roads. Could make out the faint outline of the ocean below, enough to know that was it was a sheer drop-off. The road was only wide enough for the bus, he would just lean on the horn with every hairpin corner. God help anyone that was coming in the other direction.
The bus dumped us off in Positano, by this time it was dark and we could see the stars. There’s one winding (vehicle) road that cuts through town, which hugs a steep hillside. The only way to get around is to walk up and down the steep alleys. We went down through the jagged and jaded alleys trying to make sense of a two dimensional map on a three dimensional landscape. In the dark. Empty alleys leading every which way. A maze of dwellings. Finally we found a guy who pointed us to an elevator that was in another abandoned hotel. Took the rickety elevator down through the rocks four stories or so, and then through another maze of alleys and tunnels littered with abandoned beach cots and paraphernalia leftover from the summer until we got to another elevator that took us even further down through the cliffs. Our destination was Hotel Pupetto, which was the only hotel on the water, on the more isolated part of town. Luckily it isn’t the season, so we didn’t have to worry about having a reservation or anything. Matter of fact, we were probably the only people staying there. We had a room right over the beach. We could hear the waves rolling in and out while we slept, and could see the moon on the sea.
For dinner, we traversed along this path above the sea into the main part of town. There we had linguine alla vongole and wine and watched the antics of these wild cats. The water is warm, but probably only in relation to the air, which is rather chilly. Kind of cool to first see Positano at night.
Woke up leisurely and had breakfast out on the patio in the sun overlooking the Mediterranean. The first we’d seen of Positano by daylight. Beautiful aqua and blue waters, smooth stone beaches. White-washed houses embedded into the steep limestone cliffs, mixed with cypress and bougainvillea. In the distant Amalfi, which like Positano also reaches down steep cliffs to the water like a giant amphitheater of dwellings with the sea as their objective. Or like flowstone in a cave. We strolled on the beach and then discovered that within the smooth stones were pieces of tile and glass. Positano is famous for its tile and ceramic work. The sea was littered with colorful bits of tile that had been pounded and smoothed by the waves on the rocks. We collected bits of colorful tile and glass until the pockets in my short pockets were stuffed to the brim. Walked through some natural arches to another small beach collecting more bits of evidence.
After that we set out up the hill. Our intention was to walk to Nocelle but everybody was discouraging us, saying it was too far and they didn’t how we could get there. Even the tourist office was telling us to take the bus, like only crazy idiots would walk, it just wasn’t an option. But the bus wasn’t coming for a while and it didn’t go all the way to Nocelle anyway. So we just started weaving in and out of the steep staircases leading up, hitting a few dead ends and having to backtrack. We walked right by people’s home that were along the walks. Obviously great views. Would be weird to live right here and take all this for granted.
Just when we thought the staircase trail would peter out and dead into a wall of limestone, the trail cut up out of Positano and wound up the cliffs. Then we emerged into these terraced olive groves and through periodic farms. We hardly saw any people. Guess most people take the bus or ride mopeds these days. We emerged into Monte Pertuso after 45 minutes or so of intense stairmaster climbing. Weren’t sweating too much as it was cold and windy. Monte Pertuso has a simple church with a flat soccer field. Great views of Positano below. More vertical limestone cliffs form the backdrop, one with a huge hole in it. Signs led to a climbing area but we didn’t see anybody climbing. Just dogs and donkeys, no people in the streets, very quiet.
We asked this shy girl sitting on a moped where the road to Nocelle was and she directed us to the traverse road that went along this steep, dizzy ravine. It was forming a wind tunnel and wind was pouring up from the sea. We walked along the road until we got to some young bucks that were loading sand into burlap sacks and loading them onto donkeys. It was the end of the road where the mopeds and small Italian cars parked. We headed up into the tiny village of Nocelle, a trip back in time. No roads, just old Terra Cotta homes and farms, cobblestone alleys, crusty old farmers with sweaters smeared with sheep milk. The streets were empty and Bedder-½ was running low on carbo reserves. Luckily we found this little Tratorria that was open. There was no one in there and it felt like we were breaking in to somebody’s home, but I could hear people chattering through a distance hallway. We called out and finally this guy and his son came out and dished us up some amazing Gnocchi and pasta. They lit the fire in the pizza oven til it was toasty and warm in the place and the view we had was unbelievable, perched out on a cliff hanging thousands of feet over the Mediterranean. You couldn’t ask for anything better, except we felt a bit rushed because the sun was starting to set and we didn’t know how to get back. When we paid our bill he gave us complimentary Limoncello shots that warmed our bellies even more. Limoncello is a lemon liquor which is traditional to the Amalfi coast. Good stuff.
We asked the way down, and it was a lot faster, past the cave (which was an alcove-shrine with a spring dripping down the mossy interior, decorated with religious icons of course) and tiny church, then down a switch back trail through a steep forest of trees. All this as the sun was setting with brilliant views. We came out on the “highway” a bit south of Positano. We continued along the road, past ceramic shops and then into Positano where there were a lot of other shops that Bedder-½ was loving. Then found this pizza joint down in the ravine above a stream, more great food and wine, for about half the price of New York.
On the way home we watched the fisherman bringing in their catch. They were pulling huge amounts of large sardine-looking fish out of these nets that they were pulling out of their boats. Cats came around to investigate. Restaurant owners came around to purchase straight from the source. They piled the fish in heaps on the mossy stone dock by the moonlight. So this is where Ulysses couldn’t resist himself and felt inclined to have his men tie himself to the mast? The sirens were in these hills. The waves haven’t stopped coming since then.
November 21, 2001 – Florence
We had originally planned to go to Amalfi or Capri, but decided that we had enough rest and needed more stimulation. We must be New Yorkers now or something. It was too cold to swim anyway and everything had an abandoned feeling, so we headed back north. Trekked up the hill to catch the bus to Sorrento. This time the bus trip was by daylight so we could see. It was enough to make you sick, even though the views were spectacular. In Sorrento we got the subway to Napoli.
We had a 2-hour wait for the next train to Florence, so we ventured into the hectic streets. Lonely Planet listed some pizza restaurant that was supposed to be the best in Italy, but it wasn’t where it was supposed to be and we were in this complete clusterfuck of sketchy and random streets. Naples has no rhyme or reason, no laws, no order, it’s just utter chaos and it’s filthy and seedy, but kind of cool in that way. We found another restaurant for pizza and just people-watched. Naples has more the multi-cultural crowd, lots of Chinese and people from Africa. Then we caught our direct train to Florence that only stopped once in Rome. Watched the scenery go by, through the Tuscan countryside.
Walked around Florence at night until we found the Hotel Medici. Ate at some Tuscan restaurant, not what you think of when you think of Italian food. Lots of meats and lots of spices like rosemary and sage. Their bread is supposed to be the best, but both Bedder-½ and I thought it was awful. Tastes like eating a handful of flour.
My birthday. Walked around and saw a lot of art and churches (that about sums up Italy—a buttload of ancient Roman and Renaissance religious art). Saw the Palazzo Vecchio and the statues, then went to the Uffzi gallery and saw the “birth of Venus” and lots of Bernini’s and Bertolouci’s and Da Vinci’s, etc. Then we crossed the ponte Vecchio over the river, had a cappuccino and then to Palazza Pitti, strolled through the Boboli gardens, then had lunch of Brushcetta and Zopa de Pesce at some modern art deco café with hipsters smoking cigarettes.
Walked along the Arno river, saw the outside of the San Croce but couldn’t go in. Then we climbed up the Duomo, up a series of winding and spiraling staircases. Every once in a while there was a cut out hole so you could get views of Florence. We emerged on the catwalk that circumnavigated the interior of the dome so were at eye level with all the frescoes. The ones of hell were particularly interesting, the devil had wings and was gobbling up people by the handful. The diabolic helpers were engaging in all sorts of other acts of torture: eating genitals, pushing people into pools of lava, sticking lit torches up peoples asses, etc. These were at the base of the Duomo, towards the apex were the more heavenly scenes. We kept climbing up in the crawl space between the interior dome and the roof, until we emerged out on top of the dome. Spectacular views of the matching tower across the way, and the rest of Florence, a patchwork of red-tile roofs peppered with churches.
Then we dropped back down into the interior of the Duomo and saw the matching octagonal Battistero, which was the stand-alone baptistery in front of the Duomo. The Battistero has great tile work and a spectacular gold roof.
Then we went to the Museo d’el Academia whose main attraction was David. But I really liked Michelangelo’s unfinished pieces. Those really gave you an idea of how he created emerging life from stone. Even if it is just the slight curve of body part that was starting to emerge it was enough to trigger a universal sense of familiarity. It was a celebration in this human form we were given. And of course David is masterpiece. It is perfection. His stance down to the details in the veins, he lives.
After that we saw San Lorenzo, which was refreshing in its simplicity and plainness. Then we strolled through the leather market, I bought some nice gloves from this girl who I detected had a Spanish accent to her Italian and asked and ended up she was from Argentina. They switched rooms on us when we got back, but it was okay because we had a view of the Duomo from our balcony. But we also had a few rooms next to us full of post pubescent French girls on slumber party. Still sleeping sporadically, and it was hard to get into reading Chekov in Italy. Instead I would just look out at the wet cobblestone streets and the lit up Duomo.
November 23, 2001 – Siena
Woke up Florence with a view of the Duomo. It was cold, my sleep broken by the French girls jabbering all night. I never really get used to the time changes. My internal clock just keeps ticking so it doesn’t matter whether it’s dark or light. We had Capuccinos and caught a bus to Siena. Beautiful ride through the Tuscan countryside, vineyards and villas everywhere. Got into Siena and walked through all of it looking for a hotel. Settled on Hotel Duomo. Once again had a great view of Siena’s Duomo. Very comfortable room. The benefits of traveling in low season when you can just show up without a reservation and get the best room in the hotel. There were other tourists around, and there were times where we were annoyed at the tour groups, but I can’t imagine how this would compare to coming in the summer. Besides the Duomo, we could see down in the surrounding countryside around the town perimeter. Everything half-dead from autumn, persimmons trees that were just bare branches with bright orange persimmons hanging off. Cats walking through the dead leaves. Fires burning in peoples homes.
We had pizza in Il Campo. It was cold in the shade, but with the bright sun, warm enough to sit outside in the open with nothing but a t-shirt on. Il campo is a hemispherical shaped piazza where they have the infamous horse races. Can’t imagine watching the races right there in the middle of the town. Now, people just lounging on the smooth sloping cobblestones that form a natural amphitheater whose view is itself and the facades of the surrounding buildings.
Siena’s Duomo was awe-inspiring. My favorite church thus far. It was dark and gothic, striped in black and white. The tile work on the floor was amazing, even though a lot of it was covered up. The library had some great murals. There was one sub-altar with plaques and memorabilia, and amongst it were modern motorcycle helmets with Italian designs, like they were given up as some sort of offering.
After that the Battistero which was down below. Wandered through the old streets and saw some more churches. Siena is just a great little town to walk through. Stopped for Sambuca at some bar, and then went to another bar for wine and people-watching. Woman decked in furs. Even the guys are fashion-conscious, checking each other out head to toe and commenting on their attire. It struck me that the redneck cowboy was truly an American phenomena to be proud of. Sure, German’s have their own militaristic clean-cut rednecks, but I’m talking the Lynyrd Skynyrd Southern Man with the handle-bar moustache and long hair, and the attitude. Or the backward-ass WWF-watching hicks from Nevada. European guys are just not like that. Seeing the vanity and self-consumption with appearance displayed by the Italians made me appreciate America with its freedom to be fashionable or just be a slob or just be whatever you want to be.
We had dinner at Il Marisili which had local Tuscan types of food, grilled vegetables and cheese, guinea fowl, Chianti classico, etc. another great meal. We have yet to be disappointed with the food, besides having to inhale cigarettes while eating.
[little did we know we'd be living a few blocks from boca de verita 10 yrs later]
November 24, 2001 – Rome
Hectic day of travel. Woke up in Siena in our great room with a view. Got breakfast and then went up to get a bus to Assisi to get a bus that never came. Miscommunication from the vile ticket vendor who told us to wait up in the local terminal. Ended up we were supposed to take a city bus to the train station where we would then get our bus to Assisi. We missed the 10:30 bus after waiting for an hour, and the next bus wasn’t til 4:30. We were thoroughly annoyed to say the least. We decided to blow off Assisi and just go to Rome. Got a bus to the train station and then got a train to Chiusi, and then another train to Rome. Took the very crowded Metro to the Spanish steps thinking we would find a room there, but everything was overpriced, so we wandered around until we were down near Campo D’Fioro again. Found this great little place, Pension Primavera, that feels like you’re staying at somebody’s home. It’s dark and marbly and smells like chocolate liquor. Our room has a view overlooking Piaza San Pantalea and the bustling Vitorro street. As usual, we had time to kill before dinner as restaurants in Italy don’t open til 8 pm. And we were starving. We saw all the sights again, went through Piazza Navonna at night, with Bernini’s fountains all lit up. Then we saw Trevi fountain at night. The annoying street vendors were now selling roses. We ended up eating at this place called La Campana, which supposedly is the oldest restaurant in Rome. Amazing gnocchi and vongole, artichokes, etc.
After breakfast, we strolled along the Tevere river and through the Jewish quarter, past the Teatro Marcello and the Synagogue, crossed over onto Tiberina island and then through the streets of Trastevere which is the old classic part of the city, but also the most residential and livable. Wild cats wandered the streets and there was graffiti all over the old buildings. Saw S. Maria church, beautiful mosaic work and old Latin inscriptions in marble plaques all along the front. Mass was going on. Outside there were orange vendors (I guess oranges have a special significance in Rome, you see them everywhere). Dogs running around. Winded around alleys and streets to another church, S. Cecilia, then we crossed over the river down to the big pyramid tomb smack in a big intersection where all these commuters were bustling to work. Explored around until we finally found the way in through this old cemetery where Shelly, Hardy, and other famous (mostly foreigners) were buried. Very non-denominational and multi-national, wicked little cemetery with wild cats everywhere, roosting on the old tombstones. Definitely a gem off the beaten path.
Then we made our way up the oasis hill of Aventina, saw two other churches (S. Alsessesio and S. M. de Cosmedia). Monks walking around, more great religious artwork, and spectacular views of surrounding Rome. Then we passed through the orange grove, where local Romans were huddled in parties of 8 or 12 with feasts spread out and five-gallon jugs of wine. They were huddled so close to each other that they were literally shoulder to shoulder, with cats loitering outside of their circles. Past the rose gardens and down to Circo Massimo—the remains of a large oval stadium where the Romans used to have chariot races and such. All it was now was a vast empty grass lot. There were great views of the Palantino behind it, a huge fortress of ruins on a hill overlooking the forum. We wanted to go up there but we were getting hungry, so we retreated back to Trastevere and ate at this smokey crowded place with a waiter that reeked so bad it made you want to vomit. But the food was great, I had penne D’Arrabaita, which heated me up with its spiciness. When we finally got out of lunch (terrible service as usual) it was almost dusk. We rushed over to the Forum since we saw it in the rain the time before. It was spectacular at sunset, standing columns silhouetted against the orange and gray skies. We walked along the forum, down to the Coliseum. Loitered until it got dark and then they turn on the lights in the forum, and its really cool. Walked around more, feeling almost overwhelmed at all there is to see and the history embedded in every ruin. We had a picture book that explained the significance of each structure. But after a while, it all just starts to blend together. Just unbelievable.
We saved the best for last, the Vatican. Walked across the river to Vatican city, through the circular square of columns and into St. Peters. Mass was going on and it was unbelievable. Just utterly massive, with every nook and cranny filled with artwork. Bernini did the altar and the canopy in the middle, which is incredible. And the dome was by Michelangelo (I think). Saw the Pieta, which was incredible—Mother and dead son as one, the robes draped around her are incredible, the lustery brilliance of the surface. Went down into St. Peter’s tomb.
Walked around to get to the Vatican museum. We quickly rushed through the tour groups to get to the Cistine Chapel. It’s breathtaking. Of course there was hordes of disruptive tourists, but it is still awesome to be in there. Imagining Michelangelo painting all of that on his back. The Last Judgment, the creation of Adam, Original Sin… to much for words.
And there is so much other stuff to see in the museum it is unbelievable. You’ll be strolling through some courtyard, and suddenly there is the Laccoon, just sitting there in the open, or Perseus or Belvedere’s Apollo, all these classic pieces of art that are familiar from pictures, but here they are. I remember talking about Raphael’s School of Athens for two whole class periods when I took art history, and here it was, along with Raphael murals covering the other three walls and the ceilings, and the floors. You are literally surrounded by art and eye-candy with every step you take.
We retreated to our room to rest, but of course that only lasted about ten minutes, until we were out on the streets again. Wandered around looking for gifts and just exploring the streets. Letting ourselves get lost only to find ourselves. Must have gone into the Pantheon or stumbled across Piazza Navonna on 5-6 different occasions. And everything in between. Another great dinner at “La Carbonara”.
Woke up and it was still dark. The old grandmother from the pension drove us to the airport in her Citroen. 165 Km an hour, and she wasn’t smooth, it was scary. The airport was comically filthy, litter everywhere like the streets of New York after a holiday and no garbage pickup. Here it looked like nobody had cleaned in weeks. I guess the workers were on strike. Sat next to some psychotic guy on the plane who proceeded to immediately freak out and gobble down a whole box of chocolates. He kept fidgeting and reading and re-reading all the receipts of everything he bought in Italy over and over. Funny thing was that he was sitting in front of us on the way to Italy frantically ripping pictures out of magazines and spilling water on people. And our flight was doing crazy shit, flying around in circles, accelerating and decelerating. Finally our captain said that they were having communication problems and were flying around trying to regain communication. They had flown around so much that they said we might not make it to Newark but would have to land in Canada to refuel. Unnerving in light of recent events. But we ended up making it to Newark. Got the bus to Grand Central, through hectic mid-town traffic. And then on the crowded rush-hour subway going uptown, home sweet home.
December 21, 2001 – NY (Omaha, NE)
I'm walking through Central Park right now. Got a blackberry. Haven't been writing in my journal... Been crazy since we got back from Italy ...we launched .... Was in Nebraska for the launch. Fielding questions from the reps ... A funny crew ... Too hard to type with my thumbs and watch for dog shit at the same time ... Will finish this later.
Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld (www.BlackBerry.net)
Lost my patience typing with my thumbs. So now I have a blackberry if that’s any indication how things have been. Nothing but work for the most part. Now it’s x-mas weekend.
Back-tracking …. if my memory can serve me. After Italy, trying to think of significant events. I got a publication in Del Sol Review after edits back and forth with the editor David Berg-Seiter. He really took “Abandoning the Mine” to pieces and made it stronger, I guess. I learned a lot from that. Also got another pending publication in Clay Palm, but that won’t be for a while. And did I mention Experimental Forest? I seem to be gaining some momentum with the small magazines anyways. Would like some time to ride that and build on it and try to put something bigger together. As usual. Got to lay off the work somehow.
I guess the real big news is that we’ve talking about babies some, like if now's the time we got to decide. We’ve been debating ever since Italy. Regardless, Bedder-½ is going off the pill at the end of this cycle, which coincidentally coincides with our upcoming 5-year anniversary! 10-years since we’ve known each other, and pretty much that whole time Bedder-½ has spent on the pill. Can’t be good for her system. So we’re still debating, we're not sure, but now is really a good a time as ever of we're going to. Good timing for Bedder-½ while she is still in her post doc and she would be given maternity leave and all that, wouldn’t interrupt her career or anything. We have some money saved up, we’re doing fine financially. But that would mean I would keep working for at least the next year, at least until Bedder-½ got back on her feet, and then I could possibly become a house husband/writer. If I could be established by then, that would be a dream come true. Otherwise I would have to find contract work, or somehow work from home. I’m sure it would work out no matter what. But even if not, it’s not always fun going through life having to be sure about everything, just living for ourselves and not caving into this expectation to propagate, to propagate what?
What else. Saw Amelie last night, which was a great movie. One of those movies that reads like a book. Kicks the ass of any American movie this year. Haven’t seen many other movies. Started to read a Cheever novel, Falconers, but I think I left it on a plane in Cincinnati. Bought Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris in Chicago (on the way back from Omaha). Hilarious stuff.
Omaha. Jim and I left this past Monday. He was in NY, so we went out together. He’s manic. Always with cell phone and headset in his ear, BlackBerry in hand, toting his $800 dollar Italian leather bag, while talking to me and being charming to the ticket agents. Llama hair trenchcoat, wool pants, I’m sure there are more fashionable names for his attire, but whatever. As he says, he puts on the “Jim Show”. We’re quite a contrast I’m sure. Me in my Timberlands and Jeans with rolled up cuffs, and did I mention I shaved my head? Been keeping it trimmed, size #1 attachment. We had a layover in Cincinnati and then on a puddle jumper to Omaha. Omaha is where the customer service (or I guess I should say “Customer Care”) contractor (West) is… coincidentally, his mom lives in Iowa ten minutes from Omaha. Coincidence? Yah right. Funny what major business choices can be based on. His mom met us at the airport when we landed. As usual, our parents Universal and Sony, put us up at the nicest hotel in town. (My expenses were $2200 for three days and I didn’t even pay for any meals!). Embassy Suites right near the Old Market area, which is probably the only hip area of Nebraska. I was pleasantly surprised by Omaha. It was kind of cool. The Missouri river cutting through it, in it’s meanderings leaving horseshoe shaped lakes. Trains, meat packaging and insurance buildings. The Old Market area had brick streets and old buildings. We ate some place called Ms café the first night with Jim’s mom. I had Escargot, shrimp and backed mushrooms for something like $7! We had some other Armenian dish that I can’t remember the name, crispy bread, with melted cheese and shrimp and vegetables. Kind of like an open faced quesadilla. Jim’s Mom is 69 but has the energy of a 40-year old, she holds down three jobs (hospice, correspondent for a newspaper, and volunteers at a boys home) and drinks like a fish. She wears weird trashy new age clothes with embroidered objects like crystals and pieces of metal. Her and Jim were smoking these long thin cigarettes, looking pretentious and making me nauseous while I tried to enjoy my baked escargot and merlot.
We had some sort of Mitsubishi sports car that looked like any other car once you were inside. The best car you can get from a rental place. And of course Jim would valet park at the hotel even though the parking lot was ten feet away and it was a pain in the ass to have to wait for these morons to go get your car for you. If Jim was LA before he went LA, now he is truly LA. My room was twice as big as our apartment. Pain in the ass, just made it further to walk to your bed when we got home at night. The inside of the hotel was all open with gardens and waterfalls and even saw birds flying around. Of course it was enclosed, this is Nebraska in the winter after all, cold and dry as hell. My face and lips were cracking off.
“West” was this complex of buildings out on the outskirts of Omaha, which looks like anywhere else in America. I went to venture out once in the Mitsubish to search for donuts and got hopelessly lost. Everything looked the same, KFCs with Krispy Kremes, Burger Kings and car washes, gas stations and pharmacies with Christmas trees in the barren parking lots. I found the sign for West, but there was many buildings that all looked the same. I kept driving back and forth like a mouse trying to retrace my footsteps, waiting for some sort of recognition to trigger. And I had no phone or anything with the address or phone number anyway. For fifteen minutes I was hopelessly lost in Middle America. It was hilarious.
The crew at West was quite the ensemble of characters. Got to put faces on the people I correspond with, Mike [O] and Mike L, both round middle-aged men with ties that made them look like used car salesman. Karen B the talkative soccer mom who kept giving me the details of her kids school play or the complexity of her husbands phone arrangement at his insurance company. And there was the tiny anal-retentive Shelli P who kept a tight ship. And we were even graced with the presence of the classically capitalistic, rolly-polly Ric H. But things got really interesting on the floor. With the actual people that represented pressplay, namely the CCRs, or Customer Care Representatives. There was Frankie, the demure and introverted girl who was always looking up unicorn sights on the internet. Carrie, the red-head riding the line of being fired because of her incompetence. Drew the albino with coke bottle glasses. Ric the self-appointed know it all geek (in his mid-forties and still working for $8 an hour answering phones?). Josh, the nervous want-to-fit-into-a-frat kid, that I guess they appointed the “senior” rep, even though I though he was incompetent. The most competent I though was Pam, the gothic chic with big thin hair, black lipstick and a stud in her tongue, whose self-appointed name was “Phatty-girl”. On the phone she sounded like a confident middle-aged step-mother. And then there was Warren C, the aristocratic British chap trapped in a geeky middle-American wimpy body, greased back red hair full of dandruff, and skin flaked with eczema. He took his position of floor supervisor quite seriously. There were all sorts of other beauts wandering the halls, representing other companies like earthlink and ATT, etc. they were even swinging a deal with Napster until we barked at the conflict of interest.
The first day Jim pretty much pawned off the responsibility on me, while he retreated to a cubicle to answer his e-mails and talk on his cell phone. I fielded questions and gave them a pep talk, then we went through the final “test” where people from pressplay would call in with pretend questions. That night Jim and I were wined and dined but the executives (Mike, Shelli and Ric) at some Mexican restaurant that had a really cool atmosphere in this converted warehouse that felt like you were outside in these alleyways. There were art galleries and bookstores in it, and other surprisingly hip restaurant and bars.
That night was launch. I didn’t want to stay up for it. Two a.m. central standard time. Jim stayed up, went into West where Mike O and Josh met him. It was a soft launch, no advertising, just a press release and we just put it out there. A thousand or so people signed up for the free trial right off the bat. By the time we went in at 8 am the next morning, the system was down and the phones were ringing off the hook with irrate customers. Took MP3.com a few hours to get their shit together. But we were still fielding questions in the aftermath. I was wondering between the cubicle rows, getting my shirt sleeves pulled on by confused CCRs that didn’t know what to say. They’d have to translate my comments like “tough titties” to “we apologize sir, we here at pressplay are doing everything to listen to you as a customer and to improve our service with your valued feedback, but we are currently not able to …” It bordered on being a complete fiasco at one point and then tapered off and actually started working.
Previously I had the foresight to realize that we needed a message board monitor, but my inquiries as to whom this would be were repeatedly ignored. Who to delete the comments like “fuck my cock you jew-nazi whore”, not that I am one to censor, but the messages like “pressplay sucks, I can’t download for shit, keep getting all these errors” deserved a response. And of course when you bring something up, it is the same as volunteering, so I somehow got appointed the task of being the Message Board Monitor, under the name of “ppCustomerCare” I went in and commented to messages that deserved a response. Haven’t deleted anything yet even though there is some pretty harsh and unwarranted criticism against pressplay, but I figure it’s best to leave that out there to show that we can take it. Whether others will agree is a different story. And when they ask me to pull a message just because it contains the word “fuck” … I don’t know what my conscience will have to say about that.
Enough about work. Last night So Young met us for dinner at we went for dinner at some French Restaurant in the meat-packing district. Got our zinc-intake from a dozen oysters, and traded presents. So Young gave me a Persian-rug moc mousepad that I am using now. We cabbed around in the cold city, went to Angelica film center to see Amelie. That’s all I can really say that is in my limited short-term memory. I should write more often. Oh yah, Jeff got married, but I missed it. Now Argentina is suddenly in a complete state of anarchy, the government has collapsed and I’m not sure what that means for Jeff. It is cold in our apartment, heater works for shit. Bedder-½ is still sleeping. Nice just to have some time off even though I have to be on-call between 12–3 every day, except for the 24th and 25th. Bedder-½ is saying “yah,” stirring.
[chronologically onward to 2002]