First Annoyingly Bloggy Post

I give in. This is my first “bloggy” blog post. I have not quite sunk to the level of, “I am cutting my toe nails while talking on the phone to Philipa about The Sopranos” / “my daily post-prandial poo had a nice consistency”, but I’m getting close.

Writers’ delaying tactics have manifested as multi-tasking (i.e., watching The September Issue on Netflix while eating french bread and shop-bought humus (no chance that I would have cooked it: since moving to NYC, my store cupboard has been old Mother Hubbarding, and the fridge, with its unidentified secretions and green stains from dead vegetables, hasn’t been the most attractive place to put food. Solution? Spend around 10$ at lunch for expensive posh sambo and coffee, and 10$ to 15$ to dine alone at Dojo at Washington Square, on yakisoba, another 10$ for two pints of Japanese beer – it has to be done.) – so: eating humus at my desk with a cup of coffee; pausing film to check FBk, emails, blog stats, and if there were any other networks, pulse flickrs or twitters, I’d be checking them. All the while listening to Grant Hart of Hüsker Dü fame.

(“Why don’t we put it on Facetube?” I heard Irish poet Gerald Dawe say at the Patrick Kavanagh weekend in November 2008; an ironic twitter went through the technophiles in the audience, and panel members. Someone pulled out their Iphone and put it on twitter.) Since 1 p.m., a coolly-sinister breeze has been blowing, within, or threading through, the carpet of dirty humidity that has held over the city the last two days, rain and heat in equal measure at this late date in “autumn”: fall failing to materialise. I have just checked, and verified a comment overheard from the balcony – “yo! We got a Taw-nay-do comin’, bro!” “No shit, Anthony? You fuckin’ with me.” (I’m exaggerating – they weren’t mafioso.) – “AN ISOLATED TORNADO IS STILL NOT OUT OF THE QUESTION. A TORNADO WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 6 PM.” according to

In the shops of Ditmas avenue, Jewish women in headscarves who looked like cancer patients – due to shaved heads – were conscientiously shopping for vege, and saying “Doris, we got a big taw-nay-do comin’; how much is dat? Oh, I tawt it was .99 cents?”; the daily scene of Hassids brushing shoulders with Mesopotanian, totally-burka-ed women; in the hardware store, someone was talking Brooklynese to the shop owner, while two ferociously-bearded Orthodox men in black wearing what looked like brown, furred lamp-shades from my 1970s Balinteer Dublin suburban childhood stood by, waiting, talking together cautiously, maintaining their conscious separation via the low tone of conversation (idea: perhaps Bin Laden is hiding in plain view, as an Orthodox Jew?)

I was (1) bringing 2 weeks’ worth of laundry to Laundrymania!, a 30-washing machine operation run by Latin American women under pictures and shrines of the Virgin of Guadalupe, clashing with broadcasts of corny, breast implant soap-operas from Colombia and Mexico. I left my 16 pounds of dirty socks and jocks with them, went to various 1$ shops to buy Woolite (because the laundry ladies shrink anything they possibly can with their high power dryers), bleach (because the fruit flies, according to Katie, are breeding down the sink again), and various cleaning items to do, some day, the big clean on the general manky-ness of the public spaces in the apartment. (I had intended to get up early to write, and then do the clean, but since I woke via the snooze button at 1 p.m., the clean must go by the wayside in favour of delaying-to-write.) I also braved the crush of “Grannies of all nations”, the united front of all forms of headscarves (from the Silk Road to Asia Minor to the Near East and indeed Middle East) in the vege shops -“the ubiquity of sparrows” is what one learns most from travelling, wonderful U.S. poet Craig Arnold has noted; I notice the ubiquity of the Pushy Granny. In Spain, France and in the boroughs, the guild has mutual respect and, per capita, more influence and power than the white-vest wearing Yakusa. Shoppers, particularly men, from outside the guild, are invisible, and can be gone over like tank fodder: ethnic grannies as a form of subtle tank.

So, I returned an hour ago loaded down with vege and fly-bleach; and after I finish this post, I’m going to delay a little longer, and then write. Finally. After pouring another cup of coffee, and watching another 10 minutes, no, 15, of the film. The sky’s clearing now. Looks as if the potential tornado is dissipating.

Smelly Feet on the Subway

Several nights ago, on the F home from 14th St station, after an assault on Old Navy’s “Fall collection” to the tune of around 100$ [Cue the theme to John Carpenter’s Assualt on Precinct 13not the remake] (I know, I know, I could have picked up a vintage beige-blond version of the corduroy blazer / sports jacket in Williamsburg for twice the price, but I decided to avoid the potential for hipster bed bug infestation of the seams), I found a spot at the end of the carriage which everyone was mysteriously avoiding – except for this blonde white woman, early to mid twenties.

I sat opposite her, and immediately noticed (1) that she had her black boot runners off and (2) she was caressing her foot in a manner that also involved a certain amount of picking. Less immediately, but after the first minute and a half had passed, I noticed the reason for her quarantine: a smell was emerging from her naked feet, upon which she was performing her own version of smelly Reflexology, a revolting, stinky Shiatsu. The smell was either cheesy or feety – a fetid Brie, a sweaty gooey Camembert with a touch of Athlete’s Foot, a good unpasteurised Stilton… Now I understood why pregnant women are advised against eating Stilton.

I also noticed her meditative posture: occupying both seats in her “booth” at carriage end, one naked cheesy foot sat on the floor, upon the removed shoe; the other rested yogically, half-lotus-esque, on her knee. It was this foot she was picking at, meditatively exploring the crevices between the toes, casting off dead skin. More fascinating was the vacant, spaced, spazzing-out, drugged or drunk expression on her face, and the way she moved her head slowly upon the swivel of her neck: left to right, up and down. I couldn’t be sure if she was mentally unstable or if she was, in my favourite politically incorrect American expression, “retarded”. Impossible to tell. Maybe she was “New York retarded”, that special subcategory in the book of neurotic conditions.

A man from the Indian subcontinent to my left caught my eye; he was furious. He then turned to her, and said, “hello? Hello?” She swiveled her neck to look at him, vacantly. “Shoes – on. Put – shoes – on.” She looked at him uncertainly, and in a hectoring, bullying tone, as if dealing with an animal, he said, “yes, yes. You. Put shoes – on.” She, uncertainly, her mouth half-open, put on one sock, and then proceeded to fit the shoe over her cheesy foot, and he continued: “yes. Good. Good. Now. other shoe? – On. Other shoe? On.” It was like the script from a late Beckett play. “Nohow on. No shoe, too much smell. Cheese, I can’t go on.”

I was, on the one hand, pleased that some purchase still holds in the public space; that some do not cede to the general apathy and separate-bubbledom of the big city agora, but did find it significant that the one person who restablished the social contract was not traditionally “American”.

Anyway, I didn’t wait for the outcome. Thoroughly feet-ed out of it, and cheesed off, I got out at the next station and moved up to the next carriage, where another world, a whole other set of phenomena awaited me.


Ten days ago or so, taking the Q subway across the Manhattan bridge, with sudden, momentary night views of the Brooklyn Bridge festooned with yellow lights opening up through the windows of one side of the car, I noticed a row of ads for “Bodies: the Exhibition”. “Twenty human specimens, 200 organs and over 2000 fascinating facts about the body”, it trumpeted. The ads show a body / corpse of Sino-origin, eyes open, arm tendons extended in a kind of lunge, surreally, literally, playing beach volleyball. Meat and muscle, fibia and tibia exposed, ligaments doing their thing. This exhibition is travelling the world “under franchise”, most probably in most of the capitals of the Western world, and the Dubais and Singapores of the East at this moment. It is interesting just how many of these “specimens” are young, healthy people, suspiciously of Chinese extraction. China, of course, has a surfeit, a wealth of “excess” population, and the Communist Party is well known for continuing the Emperors’ disregard for their subjects. In this, at least, there is historical continuity. How many young, apparently healthy men and women, executed by a single pistol shot to the base of the skull, are now touring the world like reheated victims of Sachenhausen? One must be careful in these kind of comparisons, of course, but if what commuters are tiredly, idly looking at as they travel home from work is indeed the commodification of the executed victims of state terror sold on to the West as an exhibition, humanity-as-product, then the implications are, at the very least, sinister and disturbing.

A footnote to the ad reads: “Premier cannot independently verify the provenance of the human remains in this exhibit.”

No. Really?

Self-referential Annoying Blogger

Tuesday, 21st September, 2010

“Hi Lindsay, I’m going for beers with a few workshop people post-workshop on wednesday night if you like; alternatively, we could meet up another time.

My eyes aren’t so goggly anymore; * does that mean I’m settling in? Did you get a chance to look at my blog, Isn’t it annoying when people say that?

Buenas Noches, David.’

* More about this phenomenon another time

To Connecticut Through the Bronx, Acrostically (circa 1984)

This was where we passed through on the way to leafy, unreal Connecticut.

Hell, parts of it seemed, in the bad ’80s: whole blocks levelled; and we nibbled

Edam cheese in the back seat as Dad pushed down the automatic locking, and

Broke through amber lights so as never to stop, where pirates in wheel chairs

Rolled manically to the traffic lights, muddying the wind screen with dirty cloths.

On arrival, half an hour from The Bronx, Darien seemed a different country.

No one of other colours; big houses among the trees they’d stolen from the howling city.

Xanadu? Reagan’s paradise, of private roads and non-Jewish country clubs. Many wasps. Very few Irish.

Three Boroughs – Acrostically

Because the streets are ethnically exciting, and

Rare with the mingling of many nations –

Of Islam, Israel, Palestine; silver Silk Road beards;

Oman, Oviedo, Spain, even, because

Kurdistan is a real Love, and invisible passion,

Longing that does not go away, although divided;

Yurts and many traditional dwellings of their fathers

Nurture their sleep to help them through their waking exile.


Quests are under estimated things these days.

Uruguay. Ah, to say it. Paraguayans are here, like this borough

Even though New Yorkers tend not to holiday in Asunción, prefer

Europe, the usual, even though the dollar weakens.

Never mind – there’s still the undiscovered country of

Staten Island: “she says ‘for Chrissake Mikey,wear something other than sweat pants!'” you heard on the ferry.


Many of us are here. We know what we want, don’t know where we’re going.

(Anthill? No. Centre of Empire.) Anyway, it doesn’t matter

Neither does anyone in the world apart from Himalayan gurus in ice caves.

Here at least there’s pleasures varied:

Arctic berries flown in from

Tromso, edible Cacti from many Guatemalan territories,

Things for just us to sample, on our island.

And, luxuries of time, or space? – that’s for retirement, baby.

Nor should you fret. When you get to here, you deserve the best ramen, best sushi. Farm tuna when the Japs eat the last Blue Fin.

Multi-Tasking (the next level)

Thursday, 16th September, 2010

I’m at 6th Ave., at 36th Street, or thereabouts, midtown for the first time: gritty, brown monumental 1920s skyscrapers march in line uptown, the Empire State so massively “there” that there’s nothing more to say: it’s massive, ten blocks or more away, feels like I’m almost right under it, and it terrifies me. So, this is midtown: a different city to Greenwich Village’s easeful cruising around in 2nd-and-a-half gear. Here, it’s definitely cranking into 4th on the gear stick, and it isn’t even rush hour yet. Wait a milli-second too long to cross when it’s walk time, and someone behind you is already pushing impatiently at you with their passive-aggressive energy bubble. Among the amped-up, purposeful sea of humanity, I spot another multi-tasker, who comes out of the crowd to claim his olive branch of multi-tasking glory: a slim man with slicked-back hair and an Italian complexion, like the main character in Mad Men (what’s his name?), in a dark mustard suit, crazily running down the cycle lane, a lap top rucksack snug as a bomb, or a jet-pack, on his back, holding out his arm for a taxi. When no taxis stop, he runs on, and as he runs he’s texting on his Blackberry. Respect, homes. Taking it to another level.