I'm 29 now. My birthday passed without much fanfare -- the lack of which being my idea, although probably a bad one in retrospect. It's hard, though, getting older. I don't like it. I feel like Raistlin Majere, I said to people at work, the man with the hourglass eyes. Daryl went out and bought me a bunch of enormous helium party balloons and affixed them to my monitors. I think he meant it, at least partly, to razz me, but I found it strangely affecting. I left them floating above my desk for two weeks, then stashed them in a conference room. But I found the prospect of a more public acknowledgment of my birthday too overwhelming to plan. Although I feel a bit more on top of things than I did last year, when I was literally fired on my birthday, I still wish I had more control over it all. Like, hey, you know, can we hold the passage of time at bay for a few months, 'til I've gotten a few more, uh, life-notches on my belt? The days are practically making a whooshing noise as they go past.
So instead of celebrating, I opted to work the Free Software Foundation's table at The Next HOPE, at the ever-charming / dilapidated Hotel Pennsylvania. They had us in directly in front of the men's room, which at first I thought was sort of a bleakly funny, but which turned out to be a real advantage in terms of grabbing peoples' attention. As with The Last HOPE, I spent some time hanging out with Matt Jording and Ringo, although neither of them were representing the FSF -- Matt was tabling for a startup he's running called Open Gotham; Ringo (now legal) was pushing his anarchist 'zine. We didn't get beers afterwards -- I was there 'til the bitter end, selling stuff and arguing with people who don't like RMS. I even got to take the big box o' stuff home on Saturday night, since Deb couldn't get it to her hotel room. I didn't go to any of the talks (which means I missed the drama with Julian Assange bailing on his keynote), and I missed the only demonstrations I wanted to go to (the introductory lockpicking dealies); I mostly just worked the table. I got to meet a lot of the younger volunteers and FSF interns -- the "GNU generation," I think they're calling them -- and some friendly people kept me fooded and watered throughout.
I got plenty of great presents, though, in spite of my bad attitude: Nina got me a copy of Dragon Age, which I'm quite enjoying. I was initially put off by how hard it was for me to figure out the game's angle -- no, I know, it's another one of those fucking Bioware games that claims to model complex moral equations by offering the user the choice between drowning the puppy and cuddling it. But that aspect of the game is actually kind of secondary to its presentation of a rich political and historical universe where lots of stuff happens. I mean, I'm a dozen or so hours in and I have no idea what form the narrative's actually going to take. It reminds me a bit of George R. R. Martin. Eve, who just moved into a new apartment with a totally sweet back yard / deck (and with whom I baked two pies in the past two weeks) got me a copy of Shane MacGowan's autobiography, which, from the pictures alone, looks like it's going to be a blast. My parents went in on some Yankees tickets for me and Nina; we're gonna see them play Detroit in a couple of weeks.
More summer things: Went to SummerScreen for Dead Man, which I'd never been able to sit through in its entirety. I actually kind of like it, for all its pretentions and silliness. And I certainly like lying outside at night on a patch of still-warm concrete at the McCarren Park ballfields. For free.
Last week I used a semi-obligatory day off from work to do some weekday things I hadn't had time to do before. I went down to Di Fara's Pizza in Midwood for a slice. The place was pretty much exactly the way Tom et al. had described it: The place was packed; the old guy, Domenico, was the only guy making pizza (according to his own edict, apparently); and it took his son -- Dom Jr., stalling like a put-upon bureaucrat -- 20 minutes to take my one-slice order in his weird shorthand. The pizza? It was pretty good. I'm not taking a contrarian tack -- I liked it, especially the fresh basil, scissor-cut by Dom Sr. But I think you'd be wrong to compare it to cheaper, more uniformly-flavored "street slices." Di Fara's takes some work to appreciate.
After that, I took the Q down to Coney Island to see Luna Park, the chromed and polished replacement for Astroland. People have been making wary noises to the effect that it's the first salvo in some larger gentrification play, and, you know, it probably is, but it's not so terrible, either. They've got a fucking log ride. And the Cyclone and Wonder Wheel didn't go anywhere. The Ghost Hole didn't go anywhere. That's still there. I didn't go on any of the rides that day. It was hot and I was alone.
Bad Movie Night marches on: We've been watching them every Tuesday night, too many to list here. There are a few that I feel like I should mention, though: Revenge of the Stolen Stars, which is an incomprehensible mess of a movie about a curse bestowed on the nephew of a plantation owner by any indigenous tribe upset over some missing rubies. ...Or maybe the rubies themselves are upset? It's not really clear -- or interesting -- but the movie's notable for the extremely brief appearance by Klaus Kinski (given top billing) and for the buffoonish lead, a guy with the too-perfect name "Barry Hickey." The guy's like a parody of hammy overacting, he's got a an IMDb bio that he obviously wrote himself -- and, best of all, during the fight scene in the whorehouse, you can actually see his scrotum for a split second. I was really proud of catching that; we went back and freeze-framed it to be sure. But now I'm totally interested in seeing the rest of this guy's ouvre (e.g., his sure-to-be-awesome work as "Ryan Chase" in Space Chase). He's definitely the Ronnie Bostock to my Giles De'Ath. Tom bought a pack of weird sixties, Hammer-style horror movies, which included the wonderfully perverse Bloody Pit of Horror. It's about a reincarnated, bodybuilding S&M enthusiast (played by Mickey Hargitay) who calls himself the The Crimson Executioner. There's not a whole lot of, you know, executioning, but there's some fairly effective tease-y bits where some spikes almost cut a boob.
Nina and I went to the Ted Leo show at Brooklyn Bowl, breaking my streak of missing him live. It was one of the JellyNYC "pool parties," which they've been having at a bunch of different venues now that the pool's being worked on. Brooklyn Bowl's gotten a lot more dance-clubby and, you know, corporate since the last time I was there -- they've installed a couple of huge projection screens between the bar and the stage, upon which they were showing slides of happy white people having comfy fun. It was like an ad for The Edge.
The openers didn't blow me away: The first band, ArpLine, had at least one laptop on stage with them -- automatic demerits, although with that name maybe they get a pass. The Darlings played sulky grunge rock; they were okay but could have used a bit more run-around-the-stage kind of energy.
...Which was exactly what Ted Leo brought. He played a great set, heavily weighted towards stuff from The Brutalist Bricks (although Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone? made a notable appearance). Part-way through, he broke a string, and then, a little later, he broke another on his back-up guitar. No one had any replacement strings. "What's a song we can do without me on guitar?" he asked his band. So they finished out the set with "The Ballad Of The Sin Eater," which worked pretty well with just one guitar -- Ted Leo sounds a lot like Tim Armstrong when he demands "You didn't think they could hate you, now did you?" As an encore they played "Woke Up Near Chelsea," which is pretty quickly becoming a favorite of mine. It's just so evocative:
Cold in the bones, rot in the teethFall days, the urgency of work. We all, as the song says, got a job to do.
Alone in the home, out in the street
All that you've grown, choked in the weeds
But older than stone, that's you and me
We are born of despair
We are born of despair
"Nicky Digital" was creeping satyr-like through the crowd for the duration of the show, grinning and snapping pictures. Of us; the crappy yuppies who brought their fucking babies; the mongoloid hipster in the deep V who was prowling around and vamping for the benefit of no one in particular. All these pictures made it onto the big screen above the crowd. Look, we're having fun! Ugh, I didn't like that guy. But the show was great. Some dudes even managed to get "up," despite the vigorous efforts of the stage security guy. It actually was sort of disastrous: A couple of pint glasses left half full on the stage got knocked over, fucking up one of the monitors -- and then broke, distributing shards of glass around the feet of James Canty. The security guy actually did a face-palm and then rushed out with a little broom and dustpan and managed to sweep up the pieces before anyone got hurt. Ted Leo, surfing the crowd himself, sort of back-flipped back onto the stage and thanked the guy.
This weekend Nina and I walked down to 1st Ave. in Industry City. We'd taken a similar walk a few years ago, a little before I moved into the neighborhood, exploring and taking pictures. Everything was practically the same, down to this swatch of woven black and white plastic stuff that'd gotten tangled up on a barbed wire fence down by the pier. Nobody'd bothered to remove it, I guess. We walked down to the end of the pier and then back east into Brooklyn Chinatown, on our way to Lucky Eight Seafood for jellyfish and ginkgo seeds. We stopped at a table on 5th Ave. where a woman with badly disfigured hands was changing watch batteries. Nina handed her a stopped watch, a gift from her mother, and the woman deftly disassembled it, cleaning its innards with a small, hand-held bellows. Using tweezers, she pried out the old battery and popped in a new one, but the watch wouldn't go. "Sorry," she said. "I think it's broken." That's okay, we said. Thanks for trying.