Friday, August 28, 2009

Picture of the day

It's hard to keep up with all the changes to businesses on the commercial strip near my house. I think I mentioned that there's been a recent influx of cell phone stores. And we've always had a lot of 99 cent stores. One went out of business. Another has expanded, taking over an empty adjacent storefront. Now that I think about it, a business taking over an adjacent storefront has become a trend. T-Mobile did it, the dry cleaner and now the 99 cent store. The other trend is empty storefronts. I believe there are three now between my house and the subway. That's a first. In the past new businesses would move in as fast as possible as the old ones move out. I suspect we'll be seeing more and more empties going forward, though eventually each block may turn into a giant 99 cent or cell phone store, save each block's crappy Chinese restaurant.

Of course the big news is the prostitute bar that opened up on the corner. It used to be just another Mexican restaurant, then it morphed into an illegal nightclub, now it has become a prostitute bar like those you find in Mexican border towns. Customer's pay ten dollars to dance with scantily clad whores who will sit at their table and order buckets of beer. There's another Mexican prostitute bar down the street that has upstairs apartments where they take their clients. A van is available to shuttle them back and forth. Actual streetwalkers have started to appear between the two prostitute bars. Late night fights break out several times a week. There was apparently a concerted efforts by the whorehouse patrons to literally shit on the neighbors, or at least their sidewalks. One day last week several neighbors woke up to find fetid piles in front of their homes.

The neighbors have actively tried to close them down from the start. The neighborhood association, local politicians and the local police precinct have all been trying, though it's been mostly ineffective. Despite their efforts, and blatant law breaking on the part of the nightclub, the state liquor board gave them a license to operate until 4 am, so now they are legal, at least to serve liquor. The powers that be managed to close them down the other night on the flimsy charge of hiring unlicensed bouncers. I went to the hearing in which the city was trying to keep them shut down. The judge that was handling the case was on vacation so a temporary judge was assigned. The prosecutor was unprepared and did not know the law regarding liquor licensing. The judge said it was crazy to take away someone's property rights because of unlicensed security and liquor license violations that had since been remedied. He said he never would have closed it down in the first place. But fortunately, the Mexican whorehouse lawyer was even less competent than the prosecutor. The prosecutor asked to keep the place closed until the other judge could return and make a ruling. The judge looked at the whorehouse lawyer, clearly willing to open the place back up, but the whorehouse lawyer said nothing. The judge looked to the sky and kept the place closed until September 11.

What a world, what a world. Brooklyn.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Picture of the day

Unfortunately, rehab wasn't very rehabilitating this year. Or if so, it hasn't kicked in yet. That could be because I still have a houseguest and the traveling has continued, albeit much more close to home. Rehab failed the past two years because I took it at Burning Man. Burning Man's great, but it's not exactly what you'd call relaxing. Not the way I've done it. Don't get me wrong. I'm as in favor of consuming mass quantities and watching things burn and go boom as much as the next guy, but I don't come back from it in a Buddha-like state. On the contrary, I shake for weeks.

But three years ago, I took the rehab in Quebec and that worked out quite well. Lola and I camped in a primitive campground on a fast moving river in a beautiful valley in a national park about 40 K north of Quebec city. We spent a couple days in the city, took a couple drives down the Chemin de Roy, which follows the Saint Lawrence from Quebec to Trois Riviere and I've no doubt is one of the more beautiful highways in the world. The rest of the time blissfully camping, hiking and canoeing. And the meals? Both in town and cooked over the open fire? Incroyable.

So I thought I'd replicate it this rehab. I'd recently been thinking of pursuing bliss and enlightenment and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Then maybe taking up squash. I don't know. Anyway, I though Quebec would be a good place to get started. And I had two weeks.

Long story short: Had a great time but am probably less enlightened before I left and definitely short of more than a few brain cells. But Quebec? It's fantastic. First we camped at Parc National de la Maricie. The highlight of those days was canoeing an hour and a half to get to a three kilometer trail that brought us to a beautiful waterfall where we swam for hours. Then we went about two hundred kilometers north to Parc National de Point Taillon, which sits on a giant lake. Perhaps the highlight of the trip was when we passed through an enchanted forest on the way. I'm not one of those boorish people that goes on and on about his dreams; suffice it to say that I was having a great one when I ran off the road and woke up. And it took up right where it left off when my friend Ken was driving. Unfortunately, I woke up when he ran off the road. Much as I hated to do it, we stopped for some coffee to shake off the effect of the enchanted forest. I didn't want to kill poor little John Bob. Point Taillon is almost totally flat. Everybody bikes there, so we rented bikes and tooled around for a couple days, often stopping for rest in fields of wild blueberry (the original title of this article was "my wild blueberry paradise." I would have eaten enough, if that were possible) and eating wild raspberries from the many patches that lined the side of the road. We were about 20 meters from the beach and went to sleep each night to the sound of crashing waves. We swam in the pleasantly cool water morning, noons and night. From there we camped at Parc National de la Baie-Sainte-Marguerite on the Saguenay fiord, best known for the Beluga whales that often hang out there. A three K hike took us to the observation area, a beautiful beach where the river empties into the fiord. The hills were as high as a thousand meters and the Fiord below was equally deep. Every day clouds enveloped the hills and drifted down the fiord. On the third day the whales arrived. I watch probably fifty or sixty Beluga swim leisurely up the fiord toward an oncoming storm. The water was blue, the clouds black, the lightning almost as bright a white as the whales. The thunder rolled. The next day we took a whale watching boat out of Taddousac and saw a lot of mink whales, a few fin whales and another pod of Beluga. After that we headed down to Quebec to finish off the trip with a couple days in the city. John Bob and I managed a kayak trip that included a couple sets of type II rapids. We had a couple fantastic French meals in the old city. Then cruised the Chemin de Roy to Trois Riviere and made a dash back to NYC.

Back in the city I saw Ponyo. Ponyo is the latest movie from Studio Ghibli. Studio Ghibli movies are great. Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle and My Friend Totorro are high art. One could make an argument for Princess Mononoke. I had reservations about Ponyo because I'd read it was a G-rated movie about a little fish girl who wants to be human. But I knew it probably didn't matter what a Studio Ghibli move was about and I was right. It is a great movie. Not without its flaws, but there are two or three scenes that are possibly the two or three most incredibly beautiful animation sequences in the history of the medium. If the sequence where Ponyo chases the car on waves is not the result of artistic genius then artistic genius does not exist. There's just nothing else out there like Studio Ghibli. Hayao Miyazaki writes the story and paints the storyboards. He has total control. No one else does anything remotely similar. Perhaps other have the talent but not the means. Nevertheless.

Finally, my friend Ken is still here so I haven't quite gotten back to normal, hence the paucity and poor quality of my publishing. I've spent far more time than I like going to bars and shows in Manhattan. Our return from Quebec coincided with the departure of the French kids. I had dreaded their time here, but it worked out quite well. They were perfect house guests and I liked them very much. Between them and Quebec, this turned into a summer of French. I can actually carry on a decent conversation again for the first time in years. Of course that won't last.

Anyway, things should be getting back to normal soon. I need to finish up this year's Coney Island project, but there's still a lot of work to make that happen.

Hope this finds you well, reader. Personally, I need a fucking vacation. I wanna go to rehab, yea, yea, yea.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Back from rehab

Yep, back from rehab. It's been nice to be away from the news. Got in at 2 am last night and did a quick scan of the usual sites. Looks like Obama's blowing it big time, huh? Apparently his strategy of saying "fuck you" to his base isn't working. Who could have predicted?