And so the summer winds to a close.
I don't know about you, but I found this summer to be mostly uneventful, although I did get to see more of my friends than in the past two summers, so at least there was that. The annual blockbuster movie season pretty much sucked despite major cash being raked in at the box office, and my vote for the best of the summer's crop goes unreservedly to the excellent RATATOUILLE, followed closely by SUPERBAD. Yeah, going to the movies was about as exciting as my summer got.
This past weekend my friends Cat and Richard hosted the season's final cookout at their home in Long Island's New Hyde Park — just a stone's throw form the local casket vendor who sells caskets direct to you, the consumer —
and I trekked out there early on Saturday morning to prep and marinate some halved chickens in lime juice and work the falling-off-the-bone culinary magic of my slow-cooked oven ribs. Not as many of the usual suspects were in attendance since it was a bit of a last minute thing and also landed on Yom Kippur — many of my extended family are Red Sea pedestrians — plus it rained for the early portion of the day and gave the backyard deck the aspect of a ship caught in a squall,
but it was still fun thanks to good food, good company, a shitload of beers, and me and Steve Hughes getting to have fun with Cat and Rich's incredibly cute and charming little girl, Cleonir-Rose (Cleo for short).
Princess Cleonir surveys her kingdom. And wouldja believe this is a bad photo of her?
Several of my friends have a real way with the little ones, as do I, but next to the borderline-diabolical antics of Ed Murr, no one gets the kids going quite like Hughes.
Somehow striking the perfect balance between manic absurdity and soft-spoken fun, Hughes kept Cleo happy and amused for hours by breathing a new and bizarre personality into the three-year-old's Polly Pocket doll, a suspense-generating take on the unexpected shit that one's toys can get up to, in this case being that the previously well-behaved Polly turned her attention from a proposed shopping spree to randomly biting people. Hughes would hold Polly, speak to her in the most nonchalant of conversational styles, and then press her mouth to some random part of his body and let out a startled yelp, jerking his lanky body in feigned alarm and then loudly complaining about the doll being a serial biter. I played along with this as well, and in no time Cleo had taken Hughes' lead and run with it, menacing all within reach of her now cannibalistic plaything.
Sunday was considerably better, weather-wise, and I was all set to do my usual weekend trip into Manhattan to see what cool stuff I could find when my pal Ed Murr — a freelance illustrator who just got his new website together — called to say he was in Brooklyn and wondered if I'd like to get something to eat. We met at the New College Inn, a local diner around the corner from me on 4th Avenue that was the weekly gathering place for myself and all of my friends when we all still lived in the area, a once mighty tribe that has now dwindled to only myself and Lexi, and whenever I eat there these days I get a wee bit sad when the Wayback Machine in my head recalls those brunches of barely five years gone.
Eddie and I caught up on what was going o in each other's lives, bitched and moaned about the sorry state of the comics industry and what a soul-crushing place it can be — Ed and I met when he arrived as a freshman at SUNY Purchase in the fall of 1986, and we both did time in the Marvel Comics Bullpen — and dished about the looney circus of dysfunction that are our biological families. I always feel a great sense of relief whenever I visit with Ed because he's one of the handful of people who I truly "get," and I know that he gets me since we have many of the same interests and obsessions, so when our meal ended I suggestsed that he accompany me into the city for a mini-safari to a comic shop and two of the remaining decent independent record stores on the Lower West Side. He had time to kill before hooking up with his wife, the charming and frequently hilarious Olivia, so he said "Why the hell not?" and with that, we were off.
Unfortunately, the one thing I neglected to fully take into account was the peculiar property of New College's rather greasy breakfast menu, an effect that for some unknown reason makes the majority of the vittles a powerful laxative, something that Ed can attest to because he was a frequent victim of it when he still lived in Carroll Gardens and would race home after bruch to, as he so eloquently put it, "savage the bowl." I had wolfed down a couple of sunny-side up eggs, a small mountain of corned beef hash, a side of uninspired bacon, a Coke, and a large glass of milk, and just before we were ready to leave I figured I'd avail myself to the bathroom as a preemptive measure. When I'd taken care of business, we hit the subway and, wouldn't you know it, after only two stops my guts began to rumble, ache, and moan, a sure sign of an anal apocalyse about to happen, along with said anus practically sewing itself shut to prevent disaster most foul.
When, after what seemed like a short eternity, we finally arrived at Canal Street, I frantically looked around for a public commode, first attempting to use the one at a nearby Starbuck's, only to be thwarted by a line of at least nine women waiting for the location's sole restroom to become vacant. I then fled across the street to a McDonald's and got on line for the upstairs can, only to have an obnoxious Hispanic chick express distaste at the wait for the women's room and shove past me to enter the men's room. Finally she left the restroom and I darted to sanctuary, letting nature have its cruel way with me as I sat in perhaps the foulest pesthole of a fast food restaurant bathroom it has ever been my sheer displeasure to experience; having worked in the food biz I was horrified by the pestilence of this restroom and was assaulted by the reeking stench of ammonia-piss and God only knows what else, coupled with the nauseating ambient aroma of the chain's signature French fries and Chicken McNuggets, or, as Daniel Maranci used to call them back when they were first introduced, "Chicken Buttpluggets." The place was so vile that I forced my fecal funtime to end a bit early, my nose no longer being able to endure the olfactory horror, and soon Ed and I commenced our adventure proper.
We stopped off at Generation Records — one of the city's two best independent record shops, the other being Rockit Scientist on the East Side — and soon made our way in the direction of the infamously overpriced Bleeker Bob's when our attention was drawn to yet another example of the kind of free entertainment that you'll only find in NYC. Now keep in mind that Eddie and I have shared years of wandering about the Rotten Apple in appalling states of inebriation, witnessing strange sights that would have sent lesser men H.P. Lovecraft-style barking mad, such as a six-foot six-inch bright green cross between Gumby and Kermit the Frog in a gas mask, and a homeless Tommy Chong lookalike wandering about in a stained ladies' slip, so we've pretty much seen it all, but even we were surprised by the sounds of a couple arguing across the street from us. We looked over in the direction of the fight and couldn't see the participants but noticed passersby giving them a wide berth. Then the source of the shouting made its way up to the next corner and turned out to be a fifty-something, absolutely hideous drag queen who looked like Jerry Garcia and was carrying on a fight with him/herself, shifting between male and female voices depending on who was talking at any given point in the exchange.
The one-person marital spat: I wish I'd worked up the balls to cross the street and take a clearer shot, but at least it's on par with the famous picture of Bigfoot (SEE BELOW).
The guy/gal would hurl vitriol to whichever gender was in control at the moment, and the most memorable quote had to be, in a really bad "feminine" voice, "It's all about my pussy!!!" Indeed.
Then we hopped the C train and headed uptown to Mid Town Comics' Time Square location, after which we parted ways, me promising Ed to do a better job of keeping in touch.
Even though I've been gone from the barbecue joint and my schedule where my weekend fell on Monday and Tuesday, I'm still kind of in the rut of not checking in with my friends on days when we can all get together. I've got to break myself of that shit, pronto.