C'mon, the ME that can be named is not the Eternal ME. But I’ll admit this much: I’m a helluva character. Earthy. Sublime. (Often at the same time.) Smarty. Pantsy. Not TOO terribly crazy. Employed. Neither an old man nor a kid. Free of funky diseases. Patriotic, but not a flag waver. Bearish. Pygophiliastic. Mildly logorrheic. (To say the least!) I live for interesting experiences. I went to Egypt as a tourist and inspired the Revolution. Opera chokes me up. Zombie movies fill me with glee. My footrubs are legendary. I give GREAT conversation. I’ve loved and lost and I’d rather love. Yes, I can be a wicked one behind closed doors – and there are whole erotic continents I’d love to explore with the right woman – but take me home to where you grew up and your mom'll think I'm just the sweetest boy in the world. I'm not generic nor do I aspire to be. I've been compared to Rabelais and declared an honorary Jew. I'm the secret soul of this city. (Maybe not so secret any more.) My personal calling card contains the motto, "...humani nihil a me alienum..." on one side and Aesop's fable of the Crow and the Pitcher on the other. Think on that. Give me twenty years and I'll be the Emperor of America. Or a total crank. Or dead.
Don’t know about you but I’m certainly not expecting 72 virgins in heaven. This is all we have, this Earth, and we only have a little time on it - it seems to me that we might as well see as much of what’s in the world as we can and take as much pleasure from it as possible. And by “pleasure” I don’t just mean gross carnality, although that is CERTAINLY a part of it. (“If the body were not the soul what is the soul?”) I mean despite the terrorists and the Republicans there are still good things in this world – sex, and love, and art, and sport and food and drink, and liberty, and democracy and all kinds of wonderful things. Why can’t we live for and in them? At least as an ideal? Sure, we all have our quotidian and depressed days, our days when we have to worry about money or work or some such nonsense, and not every day is the adventure it should be and, yes, we've lived through years of war, collapse, and teabaggery, but even so can’t we still aspire to beauty and grace in all their forms? Life, perhaps, can't be ALL dirty fucking and discussions of the Dhammapada but it would be shameful if it were only busywork, sitcoms, and lite beer. Maybe this is all debased existentialism, third-rate Epicureanism but the alternatives seem unspeakably bleak. Me, I might die bankrupt, possibly heartbroken, certainly horribly embarrassed, but I hope that at that last extreme I'll be comforted with the thought that while I could I lived.
Oh, and I work in a lib'ary.
True story: During the height of Harry Potter, ten years ago, facing a long train trip into the wilds of the North, I figured I'd see what all the fuss was about. I went to Barnes and Noble to pick up the first book. Never got it, though. Nope, ended up with Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics instead. Make of this what you will. (Although I did end up doing all seven in one summer-long orgy of Pottermania, the year the last book came out. Mostly so I could get with a girl, yes, but I did appreciated them well enough. I just wish Harry had killed Voldemort and TAKEN HIS PLACE. But that's just me.)
Speaking of juvenile fantasy literature: Who is John Galt? Fuck you, that's who. Randbaggers, go away.
A while back I found myself in Iceland reading the Völsung Saga. Life is funny that way, no? When I returned home I moved on to the Prose Eddas as well as some of the sagas of the Vikings in the New World. I had a bit of an obsession for a while with one Guðríðr Þorbjarnardóttir. She was fierce. I find that when I go places I end up reading their books. So Nelson Algren in Chicago, the Satyricon of Petronius in Rome. I got a whole stack of books the last time I was in Toronto - our B&B was right across from a couple of indie Roncesvalles bookstores which cost me dearly. In Egypt I got a little overambitous and brought along the entire Cairo Trilogy of Naguib Mahfouz; my days were full in that amazing land and I think I got up to page six.
Of course, probably the best book I've read about a place is The Power Broker and I didn't even have to get on a plane. Robert Caro is near the top of my personal list for the Nobel Prize. If you live in New York and you haven't read it, what the hell's wrong with you?
Some books that have made impressions on me in this century: A Rebours, Midnight's Children, We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We will be Killed with Our Families, Blindness, War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, and Jarhead (which made me want to go out, join the Marines, fight in bars, whore it up, drink much too much, shoot high powered rifles, and just basically act like a dangerous motherfucker.)
The All-Time List has to include: the Bible, the Koran, most of Shakespeare, The Epic of Gilgamish, The Iliad, Moby-Dick, Oedipus at Colonus, The Bacchae, Up in the Old Hotel, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Soccer War, Madison's Notes on the Federal Convention of 1787, Winesburg, Ohio, and Ultimate Porno: The Making of a Sex Colossal, the true story of the making of the film Caligula and, by a long way, the funniest book in the history of language.
All this being said, I do often deprecate reading. When I'm around the young people, especially, I advise them that they should avoid books and watch TV since books just give them ideas, rots their brains, and shrinks their ovaries (those possessed of ovaries). I mentioned much the same thing to the president of a major American university. Am I serious? Who knows. But it's clear that I'm a very bad influence.
Lawrence of Arabia
The Tree of Life
My Dinner with Andre
The Passion of Joan of Arc
A Clockwork Orange
Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters
The Empire Strikes Back
Destroy All Monsters!
Wings of Desire
Hannah and Her Sisters
2001: A Space Odyssey
Man with the Movie Camera
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
In the Realm of the Senses
The Blair Witch Project
The Nights of Caberia
How to Get Ahead in Advertising
West Side Story
Meet the Feebles
The Seven Samurai
Gone with the Wind
The Right Stuff
Zorba the Greek
The Great Escape
Night of the Living Dead
The Silence of the Lambs
Singin' in the Rain
The Opening of Misty Beethoven
X: The Man With the X-Ray Eyes
All About Eve
The Wizard of Oz
Night of the Hunter
The Godfather, Part II
The Congress of Penguins
Angels in America
A Moment of Innocence
Behind the Green Door
The Singing Detective
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
The Best Years of Our Lives
The Bridge on the River Kwai
South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut
Sanctuary of Love: The Mission of Salvatore Verdirome
A Streetcar Named Desire
Y Tu Mama Tambien
The Wicker Man
Mad Max: Fury Road
The 400 Blows
Crimes and Misdemeanors
A Christmas Story
I Spit on Your Grave
And that's just off the top of my head. I could easily have listed a couple of hundred more and there are plenty of omissions that gnaw at my conscience. I like movies.
(Oddly, two of the latest additions, The Tree of Life and Boyhood are both long-gestating labors of love about kids growing up in Texas. Who knew that's what I'd respond to; I've never even BEEN to Texas, thank god. The Tree of Life I saw ten times in the theatre. Seriously. No joke. You should date me just for that. It got to me. Even the way pretentious bits wrecked my whole damn face. I'm pretty sure that's more than I've ever seen anything in the theatre; the only competition is Lawrence of Arabia. And I acquired the DVD - though it really should be seen BIG. If you haven't seen it, wanna see it?)
SHOWS - I take it this is TV shows? Or do they want to know that, yes, I really do like On the Town? I don't want to come off all snobby but I go months and months without turning on my TV. Which is probably a good thing since it's damn close to thirty years old - I remember watching the Twins beat the Cardinals in the World Series on it (extra points if you know when THAT was, off the top of your head) - and barely works. That said, I have Netflix and Amazon Prime so I'll watch some of those neo-Golden Age shows everyone is talking about. Really enjoyed Battlestar Galactica.
MUSIC - I listen to everything from shape notes to twelve tone rows, Mozart to Mingus, the Missa Solemnis to murder ballads. "Surfin' Bird" used to be my theme song, the Grateful Dead was the soundtrack of my childhood, I got punked by Throbbing Gristle and loved it (Genesis used to be a neighbor), and was thrilled to find squawky avant-garde music in my neighborhood. But it’s opera that really gets me going, especially the music dramas of the wonderful-horrible Richard Wagner. Der Ring des Nibelungen is the only work of art that’s ever gotten my hairy ass on an airplane. For Tristan und Isolde I endured two thirteen hour bus trips in three days and Toronto in February. Yeah - that kind of crazy.
FOOD - I like food, sure, and though I've been biking around the City the last few months looking for the perfect doughnut (the best I've found so far is the Peter Pan bakery in Greenpoint), I'm not really a foodie and anything prepared with skill and love and without raisins is good by me. Which doesn't mean that I'm not adventurous: I've eaten wasps, puffin, reindeer, stuffed pigeon, and putrified shark. One year my Thanksgiving dinner consisted of whale and horse (yes, I'm going to hell) followed by numerous shots of very strong, very green liquor.
Anyway, the material world is an illusion.
That said, I currently have roughly 1900 items on my Amazon Wish List. Feel free to ply me with commodities. Here are some other things I adore (and if I go over six you can chastise me later): Schvitzing at the Russian and Turkish Baths, sneaking into movies, theatre, museums, galleries, (the whole cultural package, really - 'cept ballet), the first 274 words of the Declaration of Independence, callipygian women, baseball in general, my beloved Red Sox in particular (with the Mets on the side), long, happy, languid, barely clothed Sunday mornings with that special someone, and, especially, this magnificent, doomed, prepocalyptic cosmopolis of ours, the New Rome, the New Jerusalem - I ♥ NEW YORK.
BASEBALL - Although perhaps I should say I “contemplate” it, the way a mystic might contemplate the depths of Kabbalah or some other form of profoundly esoteric arcana. Three strikes, three outs, nine innings, ninety feet to first, four balls, four bases, boundaries which are a little portion of infinity, constant grinding failure, sudden exhilarating success, utter timelessness – it’s a satisfyingly mysterious game, a subtle and sublime game, a beautiful game (you can keep your “soccer”), a game of both cursing and poetry. Oh, and it also happens to be a lot of fun, listening to the game on the radio or heading out to the ballpark, drinking overpriced premium beer, and cheering on your favorite Nine. It’s one of America's great contributions to world culture – right up there with jazz, abstract expressionism, constitutionalism, film, and.... whatever other good stuff we've done. Life is a metaphor for baseball.
RELIGION - That rat bastard Jehovah left his only begotten son nailed up on a cross back in the day and has been doing the same damn thing to the rest of us for 2000 years. If he's not dead yet it's our duty to kill him. Let's be honest, he's a problem: from keeping our gay friends from getting hitched (in many of the less glorious states of our glorious Union, anyway) to telling fanatics to fly airplanes into our buildings or shoot folks for drawing f'ing CARTOONS, he's scary and dangerous and creates monsters as often as he does saints. (And I've known at least one saint and if I were a praying man I'd be asking him for favors in heaven.) His followers just might end up killing me; there's plenty of precident. And, since I'm not inclined to play a part in some idiot theist's eschatological drama, frankly, that pisses me off. Or to put it another way and to quote my friend the Iraqi expatriate Communist artist professor security guard: "I do not believe in God. And if he exists, I am AGAINST him. And I will tell him so. To his FACE." (That said, there's a lot of truth in what the Buddha and Jesus said. If I were to be a monotheist I'd be a Muslim.)
SEX - I mean, is there REALLY a more interesting subject in the whole world? Is there a time when we're more vulnerable, more defenseless, more human, more ourselves? A friend of mine once described her experiences at a sex club to me thus: 'It's such a primal scene, like being born or dying, and it's usually so private; it was a real privilege to witness.' Is it any wonder that it's my every third thought?
THE MIGHTY, MIGHTY UNION- I've been active in mine for a while, recently became an officer in my local, and helped negotiate our most recent collective bargaining agreement. Which was like being beaten with rubber hoses for weeks on end. But it's a fairly good contract, all things considered. Workplace justice, yo. That's where it's at.
BIKING - I've done quite a bit of it the last few years, at least during the warmer months. I had an okay bike but I recently got a really nice one, a jump-on-it-and-ride-it-around-the-world kind of deal. Urban biking, mostly, though a while back I did a fairly epic one day ride of almost 140 miles out to the south fork of Long Island). For a while I was obsessed with the idea of eventually doing RAGBRAI. Then I thought it would be cool to go ride around the Netherlands and eat Space Cakes. But then I looked at my bank account and I'm mostly a five borough dude. I go all over, even Staten freakin' Island (*BLETCH*). If there's a better way of getting to know the city I love than riding around it, taking a few pictures, sometimes crashing into it at moderate speed (I'm astonished I'm still alive), then I don't know it.
PROJECTS - Taking pictures. Putting up silly little videos on YouTube. Working on a podcast about opera but with lots of cuss words. Trying to be creative.
RICHARD WAGNER - God help me, I'm addicted. It would probably be cheaper, certainly less pretentious, to just develop a nice little drug dependency instead. Hey, true story: I've become slightly acquainted with a world famous Wagner soprano who's hugged and kissed me at the Met stage door, comped me tickets, invited me backstage a few times, and even starred in the opera "Wozzeck" because I convinced her to do so (really). Because I'm damn charming at 140 characters or less.
POLITICS - Alas, it's necessary to think about in these teabagging times. I had thought, like so many of us did, that we had made a moral break with the past when we elected Obama. But bad ideas and general assholery die hard, I guess. Christ, it's not even necessary to love one another; simple decency would be enough. As I mentioned before, I kind of was responsible for the Arab Spring. At least the first, hopeful, phase. We need a little of that here, dontchya think?
MY DECADENT LIFESTYLE - Going to the opera, going to ballgames, going to the movies, riding my bike, taking pictures, having sex occasionally, getting on an airplane every now and then to see some other part of the world; isn't it all so very overconsumptive and self indulgent and 1%ish when there's war, poverty, and starvation in the world? Isn't that why they hate us? Shouldn't I be up against the wall when the Revolution comes? And how am I going to keep on paying for all this shit?
THE REVOLUTION - Soon may it come.
(I'm pretty sure, by the way, that I have more pics up than ANYONE on OkCupid. Go ahead - click on PHOTOS, not just the main picture of me. Yeah, like fifty. Not saying this is a good thing or a bad thing, only that it IS a thing.)
Okay, then how 'bout this: I'm terrified that I'll be forgotten ten minutes after I die.
Too dark? How about this: Even though I'm not a derelict or an undocumented immigrant I'm totally stoked to get one of those new New York City IDs. Because I've long been a New Yorker and I want to be a CARD CARRYING New Yorker. I totally plan to card tourists and when they can't produce proper identification, insist that they get out of town or at least out of my way.
I don’t know who you are, exactly, but I have a few ideas about what you’re like: the world isn’t lost on you, you’re engaged with it, intellectually, emotionally, and physically. You're sweet. You're someone with whom I can share the things that I love and who shares the things that you love. You're willing to take a solemn vow to never leave me to wake up naked in a tub of icewater, minus my liver. (That's very important.) It’s entirely possible that you’re possessed of some yummy Calatrava curves in the right places. It’s also quite likely that you’re not entirely vanilla. You’re probably obsessed with something odd and unlikely – maybe you sing shaped notes, or are a metrophile, or are well versed in Kabbalah or Sabrmetrics. I doubt very much that you’re a Republican. Now, I used to joke that all I wanted in a woman was a willingness to sit through the entire Ring des Nibelungen – 17 hours (over four days) of beautiful but admittedly proto-fascistic music – and then go skinnydipping with me afterwards. But then I realized that it wasn't REALLY a joke. So if that's you, you ought to write to me right away. And if you're completely wonderful in some way I haven't even thought of you should write to me right away. Whoever you are, ideally, I want you all: your brain, your heart, your ass. Is that too much to ask for? Well, call me greedy. Because if we connect, really connect, there's lots of love here for you to bask in. And I’ll sing to you in languages I don't even know.
(Hey, I know this is a long profile. If you made it all the way down here the magic word is SHAZAM. Mention it and I'll be really impressed.)