Sunday, October 31, 2010

My Trip to the Rally to Restore Sanity, Part One: Sanity Lost.

I don’t like buses. In fact I hate them. To me, riding the bus is a necessary when absolutely unavoidable evil… root canal.

They are loud, bumpy, cramped and uncomfortable. In Brooklyn, the city buses are the best way to go and manageable, but beyond that, I’d rather be strapped into a chair Clockwork Orange style and forced to watch Glenn Beck give a chalkboard lecture.

So when Arianna Huffington announced so joyfully that she would provide free bus transportation for anyone wanting to get to the Rally To Restore Sanity, I hesitated. For a second. The word “free” generally helps me get over myself. By yesterday afternoon I was sorry I had heard about her offer at all.

Before I start on the disaster that Huffington established, let me say a few positive things because that would only be fair. I’ll even do it without qualifiers.

First, it was a good impulse and a great idea to begin with. After all, Freedom Works, the Koch Brothers and other Right Wing corporate funded groups go out of their way to bus in Teabaggers to their ridiculous events, so why not counter that with similar help? Good and nice idea. Plus this would provide the ability for people like me, of very little means of finance AND transportation to go, thus increasing the attendance numbers.

Second, great thinking to have the pick up point in New York City be at City Field in Flushing Queens and the D.C. drop off be at RFK stadium in Southeast Downtown. Both locations have the facility to handle multiple buses and have public transportation close by that also has the capacity to handle large crowds. RFK is also a reasonable if a little long walk to the National Mall.

Sadly, the thinking that went into this undertaking seems to have stopped abruptly at these two points.

Here is Arianna giving the same info on Countdown after her visit on Friday.

This was accurate, if by 6am you mean 8am.

Don’t for a second think that I am not taking into account the very large task it is to bus 10,000 plus people. It is a big job…very big…but it’s actually not a hard one. Not once you think it through.

Let me tell you what went wrong, then I’ll tell how simple it should have been for it to go right, barring acts of God.

Emails from HuffPo indeed instructed us to arrive by 5:30 check in so that buses would leave at 6am.

This was after having us register, then confirm, then a few days later RE-confirm. I don’t know why there needed to be a re-confirm, but there was. By the way, I had to email the bus organizers because I hadn’t received a clear confirmation that my re-confirmation had gone through. This was a first, though minor indication that something on the other end wasn’t working.

Trouble indicator; the time for a re-confirmation is within two days of the actual event, not two weeks. In that time people may have been able to make other arrangements (car rides with friends for example) or may not be able to go at all. Some friends cancelled because they balked at having to be at Citi Field at 5:30 in the morning, many of those friends found friends with cars. If you have to have a re-confirmation early on, have a re-re-confirmation just before the event. This could save you time…and money. Original estimates had bus riders at 14,000, but we ended up being 10,000. That’s a lot of buses you end up not needing at the last minute. Potential money saved…potential easing of organizing done. Now this last point is based on a 14,000 that was hearsay so I my point on planning may or may not apply though as a general rule, confirmation on the last day or two before an event is pretty much common sense.

I arrived at Citifield at 5:12 am. There was already a considerable crowd of people, there were young men and women with bullhorns speaking not very clearly or loudly instructing us to have our IDs and confirmation printouts or phone images ready. Nothing else. Since there was no indication as to where a line started or ended I figured that the one I saw as I came closer to the stadium was where I should go. I followed this line to it’s end which was just about to the Right Field entrance and then curling back.

While waiting I made friends with a young couple, of which there were many, John and Kyla. We made conversation. This was comforting to me because my plan to meet an old friend was quickly coming to be an impossibility. That’s a different time though.

John and Kyla and I were confused by the line, it didn’t seem to have particular shape or direction and after awhile there seemed to be another line of a very different shape or make up. 5:30 came and went and neither line was moving.

Now we were over by the Right Field entrance. It was pretty chilly and I was regretting not having brought my hat, but I knew the rest of the day would be warmer in DC and as 6 was approaching I’d be on a bus soon.

Not so much.

The line itself did not begin to move until about 5:45 and that was in small drips and drabs.

Every now and then one of the staff would come by with these bullhorns and start talking. What they said I cannot tell you because somehow they managed to be inaudible. No matter how many times we shouted “Please speak up” nothing changed.

For the record, speaking into a bullhorn does not require that you speak in a whisper. It requires that you check your volume, speak at at least normal volume and continue to check that you can be heard.

None.Of.This.Happened. EVER.

We got people who were standing close enough to hear her to spread the word that they were simply repeating the instructions about the IDs and confirmations. Nothing about where the buses were or how the line would be working or what we would be expecting.


The line very slowly moved. 5:45/ 5:50 / 6:00. As it moved. , many who were past the curve simply turned direction and cut the line. Part of this was people being sneaky, but it was largely because we were all very confused and had no idea what was actually happening.

We managed to move from Right Field entrance about a third of the way to the main entrance. By the time we reached the main entrance we realized that there was another line on the other side, that probably went to the Left Field entrance. 6:10 / 6:20 / 6:30.

We manage to get around enough that we can see a bit more of the crowd. The sun was rising. It was very pretty but we were getting very cold as the wind off the bay was now whipping against us. This is not Huffington’s fault, the weather is the weather, but since we were supposed to be on our way by 6:45 and had yet another hour before even boarding the bus, I’m going to say that it was indeed her fault that I was freezing my ass off and had chattering teeth, despite a very warm fleece.

I spoke to my friend on the phone that I had missed meeting. She had arrived 20 minutes later than I had and yet somehow managed to be close to getting checked in and boarded once the buses arrived. This is still after the supposed leave time of 6am…but the fact that people who arrived later were getting boarded earlier indicates a very clear lack of any system whatsoever.

We rounded the corner and saw the other side. The crowd was still quite huge. There was still no sense for us of what was going on, but there WERE people kind of directing us without being entirely clear. But there was a tent, and in that tent we would finally show our photo IDs and re confirmations. The stuff that was supposed to be ready almost 2 hours ago.

There were three people checking IDs and printouts. Once done we moved on to have our bags security checked. Security checks are fine and absolutely understandable. But some people packed a lot of things and it would have been a good idea in an advance email to make sure that people understood that there would be a security check and that packing very lightly (as I did) was a good idea.

The security guy gave us wrist bands to wear with the Huffington Post letterhead printed on them. We were told these would be VERY important as this was what would get us back on the bus on the way back.

Now this was done…the buses had been pulling up and waiting about 10 or 15 at a time…we had to continue along another line, this one a bit more organized but only a bit. This lead all the way down to the end of the lot, where we would then board buses by walking back up the way we came and finding a bus and boarding. Huff Crew would announce that there were a few more seats in a given bus. The bus would fill and be on it’s way.

It is now for me 7:45. Finally I get down to the right spot, we walk up, find a bus and get on. 5 minutes after being full, we are on our way, nearly 2 hours after the announced departure time that Arianna announced many many times.

I should add that at about 7am Arianna herself was out thanking people for coming. She never made mention of things running late. I didn’t think much of that at the time. She was getting a lot of adoration and being swamped by people wanting pictures with her and all that. However angry I am at her…(and after watching her on Hardball just a moment ago I am even angrier) I can understand how that is a very heady and distracting thing. I also frankly did appreciate her saying hello.

She left abruptly, I assume to catch her bus.

Alright, we are, leaving two hours late, which means that instead of arriving at the planned 11am we would arrive at about 1pm. Which means getting to the Rally closer to 1:30. This is frustrating but not terrible. We would get there by the time Stewart and Colbert were scheduled to come on stage and we would still catch the bulk of it, albeit from a great distance.

Below is my diagram of what happened. This is from GoogleMaps shot of Citi Field. I’ve moved the crowd on the right is a bit off kilter because of the angle of the picture. Imagine the green oval being closer to the wall and on actual sidewalk. Forgive my crude power point. Yes I did once do this professionally but I've had a bazillion things to do today.

Click on the picture to see it full size. Then click the BACK command on your browser to return to the blog.

But…..there’s a lot of construction on I95 between here and D.C. and by the time we were hitting it, after 9am…we were screwed. We basically crawled the entire length of Delaware and slowed quite a bit through Maryland…then once we approached Baltimore it was slow going for the rest of the way.

We would have missed this traffic had we left on time because the traffic flow would have been lower. And even if we hadn’t with the same amount of delay, we would have made it by 12:30 at the latest and not missed much at all.

Instead, we arrived at RFK stadium at a little after 2:15pm. The rally itself was scheduled to stop at 3.

Now some buses had left before us and had arrived before us, but not by much. And some folks did get to the rally way way in the back and managed to catch an hour.

Once we got out of the RFK parking lot, about a 5 or 8 minute trek we were greeted by a guy with a bullhorn. This guy could be heard. “Arianna Huffington personally welcomes you to D.C.”

Personally? Really? You don’t look like Arianna Huffington to me. Plus at the moment we are all really pissed the fuck off and mentioning her name is counterproductive to say the least.

There was no acknowledgement of how bloody late we were, no mention of an apology. Instead we were given instructions on how to cross the street. Right…never done THAT before.

Because the train station was crowded and I figured it would be awhile before even getting into the Metro, let alone an actual metro train I chose to walk…it’s a long walk but not terrible. Still longer than we had been told but I’m pretty fast.

So…by the time I got to the Mall people were leaving. As it turns out there was still some show left, but there was quite an exodus.

I had made friends with another young couple on the walk over…we ended up having Thai food and beer and watching the last half hour on TV.

At the bar we met a guy named Steve. Steve had been driving by at 3am in Queens and saw signs for the rally and decided to come by. He hadn’t registered or re-registered…and he’d also never gotten a wrist band. He got onto the bus and got on on the way back.

The way back makes sense to me because when we got back to the buses our wrists were never checked. Never. We were told we better make sure we had our wrist bands as we approached the buses, but no one ever actually looked.

When we got on the bus, the crew didn’t even bother to check to see if the bus was full, we had about 4 empty seats. They didn’t bother to look and sent our driver on her way.

I’m not mad at Steven even fact I’m thrilled that a guy who wanted to go and didn’t know about the buses got to….but he’s another clear indication that what little bit of a system there was, wasn’t even adhered to in any way.

Our driver, by the way, was amazing. When traffic allowed she pushed the limits and on the way home got us back to Citi Field about 45 minutes early. What might have been…ah what might have been.

Steven informed me that he saw that despite the fact that the buses were already there by 5, the crew itself was not ready to deal with anything until 6.

Now, lest you think I’m being unfair, let me show you how in fact the way to organize this that would have worked. I would tell you that I have some experience working with large events such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade (Downtown coordinator) and several large events such as fashion and spring festivals that take up entire parks and streets.

But really, anyone who has put a kid on a school bus could have figured this out.

Below is how I would have planned this. I figured this out in about 15 minutes while on the bus, stuck somewhere in Maryland on I95.

First. When you announce to people to arrive at 5:30, that means that you make sure you are ready for them at 4:30 at the latest. WHY? Because once people arrive and they have to be processed it’s going to feel like a shit storm on the crew and they will need an hour to relax after set up to be ready and raring to go.

As well, the 7 train arrives every 20 minutes at this station...there's even a schedule easily found on any map program and at that hour the train actually does arrive on time. Which means you can even plan ahead for the waves of people.

Google, Arianna, look it up.

This diagram should demonstrate pretty much how it should have happened. Again, click to enlarge, then BACK to return here.

Again, I thought this up in 15 minutes. Huffington and her crew had weeks. WHAT.THE.FUCK.

The bus drivers clearly knew what they were doing so as they loaded even in that haphazard system, they were in and out fairly quickly.

In closing I do think it was a great impulse. And I'm appreciative of that impulse. But there seems to be a lot of back slapping for what amounts to a failure.

Don't offer something that you don't follow through properly on and then brag about getting 10,000 people there on your website and then have Chris Matthews congratulate you on it on National Television.

Acknowledge the problem. At the very least acknowledge it. Apologies would be nice too.

For me, Arianna has no credibility whatsoever. I can't take anything she says seriously because she seems so far to be living in the same bubble that Republicans and other inside the beltway jerkoffs suffer from.

I'm done with her.

I invite suggestions, comments, complaints.

Tomorrow I will blog about the nicer aspects of the trip. There were nice people to meet and it was a beautiful day. Plus I got to see Donna Brazile.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Realizing I have something to crawl out of

Strangely enough, in the nearly 8 months of my unemployment, I’ve spent a lot of time in a kind of isolation. This is not an entire surprise, I’ve always been a very social person who needs to crawl into a tiny place to be alone for awhile.
I spent a lot of time, online and on the streets, looking for work early on. Applying for jobs, interviewing at agencies, updating my resume on and other such places. But I still had lots of time and in that time, I’ve seen only a handful of my friends.
That’s not like me. It’s not normal.
When I was married my wife marveled at how I navigated parties and got to talk to everyone I could and make new friends. It was a skillset that she envied. To me I just like parties. I like moments of being the center of attention (Hello, actor) I like listening and engaging.
But over the last few years, I’ve sought more comfort in being alone. I communicate through email or the phone. I watch movies or TV shows I love, but I don’t get out much. Social situations scare me now.

I use the financial situation, which has not been better than struggling for at least 10 years, as an excuse for not doing myriad things with my life. Not seeing people, not seeing shows or movies in theaters or trips. I sit here alone with my PC or laptop or DVD player or all three and live in my own world.

Lately I’ve become immensely aware of all this.

A few weeks ago I went to the launch party of the NYSexBlogger’s Calendar for 2011. This is a great party for those of us who support and want sexual freedom, the calendar is very cool and btw, if you support such things I would ask you to buy one for you or your friends. Check it out.

Anyway, big party and I was looking forward to seeing @MiaOnTop for the first time since before her move to Texas and maybe a couple of buddies of mine. But in the hours before the party, I had to really nudge myself to go. In fact the kicker was that I would get to say hello to Mia, who had even asked on Twitter if I was going. That was worthwhile to me. And so I went.
It was a pretty good night and I’d gotten there early enough to even get some swag. Swag mostly for women, but swag nonetheless. (Seriously, since I'm not dating at the moment what am I supposed to do with 3 vibrators.)
I even got to meet @GrayDancer who’s kinda big in the poly/kink/podcast world and the quite sexy @sexiesadie. Nice thrills for first 40 minutes that I was there…and then…I became a meandering wallflower. I stuck around to listen to some speakers, and enjoy the raffle, but all I did was wander through the crowd, and literally stand against a wall while GrayDancer drew raffle tickets. I barely spoke to anyone. I felt isolated surrounded by like minded people. It was kind of ridiculous.
I left as it wound down, tried to say goodbye to @_Ten_10 who was busy with conversation and headed home. I felt relief as I sat on the F train.
A few weeks later I went to a weekend retreat with polyamorists in New England, not far from the city. It was a basically free event and a chance to get out of the city for a weekend for almost nothing. It was a good time. There was anxiety for me but I could occupy myself with building fires (cold weekend) which I love to do and am very good at and then on Sunday morning make my somewhat famous French toast for breakfast.
I made some new friends and managed to relax after awhile, but I found myself doing the meandering thing on more than one occasion. There were only a couple of people of the 18 of us that I knew and I found it hard to reach out too much. Fortunately this was a person’s house and there was TV and fire and a yard.
I had a great time over all and even got some pictures that will be headshots for free out of the deal. Kind of wild. And a friend there seems to be determined to life coach me. Really what I need.
Then last weekend was a party held by an old friend that would feature many old friends. I have avoided the whole idea of the party for weeks. The idea of the party itself filled me with dread.
What was I going to talk about? My lack of a life? My lack of a job? My over all sense of doom about things of late?
I didn’t want to get into it, so I conveniently chose not to think about it. To the point of forgetting about the party until 2 hours before its start.
I decided that it was important for me to go, so I spent an hour and a half talking myself into it and asking myself what the hell had happened. What is going on and why do I feel I just don’t have anything to offer as a person to my friends.
My friends don’t care about my joblessness or whatever. They want to hear my political rantings (even though I myself and getting a little tired of myself on that front…sort of) so what am I worried about? But bottom line I want so much to talk about my latest adventure, my latest passion, and I have none.
Not that there aren’t things in my life I feel good about, but some aspects of my life I need to keep to myself for now and can’t share them for myriad reasons. I can and have lived with that. I’m fine with it, there are people who deal with that sort of thing on much grander scales than I do. Just some things that I might share with friends are things they would not understand well.
But ultimately something hit me as I got myself dressed and dragged myself off. On November 2 of 2002 I was on my way to a party when I was hit by a car and spent the following 3 months in the hospital and the following 2 months after that homebound. I literally bear the scars of that event and am partially artificial for it. Every day I am reminded of that night 8 years ago by a pain here and there or the sound of my hip slipping slightly from its ceramic socket.

Of course I get nervous about going out.
This is not a blog of “feel sorry for me” for all this crap that’s going on. It’s more about the fact that I need to write anyway and that I find myself not quite being myself and trying to get clear why.
I was once hungry and ambitious and creative, now it’s more like I can’t be bothered. I’m starting to think that more than my hip and shoulder were broken and those breaks probably predate the accident, but the accident itself was like a final nail after an already tough decade.
I’d just found so many avenues to avoid really looking at all that for so long that it took this latest bout of unemployment to look at what the hell is going on.
Somehow I’ve got to find inspiration again. Somehow I’ve got to remember the only reason that I feel that I have nothing to offer is because I FEEL I have nothing to offer. The facts say something else….
More on that for another entry.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

NPR's Juan Williams Firing Prompts Conservative Backlash

I have to say, as a person who is generally liberal I find this firing troubling in the same way that I found the Rick Sanchez firing troubling.

Both Williams and Sanchez are journalists that I have/had very little respect for, but neither man merited being fired for what they got fired for.

Fire them for being bozos and not very good journalists. Fire them for sucking (which they did). Don't fire them for saying things we find disagreeable or even reprehensible. The fact is we need to talk more out in the open about this because if you think that Williams is the only American who feels this way, you ain't lookin' very hard.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant and this kind of thing just shoves prejudice and fear back in the dark...where it thrives.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Justices Scalia And Thomas's Attendance At Koch Event Sparks Judicial Ethics Debate

Dear America,

This is Clarence Thomas. I just want you to consider apologizing to me for making me undeservedly famous and for allowing me to have a job for which I am so deeply unqualified that I need Antonin Scalia to hold my hand for the last 19 years.

Pray on this and say you're sorry, or I'll whine about my absent father some more.

Have a nice day.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What Remains Of Dollhouse

Eliza Dushku and Amy Acker in Season 2 of Dollhouse.
I spent this morning with my brother on some personal business and had a bit of breakfast. We had a short argument about Dollhouse. He hated it from the get go, hated the premise (which I told him he had gotten completely wrong, but he's entitled to his opinion), hated the scripts. This didn't surprise me entirely. My brother and I, both science fiction and fantasy geeks, have very different sets of standards. For instance he loved Babylon 5. I myself could not stand that show. The over all storyline was interesting, and philosophically dense, but the writing and acting per episode was so atrociously bad that it rendered the show, for me, entirely unwatchable. So I laughed as he tried to break down Dollhouse as an excuse for an actress to be vapid.

By the way, he concedes the point on writing and acting but is able to go past that for the philosophy. Maybe it's because I am an actor and sometimes writer that I just can't do that.

But Dollhouse, I pointed out to him, was about the exact opposite of being vapid. At the core of the show was the societal pressure to be vapid against the strength of the human spirit (Echo) and Love (Sierra and Victor). This is not THE core of the show, but is certainly a large part of it.

It's been months since the end of Dollhouse, which I've written about here before. I still miss the show though even more, I miss the show's unreached potential. The potential that FOX TV never allowed and indeed undermined.

But this week, the DVD and Blu Ray set of the series' second and final season released. With that release comes an official video of the original song "Remains" which was written as the coda for Season One's unaired episode "Epitaph One".

This episode was written as a contractual obligation to FOX TV and was thrown together by the show's writers and filmed simultaneously with the actual "season finale" of the series.

Epitaph One was meant to give the audience a glimpse into what the show might have been since by then, Joss Whedon had not expected to be renewed for a second season. So they fulfilled the contract and had something for the DVD release as an extra for fans. And what an extra it is.

Here is the final clip of the episode, featuring the song "Remains" written by the show's Mo Tauncheron and Jed Whedon who became the head writers for Dollhouse during the second season. Here we see the basic thrust of Joss Whedon's philosophy of what happens when they keep trying "to make people better" (from Serenity).
Here is the same song, but with it's official video release. This goes back to other core themes of Dollhouse by revisiting the concepts of vapidity and how easily we can disregard our fellow human beings. It revisits the inherent loneliness of human beings and the ways we try to fulfill that loneliness even as we regard eachother with disposability.

My brother still hates the show and doesn't miss it. But he doesn't like Fringe either and he liked Titanic. I love him, but damn that's just crazy talk.

These videos make the sting of missing this show and regular doses of Eliza Dushku easier to tolerate.

Now if Amazon would hurry up and deliver my Season 2 DVDs.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Pizza, memory and dad

"Sex is like pizza. Even when it's bad it's still pretty good" Woody Allen

"Ponder well on this point: the pleasant hours of our life are all connected by a more or less tangible link, with some memory of the table." Charles Pierre Monselet

Ask any New Yorker what the best pizza in town is and you will usually get the same answer, whatever pizza it was that said New Yorker grew up with. I am no exception, though I think an excellent case can be made for me being more right than most.

That pizza is Sal and Carmine’s on Broadway between 102nd and 103rd street. Known as simply Sal’s Pizza when I was a kid, the place has been an Upper West Side fixture since the 60s when Sal first opened up his shop. He was later joined by Carmine, his brother in law (I believe). Sal passed away last year unbeknownst to me until a few months ago, but Carmine and Sal’s son are still there, still putting out this most excellent example of classic New York pizza. Here is a link to the best write up I have found on about this slice. I agree with every point made. You have to scroll down to the part about Sal and Carmine’s but it’s a great read all around. You’ll get no less than 12 pages of links to different reviews, blog entries and diaries just by googleing “Sal and Carmine’s”

I started eating Sal and Carmine’s when I was 11, not long after my parents split up and my dad moved to a tiny studio apartment on Amsterdam Avenue and 95th Street. Back then Sal’s, was a hole in the wall with no tables and white tile everywhere. The counter had barely enough room for the two men to work. But work they did. Making pizza after pizza, serving slice after slice after slice. It was rarely empty, rarely navigable and always delicious.

Their pizza was, and still is, so good that a plain slice/pie is more than good enough. Adding sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms or whatever actually ends up distracting you.

This isn’t gourmet pizza, you understand. This is classic New York by the slice pizza at its best. And it is indeed the pizza I grew up on.

Sure there's Lombardi's (where pizza was invented), Grimaldi's and John's (who both got their start at Lombardi's) and they are great, but that's sitdown eat a whole pie kind of place. Sal and Carmine are of a more common New York tradition and you are hardpressed to find something as classic and authentically Italian as they are save for parts of Brooklyn, the Bronx and Mulberry street in Manhattan.

I started eating Sal and Carmine’s when I was 11, not long after my parents split up and my dad moved to a tiny studio apartment on Amsterdam Avenue and 95th Street from our place on 103rd and Central Park West. Back then Sal’s, as it was known then, was a hole in the wall with no tables and white tile everywhere. The counter had barely enough room for the brothers in law to work. But work they did. Making pizza after pizza, serving slice after slice after slice. It was rarely empty, rarely navigable. It was always delicious.

When the neighborhood yuppified in the 80s they were forced to move up about 7 blocks. It was worth the extra time. Back then, the real estate line was sharp…at about 99th street the neighborhood remained a mix of middle class and sketchy, rental was still a bit cheaper than the rest of the area so the new space, now called Sal and Carmine’s had 7 tables in the back. The ovens and the flavor never changed.

Sal and Carmine never bought into the ridiculousness of putting every damned thing on their pizza the way so many of the newer, generally awful pizza places do. They stuck and continue to stick to the basics. Woody Allen's joke no longer applies in New York. The bad pizza here is pretty fucking bad. In my part of Brooklyn (Crown Heights/BedStuy) the local pizza makes you lose the will to live, it's that horrible.

When I moved out of my dad’s place 27 years ago part of my life became about finding places nearby that were approachable to Sal and Carmine’s. Not just because of the goodness but because of the memories.

When my parents split up I was of course pretty devastated. Dad was over ever Wednesday and we went to his place every other weekend. The distance between mom's place and dad's wasn't that far so we were lucky in that we still got to see him.

Dad had discovered Sal’s right after the move and Saturday pizza with Star Trek reruns on Channel 11 became the tradition when we visited. It was a tiny studio apartment and my brother and I slept on inflatable mattresses on the floor, but we had fun. There was always something to do and of course, Sal’s Pizza and Star Trek every Saturday.

Years later I moved in with dad so I could go to the high school I wanted to go to, my brother stayed with my mother who had moved out to Long Island and we switched off weekends. The Saturday tradition never changed, though there would be additions of Space 1999 (we would talk about how awful it was), UFO, Battlestar Galactica (to this day I wish dad had stuck around long enough to see the new one. He’d have loved it). But Star Trek was always on the Channel 11 lineup and Sal’s pizza was always in ours.

This was dad/son bonding time and just plain fun. We’d call ahead and order by phone, then go pick up. They never delivered so we always went to pick it up…always chatted with Carmine mostly, Sal was usually silent but never unfriendly. We would vary sometimes and get toppings, just for fun…and they were always good. Even better, if there were leftovers, we’d have cold pizza for breakfast.

Trust me, this is a sublime pleasure when the pizza is good. It doesn’t work for all pizzas.

More and more as the years pass and the pain of my father’s suicide is layered over by years, experience and perspective, Sal and Carmine’s pizza remains my favorite dad related set of memories.

As some of you know, this past summer I tried my hand at apartment showing for a real estate firm on the Upper West Side. This was not a terribly successful venture, in the two months I did this I made under $700 altogether and generally ended up wanting to go postal on “clients”. It is an industry I may return to but not with that particular venue.

A plus though was that many of the apartments I showed were in my old neighborhood and I had some pretty surreal experiences showing apartments on blocks that we didn’t even go to when I was a kid because they were too dangerous. Wild stuff, and fun.

Mid July I was showing an apartment in the low 100s to a couple of college girls. I was in a pensive mood. It was what would have been my father’s 72nd birthday and whenever it is his birthday or the anniversary of the day we found him I’m always a tad on edge. Even when I don’t realize what day it is.

It was warm, but there was a slight rain that tempered the warmth that made the day actually very pleasant. I showed the apartment (which I liked very much but the girl's typically didn't, that's another blog for another day. Spoiled young clients with no clue), afterward I chose to walk a bit before heading back to the office. Lo and behold, there was Carmine tossing away and spinning a pie.

At this point I was certain that Sal and Carmine’s was no more. I hadn’t been in this part of town in a very long time. The last time I had been I “misremembered” the location and found what I thought in it’s place one of those newfangled awful pizza places that specialized in dreadful toppings to mask the utter lack of flavor. At this moment I was in one of those rare states of mind here I am deeply grateful that I am wrong about something. I stared for awhile, took a picture and then walked inside and ordered a slice and a cherry soda which was my standard back at dad’s.

Carmine looked much older of course than the last time I’d been there which I think was about 10 years. I wasn’t aware at the time that Sal had passed a year earlier, but given how old they must have been I surmised and said nothing to Carmine, only that I was so happy to see him.

He remembered me after a few minutes and asked about my dad and brother. I lied and told him that dad was fine but had moved away years ago. I didn’t want to get into it. I was too happy with the sight of Carmine, the taste of my favorite pizza which had not altered a jot. I savored every bite, grinning the entire time. I wanted this moment to be about the good memory, not grief.

I thanked Carmine for the years of great pizza and that I couldn't wait to be back again then left. I stood outside for a few moments and said quietly “Happy Birthday, Dad”, then turned and headed back to the office.