Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sondheim on Sondheim

Went to preview matinee today of this Roundabout Theatre production at the (in)famous Studio 54.  Saw Barbara Cook live for the first time. She is a legend so that was a thrill. Loved Vanessa Williams and the supporting cast. Stephen Sondheim turned 80 this year and deservedly got a theatre named after him.  He too is a legend. One of the biggest.  Saw Judith Light in the VIP Lounge at intermission.  She did a panel for me in LA  (as did Vanessa Williams) and remembered me. That was cool.  Very nice lady. And I think from all the things I have seen her in, she is damned talented.  Her husband and I played tennis at a tournament once. Blah, blah, blah. blah Bobby baby...
Bobby bubbi...Robby...Robert darling...
Bobby, we've been trying to call you.
Bobby...Bobby...Bobby baby...Bobby bubbi...
Angel, I've got something to tell you.
Bob...Robbo...Bobby love...Bobby honey...
Bobby, we've been trying to reach you all day.
Bobby...Bobby...Bobby Baby...Angel...Darling...
The kids were asking--
Bobby, there was something we wanted to say.
The line was busy...
Bobby...Bobby bubbi...
Bobby fella...Bobby sweetie-- Bobby, baby,

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Smaller, Shorter & Cut

I remember that Joan Rivers joke about how Liz Taylor was the only person she knew who would stand in front of the microwave and yell "HURRY UP!!"

There was a day when we had to hunt and kill our food and now we can almost have it sprayed on.

But so many things I thought would never go away, have.  Like the record album and even the CD!

My friend Sean is counting down the days until his ipad arrives like it is Christmas and he is wearing pajamas with feet in them. (NB: My feeling is until the ipad and iphone act as a hotplate, we have not fully arrived. )

Change is a process of letting go and embracing.  Much like life, eh?  This morning I looked over at a stack of books I am putting aside for a trip and for the first time I saw how a reading device (Kindle, ipad, Sony Reader) really made sense.  (I still periodically dabble in the  "If we were meant to fly, we'd have wings" school of thinking.)  Here I am with airport weight limits going to put all these weighty, ancient papyrus tomes into my baggage when I could have one simple plastic light up thingy.

I marvel.

And I heard about Haiti and Michael Jackson first on Facebook, but that is another article...

Monday, March 29, 2010

End of the Line

2 Are Killed in Stabbings on Subway in Manhattan

3 guys in their 20s were riding the subway home early Sunday morning. When the doors opened one threw some garbage out the door aiming for a garbage can. It hit a man on the platform instead and he went into a rage and stabbed two of them to death. 

This happened on the #2 Subway at my 14th Street stop.  The platform I am most often on was the final resting place of two poor souls yesterday morning.

One bad shot and you are history, gone, dead, never gonna see 25, kaput.  

After serving on a grand jury for a month and reading this and umpteen other experiences I have had/seen, my quick, "stand back, I know what I am talking about" assessment is --the problem is : drugs + alcohol + male ego.  

So sad and yet when we (men) are perceived to be made the fool we must retaliate BIG!  And when fueled by some substance, watch out.  

One errant paper toss (there is an i-phone APP to improve ones skills for this) and you are DOA. Well, actually before arrival. 

It saddens me beyond an appropriate level when I read this stuff. I know life is fleeting and can change on a dime and in the blink of an eye and every other cliche, but WHYYYYYYYYY?!!!  

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Modern technology can seem cold, but it can also break your heart in the warmest of ways.

One of the things that was hardest about leaving the west coast was leaving my family.  I have five nieces and nephews.  My littlest niece now walks and talks. I never saw any of that. 

I would like to be known at the Digital Media Unlce so tonight I had Skype sessions with my brother's kids and my sister's kids. What joy!  What joy!

All these miles away and we get to see each other on line.  Mitch played some of the bagpipe tunes he is learning for me and Oonagh played the piano. They are both amazingly good! And Little Rita spoke!   I am floored and amazed and humbled and grateful.

All in one delightful evening spent with my family.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Party In Westchester

My friend Bob is a novelist (Late and Soon) and he is moving to Paris to write for 3.5 months. We had a going away/birthday party for him at his sister's in Westchester.

To include this on the blog is so "diary entry" which I hate, but it brings me to a wider theme which I love: connecting and connections!

I have not had this much fun in a long time and I was wondering why. Well, I got to meet so many nice and fascinating people in a safe and fun setting and talk to them.  I think I love nothing more in life.  I even had to tell myself to stop talking. And I was hoarse.

I met this couple Ed and Tom and they knew my friend Jerry. Really well, even! And I was just at this mystery bookstore in the West Village, Partner & Crime, today and I meet Bob's friend SJ Rozan at this party tonight who is an Edgar Award winner! And a neighbor in the city! And she is featured in this bookshop.

I know many places are like this, but New York has this way of circles, upon circles, etc.  We always marvel what a small town, or how can I meet people who know people we know. When you really break it down a lot of times like travels in the same circles as like so the connections are not really as surprising as they seem, but I still love them.

Writer and fabulous food and such FUN people.  I need to go to more parties!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Census Taker, Dream Maker, Leader Faker

When I got on a grand jury this past year all I wanted to do was do my time and get out.

They appointed me foreman.

Today they are going to appoint Lead Enumerators for the 2010 Census who have to run teams and be responsible for a lot of shit.  I already KNOW I will be one of them.  I just know it. 

Sure enough, today I was appointed Lead Enumerator.  I have absolutely no idea what we will be doing on Monday, but I will be in charge of a team that I do know.

I cannot get arrested in the job market, but give me a jury or a census to run and I am your man.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

In the Realm of the Census


I saw a postcard at the check out at the grocery that said,  "Come Join the Census!" or somesuch thing. I took one. I took the exam. I got a 98%.  I got the call and today I started my training to be a census taker.

The census is all about near accuracy and confidentiality. 

It is also run by the government. 

The training on day one was one of the most unorganized messes I had ever experienced. It started at the front desk where they did not have me on the list. I  knew this alone would be trouble.

They put people in rooms willy nilly and then took hours to hand out the pre-labeled forms packets because they didn't know where everyone was! 

I, of course, did not get one because as of most of the day, I did not exist.

I have this odd (and very common, I know) thing about being unique.  We can all stand around in the rain in the same tailored suit, but I will be the only one with the hole in my shoe.  Of the 200 people I was the only one who did not exist in the eyes of the US government. I was lost in the system somewhere.   Meanwhile...

The I-9s we filled out at the exam were all misplaced (confidentiality?) so we (or they, since I still could not be counted at the census training of all places!) had to fill out new ones.  The form filling took hours where it should have taken 25 minutes.

Then there was the fingerprinting.  Chaos!  I still didn't exist so I had to go at the end of the day to another building down Wall Street way into the bowels so they could find me.  They told me I lived on Riverside Drive and that was the problem. [The real problem was I had never lived on Riverside Drive and they needed this to not be true.]  Finally they found me and I got printed and got out 1.5 hours late.  
Now I am a real live boy and have been counted.

Stay tuned, I still do not have an ID number and cannot get paid...

I Don't Get It, But I Love It

Just outside Rector St. Station

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Alice in Wonderland

Saw Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" at a 3-D screening at the DGA tonight.  I have to say Tim has not pleased me so much lately.  It was beautiful as all his films are, but I was just restless and a bit bored.  C'mon already Alice and the the Queen of Hearts and all of you, let's have a battle!  Hurry!   I need some action.  Something to get into.   Yes, you are very pretty to look at but my giant pocketwatch suggests time is passing! Hurry!

But this is the same guy who did "Pee Wee's Big Adventure" and "A Nightmare Before Christmas" and "Edward Scissorhands" and the much underrated "Big Fish" and for these I will be forever grateful.

I was reminded of one of my favorite movies, "Dreamchild."  This is about an 80 year old Alice who travels to New York to celebrate Lewis Carroll's centenary.  It stars the amazing Coral Browne and was written by one of my fave screenwriters, Dennis Potter.  Wow. Excellent film. All about memory.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Oak Room

On my way to my dentist I passed by the Oak Room at the Plaza Hotel.   I went here for drinks in the 80's when I thought I was all that.  I know I was wearing my navy blazer from Barney's.  I can be sure of that. But what else I was wearing and what I was thinking, I do not know.

It has had a facelift recently and I have not and we have not been reacquainted, but I do have fond  memories of the place.  Well more fuzzy than fond.  Now I am just happy to get my teeth cleaned.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Doing Yoga

Today I "did" yoga. I didn't take it, I didn't practice it. I did it.

And it was hard.  This guy is so happy and positive, the guy who leads it. It was no surprise to me that he lives in Brooklyn.

He had us doing these things and they were tough, but I loved it.  I did it!

He asked us to have one goal in mind and to plant the seed of that goal in the top of our heads and take out our mental watering cans and water that seed!  And I did!  I watered my seed and didn't spill a drop from my can was I was doing my down dog. 

And my seed was to play bagpipes better.  You would think I wanted to water a job seed or a write a book seed, but I kinda realized if I could stay calm and in control enough to play bagpipes better I could do all of that.

I did it!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Egg - Williamsburg, Brooklyn

I am new at this, but I think for many Manhattanites going to Brooklyn is like a "two days by coach" mentality.  I had it when I lived in Silver Lake in LA and someone wanted to go to Santa Monica.  But it is really only psychological depending, of course, WHERE in Brooklyn and WHERE in Manhattan.

Sean and I threw caution and took the L train three whole stops and ended up in sunny Williamsburg.  Williamsburg is known for its "hipsters" and it was almost laughable to see how prevalent the whole hipster, porkpie hat, tattoo thing was over there. Thank GOD I have aged out of that scene.  I am now, in fact,  heading towards the scene where you have your hipster replaced!

We ate brunch at EGG.   I read some good things about it and it was indeed very fine.  The place is small and the wait was large, but not too bad, plus it affords one the time to hang outside and figure out how many people who are waiting with you you could have fathered.  (Am I alone in this?)

I do hate severely popular places that are unfriendly and want to turn you out quickly. This was not one.  We had a leisurly feed and boy it was good.  Sean and I split of "starter" of pancakes topped with apples and "real Vermont maple syrup." ( I have yet to see "Fake Vermont Maple Syrup" advertised anywhere.) They were in a word, perfect. We had delish French press coffee which was flawless.  Flavorful AND fun because you get to press that thingy and out come black nectar.  The half pancakes and coffee was enough as they give you an amuse-bouche beignet as well. But Sean went forward with the biscuits with sausage gravy and I chowed down the Virginia ham and cheese on a biscuit.  All of it was excellent and I would return on the long train journey of three stops and one short Brooklyn block walk to arrive at EGG once again.  YUM.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


After playing yet another St. Patrick's Day parade with the band out on Long Island, I took the train into town and landed in Penn Station.  (Penn's Landing?) The thing I love about New York is the "It's a Small World After All" Disney ride feeling you get every day here.

There are loads of people that cross through this town and they/we are all different.  ("We are all the same" I will save for another entry.) I tend to see this mostly at train stations.  I was walking through Penn Station in my kilt transferring to the subway.  I saw turbans and business suits and saris and orthodox Jewish men with payot and, well, kilts.

A veritable The Simpson's Springfield.

But one I personally had not seen the Amish up close before.  As I headed to the 1, 2, 3 trains there was a whole host of them.  With the goatees and the linen head things and just all of it. I immediately wanted a photo with them. It was my first impulse. Yes, sometimes my first impulse is self-serving and tacky.  But what a shot. A piper with the Amish.  It had to be good for something. But I thought the better of it and just enjoyed watching them pass through on their way to find an oxen to yoke or have a corned beef sandwich or whatever.  I like them, the Amish.

And I love this town. Have I said that enough?

Friday, March 19, 2010

International Vision Expo

Had a piping job at the Javits Center, New York City's convention center.  It seems the International Vision Expo was looking for bagpipers to march through their exhibition halls to announce the beginning of the Expo.

Eyeglasses and a pipe band.

Proof that bagpipes are suitable for any occasion.   I want to encourage this thought as I promote  

If you are having a small dinner party at your home, get bagpipes
If you are picking up your kid coming in on the train from college, get bagpipes
If you are a politician and want to announce that you are leaving office because you cheated on your wife, say it with bagpipes.

Say It with Bagpipes.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dream Maker, Census Taker

Mike from the New York Census called me.  Me, the guy who scored 98% on their exam.  I wanted to say "About time, Mike" but I just listened.  They want to know if I want to be an enumerator.  Whatever that is I thought that I wanted to be it.

"Sure, Mike, that sounds swell."

Could I come for training for two days.

"Is it paid? Yes?"  "Well then yes, I can."

Do I mind climbing stairs?  No problem.

Do I have a problem talking to people?

Oh my God, no, Mike. I don't.

So it seems I will soon be a census taker, love maker, enumerator.

Comfortable shoes and a clipboard.  Sounds even hotter than a UPS driver. 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Meeting Kirstie

My pal Danny was down from Boston with his girlfriend, Kirstie.  I met up with them after the parade.  Danny and I know each other from my Glasgow daze in the 80s and I had never met Kirstie before.  What a gas.  I liked her instantly. (Yes, I know she is reading this, but I swear even if she weren't!!! )

We met for dinner after the parade at Fish Tail on East 63rd Street. Danny likes this place and I can see why.  It occupies a converted townhouse and serves lovely food.  (Hey, I want to occupy a converted townhouse and serve lovely food!!)

It was so romantic, just the three of us.

It turns out Kirstie is into learning and becoming more involved with digital and social media.  My California self was all "No way! Me too!" We talked a lot about it and she gave me some good ideas.

After, we took a leisurly stroll down Park Avenue to the Waldorf and Grand Central Station.  It was like Spring weather and just a great evening.

I look forward to going and seeing them in Boston sometime soon.

The High Holy Days of Irishness

Ah St. Patrick's Day.  It is here.  In like a lion, out like a green, drunken monkey.

It turns out I got two temp offers today. I turned them both down as I knew I could make more on the street. Not as a hooker, silly. As I professional busking musician.  And I did just that at Union Square.  Mums with strollers love me as I am "instructional" for their kids. And older people love me because I remind them of the death of a loved one.  And then there are others who just dig the kilt.  I am open to it all.

After busking for two hours I headed up to 5th Avenue to meet the guys from the band to play the St. Patrick's Day parade.  This parade, if you have never seen it, is massive folks.  It is 249 years old and has like a million people marching in it.  We were supposed to step off at 2pm. but didn't start until 4:30pm.  It was long, but fun. 
 The Boys in the Band...




Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Temp Job #2

Can you believe this? More work! This time at a school stuffing envelopes.  I can do that.  If I can reschedule umpteen breakfasts and lunches and rewrite web pages, I can stuff.

There were three temps and the NICEST boss. He had no idea that I was coming off of cruel hand luke from yesterday.  Everything was perfect, but the envelopes never arrived from the printer.  We sat there and I was reminded to the film "Breakfast Club" where the whole film takes place in school detention where the kids bond and get to know each other. Another "stuck on an elevator" type film. Love those.

One woman was adopted and her mother was a born again Christian who read here diary and found out she lost her virginity and only by finding her biological father did she manage out of having to go to Oral Roberts University or whatever. 

The other woman was raised by hippies.

I was somewhere in the middle.

A fun day of pay and hanging out. 

Monday, March 15, 2010


I had a temp job today.  That is exciting.  I mean, it was work.  I had work today!  Like people all over have and I used to have.  Exciting.

It was at a financial firm.  I reported to the CEO.  I wanted to be prepared so I Googled him the night before. Just as I suspected: he was nine years younger than me and had an MBA from Columbia and this was his company and he lives in New York City and has two kids and a wife. 

I got there at 8:45 am and did not put the pencil down until 5:45pm.  No lunch, no break.  9 hours of hell.  I had never worked so hard in like forever.  This guy was not really in the business of nice. I know, I know, I AM A TEMP.  He is not concerned with whether I have eaten or what I want to be just before I have to retire.  He wanted his reservation at the Four Seasons made and his million other things.  And all his abbreviations understood and me to pick up on his silence and get it what he meant by it. 

The day just escalated by the hour.  It got to be just like Lucy with the chocolate on the conveyor belt: the work kept coming faster and faster and I had to laugh when he wanted 17 things finished by EOD.  (That is "end of day" if you have not figured that out.)

When I finally got out of there he gave me a wiggling fingered "too-da-loo" back handwave without even turning around while he was on the phone.  I felt I was more to him than that. 

Funny thing is they wanted me back the next day.  So I still got TS.  That is "the stuff."

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Throggs Neck

Playing in a pipe band takes you many places. Not all of them glamourous.  But Throggs Neck sounded glamourous to me. I had heard of it, but had no idea where or what and where it was.  It is in the Bronx.  That didn't sound so glamourous. Sorry, Bronx.

It was a wildly wet day that reduced itself to a constant damp and cold drizzle when we marched down the main street. Bagpipes and drizzle seem to be bedmates often. But this was my first time out with my new band, The Metro New York Pipe Band  (lousy acronym potential) and it was a good feeling.

A good day out.  And then, of course, it was to the pub.  One of the guys in the band plays in a trad band and they were performing there and were excellent. 

In the old days I wanted to stay for hours. Now I want home to get me shoes off.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Chieftains and Special Guest, Me

The St. Pat's bagpiping season kicked off today.  The Chieftains called and needed myself and a few other pipers to play with them in concert at the Kimmel Center.  Philadelphia here we come!  

We drove in the driving rain from New York to Philadelphia and made it in time of rehearsal and sound check. (I just using those musician terms, makes me feel like a real one...)

The Chiefains are pros and brill musicians. They put on that show that leaves you feeling like you got it all: you laughed, you cried, you wanted to dance.

The pipes went great and it was a ball being with the Chieftains on such a beautiful stage.  I am ready for U2 now. When will they call?

Tony Luke's

 Paul is my cheesesteak model. Thanks, Paul

Couldn't go to Philly without having a cheesesteak. The locals told us to go to Tony Luke's.  I thought it was a good suggestion.   My  noticed there was a clause in my diet that if I found myself in Philadelphia I could have half a cheesesteak and half a chicken cutlet breaded and fried with spinach and sharp provolone.  And a root beer. But just one root beer. 


Friday, March 12, 2010

Pier 54

Today I took my act on the road.  I brought my bagpipes down to Pier 54 along the Hudson River to play undisturbed.   There was no sun so the open feeling on the river was just great.   A few dogs, joggers and some guys photographing gnarled metal were my companions.

This being New York, I thought that this pier probably has a story.  And it does.

Pier 54 was once the embarkation point for many cruise ships.  That rusted arch you see in the photo was at one time the entrance to a building that housed glamourous passengers awaiting to go glamourous places.

In fact it was the Cunard-White Star pier and this is where the Lusitania set sail on her maiden voyage.

(You can see where the arch was part of a building with the Lusitania at its side)

It was also home to Wigstock.

Time passes, things change, people are forgotten, but you will always find a bagpiper in New York City looking for a place to practice. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Zumba - the NEW Entenmann's Chocolate Fudge Cake

I have to write about Zumba again.  Just cause I gotta.

Is Zumba here to stay or just a craze/fad?  Like aerobics with legwarmers.

Is it the new Capoeira?

I don't know and I don't care.  You will hear about it in your neighborhood is all I know.  It is a craze I guess, but like The Beatles or like the Bay City Rollers?

Too soon to tell.

I just know I love it and I am hooked and no matter how the day goes when I am in there battling it out on my haunches or high up in the air, I have no troubles.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Algonquin - How You Adore Me

A cozy Tuesday night in the Algonquin Hotel's Oak Room Supper Club to hear KT Sullivan perform her magic.

Ellie took me for dinner and a show and the minute I hit the brass handle of the hotel's entrance, I was entranced back in time.  The ghosts of this place are huge. --Round Table, how we adore your stinging wit and dry martinis.... Or your dry wit and stinging martinis?

Ahhh, dinner AND a show. Like they used to do all over this city back in the good old days before computers and penicillin.

Ellie knows KT and when she introduced me afterward, the chanteuse said, "Ah that handsome Irish face. I enjoyed singing to it tonight."

Give me one of them dry martinis so I can do a spit take!  I don't care if she was lying through her chiffon, I will take a line like that from a dame like her any old day.

I think the problem with today is more people don't say such shockingly wonderful lines to me more often.

Monday, March 8, 2010

On the Fence

Another gorgeous day in Gotham.  People are feeling all Spring-like. I see guys in shorts.  I feel like a pariah, but I have been wanting another really good snow storm.  If i don't get one its another year.    But with weather like this I feel on the fence.

Not that is matters what I or anyone else thinks because we do not control the weather, but what to do? 

I have decided to accept what we are given.  

Happy Birthday, S, BTW!  New York honored you with a lovely, lovely day.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

When It Suits You

The weather outside was amazing. Like no snow or parkas or dogs with booties.  It was over 55! Man alive!

As one would under these conditions I decided to break out my bagpipes.

Being a Manhattan piper without mega-bucks, I have no indoor place to play and so it was to the Hudson River I went. I took the 14 Crosstown bus toward the Westside highway to seek out a wee plot to blow me pipes and get the cobwebs out. 

I noticed the bus was not going to stop where I had "envisioned."  I spoke to the driver.  He was Irish from the Bronx.  We talked pubs and pipes and St. Patrick's Day.   I asked him where the best stop was to get out and he just dropped me off exactly where I wanted. I made my own stop.  Like car service. 

That would never have happened with and Italian or Puerto Rican driver, NOT because they are mean, but just because they are not 'family" in that way.

I notice this a lot. Like when I was booted by security for playing pipes in Times Square illegally.  An Irish cop came to my rescue and bought me water even!  The Irish in this town take care of their own.  As I am sure other groups do as well.

 I am not saying it is right, but it works.

I wished him a Happy St. Patrick's Day and he did me and when he drove off waived farewell like I lived in a small town.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Farmer's Market - Union Square.

Though I don't go as often as I did in Los Angeles, I feel like I don't really live in a city unless I go to a Farmer's Market.  It is a touchstone for me to the "I live here" thing that I crave.  It was so nice to be here this morning and looking at people and vendors and produce that is straight from the local farms.  I guess it is the pure local seasonal bounty that puts me (gratefully) in my place.  It is a sense of place and a reminder that markets like these with people and their baskets have been going on since almost the dawn on man.  I appreciate that.

The Rises Over Trader Joes - 14th Street in Manhattan

Sean and I went to Trader Joes for 8am this morning to beat the crowds.  There were like 50 people in line outside like a Mervyn's Semi-Annual Sale.  It was shocking.  But we had our list, we had our recyclable Trader Joe's bags. We were ready.

Sean gave a quick chalk talk. Stuff like "Go to the interior ailes first. Everyone heads for the produce."  And "Wait to do your dairy and meats as you pass by them while standing with your cart in line anyway. Saves time."  Excellent advice.

We got out of there in just over an hour. 

In New York you tend to put up with much, much more.  And you know there is a reason why until there isn't one. And when that happens you should move.

I ain't ready.

Bagpipes NYC

I started a new business.  I am playing bagpipes for hire in New York City. What a great way to do what I love - meet people and see New York, while making some money.

The website is

Spread the word for all your bagpipes needs!