Sunday, October 31, 2010

Overnight Down the Shore

The phone across the aisle rang—loudly—all the way to Atlantic City.

And the bus sure was skanky. I'd been fooled by the Greyhound Lucky Streak website, which shows sleek wi-fi buses that feature power outlets in each row. Before you laugh too hard at me, note that BoltBus manages these things. And Greyhound owns BoltBus.

But Greyhound can dress up their websites but they can't dress up their buses. All skank, all the way down the Garden State Parkway.

When we turned east onto the Atlantic City Expressway, I started to get excited. At what, exactly? I really have to get out more.

I'd chosen the departure that left at 5 p.m. for Caesar's. I'd scored a $50 room at The Chelsea, a new four-star boutique hotel near the Tropicana. Which was a hike, I knew. If I'd taken the Academy 5 p.m. bus, I could have gone straight to Tropicana, but I'd elected to go Greyhound on the logic that they had wi-fi (joke was on me), and I didn't know what the situation would be at my hotel. Many hotels charge a fortune for wi-fi, and then I'd just use my phone for internet.

(Note to self: find out how to tether my phone so I can use my laptop with it. I could do this in 2002 with my Motorola phone and Verizon. How hard can it be with modern tech?)

On arrival at Caesar's, everyone on the bus got a voucher good for $25 worth of slots. But first we would have to go to the Total Rewards desk and sign up for the loyalty program.

What the hell. I did it.

The man behind the desk was good-natured about my probing questions. Could I turn in the voucher for cash? No. Could I use it at more than one machine? No. The deal is: You use it once, on one machine, or maybe come back later and use the same machine. The original $25 you never get back as cash. You only get your winnings on the $25.

I'd come back later for the slots. I pocketed my new Total Rewards card and my voucher, and walked down Boardwalk to my hotel.

To my right were the dark, closed T-shirt shops and salt water taffy stores, dwarfed by neon-lit casinos. To the left was the giant sand dune, behind a railing. Just beyond is a beautiful beach and the Atlantic Ocean, but I couldn't see it from here.

I walked to Tropicana, then on to my hotel.

I stopped, blinked.


The Chelsea is the old Holiday Inn. I've stayed there twice before, once with Turbo and once with Herr Marlboro. Given a choice, I'd have avoided it.

But I had prepaid on Priceline, and actually, it was a decent hotel even when it was a Holiday Inn. So I shelved any sentimentality, and headed through the revolving doors to Reception.

Oh, and wi-fi at The Chelsea? It's free.

The Quarter at Tropicana is intended to evoke Havana. To which I can only chuckle and suggest that the designers have never been to Havana.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Riding the Dog

Boarding the Greyhound for the 2.5 hour ride to Atlantic City, I score a seat to myself. A minute later, a tall, athlete-sized man leaves the seat he'd chosen next to another man, and "excuses" the hand bag I'd plopped down next to me when I'd heard the bus door close. 

I am the smallest person left with a double seat. 

He sits on the corner of my jacket, then opens his newspaper. His elbow pokes my forearm as he turns the pages. 

Seven rows up, a tiny baby howls. Why the hell is a near-newborn on a casino bus? 

A phone ring--loudly--across the aisle, and a man answers it. 

"Hello? What? Stand still, I can't hear you. I can't hear you. What?"

We're in the Lincoln Tunnel. Not the wisest place for a phone call.

It occurs to me that I hate people sitting next to me. In fact, I hate the bus. I love trains, ships, my car. But I hate the fucking bus. This does not bode well for my future of travel. After all, I specialize in public transport. 

Using My New Hand Saw

I made my first dovetail joint last night in woodworking class.

Woodworking school is SO much fun. I'm not sure why...perhaps it's because I get to do something totally different than what I do most of the time. I love it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

I Didn't Eat the Ears

Last night, I went to Tamara's house for dinner. I'm not big on pork, though I like the really unhealthy kind (bacon). But I had to see this.

It's creepy, sure, but there's nothing wrong with having reality staring you in the snout. Best to understand the food chain, after all.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Just in Time for Holidays

My friend Ursula stumbled over this today. It's the 3-D Atlas for sale on Glad to see these are back in stores. They became scarce last Christmas.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Saturday Night

I had to go to a wedding at 5:30 on Saturday.

The couple had been kind enough to have the wedding in Manhattan. At least I didn't have to fly anywhere and stay in a hotel.

At 3 p.m., I went to my go-to wedding outfit, and learned that I've been eating too many paninis.

Damn. Too small.

In a panic, I tore through my closet. Hey, whaddaya know. I still have the formalwear I bought for the QE2 in 2001.

I ended up with a shirt I bought at Lingo (a shop on 19th Street) last year, matched with a skirt I had made in Hoi An, Vietnam, in 2001. A dash to the mall resulted in $12 stockings and $5 shoes.

It worked out, even though I arrived late and nearly missed the ceremony.

The wedding was in the Puck Building, in my friend Tom's old office. It doesn't look like an office. It looks like an open loft.

Nice view.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I Am the Person Your Mother Warned You About

My Google Alerts went off this morning.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Lathe and Laundry

I'm overdoing it, as usual. This past week, I wrote three short articles on Atlantic City for the AOL SEED site, taught my class, got a freelance project to the printer, saw a gamelan opera, and did a half-dozen other little things, and today I have to go to a wedding.

On Wednesday nights, I have woodworking class at SVA. This is scary, because we use big power tools, but it's also utterly engaging, because it's so different than anything else that I do.

Unfortunately, woodworking class comes with homework. I took a few hours yesterday to do this week's homework, which was to make a mallet out of wood. We'll use these mallets to whack our chisels. My Friday night plan was to lathe at woodworking class, then head to the laundromat with my two weeks of dirty clothes and sawdust.

Here's my starting point. This isn't really a solid block. It's the piece we cut last week with the chop saw. We glued the two halves together and clamped them.

Progress! My block of wood is now round-ish.

This looks sort-of mallet-like. I really needed to work on it some more to smooth it out, but I was afraid I'd do more harm than good.

I never did get around to laundry.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Heads or Tails?

On Sunday morning, I was trying to decide if I should go to an intermediate Photoshop workshop (no), or to finish my freelance assignment due Monday before writing my other freelance assignments due a day-and-a-half earlier, or to the comic book convention to talk to future possibilities (and maybe even boys, if I could find some single, age-appropriate ones).

"Heads, I work. Tails, I go to the con."

And that's when I saw this in the 14th & 8th subway station.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Confused Agendas

Last year at New York Comic Con, I bought a cat-eared hat. A man in line at the movies flirted with me over my cat-eared hat a few months later.

This year, I bought a skirt at the con.

Not art, not comics, not Lou Ferrigno's autograph. Clothing.

They had a print with little dogs instead of this big blue and black head, but they only had a small. Sniff.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Be Warned

This sticker adorns the top of the planer in the wood shop in class where I am learning woodworking.


And here is the wood I started with last night. We all use the jointer to shave level one face, then used the fence on the jointer to shave level one side. Then we got to rip the other side on the table saw. Sometime today or tomorrow I have to go in and independently chop-saw the board in half, then wood glue and clamp it together.

I don't know when I'm going to do this. I have a job, teaching, this woodworking class, two freelance comic book jobs (one of which is in hardcore critical mass this weekend), three small freelance writing assignments due immediately, a two-day-long Photoshop workshop this weekend, and a comic con on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that now is a really good time to not ask me for anything. I should have my own warning sticker. Caution: Contents May Bite Your Head Off.

And last, here is the type of table I am learning to make by mid-December.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

New Fun With Spam

I was horrified that you could download my books from servers until Tom pointed out that these aren't even the books. These are what he called "dynamic PDF spam."

I'm impressed. What a stupid way to get people to your...whatever you're trying to get them to. To sign up for your server? I must be missing something.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Like Every Sunday

Today is J.C.'s artist studio tour day, as well as being a beautiful sunny day with perfect slight autumn chill. A great afternoon for wandering the streets and peering into people's homes to see their paintings, sculptures, drawings, and photographs.

Unless, like me, you're bogged down with a half-dozen project all due immediately.

Still, certain things must be done. Like this:

At the pizza place, I interrupted the chatty old guy holding up the counter to ask for a slice. The proprietor slid a slice onto a spatula and tipped it into the brick oven, while I pulled out my phone to check my mail for the few minutes it takes to heat up a slice "to go."

"blah blah blah?"

Startled, I looked up. The old man was looking expectantly at me. He had said something to me.


"You looking at the art today?"

He was just being polite. Nevertheless, there was only one way to answer that.

"No. I'm doing my laundry."



Saturday, October 02, 2010

Souvenir Shelf: Tampon

My friend Stephanie is headed to Hanoi soon with her family. That reminded me of this stamp that I bought in the old quarter of Hanoi during MariesWorldTour, on a street devoted entirely to tampons, which means these stamps.

I was worried that my little running Marie character might be too complicated for the stamp-makers, but take a look at this blog, and you'll see photos of much more complicated images.

I went back to MariesWorldTour and looked for photos of this stamp, but there were none. I remember was 2001. A different technological world. Now, I would just shoot it with my digital camera and upload it via my netbook or MacBook in my hotel room, using wireless internet. Or I'd photograph it with my phone and upload it via the mobile networks.

In 2001, there weren't many people doing online travel narratives, because it was hard. You couldn't just type into Blogger or WordPress. I coded entries in HTML as I went. Digital cameras were new and heavy, and batteries ran down fast. You couldn't get the files off your camera without installing drivers on computers, which no internet cafe would allow. There was no point in putting your files on your laptop as there was no such things a USB sticks and you couldn't hook your own computer up to the internet. No wireless.

I could have gotten the images off the laptop a few at a time using a floppy disk, but no internet cafe would let you put your own floppy into their system, for fear of viruses. In the end, I left my laptop and digital camera at home. I shot film, and scanned in images in the computer centers of the world, using various quality scanners and half-assed imaging software. And video? That was out of the question.

What a difference a decade makes.