Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday in Hamilton Park

I was saying the other day how I didn't want to leave Jersey City.

Then today, I walked over to my garage and picked up my car. I went to put air in my front driver's side tire—easy now after a hubcap went missing at a rest area last week during my excursion to Pine Barrens School—and picked up some groceries.

When I got home, I had to circle the park in front of my house several times to find a spot. The east side is covered in No Parking signs. Tomorrow is the Hamilton Square Holi celebration. That's the Indian festival of color. In India, I cowered, mostly, while people threw color all over me. Here it's mostly kids and a fun fair.

"When more condos go up in the old hospital, it's going to be even harder to park," I thought, grousing about all the development around me.

Then I saw two guys near the Ninth Street church carrying something with lights on it. They were adhering these signs to the outside of Hamilton Park.

I parked on the Holi side, carried my groceries upstairs, then went back out to find a legal spot. I parked across the park, and while walking back, I checked out these light-up signs that lined the park. I wondered if it might be work of the local light-art guy who does electronic installations.

No, it was the work of the church. They'd installed something all right. The Stations of the Cross.

I love it. What a funny mix we have here. I may never leave. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Sometimes the World Comes to Me

Last night I went over to Powerhouse Books in DUMBO (that's a part of Brooklyn) to see Bob Harris speak about his new book, The International Bank of Bob.

I haven't read the book yet—mostly because I just bought it last night and I've only been awake four hours this morning so far. I'll probably buy a Kindle copy too. I wanted the physical book, but have to admit most of my reading is done on a device these days. It's just easier to carry.

In Bob's new book, he goes around the world and visits recipients of microfinance loans, to see for himself what a loan of a few hundred dollars can do to transform the life of a stranger. He visits India, Rwanda, Morocco, Philippines, Kenya, Peru, Cambodia, Nepal...and lots of other places. I would have been jealous had I not been going around the world myself for much of the time he was researching this book—had I not been sitting on the steps of a closed post office on a remote Pacific island using postal wi-fi when Bob was working on his notes for this, and had just e-mailed me for an estimate of how many countries I'd visited.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Sha La La La

I passed this today somewhere between Pemberton and Six Flags. I couldn't see the word "produce" when I whizzed by at 45 mph, and actually turned back to take this photo, thinking "What?"

Friday, March 22, 2013

Intermission: Lithuania, 2001

Imagine my surprise when I learned two of my 11 students were creating art portfolios with Stalin as part of their themes. These choices were disconnected—they barely know each other and studying in different majors.

"Have you heard of the Soviet-era sculpture park in..." I paused. Was it Lithuania or Latvia? I was there in 2001. "...whichever country it is that has the Frank Zappa bust?"

I went home and looked it up, then scanned in my photos. The park was in Lithuania, and it is still there. 

Here's what I wrote in 2001, and the accompanying photos. What's weird is I have NO recollection of catching a lift back to Druskininkai. I don't remember even being in that town.

Supercharged on bananas and caffeine, I went to the bus station to catch one of the hourly buses to Druskininkai.

I asked the driver for a ticket to "Grutas Parkas"—it wasn't really called "Stalin World," except in hip, English-language magazines. The bus was filled with schoolchildren and seniors, many carrying luggage in plaid, plastic, zippered bag

During the two-hour ride, I got a feel for how Lithuanians make their way around their small country. The bus was the lifeline along its route, stopping at bus shelters on remote roads that seemed to stretch off into nowhere.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


This is exciting news for us here in downtown JC. A new bookstore is opening by Grove Street at a time when everyone is pronouncing books dead and done. And not just any bookstore, but the Greenpoint one my friend Kelly used to work at, Word Brooklyn. If you've been around here a while, you might remember the event I attended there in support of Forking Fantastic. Or you might not—that was way back in 2009. You can refresh your memory here. 

Silence, please!

I stumbled over this the other day. It's from Darjeeling. I'd completely forgotten about it until I saw the photo.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Finding Home

I've spent the last few weeks being confused about my future.

See, I can't decide where to live.

I currently rent in downtown Jersey City. I moved here in 1988 after a short stint in Riverdale (Bronx), and lived first in Harsimus Cove and then over by Van Vorst before moving to the East Village in 1992. I stayed put there in my Avenue B condo until January of 2001, when I took off for MariesWorldTour 2001. When I returned in late 2002, I bought this lovely place, though it sure wasn't lovely when I first bought it. Which is why I chuckle to read about the "original" detail I put into it. The "tin" ceiling is from MBoss and the medallions are from Home Depot. And I spent an awful lot of time at Olde Good Things matching hinges. And the cast iron cover on the fireplace was redone by Turbo the Aussie and Dip 'N' Strip in Hackensack. And who can forget with Roberta and I blew in insulation? Or all that stained glass I found on eBay or got custom-made by an artisan in Canada? Or the most absurd, when I worked out how to plumb an island sink on my own? The pine floors are original, exposed in one long, painful week by me and Michael Kraiger. Someone covered them up long enough ago that they had no damage.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


I've been meaning to mention this piece on rabbits as pets, because I know three of the people in it and one of the rabbits.

This is Hazel. She is kind of shy and doesn't come out when I go to her house. But isn't she a cutie?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

And More Books

Here's what I've been working on for several weeks now. Stuart and I interviewed artists and wrote the copy to this book. Our Marvel editor and designer (two Jeffs) bore the brunt of the responsibility for this book, but we did our parts too.

I wish I could show you the insides. The art in this book is gorgeous.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

This Too Shall Pass

The postal zebracide turned out to be a good thing when I built my windowsill shrine. It is now a reminder of impermanence.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Postal Zebracide

Oh no. This is what came in the mail yesterday.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Mystery Package

Ooohh! Something exciting came in the mail for me today!

Is it a package from my future self? Is it an advance motherboard for that new Hackintosh I've been reading about?

Doesn't look like it.

Oh, I know. You all know too. I mailed this to myself, all my souvenirs from Burma.

I bought stuff because it's my duty as a tourist to Burma. Buy locally made stuff from local people. I did my job.

Now what exactly am I going to do with it all now that it's home?

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Aunty Marie

Here I am with my new friend. She lives down the street. I'm not the best with babies, but she tolerates me pretty well.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Booking Burma

Back when I went to Burma, I said I had a hard time booking a room. But I didn't tell you how I got a room, or how I think those of you going now should get rooms.

The problem was that I was going at what is high season in that part of the world. It's dry season and it's over Christmas and New Year's, when people get a bit of time off for a break from school or work. And of course, that's summer vacation for Australians, who are a lot closer to SE Asia than we are.

But that's just a normal, everyday problem at that time of year. The bigger problem was that Burma is perceived to have just opened. So we all want to get there before it transforms and adapts to the larger world. Like going to Cuba (which I recommend getting a move-on if you've been considering it). And the tourism infrastructure is small, so there simply aren't yet enough rooms at the top destinations for the number of people wishing to visit.

I only had ten days because of my teaching schedule. Of course, I wanted to see the tourist highlights, same as everyone else.

I quickly realized that I would have to fly between destinations inside Burma if I didn't want to waste entire days on buses and trains. This is good for timing, but bad for ethics. The tax on each ticket goes straight to the Burmese government, and some of the airlines appear to be involved in cronyism. So that was the first spot where I felt a bit dirty. The good news, however, is that there are several small airlines. I was annoyed because the only one that would email me back was Air Mandalay. The others all ignored my bookings and my emails.

So that's why I flew with Air Mandalay. But also: There were plenty of seats on all the planes. I could have waited and booked on arrival.

The next problem was lodging. I was surprised at how many hotels had websites and email addresses.

I was also surprised how many were already booked. Any notion I had of traveling cheaply went out the window when I realized I'd be lucky to get any room, regardless of amenities or price.