Sunday, June 30, 2013

Manual Labor

I started re-tiling the bathroom floor about 16 months ago, and promptly lost interest in the project after my landlord/friend let me purchase all the materials and tear up a section of bathroom tile.

Well, now my LL/friend is coming to stay in my/his apartment while I'm out of town. And he has kids. I can't have half- torn out tiles hanging around any more than I could have left those crusty old mouseturds under the refrigerator.

So it's time to finish.

This has been a learning process. I learned that using my crowbar and mallet was precise, but excruciatingly slow and painful. So I switched to something called a demolition hammer which I rented from Home Depot on 440 (my local HD, outside the Holland Tunnel, doesn't have a tool section). That came with its own level of pain, but mostly dust, and nothing like the pain of chiseling away slowly.

Unfortunately, the clean-up is tough either way. That takes longer than the demolition, and then I'm stuck with bags of heavy old mortar and tile. I've been putting them in the back of my car, where I'll leave a few at a time with the regular trash pick-up. The steel mesh wire I pulled out with my tin snips (left over from when we installed the really-pressed-steel "tin" ceiling at my last apartment) is more problematic, and I'm on the constant lookout for a dumpster. Can't leave something dangerous on the curb.

I also learned how to remove the pedestal sink. That was pretty fast and easy, but I'm not sure if I should just put it back until I get to the walls, or if I should get a new one or invest in a vanity. The good news is you can make a vanity out of just anything. That's good news because the narrow ones which would fit are either dirt-cheap and god-awful, or $800. I think I'll put that project on the back-burner for the moment.

I haven't removed the toilet yet, and that's coming up soon. Tomorrow I'll chisel out the extra mortar and cut the HardieBacker to fit everything except the toilet section. I need to also work out how to install the marble threshold. I had a stroke of luck when buying the backer board as the HardieBacker regional manager happened to be in Home Depot when I went to buy, and he showed me how to cut my board and even sliced the 5x3 boards I was buying in half for me so I could carry them in my car.

The big job is going to be pulling out the toilet. Denise is going to help me as it's heavy, and then that is going to be nasty and stinky while I scrape off the old wax ring and seal up the hole with duct tape or a plastic bag. I'm sure I once saw a cover you could buy but I've never seen it again.

I'm dreading pulling up the toilet, because I've seen a bit of warping of the plywood nearby, between the toilet and the tub. That makes sense -- that's exactly where the most water accumulates. But I'm hoping that's the worst of it, because I don't own a circular saw and that's what I'd need to pull up the subfloor and replace it. I could buy one, sure, and I've needed on several times, but I'm hoping to get away without it for a bit longer.

Here's the current state of the bathroom. I shower very, very carefully.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Long Day of Errands

I headed over to my garage on First Street Wednesday to clean out my car's trunk. I threw everything into the middle of the floor haphazardly and click-shut the door with the remote. I'd deal with it later.

I drove up to Michael Kraiger's and picked him up at nine on the dot. We were heading to our now-former office to clean out the big stuff. Our US office is closing (well, the whole thing is closing, but that's a more complicated story of international intrigue and finance) and I didn't know what else to do with the printers except put them into my garage. If they're still there in September (and why wouldn't they be), I'll try to give them away. Failing that, I'll take them to the Incinerator Authority.

The office is 4.4 miles from Kraiger's house, but I'd forgotten about construction happening on the viaduct from the Heights to Hoboken, and then we had to inch through the Lincoln Tunnel, so the excursion took 40-or-so minutes.

Our office is located on a block of Eighth Avenue between the main Manhattan post office and the New Yorker hotel. There are about four hard-to-get metered parking spots in front of the post office, and all other parking is illegal. A few days ago I'd scoped out an underground parking garage behind our building. I'd never even noticed it before. Now, I overshot our street and headed back uptown to hit the one-ways right, and turned into the garage.

"We'll be here an hour," I said to the attendant. He showed us the elevator and said we could bring out cart down that way.

The move went smoothly. Kraiger loaded up the office cart (he's a moving whiz) and we headed down by freight elevator, rolled our stuff about 30 feet west and through a door to the garage elevator, put it all into the car, and took our cart back upstairs. We left again via the people elevator, got in the car, headed west on 33rd Street, and zipped right into the Lincoln Tunnel. This time the 4.4 miles took less than 15 minutes.

We put it all in my garage, then went to Home Depot. I'd convinced Kraiger to help me buy the backer board I needed for my bathroom floor project.

But it's 3x5. And I've slept in the back of my car before, and I had to scrunch up. I'm 5'6", and I had to scrunch a lot. I knew the boards wouldn't fit.

"Maybe we should go back to the garage and get the roof rack," said Kraiger. We were staring at the HardieBacker board, which I planned to cut after we bought it and before we put it in the car.

"Maybe," I said glumly, wishing I'd brought the roof rack.

"Can I help you?" A youngish man approached, dark hair, stocky, taller than me but not quite as tall as Kraiger. "I'm not from Home Depot. I'm from the company." He motioned at the HardieBacker display.

"Yes! How can I cut these to fit into my car?"

"I'll do it for you. Is there a  straight edge around here?"

I grabbed a T-square from the drywall display, and he went to work, cutting both pieces in a jiffy, then showing me how to cut the circle out for the toilet flange.

I thanked him profusely. This man was now my hero, or at least my second hero with the first being Texas State Senator Wendy Davis.

Kraiger and I walked out to the car. We both opened our mouths to speak, spotted the other about to talk, and burst out laughing.

"What a stroke of luck," we both said.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Here's how my office looked at the end of today.

I cleared out the flat files and put stuff into boxes. I pulled some of the posters off the walls and disconnected the network. The two huge laser printers are ready to go. The Mac so old it's only worth $11 is disconnected.

I booked the office cart and got a pass to get the stuff out of the building. I located a parking lot downstairs -- it's hard to park next to Penn Station on a weekday and we're not allowed to use the freight elevators on weekends.

I'm not totally out of the office yet and I have it until July 31 officially. But I'm leaving town the 12th, so I need to make progress with this. I still have to go through papers and figure out how to notify various tax authorities that we have no more US office.

I've left this job before, specifically to embark on 2011. But it feels stranger this time. I've enjoyed being Editor in Chief, and I've been the boss of "Creative" for so many years now.

What'll come next, I wonder.

Dragging all this stuff to my garage and then figuring out what to do with it, I guess. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013


I've got my frequent-flyer ticket to Mexico! And the owner of my apartment is moving in while I'm gone.

I've even paid my deposit on a little studio in San Miguel de Allende.

Now all I need is a lounge pass for the Admirals Club. Okay, "need" might be exaggeration. And then I'll have to sort out my return. I have to see what kind of payments come in at the end of July. If I get paid for the writing work I am doing between now and then, I'll go to the Yucatan for some sightseeing. Otherwise, I'll come straight home.

The cool thing about being in Mexico is if I can't get a reasonable flight back, I can just take a bus across the border and then use my Amtrak points to get home. No plane required.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Working Vacation

I have a scheme. A caper. A plan.

My friend Yancey, who owns the apartment I rent, is coming back to the area for his wife's new job which begins July 15th. I pointed out all kinds of fun facts about capital gains tax to him and suggested he move back into my apartment for two years.

This isn't because I want to move. I hate moving and I love living in a Victorian brownstone over Hamilton Park. It's because it would save him a small fortune when he sells his place and I'm his friend first and a conniving real-estate dabbler second.

But alas, he is now a family of four and I live in a one-bedroom railroad. They considered if for about three seconds before deciding to look in the South Orange/Maplewood/West Orange/Montclair/Bloomfield area.

But they still need a place to stay for a few weeks while they house-hunt, and I wouldn't mind a break on rent for that time, so we've cut a deal. They'll stay in the apartment they own (my apartment) for a while and they'll look for a house at that time. It's still bigger than a hotel room. I'll spend that time in a rented studio in San Miguel de Allende, which will cost me a lot less rent than a month in the New York area, and I can use frequent flyer miles to get there and it'll be a new, fun experience for me.

Plus, tacos.

I'll go to mother's for a few days, then fly south. I have booked a little studio on the top floor of a building in the center of town.

I am not sure yet if I'm staying the whole month or a little less. Either way, I pay for the month and book the month as it's either $300 a week or $750 a month. I have a Marvel prose novel to edit with a friend of mine writing it during that time and another ART OF book to work on. Plus, I really want to finish my book proposal.

If I have a little time at the end, I'll head to the Yucatan to dive the underwater sculpture garden near Cancun. But I have to be back for the start of SVA classes in September, and Cancun is an easy trip out of Newark. I can always hold off on that. Or even come back overland. It's easy to get a bus to Austin from Monterrey, and I have Amtrak points from there.

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Relic

I found this in a box. It surprised me—I'd been careful to transfer all my floppy data to CD back with Kraiger still had a beige Mac with a floppy drive.

What was this, I wonder. My guess is I had to buy it at EasyEverything on the Ramblas in Barcelona in 2004. I was living on the sixth floor of a walk-up in Raval and there was no internet in the apartment. Back then, you couldn't just get it on your phone either. I spent a lot of time running up and down the stairs to get a signal on a nearby square from a restaurant, but when I needed to be online for a chunk of time, I'd sit at EasyEverything.

Or maybe I bought it across from Victoria Station years earlier, when there was an EasyInternet across the road from the train.

Some helpful people have made me laugh. "Why don't you have a USB floppy drive?" Uh...for the three times in the rest of my life when I'm vaguely curious? I even ditched my USB Zip Drive a few years ago after deciding if I hadn't already saved it, too bad.

Nevertheless, I have a friend who can read this for me. I think I'll go ahead and check it out.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

When Do We Want 'Em? Now.

I found this in my box of old stuff. I remember picking it up off the sidewalk after a march in DC when I was a kid, back when I'd spend weekends roaming the Smithsonian or the back halls of Capitol Hill. 

Yeah, you could do that then. No one to say "Hey, kid, you're not allowed back here." We were allowed everywhere, even places we weren't allowed weren't all that heavily guarded. 

It's hard to believe the ERA set off such a firestorm. The primary complaint at the time, as I recall, seemed to be about sharing bathrooms. 

I guess men wouldn't want that, given the line at so many women's public toilets. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

What Bubble?

Back in 1993, you could buy an apartment on Avenue B in Manhattan's East Village for ten percent down. And the total cost was $56,500. 

Which seems bizarrely crazy today. What would that place go for now? $395,000? 

And yet, at the time, this seemed like a fortune. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Wander Woman

Just a is being excerpted bit-by-bit, every Sunday on the UK's Wanderlust magazine site.

The index to my "Wander Woman" (chuckle) entries is here. 

And the interview they did with me is here. 

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Semi-Success As A Salesperson

I did pretty well selling trade paperbacks and graphic novels yesterday at the Hamilton Park festival flea market, but selling anything else was a disaster. This just wasn't the venue to ask for a decent price. I had one gorgeous handmade skirt from Barcelona which a smart shopper snapped up for twenty bucks, but the average conversation went something like this:

"What size are those brand-new Dansko clogs?"

"They're 8.5, but they're a little bit big for me. Do you want to try then on? I never wore them out of the house."

(Customer tries them on, they fit.)

"How much?"

"Ten dollars," I say, wincing since I probably spent $80 and thought they fit until they actually didn't and the return window was over.

"Oh," shocked look like they've touched raw sewage. Shoes go back on table fast as lightning.

You don't want to know the reaction to me asking for $20 for a bag I'd made on my kitchen table.

But I unloaded a lot of comic books, mostly because I priced them ludicrously low, low enough that some people were like HELL YEAH. I made them two for $5, five for $10. And most of them had never been read. Well, none of them had been read. I found these in the office before our last move, put them in the storage unit, then recently cleaned this out and threw them in the back of my car, not sure what to do with them.

I still have two long boxes of graphic novels, but the other two and the moldy Masterworks are gone (the Masterworks into the trash).

I'm going to re-think selling the other stuff. I might be able to get a table at a crafts fair.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Selling Fleas

I'm selling stuff at tomorrow's Hamilton Park Festival flea market. Primarily trade paperbacks and graphic novels, which seem to have taken over my garage. I want them gone and out of my life, so Michael Kraiger and I are going to sell them at bargain-basement rates just to get rid of them (we hope). 

But I'm also putting some gorgeous, perfect old "Whitegirl" label party dresses on the auction block, handmade by the finest designer in Jersey City in the early nineties, a woman named Cheryl. 

Denise and maybe Carmen are going to be at the next table, selling silkscreened scarves and leather bags, respectively. 

And I'm testing the market for these. I've sewn some little tiny handbags, just big enough for a phone, keys, and a wallet. They sling over your shoulder. And I've gotten the Square thing that plugs into your phone, so I can take credit cards if someone wants a LOT of graphic novels and handbags. 

I don't now how I own so much stuff. But I need it to stop. 

The one on the far right is the sample I was emulating.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Old Boxes

Here's some classic bits I found in a box in my garage.
From the coin-operated Church of Elvis in Portland, OR.

It's for the best I have no way to listen to these.
Some correspondence with Alex Toth, a comic book legend.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013


I've been going through boxes of papers, shredding old tax documents, and trying to clean up my apartment and my garage.

It's daunting. I have no idea where all this stuff comes from. I live sparingly, and yet here it all is.

I've come across some really good stuff in these old boxes, including this, last night. Which is timely, as Maxwell's (the greatest independent music club on the East Coast, IMHO) is closing, and I spent my early twenties there. I have no idea how we managed to get up and go to work after staying out half the night back then, but we did.

It was jarring to hear Maxwell's is going away, but Hoboken has turned into a vile pit of frat boys and extreme gentrification, so it makes sense to either move the club to somewhere with a more receptive crowd, or to just leave it. Todd, who books the bands at Maxwell's, still books Bell House in Brooklyn and a few years back, put on a couple of great shows at Loews Journal Square. I hope we see more of those.

I hardly ever go to Maxwell's anymore anyway. But still, it's a punch in the gut. A punch of aging and lost memories and a type of scene that disappeared along with a bigger changes in society. I enjoyed the scene back then, even though people who weren't a part of it typically misunderstood what was going on over there. One hideous fellow I met a few times referred to me on a group blog as a "starf*cker," which was so absurdly not the case...and he didn't even move to town until after I'd moved to Manhattan, so he obviously got his third-hand information from people even more alienated and resentful than I. A running joke of mine used to be that I'd write the book "I'm With the Opening Band," which was more a joke on the laboring lack of success of my crowd rather than what was going on behind closed doors, which wasn't a heckuva lot.

That horrible individual has recently resurfaced in LA. Yuck. They can keep him.

I don't know which Phil this is or who wrote the note. I know three possible Phils from back then. I wish the writer had put a date on this note.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Archival Coloring

I have a nice new MacBook Air—well, not that new, I've had it for months but it took ages for me to sort through all my files on the old MacBook—and I've been looking around my apartment for one of those microfiber cleaning cloths you use to dust off the screen.

I have a pile of stuff in the back of my desk, which has shelves as legs. Here, I'll upload a photo to the right. This is from 2007, when I first bought the desk.

There was no cleaning kit in the back of my desk.

But what was this? A large envelope full of...what?

I pulled it out and opened it up.

Color guides.

Mostly Donald Duck, but also some X-Men, Captain America, Sleepwalker, and X-Force.

What am I going to do with these? The golden age of selling these on eBay was the mid-nineties. I'm not even sure people know what they are now, in the age of Photoshop.

I put them back in the envelope and slid them back into the desk.