Saturday, June 2, 2018


I was doing some work on a short story when it happened.  The trapdoor in the Internet opened up and I fell right in.

The short story is called The Wonder Wheel and it’s about a man, released from the Ward Island Psychiatric Unit, on his way to the funfair on Coney Island.  Now, the story was originally called Coney Island Baby, but along the way, it became The Wonder Wheel, which is an attraction at Coney Island.

Next thing happens, that Lou Reed Song starts playing in your head, especially the lines…
"I'd like to send this one out to Lou and RachelAnd all the kids at P.S. one-ninety-two
Man, I'd swear, I'd give the whole thing up for you." 

And you start wondering about Lou Reed’s one-time trans lover, Rachel.  Whatever happened to her?  She’d be in her seventies if she was still alive. 

Gotta go down through the trapdoor to check it out.  Down into the New York demimonde of the 1970s and 80s.   Rachel Humphreys, birth name Richard Humphreys.  Club 82 in the East Village.  That great anecdote about Lou Reed’s night at Narcotics Anonymous when a very upset gentleman yelled at him, “How dare you be here.  You’re the reason I got into heroin.”

Did Rachel get into hard drugs too?  Some people said yes and some people said no. In 1983 or ’84, her life with Lou was past history and she was living in a dive on First Ave, between 5th and 6th Streets.

The trapdoor leads to a bunch of dead ends featuring David Bowie,  Lester Bangs and the Meat Packing District.  And then a secret passageway opens up and you’re out on Hart Island, where New York’s poor and dispossessed got buried.

There’s a record for a Richard Humphreys who died in 1990, St. Clare’s Hospital in Hell’s Kitchen, possibly from AIDS, aged 37 --the right age--.  Buried unclaimed.  It may not be the end of the story, but it is for me.  I re-emerge in my office.  Coney Island Baby no longer plays in a mental loop.  Now it’s Lou reed's Dirty Boulevard.  But I’ve got work to do and I can’t go chasing after this one.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

What happened to us?

Well, this really isn't 'Us'  -  it's the people who came after us.  Or maybe it's the people who came after them.  

You invite your mates around for a drink on a Friday night and you say, "oh yeah, and don't forget to tell Orla to bring the cello.  

The fucking CELLO!!  And she brings it and of course, if you've dragged that thing across town, you're gonna do more than play the intro to Eleanor Rigby.

You get that big fiddle on the number 7 bus and haul it all the way from Mountjoy Square to Ballsbridge -  You're doing Bach.  Two hours.  Solid.  

Of course, there is a possibility that this gal is not really a cellist (I'm basing this on the fact that the endpin is adjusted too long and her posture is a bit on the slouchy side).  

Maybe one of the fifteen people you don't see in the shot  just handed her the kit and said, "okay, let's see if this works."

Maybe they already tried a clarinet, a trombone and a Lambeg drum with King Billy painted on the side.  

Twenty-five years ago, I owned a penthouse in Dublin 4 and I never had a musical evening that looked like this.  It was all bottles of Cuban rum and the Clash on the stereo.  Straight to hell, boys.  Straight to hell.

"An antique mirror splashback, offset by the Pietra marble worktop and Macassar ebony cabinet doors of this dark palette choice, sets the tone in the luxuriously appointed, custom-built kitchens where it is the small but telling details such as dove-tailed drawers that make all the difference."

Jesus Christ, I remember when a splashback was something you got when you stood too close to the urinal and, if I may put on my carpenter's hat for a moment,  a dovetail (no hyphen required) joint is not that big a deal.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Stephen's Green

Stephen's Green is the soft porn version of Central Park.

No hardcore junkies, skateboarders, synchronized rollerbladers in matching silver spandex.  No foragers, elderly men in bikinis, horse-drawn assholes in from Iowa.  No Jersey girls adding to the sidewalk chewing gum splodges.  No skunk weed and beer for sale out of ice-filled garbage sacks.

Every time I walk through this manicured nice-place-to-drink-a-Fanta-and-eat-a-limp-sandwich, I miss the fuck out of Central Park.

I miss the weird and the wired.  I'm not interested in ducks.  Mallards? Same story.  Don't get me started on herons.   

We need to rough-up Stephen's Green.  Let a few pit bulls loose.  Tie some hammocks between the trees and tell the crazies they can sleep there at night.  

We need CNN's Richard Quest to get caught doing something strange beside the lily pond, just like he did in CP. -  Where he was arrested one night with meth in his pocket, a sex toy in his boot and a length of rope connecting his neck to his privates.

Scorpio Rising

I rode up to the 44th floor, accompanied by the elevator operator and a woman with a dog.

The dog, it's struck me, was extremely well-behaved; it sat primly on the floor and stared straight ahead at the slight gap between the metal doors. Floors whizzed past, blips of light flickered, but the dog didn't blink.

We stopped at the 33rd floor. The doors opened and the woman stepped out. She patted her thigh and said, "Here Scorpio. Come." It took a moment for the dog to process the command. He looked up at the elevator operator, then me, and then he stepped out to follow his mistress.

After the doors closed I looked at the elevator operator and said, "strange dog."

"That ain't the half of it, that dog is on Prozac. She told me herself. About six months ago she gets in here and she goes, 'Scorpio is so depressed. He whines all day long. He barks, he whimpers.'"

The elevator operator paused long enough for me to take in the image.

"But all the time I'm thinking, he's a fuckin' dog. This is what fuckin' dogs do. Am I right?"

I told him he was right. He went back to imitating the dog owner.

"Scorpio is vexed. He is vexed all the time. He takes out his anger on the furniture. He eats cushions. He pulls up threads in the carpet. He chews the blinds. He shreds newspapers. He shuns the sandbox in the kitchen and urinates everywhere else."

The elevator operator stopped the car at the 44th floor but did not open the doors.

"All the time I'm thinking..."

"He's a fuckin' dog?" I suggested.

"You're right," said the elevator operator, as if the whole fuckin' dog thing had been my idea,

"But one day she tells me she's taking him to see a vet on West End Ave. Then I don't see her for maybe a week. When I do see her again, she's got the mutt with the thousand yard stare: Forrest fucking Gump on the end of a lead. She tells me, "Scorpio is on a low dose of 'Reconcile'. Prozac for dogs. You familiar with it?"

I told him it was one of the drugs I hadn't tried.

"It's like a little doggy treat. Poor bastard doesn't even know he's being doped."

"Maybe he's happier," I said.

"Hah! I got a dog. I want to cheer him up, I take him out to the park and get him laid".

 He laughed like a maniac, and then we agreed that sex in a public place was probably the best medicine. He opened the doors and told me to buzz him when I was leaving, but I was already calculating the health benefits of walking down forty-four flights of stairs.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The other "Boss" from New Jersey

What could possibly entice a couple of hundred people to spend a Sunday morning lining-up, in intense heat and humidity, on a New Jersey sidewalk?

You guessed - The opportunity to pick up a box of chocolate eclairs and watch them melt in the car.

'Cake Boss' Buddy Valastro is a star of reality television. Each week, two million people tune in to watch him decorate wedding cakes and fold the almonds into the biscotti mix. 

The truly dedicated make the pilgrimage to Hoboken to snap pictures of the store and possibly have a 'consultation' with the great man himself. 

Pilgrims may also get the chance to clap eyes on wife, Lisa; right-hand man Mauro Castano; head baker Joey Faugno; bakery sculptor 'Ralphie Boy' Attanasia and intern Marissa Lopez. 

Less likely to be squeezing the icing bag on the premises is brother-in-law Remy Gonzalez, now embarking on a nine year stretch for aggravated sexual assault.

Now excuse me, I have to go get a muffin, and there's a seven hour wait.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The diners are dying

The Malibu - Hoboken

The New York Times ran an article a while back about the vanishing New York diner.  Here are my notes on the subject:

The Malibu Diner somehow manages to combine the stylistic elements of funeral parlour and penny arcade. I asked the waiter if they had Wi-Fi yet and he gave me a blank look before answering: "We don't do Chinese food".

The pastries and muffins on the counter are clingfilmed inside plastic cases that look like the fake flower domes you see on Irish graves. -- The bereavement is sealed in.

And then there's the Westway Diner on 9th Avenue
Twenty years ago, the city was full of places like this, but the waning popularity of the heart attack put a lot of them out of business. Back then, you could tell how popular a place was by the number of ambulances parked outside.