What’s goin’ on

May 17th, 2010 No comments

Welcome to spring my friends. June is (just about to) bust all over and I couldn’t be more excited about it. Sitting in my apartment with the air conditioner set to an environmentally-friendly 65 degrees, staring down on a bunch of people sweatin’ it to the oldies on Houston Street….thats what life’s about.

Its been a busy few weeks. I’ve been crackin’ watch straps, lifting glasses, and taking names. And numbers. Also email addresses. Additionally, I’ve done some work and opened some young minds. Maybe. So that’s been good too.

Ok so, I’ve been trying to cut down on my carbs in preparation for summer. I fully intend to look slimmer than a dead, bloated whale and that will require a bit of work on my part. As you know, I enjoy going to the gym and lifting heavy things up and then putting them down. So that’s helpful. But any truly six-packed guy or gal knows to be truly zexy one needs to keep an eye on the diet.

Ok, maybe one doesn’t need to go quite that far. Plus, shouldn’t she be skinny? And lastly, the question on the tip of all of our tongues, does she have a preferred brand?

I digress. I am not a terribly unhealthy eater, but I decided to cut down on my carbs for a couple of weeks just to see what happened. Now, this should be a fairly easy process. I’m not a candy guy, I generally skip dessert…no mocha frappachinos and the like here. So no biggie, right?

Wrong.

I’m super addicted to sugar, as it turns out. More accurately, the carbs that come from bread and pasta. Little did I know I’m secretly Italian (well, I knew I was in the parts that mattered, but that’s another story…) and that I eat bread or pasta at every meal. Two eggs for breakfast? Sure, oh and can I get 6 slices of whole wheat toast with that? And a large orange juice? A sandwich for lunch? Do you guys have any of those really enormous rolls with the poppy seeds on them today? Something local and nice in the neighborhood for dinner? Um, hm, lets just go over to Frankie’s where I will have the cavatelli with hot sausage. Oh and in between I’ll have some milk and maybe a coke in the afternoon. Snack on half a bagel or a bowl of fruit.

As you can see, my (semi) sensible diet is in fact nine hundred and twenty six MILLION grams of carbohydrates per day. So I decided to cut out carbs as much as possible for a couple of days to see what would happen. The answer is muscle pain and headaches. Are you kidding? I’m having freaking withdrawal from bread.

The human body is an amazing thing. Mine seems rather reluctant to embrace change. But I’m twisting its arm, so to speak. We’ll see who wins. Place your bets folks, place your bets…

xx

-B

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Bar cars

April 21st, 2010 1 comment

An article from yesterday’s Times by Michael M. Grynbaum laments the likely demise of one of New York’s last bastions of libatious civility: the bar car. Bar cars were a staple of the tri-state area’s commuter rails back in the Don Draper era, but today only one line retains them: the Metro-North service to Connecticut.

The story has a certain resonance with me because I have always been a bit fascinated by the bar car. The article in the Times mentions that smoking was banned in these cars on Metro-North commuter trains “in the 1980s.” That’s true, but it was in the late 80s, 1988 to be exact. The bill that banned smoking on Metro-North trains (save for a provision that allowed smoking in the bar car of a New Haven bound train only between Greenwich and New Haven) can be found here if such things interest you. I vividly recall barely making a train to the country, accompanied by my father, as a child. We were encouraged to enter the rear of the train at the first accessible door as the train was just about to pull out of the station. As it rumbled forth, dad and I walked up the aisle to the front of the train where seating was more readily available. Opening one door we were confronted by a haze of cigarette smoke so thick one could barely see through it. My eyes stung as we hustled through to the relative purity of the cars ahead.

I can’t recall as precisely when the bar cars disappeared from Westchester-bound Metro-North trains, but I can recall the terrible jealousy I felt towards those who had summer homes in Connecticut or attended boarding school there. Those travellers retained their bar cars while those of us, more often found skirting the east side of the Hudson River as we sped north, had none. Oh, the injustice!

But lately it seems as though even my friends from Connecticut, now all grown up and drinking in crummy walkups on the Lower East Side, will lose a bit of their shared history as well. The bar car is on its way out. Shed a tear.

I have a special fondness for the bar car not chiefly for its tri-state ties, however, but for one fascinating evening. As a senior in high school I was lucky enough to be admitted to a couple of pretty decent colleges. I wanted to visit Northwestern but a lack of planning and a slim budget made air travel out of the question. I booked a ticket on an Amtrak train from New York Penn Station to Chicago Union Station. The Lakeshore Limited departed New York at 3:45pm and arrived at 9:45 the next morning. That worked quite nicely for my schedule. Plus, the train’s name evoked a grandeur I thought fitting for a young man’s visit to one of the Midwest’s vaunted institutions of higher learning.

A sleeper was costly and out of the question but, no matter, I was young and flexible and had no qualms about plopping into a well-padded seat and drifting off to thoughts of the windy city.

Upon boarding the train I plopped down indeed. I read. Made some notes in a couple of books. The late 90s had not yet burdened me with text messages on cell phones or BlackBerries (nor other people’s incessant conversations on those devices) so the beginnings of the journey were relaxed and contemplative. But as night fell and the other passengers drifted off, I found myself unable to quiet my thoughts. I was going on a college visit, on my own, and I was pretty darn excited about it. Antsy, I took a walk up the aisle to stretch my legs.

I walked through several cars before I came upon it: the bar car. Finding a place, I sat down on a stool, ordered a vodka soda (some things rarely change, folks) and took a few glances at the people around me. As the bartender put down my drink in front of me (why so few bartenders carded me as a youngster while so many do now remains a mystery to me) I looked over my right shoulder to see an attractive man in his 20s sitting next to me. I turned back to my drink, made quick work of it, and ordered another. Surely a couple of glasses would bring some quietus to this restless mind and allow me to return to my seat and nod off. But as I worked my way through the second I couldn’t help but notice the attractive man’s gaze fixed upon me. He introduced himself (I’ve long since forgotten his name), I followed suit, and we got down to the fine art of conversing. As the train rumbled through Pennsylvania and then Ohio the skies outside darkened to the black of coal. The remaining guests in the bar car shuffled back to their places and I was left alone with my new friend and a barman who served us drink after drink in the intervals between worrying his racing sheet. We spoke of many things and he told me what amounted to, in essence, his entire life story. An unhappy childhood, drug addiction, a career in gay pornography, rock bottom, and his climb out of the depths. He was abandoning Boston and heading to Chicago to start a new life in a vibrant city full of strangers.

We parted ways without exchanging information. He had no phone or permanent address, I thought the idea of a former gay porn actor calling my parents’ home a bit distasteful. So off we went, in opposite directions, into the blazing morning sun.

Northwestern seduced me on that trip and it was there I matriculated several months later. Now, years later, I suspect my chance encounter on that overnight train may have played a pivotal role in my decision to attend my alma mater. My travelling companion wanted only to escape something ugly and to redefine himself on his own terms. He was excited to start over in Chicago. And so, I now realize, was I.

xx

-B

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Jasper Looks to the Future

April 20th, 2010 No comments

Recently its been all about Jasper. And before you can say, “But Billy, its ALWAYS about Jasper,” let me remind you that Jasper and I have enjoyed some firsts together as of late.

Firstly (ha!), Jasper made his debut at the Tompkins Square Park Dog Run. And what a debut it was. Jasper bounded about in the “big dogs” run until we commuted over a few feet to the “little dogs” run, dedicated to dogs under 28 lbs. While Sir was not thrilled to leave the 135 lb Great Dane he had decided was his new best friend, he quickly acclimated to dominating all those who surrounded him, including a couple of fabulous lesbians and a doggy momma who was clearly wasted at 11am.

If you’ve never been to Tompkins Square Park, I encourage you to stroll on through. Its a fascinating hodgepodge of chemically dependent homeless people and chemically dependent rich people. They’re so different! And while mismatched horse-heads shoot up in the men’s room, carefully disheveled hipsters sip on bloody marys in styrofoam cups while trying to locate little Buster in the fray. The gentrification of the East Village can be felt no where more strangely than in this little melting pot where denizen remnants of the 80s sigh at bleach blonde models wearing Seven jeans to walk their teacup poodles.

But have no fear, Jasper has been celebrating elsewhere as well. Easter happened to fall on Jasper’s very 1st birthday this year (and not the other way around) so Momma and some cohorts came over for lox and bagels. Jasper ate dog food but Ji was nice enough to bring him some birthday doggie biscuits that he just adored. Thanks Ji! The rest of us noshed and drank 8 bottles of champagne. Typical.

In short, a good time was had by all. Our next high holy day, The Kentucky Derby, is just around the corner. Do you have your seersucker jackets, elaborate hats, and stomach-pumping mechanisms at the ready? Good. Let the race begin.

xx

-B

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Smoke at the MET UPDATES

April 8th, 2010 1 comment

The MET is sticking to its story that the smoke from Monday night’s performance of Hamlet was caused by a gel on stage. Casey Elsass, a MET representative, repeated the claim on the phone with me earlier today. He denied reports from sources inside the MET that the smoke was in fact caused by a malfunctioning electrical outlet, a far more serious and potentuially dangerous situation.

Most of those from whom I’ve heard who were seated upsatirs on Monday evening have expressed surprise that the MET did not summon help from the fire department immediately when the smoke conditions began. Few people familiar with theatrical lighting would believe that a smoldering gel on stage could have filled just one section of the audience with acrid smoke, sending one hundred people out the door mid-aria. Is the MET intentionally covering up their botched and short-sighted reaction to a fire condition in the house? Or does the press office remain as ignorant as the rest of us about a cover-up the MET management wants desperately to perpetuate?

xx

-B

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Smoke at the MET

April 6th, 2010 1 comment
I went to the Met last night to see Hamlet with my mother. We had a rather interesting time. Below is my letter to Anthony Tommasini at the Times about our truncated evening.
————–
Dear Mr. Tommasini,
I wanted to write to you in the hopes that you would share my comments with your many followers. I am a season subscriber to the Metropolitan Opera and this evening I attended Hamlet there. I was seated house right in the family circle. Around 9:15, a funny smell started emanating from above us. As the smell grew stronger, it became clear it was the smell of smoke and was coming from above and behind us. Patrons started murmuring, one woman ran up an aisle to alert an usher. Still the smell grew and at this point people started to get up. As smoke began to fill the family circle, the crowds began to push and shove to make their way to the exits. The singers seemed to sense something was wrong and appeared to lose a bit of focus. I helped an elderly man down the stairs (I’m a young man) and then brought my mother down and outside. There an excited crowd was forming – all people who had been seated in the family circle. Shockingly, it seemed no one from the MET had called the fire dept. A man next to me was on the phone saying, “…but there is a fire at the Opera House. Yes here! At the MET! No one has called?” The fire dept came a few minutes later as I and the others around me clicked pictures on our camera phones.
I couldn’t believe the management had not cleared the entire house but was far more shocked at what came next. A representative from the MET tried to stop the fire fighters from entering saying it had all been a mistake and that the smell was from a burning gel on stage. Now, I’m an actor and have been on stage under a burning gel affixed to lamp more than once. The smell tonight was a lot stronger than a burning gel. Additionally, only the people in the family circle seemed to be aware of it, not anyone down below. When I pointed this out to the MET representative he yelled at me that SMOKE RISES! The cleared-out audience members chimed in to agree with me as the firefighters passed. Everyone was yelling out that the smell was isolated to the family circle. Patrons even broke into applause as the firefighters pushed into the lobby. As they did so, representatives from the MET raced forward to lead them down and away from the family circle.
This is shocking and appalling. I doubt the smoke signaled any real danger. It was probably a small electrical fire or perhaps a smoldering lamp up in the family circle. But to deliberately mislead fire department officials, to lie and tell them that the source of the smoke was a gel on stage and that the gel had been located, is a dangerous and despicable precedent. The MET seats approximately 3,800 people. A stampede in an emergency situation would be life-threatening to patrons, particularly the elderly. To fail to stop a performance for even ten minutes to properly isolate the cause of a problem and to deliberately mislead officials who risk their lives for our safety is beneath contempt.
I hope you will share my concerns with your readers and with officials at the MET. I am only a subscriber up in the cheap seats, but I truly think this is an incident that should be communicated to those who are under the mistaken belief that the MET’s management prioritizes their safety over finishing ACT V by 11pm.
Best regards,
William Wheelan
————–
Klassy letter, eh? I can write and stuff. ps I took some pics! Here is one choice example.  xx -B
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Line2

March 25th, 2010 No comments

Update: While the sites went live again this morning, at Noon EST they appear to be down again.

Update II: at 12:50pm its back up.

In the Times today, David Pogue writes a glowing review of Line2, saying it, “has the potential to shake up an entire industry.”

I met Peter Sisson, fonder of Line2, briefly at an event my Council was sponsoring last month at the Gay Center in the West Village. I was struck by his whip smart intelligence and relentless ambition to start “Game Over” tech.

Sadly, when I navigated over to Line2 I was greeted by the following message:

“Toktumi and Line2 are currently experiencing a denial of service attack. We are trying to isolate the attackers and restore service. Please stand by.”

Was it the NYT’s spotlight on Line2 that made internet pirates want to attack? Or was this coordinated attack weeks or months in the making? Either way, its unfortunate that rogue gangs continue to try to thwart good ol’ American tech innovation. I wish Line2 well and hope they are back up and running soon.

xx

-B

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iPad

March 24th, 2010 No comments

The question of the hour, week, month, or year (depending on who is doin’ the askin’!) is, of course, will your flo glide gently onto a pad…an iPad. Well, will it? Personally, I’m rather psyched about the iPad. As some of you know I do a bit of tutoring from time to time (both pro bono and less so) for these li’l ol’ tests called the SATs. To do so I lug around some fairly weighty books. I’m pretty excited at the idea of instead carrying around a giant iPod Touch that will enable me to float, as if on wings, into my sessions. No longer will I feel cramps (from heavy backpacks, ‘natch!) nor depression (from people making fun of said backpacks). Nope. I’ll be free to jump in the air in a white cheerleader’s outfit and play with balloons filled with blue liquid without fear. Sweet!

But I digress. The larger question is whether to order an iPad with only WiFi now to get the treasured little screen of love on April 3rd or to wait for the 3G version which ships, according to the Apple website, in “late April.” I wanted the 3G model so I preordered it today. And guess what? My emailed receipt shows, in fact, that the iPad is due to ship in “late April.” It also, however, shows that my optional handy dandy carrying case is set to ship April 15th and arrive on the 20th. So hopefully the device itself wont be too far behind. A girl can dream…

xx

-B

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Taxi Thieves

March 13th, 2010 No comments

As my dear readers know I live the same life George Clooney’s character does in Up In The Air. Except instead of being in a plane, I’m in the back of a yellow cab. I spend many an hour back there, contemplating my fate, tapping the “off” button on the TaxiTV screen over and over and over again.

So imagine my interest in a recent report from the New York Times that alleges hacks here in the Big Apple have been ripping off riders for two years. Their methods were relatively straightforward - hit the button for rate 4 (used for far-flung destinations and meant to be triggered only after crossing the border into Westchester County, for example) rather than rate 1 (Standard City Rate). Rate 4 is higher, of course, and thus those who were fleeced paid an average of $4 to $5 more than they should have.

Unsurprisingly, the taxi driver’s union, New York Taxi Workers Alliance, has come out behind the drivers. Their statement basically says, “hey, this is like 3/4th of all the hacks on the road doing this. Surely that’s gotta be a mistake. 3/4th of all cab drivers aren’t thieves! Big misunderstanding you guys, those buttons, darn, they sure are close together. And the same color too! And small, so small. Yikes! Where are my glasses? Wait, I knew they were around here someplace…”

Right. Except they’re guilty as sin.

To determine the veracity of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance’s statement, I went through my taxi receipts from January 2009 to the present. Such a task is made easy and somewhat pleasant when all one needs to do is flick through a bunch of sorted images on a screen. Shawna has everything scanned and classified so the whole task took me no time at all. In my quick sample, I found that not one of my receipts indicated that I had been charged on a rate 4 fare. Doesn’t that seem unlikely to you? 35,558 out of the city’s roughly 48,000 drivers had applied the higher rate over the last two years and yet leafing through hundreds of my own receipts I could find not even one instance of overcharging.

How could this be possible? It should be obvious but on the off-chance it isn’t, here’s my theory: the hacks only ripped off the out-of-towners. When a New Yorker hops in and barks (not me of course, I’m sweet as molasses pie) an intersection followed by a preferred route (No! Grand does NOT go through! Take Delancey!) I suspect they figure they’d probably best charge the going rate. But when they get a fare that’s clearly an out-of-towner, or a stumbling drunkard, or the Swiss Family Robinson… well, that’s another story.

And even though tourists and visitors and such keep our metropolitan’s economy moving, I’ve got to admit I started caring a lot less when I figured out they were the ones getting ripped off.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I must try to hail a cab before I’m late for dinner.

xx

-B

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Oscars, Warmth, and the Way People Dress Now

March 9th, 2010 1 comment

Here in the Big Apple the weather is gorgeous for the first time in 2010 and the denizens of our fine, fine metropolis are collectively overjoyed at our good fortune. How are we celebrating? By wearing clothing inappropriate to the season, of course. The hipsters are rocking tshirts and jeans and sporting oversized Ray-Ban aviators to protect their (dilated) pupils from harm. Some guy was smoking in front of my building wearing shorts. Shorts. Really? You shouldn’t wear shorts in the city in my opinion. No one wants to see your pastey legs. But if you must, save ‘em for the 100 degree days. Today does not qualify friends.

The most common fashion-related seasonal anticipation we see here in the city, though, is undoubtedly dudes wearing suits with no topcoat. Check out this dude, sans topcoat, on the uptown 6.

He is into it! Loving this liberating weather. He’s even drinking a Red Bull so that his senses may prove even more ready to fully appreciate the tweaked-out fabulousness of the season.

Really though, it ain’t that warm. You still need a coat. A light one, sure, but bare appendages are going to get chilly. Remember the adage -Question: What is a sweater? Answer: Something you put on when your mother is cold.

At least our warm-snap has freed us from red carpet related weather envy. LA may not have much on NYC, but that climate-controlled deal they’ve figured out over there is pretty sweet. Maybe Bloomie could get us some of that? Eh?

Speaking of the carpet, did you watch the Oscars? On the red carpet Matt Damon praised the skill of my homeboy Rich – hawt! And the show started well with NPH doing a fun and sparkly number and Alec Bladwin and Steve Martin delivering an immensely funny two man standup routine. But after that, things started to drag. Despite some cuts to the live program, it still feels about six and a half hours long. Partially, its the speeches. Its not just that they are sometimes overly long, its also that they are often dull as dishwater. I propose a solution to this problem. Under the new Billy system you would win your Oscar. But if your speech sucked, we’d all text in and then it would be revoked. Instantly. Then, no matter what, it would automatically be awarded to Meryl Streep.

I think this would encourage those nominees to think long and hard about what they were going to say before they got up there and started profusely thanking their legal team. Instead, maybe we get some tap numbers. Or stripteases. Or fellas makin’ it rain with Benjamins. That sort of thing.
Who is with me on this? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?

Xx
-B

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Hello again

February 24th, 2010 No comments

Sorry for the gap between entries my dears. I’ve been hard at work on a little piece de theatre in addition to all my other responsibilities. Its been terribly, terribly difficult. You know the feeling.

Let’s make up for lost time, shall we? First, the MTA is still a mess. That hasn’t changed. Express trains run local, local trains run express, and there remains an expectation that a station stop in Manhattan that is not being serviced in one direction should very reasonably be assumed to be reached from the other direction – via Brooklyn. Um, no.

Thank goodness for cabs. Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about cabs, principally because since the downfall of a once-functional mass transit system I’ve spent oh so many hours riding in the backseat of one. The other day I nearly went through the partition when my cab stopped short on the way to the theatre. That’s bad. I was reminded (and I shall, like a good Samaritan – ha – remind you) of the importance of wearing one’s seatbelt in cabs. Native New Yorkers don’t believe in wearing seatbelts in cabs. We strap ourselves in like astronauts preparing for a launch when in transit around the Hamptons or (especially) whilst overseas. But here in our hometown, with mad drivers swerving this way and that, we are perfectly content to click away on our BlackBerrys with little cognizance of the perils just outside that flimsy door. That should change.

Since we have those frightful TaxiTVs now, perhaps its time for a renaissance of celebrity reminders. Are you, dear reader, too new of an arrival to remember Joan Rivers screaming, “Pick my nipple up off the floor and for God’s sake put on your seatbelt!” (or something like that – I may be paraphrasing slightly) You are? Well it wasn’t the most beloved of all our transit initiatives. It turns out those riding in cabs don’t want to be screamed at by New Yorkers – famous or not. Who’da thunk it?

Xx
-B

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