Archives for May 2012

My Elaborate Unrealized Murder Plot

Imagine a much sadder, much mangier version of this guy

I once plotted a murder. I never went through with it, but I spent months painstakingly imagining every detail, every eventuality. Every part of the plan had a contingency, and the contingencies had contingencies. I was certain that if I ever set the plan in motion, I could go through with it, and just as certain that I’d get away with it, if everything went to plan. But I never did it. As sure as I was that it was the best thing for both of us, I just couldn’t bring myself to kill my roommate’s dog.

The dog’s name was Thurston — actually Thurston Howl III — and he had been with my roommate for many years before we went in on a 3-bedroom house in Glen Park, the (at the time) great undiscovered neighborhood at the south edge of San Francisco. My roommate and I had worked together at a restaurant, and both found ourselves in need of housing: He was being evicted from a warehouse he had helped turn into a live/work performance space/disaster area, and I was growing weary of my studio apartment in the Tenderloin, which despite many positive qualities still insisted on being in the Tenderloin.

So we joined forces, and the house we found was a bit run down but architecturally typical (garage on the bottom, three-bedroom flat on top) and an absolute palace to the 23-year-old I was at the time. My new roommate, over the five years we both lived there, would prove to be unusually flinchy about tenant-landlord relations, preferring to either fix things himself or leave them alone rather than bother her, for fear that she’d suddenly raise the rent or kick us out or something — let’s just say that the San Francisco rental market changes people in ways I did not fully understand at the time. This tendency first revealed itself in relation to Thurston: The rental application asked if we had any pets, and the ad we’d replied to said “cats ok,” so he wrote a little essay in the margins, in a supplicating handwriting, in hopes that his dog would not prove to be a dealbreaker: “I have an old hound dog who sleeps a lot.”

This would prove to be true. What my new roommate left out was that the dog also shed a lot (and by a lot I mean enough to change the color of the carpet), suffered from severe arthritis and hip dysplasia, and smelled like a microwaved hot dog rolled in a marathon-worn sweat sock. He whined all the time, unprompted. He would lay in the front living room all day, moving only to stay in the sunny spot on the carpet, and where that lifestyle would have suited any of the other dogs I’ve known just fine, Thurston would let out a sustained, impossibly quiet, incredibly high-pitched whine, all day long. (ALL. DAY. LONG.) He could not be bothered to move at any time, seemed to be completely deaf (or at least totally immune to being yelled at by his owner), and let out the most pained, miserable sound I have ever heard any other living thing make if he was in any way pushed, pulled, lifted, or otherwise manhandled. The best way I can think to describe it is as a combination of a wounded seal and a coyote being struck with a crossbow bolt. Read More

Brooklyn’s New Team Drops The Ball

It’s just about this time every year that I get interested in pro basketball, when the regular season ends and the playoffs begin, bringing with them the stakes needed to make both me and the players interested in the outcome of the games. (Unfortunately, my adopted New York Knicks just got knocked out, so my interest may waver until later rounds.)

Here in Brooklyn, though, pro basketball is generating a whole different set of intrigues: with the end of the regular season, the so-far-from-making-the-playoffs-they-may-not-even be-allowed-to-watch-them-on-TV New Jersey Nets have officially become the Brooklyn Nets, and will soon take up residence in the $487 trillion Barclays Center, which has been under construction for the last 19 years.

It has been very interesting to watch this stadium being built, a day at a time, as I ride my bike past it heading to and from work. There was a whole lot of controversy surrounding its construction, to put it mildly: some shady eminent-domain land seizure was needed to accommodate the proposed stadium/low-income housing/shopping complex, displacing more than a few people from their homes, and they did not go without a very loud five-year legal battle to obstruct the project.

Once the courts found in favor of the developers (can you believe it?), they apparently felt free to drop some of the pretenses they’d used to sell the thing in the first place: It would not in fact be designed by rockstar architect Frank Gehry. The shopping complex was put on hold. The low-income housing was first turned into 16 luxury condo towers, then reduced to eight (construction start date yet to be announced), leaving the only thing the consortium presumably ever wanted: the Barclays Center, which would have been far less likely to get through the gauntlet of protest and zoning laws and ethical concerns and god knows what else is required to build a stadium not accompanied by promises of housing and job creation.  Read More

Rest In Peace, MC Adam Yauch

FILE: Beastie Boys' Yauch Has Cancerous Tumor, Tour Canceled

This was supposed to be a good day. I took an extra-long lunch break so I could take in The Avengers, a movie I’ve been looking forward to for the last 28 years or so. It was great, it met all my expectations and then some, and I left the theater euphoric and certain that the air outside the theater smelled just like the comic book shop I used to haunt when I was 12. I had a lovely bike ride up the west side bike path back to the office. It was a really nice day. And within a minute of sitting down at my desk, I’m in tears.

I don’t cry when celebrities die. Or, I never have before. Why should I? It’s not like they’re gonna cry for me. It’s not like I really know them. But this is hitting me hard. The death of Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys is sad — he was young, he has a young daughter, by all accounts he was a great guy in every way. He absolutely made an impact on my life: His music is literally the soundtrack to my high school and college years. But I never knew him, I never met him. It’s not like if a friend died.

I may not know the guy, but I do know the band. Everybody knows the band, especially those of us born in the 1970’s.

I think I saw the Beastie Boys more times than any other Big Famous Band. I saw them with Sonic Youth opening for them in some crappy little place, a wedding reception hall in Baltimore in 1992, right after Check Your Head was released, right before it broke and put them back on top — all four guys from Fugazi watched the show from the side of the stage. I saw them with The Roots and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion opening for them in 1995 — they brought out three full drum kits and all three played at once (which was awesome). I saw them at Lollapalooza in 1994 — they had Q-Tip join them on “Get It Together.” I saw them at the Tibetan Freedom Concert — Yauch’s baby — in 1996, in Golden Gate Park. That was a benefit show with two stages side by side and seemingly every great act around at that time. I couldn’t get in when they played a punk rock set under the name Quasar at the Bottom of the Hill in 1997, but I saw them in the round at the Oakland Coliseum in 1998 on the Hello Nasty tour — my brother flew out to go to that one with me. And after a long gap, I saw them one last time at Summer Stage in Central Park, front and center, in the summer of 2007, and it was probably the best I’d ever seen them.
Read More