Brooklyn Drinks and Goes Home

Hiatus. Well it…

Posted in Uncategorized by brooklyndrinksandgoeshome on May 7, 2012

Hiatus. Well it’s allowed, again.

Art fairs have got to be the absolute worst thing ever. Especially those that are run by union busting scabs whom I personally don’t have a problem with if they were at least a bit more organized and didn’t unintentionally hold everyone up to the point where I end up clocking out 13 hours after clocking in. That and the inflatable rat providing union protesters with their air horns that conveniently rest on their alien spore looking beer bellies.

Yeah, let’s catch up soon. 

A Man a Plan a…Wait, What Was I Talking About?

Posted in Uncategorized by brooklyndrinksandgoeshome on February 20, 2012

It’s frustrating to have a journal full of ideas and no way to spit them out on your computer screen, especially after you told like EVERYONE you’re going to regularly update your blog with extended semi-autobiographical stories of work and other obstacles that get in the way of my writing career or at least what’s left of it. Man, I’m finally starting to see why some of my co-workers get so resentful when they work a full-time schedule or when I have to yell at them to get back to work when they’re in the middle of exchanging ideas while I’m barely hanging on the back of a crate that’s centimeters from falling down a marble staircase. God, I’m such a dick. 

I recently dusted off my old Flickr account and found an old photo from 2006, December of 2006 to be exact. It was a handful of work friends standing outside of a local bar in my old Greenpoint neighborhood, half of them outside for a smoke break, the other half just hanging outside for the company, not complaining about the smoke and out of the half dozen or so in the frame, only one is aware of my camera, mockingly pushing his chest out, hands on his hips, proud smile. Hell, I could write a novel about the comradery amidst our co-workers alone, how a career in art handling wouldn’t be so bad as long as we had each other and I totally take that one Livejournal entry back earlier that year about finding a new career. That was almost six years ago and it’s funny to think how content I was at the time. 

Some of the people in this photo are no longer around: One had gotten fired for a DUI, one got married and had a kid with someone who made enough income to where he didn’t have to work again, one who moved out to the West Coast to do exactly what he does here for significantly less pay while the rest of us are still kicking around at the same place of employment while waiting to relive how good things were before. Goddammit, sometimes I hate that feeling of when you realize that years later, far removed and you never hear from anyone anymore. Does that mean I’m going to be nostalgic for this time right this second? God I hope not.

Intermission

Posted in Uncategorized by brooklyndrinksandgoeshome on February 7, 2012

I was on the road all last week in New England, two weeks before that in the arctic tundra of Minnesota and a particularly brutal work week in between that involved a lot of heavy lifting at an auction house. I mean seriously, what kind of asshole buys a collection of 15th century mahogany church choir pews that are about the size of a wall and could easily crumble into dust if you grab it in the wrong –which was like fucking all of it? I mean, for all I know, these things survived the black plague, but could be potentially destroyed by a human wrecking tornado klutz such as myself who still has no idea how he got into this whole art handling mess in the first place. But I digress.

Human Wrecking Tornado Klutz Who Has No Idea. That ought to be the title of my art handling memoir.

Still writing, but due to exhaustion and a co-worker who watches NCIS at top volume in our hotel room, it all comes out in a fragmented pile of turd; more so than usual.

So yeah, there’s a lot more to come and I promise that I’m not slacking like I was in 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, Etc. Oh yeah, comments, feedback, constructive criticism and recommendations for good chiropractor are always welcome.

Letters From a Made Up Ache

Posted in Uncategorized by brooklyndrinksandgoeshome on January 27, 2012

“So you want us to go back downtown to pick up a crate on West 55th and deliver it to Soho,” I said to our dispatcher Nick, repeating exactly what he said word for word, almost unintentionally mimicking his Queens accent.

“That’s what I said,” Nick said in his usual manner of flustered urgency. Bebo and Wendell, both prematurely ready for an early day, nodded their heads with their mouths agape, shrugged their arms and exhaled a tired “what the fuck” in unison, as if they rehearsed this earlier in the day.

“You got to be fucking kidding me,” Wendell said loud enough for Nick to hear him as he reached for my phone. “We’re halfway over the Queensboro Bridge.” Actually, we were stuck in Upper East Side Manhattan traffic courtesy of the never ending Second Avenue subway construction.

“I was trying to reach you all day to let you know you had an add on,” Nick said assertive enough for the three of us to hear from my cell. “You need to start answering your phones.”

“I didn’t know you called,” Wendell said not convincingly at all. “My cell phone usually doesn’t pick up in service elevators.”

“Oh, all three of you didn’t get my call because you were in an elevator,” Nick said with tone usually reserved for his eight year old.

Wendell looked over at Bebo and I for a non-verbal confirmation, as if we were standing around Nick’s desk.

“Did you guys get a call from Nick,” he asked in which Bebo and I shrugged our shoulders and shook our heads like we were also participating in his improvised play.

Nick let out a heavy sigh while I imagined him going through his usual frustrated mannerisms: Running his right hand over his thinning hairline, palming his face, pinching the space between his eyes and resting his elbow on his desk, forehead in the palm of his hand.

“Get down to Cirkers on the West Side. Pick up a fairly large crate. Take it down to Soho. You’re delivering to David Byrne’s apartment. The bill of lading information is at Cirkers. You’re going to uncrate and install whatever’s inside. If you have any questions, please call me on my cell. And if you can’t get through it’s probably because I’m in a fucking elevator.

Before Wendell could ask what exactly we were moving, Nick abruptly slammed the phone down.

“Fucking hate it when he does that,” Wendell said as he reached down to put my phone back in his pocket out of habit before apologetically giving it back to me while Bebo just looked straight ahead at the gridlocked traffic without saying a word and pointlessly moved the truck forward exactly one inch.

@@@

Because of the aforementioned construction and overly cautious drivers who are annually caught off guard by the first snow of the year, every fucking year, it took an hour to drive two miles across town to pick up, as it turned out, a crate containing a miniature pipe organ of all things.When we finally made it to our stop in Soho an hour later, it was already mid-afternoon with groggy apathy way settled into our collective morale. The only obstacle in the way of finishing what we hoped would be our last job of the day was the service elevator to what we thought was David Byrne’s apartment when in fact, it was the offices of his Luka Bop record label. Actually, “service elevator” was way too generous of a description as it was the size of a telephone booth –commonly found in most century old Manhattan buildings, and could barely fit half of a person if they sucked in their stomach, let alone a pipe organ. This only meant a more grueling, painful alternative: The stairway.

Our initial reaction is to usually refuse by casually observing the time and how we’re suppose to be at our next job a half ‘n hour ago or if we’re really feeling ambitious, a long detailed story about a back injury from a prior job way back when. This time however, either because of unusually stubborn pride or because we shamelessly wanted to impress Davie Byrne, Wendell agreed that we could easily schlepp this crate up a couple flights of stairs no problem, which was annoying, but no one protested or conveniently remembered a ruptured vertebrae either.

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“So wait, wait a second,” Jerry said over the phone with what sounded like a sandwich of some sort in his mouth. “You want me to drop everything and drive all the way down to Soho and help you lift a large, heavy crate up multiple flights of stairs.” There was a half joking tone in his voice that made Wendell look partially concerned behind his smirk.

“I mean, if you guys aren’t busy,” he said. “We need help with this one thing, that’s all.”

“You mean like that one time you helped me and Dale with that marble table top at that second floor storage warehouse in Greenpoint?”

Wendell stood with his mouth slightly open, slowly realizing that he wasn’t joking after all.

“You guys got it down by the time we got there,” Wendell said.

“Or how about that time you got out of the truck to help us with that unframed Marilyn Minter plexiglass mounted c-print that we had to ride on top of the elevator at her studio? Remember that fun? Oh wait, you don’t because you didn’t get out of the truck to help us.”

“I had to stay with it because I didn’t want us to get towed, Jerry,” Wendell snapped with a reminder of that one time he left an unattended truck in a no parking zone a few years back.

“As much as I’d love to cancel my lunch break early and repay you for all the times you’ve so generously went out of your way for me…” Jerry pause to slowly take a sip of something. “Go fuck yourself,” and abruptly hung up.

“You’re fucking kidding me right,” Wendell said into his empty cell phone while Bebo and I couldn’t help but laugh.

Dejected from getting hung up on for the second time today, Wendell turned back to face up the three straight flights of stairs of where the crate had to go and mentally considered asking the very pretty, nicely dressed receptionist for help who was barely five feet in heels and from the inhaler on her desk, quite possibly asthmatic. Instead, he turned back to the front of the crate, literally rolled up his sleeves, slightly tilted the front of it by the handle while Bebo and I put our hands on each bottom back corner.

“All right,” Bebo said with an inhale, “A one, a two a three son-of-a-bitch-fucking-heavy-fuck.”

With a slight grunt, the three of us fast walked up the stairs, Wendell carefully leaning back to help balance out the weight while Bebo and I extended our arms so as our shoulders instead of our backs would take the brunt of the stress.

“You guys got it,” Wendell asked loudly through his teeth while our feet stomped on the stairs.

“Yeah,” Bebo and I said in unison as we plowed along with our heavy breathing.

By the time we made it to the third floor, the receptionist peeked her head out to see what the commotion was about and nearly got her head taken off amidst our rush. Carefully placing it on the ground, we slowly squatted down with the crate and dramatically leaned against the wall with an exhale, too monumentally spent to notice that it wasn’t going to fit through the front door.

“This fit last time we took it out of here,” the receptionist said partially annoyed from inside the office. “Do you guys need a glass of water or anything?”

Before any of us could respond, David Byrne’s head popped out from another room behind her and out of reflex, the three of us stood up in attention, clearly starstruck by what we saw while she casually turned to see what he wanted.

“Hey Natalie, have you seen my bike helmet,” he asked. Before she could answer, Bebo piped in a snort.

“Damn, nigga talks like he sings,” he said unintentionally loud enough for everyone to hear. Wendell, with his hand over his face, tried to his quiet laugh and beet red face while I looked over to the side, trying to avoid any additional awkwardness.

“It’s by the service elevator,” she said before turning back to us. “Do you guys have a drill or anything?”

“Yeah, we’ll be right back,” Wendell said quickly and turned back downstairs with Bebo before I could say anything. Not knowing what else to do besides wait for them, I leaned my elbows back on the crate and faked a yawn.

“So yeah, if you still have that glass of water,” I said just to fill in the silence.

Natalie nodded her head and turned away just as David Byrne popped out again, this time with his bike and helmet. He was about to walk through the front door with his head down at his cell phone before finally noticing his in the way crate delivery and looked up at me. We both acknowledged each other with a friendly nod and he slowly turned back towards the service elevator with his bike pulled upright so he could fit inside when it eventually arrived.

Elevators and Gridlock

Posted in Uncategorized by brooklyndrinksandgoeshome on January 16, 2012

Wendell finally got his pork dumpling breakfast, eight for two dollars over at the Dumpling House on Eldridge and Broome while Bebo and his pre-ulcer settled on a 50 cent kim-chee free sesame pancakes and I stayed in the truck. Seeing that the only space available was a no parking tow away zone, there was less of a risk that we were going to get towed with a haul full of Richard Prince paintings (again) as long as I sat in the middle seat. It also didn’t help that Eldridge Street was built for horse carriages and barely big enough for a Hybrid, let alone a giant Ryder truck that took up half of this one-way street while illegally parked was one of two reasons why I hated stopping here for the Unofficial Art Handlers Breakfast of Champions. The other being how this place was always way out of our way for any scheduled pick ups or deliveries because most galleries didn’t want to be in a surrounding neighborhood with its uncanny smell of cigarettes and outdoor fish markets. A pit stop here in between jobs usually meant that we were going to be behind schedule for the rest of our day which was eventually followed by an irate phone call from our dispatcher Nick which in turn gave Bebo and Wendell all the more reason to take their time and enjoy their mid-morning pre-lunch break snack. This was much to the chagrin of Eldridge Street traffic which had been blasting their horns for a good fifteen minutes with a blockage of three going on four blocks deep.

“The fuck, all these dudes can get through,” Bebo said and he climbed into the drivers seat, sesame pancake in one hand, Nos energy drink tallboy in the other. Actually, they couldn’t, but I wasn’t about to correct his parking skills or depth perception.

Wendell opened the passenger door and climbed in while he held a small open styrofoam container with a fork sticking up from his last dumpling covered in Sriracha sauce while ignoring the choir of car horns behind him. With his door still wide open, he looked down at his vibrating Blackberry for a second and casually put it back in his pocket without any reaction; this non-action only meant that Nick tried calling him to see where we were. The aforementioned horns were muffled when Wendell finally shut his door and we were off due north towards the Upper East Side just as Bebo’s cell phone started to ring.

“Don’t he know I’m driving today,” Bebo said. He let out a frustrated sigh and hit the mute button from the outside of his jeans. Driving with any cell phone activity, especially with a commercial vehicle meant an instant 2500 dollar ticket, 11,000 fine for our company, ten points on your license and more than likely, an instant termination.

Then, after a minute of silence aside from the occasional black Lincoln town car gypsy cab –still miffed from the mini-gridlock traffic we cause in Chinatown, sped up passed us with a “fuck you” honk, my phone started to ring. Without even taking my phone out, I knew it was Nick trying to reach me as well. This non-emergency either meant a grilling of our location, an estimated time arrival for our next job or worst case scenario, another additional pick-up somewhere in a far off strange place like the JFK cargo terminals. Either way, by the second ring, Bebo and Wendell both shot me a side glance to see if I was going to answer and out of peer pressure, I turned my phone off.

@@@

By the time we arrived at Gagosian an hour later, the snow had stopped and there was a dull, muddy brown pile of slush between the street and the sidewalk which Wendell upon sight took off his scarf and sport coat so not to dirty them up. Along with two Fed Ex and a Fresh Direct truck parked along the left side of Madison Avenue, we had no choice but to double park, thus turning a busy three lane street into two and causing our second Manhattan traffic snag of the day.

The Richard Princes were not as big and heavy as the Chuck Close prints from earlier, but it still took two of us to lift them over the now frozen piles of brown slush without slipping and breaking our necks or worse, the art. Bebo stood by the open truck unflinchingly as cabs zipped by inches from his belly and waited for us to come back for the second piece.

Despite the size of the cardboard wrapped works, both Prince’s along with the two of us could have easily fit in the front passenger elevator, but because Wendell and I were technically in the service industry, we always had to take the service elevator for pick ups and deliveries for almost every Manhattan high rise building. Nothing made you feel more like a second rate person, as if you were just hidden away trash from the wealthy residents of any metropolitan city. It’s demeaning but it’s also something you have to deal with and try not take personally as if it’s part of your daily routine. There have been many attempts over the years to take art through the front door, only to be sent back by an overzealous doorman who, in all fairness, is only doing his job. A few years ago, Bebo once tried to sneak out through the main lobby after a delivery in a Fifth Avenue luxury apartment, only to see the doorman get chewed out and fired by the time he was halfway out of the revolving front door. It’s something he’s since always felt guilty about made sure to retell this story every time a co-worker griped about having to go through the service entrance.

By the time we came back for the second piece, Wendell was clearly shivering from the cold as he only wore a three button black thermal sweater while Bebo confronted a traffic cop who was printing out a ticket for obstruction of traffic and being within ten feet from a fire hydrant. In the case of the former violation, our company usually paid for that as it’s sometimes unavoidable, and more importantly, they can easily sneak the fine into an invoice under “additional labor fees.” Unfortunately for Bebo, who was the scheduled driver that day, he would have to pay for the later offense through our employers usual method of taking it out of his next paycheck.

“Fuck that, you call that 10 feel,” Bebo yelled as he took photos of the distance between our truck and fire hydrant with his cell phone. “You ain’t doing your job right.”

The traffic cop, a small unflappable 50 something looking Indian woman who stood no high than five foot four, didn’t look up as she took two tickets along with the familiar bright orange envelope and placed it under his left windshield.

“What’s your badge number,” Bebo said as he too another photo. “Cause I’m going to take this court.” Wendell and I rolled our eyes, carefully took the second piece, closed the back door and quickly moved towards Gagosian’s back entrance on 77th street.

@@@

By the time we finished our delivery and climbed back into the truck, we noticed on our paper work that we actually had three Richard Prince’s to deliver to the gallery instead of two. This meant a good hour of inconspicuously sneaking back to our warehouse, looking for another lost work and bolting back to Gagosian without any of our supervisors noticing all while trying to fudge our schedule to make it look as if one job took 40 minutes instead of half the day.

“That’s fucking great,” Wendell groaned. “Makes me feel like I have a masters degree.”

Bebo, still fuming about his ticket ignored Wendell, looked over from his drivers seat and started poking at the bill of lading in my hand.

“Nah, it’s here. It’s in a bin box in the back, little guy.” The size of the piece was only nine inches by twelve inches, a little bit bigger than a sheet of paper.

“I got this,” Wendell said as he put on his sport coat. “I’ll be back in a second,” which was code for “I’m going through the front door.”

“Oh hell no,” Bebo hissed. “No you’re not. You ain’t getting no nigga fired, not while I’m here. No way.”

“No one’s going to get fired,” Wendell calmly said as he whipped his black scarf around his neck for the second time today and reached for his bag. “I’m not going back through the service again, it’s fucking degrading.” Before anyone of us could say anything, he slammed the door and headed towards the back of the truck again while Bebo dramatically exhaled through his nose and shook his head disapprovingly.

Looking more like a resident of an Upper East Side penthouse or at least someone significantly more important than an art schlepper, Wendell headed towards the front door with his carry-on bag that he held like a suitcase in one hand and the small cardboard wrapped Prince in the other. Two minutes later, he came back with his delivery accomplished and a big shit eating grin as if he successfully restored his dignity for the day, even Bebo couldn’t help but laugh.

“Nick tried calling me again,” Wendell said, still glowing from this personal victory as the truck started. “Wait until we cross over the Queensboro and check in with him.”

Having been here for several years longer than Wendell, who’d only been here for several months himself, being told what to instantly put Bebo back into a funk. We started to head back towards Queens, orange parking ticket envelope still flapping on the windshield like a nagging fail-flag, while I fidgeted with my cell phone, eagerly awaiting whatever bad news our dispatcher had that was going to sink whatever morale was left in our truck. I looked down at the clock radio, it was only 1:06 in the afternoon.

Pork Dumplings For Breakfast

Posted in Blogroll by brooklyndrinksandgoeshome on January 12, 2012

First thing in the morning, Bebo, Wendell and myself were scheduled to move several unnecessarily large Chuck Close prints to, well, Chuck Close’s studio in the Lower East Side Manhattan, which unfortunately is not as glamorous as it sounds. It usually takes two people to move his larger works (90 something inches high by 80 something inches in length) that are always framed under plexi glass and in the case of this particular morning, there were all stuffed in two European imported crates that made them practically immobile. Courtesy of a Berlin art handling company called Frolsch, their trademark wooden containers have ultra-thin brass handles that can easily bruise your hand from trying to lift it on our furniture dollies. Typically, the phrase “you have to move a Frolsch crate” usually means an upcoming bad day or at least a mental preparation on how to file a workman’s comp case.

At the clients request –more than likely, Close’s assistants, they wanted us to uncrate the works, haul each print into his studio, remove the plastic wrapping and condition inspect them just to see if they were in as good of a condition as they were before being shipped to Berlin however many years ago. And, because of the value of said work with the potential of Chuck Close himself making an appearance, Wendell decided the day before that it would be in our best professional interest to uncrate everything inside the truck after we arrived at his studio. In the interest of convenience, it actually would have been easier to open them up at our warehouse and just taking the prints there instead of lugging everything in the bitter fucking cold of this particularly snowy January morning. Unfortunately, Wendell was given the position of Head Local Technician on the account of his 10 plus years art handling experience at various trucking companies and galleries in New York City and Texas along with his MFA in Print Making and brief stint as a University of Texas Denton adjunct professor. So yeah, he was eager to impress Chuck Close with his professionalism and portfolio that he’ll just happen to have on him; he also arrived after Bebo and I did all the heavy lifting 45 minutes after he was suppose to arrive, which was his usual arrival time anyway.

At around 9:45, Wendell finally arrived on the dock with his standard black pants, black turtleneck, brown corduroy sports coat with dark brown elbow pads and a black scarf that he always whipped around his neck upon entrance, a habit everyone else’s noticed except him. Along with his ancient black leather messenger bag that contained his portable portfolio of recent works just in case if one of the hundred or so galleries we delivered to Manhattan everyday was interested, Wendell’s gave off an air of dignity that he wasn’t just a schlepper, but a working artist who’s had openings in Little Rock and Albany and he’ll be more than happy to tell you about how you have to wear a protective mask in his studio because of his choice materials of polyurethane and (“toxic”) resin. Not surprisingly, an academia aura can also come across as arrogance that could potentially rub people the wrong way when if fact, he was no better than the rest of these palookas who are doing the exact same job and make just as much, if not more than you. It also didn’t help that he was still bombed from the night before and insisted on driving.

Bebo snorted, shook his head, fast walked over to the truck and impatiently pulled it out of the dock before Wendell and I quietly followed, hopped in the passenger seats and finally drove off to the Lower East Side.

Halfway over the Williamsburg Bridge, Wendell asked if we could stop at The Dumpling House in Chinatown. His eyes were bloodshot and his breath smelled of aged scotch.

“Naw, that’s too far out of the way and we’re already running late,” Bebo said calmly.

“Why don’t you let me drive and we’ll get there in no time,” Wendell said half jokingly.

“How about you sit on my lap and you can steer while I control the pedals,” he said sharply.

An awkward silence followed in mid-morning traffic as we rolled onto Delancy Street in Manhattan with Wendell, finally sensing tension that he brought on, took a deep exhale through his nose and reached in his bag for an opened wax paper envelope of powered caffeine and aspirin. Rumored to be only available in his home state of Virginia and tasted like complete ass, Wendell shot back the mixture, winced as he quickly downed half a bottle of water and leaned his head back for an attempted power nap before arriving at Chuck Close’s studio good as new.

@@@

Much to our surprise, Chuck Close was actually at his studio and wasn’t displeased that we were running an hour behind schedule; as a matter of fact, he was downright delightful as he offered us coffee and tea once he saw our snow covered clothes. Later on as Bebo and I opened up the crates and carefully hauled his prints along the icy sidewalk, Wendell approached Chuck like a door to door salesman with his worn leather messenger bag.

“I’m Wendell, nice to meet you,” he said while carefully trying not to stand too close to Chuck. Then, in a moment either out of nervousness or habit or both, Wendell reached in to shake his hand, momentarily forgetting about his limited mobility of being a quadriplegic. He quickly reached back, looked down, nervously scratched the back of his head and defeatedly asked where he wanted us to place everything.

Unfortunately, after we delivered, unwrapped and inspected everything, it turns out we didn’t have the exact print he was looking for as it was suppose to be a birthday gift for a friend. This could have either meant that we grabbed the wrong crate (not possible as our bill of lading number match the numbers on our crate), someone in our storage warehouse mislabeled something or the missing work was still in Germany (when in doubt, blame the import/export carriers). Unless if it was the later, this problem was easily solvable with a couple quick phone calls and some sleuth work from our warehouse manager and besides, Chuck didn’t seem to mind that much. Still, Wendell, with his messenger bag still in hand approached the situation very seriously or was still trying to make up for his earlier embarrassment.

“We very sorry about this,” he said. “We’ll make sure this doesn’t happen again and we’ll immediately contact you once we find out where it is.”

Chuck Close looked up from his chair and after a brief pause, politely smiled and thank him for his help before the three of us headed back to our truck.

“Nothing like an apology to Chuck Close to start off your day,” Wendell said in a frustrated tone after he climbed in the passenger seat.

“Shut the fuck up,” Bebo quietly said under his breath as he started the truck and headed towards our next job somewhere in the Upper East Side.

“But hey, I still want to get some pork dumplings,” Wendell said. “We deserve some breakfast after that clusterfuck of a morning.”

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Light Blue Collar Half-Fiction

Posted in Uncategorized by brooklyndrinksandgoeshome on January 9, 2012

I recently finished re-reading Clockers by Richard Price sometime before New Years Eve, which if anything, has inspired me to try and crack the genre of writing mystery novels, or at least crime novels with average joe characters who are more motivated by trying to make ends meet than the criminal justice system. Not that I’m expecting this to be easy; as much as I’ve blazed through what I call “Airport Shop Noir” or poorly written crime thrillers that were more than likely delegated down young adult fiction, you have your Prince’s, or your Lehane’s or your Ellroy’s who set the bar and challenge you to write something just as inspiring. I would include Elmore Leonard on this list (gotta give Detroit boys respect, especially those who mention Downriver, Michigan landmarks like the Grosse Ile pay bridge), but I’ve only read Killshot which, frankly, I probably could have picked a better first read.

Anyway, my co-worker Bebo (not his real name like most of my co-workers whom I’m planning on writing about) gave me his copy of Gangbusters, by New York Daily News crime reporter Michael Stone which I’m trying to plow through before the end of this week (I’m a slow reader, give me a break). It came out in 2000 and reads like a clunky second rate novelization of The Wire if it took place in The Bronx and the drug dealers were from the Dominican Republic. Dozens of character in the police department, DA, witnesses, along with gang members with different affiliations, street names along with their real names only makes for more of a confusing read that might have benefitted with some pictures to place a face with the various personalities and graft charts to see who ranked where on both sides of the law.

As I paged through Gangbusters in the company box truck while waiting for a cargo load of art from JFK one day, Bebo made sure to tell me that his cousins were mentioned somewhere in there as muscle for The Wild Cowboys, the main gang discussed in this book (along with the Jheri Curls and a group of Jamaican drug runners whom Stone just refereed to as “The Jamaicans”). I asked what their role was in the gang and smirked about how they had a lot of bodies on them. When I asked how many, he just started to laugh.

“Yeah man, they got a lot of bodies on them,” he chuckled. “A LOT.”

Jerry, who sat in the middle seat between us glanced up blankly from his iPad game of Angry Birds as if he was about to say something, then looked back down and kept quiet out of his newfound fear of our co-worker.

Art handling seems to be the only job I’ve personally experienced that bridges the gap between those who grew up in inner city poverty and well off suburban kids who’re under the strain of student loan debt courtesy of their parents who either couldn’t afford the 80 to 90 thousand dollar tuition fees or didn’t want to front said bill for a worthless masters degree in fine arts. And nothing’s more apparent than seeing a handful of co-workers (mostly from Pratt) who’ve have to rough it for 16 to 18 an hour for driving a giant truck in New York City, hauling giant, heavy works of art for artists more successful than us or worse, millionaire collectors who’ve sometimes made us hang abstract work upside down or sideways because they said it looks better that way. Meanwhile, you’re trying to keep up with your aforementioned student loan debts while paying way too much in rent for your overpriced loft and studio that you have to share with several other artist types somewhere in the ass end of Red Hook, Brooklyn that’s only accessible by a barely functional bus line before eventually giving it all up in frustration to move back to your midwestern hometown and (if you’re lucky) find work at either a grocery store or substitute teacher. Sometimes you can see the resentment just seethe off of someone like steam.

Then you have people like Bebo who just stumbled into art handling through a cousin of his after time spent in jail for possession (where he eventually earned his GED) and an extended stint in rehab for crack addiction. He has two teenage daughters who live with their mom somewhere in Queens that he barely gets to see while trying to save up and move from the tenement high rises buildings he grew up in the south Bronx. A few weeks ago, he came into work sporting a cast on his right hand from breaking it on some would-be muggers jaw and later on that day while loading a giant Miro from the Guggenheim, turned towards a latte drinking, recent college grad investment banker looking type in a three piece suit who started filming us with his iPhone and brought South Bronx inches from his face on the corner of 86th and 5th with an ear piercing “THA FUCK YOU LOOKIN’ AT” that made everyone around him flinch. Since then, Bebo’s been put on the late-night airport pick up shift that keeps him far away from museums after the Guggenheim registrar complained about our us being “too ghetto.”

What brings people like Jerry and Bebo together in art handling is that they’re both victims of a faulty system that leads to dead end jobs. Physical brain dead labor with master degrees equals to a new line of work I’ve called Light-Blue collar that especially rings true amidst this recession. Sure, you could verbalize your dissertation on Gorky’s color scheme as he experimented briefly with cubism, but that’s not going to help you carry one of his works up ten flights of stairs in an Upper East Side highrise because the damn thing wont fit in the commercial elevator; so shut your pie hole Artforum and dissertate your back into this heavy frame.

“You guys make me mad,” he said to Jerry and I after we returned from JFK and clocked out. “You think if I had a college degree I’d be fucking around with a job like this?”

“I only do this to keep in touch with the little people,” Jerry quipped as he got on his bike and rode off in the snowy weather towards his Red Hook loft that he shares with five other people.

“I’m only doing this as research for my upcoming novel,” I said while getting on my own bike. “Yep, still in the research phase, seven years later.”

“Whatever,” Bebo huffed before he reached in for a goodbye hug. “I need to go back to school for rehab counseling.”

And that’s another thing: We’re not all here because we’re all really into art handling, but because we’re in transition for something bigger and better along the way, whatever that is. Jerry, like most of my co-workers with a masters degree in fine arts and crushing life-long student loan debt, wants to be a successful painter while Bebo wants to help others so they don’t make the same mistakes he did when he was younger. As for myself? Well, I’m still in the researching phase.

Still a Bad Scene, Still Everyone’s Fault

Posted in Uncategorized by brooklyndrinksandgoeshome on January 8, 2012

It’s been a few years since I earned my BA in journalism (almost 14 to be exact) and I’ve met, worked under and studied with many of editors, peer groups and college professors to try and brush up on what’s left of my non-existent writing career these days. Not that I see my foot back in the full-time door of reporting or proofreading in New York (I blame over competition of NYU grads who are willing to work for free and the blogosphere) let alone Detroit (where the recession hit before it was cool anywhere else), but as I’ve mentioned before, writing has consistently been the only thing that’s made me happy over the years no matter how many times I’ve tried to find the means move on to something else , so it would be nice to look as if I know what I’m doing every now and then.

Now I’m not going to go on another long rant on former editors who’ve never run my stories after weeks of research and writing or worse, rewrote them without my consent, nor am I taking a stand on the worthlessness of paid writers groups that wont allow open constructive criticism in order to not hurt anyones feelings so that they can continue to churn out unreadable dribble (not that I’m perfect myself, but I’m looking at you Gotham Writers Workshop). Instead, I will bring up one of the best lines of advice at least when it comes to writing creative non-fiction (whatever that means). It was just this random zine review in the back pages of Maximum Rock ‘n Roll on some kids xeroxed personal misadventures that got a mixed review because said author didn’t do anything interesting enough to warrant an autobiographical fanzine in the first place. Sort of the equivalence of being at party and you’re trapped in a corner by someone who’s taking forever to tell their long boring, monotone story with lots of scenic routes that goes absolutely nowhere (sort of like these last couple of paragraphs, but the only difference is that you wont come across as rude if you just stop reading this). Hey wait, where’re you going…

So yeah, do interesting things and write about them and write about it in ways that make your life seem way more interesting than it actually is. Or if it comes down to it, live vicariously through others who have a more exciting life than yourself because all you do is work, eat take-out and watch Netflix. I’m also going to personally add “get colds” and “go on inhumanly awkward dates through on-line dating sites,” because clearly, that’s been a big part of my life these last few months, but I digress.

As for what else there is to write about besides writing about how I don’t write anymore? Well I can honestly tell you that most of what I write I end up immediately throwing out because I don’t think it’s worth taking up space on the blogosphere; you know, cause there’s only so much room out there. It’s common to be you’re own worst editor which is why it takes me so long to update this super-important-must-read blog, but darn it I’m still trying. It’s either this or truck drive through arctic Minnesota in the middle of winter which, uh, I’m about to do in a couple weeks.

Hipster-Itis

Posted in Uncategorized by brooklyndrinksandgoeshome on January 2, 2012

I came home around 7:30 last night after a good ten hour drive from Detroit to find my apartment with the suspicious yet familiar smell of stale cigarette smoke, half empty beer cans that were left out for about a week and an unwashed wet suit that use to hang in our living room after a weekend long surf jaunt on Rockaway Beach. This was the distinct territorial markings of my ex-roommate Jake whom, despite his issues of cleanliness, wasn’t the worst roommate I ever had, but it still wasn’t comforting to know that he’ll always have a stinky presence at my apartment almost a year after he moved out. I made a mental note to buy Lysol again, thanked the gods for global warming as I opened the living room window for 50 degrees air circulation from outside and made another mental note that he stilled owed me money in back rent. Damnit, I thought I would be done with this roommate stuff by the time I was 35, but no, I just had to move to New York City with a further assurance that I’ll never able to afford to live on my own, ever.

Several hours and five beers later, I found myself at Park Slope hipster bar called Barfour with two 60 something year old women who were trying to molest me inside a photo booth, and they wouldn’t take no for an answer. Like a real life Patsy and Edina from Absolutely Fabulous, they were both covered in smeared make up and glitter and wore matching rhinestone miniskirts that got hiked up even farther while trying to sit on my lap. Amidst the melee of trying to squirm away, I “accidentally” unplugged the machine and made my escape to A. and L. while the two flappers went to get their three dollars back at the bar and promptly forgot about the whole thing as they felt up another patron on the dance floor who was young enough to be their grandson.

“This is definitely better than last year,” I yelled to A. while hip-hop blasted in the background.

“Fuck that,” A. blurted, “we gotta get you laid.” Clearly mishearing what I said, he quickly nudged some girl over in my direction with a scowl on her face and a noticeable dark smudge under her nose.

“Hi, I’m Mike” I said unintentionally defensive and weary.

“Hi, I’m Natalie and are you on coke?”

“No, I don’t do drugs.” I get this question surprisingly a lot because of my fidgety, nervous manner that’s unfortunately been with me since I was three.

“Are you sure? Cause I think you’re lying.” She then asked me two more times if I was on coke/Xanax or any other uppers. Nope. Most certainly not. By the forth time she asked, it dawned on me that she actually wanted me to offer her whatever I was on.

I looked over back to A. and asked him if he was trying to get me killed.

“I’m trying to get you laid,” Mister Love Guru blurted out again. I swear, he said more than this during the evening.

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On the way back home, the weather way eerily perfect for biking as I was screaming happy new year to anyone within ear shot like some call and response holiday mascot to eventually, passing out random hi-fives to the Hasids in South Williamsburg. This makes me feel like I’m doing a good deed of some sort: Cheering up someone’s mediocre start of the year holiday even if my super cheery demeanor comes across as if I need an off switch. Whatever, it’s 2012 and according to a handful of conspiracy theorists and Mayan archeologists, our time here is limited but that’s not an excuse to start doing interesting things or updating this journal more than once a year.

The entire newspaper industry is in dire straits not too long after I stopped writing wrestling articles and shitty diner reviews in far off Detroit suburbs. Coincidence?

Posted in Uncategorized by brooklyndrinksandgoeshome on February 8, 2010

What it takes for me to actually get anything done, whether if it’s reading through an issue of The New Yorker, running several miles, being on time for work, etc, has now involved me putting a block on certain time wasting Internet sites that have only contributed to my deteriorating attention span. As corny as it sounds, it is going to be hard to break out of this comforting habit –already feeling withdraws as I fucking live for the instant gratification of those little red tab on the bottom right hand corner of my Facebook screen. I’ve also blocked Youtube, which is like instant television of whatever I want to watch, whether if it’s Adlai Stevenson speeches from his 1956 election, BBC television programs that’ll never be imported to American programming, (QI and Never Mind The Buzzcocks for example), live clips of The Specials on Saturday Night Live or a cop who accidentally shot himself in the leg while giving a classroom presentation on gun safety. Of course, I would proved you dear readers with an accompanying link to each clip, but hey, what can I do? I’m locked out. Insert sad trombone music here.

So a lot has happened and hasn’t happened in the last several months or so. For awhile, I was all gun ho on looking into a new graduate program on urban planning/geography, which had put me in an obnoxiously good mood for a couple of weeks as I thought I finally found my calling, at least until I got either bored with the idea (usual standard for any bright idea I have when it comes to my future) or realized that doing any sort of public service job after graduation would involve the absolute horror of dealing with people. It certainly made for an awkward evening at a recent Christmas Eve party when my old creative writing professor asked me in front of all my old classmates how my new life direction was going, and I had to put on a my best crooked smile and aw schucks tone with, “Nope, still driving a truck,” without sounding too much like Winne The Pooh’s mopey friend Eeyore. I was also going to add the recent 10 percent pay cut/cherry on top at my place of employment, but I quickly changed the subject as I didn’t want to completely depress the shit out of myself and everyone else in the room.

To be fair, I did write bits and pieces of entries that were never finished along with a couple of travel journals that I’ve been putting off for the last couple of years. I’ve also tried to contact a certain New York City gossip site to propose a column on what it’s like to be a New York City art handler (provided, they over looked my complete lack of art history knowledge), but without much of a shocker, I never heard back from the editor which if anything, made me look at the calender to see if this was 2002 when proposal rejections from newspapers where as common for me as breathing. Now the entire newspaper industry is in dire straits not too long after I stopped writing wrestling articles and shitty diner reviews in far off Detroit suburbs. Coincidence?

Not wanting to just toss away a very part time hobby, I am going to polish off and post most of these unused entries that were meant to be a part of something bigger. Damn exciting, eh? Sort of like J.D. Salinger’s inevitable posthumous collection of unpublished short stories and letters minus the cease and desist orders; that and the fact that no one really gives a shit except me.

Judging by the Best of 2007 list, I think this was written two February’s ago and I’d like to think my taste in music has changed a bit since then. Pissed Jeans was my favorite album that year? And fucking Be Your Own Pet? What was I thinking? And I don’t remember what that Busy Signals record sounds like as I think I only listened to it once.

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Ah, vacation. It’s the only time where I allow myself to do absolutely nothing and be okay with it. And when I say “vacation,” I mean sit in front of my parents computer, drink copious amounts of (free) coffee, listen to my mom’s operating room nursing horror stories (“His blood clots were dripping all over the floor like overripe blueberries and I though, ‘aw geez, what a mess'”) occasionally go walking with the rents, chase my niece around the house and ponder how nice life would be if it could just stay like that if I wasn’t so gosh darn hyper self-critical. On my last day before the 12 hour drive back to New York City, I brought up the possibility of moving back home as long as I can loaf around in a bathrobe all day, much like The Dude from The Big Lebowski, instead of going out and getting a job. My dad, who probably thought of my 40 year old uncle who still lives with my grandma, cringed and gave me a resounded no. Another permanent vacation gone up in smoke.

Downriver, Michigan. Blue Collarvania. An hour long special episode of Cops waiting to happen. Home. I really do glorify that place as a visitor while conveniently forgetting how miserable I was when I actually lived there a few years back. In a way, despite how the art house theaters and fancy coffee shops don’t seem to last that long, a lot does go on there that never seems to go beyond the community of cities that were built after the post-War industrial boom. Sure, there’s some history here and there –like how smugglers from Wyandotte would drive cars over the frozen Detroit River to Canada for hooch during winter time Prohibition, but what stands out more than anywhere else is the bonding of friends who still keep in touch over the years.

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Some of My Favorite Releases of 2007 That Will Not Be Ranked Because Almost All of These Releases Were in The Number One Spot at One Point Throughout The Last Couple of Years.

Pissed Jeans –S/T
The National –Boxer
Dean Dirg–Raus
J-Church –The Horror of Life
Chinese Telephones –S/T
Ben Weasel –These Ones Are Bitter
Budos Band –III
Modest Mouse –We Were Dead Before…
Be Your Own Pet –Get Awkward
Battles –Mirrored
Big Business –Here Come The Water Works
The Busy Signals –S/T
Feist –The Remainder
His Name is Alive –Sweet Earth Flower: A Tribute to Marion Brown