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And now, for something completely different

Terry at Panorama

Terry at Panorama (looking like somebody just farted!).

An "Oil Painting" at the Bank Cafe

An "Oil Painting" at the Bank Cafe.

9/2/2003 - Changes

Well, things have changed since my last effort here - I'll explain the Monty Python picture in due course.

Di and I reached a kind of impasse. Turned out that I was feeling that it was expected for me to go to her place after work everyday, and be there at weekends. Di on the other hand was feeling that I should spend more time at my own place, and we should date. Then of course, stress effects everything else, and things go downhill. Eventually she sent me away for the weekend to decide what I wanted to do, and I willingly agreed. It wasn't a happy or comfortable relationship at that point.

So on the Friday night I went back to 29th Street, and had a quiet evening getting up to date with bills and such, and investigating a couple of the local bars. I woke on the Saturday morning, and noticed that I was actually relaxed and happy. That was the point at which I knew I was probably not going back.

I pottered around, had a bacon and egg sandwich at the cafe round the corner, and tidied up the apartment. My intention for the day was to drive to Paramus in New Jersey to look for a new pair of cowboy boots at a shop there that specializes in them. About 12 noon, on an impulse, I phoned Terry. Terry got a cryptic reference in the January issue. She's of combo black/native american heritage, age 43, and she's the woman I lived with for about 2 years after I left Lynn, so we're far from strangers. She'd called me at work earlier in the week making conciliatory noises. I asked if she fancied a ride into NJ to do some shopping, and she said sure.

We had a pleasant afternoon. Ate some oysters and other marine creatures at a restaurant at Riverside Square on the way, and managed to find me a new pair of boots that actually fit me. I have a large collection of cowboy boots that are too small! Needless to say, Terry found a pair of boots she liked too, so she got them as a belated Christmas present. Later in the week another pair she'd looked at arrived by UPS.

That evening we had a drink at Panorama, a restaurent and bar that appears to be Terry's second home, then went to see "Gangs of New York" at a cinema at 86th Street and 3rd Ave. Terry lives at 95th and 2nd. I didn't like the movie all that well, but the company was pleasant. We went back to her apartment after, and needless to say I didn't make it back to 29th Street. The Monty Python picture was sneaked by Terry the next morning while I was trying to get her somewhat elderly laptop to boot up properly.

We spent a quiet Sunday pottering about the city, and went to the movies again, this time to "Lord of the Rings" (second time for me, but Terry hadn't seen it). I enjoyed that better, but I regret the fact that Peter Jackson chose to add so much inaccurate material to the film interpretation of the Two Towers. To keep things even, Terry came back to 29th Street, since it's quicker for me to get to work from there on a Monday morning. The "Oil Painting" picture is from that night. The girl appeared at the serving hatch at the back of the bar at the Bank Cafe at the end of 30th Street near where I live. Unfortunately the C50 auto-focus didn't pick her up properly, but I think the overall effect is interesting. Terry wanted the picture because of the interesting girl/tee shirt. (how is it that all the women I like also like girls?)

This idyllic life was of course a bit too good to continue unabated. Terry is having some problems with her left hip - it can suddenly become very painful and stop her in her tracks. She's had all sorts of tests, with more to come, and is naturally worried about the outcome. Also, since I did the bouncing about trick between her and Di, I qualify fully for the "all men are bastards" category. Part of her wants to love me, and part wants to dump me in the East River for being faithless and uncaring. Terry is a Gemini, so the parts tend to be quite distinct, and T2 emerged later in the week to castigate me. Nevertheless, we seem to have survived. I'll explain how things got this way one day if she'll let me.

In between fighting and making up, the social calendar of the week revolved round trying to find a couple of new Karaoke pubs (this is a recent addiction of mine - more below) If you're interested, you can find a good run-down of such venues at Murph's Guide to NY Bars. Terry latched onto the C50, and took pictures of pretty girls and men at these venues, so if you are interested in either, read on!

Midtown and Upper East Side.
  Since there's a large empty space at this point, I'll squish in another map to show the area we'll be seeing most of. The East Side, particularly 1st, 2nd, and 3rd avenues is a hotbed of bars and restaurants, of every concievable kind and condition. There are so many that it is inconcievable that they can all be making money, and in fact if you keep your eyes open you see plenty of them go out of business. But it seems there's always some hopeful who will replace them with something different in the belief that they can do it better.

My area on 3rd and Lexington at 28th - 29th Street has lots of Indian and Chinese restaurants and 'Irish' pubs. There's also a huge cinema complex on 2nd Avenue at 32nd St, plenty of rather nice supermarkets, and a block further east on 1st Ave there's the NYU Medical Center. So you've got handy shopping for whatever you might need.

The culprit

The culprit- the karaoke dealer.

A.J. - our barkeep at the karaoke on Saturday night

A.J. - our barkeep at the karaoke on Saturday night.

A.J. singing

A.J. singing.

Terry's new friend from Saturday

Terry's new friend from Saturday (Terry: name?? - Me: Red eye!).

Guy behind the bar Saturday

Guy behind the bar Saturday.

The mesmerized audience

The mesmerized audience - more of Terry's new friends.

Cabernet & Postcard

Cabernet & Postcard @ Houstons.

The Karaoke Addiction

I have another addiction to declare; I'm hooked on karaoke. I'd never done it before I met Di, but soon after we met, she took me to a karaoke bar. She said it was harmless, and that nothing would happen to me if I just sang one song. So I did, but then I found I had this craving to sing another, and before I knew where I was I had this full blown habit. Now I have to go out twice or even three times a week to satisfy my need to make an exhibition of myself.

I had imagined that if I ever sang in front of a crowd, there would be jeering, and cat-calling. I never thought I had much of a singing voice. But your average karaoke crowd is amazingly tolerant, and will actually applaud and encourage almost anyone who's prepared to give it a go. If you can sing in tune, and start at the right time, you're a star!

I started with some pretty bland stuff, Sting's "Fields of Gold", and Elton John's "Crocodile Rock". Old stuff of course, since I gave up on pop music when it all turned into rap and hip-hop at the beginning of the 90's, and since I'm an old fogey anyway. But I've now got a more adventurous repertoire. At the moment I'm working on, or reasonably on top of:
  • Wonderful tonight (Eric Clapton) a.k.a. "The too drunk to drive" song.
  • Have I told you lately that I love you (Van Morrison/Rod Stewart).
  • What a fool believes (Doobies/Michael McDonald).
  • If you really love me (Stevie Wonder).
  • For once in my life (Stevie Wonder).
  • Will you still love me tomorrow (Carol King).
  • Don't get me wrong (Pretenders).
  • The tide is high (Blondie).
  • Up where we belong (Joe Cocker/Jennifer Warnes) as a duet with anyone who'll have me??!!.
I've found that the best approach for me is to adopt a somewhat gravelly voice, as in the manner of Joe Cocker, or even Louis Armstrong. Singing songs originally done by someone of the opposite sex seems to be an OK thing at karaoke. With all the songs, finding the key or pitch to sing them in is the main thing. For those of you who haven't been introduced to the mysteries of this art, I should probably point out that good karaoke machines are very accomodating to the singer. Not only do you get the words of the song stuck in front of your face on a video screen, but the karaoke jock can change the pitch of the song to suit your voice. Some will do this spontaneously, which can be a bit of a surprise when you've already got into the song. Others you'll have to ask.

The really fascinating thing is that I seem to be able to connect to people. When I sing these songs, I try to put myself into them emotionally. OK, the voice is croaky, but the intention is good, and when I've finished people come up to me and squeeze my arm, and say "good man". So now I'm considering a career as a pop star, cos some of them are girls. Young girls! Of course, Terry has some pictures for you. The idea of this page is that the pictures are supposed to be vaguely connected with the text, but to hell with it, anyone who's pretty deserves to be on somebody's web page. So bear with us - there is one picture of a singer, and Terry snook a man in too.

11/2/2003 - A Family Event

My daughter Rachel phoned me from England today to tell me that I'm going to be a grandfather, so I'm quite chuffed! This is a new experience for me. My older son Richard and his wife Cathy have been talking about it, but Cathy's business has been growing some lately, and I guess that got postponed. So Rachel has got in first - Congratulations my love.

Having been spectacularly bad as a father, I had wondered if I'd put my children off the idea of having children alltogether. Rachel (good morning Rachel) and Richard (good morning Richard) are my children from my first marriage with Elaine. Elaine had her 60th birthday last week, and was given a surprise birthday party at which Rachel's news was a principal element of the surprise. She'll be really pleased too. I suppose that now I should grow up and start acting like an adult, but I can see that idea being greeted with scepticism all round.

To be even handed I should mention Leo (Leonora), my youngest daughter. She's in China at the moment, and I got an email from her at about the same time. Her boyfiend German, who's from Spain, has just left there after a visit, and it appears that their relationship is alive and well, so you never know. Leo is an inveterate traveller though, and I suspect she still has a few more adventures up her sleeve before I'll see grandchildren from that quarter. "Nimen hao" Leo.

12/2/2003 - Bullseye

One has a certain Russian Roulette feeling living in NY at the moment. You know that it's inevitable that if some terrorist is going to attack in the USA, it's going to be here again. It's just what you do. If you're in a fight, and you've cut the other guy's eye, or cracked one of his ribs, where are you going to hit him next?

At the moment, we're on purple level warning or something, and there are ominous noises about dirty nuclear devices and biological attacks on the subway. But what can you do? Life goes on - well for the moment anyway - and unfortunately one has to go to work, and things like that. So I'm living in hope that if they do the 4, 5, or 6 trains, which are as likely as any, since they're always packed to the gills, they'll do it at peak rush hour. This gives me a bit of a break, because usually I go to work before morning peak, and get back home before evening peak. Selfish bastard! Doesn't give a damn if half the population of NY suffers an agonizing death from inhaled Ricin poisoning, as long as it's not him!

Seriously though if something did happen, the city would be paralyzed. The level of risk aversion among the population of New York is probably as high or higher than anywhere else I've ever been. Everybody would stay at home, distilling their own urine and sealing themselves up with an oxygen cylinder in a zip-lock bag. I'm going to adopt the theory that beer was made somewhere out-of-town, and is reasonably well sealed to stop it from going flat. It's nutritious too, so one could avoid eating possibly-contaminated food. Also, when you've had enough beer you don't care if Bin Laden's boys are going to do for you or not.

Rachel had been going to come to visit in March, but with the baby now in the picture, and consequent different financial priorities, and with the vulnerability of New York, it won't happen this time round. Heigh Ho!

12/2/2003 - An Errand Rewarded

Terry sent me off with a document to be delivered to her stockbroker this morning. I popped out at lunchtime to take it, to discover that it was quite a pleasant sunny day, though cold. The broker was in the Harriman Building, which is just to the south-east of the large empty space that was the World Trade Center, and his office had a wonderful view looking uptown (north). It was very reminiscent of the view from the top of the two towers, so I tried to get an impression of it through the window.

Saint Valentines Day

Passed off without any masacre in NY. Possibly Bin Laden's boys were unaware of that nuance. Anyway, I'm not complaining.

Terry and I had a mild disagreement the night before, so I'd ended up at 29th Street by myself, after finding a new Thursday night Karaoke spot - Tracy J's, at 19th Street. The disagreement got sorted out in the morning, and I got her some roses on the way home; Quite nice ones. They looked like they might last more than the 24 hours that seems to be the way with them these days. We'll see. I got a statuette of two lover embracing, which I rather like.

We were going to go out for a Valentine's Day meal, but when I got to her place it turned out we were both ravenous, so we actually ate the leftovers from a stew we made earlier in the week, which was wonderful. Isn't it funny how that works with stews and casseroles and such. I suppose the hunger has something to do with it too. After that we watched television until about nine, then went to Panorama for a drink, where we met Pearl. Pearl is a friend of Alan's, who's one of Terry's cronies at Panorama. We chatted there for a while, till Pearl was going, then Terry and I went to Tracy J's, where I was greeted like the prodigal son, and got to sing again. Kiss my ass

Pearl making a gesture.

The man singing in the picture below gave a great rendition of Marvin Gay's "Sexual Healing". Didn't look at all the part, but made a better job of it than any I've heard up in the Bronx, and that's a difficult song to sing.

This man does a mean Marvin Gay

Terry enjoyed Tracy J's; Talked to lots of people. I sang, so I was happy. It's only a few blocks from my place, where we slept snug as bugs in a rug until noon the next day, then made love, and went to Houstons for the belated Valentine's meal. Photos resulted, see left and below.
An anonymous meeting at Houstons    Could this be love? They only met the night before

Poems For The Month

New York Snow

The snow takes the city back a hundred years.
People walk on a quiet avenue devoid of traffic.
In a gray canyon, twilight dim before the lights come on,
stretching mysteriously to who-knows-where.

I take a bus uptown, toward Grand Central and the subway.
The pace suits my mood, and I stay on the bus,
spurning the subway to sustain the dream.
For tomorrow it will be New York snow; dirty and cold.

Another Day

To work forever seems the only choice,
anxiously balanced between paychecks.
I console myself with a lottery ticket,
and pretend I am not growing old.

Love, like fortune, seems elusive,
almost there, then slipped away.
This time I'm sure I'll get it right.
How many more times can I try?

Perhaps I've missed my way in life,
thinking I'm nothing special.
If I'd been more positive, who knows?
Fame, fortune and love might have found me.

The old recourse is always tempting.
After work I'll go and get a beer,
and chat or flirt with some pretty girl.
A modest happy ending to another day.

The Prize

The rat wrestles a bagel between the tracks,
risking the eyes of the watching crowd.
She ducks from the incoming train,
returning before it stops.

We feel her panic - how will she get it home?
The prize would feed her family for a week,
cream cheese and all, good stuff!
If it's moved before neighbors come to share.

With the rest, I board the train - we'll never know.
The rat stays with me, I'll remember her
when I find a treasure that I can't move.
Good for her, my money's on the rat!

Angry Young Man

Angry young man
with headphones on.
Walks down the street,
repeating the words
of another mans poem.
Disturbing the peace
of the passers by.
Get a life young man.
Leave the headphones home.
Spend some quiet time,
make words of your own.
Speak them out loud,
and then we'll see,
what bugging you,
and if it bugs me.
Oh angry young man.

A car outside Terry's apartment

A Car Outside Terry's apartment

Terry 'au naturelle'
Terry with her short hair - Love It!

Amy's night out
Amy's night out

25/2/2003 - The Winter Continues

Believe me, it's not easy to find time to do this stuff when you're working a full time job and trying to have some sort of social life. So pardon me if this is brief - as the song says, 'It's better than nothing'.

The winter continues in New York. It's been damn cold, and the weekend before last it dumped 2 feet of snow on the city. The last time there was snow on that order was 1996. In a place as densely packed as New York, it's difficult to find a place to put that much snow. The car outside Terry's apartment had a big bank of ploughed snow on the other side too. I was lucky with mine, the people at the parking lot must have put it in the covered parking area before the snow, so when I went to pick it up there wasn't a trace of snow on it.

Fortunately, later in the same week it rained - quite warm rain, and washed much of the snow away, causing considerable flooding in the process. Then it got cold again. But it's snug in both apartments. In fact Terry's tends to be over hot, and I wake in a sweat in the night. (No, I don't have aids, I got tested quite recently. I just get overheated easily. Probably eat too much salt or something.) Terry and I have been getting on very well on the whole. I'm trying to wean her off vodka on to something less aggressive, and it has been holding up quite well.

I have to mention something she's done that I really appreciate. For years she's been weaving her hair, or wearing wigs, because her own hair bothered her (I'll tell you why if I get permission). But now she's had it cut short, and is going out into the world as I see her at night. This pleases me greatly - I think it makes her look younger and generally better. I love it, and everybody else who knows her is complimentary about the change.

26/2/2003 - Another Karaoke Venue

We tried O'Flannagans at 66th and 1st last night instead of Mr Big's. I liked it, and got to sing quite a lot, in fact I'm hoarse today as a result.

Amy, a girl we had met earlier in the month at Cronies ((87th and 2nd), came with us. It seems that she is recovering from the after effects of her last relationship, because she was in a predatory mood, and captured a man. The man (whose name I'm afraid I've forgotten) gave us all a lift home. Terry tells me Amy hasn't answered the phone all day, so we'll have to catch her and give her a grilling so I can fill the world in on the grisly details. Is nothing sacred!

Earlier in the evening I'd made Chicken Tikka and Tarka Dahl. I cheated and used a Tikka paste I got from one of the local Indian Deli's, and I got a couple of Nans from a take away. The area where I live has a high concentration of Indian restaurants, stores, etc. However I made the Tarka Dahl from scratch, and that was good. I'll put the recipe up later. It's healthy, nourishing, and cheap, and you can make it as spicy as you like.

Pretty girls and Jeff at O'Flanagans
Pretty girls and Jeff at O'Flanagans

Tarka Dahl

  1. 1 cup red lentils - you don't need to soak them, but it won't do any harm.
  2. Spices:
    • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder - if you like your dahl bright yellow you can use more.
    • 1 teaspoon ground chili - half if you like mild, more if you can stand it.
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (optional).
    • 1 desertspoon ground cumin.
    • 2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds.
    • 1 to 2 desertspoons ground corriander.
    • A few whole cloves and a couple of whole black cardamoms (optional).
  3. Handful of fresh coriander leaves, chopped (optional).
  4. Half a large onion finely chopped.
  5. As much garlic as you like - crushed.
  6. Juice of one lemon.

Boil the lentils in plain water in a large pot. They will swell up and absorb the water. Add more water as you go to maintain the consistency of a thick soup. Get the lentils almost tender before you start the rest

Fry the onion gently until it is translucent in a bland vegetable oil. Use more oil than you normally would for the quantity of onions. Browning the onions is not good for the flavor. Fry the whole cumin seeds along with the onions.

When the onions are cooked, add the dry spices, and fry on gently until the oil starts to separate out again. Don't burn the mixture. When the oil starts to separate, dump the contents of the frying pan into the lentils, and add the crushed garlic. Salt the brew to your taste. Cook it gently until the lentils are completely tender, adding extra water if required.

Five minutes before you serve it, add the lemon juice and the chopped coriander leaves. Eat the dahl with Indian nan (bread), or with warmed pitta bread, or serve it over rice. It goes well with chiken tikka or chicken kebabs.

Of course I should have taken a picture when I cooked it. I guess I was hungry - I'll do it next time.
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