Business Trip

My mouse-sized room at the Hudson Hotel cost nearly 200 times more than a night at the Hotel Italia in Bolivia a few years back, and made the carry-on bag wedged next to the bed look huge. For another ten dollars, I got a shaky one-bar wireless connection. On the east coast, the Interweb is still a privilege, not a right. In spite of the the honking on 8th Avenue, the close wooden walls and drafty windows put me in mind of my log cabin days. That suits me, but I’m still horrified at the expense.

“The city hasn’t turned the heating on yet,” said the very nice woman at front desk when I called to tell her I was cold. Was this Leningrad with Louis Ghost chairs? In the Library bar downstairs, people drank cocktails to _Thriller,_ same as five years ago, except the New Yorkers have moved on and these are out-of-towners now. The cafeteria was furnished with heavy benches, like Hogwarts.

In the boom years, my friend Lee would call me for Priceline slumber parties on her work trips to New York. I’d meet her at the Ritz, the Waldorf, or the Royalton. Sometimes we slummed it at the Paramount, which was all sharp edges, tight corners, and tricksy fittings. We sat up late telling secrets over thirty-buck club sandwiches.

At the time, my ex was plagued by phone cards calls from would-be investors in his new business. (1999 was an odd year.)
“You don’t understand,” one specimen hissed, “I can introduce you to the business development group at Acme Corp.”
“As it happens,” said Jason, reasonable as always, “my wife is in a hotel room with the head of business development at Acme Corp right now.” Lee and I were trying on one another’s clothes at the Royalton.

Slumber parties aside, I don’t like the learned helplessness of hotel life. Doormen worry me. So do bellhops. I’m too cheap for room service, even–and especially–when I’m not paying, and too often I find myself sitting alone above a city, dithering over a mini-bar Toblerone that would have bought five nights at the Hotel Italia, and longing for a nice cup of tea.

Oblivio Speaks

“I’ve decided to write something new on Oblivio every day for the next 100 days.

This is probably a stupid idea, another in a series of self-made prisons, but stupid or not, it’s still an idea—something I haven’t had, or haven’t bother to have, in some time.

I do have a few stories to tell. For example I’m working on a series called Girls I Never Kissed. This should keep me busy for a while, given the number of girls who qualify.

How many is that? Several billion.”

–Michael Barrish

I’m among them. And Michael Barrish, who writes Oblivio, is in the top ten of my several billion reasons to miss Brooklyn. It was Michael I called whenever I took a notion to make _coq au vin_ or plum cobbler on a Monday night. While I chopped and stirred and basted, he told me everything I needed to know about New York City mating habits.

Michael Barrish believes that the universe is made of stories, not atoms. I’m glad he’s writing again.

High Line Rashomon

Last October I walked Manhattan’s High Line with five other people. Things fell apart on this walk, in predictably unpredictable ways, and then a few months later, four of us tried to write about the experience, and this too went badly.
–Michael Barrish, “Bug

On Brannan Street, opposite the jail, there’s a neon sign that says

Since 1961.

This always makes me think of my Brooklyn friend Michael, who has also been a Barrish since (more or less) 1961. You should read his latest project, High Bridge Rashomon, and its introduction, “Bug


The bug is my name for a group. I have a little saying about this: A group is a bug with a brain in each leg. I should be famous for this saying, and maybe I will someday, because of how true it is. With little effort it could serve as the basis for a revolutionary new theory of why groups suck. For now I will share but one key postulate: The bigger the bug (that is, the more legs it has), the less chance it has of moving in any particular direction. One need only recall one’s experience in groups to confirm this.