New Baby on the Way…

Posted in Uncategorized on March 10, 2010 by wally426

Folks – For the two of you who still check this site, my apologies for not writing in awhile. I’ll be working on a new website which tells other people’s stories. This will be coupled with some photos as well. While it’ll be a more grandiose endeavor, it’ll be fun and informative. As soon as it’s up, the link will be supplied in the last Singapore Dreams post…

Here’s to where it all started, 2½ years ago…

Putting $ where the Mo is

Posted in Uncategorized on October 26, 2009 by wally426

26-10-2009 – Brooklyn, NY

It’s that time of year again, folks. 

The drive to promote men’s health issues by growing funny face whiskers has begun. Once again, there is a pretty website to manage your donations and ensure that you get a nice tax break come April. If you need the tax form, please let me know and I’ll send it your way.

For all those who donate to the cause, I will be holding soiree at a local bar come November month-end. Hopefully you can all spare a few sheckles for our team.

There are two methods of donation:

1. Click THIS LINK and donate online using your credit card or PayPal account, or

2. Write a check payable to ‘The Movember Foundation’, referencing my Registration Number 118887 and mailing it to:

The Movember Foundation

P.O. BOX 2726

Venice, CA, 90294-2726

All donations are tax-deductible!

The Prostate Cancer Foundation will use the money raised by Movember to fund research to find better treatments and a cure for prostate cancer.

The Lance Armstrong Foundation will use the money raised by Movember to fund:

• The LIVESTRONG Young Adult Alliance program which has the goal of improving survival rates and quality of life for young adults with cancer between the ages of 15 and 40.

• Research initiatives to further understand the biology of adolescent and young adult cancers.

For more details on how the funds raised from previous campaigns have been used and the impact Movember is having please go to http://us.movemberfoundation.com/research-and-programs.

Thanks in advance,

Wilhelm

Growing Up

Posted in Uncategorized on October 13, 2009 by wally426

08-09-1987      Brooklyn, NY

The streets in the early morning are still. Cobblestones breathe slowly after a long, hot summer. Their sighs form a layer of dust that hover just above the hubcaps. It smells like history – a mix of dust, crumbling concrete, and slowly corroding metal. Off in the distance, sirens come and go. A shortwave radio rests on the third floor window sill, serenading the alleyways with macabre tales from the night before. 

New York was on a positive path in the early 60’s, but by the end of the decade the city began a slow decline that lasted for over 30 years. For the most part, drug epidemics were to blame. Heroin struck in the 70’s, cocaine and crack took the 80’s and early 90’s. The Bronx burned. People in Bed-Stuy looted their own stores when the lights went out. Runners in Central Park were raped. In Crown Heights, long heated feuds between Hasidic Jews and Blacks erupted. It wasn’t uncommon to hear about muggings, rapes, shootings and stabbings during that era. Violence was part of life, almost an expected thing. There were always wild tales floating through the papers and people’s conversations.

There was an overall feeling of danger and grittiness present in the city back then. So many memories linger, but like pictures, become yellow and fade with time. This post is an attempt to preserve a few of them:

Field Day

Coming into school that morning, there was a feeling of excitement knowing that this day was different from all others. It was an all-day gym session whose only intermission was a brief stint in the odd-smelling cafeteria. Before we began the relays, one of the fourth grade classes began to taunt us, implying we weren’t nearly as athletic as they were. Instead of proving my worth on the field of battle, I stood up and shouted something at the group. While the teachers didn’t notice, one of the larger members of the class did. I can see his face now – fat jowls with a large afro flaring out behind his ears. He approached me fast, and before I knew it hand were thrusted into my back and I went barreling to the floor. The skin on my knees peeled back and the tears immediately began to well up. Despite the pain racking my legs, I staggered to my feet and faced my foe who, to my surprise, was standing there completely unguarded. Almost without thinking, I threw out my right leg with every inch of power into his groin. He dropped right away and the kids started screaming with jeers and laughter. While sitting in the principal’s office, the smell of pencil lead and stale wood hung heavy in the air. I felt small streams of blood trickling down from the saturated band aids, rolling gently down my shins and spreading horizontally across my white socks. My mother would be upset, but it didn’t seem to matter. The first battle of field day had been decided. 3rd grade – 1; 4th grade – 0.

Peibald

George Carlin said in one of his routines that “Life is a series of dogs.” Such was true during my childhood, but hamsters were the constant instead. After the “DJ” era had ended, another hamster was ushered in to take his place, Peibald. I remember him being a spritely little fellow with golden hair and black beady eyes. He adhered to a hamster’s usual nocturnal routine of spinning endlessly on the metal wheel during the evening hours. As soon as the lights went out, you would hear the tat-tat-tat of little feet on the metal bars as he ran in vain through the black night. Peibald had so much energy, that he would sometimes spin during the day as well. To give him some space outside of the cage, my mother bought him a plastic ball that we could enclose him in. He ended up loving this thing, it enabled him to see different parts of the apartment and give him the assurance that his physical efforts were getting him somewhere in this world. What we didn’t know was that our dog at the time, Barney, had been staking this ball out the whole time. He would watch the rodent roll around the house with impunity, waiting for the day where he could strike at the little beast. Just three weeks after we got Peibald, Barney enacted his plan. There wasn’t even a squeak, just the sound of the plastic ball’s lid rolling around the floor as Barney vigorously shook the poor creature. It was over in seconds.

I lined an empty lightbulb box with tissue and dropped Peibald in. His golden fur was matted, his once nimble body was stiff after the rigour mortis set in, his eyes looked like two black pinheads. I went across the street to the park and toiled over digging a grave in the frozen earth. After the makeshift coffin was placed in the shallow hole, I swept some dust onto it and covered what I could. The Peibald era was short-lived, but his tragic end ensured that he wouldn’t be forgotten. When I got back to the apartment, Barney licked the tears off my face, as if he was somewhat sorry for what he’d done.

The Bowels of 151

My family’s restaurant, Woerner’s, moved from Livingston St. to 151 Remsen St. in 1971. It was an old building that reeked of history whenever you walked through the doors. As a child, I would work there for a few weeks, helping clean tables, make deliveries and help with odds and ends around the restaurant. In the early morning, I was usually sent downstairs to make fresh orange juice. There was only one other person who spent time working down in the basement, Big Tom. He was one hulking beast of a man who stood at 6’5 and was easily 300 lbs. Tom had big thick glasses and (maybe) ten teeth. His voice sounded like a tuba – Deep, gruffy and somewhat melodic. All day long, he sat in the basement and peeled potatoes, stocked the freezers and shelves, and washed the dishes. Big Tom loved his jazz music and Lucky Strike cigarettes, too. All day long he would work methodically, washing dish after dish as smoky-soft saxophone notes drifted around the basement.

Instead of taking the steps, I would often take the old dumb-waiter down into the depths. Big Tom would inevitably be waiting for a load of dishes and would always let out a bellowing yell when he saw a small six year-old crawling out instead. “I tol’ ya to take dem damn steahs, boy! You gon’ give big old Tom a heart attacks doin’ dat!”. The joke never got old. To return the favor, Tom would ask me to get something out of the freezer every so often. When I went in, the door would shut and the lights would go out. He would always leave me in there for a good ten minutes, letting me bang and scream, before letting me out. I can still hear his deep-bellied laugh echoing around the dark recesses.

Making the orange juice was always a painful chore. This old electric juicer would catch the rind as soon as the orange was cashed. All of a sudden, there would be no orange and nothing between the spinning metal blade and your fingers. Before you felt the dull pain, there was the tinkling sound of bone against blade, it was NOT fun. Even so, bringing a full pitcher of fresh orange juice back upstairs to my father was always a rewarding experience…

I often think of going back into the restaurant, but freeze before going through the doors. I wonder if the basement still looks the same, if it still smells like dish soap, wet rags, pipe tobacco and ginger snaps? I suppose it will just have to remain a mystery, lingering with the ghosts of the past, mingling with the old New York that lives on only in memory.

Il Bocca Al Lupo

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on August 11, 2009 by wally426

11-08-2009  Brooklyn, NY

As most of you know, I love subways. Even the odd smells that frequently emanate during summertime, squealing brakes, malfunctioning doors, scratchy intercoms, noisy panhandlers, rush-hour cars packed like sardine cans, sticky floors, wet seats and arrogant Jesus freaks that suddenly start preaching at the top of their lungs. Despite all of this, riding the subway from A to B is usually one of the very few moments of solace I get during hectic work weeks. It’s the one time to quietly listen to music, read a book or simply ponder the past, present and future.

During the early 70’s, Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) was having somewhat of a renaissance. After years of neglect, the city decided to revamp the system by renovating stations, introducing new trains, and adding employees to assist riders during their trips. Less than ten years later, these changes became an after thought. The city had lost too much money during the economic downturn and couldn’t fund the MTA. Most projects fell by the wayside and the subways began a slow downturn that has continued into today’s era.

Today, we have a system that is a shell of its former self. Not only has the MTA raised prices, but the service is an absolute mess. If customers want to travel after dark on weeknights or during the weekends, they should expect to take numerous trains where they usually need just one. Express trains run local and most lines have been bastardized to run on others. Basically, all transit maps are null and void because they serve no purpose. I’ve gotten calls from friends who have lived here for years and ended up in odd places because the maps weren’t sound. In a nutshell, nothing can be trusted in the New York City subway system.

To top it off, pension plans for MTA employees have sunk the organization so far in debt, it’s nearly impossible to get out of the red. I hate seeing 70 year-old people standing on a crowded, delayed train, paying more so that 55 year-old MTA employees can live like kings on the city’s arm. The budgets are also terribly faulty, with strange surpluses coming here and there while statements come back bloody during budgeting season. Corruption is rampant. One example I wrote about earlier this year concerned the Atlantic Yards project. For land that was appraised at $214 million, the MTA took the absolute lowest bid of $100 million. When that wasn’t paid, they didn’t break contract and try to negotiate with other parties, they lowered the original amount to $20 million upfront (with the remaining 80 million to be paid over the course of 22 years)!! Who ends up paying for that difference? The commuters who rely on the subways every day. As long as buffoons like Howard H. Roberts continue to head the Authority, the downward spiral will not cease.

Il Boca Al Lupo is an Italian phrase that means “Good Luck”, but literally translates as “into the wolf’s mouth”. The appropriate response to this is Crepi Lupo, or “May the wolf die”. In all my years of riding the subways, I’ve never seen this much chaos and disruption in service. Every time you ride the subways after dark or on a weekend, you’re literally going into the wolf’s mouth and need as much luck as possible to reach your destination without a service change sabotaging your trip. These recent pitfalls have literally turned the NYCTS into a dangerous place… a reeking, craggy, unreliable cesspool of kickbacks and faulty budgets. Considering this, I only have one thing to say about them… Crepi Lupo!

Sharpsburg

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on July 17, 2009 by wally426

17-07-2009   Brooklyn, NY

It has not unfrequently been seen that two powerful men would wrestle together and one bring the other down with a heavy fall. The two would quickly rise again, but instead of renewing the struggle, one would turn away in silence from the ring. To the eye it might seem at the moment that no hurt was done, but that a like contest might any day be renewed between them.

All a mistake, it has often proved. Follow the retiring contestant and learn perhaps his singular and unexplained withdrawal from the struggle was his involuntary obedience to the summons of death – that the shock of the fall had ruptured a vital blood-vessel, or stunned the brain with a death-blow; and he was moving off literally a dead man, in sole and silent procession to his fore-doomed funeral.

We believe it is such a case we witness on the Upper Potomac to-day. It was a battle of the giants we had there on Wednesday last. The victorious heroes of Fair Oaks and Malvern Hill, where the Union cause was baptized in fire and blood, met the battle-tired hosts that carried Gaines Hill by storm, and twice sowed with out dead the plains of Manassas. Each army had its best loved leaders, each had its ranks full, each felt that the world watched the struggle, and that all mankind had an interest in the result. Never in all history was a more honorable battle fought. No stragglers limped or crept to the rear. No column gave way save when blown back by the whirlwind of flame from the cannon’s mouth. No regiment, however stript by leaden hail of its officers, was left without a man still worthy to lead it, and no officer was left alone in the field to deplore that he had led cowards to the fight. From sunrise to sunsetting, with encroachment at each end of the day on darkness, the earth shook under the mighty battle, and at night the panting combatants rested on the field. The day after, the Union heroes were the declared victors; and in the shades of evening, the vanquished rebels retired from the ground whereon they had provoked the contest, and which they had advertised their own people and the world they meant permanently to hold!

The retreat of the revel army is not its defeat only: it is its demoralization and its death-blow. It marches away as the doomed wrestler does – not to study a renewal of his grapple, but because his heart is sick of the arena from which death summons him; he would “turn his face to the wall” and die! How can the flower of Southern chivalry – the aggregation of Southern strength – the personification of its enthusiasm and daring – meet its appalled Government and people, in its retreat from its supposed victorious invasion? What “spring” is there in all the Southern resources for war to “take up the recoil” of this terrible disaster? An advancing army may gather food and forage from an extended agricultural district, for it commands its own time and rate of progress. A beaten and retreating army can do no such thing; for its movements are compulsory. The goading of artillery in pursuit gives no rest; it has no regard to hunger of horses or men; its order is that of a cruel master, “Onward – onward – to the death!”

We have citizens who bewailed the war for freedom as almost lost, a short time ago, so much did they distrust the skill and power of our armed resistance to rebellion. Some of them revived but little when the news of Wednesday stirred the hearts of patriots with confidence and joy. When Thursday night found the enemy defeated and flying, the doubters became suddenly fierce to desperation. They demanded, in the name of an outraged country, why the fruits of the grandest victory of modern wars had not been reaped in the capture of 150,000 prisoners, with arms in their hands!

We shall now argue this matter. We have the confidence to declare the battle of Antietam one of the greatest ever fought – its victory substantial and its fruits imperishable. Its effects will be seen and felt in the destinies of the Nation for centuries to come. 

~Anonymous Editorial; NY Times; September 21, 1862

I often think about what life would be like as a soldier during the civil war. Marching twenty miles or more each day, subsiding on meager rations of stale biscuits and gruel, constantly waiting for the next battle. I imagine what the battlefields must have looked like, with such devastation contrasted against the beautiful backdrop of an American landscape. 

Most men who fought weren’t trained soldiers, but they fought with amazing voracity. During battles, traditional English methods of fighting were often used even though artillery had evolved over time. The rifles used during the war between the states had become more accurate, so when two lines of soldiers faced off each volley produced disastrous results.

Men made these suicidal sacrifices using their profound belief in a heavenly paradise that awaited them in the afterlife. There was a notion of a Good Death, or ars Moriendi, that was instilled amongst both Union and Confederate armies. As death was so prevalent, faith and repentance became a strong part of civil war culture, both on the battlefield and within the families of soldiers that had passed on.

The concept of ars Moriendi was never more prevalent than when Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of 51,800 men entered the 13th day of its Maryland campaign. It was the rebels’ first advance into Northern territory, and when it was over the Confederate army would never fully regain its power. Upon hearing of the Northern invasion, president Lincoln sent General George B. McLellan and his Union army of 87,100 to repulse Lee’s advances. The two armies clashed near Antietam creek in the small town of Sharpsburg, Maryland on September 17th.

For over twelve hours, the battle roared. It was so fierce at one point that a Union general complained he could not hear shouted orders. Another said his soldiers gave and received ”the most deadly fire it has ever been my lot to witness.” A Confederate general said that ”this fearful storm raged a few feet above their heads, tearing the trees asunder, lopping off huge branches, and filling the air with shrieks and explosions.”

The fighting (which was actually three battles rolled into one day) went on from before dusk until after dawn. When it was over, 22,807 casualties would be recorded on both sides – almost four times the amount on D-Day. That Wednesday remains the bloodiest day in American history. A correspondent who visited the field after battle described the scene:

Mangled humanity in all its ghastly forms could be seen on this field; to the left, to the right, behind and before, on every hand the eye beheld the horrors of the field. Mingled with the dead came up to the ear groans of those whose breasts there yet remained a spark of vitality, but whose lamp had nearly expired; the hopeful cases, so far as possible, were removed for medical assistance before midnight of Wednesday; the hopeless cases were allowed to remain upon the field. Some in a perfectly conscious, other in a half conscious state, while more were insensible to all worldly affairs. One of the latter class – a rebel soldier – while we were walking over the field at night, vainly attempted to rise; he had received a wound upon the temple from which the brain protruded; he clutched at the air and a helping hand was extended to him and words of sympathy were spoken, but no sign of recognition followed, and in a moment more the helpless victim fell over upon his face and was numbered with the dead. God grant that we may never witness another such a scene.

As terrible as it was, the carnage inflicted that day was not done in vain. To capitalize on the victory, Lincoln decided to issue the emancipation proclamation as a strategic move. The French and British were considering an offer of support for the rebels as their textile businesses were suffering due to the lack of exported cotton. As outspoken abolitionists, the two countries couldn’t ally themselves with the rebel cause after the proclamation was issued (the issuance essentially differentiated the North as abolitionists as well). This was essentially the “death blow” that crippled the confederacy.

In light of all this, September 17th, 1862 is one of the most important and underrated days in American history. Hopefully we can raise a glass to all of the Union soldiers who gave their lives that day on the battle’s 147th anniversary this year.

Worldly Aspirations

Posted in Uncategorized on July 2, 2009 by wally426

02-07-2009    Brooklyn, NY

Let’s be honest, it’s fun to daydream at work. Instead of worrying about bills, what detours the F train will take on the way home, or the endless deluge of rain the city has been hit with, it is more productive focusing on positive things. One of my favorite daydreaming topics is where my next trip will be (if money were no object). Below are places that are currently in my top 5:

5. Bhutan – Land of the thunder dragon

Of all the places, this might be the most remote. Located at the doorstep of the Himalayan Mountain range, this landlocked kingdom has maintained a strong sense of culture and history due to little foreign intervention and lack of travel within its borders. In 2006, Businessweek named it “the happiest country in Asia”. The main drawback is that tourists are not permitted to travel within Bhutanese borders alone. Tour guides are mandatory and cost around $200/day. The best option for traveling would be to take a flight into Paro (via Druk air) and take a land route out to visit Darjeeling and Sikkim en route to India. So exotic.

4. The Galápagos Islands

As many of you know, I’m a big fan of animals, especially animals that do stupid things for no reason. With a wonderful combination of seals, penguins, turtles, and blue-footed boobies, this place has more potential for senseless animal comedy than any. To top it off, the SCUBA diving there is supposed to be magnificent. You can stay in tree-top suites, looking out over the vast volcanic expanse of green and black while iguanas lazily take in the equatorial sunshine.

3. Samoa

This place always seemed like the ultimate tropical paradise. Like the Galápagos, the landscape is lush, volcanic and ridiculously dramatic. The port of Apia is also completely unprotected which has set the stage for numerous shipwrecks over the years. This means tons of fun wreck and reef diving can be had during a visit.

2. Nicaragua

This Central American country is roughly the size of New York state, but contains some amazing ecological diversity within its borders. Contained within lake Nicaragua is the Nicaraguan shark. I know what you’re saying – Wait a minute! Sharks can’t enter fresh water because their blood is normally at least as salty (in terms of osmotic strength) as seawater, through the accumulation of urea and trimethylamine oxide! In rare instances though, some species can reduce the concentration of these solutes by up to 50%. Initially, biologists thought that Nicaraguan sharks (which are identical to man-eating bull sharks) had become trapped in the lake and couldn’t escape, but, as usual, they were mistaken. After tagging the evil critters, they found that the sharks were able to jump along the rapids of the San Juan river (which connects Lake Nicaragua to the Caribbean Sea). Imagine crossing a river and having your leg bitten off by a jumping shark?? Anything can happen in Nicaragua.

1. Missoula, Montana

Yep, you heard it, this place is #1 on my list. Mainly because my good friend (Pugs) and I will be heading out to this remote mountain outpost one week from now. Little is known about this place, but mystery tends to spur the best kind of adventure. I’ve heard wild tales of fierce drunken miners, scowling moose, blood-thirsty badgers and road-raging soccer moms… it’s truly not for the faint of heart. With some luck, Pugs and I will navigate the tricky waters of this rugged wilderness by tracking it’s environs during the 3rd annual Missoula marathon. Hopefully, all of the obstacles mentioned above will be avoided and we’ll get out in one piece!

Zheng Gu Shui

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on June 24, 2009 by wally426

Vic has inspired me to write some broken poetry. Check out his blog if you get the chance (on the right side with the links). Just a few contemplations from the past week…

Dead Bird Blues:

A gentle flap, then a glide

so graceful, cutting through the thick haze

cool as a cucumber, ice veins pulsing

beak curves into a smirk, it cannot rid the crescent shape

the toothed arrow is quicker, anticipates every feather’s move

quickly it punctures the breast, a puff silences the horns

dead stop and a fall from grace, hoping dashed haze will cushion the fall

to no avail, only hard concrete and soft rubber tires

not soft enough though

the beak rolls to the gutter, still smirking

 

7th Avenue

Steps echo as heels clip the concrete

Rats wake me from a beautiful slumber, they gnaw at my sneakers

Bastards

 

The cave-like existence is swell

Amarous only towards those who lick crumbs from their beards

Malodorous? Me!?

This is what a real man smells like

Dirt. Sweat. Urine. Dust. Tears. Booze.

 

Body is swelling in this seat, wooden nursery school box

Does the MTA try and make them uncomfortable?

Spit lands on Armani shoes

Sorry? Watch where you’re stepping, man

 

The long lost breeze twirls newspaper into an avant garde dance

E and B come at the same time, a lover’s waltz

Must be rush hour again

 

Alert, Nunavut

Up, up, up

Past the snow and grass

Only grey skies and quick clouds visit the compound

The wind speaks in an alien tongue, unsure of its predictable mood swings

Skin is never caressed, only bitten by its lashing tongue

Ten minutes of sunlight break through the darkness

Hundred foot swells of gold wash over the jagged hills and rusting oil cans

Rays bathe the glistening permafrost, crunching lightly under the fox’s foot

It’s a long way down from here

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