Sunday, November 18, 2007

I'm Popular "On The Street," Apparently

I don't often write about my job, because of privacy concerns. However, I want to share a funny tidbit, that happened at work tonight. A customer came in, and said "I've seen you here for like ten years!" I replied that this month is indeed my 10th anniversary at this job. He continued, "but you don't know, man, how many people know you! I mean, people out on the street be talkin' about the white dude with blond hair and the glasses at the motel desk-for years!" Now, I'm thinking "how many of them want to kill me, for calling the cops on them." I try to say this, but he's going on: "I have to get you a Christmas present, man. What do you drink?" I'm still programming his room key, as I hear myself saying "vodka." Now, if I was honest, I would have said beer, but that doesn't make a good Christmas present. If I wasn't in "work mode," I might have thought of a more fancy liquor that I like, but vodka is something I drink, maybe once or twice a year.

I have to say, I vaguely recognized this guy, but I've obviously been fair to him, over the years. There are customers that I remember well, but I check in 20 to 50 people on any given night. It is always strange to be known, or remembered by people that you don't know, or remember well. This is not new to me, because I was a nightclub owner, in the past. The part that is interesting to me is that now, as a desk clerk, I still have the respect of my customers, even though I don't "own the store," so to speak. It's a funny thing, when people praise you for treating them the only way you know how.

As I said, I've had run-ins with customers in the past. I've been called every name in the book, but some of these episodes ended with a better understanding, and relationship, between myself and the customer. Sometimes, they get banned from the motel, for a time. More often, it is customers like the one I mention here, who never gave me a problem, and as such, don't stick out in my memory, that remind me that I'm successful at my job. It's also why I'm the company's MVP, which I know because I've seen the other desk clerks at work. I am appreciated by my bosses.

Here's the secret: Be professional (use "sir," "ma'am," or "miss," when addressing customers), and treat everyone the same, under similar circumstances. I have a very multicultural background, and should not be surprised with my popularity on the streets of Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island, within the small segment of the population that are my customers. Still, it's always flattering to hear that any group of people finds me worth talking about, as long as they're not plotting to kill me (JUST KIDDING!)

This is just a teaser. Someday, I will write more specifically about these years, because the things I've seen and learned at this job have been very valuable to me, on an intangible scale. I look forward to sharing them. Maybe, when I drink the Christmas present, I'll tell you about my encounters with Mark and Lisa Gastineau, of "Gastineau Girls" fame. Probably not, if I want to keep my job.

Until they "ship me back off to Ireland" (to quote another customer), that's all for now!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Oct. 19th, 1987: Black Monday, Nervous Breakdown

Twenty years ago today, I had a nervous breakdown. I was crying into the telephone to my mother. It's not too complicated a story, actually. I had invested 65,000 dollars in mutual funds a month or so before, and they were in the process of losing 15,000 dollars of that value. Mom, having great experience in the "nervous breakdown" field, talked me through that afternoon. The hardest part was trying not to sell my funds when they were "falling uncontrollably." I knew, in my head, that this couldn't destroy the whole US capitalist system, but the media was comparing it to the '29 crash, and wondering if we were going into another Great Depression. I was only 25, but my mother was born in the mid 20's, and wasn't afraid at all of the "crash" in '87, and she was right. She had money invested as well, from our inheritance.

The point of this story is "don't get too emotionally twisted over money." It's one of the biggest challenges a person can face, and I say that from experience.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Retail Hell: Buying a Bike

I just had an interesting experience, trying to buy a bicycle from "Toys R Us." Anna insisted on getting me a new bicycle for the 5th anniversary of our first date, and we started browsing on the internet. We found a nice bike, a Chrysler PT Cruiser, and wrote down the model number, SKU, etc. Next, we called the local Toys R Us store, to see if they had it in stock. I was hung up on 3 times before I found out that "no, we don't have it."

I had bought a cheap bike from them years ago, which fell apart 6 months after I bought it. The bike I was trying to buy now was more expensive, and made by Chrysler. I was told by a manager candidly that the bike I bought was junk, but they had better bikes, after the fact, of course. So, I gave Toys R Us another try, 6 years later.

Anna and I were already planning to go to the Green Acres mall, not far from that Toys R Us, and I suggested we go there, and ask if they could order the bike for us. As we walked into the bicycle area, the bicycle department employee was briskly walking away. Anna said "he saw us coming, and got the hell out, instead of helping us," and she was right. We looked for a rain tarp to put over the bike, but they didn't have any. In fact, they didn't have many bikes, either.

None of the bikes on their rack had fenders or chain guards, which are my two major requirements. There was a workstation with a PC, and I joked that I should use it to order the bike, because there was no one around to help us. We decided to head toward the customer service desk, or find an employee who could help us.

Crossing the front area, I asked a young male employee for help. I asked him "can you order this bike for me?" He said "no," and started walking away as fast as he could. I called to him, getting progressively louder until I hit the lower end of USMC volume. At that point, all the cashiers could hear me saying "Sir, who can I talk to?" He stopped, and pointed to the customer service desk, "with a look of exasperation on his face," according to Anna.

We were lucky enough to encounter the manager at the customer service desk, who informed us that the bike was only available online. He said I could get it shipped to my house, and then bring it to the store to be assembled, for 15 dollars (plus tax). We ended up going this route. I ordered it online, and it arrived on my doorstep from UPS, without me signing anything (a clear violation of UPS' rules, I might add).

I called Toys R Us to make sure that I could get my bike assembled there. I asked "can I get it done today?" The lady said "yes," and nothing more. It cost 16 bucks plus a tip for the cab over there, with the box, but I figured I'd ride the bike home, allowing 3 or 4 hours to assemble the bike. NOT.

The first thing they said at the customer service desk, after I brought the box in, was "tomorrow, after 5 PM." I work from 4 PM -midnight, so this meant 2 days. At this point, I was in no mood to argue. I thanked them all for their help, got a 9 dollar (plus tip) cab home, and took a nap before work.

I went to pick up my new bicycle today. It has a dent in the front fender, and some of the plastic nuts have been replaced by metal ones. I didn't bother making an issue of it, because it rides like a new bike, and it looks cool. Interestingly enough, though it's a Chrysler PT Cruiser model bicycle, it's made in China. Anna and I were both disappointed to find this out.

I have to raise the seat, as all the Toys R Us mechanics were off duty when I picked it up, but other than that, it was a fun 2 1/2 mile ride home. Let's see how well it holds up, because I am a notorious bike-beater. I ride alot, when I have a bike. I'm going to try to take good care of this one, because it's new, and a gift from Anna. Still, it was made in China, so I'm worried about the quality.

I thought the service at the store was atrocious.Toys R Us might also think of delivering online merchandise to a store, to be assembled and picked up by the customer. The culture I saw in the store was one of running away from the responsibilty of doing one's job, so they may not be up to the task. This is no way to run a business, and I know how NOT to run a business, from personal experience!

I'll take a photo as soon as I get the seat at the right height, and angle, but I like the bike, even with the low seat. I look like I'm a "low rider" with my arms fully extended as I stretch toward the back part of the "comfort" seat. I thought I broke some of the springs on the ride home, but it was a false alarm. Cross your fingers.

Friday, August 24, 2007


Cheers to the state flag of California! From LEAV!


I always wanted this car, and was lucky enough to take my first road test in it. It's my friend Craig's Monte Carlo SS, from the mid-late '80's. I had sweatpants that matched it, which look really cool in this photo. I really loved this car, even though it was never mine.


On a low cliff, overlooking the Pacific shoreline. I'm all like "Hey, what a background!"


LEAV, on the passenger side of Mark's souped-up VW Bug, in La Jolla! What a vacation, in '87! I was PHAT! That was in fashion, in NY, at the time! I still had toned legs, though they're barely visible in this photo.

Monday, August 20, 2007


Taking my friend's little sister, and her friend, to Jones beach. I was 25, and they were 10 years younger than me. A fun time was had by all! The summer of '87!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Hangin' Out By The Pool!

Hangin' Out By The Pool, 1990!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Dad and Me, in Central Park, around 1965...

Dad, riding me around Central Park, NYC. I was suspicious of strangers at a young age, as is apparent in the last photo. In the second photo, dad looks the most like I do today, though I'm older than he was in these photos, and have much longer hair!
Man, I miss him.


20 years ago, I was in California, on vacation. I stayed with my friend, and his wife. He took these pics, and kindly shared them with me. These were great friends, and great hosts, when I visited them. Great memories!


The artist that painted this removed my red chest hair, with good reason: it looks awful! I swear, I didn't shave it for this painting. I like the face; she captured my expression very well. I was in my '30's when I posed for this. I'm grateful that this artist gave me this photo, but I have to thank Mrs. Brannigan, my friend's mom, who was also a member of that painting class. She got me the job, and gave me her painting, which I gave to my mom. My modeling career was short, because I couldn't keep my mouth shut.
No surprise there! Enjoy a great painting!

Monday, August 13, 2007



My First Car: Goin' to the Beach!

My first car, a Chevy Impala. I drove to Jones Beach alot in it, including the day of this photo. Around 1987, I'd guess.


New Year's Eve, '84-'85. Champagne, good friends, "the Good Times." Is my smile too "snarky?" I knew this picture would look good, which made me smirk a little more. It was a fun night! "La" looks beautiful as ever, of course! I'm glad to count her, and her family, among my best friends in the world.

Friday, August 10, 2007


This is a special post, put together for my friend Joe Higgins! The top photo is of Ed "the Ferret" Loftus, doing a phony punch to Tony "Harpo" Montano, with Mickey "Rooney" Montano, Tony's younger brother, throwing in his own "love tap."
The second photo is of Mickey "Rooney," getting out of his stock race car. I had the privelege of painting the designs on this car, including the tag, right below Mickey's legs, that says "SMOKIN' JOE HIGGS!" That refers to the above-mentioned Mr. Higgins.
The third photo is of my brother Bill, who these guys called "Lev" years before I adopted that appellation, though I always spelled it correctly, as "LEAV." In this crowd, I was known as "Howdy Doody," which Harpo later changed to Howard J. Doolittle, or "Howard," for conversational purposes.
All of these photos are from the early '80's, when all of us were much younger. Too bad I don't have any pics of "Higgs" from this era, but I'll publish them, if I get my hands on them. I have more photos of my brother, which I'll publish eventually.
Enjoy the trip to "back in the day!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The MAIN ST. CAFE: Rick Derringer and Dave Mason

These are backstage photos from two of our biggest nights at the MAIN ST. CAFE, in Farmingdale, NY. RICK DERRINGER is drinking in the top one, as I shake his wife's hand. I'm in the back of the second photo, behind Dave Mason, and a group of people. (L-R): My partner John, wearing a "staff" shirt; the promoter (I think); Christine, our favorite bartender; me; DAVE MASON, who gave an excellent performance; and the reporter from the local "club" newspaper, on the right.
Notice that the reporter is the only one NOT looking into the camera. In his paper, the photo they published had him looking into the camera, with Mr. Mason and the rest of us looking away from his photographer, who was standing to the side. I got the better photo, hands down.
These are two photos with long stories behind them, and I intend to tell them. The Main St. Cafe was a HUGE chapter of my life, though it only lasted a year and a half. Since I've found an archive of photos in a friend's basement, I think it's time to tell some of these stories.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

JO HURT: The Star Wagon, 1966

Ten tears after she died, my mom has arrived! She has a page on the Internet Movie Database.This is signifigant to me for several reasons, chief among them being recognition of her lifelong passion, which was acting.

Another signifigant point is that she was in The Star Wagon with Dustin Hoffman. She always told me that I met him, as a child, but I didn't remember it. According to IMDb, the film was released in 1966, when I was 4 yrs. old. According to mom, Hoffman was amused by my "talkativeness," until I had to be put in the corner because I wouldn't shut up.

I have to be honest. I only half-believed her. Mom knew alot of famous people (Elaine Stritch is my God-mother, and I really remember her!), but I wondered about some of her stories. She told me about Paul Lynde cornering my father at a party, but dad denied it ever happened. At least I have some objective corroboration that mom and Hoffman knew each other at the time.

The third thing is that it gives me more links, to expand the tribute page on my blog. So far, I only have a 1953 painting, a 1945 sketch of her, and an audio link to her Broadway performance of "Zip," from Pal Joey, in 1950. (check it out here)

Let me say this, in addition. For all her faults, she was a great mom, and was a big influence on the man I am today. I love her, and am proud of her accomplishments. I hope to keep her memory alive, and this is another step towards that goal.

Saturday, February 03, 2007


My best freind Starsky was a Boy Scout, and couldn't hang out with us on "Scout" night. One week, he talked me, and another freind into attending a Scout meeeting. The meeting was in the basement of Starsky's school, Blessed Sacrement, on 71st St, by Amsterdam ave, in Manhattan.

He got us down there, but neither of us were serious about joining the Boy Scouts. We just wanted to see what kind of crap he had to put up with, to be part of this group, and why it was more fun than hanging out on the street with us.

Years later, I understand the good that the Boy Scouts' discipline instills in young men, but I, and our other freind would have none of it that day. The two of us lasted less than the first ten minutes in formation. Snickering, we saluted the Scoutmaster, and snickered while he talked, as well, which compounded our offense.

He yelled at us, and Starsky stood at attention the whole time. We embarassed him thoroughly, in front of his Scoutmaster and Troop. I finally got tired of it and said "F--- you, motherf---er, I'm outta here! Stick the Boy Scouts up your a--!" My other freind yelled "yeah!" and we ran from the room, breaking ranks in the neat Boy Scout formation.

Man, it felt good as we got outside, expecting Starsky to follow us. He didn't, though. He stayed in the Boy Scouts for another year, at least. I found out later that Boy Scout training was an advantage in USMC bootcamp, and Eagle Scouts really had a leg up on the rest of us, at least in my Drill Instructors' eyes.

Did I mention how much I hated Paaris Island? No, that's in a later chapter.

Back to the point: As a kid, I liked freedom, and fought against all authority. There was nothing better than being 12 years old, and running freely around the upper west side of Manhattan: climbing up buildings, throwing fluorescent light bulbs like spears down alleys, and getting chased by security guards in Lincoln Center, strip clubs on 42nd St, the annual Boat Show at the old Colisseum (where the Time-Warner complex is now), or anywhere else.

There will never be another decade like the 1970's, and I intend to document all of my experiences from that decade. These are the early years, in my TALES FROM THE VENDOME .

Thursday, January 11, 2007


In 1980, I took alot of acid (See PERMANENT WAVES post). One time, I ate five hits of window pane acid at a freind's house on E. 89th St. in Manhattan, then had to commute to Long Island. I started "peaking" on the subway to Penn station, while still on the east side subway line.

I had this feeling as if my brain was on fire, or exploding, and wondered why I didn't look like my "Solaris" character, with flames for hair. I'm sure I looked scary, but probably not in a good way. I still weighed 120 pounds at 18 years old, and was doing my best to look "cool" in the reflection from the subway's window pane.

I got off at 42nd St, to catch the west side shuttle, but couldn't find it. I saw the 7 train, but wasn't sure if it was an alternative (it is). Hey, I was trippin', and starting to have a "bad" trip, in the subway system I had been travelling most of my young life. I finally decided that I would go ask a cop for directions. Did I mention I was trippin'?

Just as I found a cop to ask for directions, the sign appeared like magic above his head: "Shuttle to Times Square." Once safely on my West Side, I finished my trip to Penn Station, and back out to Freeport without incident... unless this was the same night I got on the LIRR train that made Seaford it's first stop. Naah. I was trippin' that night, too, but I'll tell it in another post.

The point here is to try to recall as much of this jumbled year (1980) as I can. Eventually, I will find some way to put this part of my story in order. These are mostly "small" anecdotes, but they are bricks in a huge wall.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


From the PERMANENT WAVES:1980 Collection of Stories.

I was sitting on the premises of a building across from my job, smoking a joint, when a guy with a bunch of photography equipment came up to me, and said "can I take your picture?" I said "sure," and hid the joint behind my back, while trying to pose. He said "why are you hiding the joint?" I said " because I don't want evidence of me doing this, or to get busted."

This guy whips out a bunch of photos of himself, some as a clown, some as a cop. He gives me the total lecture about "who he is," and asks me "who I am," of course. I got bedazzled with his line of thinking, because I was taking too much LSD, mostly on weekends. The "street photographer"'s lecture led me to the point where weed became as bad as taking acid (which I was taking like candy), and I had to quit it as well, for a time.

This was one weird event that happened 27 years ago, in 1980, across from 2 Park Avenue.

Today, I could be the guy with the camera, taking photos of the young "screw ups." Plenty of idiots still smoke weed on the street, with all the private surveillance cameras out there, as well as the public ones! To tell the truth, I'd be scared to try to photograph people I don't know, or even ask them for permission, these days!


In 1980, I had just dropped out of Nassau County Community College for a job in the mail room of the Beneficial National Life Insurance Company, located at 2 Park Av, between 31st and 32nd St. My buddy Starsky worked there during the summer, because his mom was one of their executives, and she got me the job there, as well.

I went in to interview, and they gave me a test, with over a thousand questions, and told me I had to answer as many correctly as I could in 15 minutes. I answered alot of them (the number 141 seems to jump out as I write this), and then they hired me on the spot. They also told me that I would be smarter than my boss; kind of "off the record." I was clueless, of course.

I knew nothing about the insurance business, and even less about the mail service it required. I was a fast learner, however. I found the mail room to be full of characters: Linguini, the former gay whore, but an all-around fun guy to hang out with; T from the Bronx, a Black Italian; Brooklyn Pete, a typical guido; Periscope, who tried to be the old man among the group at 23, a recent departee from the US Navy, with full mustache, beard, and '70's hairstyle. We had also two Joe's, both from Brooklyn, though one was Italian, and one was from Haiti. There were many other people still to be mentioned, but no women worked in the male-room.

I haven't written much about this part of my life before, so hold on to your seats. Though I'm nowhere near finished with the "Tales From The Vendome" stories, I decided that I have to start telling some of the later stories, and 1980 came right after the 1970's.

During my year at Beneficial, they got sued by Beneficial (toot, toot! -you're good for more) Household Finance, and had to change their name to National Benefit Life Ins. Co. The president of the company was Gerald Tsai, who is still mentioned on Page Six occasionally (not that I ever met him, I just know old company gossip).

You will read funny anecdotes about these people, this company, and most of all, about me. I ate over 500 hits of LSD during 1979 - 80, and everything changed in my life that year. It lead to a breakdown, of course, and a recovery, of sorts. I joined the USMC in June of 1981. You will want to read about 1980, in NYC, as seen through my eyes.

PS: The Canadian rock supergroup Rush came out with the "Permanent Waves" album that year, which is where I took this title from. Rush Limbaugh is now the "spirit of the radio," to quote one of the songs from that album. Take some acid (or not), and think about that. "Take the Great White North!"

Stories About the Permanent Waves: