NYC’s Tenderloin (daily practice)

When I find myself anywhere near the corner of 34th Street and 8th Avenue, I’m more than likely stressfully pushing through a horde of bodies en route to some other stressful thing or other Uptown, always just barely avoiding a Vision Zero demise. But maybe today the humidity was low enough that my human brain pushed back against the reptile parts, and instead of cursing this fucking sticky piece of shit city, I halted appreciatively before the big columns and broad stairs of the Post Office. If anything could calm every impulse in my body to flee this transit hub nightmare, it’s this truly arresting sight filled to the top with beautiful people.

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

Had I been paying attention before, not simply dodging pigeon shit, I may have noticed that this Post Office has, deservingly, an official name. The James A. Farley Building, and it’s designed by the same McKim, Mead & White firm whose famous train station once stood in place of the design hell that is today’s Penn Station. I’ve never understood what insanity might have led the rich developers of this city to stick us with the clinical abuses of Penn, but the Post Office at least allows us a glimpse of what the original may have looked like in its Beaux Arts glory.

To some, today’s Penn may seem more appropriate for its environs, which can feel a lot like San Francisco’s Tenderloin. And like the Tenderloin, there’s no other place quite like it in this city. The main difference, I think, is that the down and out junkies and homeless mentally ill haven’t simply been penned off here by the cops in order to be more easily surveilled, victims of the city’s murderously aggressive gentrification. Rather, they’ve chosen this strange nexus between Chelsea, Hudson Yards and Midtown to cohabitate this space delimiting the city’s bustling working class rush hour (which seems, here, to be all hours). I see students and accountants, tourists and construction workers all drinking in the same bars, while right outside a one-footed transgendered woman stripdances an internet kiosk. Neighbors, that’s all.

So for once, today, I took a moment to look at this abundance of life, not just curse it on my way to the next mind-numbing work project. People here seem genuinely happy at times, together haunting this or that cheesy bar on the corner to share a $2 Bud between 5 and 7pm. The magic really is in the variety of life, and up here, not everyone is wearing the same goddam pair of $200 Huaraches.

I hope those Post Office steps long survive the final days of the empire.

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Acattolico Stroll (daily practice)

after John Kidd

I met him in the early morning hours outside the Protestant Cemetery in Testaccio. He was smoking a cigarette and finishing an operation on his wristwatch calculator. I greeted him with a nervous hello, and he in return gave an indifferent nod, cleared his throat and said, “I’d say I have about three solid years left before I need to forge another passport. Let’s get moving.” A strange figure we must have cut. Separated by two generations: This man, who everyone, even his closest friends, believed to be dead, and I, his nervous young acolyte, wan and speechless, like meeting a ghost.

He unlocked the cemetery gates and led me directly to the shed where he kept his arsenal of groundskeeper tools. A few rakes and various shovels, several bottles of fertilizer or weed killer, dissected parts of a sprinkler system, salts and a small desk  hidden under a mess of work orders and a well worn copy of The Case of Comrade Tulayev. I asked if he lived nearby and he shot back a glance that said, cop question. Then he handed me a pair of shears and we headed toward Keats’ wry headstone. His calloused hands glowing blue in the thin skin of old age started in on a patch of weeds, unrooting them with the efficiency of a machine.

Unsolicited he offered that he started every morning here as a reminder. Of what he didn’t say, but I read the engraving slowly back to myself a second, then a third time before grasping: the Bitterness of his heart, at the Malicious Power of his enemies

We spoke little between tombstone visits – various technical tips on garden maintenance, a couple of insects to look out for, especially around Shelley’s resting place – but by the time we made it to Gramsci’s tomb, he opened up about the fear of those first years. The shock. Not so much of the violence, the blood, but of having lived past the first half decade of roundups, torture and psychological terror nearly unmoved. He meant that literally, the groundskeeper job being his domain for fifty years. The Party had assumed him dead after the Palatine Massacre of 2021 and he, having read the news, took a page from The Outsider and lived on, only now under a masked self of his own design.

The writing continued, thankfully, under a pseudonym long assumed to be the real identify of an American political prisoner. In the long trough of political reaction, his research continued only because of his proximity to Gramsci’s body, a mecca of sorts for myriad radicals who were happy to share the latest work on the respected revolutionary made saint. At odds with the day’s earlier reports on his financial prospects, he predicted that he would himself be buried here soon. And that he needed my help ensuring as much.

Before returning to his workshed, he handed me a spade and asked that I dig beneath a collection of vases at the base of Gramsi’s ashes until I reached the locked metal box. He returned a few minutes later and handed me the key. The box contained his birth certificate and a small journal filled with memories of his fugitive life in Italy. One titled “Swimmers” told a happy story of bathing in the Bay of Naples. I skimmed for a while longer as we sat in silence, flashes of goats in Capri, drunk students running the Circus Maximus in late fall, the beautiful disorganization of the Museo Archeologico. The box’s only other contents was a true relic: a small zipdrive containing what he called his masterpiece. These, the proof of his life and his life’s work in refuge, produced here, beside Gramsci, would go back with me to New York. “My granddaughter will know what to do.”

Before I could ask my questions, the morning’s first guests, a German couple on holiday, arrived at the cemetery gates. The living apparition rushed away to greet them and signaled with one last indifferent nod my way to the exit.

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The W Column (daily practice)

Of all the daily offenses that could bring my blood to boil, why is a Phillies loss felt to be the most aggravating of all? From April to September (and if we’re lucky, October), whether in the wildcard hunt, World Series, or tanking, I dread nothing more than taking another L. (Conversely, it goes without saying, a win feels like an early bonus payout. I fall asleep rich and rise with the pride of a champion.) Maybe it’s a uniquely Philly thing, but any shakiness in performance – bullpen shits itself in the 9th; an overthrow at first; failure to turn a double play – comes as a personal affront. Even personal affronts, to the extent that I think I’ve experienced them, vibrate at a lower reactive frequency. I’ve never responded to an insult with as much bile as I’ve spit Hector’s way after giving up a hanging curveball meatball into South Philly oblivion.


I can liken it to getting robbed or ripped off, not that I’ve been a sucker much, if that helps you imagine what Herrera losing a high flyball in the July sun feels like. (If you think I’m exaggerating, feel free to check the replies to the official Phillies Twitter any weekday between, say, 10:30 and 11PM EST.) But oddly, Herrera’s the shlemiel in this scenario, right? Shouldn’t I have a laugh? Isn’t this whole baseball thing supposed to be fun after all? Maybe for some people, but you and your neighbors, the collective shlemazel of the American athletic world, are not some people. (I know very few Yiddish words, but the schlemiel/schlemazel relationship sticks with me for the very reason that it so accurately captures what being a Philadelphia sports fan means, of course discounting an aberration in the sportstime continuum, circa February 2018.)

The truly odd part of this whole attitude – or maybe it’s better described as a lifestyle, which I’m getting at – is that we have 1980 and 2008. True highlights in Phillies – nay,  sports! – history. We have Mike Schmidt (asshole) and Halladay (saint), Robin Roberts, the beautifully populist John Kruk and the mullet miracles of 1993. Hasn’t it all been enough? Consider the Cubs! Consider the Yankees! You’re neither all time great losers, nor the overly privileged trustfund babies of the League. You’re right there in the lower middle of the pack, consistent, a solidly losing record over 20k+ games across the oldest franchise in history, sure, but you’re known as fighters, working class heroes at that. Give the whole chip on yer shoulder pretense a break and finally chuckle off the battery-pelted Santa jokes. Try quiet pride for once, less open vitriol.


For any reasonably self-controlled adult, that should be easy enough to accept, but only if you express the oddity of it all in terms of a W-L percentage. Being a sports fan, particularly of the Phils variety, isn’t at all about winning or losing, and my proof of it is my own integral desire of underdoggedness (and evidently the whole city’s, if you take The Times’ view). Of needing, at the core of one’s being, to scream at the Manager as though you had a paid position in Kapler’s dugout. There’s the attachment to place, of course, and it’s right there – everywhere, worldwide – that you have the obvious answer to one’s agony & ecstasy of an otherwise completely meaningless relationship to a game. Apart from that, there’s the the very real, very meaningful hope that our collective grumbling will somehow reach the ears of the higher beings in the Front Office. As the ritual meeting place where this hoagie-mouthed praying happens, Citizen’s Bank Park and the Vet before it are – without any figurative sense of the word – the basilicas in the orthodoxy of working class experience in Philadelphia and its parishes in South Jersey / Delco. An image of Silver Linings Playbook‘s Deniro just flashed in my mind as illustrative here, though his character’s limit case superstition doesn’t capture the normally spiritual aspects of fandom. By “normal” I mean… you know, as normal as your grandma’s going to church on Sunday and expecting a Catholic spell to cure cancer.

One expectation of an hour’s worth of focused reflection on this topic – this obsession, really – is that one would take a step back and quit baseball, ye fickle boring game, for an evening.

But nah The Phillies are losing 7-2 to the Rockies and everyone seated in the Twitter pews are going evangelical on ’em:

Kapler has lost the clubhouse
Thank god it’s over
Same shit different day



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Stakes (daily practice)

Most of the day is spent waiting: In lines, on benches, smoking, eating overly expensive crusted slop, baking in the sun or drenched in the stable stenches outside if you’re unlucky. (Doubly, I mean, in weather and pocket.) Even the sober feel tempted to drink passing the time between races. I see them vicariously eyeing the straw-hatted Long Island youth in the bar queue, they haven’t much else to do.

Pink shirts sweated through on all the fatty parts, neon cocktails with too much ice, cigar smoke mixed with thick popcorn stink, a pair of hairy legs in dirty sneakers sharing a stall with a high-heeled companion. Belmont: Bastion of Progress on Bathroom Norms?  (Answer: no, they’re only a little transgressive when expedient; I have firsthand knowledge that these folks call line-cutters “queers.”)

Only the true handicappers seem at peace amid the mass restlessness. The rest of us arrived too early, carrying the profoundly deluded hope that this year would be different. We wouldn’t fade or wither in dehydration before the main event. We wouldn’t waste bets on exotic Hail Mary Superfectas or forget the math on a 4-factoral when boxing it. Four times three times two. No. This year it’s the easy stuff. Place, Show, Win: Can’t Lose! I’ll read the fucking book on the train. Jimmy Tipkins at Horse Knower Weekly picked the Preakness spot-on. Fuck Justify, I’m listening to Jimmy….

But of course, this year isn’t different. At best, you didn’t lose, but you also couldn’t win big, like the trustfund loafer bros and Gronks upstairs betting on their namesakes. The stakes are truly only for those with the pockets deep enough to make ironic throwaway bets ($69… nice), but the Stakes is ours. It’s church, a cure for the masses. Only with a little more people slipping around in their own shit and vomit.

…I got the cover image from a nice gal who said her friends never take good pictures of her, so “Would you mind taking one of me?” Sure, I said. Then I showed it to her and she exclaimed, in glee: “Oh, the lip gloss!” 

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Italia 2017 – Napoli

This gallery contains 14 photos.

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Italia 2017 – Roma

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Italia 2017 – Sorrento, Costiera Amalfitana, Capri

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