Going.. going..

It’s T minus two days until my big trip, and things are starting to take shape. I roughly have an itinerary:

First 5 days: acclimate to the altitude, chew coca leaves, wander around the town of Cusco, check out some nearby ruins, leisurely hang around cafes meeting quirky fellow travelers, buy some alpaca & trinkets and possibly go whitewater rafting on the Amazon.

Second 4 days: hike the Inca Trail, see Machu Picchu, be blown away by the majesty of it all, try very hardest not to get hurt (much), sit in hot springs.

Rest day: eat, sleep, bathe.

Final 3 days: travel to Puerto Maldonada in the Amazonian rainforest, see monkeys, see 500-600 species of birds, swim in the pool, take malaria pills, drink the tea of the dead, see god and/or meaning of life, swim in the pool more.

Right now I’m trying to figure out a reading list. I’m thinking something of a post-colonial theme for the trek. I haven’t read any V.S. Naipaul, and I never did get through One Hundred Years of Solitude. Also unfinished in my bookshelf are Ulysses, Journey to the End of the Night, Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, and several other titles I can’t remember. I also want to read more Joe Eszterhas, Terry Southern, and Hunter S. Thompson after reading some essays in The New Journalism. If anyone has any suggestions, please pass them using the handy hotlink at the bottom of this page. The only requirement is that they be available in paperback. Maybe I should just get all magazines so I can abandon them as necessary…

Otherwise, it’s all odds and ends left: a stuff-sack here, a wet-wipe there. I wouldn’t mind some new walking shoes, and a fleece – but most of the must-haves are all done. It’s a wonderful thing for me to not do any work for 2 whole weeks. I can barely control my excitement. Also, my archenemy winter is creeping into the scenery so it’s a perfect time for some get-outta-town. Maybe I will be able to blog from the hinterlands. I’ve heard there’s a lot of Internet café’s – and I do want to be writing. But I’d feel better with my head in a notebook than in front of a computer, even if it is the very same thing, almost.

That Big To-Do List in the Sky

I need a serious blog redesign. The current incarnation is not meeting my needs anymore. I’m not taking pictures enough to update the “Photo du Jour” at even the most minimally acceptable levels. My one entry per page thing was to force me to write longer (and in theory better) essays, which I did, except that now that I’m actually writing articles, I feel constrained by this tough-love format. Also I’d like to have an area of my published stuff (even though most of it is really boring, i.e. my last feature on candles).

But I won’t have time to do this for awhile as I have shit to finish up, before I leave for my fabulous trip to Peru. It’s the only thing keeping me going in these last few weeks of fall and insane amounts of work. Actually yesterday I did not work at all. I had a birthday brunch (not mine) with friends from college which predictably turned into an entire day of drinking domestic beer at various locations.

I played Bocci Ball for the first time ever, and our team kicked ass. It was a slightly ghetto version of the game, as it was really dark no one could see the balls very well, balls kept getting lost in piles of trash, under plastic bags, behind the waxed paper from a pizza slice. One ball may have been peed on by a small dog, and we played Frisbee while waiting for our turns. Nice.

The real point is that I did not do any work yesterday. It’s been since September that I have gone a single day without working. After this day of friends, fun, fall leaves, and also hot wings I proceeded to have the absolute worst nights sleep. I dreamed I had 2 long articles due that I hadn’t even started and that print people were calling me all day. And time would not move forward so that I could just totally screw up and not turn in the articles. There was always just 2 hours to go – not enough time to turn them in, too much time to just face the music. One of the articles was on hair-dryers and the other was on cake ingredients. There was also a very disgusting sexual component to the whole thing which may have had something to do with the conversation among the nearly entirely male company I was in yesterday. Yech – it was awful.

I actually had to sit up in bed at 5AM and run through my mental to-do list just to convince myself that I wasn’t forgetting something horribly important. I did flake on one thing yesterday – but I just had to, and I’m gonna do it tonight, so stop pestering me already! Sorry, it’s just my brain needs to be reprogrammed – probably by an adventure in the Andes and the Amazon…

The Rich and The Rich

Two weekends ago I downloaded a slew of songs from Elton John and Smokey Robinson. It’s a strange combination, but it worked. Needles to say at the end of the weekend I was so depressed I could have looked a kitten in the eye and made it cry.

A half a week later I’m still listening to the Tracks of my Tears and Madman Across the Water albeit in a slightly less depressed manner. I got to see my shrink twice this week, and that always takes the edge off. In fact it puts the edge on so intently for that 45 (times two) minutes that I have none of it left for when I’m walking into the chaos of my apartment. And it is chaos. I’ve reached this point where I spend so much time working that when I’m not working, I create work for myself because I’m not sure how else to exist in my waking hours. But don’t worry because that’s only happened for like four and half hours in the last month.

I was just at the opening party for the Institute Clarins on Madison and 80th street and a PR woman asked me my beat. It’s the Upper East Side, which is so fucking weird. I should be used to walking among the rich and privileged at this stage in my life. And most of the time I am. I sympathize with the old people whom the bicyclist delivery boys on the sidewalk scare the daylights out of, and the Chinese menus on the steps of their million dollar condos that drive them batty. I go out to events so I can write blurbs on their landmark renovations, their zoning law fights, the latest anti-aging serum trend, the beloved retiring doorman. But every so often, usually when I’m commuting home on a late 4/5 train with tired mothers, janitors and nurses so I can get home to sleep and wake up in time for my paying gig, I realize what freakin weirdos they are.

Lest you get the wrong idea, I’m psyched that someone has given me the go ahead to report on them, on anyone. I like getting the stories, seeing my name on the newsprint, even if it’s about the new dog psychologist on 81st and Lex. Actually that wasn’t my story, but it could have been. And there are the perks, like the Clarins Body Polisher they gave away tonight (i know, body polisher???), and when Peter Bogdonavich breathed on me, and I sqeezed by Philip Seymour Hoffman at a funny awards ceremany Monday night. That was fucking cool.

I asked some fellow reporters if they ever sat in the community meetings where people bitched about the yellow cab stand’s various misdemeanor infractions (yes, they have freakin yellow cab stands in the upper east side!), if they ever sat in those meetings and longed to cover a neighborhood where people had problems like crime and drugs and health care… They said they did sometimes, but that would probably get old and depressing and frustrating just as fast, maybe faster.

But the thing is, everyone takes their problems and their lives seriously. We all do, I guess. I certainly do, most of the time. No new revelations here.

But let me just tell you this one thing: The lips I’ve seen on aging white women, it’s a fucking miracle of science…

stir crazy maybe

Lately I’ve been thinking about a place to go, for the weekend, a long weekend. Tickets to London are cheap now, though it is wise to acknowledge that London is a lot like New York, except colder, bigger, and even more expensive. But I have friends in London and I never see them, and we have a hell of a time putting the pints away before everything closes at 11PM. There’s always LA which is warm and cozy and parental, but let’s face it – the whole place is on fire at the moment. And folks, nothing is worse than Los Angeles during a heavy news day. What I mean is that the newscasters have enough trouble reading the weather off a teleprompter, what with the botox seeping down from their eyelids, and the collagen dripping down their teeth. What I mean is, it’s painful to watch people in LA speak extemporaneously on serious events. Even people that aren’t on television. You thought it was bad in New York. You thought it was bad in your podunk suburb of St Louis. LA is the worst. If there’s a cliché to be pronounced wrong and then pounded over and over forehead first into the pavement, it’ll happen on KCAL. Better yet, if there’s a cliché to be mispronounced and used incorrectly with this indescribably aggravating tone of wonder, the dude at the coffee shop’s got your number.

Besides for that, I don’t have too many friends elsewheres to visit for a weekend away. It’s a bit of a bummer. I remember at some time in my life having friends all over the place, from high school from college, from camp that one summer between 6th and 7th grade. But it seems like the ones I’ve got are the ones here now. We’re either close cause we hang out often, or it’s fizzled. Makes it easy on the MCI bills, bummer on the weekends away.

I am, for sure, going in December to Peru to hike the Inca trail to Machu Picchu. And then maybe drink the tea of the vine of the dead. Or maybe not, we’ll see how I’m adjusting to the altitude. Either way it’s a guaranteed adventure. More on that to come.

In the mean time I’m stir crazy. I need something new soon. New scenery, new love, new career. I’m open to all options.

Dining IN

I’ve been spending too much time writing at my newspaper job to spend anytime writing on Nil by Mouth. That’s all there is to it. And it’s not even that I’m there everyday. That might be part of the problem – I wish I had more time there. It’s an unpaid two day a week internship. The other 5 days are mostly devoted to making websites that pay my bills, and then recovering from that worn out feeling that accompanies it. And sadly, the blog has suffered.

I’m only here now because I am, and have been for several hours, procrastinating writing an article on kosherfest and kosher dining in Manhattan. I think I’ve basically decided (though it’s far too early in my career for such a sweeping statement but fuck it) that I don’t like writing about food, restaurant food specifically. It’s boring, and every restaurant says the exact same thing.

“We use the freshest/best/highest quality ingredients”

“Our staff is the friendliest ever”


Doesn’t matter what the angle is, what the story is about. Every restaurant is the same, or at least each one presents themselves the same way. And maybe I’m being lazy because I’m not digging deeper. But I worked restaurants for several years, and I just don’t want to grill or fast talk or out maneuver some overworked manager, or peevish owner who’s one case of wine away from bankruptcy. Cause really, unless it’s ESPN Sportszone restaurant or a Subway franchise, they all are. Unrelated sidenote: is it just me that has been noticing the alarming rate at which Subway Sandwich stores are invading New York City? It’s like every storefront that once housed a specialty ink store turns into a yellow and brown BMT factory. [Now this could be an actual restaurant story. Note to self: investigate further]

So here I am, got a bunch of notes from interviews with 2 Rabbis, 2 restaurants, and a butcher, and I can’t seem to make it at all interesting to myself. Supposedly more and more people are eating kosher food or ingredients out of a perception that it’s cleaner or healthier or something. But besides for the marketers, I can’t find anyone who admits to this practice. Anyone? Either people who think this are too ashamed to admit it (because it’s basically a completely unfounded assumption) or b, it’s a marketing strategy thought up by a bunch of shrewd Rabbis with MBAs and several extra pounds of pareve poultry.

No Name Today

The long-touted, much-promised, eagerly anticipated story of my name could not be here today, due to recent tragic events. Ok, not tragic really – just busy. Just busy doing my 10 jobs, like a Jamaican (does anyone get this reference to the long-deceased sketch comedy show, that I’ve heard several times in the last week?).

But it’s good news: I’ve been published, several times in fact. As a part of my new reporting internship at Manhattan Media, publisher of several quality local weekly newspapers such as Our Town, The West Side Spirit, The Westsider, and The Chelsea-Clinton News.

I love reporting. Totally love it. Yesterday I was on the phone with a Lieutenant Colonel, and made him get very defensive. That was cool. The day before, I pushed through the crowd to get an interview at a retail-store opening – ahh the power. And I get to write – which is the coolest. If you live, work, or love in either the Upper West or Upper East Side – look out for Our Town (east) or the West Side Spirit (west) in boxes and dusty corners in your local coffee shop. I’ll also have a clips site put together sometime when I have 5 minutes to spare.

My 7th job is teaching tennis to an adorable group of 12 year old girls in Bed-Sty, They are naturals I swear it. At first I admit, I was a little worried. Worried that all of us had no idea what we were doing, and this would be a very long two hours. By the end of the first hour, they were really hittin’ the balls around though. I was impressed. Meanwhile, I am really getting into the role of dorky tennis coach. I must have said “Ready position – who’s in ready position?” like a hundred times. That was cool.

Also I’m taking a class at NYU: Interviewing. Which is ok, except that I haven’t a smidgeon of time to do the homework. I bring it up because, fellas, continuing ed classes are a goldmine of cute girls. There are 2 men out of the 20-person class, and I’m pretty sure half of them are gay. The rest is 20 – 30 something girls who are a little confused about their future, and for some reason, maybe just in my class – are all really cute. It kind of intimidates me to be honest. Anyway – tip from the inside. I hope you were paying attention.

Otherwise I better get going cause my to-do list is getting the better of me, as it has been for the last 2 weeks.

Dear Neille

I got this e-mail several days ago and I, as you’ll be soon, was riveted. I think my new friend has inspired me to once and for all write the definitive Story of My Name, which honestly has been about 26 years in the works. Thanks Iain

Dear Neille,

I was hospitalized in London about 7 or so years ago. They couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me and I sure as Hell wasn’t going to tell them, (even though I knew exactly what was causing all this vomiting and thrashing about.)

I was put in the “we haven‚t figured this case out yet so we’ll leave him here till something develops ward” with a whole crowd of dieing, wheezing, very untalkative men. Once I was all rigged up to monitors and machines and I.V. drips a nurse pulled a board from beneath my bed and hung it up over my bed like the sign the Roman’s put above Jesus on his cross, it read, “Nil By Mouth”.

This meant that nothing, absolutely nothing whatsoever was to enter my body via my mouth, “nil” in fact.

When you are being fed and watered by fluids dripping directly from a bag into your veins your poor old mouth soon dries up and shuts down. This was a very unpleasant sensation and though the conversation level in my ward was practically non-existent I still longed for my mouth back for future projects. I needed fluid; I had to have it, but how?

One extremely ill old man across from me had a huge jug of orange juice, with gorgeous big clinking cubes ice in it, placed next to his bed and refreshed several times a day. He hadn’t moved an inch since I’d been there and he certainly had never sat up and started glugging back the delectable looking juice. I determined to end this dusty drought in my mouth and experience the eye watering joy of refreshing myself with a long drink of his icy, sweet, tasty, fluidy O.J.

That night when the night nurse in her sensible work shoes had clop-clop-clopped down the corridor to go and shove a suppository up some poor bastards ass or something I struggled from my bed, sore from the sandpaper-like sheets and gathered the two I.V. drip stands (which, conveniently were on casters) and embarked upon my shuffling, inch by inch odyssey across the ward. The goal of my quest loomed nearer and nearer and at last was in my hands. Trembling with anticipation I picked up the jug and without bothering to use the glass raised it to my parched lips and began to pour the nectar greedily down my throat. It spilled out the sides of my mouth and streaked across my cheeks onto my flimsy, tie-up-at-the-back-thus-exposing-your-ass-to-the-world hospital gown.

I drank and drank until I could drink no more. The old man whose juice I was stealing moaned and turned on his side. I froze and almost began to whisper an explanation, an apology anything to placate and silence the poor old sod. However, his eyes remained shut. The wrinkled old lids tight, discolored, indicative of whatever unknown condition was advancing on his ailing body. He would’t miss what I had taken from his bedside.

I replaced the much lighter jug, scooped out an ice cube and popped it in my mouth and began the return shuffle back to my bed. Clambering back under the sheets I somehow snagged one of the I.V. tubes, the saline line I think, and the needle was tugged out of my arm.

“Ow!” that was surprising painful and there was no way in Hell I’d ever get it back in so the fluid began emptying itself not into my arm but onto my mattress, eventually soaking a suprisingly large area.When I heard the night nurse returning to her desk at the head of our ward I feigned sleep. After about two minutes I felt a rumbling from deep within my stomach, then a pain, then a gush and then I vomited the entirety of the illegally consumed juice all over my bed and myself. A mix of pure green bile and pure orange accompanied with a loud, uncontrollable retching sound.

The night nurse came scurrying to my bedside. “Mr. Potts!” she cried, “My Goodness?! Who gave you a drink?! What happened to you drip?!” etc etc.

“Err, I don’t know, I err…I…umm.” I mumbled guiltily.

She summoned assistance and I was stripped and washed down and repackaged into my bed. A doctor appeared and began conferring with the very displeased looking night nurse. He put his hand to his chin and nodded occasionally then signed something on a clipboard. A porter arrived and unhooked the breaks on the bed and wheeled me off to a new ward. “Psychiatry” the sign said at the entrance.


7 or so years later, being this Monday morning, I stumbled into my midtown office of the newspaper in New York where I now work.

Last night my when I had completed my ritual Sunday night reconstruction of my Saturday night damaged apt. I collapsed onto the couch and watched the Gary Oldman movie “Nil By Mouth”. As is my bent these days, when I came into work I looked the movie up on the internet to see what people had to say about it and compare and contrast my opinions on what was I perceived as an excellent piece of film making. In the process of this casual research I came across you and your web site. I wasn’t quite ready to take off my weekend head and screw on the work head, so as a final gesture, a parting wave to the weekend gone I wrote this to you and will now send it.

“Nil By Mouth” the sign above my bed all those years ago, the 1998 Gary Oldman movie and your web site today. Three dots in the universe linked this morning for a moment and now we move on.

I wish you as bright and sunny a day and life ahead as you seem to have thus far,

With very best wishes, I am


Iain P


Yesterday I wanted to take a picture of myself, outside in my bikini with my headphones on peering at my new laptop in the southern cali sun, but then I realized I couldn’t see shit on the LCD screen when it’s that bright out, there’s no way in hell I want to document myself in a bikini (2 sizes 2 big cuz it was in sale at old navy for a buck fitty), and it was terribly narcissistic. But I tell you about it because it’s the thought that counts. Only in LA will you eavesdrop on the conversation next to you and hear, “Fuck I’m glad it’s cloudy. I’m so fucking sick of all this sun.”

I had a brief argument with my mother yesterday when I told her if I saw one more bare midriff I was going to puke in my sugarfree soy latte. She kept trying to convince me that it was my problem, and why couldn’t I live and let live when it came to ladies in low rise jeans and belly shirts. And I said yes it is my problem, and I can’t fucking stand it. And it’s like once you notice the ubiquitousness of the belly, you just can’t stop seeing them everywhere. I’ll be honest, I was impressed when Aaliyah shook her teeny hips, and I even let it slide for Brittany and Christina, but it’s freaking boring already girls. Boring. Look around – half the grandmas in LA are showing off their navel rings for chrissakes. It’s time to move on. But anything that allows people to flaunt their thousand dollar gym memberships is going to last for another century in LA. Women still wear biker shorts for peet’s sake. Which I say are a whole lot cooler than the current stomach obsession.

In other news I’ve been trying to keep myself entertained during my two week sojourn in the west, but I’m getting a wee bit bored and a wee bit homesick. My roadtrip is not materializing, neither is any shining realization about where I want to live. It’s nice out here, sunny, pleasant, but there are a lot of annoying people with a lot of annoying ideas about what’s important (flat belly) and what’s not (decent gas mileage). I’ve been seeing at least a half a dozen H2s a day, and in my non mobile state that’s a lot. What better way to advertise you’re an asshole than in a 10 MPG tank taking you and your beach chair to the beach you keep polluting.

If it seems I have a lot of anger here in my sunny LA digs, you are right. But I blame it not on my exact location but on the general state of the world. I have and do find as many things to bark about in New York. Here it’s just that the targets practically beg for it. Like the Lincoln Navigator with an American flag collage painted on it. Are you fucking kidding? Isn’t somebody out there giving out asshole tickets or prick-of-the-week awards? Maybe that’s my new calling. And don’t get me started on the governor recall…

So F@*&ing What

I know it’s yesterday’s news, but I need to say a little something more on the blackout even though “so fucking what” is my official position. I feel I must explain SFW a little more, since i got called cynical and bitter for it the other day by a friend who said, “But I heard it was the funnest day of the year?” Oh blah. I say this for 2 reasons.

First thing. There was, I heard, lots of impromptu drinking and self-made entertainment on Thursday night. Both of which I’m certainly a fan of. I didn’t partake since by the time I reached my apartment all I could do was drop from exhaustion. Without electricity there was no TV, no movies, no pre-packaged entertainment so folks had to make their own fun, talk to each other, play music. Yay – all good things. Also, might I add cynically, all things that are highly available the other 364 days of the year when the power is on. In the mix with all this self-expression and subversive partying I can’t help but detect a phenomenon I call to myself, Bored White Kid Syndrome. In my office building when the lights went out and before people knew it was just a glitch in the wires, everyone was a bit jumpy. I looked around and was happy that there was one other guy I worked with that i had known for a few years and I felt ok with, in case we had to do some major dealing. So after 10 minutes or so most of the people I make websites with were out in front of the building, nervously smoking cigarettes and trying to agree on a bar to go to. Meanwhile, inside the building, the guys that make sure stuff works were on their walkie-talkies keys in hand, opening exit doors, and worrying about the poor souls that might be in the elevator. All over the city are these guys, getting people out of subways and elevators, fiddling with emergency lighting and the rest. They keep shit working when everything runs smoothly, fix it when it breaks, and catch hell for it when it’s all fucked up. And for the most part they are black and brown.

Back in Fort Greene, there was some rumblings from the older folks about hoping kids don’t take advantage of the dark night to forget what’s right. Of course they were talking about the black and brown kids, not the white 20 somethings passing around PBRs and marvelling at the brilliance of drinking outside in the dark. Don’t get me wrong, I had a beer on the stoop when I got home and it hit the spot. Friday wasn’t as exciting to me since I get paid by the day, so no work means no pay, which I suspect many more on the nonprofessional side of the working world have to contend with. I guess I see a race issue here, and I see a class issue here, and it bothers me. It bothers me that it’s so easy to count yourself as subculture when someone else is fixing all your utilities, cleaning up the cigarette buts the next day, and worrying about water safety. It also bothers me that it goes unacknowledged that if the racial makeup of these impromptu parties skewed more to black or brown, someone would break it up faster than a failing power grid. I’m not saying that only the working class is keeping it real, just that there’s a lot more to being subversive than violating open-container laws. And I mean that the other 364 days of the year too.

The second thing is about all this being a national tragedy/emergency/whatever. Though it smacks of “starving kids in Asia” there are people driving trucks with bombs into buildings. There are people who’s doors get knocked down daily by an occupying army that doesn’t speak their language. There’s several countries full of people who are afraid to leave their homes after dark. We just have it so freakin easy. And that bothers me too.

So that’s my explanation of my official So Fucking What stance on the blackout. Don’t worry, you’ll here no more about it from now on.

Sunny x a Million

Final thoughts on this whole blackout rigamarole. On Thursday I was plotting out a long and sweaty seven mile walk home, nervous to how my clogs would fare, but self-congratulatory that I had a flashlight and radio with batteries back at the ranch. Then in the next three days I went from Brooklyn to a wedding in St Louis, and the next day (incredibly hungover naturally) to my dad’s house in LA. It took me less time to go halfway across the country (twice) than walking from work to home. I don’t know. I’m not going to draw any big conclusions – except that it was pleasant to talk to my neighbors for more than 5 minutes. A day and half without power, so what? There are always those days in August where you walk too much and sweat through all your clothes, and shit, my apt is *always* hotter than hell in the summer. So fucking what?

A real bona fide big deal might be that I consumed outrageous quantities of Gin & Tonics yet didn’t do anything stupid or embarrassing at the St Louis wedding. I swear. I didn’t dance, which is kind of rare for me, but it just isn’t a dancing-to-soul-music-by-a-seven-piece-band-with-associate-financial-analysts kind of time for me right now. Sometimes it is, really. But not now. I did get to talk to a few interesting people, including one j crew looking white kid from Mississippi who very earnestly told me that he raps like Andre from Outkast. And hell, maybe he does. Since it was nearing a hundred degrees the day I was there, we didn’t do much besides a car trip to the arch, and sit around the Best Western swimming pool/parking lot. I bought some blood red lipstick to wear to the shindig, but it was so hot and so sunny that I felt half like a little kid who got into her mother’s makeup and half like an aging starlet in the wrong lighting. I went bare-lipped, but now i need to find an occasion for my blood red lipstick since the whole treatment cost me $30, and it ain’t going to waste. Any ideas?

But here I am, back in Cali again for the yearly 2 week retreat. As usual it’s a pleasant 80 deg and sunny. Sigh.

Weather dot com says it better than I can: