Monday, September 01, 2014

Life Support

Here it is, September 1, and I am pondering sad old BillyBlog, tossed to the side after Tattoosday took over my life.

September always makes me nostalgic, because that is when I started BillyBlog. It is also when I spun Tattoosday off into its own beast.

Sometimes, in cyberspace, no one can hear you scream.

When I started BillyBlog, I didn't know if it was going to go anywhere, and it did. It hasn't received the moderate success of Tattoosday (and by moderate, I mean people know what it is, and identify it as something that exists). Perhaps, this September stirring will reinvigorate me. More likely, not.

We shall see. We shall see.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Bookpeeping - 2013 Edition

Kids, a long time ago, it seemed that everyone was reading books on the subway. Now it'a all Candy Crush and tablets.

Yesterday I tried to do a little bookpeeping. That is, I tried to spy on what those rare book readers were perusing.

I had a bit of success as I traveled from Lower Manhattan to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

On the Z train (yes, there is a Z train):

The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams:

Then, after transferring at Canal, on the platform waiting for the N train, a gentleman was reading The One and the Many: Collaborative Art in a Global Context by Grant Kester:

On the N train, I spotted The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer:

When I transferred at 59th Street for the R in Brooklyn, I saw a woman reading The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant:

And then, on the R train, on the home stretch, I saw a woman reading How Does it Feel to be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America by Moustafa Bayoumi

I hope you've enjoyed this latest incarnation of biliophilic voyeurism that I call Bookpeeping!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

How Long Do Blogs Live?

How long do blogs live?

Well, the most successful ones outgrow the name “blog” – they become websites. The Huffington Post started as a blog, for example, but it sure seems like a full-blown media outlet now.

And then there are all those short-lived one- or two-post specials. Someone said, “Let me blog!” and they started and then abruptly never posted again.

I've always heard that three years is the average lifespan of the blog. Balancing the HuffPos and the singular blips in the blogosphere, that seems about right. Heck, I have at least four blogs (yes, I lost track), including a project dedicated to discarded weather-worn umbrellas (Umbrellacide) and a brief celebration of the lives of recently-deceased poets (We Lost a Poet).

My original success as a blogger came with the autobiographical BillyBlog, which I associate with Hurricane Katrina, having started around the same time and, it is still lingering on life support, chalking up one or two posts a year. [I wrote this in a word document, and felt it most appropriate to post here, where it all started.]

BillyBlog gave birth to Tattoosday, an idea that outgrew its initial weekly inkiling, and became my most successful blog. It’s even part of my Facebook identity.

But something happened to Tattoosday, back in August 2012. I stopped posting whereas previously I posted daily and felt like an abject failure if I failed to do so.

I lost my job around the same time, and you would have thought that would have spurred a flurry of activity, but it didn't.

It looked like Tattoosday had a second wind in early 2013, but again, the summer seemed to kill it.
Ask my family – I wouldn't go anywhere without my notebook and Tattoosday fliers promoting the site. I ran out of fliers and haven’t reprinted. I only occasionally have my book with me and, despite still conducting the occasional interview, I still have material from five months ago, in June, that remains unpublished. 

How’s this for perspective: at its peak, I posted daily, seven times a week. In contrast, since I started my new job in September after a year out of work, I have posted just seven times. And I can’t tell you exactly why.

September marked our sixth anniversary.

I have spent more time wondering why I’m not writing Tattoosday than I have spent time writing Tattoosday.
My words fail me.

It is not that I am less interested in tattoos – I still jump at the chance to talk to people about them. I am guessing it is more just that, as I grow older, and have shifted focus onto a new job, I am focused on other things, things so mundane it is not even worth mentioning in a blog post.

So, I do not know what will happen with Tattoosday. I would like to think that I will keep posting, that I just need that spark to reignite the blogger fire within me. Right now, there are a few embers, smoldering. I have no idea what will happen – if the Tattoosday fire will blaze again, or if it will go out, quietly, with a thin white wisp of smoke, vanishing into the blogosphere.

Monday, June 10, 2013

How Much is That Cabinet in the Window?

Check out this amazing piece of furniture!



Friday, May 03, 2013

Amazing Illusion

Dusting off the old BillyBlog to share this gem. Check it out:

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Poetry in Motion: Noche de Lluvia, San Salvador

Noche de Lluvia, San Salvador
(Aracelis Girmay, b.1977)
Rain who nails the earth,
whose infinite legs
nail the earth, whose silver faces
touch my faces, I marry you. & open
all the windows of my house to hear
your million feral versions
of si si
Seen on the R train, Brooklyn, May 2, 2012

Or, so you can see it:

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Repost: It was Twenty Twenty-Five Years Ago Today

The following post appeared on BillyBlog five years ago, meaning that we are celebrating the silver anniversary of one of the greatest April Fools' pranks in the history of humankind. Well, certainly any I was involved with. This story has taken on a life of its own and, rumor has it, it might even make a cameo in an upcoming issue of The Occidental magazine. Best to look back at the original post here (and a follow-up here) to see the comments posted five years ago....

~ ~ ~

This arrived in my mailbox this morning from my old friend Rob:


20 years ago today, Gary McMillan's truck was the special of the day. We were offering a "no money down sale with 3.9% APR financing". Lance Mendelow was the executive salesmen and Nathan Schmoll was very much alive. Brig was having an aneurysm and John Zacker was trying to tell you to "use your dorm influence" to get all of the cars out of the Newcomb lobby.
It's too bad John Zacker never attended one of our Bacon Burger Dog nights I think he might have at least enjoyed our company, if not our horrible cooking!

For those of you who were copied on this email I hope life finds you well. Erich thanks for taking so much heat for us.

Great times, time just goes by too fast,

Best Regards,

Yes, on the morning of April 1, 1987, Occidental College was abuzz with what appeared to be the greatest April Fool's prank in recent memory. Administrators were alerted that something was amiss by Gary's 4x4 pick-up on the landing in front of the front entrance to Newcomb Hall.

It's a little hard to tell, but there's at least a half dozen steps leading up to the entrance, so maneuvering the vehicle there was no easy feat for Gary.

The truck was actually an exclamation point on what transpired as a collaborative effort by several dozen people, it seemed.

For inside the dorm, in the common room that housed the television in a large wooden box bolted to the wall, four cars were parked, with makeshift price tags. The windows of the
residence hall proclaimed that there was a sale on cars and that there was affordable financing available.

I know that one of the vehicles was Tino Ramirez' orange Volkswagen bug, and another was a shiny red pick-up belonging to Tim McLean:

I don't recall the other two vehicles' owners. [Update: But Rob does: "It will be forever etched in our memory! The other two cars where Carey Marks' Toyota MR2 and Kevin Hattori's Datsun B210."]

Many photos, I imagine, were taken,
but I haven't seen any in years
and I have included the few that Lance Friedman, Resident Adviser extraordinaire sent me just today. Until today, the only photos I had was this collage Lance had sent me:

Click to enlarge, if you dare. The top row features Paul Batmanis and Bill [ I thought his last name was Holmes, but now I'm not sure], next to which is a shot of me carrying a box of something past the Head Residents' apartment. Incidentally, Erich Marx, said H.R., did take a heat from the shenanigans of the
residence hall's 100+ residents. He was copied on the above-referenced e-mail and subsequently responded:

Wow. I just broke out into hives and a cold, cold sweat. I feel sick to my stomach and my nose has begun to bleed. All of sudden, I can't stop crying and I have the shakes. All of this because of you, Rob.

Wouldn't trade the memories for all the world.

Happy April Fool's. Hope you're all well. I live in Nashville now where another Newcomb-ite, Jennifer Krauss, also lives. She's the weekend news anchor on the local CBS station! Pretty cool stuff.

The middle row of pictures features a shot of Ann Blank and Rob (of the above-referenced e-mail) on the left and JohnMcGee and Lance Mendelow on the right.

The bottom row shows someone making an obscene gesture, I believe on Halloween, and another picture of Lance at the barbecue.

John Zacker, Director of Residence Life, meant well. He did the best he could concerning the challenges he faced with the students of Newcomb. This was a
residence hall that created a dorm residence hall t-shirt that read "We're Newcomb, You suck!" But that's another story.

If memory serves me correctly, Mr. Zacker demanded that Erich turn over the perpetrators of this heinous prank.
Residence halls are not zoned for vehicle storage, apparently. Erich came to his residents requesting the names of the persons responsible. Over twenty people put their names down, and we had to tell many others that they couldn't add their names to the list because they hadn't been there.

Were Rob, Tino, and I the ring-leaders? I don't recall it being that way. However, some evidence may cause one to believe otherwise.

It really was a collaborative effort. It was my idea to put newspaper under the vehicles in the TV room to protect against any oil leakage, and we composed a heartfelt note to Housekeeping on the chalkboard apologizing for the mess, but assuring them it would be cleared up by the end of the day. Mr. Zacker cited these two examples as evidence that we had been involved. In the end, after meetings and the patronage of another resident Owen Clayburgh, who took his share of the blame, and used his position as a student well-connected to the Board of Directors of the college, to what effect we may never know, the punishment was meted out.

[Update: Another photo from that night. Sure, I'm in it, as is Tino, but look at all the other guilty parties!]

Top row: Tino "Red Bug" Ramirez, Kevin "That's my B210" Hattori, Ann Blank, Yours Truly, and Tim "Red Pick-Up" McLean.

Bottom row: Owen Clayburgh, Carey "MR2" Marks, and Gary "4x4 on the Front Patio" McMillan.

I, along with Rob, Tino, Owen, and perhaps some others, stood up at a
residence hall meeting
"dorm spread" and apologized to everyone present for endangering their lives. Mr. Zacker pointed out that a vagrant could have entered the locked dorm hall in the middle of the night, opened a gas cap on one of the illegally-parked vehicles in the TV room, and dropped a match in, potentially ending the lives of countless Newcombites. A thought we scoffed at way back then, and with age and maturity I have come to recognize as a longshot, but the man was doing his job. Had anything tragic happened, he would have been on the hot seat, for sure. Sorry, Me of the Past, but that's the Human Resources in me coming through.

I still think it was brilliant. I still think the "Newcomb Used Car Lot" is the stuff of legends, and I wouldn't have done anything differently. Sorry Mr. Zacker, if you're reading this, but that was the reality back then.

By the way, after we sincerely apologized to all our fellow residents at that dorm spread, we received a standing ovation.

Happy April Fools' Day.


So, can I get a witness? You betcha...

Marie Barber aka Mikey aka Micus sent the following reply, along with the best photographic evidence yet. This is the first I've seen of these in 20 years.
Mikey writes:

You losers. I have 8 lbs of investigational anti-psychotics in my office (don't ask), the kids are all in bed, and THIS is what I'm doing..... Damn you, Rob.

Bill, attached is my contribution to your memoir. Personally, I'm particularly fond of #2, Tino's "Cheap Piece o' Sh*t for 29.99" (the death machine that left me in need of the 8 lbs of investigational anti-psychotics in my office.....but that's another story for another time). Also, please note in #7, the sign on the desk behind the 3.9% reads "Lance Mendelow Executive Salesman". Yep, aim high. That's my motto.

Now stop tempting me, or I may just pull out the photos I'm saving to blackmail you all when you think of running for public office.

;-) Kisses,


So, let's caption these suckers....

First, a better shot of the McMillan ride, perched up a set of steps in front of the Newcomb Hall entrance:

Ok, so there are at least four steps visible. I'm sure someone with a physics degree can extrapolate the number of steps by the angle of the camera vis-a-vis the position of the truck. Or someone can just run on over to Newcomb and count the steps for me. Needless to say, Tino's bug wouldn't have made it.

Now, the entrance to the showroom:

With some detail:

Here's Kevin Hattori's B-210. I've e-mailed Kevin, but haven't heard back. According to the alumni directory, he works about a mile away from me in Manhattan.

And here's the sophisticated price tag we improvised in the heat of the moment. And yes, it does say "Cheap Piece O' Sh*t $29.99". We were bold enough to roll four cars into a dorm, but not brave enough to spell the word "shit". Go figure.

And this last one, again, implies that Tino, Rob and I were behind this thing, but we were just whoring for the camera. Let me add that the wig I'm wearing got a lot of mileage. I am also wearing my famous Hawaii Fire Department fireman's coat. And I am wearing an Iron Maiden tour shirt from the March 31, 1985 show they did during their "Powerslave" tour. It was customized for the Hawai'i show only and is extremely rare. About six years ago, as I had expanded to a size far beyond the shirt in question, I sold it on eBay to someone in Italy for $91.00, American. It's likely worth much more now.

Needless to say, the shot Rob launched on Sunday morning had generated quite a fit of nostalgia. I've passed the link on to several former Newcomb residents and heard back from John McGee, also a New Yorker now, Yvonne (Grgas) Beck, who heard about the car lot and came to visit, as well as a few other residents of the old Newcomb Hall.

Let's see how this post grows!

" that a scratch in the paint?"

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Triumphant Return of New York City's Poetry in Motion

I know, I know. BillyBlog has been all but dormant. However, one thing has been able to dust off the cybercobwebs and get the old blog moving again - Poetry in Motion.

Readers of this blog in the past can attest to my love of the project and I bemoaned the end of it in NYC a few years back. Documenting the not-as-worthy Train of Thought series was less satisfying.

Imagine my excitement then, dear readers, when I saw this news item earlier in the week.

And then, I saw the first new poster yesterday on the D train:

Welcome back, Poetry in Motion!


He told us, with the years, you will come
to love the world.
And we sat there with our souls in our laps
and comforted them.

This from the MTA website:

A painter, sculptor, printmaker, novelist, and memoirist, as well as the author of two books of poetry,

Dorothea Tanning was known as a ceaselessly inventive visual artist first inspired by the Dada and Surrealist 

movements of the 1930s. Taking to poetry only in her late 80s, Tanning, according to the Washington Post, 

jokingly dubbed herself “the oldest living emerging poet.” Her poems appeared in theParis ReviewThe 

New Yorker, and The Best American Poems of 2000. She published two volumes of poetry “A Table of 

Content” and “Coming to the That,” which The New Yorker called one of the best books of 2011.*Born in 

Galesburg, Illinois, she attended Knox College there. Tanning lived much of her life in Europe amongst a 

veritable pantheon of 20th century artists. She was married for 30 years to the painter Max Ernst and 

counted among her friends and sometimes collaborators such figures as Marcel Duchamp, Dylan Thomas, 

John Cage, and Andre Breton. Her late-blooming love of poetry was further confirmed in 1994 when she 

created and endowed the Wallace Stevens Award, which each year grants $100,000 to an American poet.


Artist Joan Linder created The Flora of Bensonhurst for the 71st Street subway station in Brooklyn.Best 

known for her labor-intensive drawings that transform mundane subjects into conceptually rich images, 

Linder has exhibited throughout the US and in Brazil, Denmark, Germany, Israel, Japan and Korea at venues 

including White Columns, NY; the Queens Museum of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Albright-

Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; Kunsthallen Brandts, Denmark; and the Gwangju Art Museum, Korea. Awards 

include residency fellowships at Smack Mellon Studios, Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony; The Foundation 

of Jewish Culture’s Ronnie Heyman Award; and a grant from the Pollock Krasner Foundation.*Born in 

New York, Linder attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and received and MFA from 

Columbia University and a BFA from Tufts University. Linder is an Assistant Professor of Visual Studies 

Studies the State University of New York at Buffalo, and is currently represented by Mixed Greens Gallery 

in New York City.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Guns and Tats

When I first started writing Tattoosday, I may have had a couple of tattoos, but I was really very naïve when it came to the subject of the craft itself.

I learned very quickly, maybe within the first week or so, that one should never refer to a tattoo machine as a "gun". An anonymous reader chastised me over that one and I still bear the emotional scars of that mistake.

Another term that is thrown around a lot is "tats". Again, I started out thinking that it was okay, and was quickly called out by a reader.

In all fairness, you hear the words "tat," "tatted up," and other variations with fairly common regularity, so it's not as taboo as calling a machine, a gun, but I made a decision early on to use the extra syllable, and always say "tattoo". It just sounds better, and since I am writing posts that I assume will live forever, I figure I better use full and proper terminology.

Next up: who are the Meaty-Beaties, and why don't I like them?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Tattoosday Overflow and the Inkspotting Glossary

It’s the circle of life.

BillyBlog begat Tattoosday and, since then, BillyBlog has been my neglected alter-ego. But, there may be hope. I have decided to attempt yet another form of CPR, and it involves Tattoosday.

I have often wanted to write about Tattoosday on Tattoosday, but everything came across as a replacement of a legitimate tattoo-on-the-street post, which is generally what people want to see on Tattoosday, so I often wrote, and then scrapped my prose.

So now BillyBlog may (I hate to say will, lest I get caught in a lie) be an overflow for Tattoosday, where I can tell stories like this:

Last week, I spotted an incredible tattoo on Penn Plaza, outside of Borders, where I often go inkspotting. The tattoo will never be seen on Tattoosday, despite its awesomeness. It was a double skull with Indian headdresses, and it was exceptionally done.

I approached the gentleman who had the tattoo, as he was talking to a woman. I expressed my admiration for the piece and handed him the Tattoosday flier. Having done this for almost four years, I have a fairly good sense of things, and can read body language and tone pretty well. I felt that he was willing, until his female companion stepped in.

“Actually,” she snarled, “the artist has a picture up on his website and I don’t think he’d like anyone else takin’ a picture of it.”

If we were in a room, you would have heard the air being sucked out of it. She was basically saying that, on behalf of the artist, she was intervening and preventing this guy from sharing his tattoo on the site. Usually, doing so gives the artist more publicity and is beneficial.

The tattoo was great, but not worth fighting about. They seldom are. But I was curious, and I might like to see the artist’s work, so I asked, “Oh, what’s the artist’s name?” A perfectly reasonable question, if you ask me.

The response, “Oh he’s in Oklahoma,” and then with derision in her voice, “you wouldn’t have heard of him.”

I didn’t ask if I’d heard of him. I asked his name. It was clear I wasn’t going to get anything from this encounter, other than a headache. I couldn’t help but validate my position and say, “I’ve been doing this almost four years, and I’ve interviewed people from all over the world, so you’d be surprised. I may have heard of him.”

She just shook her head and said “Doubt it.” To which, I looked at the guy, who hadn’t uttered a peep since his female companion had intervened on his behalf, and on behalf of the unheralded tattoo artist, and said, “Thanks for your time. Have a good weekend.”

I refer to this type of encounter as a “Frohner,” in which a third party disrupts, dissuades, and/or discourages a tattooed individual from collaborating with me on a post. The name comes from an old fraternity brother who had the uncanny knack of unwittingly walking in on a situation in which a guy was establishing a mood with a girl. Said disruption ended up preventing the couple from hooking up and he was blamed for the guy’s inability to “close the deal”. Juvenile as it may sound, Frohner became synonymous with mood-killer and, to me, represents a person who ruins, for me, an inkspotting encounter.

Dear reader(s), you may see now why I didn’t want to bog down Tattoosday with such marginally interesting drivel. My readers generally like to read about tattoos and see the works in question, not hear about the failures. Nonetheless, I’m a writer, and I have to channel it somewhere, so BillyBlog gets the overflow. Stay tuned for more misadventures.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Rising from the Ashes

Someone just venturing over to BillyBlog may notice something: not a lot has been going on here in recent months. My last post was in December. Since the end of the 2010 Tattooed Poets Project, I have posted here only nine times.

This kind of makes me sad, but it also makes sense, I read somewhere once that the average blog lifespan is three years, at best. Started in September 2005, BillyBlog had 113 posts in its first four months, In 2006, I expanded to 448 posts, and peaked in 2007 with 532 posts.

And then, dwindling returns: 299 posts in 2008, 83 posts in 2009, and 46 in 2010.

So what happened? Tattoosday happened and Facebook happened.

Readers familiar with me know that, in the second half of 2007, I started blogging once a week about tattoos and, before I knew it, I found a consistent subject about which I never got bored. I month later, I spun off the site to its own blogspot, and the rest is history, albeit recent history.

I even moved the poetry section of the Tattooed Poets Project off of BillyBlog and onto Tattoosday beginning in 2011.
One can also attribute the demise of BillyBlog to Facebook, as any look at my wall will reveal a lot of stuff that I used to blog about got posted up on the social network instead. It was just easier, what else can I say?

But reports of BillyBlog’s demise may be exaggerated.

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes (explaining, of course, the tattoo above, which was originally seen here), there is life yet in these pages.

Or is there?

We’ll see, dear readers. Although, you may just get stuff that was just too wordy for Tattoosday, posts about ink, and other tattoo supplies. How about a poem entitled “Ode on a Clip Cord”? Who knows?

BillyBlog will never retain its old glory. 532 posts? That even impresses the older me, that 1.457534246 posts per day average. But here’s hoping for two or three decent explosions of words every few weeks, just for old times sake!


Friday, December 10, 2010

Train of Thought: Ralph Waldo Emerson

First spotted on the R train, November 2010:

"Life is a train of moods like a string of beads;
and as we pass through them they prove to be
many-colored lenses which paint the world their own
hue, and each shows only what lies in its own focus."

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1892), "Experience"

Sunday, July 25, 2010

BillyBlog's Got a Talent for 52-Card Pick-Up

I found this on the bike path along the Belt Parkway between Dyker Beach Park and Caesar's Bay:

The following cards have been found previously:

The Ace of Hearts (March 27, 2010)

The Five of Clubs (February 20, 2010)

The Two of Spades (August 17, 2009)

The Ten of Diamonds (July 2, 2009 - found June 1, 2009)

The Five of Spades (June 18, 2009)

The Eight of Spades (January 6, 2009)

The Eight of Diamonds (December 5, 2008)

The Two of Hearts and the Queen of Spades (November 1, 2008)

The King of Spades (October 26, 2008)

The Ace of Spades (September 22, 2008)

The Jack of Diamonds (September 18, 2008)

The Six of Hearts, Queen of Hearts, and Eight of Clubs (August 10, 2008)

The Six of Clubs (July 21, 2008)

The Seven of Hearts and The King of Diamonds (April 24, 2008)

The Three of Clubs (March 29, 2008)

The King of Hearts
and the Three of Spades
(February 28 and March 25, 2008)

The Ace of Diamonds (July 7, 2008)

The Jack of Hearts and Five of Hearts (July 19, 2008)

View the whole set here.

And here's the scorecard with the latest addition:

Hearts: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace
Diamonds: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace
Clubs: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace,
Spades: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Summer Train of Thought

"The gaunt trestle-work of the els brings twilight to miles of streets, the tunnels of the subways honeycomb rocks and rivers and skyscrapers. Their trains are the first things a good many New Yorkers observe in the morning and the last things a good many more remember at night."

From The WPA Guide to New York City (1939)

Click the tag below to see other Trains of Thought.

I spotted this one on the R train.