“Somebody You Used to Know” came to me as clear as ice on an Upstate New York lake when I was on my on my way to Cooperstown, NY for the weekend and the Sandy Hook school shooting happened. This horrible, complicated, young father character burst into my head and demanded I write his story. As a father now, I don’t know that I could write the same story today from the same twisted point of view. This was the story I struggled with the most as to whether I should include it in the anthology or not, but I could just never shake it, and so here it is.
Connie’s, the pub that serves as the main setting of the story in the fictional Hamlet, was inspired by Cooley’s Tavern in Cooperstown, NY.
As a Philly guy, I loved the scene early on in The Irishman where Robert DeNiro (whose calm “old man looking back on his life” narration wraps a warm blanket over the film) says there is a spot in The Schuylkill River where so many hitmen have tossed guns that if you dredged that spot you could supply a whole army.
Martin Scorsese’s latest mob epic is filled with those kinds of details, like a blink-and-you-miss-it or gasp-when-you-do-see-it quietly operatic and beautiful shot of the Twin Towers during another dump-the-murder-weapon scene later in Frank Sheeran’s career.
The Irishman is a tale of a bygone era – of union bosses and mobster empires – the old men looking back on their lives after getting caught and reminiscing on the camaraderie and the minutia that becomes so detailed and particular as to seem ethereal…a dream world.
There’s a great scene during the tense build up to the inevitable (Sheeran’s alleged particulars when he’s forced to be the mob’s deliverer of reckoning to his dear friend, Jimmy Hoffa) where the mob’s errand boy rags on Hoffa’s son about a fish having just been in the backseat. What kind of fish was it? You just go in and pick up some fish from some guy without knowing what kind of fish it was?
Scorsese’s film is a very particular type of thing. You know going in exactly what type of fish this is.
“In the Still of the Night” is the film’s musical soul, playing over key scenes and transitions, while other hits of yesteryear play as only Scorsese could let them play. The film unfolds at a leisurely, moody pace – perfect for the streaming era we live in – like teenage lovers who grew into an old married couple would sway on a dancefloor during their favorite love song.
Man, we know Pacino so well, but he’s absolute gangbusters as Hoffa. I can’t get over how good he is, how enjoyable it is to watch him. And DeNiro’s iconic shoulder shrugs and aw-shucks looks and eyebrow lifts. It’s exactly how we want to remember him.
Then there is Anna Paquin as Peggy Sheeran – Frank’s daughter, the judger, the only one who calls him out on his “I did it all to take care of and protect my family” bullshit. The role doesn’t quite work as well as I think Scorsese intended it to – there’s no getting around the fact that she is underwritten, but she’s also symbolic. “Why?” is no doubt a memorable line, and Paquin delivers it well – body tense, sitting, lip quivering, eyes judging, but voice clear, calm
The film closes with Sheeran in a retirement home, alone on Christmas Eve, a priest there to hear a confession Sheeran never delivers. When the priest gets up to leave, Sheeran asks him to leave the door open…just a little bit. Why? For the truth to slip in? For forgiveness? To make sure no one is out there waiting to take him out? Or is the door left open for Scorsese, the consummate storyteller of tall tales of sinners and saints? We hope that door stays open, just a little bit, for him tell that same old story, one more time.
Well, I guess we were just in a New York State of Mind in 2017.
Trips to the Empire State included:
An extended “writer’s retreat” weekend in Cooperstown in April. It was my wife’s first time in one of my favorite places on earth. It was also our first time doing Air B&B. Despite coming home with a nail in my tire…it was a truly relaxing, lovely trip (and, yes, we both got some much-needed writing done).
A weekend getaway to NYC in June to hit up some old haunts (with a jaunt out to Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Museum).
A family vacation in August renting a house on Lake Seneca (first time in the Finger Lakes region) from which we watched the solar eclipse. The vacation also included day-tripping to Watkins Glen and the Canadian side of Niagara Falls (a long overdue first time there!) The Niagara experience inspired a short-story I’m currently polishing up.
When I originally conceived this annual feature, the idea was to link pictures of the places I visited with ideas for stories, favorite movies or strange/funny anecdotes. Well, have I got one for you folks this year.
While spending some time at Big Bass Lake in the Poconos Mountains, jaunts through Gouldsboro to grab provisions were inevitable. It was on one fateful evening when we first got a glimpse of this saucy mannequin gracing the roof of a house like a pin-up model atop a Corvette’s hood.
We laughed, but then noticed that mannequin was not alone, and a whole family of mannequins were strewn about the yard in various poses, like they were a family.
We laughed nervously now, and then on the way back I tried to convince the others to stop so we could grab some pictures. Suddenly, to our horror, a man (who looked like he walked off the set of True Detective Season One) was coming out of the side of the house (likely for the nightly inspection of his Mannequin Family) just as we were passing…prompting us to keep on passing (praying he didn’t see how slow we passed, with our shocked gawking), only to pass a few moments later an abandoned double-wide trailer in the high weeds out of which came stumbling three tottering, torn-up, turned-out characters who looked like they wanted to hitchhike if only they could find the road five feet in front of them. I imagined the trailer as part of the same Mannequin Cult Compound where meth-heads and drunks were lured by the Yellow King of Carcosa to be murdered and turned into mannequins to join the family. The next morning I forced my significant other to pass by the site again, and this time we noticed another shop that had a creepy mannequin in the window (clearly the other boundary of what I was now referring to as The Poconos Mountain Mannequin Murder Cult Compound).
This time we got some pictures (like the ones above) – and narrowly escaped by the skin of our teeth (alas, no shots of the double-wide trailer were taken for fear of our lives). And one day, a screenplay will be written.
Oh, and there were also more mundane, relaxing, less horror-movie-like trips to Saratoga Springs, NY (which included a stop at the lovely Yaddo Artist’s Retreat); Washington DC; and as always Cape May and Wildwood.
Yes, I know we’re already half way through 2015, and I’ve got enough photos from random places I have been this year to create the annual post…but that will have to wait. This is a catch up post where I will share some photography of random places I was in 2014. I don’t know how this post slipped my mind last year, but here it is now, better late than never
2014 was marked by part-time Canadian living in Mississauga in the first half of the year and then big trips to Dublin, Ireland in the spring; San Francisco in the fall; and finally Boston (where we rang in the New Year). But in between all that, there was plenty of day-tripping in the greater tri-state area from where these shots were captured. Most notable, perhaps from a WTF perspective, were the infamous person in a pickle costume in Lancaster, PA (insert your own story here) and the insane doll-parts strewn Gloria Vanderbilt Dream Box art installation at Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ.
There’s no rhyme or reason here, folks, just a collection of photos from random places I have been in 2013. I’ve been all over the map (with Europe still to come later this month!) from the Caribbean to Canada and with plenty of local tri-state faves here on the Eastern Seaboard in between.
Bet you were expecting a story here or something, huh? Well, some shots from the Cape May Lewes Ferry did inspire a short story about an elderly lady turned drug dealer. And another creepy abandoned industrial building in Toronto is sure to inspire a story about dead bodies most certainly hidden there at some point in my near future.
But I’ll say nothing more and allow you to choose your own adventure with these shots.
I took a half-hearted stab at a local dining guide years ago, and at some point many of the restaurants listed below received a shout out in one way or another from The Spin or on my Twitter…but I decided it would be fun to traverse the eastern part of North America and crown a best restaurant in each favorite stomping ground. Our journey begins way down yonder in my former homeland of Nor’ Cackalacky. We’ll revisit some of my local favorites in Philly and the Jersey Burbs. We’ll travel far north through New York (and slighty west) all the way up into the land of expense accounts and Canucks. Prepare your taste buds, your credit cards, your hybrid vehicles (only if you have a designated driver) and/or your frequent flier miles….here is The Spin on My Favorite Eats in My Favorite Haunts.
Raleigh, North Carolina – Babylon (309 N. Dawson St.) – I have no idea why a restaurant serving Moroccan food is called Babylon. Would Casablanca have been somehow un-PC or Marrakesh too obvious? But weird geographical naming faux-pas aside, this uber-trendy mecca of Raleigh’s liberal elite located fashionably downtown serves up organic, locally raised Moroccan and Middle Eastern-inspired cuisine that rivals any of your bigger city Northeast rivals. The ambiance is casual urban chic, the service impeccable, and the food fresh, hip and flavorful. Really, Raleigh, whodathunk? You go, with your emerging multicultural self!
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – Amada (217 Chestnut Street) – Old City. Chef Jose Garcas. Spanish Tapas. Drinks named after Almodovar films. And a dish so epically simple and flavorful called Madre y Hijo (which consists of a fried egg atop a perfect slice of chicken breast atop a bed of roasted fingerling potatoes and all drizzled in truffle oil) that I would request if I were to ever find myself on death row waiting for a last meal. This is a Philly Restaurant Week staple and one of the most popular (and hard to get into) restaurants in the city even after all of these years. What more is there to say? (Reservations required!) Continue reading →
Well, I just got back from another successful excursion to Upstate New York for some much-needed rest & relaxation, and I even got some writing done while up there, too. The weather was perfect – sunny with patchy clouds and blue skies, a cool breeze and mid-60 degree temperatures – and the water was high and gently rushing down the mountains from the recent thaw. The roads and hills were once again open for the taking.
While Cooperstown has become a second home to me, I thought it was about time to explore other areas of Upstate New York. As a last-minute autumnal getaway, I ventured up to the Adirondacks as far north as Lake George while also stopping in Glens Falls — home to the Hyde Collection — and Saratoga Springs — home to one of the friendliest casinos I have ever been to. There’s something inherently adventurous when driving up a highway that has signs for Montreal — less than two-hundred miles away — and this civilized wilderness boasts some of the oldest settlements of both Native American and European origin. The drive up marked the first time I was ever able to leave New Jersey without paying a toll — quick, someone fact check this…is the 287 the only way to get out the Garden State by car for free? — and the Catskills and Adirondacks unfold in gently rolling forms on the horizon as one heads up I-87N. It’s astounding to think these now weather-worn and inviting mountains were at one time higher than the Himalayas. Taking in all the gorgeous lakes and interconnecting canals and creeks flowing into the Hudson and eventually down to NYC, it’s no wonder the French, English and Indians all wanted to not only live here, but also control it. Archaeological sites like Forts William Henry, Ticonderoga and Edward beckon us to stare into our Pre-Revolutionary past and see why this land…this wilderness was the first to be conquered.
The fresh air is meant to be drunk…the humble expanse breathed in…the fall colors tasted…. Continue reading →
It’s summertime! And what comes to mind more than…yup, uh-huh…graveyards!
It might be the summer doldrums for refined film buffs — and if you consider yourself party to such self-inflicted snobbery, then pray your city has been one of the selected cities for Winter’s Bone’s limited release – it’s killer good and the perfect antithesis to summer movie hell. Meanwhile every girl and woman you know is lining up for tonight’s midnight showing and about to go crazy over the latest in the Twilight Saga…dun dun dun…Eclipse! Can you hear Bonnie Tyler now? Turn around…
So, in the most tenuous of ties to the Total Eclipse of the Box Office, I have decided to post a hodge-podge collection of my daylight graveyard photography. Some of these photos have been posted before in travel logs and some have never before seen the light of day. The cemeteries visited span the states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York.
Ga’head, ladies, use your imagination and picture your favorite vampire or werewolf hunk amidst the trees and the stones. Or better yet…don’t. Continue reading →