Jens at 34

Sunday, September 5th - Governor's Island is a small island off the southern tip of Manhattan, that one can see of the Port side of the Staten Island Ferry when traveling to that forlorn boro. It's laid fallow and relatively unused since the Coast Guard abandoned it for good in 1997. There are appealing stretches of green lawns and well-preserved historic buildings, and since the public hadn't been allowed on the island until this summer, it seemed like a fascinating place to visit. And so, our good friends at the MTA have finally opened the island on Saturdays, for those of you wanting to take a short ferry ride, and spend time with a sweetie having a picnic on a nice stretch of greenery, with Manhattan's empty Financial District shining in the background. Sounds nice, right? Especially when you absorb your journey with the alacrity that this person did, and i may have back when i had a younger man's camera. But, befitting the MTA, and New York public works in general, this seemingly idyllic getaway is frustratingly mismanaged at every turn. Okay, so imagine you are a tourist, and you are not that familiar with New York. Maybe your English isn't so hot. But, you think to your self "la isla!" and you want to visit Governor's Island. And, there you are, at South Ferry. Easy, right? Well, no, first you have to go to Pier 17, along the East Side, about a 20 minute walk away, to procure your tickets. Okay, maybe you were wise and researched this, and you went to the booth first. Okay, so now you head down to the ferry terminal, but which one is it? Maybe, after walking around downtown for 10 minutes, you'll happen across the 3" x 5" laminated sign, stapled to a construction shed, vaguely pointing the way. Oh, and hopefully you haven't taken your bike. Anyway, all aboard! and within a half-hour, the ferry has actually departed. Five minutes later, you arrive at the Island. Maybe you'd like to arrange a walking tour! Nope, all sold out. Well, you'd better get some water for this hot day. Except the only thing left in the vending machines is Hawaiian Punch. Okay, fine. Well, time to start exploring the island! Except, well, only roughly 1/5th of the island is actually open! You can't go into any of the buildings, or even get near them without some bored security guard getting indignant. No real traipsing on the lawns, just shimmering hot concrete, unused parking areas, etc. It takes about 10 minutes to see what of Governor's Island is made available to you. Then you head back to the ferry terminal - perhaps attempting to visit the bookstore until you realize it's closed - and wait and wait and wait until the ferry is relatively full and you can finally get back on the mainland and resume your life. Josh and i were so despondant after our "adventure" we decided to drink our way back to the L train, which lasted about 10 hours, and included a stop at Don Hill's, where i met a lovely young woman - a South Bronx English teacher who was impressed by my use of the word "poignant" -who i somehow left, during a bad band featuring Liv Tyler's husband on bass and vocals, without getting her phone number. Because i'm not really that smart.

On a completely unrelated note, Serena Williams' tennis outfit is the hottest thing in the entire world.

Wednesday, September 1st - What you see above is a recent work of art from my dear mother/unappreciated artist Vibeke Carstensen. I got it in the mail about a week ago. I had to scan it in two parts. My mom has lead a strange, rough life the last decade or so, and we don't always communicate particularly well. You probably feel the same way about your parents sometimes, i bet. But, one gauge i've always used to determine how happy/unhappy she is is whether or not she's making art, as she feels more passionately about art than i do about music, though a lot less confident about it. There was a miserable stretch for her where she wasn't making art at all. When i finally resumed corresponding with her, i pointed out her lack of artistic output, and recently she's been a lot more active in that regard, which makes me happy. Around May, i sent her a nice letter. I'd taken a photo of my painting of Tug McGraw, with a threatening letter that if she didn't come through with an original piece for her son by his 34th birthday, Tug was going to suffer. Naturally - and don't tell her this - i wouldn't have done it, of course, as i'm not some two-bit nihilist. I instead was going to give the painting to Kickball Kev, who's always liked it. But, sure enough, ma came through with the piece you see above, which i love. And only a week late! I inherited my sense of deadlines from my mom.

I hosted Rock Trivia at Black Betty last night. I've been at Black Betty every Tuesday since January, save one, and the night has developed nicely. I've decided that i'm going to post the questions from the previous night up on the ol' site. So, here were the recent ones. I'll point out that for the first time in Black Betty Rock Trivia History, three people got every question right, forcing a lightning round consisting of the three questions i didn't use because i thought they would be too hard. Write me with/for answers, or just google them like i do.

The Theme: Rockin' Republicans

#1: What rockin' NRA member once called himself "Rosa Parks with a guitar and a middle finger"?

#2: Not only was Sonny Bono a terrific singer, he was a Republican Senator ... of what state?

#3: In the movie Farenheit 9/11, what pop star can be seen proclaiming her support for the president?

#4: Ricky Martin, ZZ Top, Destiny's Child and Jessica Simpson all performed live at what event in 2001?

#5: The guitarist of what punk band thanked George Bush in his acceptance speech to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002?

#6: Jeff "Skunk" Baxter is currently a Congressional military defense consultant, but he was also the lead guitarist in two well-known '70s bands. Name one.

#7: What '70s "shock-rocker" can now be seen attending Pheonix Suns games with Senator John McCain?

Showdown question #1: What oldies act was banned from playing thier yearly show at the Washington Monument by former Secretary of the Interior James Watt in the early '80s ... even though their singer is a Republican?

Showdown question #2: What current governor used Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It" as his campaign theme song, with Dee Snider's permission?

Showdown question #3: What white "rapper" once left a note on Russel Simmons' windshield reading "Vote Bush. Bush rocks."?

The victor, suitably, won a Miller High Life camoflage hunting cap. Also, this band played, and they were great.

Tuesday, August 31st - If people are going to keep reading this thing, i guess i'll keep writing it. I've been working a lot, in the splendid world of bartending. It's been good for making money again, but it's no "real job." And, i've primarily been filling in. And, now, as autumn descends upon us, many of the regular bartenders at the establishments i've been holding down the fort at are returning from their summer sojourns, and i'm finding myself for the first time in a while with both the time and the need to find steady work. I was very vainglorious in thinking that my resume alone would be enough to get me work, because that, 6 months later, has proven decidedly to not be the case. So, i've sent my resume to the New York Free University or whatever it's called for a swell copywriting position, and i don't think i'll be hearing back from them, because i haven't really heard back from many others. Huh.

But, enough of that depressing crap. I had a second encounter with this lady. I call her the Postcards for Bush lady, but a google search on that term turns up nothing. Anyway, we first crossed paths at the coffeeshop about a month ago. She was there with her typewriter, and either NPR or The Times was doing a profile on her. I caught her just as she was about to leave. I mean, i like the typewriter, and i like what she's doing to participate in the political process. But, obviously what i noticed most was her dress: it's gotta be from the '40s or '50s, and it's in perfect shape and it looks impeccible. Anyway, i relayed my skewed sense of priorities to her on our one brief encounter and she good-naturedly accepted my compliments. And, so, it was on a humid summer Sunday, just before Round 2 of the hotly-contested Brooklyn Kickball play-offs, that i saw the Postcards for Bush lady, sitting in the shade of an inviting tree, mere feet from the ol' kickball field. And so, i struck up conversation again, once again ham-handedly mentioning her damn dress, then deciding that i, as an American voter had something to say. But, first i had to go to the Turkey's Nest to get a to-go Margarita or two. Upon my return, i passed by, and she informed me that i was going to be the last postcard of the afternoon. The deal is, you dictate something you'd like to say to our fine president, and she types it up, simultaneously making a carbon copy. She gives you the card, complete with the appropriate postage on the back, which you are responsible for mailing, and she keeps the copy for her project. I sat in the chair and she gazed at me with steely eyes, awaiting my deep outporing of trenchant political commentary. Unfortunately, it was at this juncture that i was re-acquainted with both my shallow politics and inability to improvise. And so, with booze, sun and stage-fright, especially in the presence of such a striking woman, conspiring against me, i very painfully dictated the hilariously vauge missive you see to the right. It's no wonder this country is so fucked, and that i'm single. I thought "first class" was a nice touch, tho.

Moron politics, or rather "more on politics": i was working a few nites ago, or was it last week? at Greenpoint's prestigeous Pencil Factory bar. An older fellow walked up to the bar alone and ordered a bottle of budwieser. Roughly two mintues later, the cocktail waitress, Mandy (speaking of good-looking dames with steely gazes), who had just walked behind the bar, innocently asked me if i was planning on attending the protests. I said probably not, but that i was thinking of offering my couches and my floor to anyone in town needing a place to stay, saying that maybe this was my way of doing my part. Right after that, i noticed that the man had gotten up and walked off, leaving 2/3rds of a Bud behind. But, at least he tipped.

It was a week ago today that i found out a friend of mine, Pierre Michel, died at age 21. He and a buddy of his were enjoying some time off from a play he was part of in the Berkshires. They'd gone out in a boat, Pierre fell overboard and drowned, just like that. 21 years old. I didn't know Pierre that well, certainly not as well as many of my friends did. I was in a band with him, though, over the spring and summer. He was an incredibly talented musician, singing, playing bass, playing drums, playing guitar, writing songs. Every time i think of Pierre, he's smiling. He was incredibly well-liked. I wasn't sure how to react, as this, at age 34, was my very first experience with unexpected death. Grandparents pass, and you kind of see it coming. But, obviously, no one would've conceived of this. I was supposed to do rock trivia that night at Black Betty, but clearly my heart wasn't into it, so i skipped out and decided to spend the night alone, eschewing the impromptu vigil that was being held for him in Williamsburg. On Friday night, a group had gathered at the otherwise overly-buoyant Red and Black bar, where his good friend Stan works, and we drank and talked about it. "Nice" is a vaguely inappropriate word to use to describe the evening, but it was. As i said, i didn't know Pierre that well, but he touched me and he clearly touched a lot of people. 21. Shit.

I have to work tonight, and i also have Rock Trivia night at Black Betty, where this week's theme is "Rockin' Republicans." So, i gotta find a couple more questions. Doing this site is time consuming, but now that i have a little more time to have consumed, i will stick with it. Don't worry about ol' Jensey.

Friday, August 6th - Okay, i'm finally back. A happy recap of recent birthday activities ...

Friday, July 30th - After work, i meet up with Kevin "The Commish" Dailey, and fellow kickballers/Mark Bar mavens Kevin (Harley) and Hans at Union Square to embark on another exciting Critical Mass (a large, semi-impromptu gathering of bicyclists who take over the city streets once a month). This one, after some meandering through the usual attractions Grand Central and Times Square, found us on the West Side highway, around 50th St. We took the highway, at a pretty impressive speed, with Kevin (Harley) keeping up impressively on his one-speed dirt bike, all the way down to the Battery at the south side of Manhattan, underneath, and on to the FDR, with police escorts politely holding up traffic so a bunch of whacked-out bike couriers and other stragglers, about 2000 in force, i'd say, could dominate the city's traffic patterns for one evening. Memories of mine and Josh's ill-fated accidental sojourn onto the FDR back in April, sans police escorts, came flooding back, as i cruised merrily along the wide streches of pavement, now empty of anything except fellow bicyclers. At one point, the rally paused, and i, somehow ahead of my friends by a good minute-and-a-half, found myself between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, gazing reflectively, upon an orange moon, almost full, perched just above the Brooklyn skyline between the two bridges. It was quite a sight. After reuniting with the group, i asked Kevin (Dailey) if he got a glimpse of this wistful city sight, and he said he did and that "it reminded me of Sting." I then told Kevin i hated him. About 9:15, the ride returned to Union Square, and the four of us retired to Taco Loco on Stanton Street, to reward our well-earned appetites for nachos and margaritas. We then went our seperate ways, with Hans and i heading to the aforementioned Mark Bar for a night cap and an early evening. I'm pretty sure we were there until 5 am.

Saturday, July 31st - The birthday celebration begins in earnest. I had attempted to initiate a bike-ride down to Coney on this rather humid day, but worn out from the previous nite's ride-n-drink, only Kevin (Dailey) takes me up on it, saying "you know there's no lost pride if you want to drive instead." I insist we ride, or that i'm riding anyway. We arrive to Coney at 2, where Mishka, Allison and Josh Taggart have just arrived, 3 hours earlier. An oddly high wind prevails over the beach, making it impossible, or at least quite uncomfortable, to sit on the beach with out getting sandblasted. Mishka likened it to Beirut. So, we set up Kamp Karstensen rather depressingly on the boardwalk, with a sheet inventively tied along the railing behind us by Mishka, to shield us from the sand. Every social gathering should have at least one survivalist, i think. So, having established our presence, we partake in the usual Coney activities, minus the raw clams for some reason. Greg (Altman) proves to be surprisingly adept in the batting cages, especially after he unintentionally selects the fast pitch softball setting. B.A. brings a game where you shout out a word, and you have to sing a song containing that word. Even though Jesse (Fuchs) is on my team, we actually get our asses kicked. Then comes the rain. It shits down rain for about 5 minutes, with people fleeing the beach as if under attack from frog-men from Jersey. Afterward, we are only slightly wet, but the breezes now feel cold, and we retire to Ruby's, to drink on the couch and watch Greg (Altman) make sly passes at "MILFs." Around 9-ish, Kev and i slowly ride our bikes back into the mainland, to attend another party that evening. It's a rooftop party in Bushwick, with karaoke, and the like. A fun, pleasant evening, with much dancing. I see Jenni Knight for the first time in a spell and we chat at length. I dance with a lovely girl named Leila, but feel oddly inept at dancing this evening, and i'm pretty sure i owe her an apology. But no matter. I leave at around 3, a full two hours before the party expires. I decide, for some reason, to stop at the Mark again, for a night cap, that turns into three. I may have been coaxed into joining a D&D group. I leave, once again, at 5ish, not getting to take Kevin (Harley) up on his birthday drink.

Sunday, August 1st - My actual birthday begins with me waking up and sweating profusely. It's hot out again, and i've done some quality drinking. The inimitable Josh Johnson reminds me of the place in LIC we want to check out that serves Irish Breakfast. And it is cheep and quite tasty, although the steak and eggs and the enourmous $6 hamburger will later turn out to be much better deals. A bloody mary comes with breakfast though, so down goes that, and then a Guiness. Yum! Now i feel great, and the weather is getting quite sultry. Time for kickball! I limp my way down to the field to greet the late arriving crowd. A pickup game ensues after Kevin arrives with my traditional birthday crown from Burger King. Yes, they still make those! And, everyone knows the significance of this headpiece, and i'm flooded with birthday greetings. But, i'm also sunburnt, probably still drunk, sore from two lengthy bike-rides, sweating through my cardboard crown, and getting remarks on how "healthy" i look from people not known for clean living. And the only thing that sounds palatable at that point is, naturally, the margarita that my good friend Hans has procured for me. So, down goes that, and a can of Sparks, the hooch version of Red Bull, if you've never had it. I'm essentially swaying and can barely talk at this point ... and i have to TEND BAR THAT EVENING! Hoo boy. So, i get a hot tip on a bar on Metropolitan Ave. that serves free, delicious brick-oven pizza when you order a drink. So, after a temporarily re-invigorating shower, i bike down there for a whole free pizza, and of course, some beer. I'm in great shape to work now, as it's around 8:30 and i slink up to the LIC bar. I'm joined later by a ragtag crew of celebrators, who ensure many laffs and continued drunkeness for yours truly. Chi meets Jeff Mensch meets Hans meets Shannon meets Jesse (Ballgame). They all know Josh and Martin. Kevin (Dailey) spends most of this time sleeping in his car. The bar "magically" stays open one hour after close, where we decide the only rational course of action is to have some drinks at the Mark Bar, still open. Kevin is woken up for the 3 minute duration it takes to get from my bar to the Mark, at which point he resumes his sleeping post in the front seat of his car. We bug the lovely Lesley for Juleps at 4:30 in the morning. Jeff and Lesely get along famously, and yes, that means Jeff is really loud and they antagonize each other. I stumble home.

Monday, August 2nd - Off day, thankfully. I work again, but this time, only sip sodas, despite the prostestations of the lonely 38-year old woman at the end of the bar to do a shot with her. This is really more than i can take. She decides to force my hand, and grabs the soda gun and starts squirting me with it. I show her which direction the door is. Then i go to the Mark, see Hans, of course, and drink some more. Meanwhile, 2000 miles away, "Big Dave" Heineman is a dad for the first time. Welcome to the world, Bergen Heineman! And thanks for not bogarting my birthday, you little poop-pants! Say hi to the new pop, if you please.

Tuesday, August 3rd - But, wait, it's not over yet! It's time for the other official half of my birthday celebration! And to think, i almost didn't celebrate it this year. But, at this point, i'm really glad i did. And, if you think this paragraph is going to end "then we ended up at the Mark Bar", well, you've picked up on the vibe of this week pretty well. But first, it was time for my "Birthday Bash" at Black Betty! And, this proved to be the best night of all. First off, the Tuesday Night party we do at Black Betty now features two (2) musical acts, along with the DeeJays and the Rock Trivia segment and the $2 Rolling Rocks and the fun, fun, fun. This has developed into quite a nice party, if i may say so myself. Howmever, one of the acts each week, for a myriad of logistical reasons, is an acoustic act, and this has proven to be a controversial edict. But, because being 34 has proven really fortuitous thusfar, this week's (and, now, next week's) act, Diablo Dimes, is a terrific performer! He played to a pretty full house of people who've never heard of him, and he got them clapping with his Tom Waits-y songs, his furious guitar strumming and his kazoo-in-the-harmonica-holder. He turned in a short enthusiastic set, and i invited him back next week, and he took me up on it. Next up was The Vitamen, featuring mix-master Bo Boddy on the keyboard, who surprised us all by playing an all-"summer" cover set! First up was "Who Loves the Sun" by VU, then "Summer of '69", "Magic (Summer, Summer, Summer)" by the Cars, "Rockaway Beach", "Summer in the City", "Summertime (and the living is easy)", not necesarily in that order. Wonderfully, the Ramones song is the only one they screw up. And, they were coaxed into playing "Pretty Little Secret" for an encore, by which point, there was a lot of dancing. Drummer Dave Rozner also presented me with my birthday present, this very obscure, very good, Iggy Pop record. Green vinyl! Thanks, Vitamen! More dancing, along to the DeeJaying exploits of Josh (DJ Poorly) and Martin (R2-DJ). Josh plays "Motorhead" by Hawkwind, and the backpack-clad Dave Weston and i are the only ones with the nuts to get our groove on to this classic. Martin does "Starts with J" themed rock-trivia, looking snazzy in his tie and cut-off jeans. And, now for the predictable part: we end up at the Mark, where i'm finally greeted with a birthday scotch from Kevin (Harley), accompanied by a bag of cold Indian food that someone had ordered two hours previous, but never claimed. Let me tell you, cold Indian food and scotch are an unbeatable condo. I go home at 5, and wake up wondering what all the red and brown sauce is all over my hands. And, actually, this was the night that i'd gotten as many of my lipstick-wearing lady friends as i could to kiss my stubbly face, with some success. So, not only were my hands a mess, but my morning face looked like it had been attacked by slugs. Somewhere, 2000 miles away, legendary Mets announcer Bob Murphy dies.

Wednesday, August 4th - Thankfully, my birthday is over. Now it's time to celebrate Anne Brady's birthday. But, not before two sweaty, hazy, but inspired rock and roll practices with Dave Weston (show next Wednesday, August 11th with Karen Correa's Demander) and Black Cat Revolver, respectively. I head home at 9 to take a nap, and almost don't wake up. At 11, i coax myself out, and hop on trusty, overused El Biko, for a pleasant ride into the city. In a tradition started way back in 2001 on a random trip to Pittsburgh, and resumed this year, i buy Anne cupcakes for her birthday. Those of you who know Anne and her friends can predict how many Ho-Hos and Ding-Dongs jokes were made about this, and you would not have been disappointed. What i found sweetest about this night is that someone at the bar we were at was also celebrating a birthday, and shared a slice of their cake with Anne. I love birthdays. I vasciallated between trying to take it easy this evening, and just going for it one final time, rather unsuccessfully in both instances. Anne is very happy to be 30. I understand where she's coming from on this one. About 2 am, after the conclusion of Anne's birthday spankings, i glide dreamily home. I can't remember if i went to the Mark or not.

Phew. Which leads to now. This seems like a good point to thank all of you who could come around during this exhausting batch of birthday revelry. I kind of knew this going in, but i have the greatest friends in the entire world. Thank you for the drinks, for the presents, for the willingness to spend your precious time watching me get old and teeter on the verge of embarrassing myself. You are all wonderful, intelligent, sympathetic, hilarous people. And pretty damn good looking at that. And, now, to the future. This Sunday, August 8th is going to be a big one for Brooklyn Kickball. Click Here to read why - as all this typing is giving me carpal tunnel - and i'll see you on Sunday, mehopes.

To think, all that, and no pictures.

Lastly, here's about a month's worth of Funny Junk E-Mail Names: Cruz Beaver, Mac Macdonald, Weston Wilkerson, Jose Lackland, Clemente Trussle, Alphonse Zimlich, Dirk Chinik, Quinn Yazzie, Scott Burger, Hubert Shambley, Pete Crump, Lynnette Flipp, Darby Perocho and Daniel Vera. Oh, wait, i know Daniel Vera.

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