Monday, August 28, 2006

Woman of Color

A new Vice President has recently been hired in my workplace. This muckety-muck now oversees my department. Looking at the organizational chart, one might be under the impression that I would have some major interaction with this new honcho as I report directly to the person who reports directly to him. But the actual Byzantine bureaucratic hierarchy faced daily belies that belief. Other than greeting him with a friendly (read: ass-kissing) “Good Morning” in the corridor I have hardly met him. When the head of HR first introduced me to him, he was told which department I was in. His immediate response was “So you work for me.” My thought upon hearing this was “What an odd thing to say.” But I soon found out that he has much odder things to say.

Let me preface by saying rest of what I am writing is hearsay, coming to me second or third hand. This doesn’t make it any less true, reliable, or interesting. It just makes it gossip. If gossip was a commodity to be produced, sold or traded, then my company would be a world leader in it. The gossip mill is outstanding in its efficiency and egalitarianism based upon the alacrity in which it moves and with whom it moves through. Union workers gossip with upper management who gossip with middle managers who gossip with support staff. And everyone gossips with vendors and contractors. The gossip occurs by whispers or blurted out in a meeting, in corridors or on the subway. And everyone has his or her own personal gossip hub, who with an almost imperceptible expression verifies or debunks what you have been hearing.

This piece of gossip began innocently enough. A co-worker has a cubicle in a location where people tend to congregate. During these congregations, people seem to forget that a cubicle wall is not only 6 feet high but made out of cheap fabric. I imagine that there is a location like this in every office. Here is a place where talk becomes free and morphs into gossip. Think about that. A cubicle, which normally sucks the life out of an employee, is now a cocoon, allowing an errant sentence to be nurtured and then make its way in the world as a gossip butterfly for evermore. Ah, the wonders of nature.

This particular overheard conversation was between the new VP and another member of upper management. The VP was asked how he found New York City as he had moved here from the South and had grown up in the Midwest. The VP responded that he, as a Midwest bred white boy, found it all easy to take because he was married to a “woman of color”. This first allusion to a “woman of color” went by uncommented upon. But the new VP kept at it, talking about how different cultures don’t bother him and how color blind he really is because he is married to a “woman of color”. Finally, the question of what he means by “woman of color” was nervously broached.

By the way, his wife is Filipino.

At this point my biggest gripe is why continue to use “woman of color” to describe your wife? If you must describe your wife in such terms, just say she is Filipino. Everyone knows what a Filipino is. It’s not like he will have to explain, “The Philippine islands, named after St. Phillip during Spanish colonization, are an archipelago located in the South China Sea that through years of coexistence between indigenous peoples and French and Spanish colonists has produced an attractive caramel-skinned populace, to which I am married to one.” Just say she’s Filipino for fuck’s sake! You end up saying it eventually when everyone looks at you quizzically and attempts to politely decipher what on earth you mean when you say you are married to a “woman of color”.

Now using this term isn’t a one-time deal either. No, no no. This “woman of color” shtick has been getting plenty of play by him. Another overheard conversation has him telling someone how “he doesn’t see color in people because he wakes up every morning to a ‘woman of color’.” He also took out a family photo and showed it to his assistant and announced, in a giddy, look-at-this sort of way, that he was married to a “woman of color”. The assistant is black (colored woman vs. “woman of color”?) so my first impression was that this was a I’m-down-with-the-peeps gambit. That he was just trying to gain some street cred. But apparently he really likes talking about this “woman of color” he is married to. This all makes me wonder how he describes his kids. The assistant should have shown him her family photo with her black husband and black kids and trumped him on the color card.

At least now I know what to do when I have my first conversation with him and he mentions he’s married to a “woman of color”. I’ll respond, “Oh, she must be Filipino.”

Sunday, August 27, 2006

MOVIE REVIEW: The Illusionist

As pretty as an illustrated Victorian storybook, The Illusionist takes an oft-told tale of love and twists it into an enjoyable and entertaining parlor trick. An eccentric, young peasant boy, who seems to have quite a bit of idle time on his hands to practice coin and card tricks, befriends an aristocratic, young girl, who when not riding gallantly on top of her fine horse, does not heed her parents opposition to mingling with peasants. Of course, at the behest of the girl’s parents, they are forcefully separated. The boy leaves town, off to wander places unknown and master the art of illusion.

This brings us 15 years later to turn-of-the-century Vienna, where the eponymous Eisenheim (Edward Norton) returns to his childhood haunt to excite the populace with his magic shows. At one of these shows Eisenheim finds Sophie (Jessica Biel), the girl he left behind. Now a Duchess, Sophie, may or may not be betrothed to Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell). This triangle is watched with increasing interest by the Chief Inspector (Paul Giamatti).

The story is also watched intensely by the viewer and this smart film makes it worth the effort. This typical love story - the assigned social order keeps two true lovers apart -could have easily overtaken and disrupted the film. It is a credit to director Neil Burger, who also adapted the screenplay from a Steven Millhauser short story, that how illusions, created by society or a magician, can be used to achieve love is more important than the minor distractions that being of a different class may present.

Like any good illusion, the impressive cast makes this appear easier than it is. All the leads bring nuances to their characters without letting those characters upstage the story. Giamatti’s Chief Inspector Uhl has muted strength, physically and mentally, and his own thoughts about societal labels. Giamatti does not look as dumpy in his period outfit and waxed Van Dyck, as he has in American Splendor and Sideways. He should be on the lookout for more pre-20th century roles. Norton, one of the most consistent actors working today, gives Eisenheim his usual intensity but offsets it with a knowing aloofness. This serves to make the viewer believe that, like any good illusionist, he has something up his sleeve. Biel provides an understated performance where she sometimes gets lost in her costume. This is unfortunate as she surprisingly did not seem out of place with the others but her character is not given more to do. Sewell is fine in portraying royal entitlement but his emotions and actions are dictated by others. One of the only minuses in the film is how Sewell’s Leopold is defined by the other three characters.

There are times, while watching this film, that one may wonder if this is all going to be just a familiar, good-looking, well-made waste of time. Or worse, will it succumb to its own cleverness and leave either too many questions unanswered or a supernatural mumbo-jumbo mess behind? It is with great delight to observe an intelligent film that aspires to challenge viewers and reward them with a satisfactory ending that is just as it should be.

Room for Rent

It was winter 1998. I was living in the Denver, CO area. While living in Colorado, I had been snowboarding during the winter and working seasonal jobs all other times. For this reason I never liked to sign a lease. I was a man on the go. I never knew where I would end up tomorrow. Also, I was broke. That’s why I was in Denver working odd jobs rather than snowboarding in the mountains. These reasons, mainly the moneyless part, led me to the “Roommates Wanted” ads.

I found a room being rented in a small house in a nice location. A 40-something divorced man was renting the house and there was a room he was not using. The price was right and I wasn’t having any luck finding two 25-year old girls that needed a roommate so I was in. No lease and a verbal agreement that I would give a month’s notice upon moving out.

It didn’t start out very well. He was a used-car salesman and looked the part. He must have had all his slimy charm on display when he sold me on the room. He was tall and wiry and had facial features - a skinny head, greased hair, and suspicious mustache -reminiscent of Bruce Dern. After a few conversations, I realized I had nothing to say to him. Nothing. I tried to avoid talking with him as much as possible. My room was big enough to contain my bed, an easy chair, and a nightstand that had a small TV perched on top. When home, I spent a lot of time in the room avoiding him.

As it turned out, avoidance wasn’t the real problem. He was out on the jalopy lot selling his clunky wares until close to midnight. Slothfulness and overnight delivery don’t mix so I was out of the house very early. He also worked weekends. This meant our paths didn’t cross very much other than the two weekdays that he was off. Except on those two days off he had custody of his kid.

This kid was the biggest crybaby ever. You hear stories from new parents how the baby was “up all night.” I always took those tales with a grain of salt. But this brat, who was two-years old, WAS UP ALL NIGHT! Just constant bawling. He was worse than the colicky baby in the “Andromeda Strain” that stymied scientists looking for a cure to the space bacteria that wiped out a small town. I’m surprised he didn’t die of dehydration based on the amount of tears flowing. Don’t they stop crying eventually? So two nights out of the week I got no sleep.

This guy also had a terrible relationship with his ex-wife, the mother of the spectacularly whiney and never-ending crying two-year old. As this was pre-cell phone days, I shared the house phone. Every day there were multiple messages of at least 10 minutes each with the wife just berating this guy. Really haranguing him like nothing else I have heard before or since. No wonder the kid cried all the time. I wasn’t familiar with the answering machine so I didn’t know how to fast forward through the messages without erasing them. I was embarrassed just listening to it. Worse yet was when she would call late night and he was not at home but I would already be in bed. I would be woken up by the ringing and then not able to get back to sleep while she loudly prattled on into the machine. Then he would come home and play the message. If the brat happened to be staying the night I would have the triple whammy. The harridan of an ex-wife on the machine, the guy cursing aloud at all her accusations, and the kid crying up a storm.

One day I get back from work and necessity navigated me to the bathroom. It was a mess. The toilet was overflowed and shit water was all over the carpet. (As an aside, let me strongly state my opposition to carpeting a bathroom.) The bathroom wasn’t like this when I left in the morning. It was a disgusting sight and smell. It was how I imagine it smelled when Chief Brody and Hooper cut open the tiger shark in “Jaws”. Unfortunately, I really had to go. I scanned the revolting scene for a plunger. No luck. I found a toilet scrubber and I worked the business end of it into the brown abyss. Because I had to go, I felt optimistic about clearing the clog. Optimism was never a very reliable gauge for future rational actions and it once again failed me. I flushed, and I watched in horror as the murky water rose above the rim and onto the carpet. All I could think was “Do toilets always flush for this long? When is this going to stop?” It was unbelievable. Was Godzilla in my bathroom that morning taking a shit?

I stepped out before I vomited. I was smart enough to place wads of newspaper down before stepping into that hellhole, so my shoes weren’t covered with defecation. I ran out to the local hardware store to get a plunger, and stopped at a gas station on the way. The gas station bathroom was paradise compared what I had just left. Plunger in hand I returned and successfully unclogged. The bathroom did not have an exhaust fan so there was still the wet carpet and smell to contend with. I opened the window and closed the door. Let him deal with it. I was in bed when he returned. I awoke to loud cursing. I knew what this was about. I got out of bed to get this bathroom confrontation over with. In a very terse conversation, I told him that I came home from work, saw this mess he left, purchased a plunger, unclogged the toilet, and the rest is up to him to clean up. (Astute readers will note that I failed to mention that I also flushed the toilet and caused an overflow. He didn’t need to know about that.) I went back to bed. The next morning the bathroom was still foul smelling and the carpet was still soaked around the toilet. I found a scrap of dry carpet and used that to stand on as I pissed in the bathtub. I didn’t want anything more to do with that bathroom. I skipped the shower and washed up in the kitchen sink and off to work I went. We didn’t talk to each other, not even a “Hi, how’re you doing?” for a week.

The coup de grace came after about four months living there. I returned from work one day and there was an eviction notice on the door. I read it several times. It didn’t seem to be a mistake. We were getting evicted. This pissed me off. Even though I hated living there and I had already given my month’s notice to move out, I became indignant at the thought of being evicted. Also, I paid rent for my room directly to this weasel. He was supposed to be paying the rent for the house to the landlord. I left the eviction notice up on the door so he would see it when he got home. I stayed up until he arrived back from selling his lemons. He walked in looking forlorn, holding the eviction notice in his hand. I immediately pounced on him. If I waited a second longer, I might have felt sorry for him as he looked like such the sad sack walking through the front door. “Where the fuck is my fuckin’ money!” I yelled. “I’ve been paying you and you can’t pay the fuckin’ rent and you’re getting me evicted?” This went on for some time. Me swearing a lot about him screwing me, and him yelling at me about his ex-wife screwing him. Although it felt good to yell and curse at him, eventually it was a dead-end.

As stated, I was already moving. I had accepted a job offer in Arizona. I sold my bed to a friend and told the guy that he could have anything I was leaving behind, which was a sofa and easy chair. I was going back to owning only what I could fit into my Chevy Blazer. I had a friend helping me pack my truck. As we were finishing up we sat on the sofa, which was on the front porch, and popped open some beers. The guy came to move his stuff out. He was alone except for the brat who would be offering no help. While the brat sobbed and cried in a playpen the guy hauled all his belongings into a moving van he had rented. I sat on the couch with my friend and didn’t offer a hand or a beer. Take that, you bastard.

So I moved to Arizona and stayed in the spare bedroom in my friend and his wife’s house for about 8 months. I’ll let them tell that story…

Friday, August 25, 2006


I’m still not entirely sure what to make of The Descent. The plot is great material for a thriller-horror movie: six women go caving in some Appalachian caverns. There they meet some albino humanoids who are looking for their next meal. On board for the trip is Sarah, who is recovering from an accident involving her husband and child; Juno, a resourceful and egotistical adventurer; Beth, the caring best friend of Sarah’s; Rebecca, the sensible, by the book, and motherly outdoor type; Sam, Rebecca’s younger sister and medical school student; and Holly, Juno’s protégé with a wild side. Yes, they are all “types” for this sort of story, but, as writer/director Neil Marshall establishes their strengths and weaknesses, to better help us understand their son-to-be fate, he doesn’t use a sledgehammer to do it.

It’s a sure-handed straight-forward horror movie that takes it time in unfolding (at times too long in unfolding). There are a few good jolts (even if some of the better ones are of the manufactured scares from a dream or another character sneaking up from behind). The first act follows the women’s, ahem, descent into the cavern. This in itself would make for a good thriller. The scene in which Sarah gets stuck in a small tunnel set off a small claustrophobic panic in me. But then the sequence drags. We get it, they’re in an unexplored cavern and don’t know the way out. Soon the cave-dwelling creatures are introduced. The first 10 minutes of this are pretty good, especially the first meeting. This too soon loses momentum. Then there are the questions: How strong are these creatures? At first they seem impervious to harm. Later, though, the resourceful women start picking them off pretty quickly. How did they survive this long in the caves? Despite the rooms of bones, they are terrible hunters. The raptors in Jurassic Park had better organization skills than these people. They’re more dumb than anything else.

So, it’s a nice idea that is tightly wound, but, it contains a few lulls, and, most damning, some questionable behavior by one of the group. Questionable in the sense that she’s seemingly making rational decisions and filling in puzzle pieces about past events while being chased at the same time. It tarnishes the direction I thought the finale was going.

In summary: strong beginning, so-so middle, below average ending. I suppose this is what I make of it: a movie that I wanted to like, that wanted me to like it, but just couldn’t pull it off. I’m not sure if it was too by the numbers or too aloof. The intensity of the women’s plight wasn’t sustained – in fact, it was more intense before the creatures attacked! Now, what do you make of that?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

MOVIE REVIEW: 13 (Tzameti)

One of the best kind of thriller is when the Everyman, through folly or a hidden motive, embarks into a world he scarce knew existed. These thrillers, when done right, create a palpable tension, as the viewer is also pulled into the circumstances, only finding out what is in store at the same time as the Everyman.

13 (Tzameti) is such a film. It is remarkably taut. The tension is drum tight. Our Everyman propels himself into a situation with utter ignorance of what it entails. He knows there may be a payoff involved. While working as a roofer at a house, he overhears part of a conversation involving a train ticket and a hotel reservation. The letter containing the ticket and information falls into his hands. He seems relaxed on the first leg of the trip; then a bit nervous as he ventures deeper into it; then he tries to look relaxed as he becomes more nervous. Then he becomes afraid.

The emotion registered on the face of Sebastian (George Babluani), from fear to helplessness, is translated in near silence by the impersonal intruding camera of director Géla Babluani. 13 (Tzameti) is filmed in black and white. The starkness makes the mood. The minimal use of music sustains the mood. As Sebastian delves further and further into the maze, my heart was in my throat. I was stiff with anticipation of the outcome. My fists were clenched. By following the less is more school of storytelling, Babluiani creates an intense and absorbing thriller.

13 (Tzameti) is the best film I’ve seen this year.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

"A Shave and a Stalk?"

On an early summer evening I was strolling up 6th Avenue when my neighborhood barber accosted me. O.K., accosted isn’t entirely accurate but he did surprise me in the hurried panic in which he approached. He quickly explained that he was trying out employment at a new barbershop, which he indicated was behind him with a head nod over the shoulder or a jerk of the thumb in its direction. How he indicated where he was working isn’t really important but I was so surprised that he was talking to me without scissors in his hand that I was hardly paying attention to where the new barbershop was located. I just know that he did, in fact, clearly indicate where the shop was. He could have turned and pointed and told me the name of the new shop. I don’t know. I was weeks away from my next haircut and for some reason I was not entirely comfortable with this new out-of the-barber chair facet of our haircutting relationship.

From what I could make from his story, he was unsure how the new shop would work out and he may return to his previous (and my regular) barbershop. So in order to keep me apprised of the situation he requested my phone number. Wait, what? Now I started paying attention. “Can I please have your phone number and in a couple of weeks I will call and let you know where I am for your next haircut?” What was I supposed to do? I gave him my phone number.

Now, let me explain something about my hair. I keep it short. I cut it simple. I ask for a # 3 all around and sit back and let the barber do his work. Then I am gone 10 minutes later. I go back for my next cut ~ 4-6 weeks later which is about the time that I just can’t walk out of the shower, dry my head, and be off. I know I need a haircut if a brush or comb is needed. (Female readers, please take note that I am low maintenance.) If I was smart and not financially careless I would have invested in a razor years ago and just cut my own hair. (Female readers, please ignore references to my lack of intelligence and fiscal irresponsibility.)

A few weeks pass and I find I have terrible bed-head after a night’s respite and a wedding to attend in my near future. I need a haircut but my barber hasn’t called. I don’t know where he is plying his trade. I walk past my barbershop and casually peer into the window and not only do I not see him but another barber is at his chair wildly cutting away. I figure that as he went to the trouble of flagging me down on the street and I gave him my phone number, I should at least make some effort to track him down. I now wish I was paying better attention when he was pointing to his new barbershop. I go back to where he first stopped me on the street, only a couple blocks from my barbershop, and through shrewd triangulation methods I find the barbershop I think he was indicating. I walk past and he’s not there either. I give up on getting a haircut that day. I need a day to think this over. I tell my brother about my dilemma and he, in no uncertain terms, informs me that there is no dilemma.

This response elicited an interesting question in me. Why do I feel so loyal to this barber? Any trained barber could cut my hair. He’s not even the first barber I had at this barbershop. My first barber disappeared and I ended up in this one’s chair one day. I’ve only been going to him around a year. The next day I decide to go to my barbershop and just get a haircut, damn my sense of loyalty. I enter; my barber is not there. I ask after him. “He’s on vacation. Don’t worry, we take very good care of you.” I get into the next available chair and afterward, notice no discernable difference in the quality of cut. As loyalty to my former barber leaves me, so I leave the barbershop.

Then I get a phone message a few days later. “This is _________, your barber, who cuts your hair. Call me back.” Oh, boy. I just had my hair cut. Again, what to do? I promptly ignore the message. Weeks later, another message arrives. Shortly thereafter, in a third message he lets me know the new barbershop he’s working at. While not far, it’s in a different neighborhood. How can I be expected to walk ten blocks out of my way when I have a perfectly good barbershop nearby? If I had moved 10 blocks I wouldn’t continue with him as my barber, I’d find a new one. The proximity of his new locale solves any remaining loyalty issues I might have had. I can now continue at my regular barbershop with no guilt. Just in time, as I am getting a little shaggy on top. I just hope he deletes my phone number.

COMIC BOOK REVIEW: Checkmate #4 (DC Comics)

In my review of Checkmate #1-3, I covered my initial and, somewhat underwhelmed, impression with the caveat that I should wait until the story arc was completed before making a summary judgment on the merits of the series. After reading Checkmate #4, I was correct to include that out for myself and wrong to be so cynical of the first three parts.

Checkmate #4 is fast and furious fun. It balances the geo-political reality that Checkmate navigates and pure superhero fun quite masterfully. Checkmate’s excursion into China and the match-up with the Chinese meta-humans works so well if only because of the forceful personalities of these newly introduced super-powered bunch. Greg Rucka handles the interaction between Checkmate’s expressed (and covert) duties and the Chinese’s responsibilities to country with superb fluency. This could have quickly played like a hackneyed cold-war era confrontation. Instead, with a few detours, we see shared respect and mutual admiration between the factions. The Chinese heroes also have fun names like Physician, a stately and sage looking man, and The August General in Iron, an imposing, hulking figure donned in an iron shell. The artwork of Jesus Saiz creates a beautiful tableau for all these characters to act on. And the devil is in the details: the Physician’s hands nobly behind his back during his confrontation with the dubious Count Vertigo; a glean in the eye of Black Queen Sasha Bordeaux during her conversation with the Celestial Archer. We see and hear the fullness of these persons through the words and art.

Perhaps, the only slight level of disappointment that remains is Green Lantern’s naivety. Is he this noble? And if he is, why can’t he work some political finesse into it? He overplayed his hand it seemed when he didn’t need to. Couldn’t he bring about the same resolution to the problem without letting White Queens Amanda Waller in on what he wished to achieve? But one bright spot is the newfound comradely respect between Alan and Sasha. That’s an important collusion for the health of Checkmate.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

SOCCER: FC Barcelona 4 - NY Red Bulls 1

FC Barcelona vs. NY Red Bulls, Giants Stadium, NJ August 12, 2006

So I went to a soccer match last night. A friend was still suffering from World Cup fever (Viva! Italia!) and bought some tickets. So off to Giants Stadium in the swamplands of NJ to watch two of the biggest soccer stars in the world, Ronaldinho and Messi dismantle an outclassed NY Red Bulls team. After loads of traffic and paying $15 to park we made it into the sold out venue.

Now, I'm no soccer fan. I watched some of the World Cup but never an entire match. This was the second live soccer match I have seen since I went to a NY/NJ Cosmos game, also at Giants Stadium, in the late seventies. This was a fun night. The crowd would go crazy every time Ronaldinho touched the ball and then in the second half chants of "Messi! Messi!" rang throughout the stadium. Giants Stadium was sold out and I imagine that this was the largest crowd the Red Bulls ever played in front of. There was a very animated Hispanic guy next to me who was fun as he was jumping up and down and hooting and hollering in Spanish the entire time. The wave was in full force throughout the night and, of course, chants of “Olay, Olay, Olay” could be heard all match long.

Although a neophyte about soccer, here are my observations about the match. Barcelona seemed to be toying with the Red Bulls during the first half. Lots of fancy footwork eliciting oohs and ahhs from the fans and the players, especially Ronaldinho, seemed to be having fun. The level wasn't like an All-Star game, this was still a competition after all, but the intensity felt like an exhibition. Ronaldinho scored a goal on a penalty kick and at the end of the first half the Red Bulls attacked and tied it up. The second half was a different story as Barcelona attacked relentlessly and the Red Bulls couldn't mount any offense at all. Overall, Barcelona severely outclassed the Red Bulls. Final score 4-1. Ronaldinho had 2 goals, Messi had 1 with 2 assists. So it was a good game to watch as the big names lived up to expectations. Through it all I couldn't tell if the crowd was pro-Red Bulls or pro-Barcelona or just pro-Ronaldinho and pro-Messi. I would estimate that at least a 1/3 of the crowd was wearing Barcelona jerseys.

Another observation is that this game was not nearly as rough and tumble as I saw during the World Cup. Perhaps, it was because it was an exhibition or is European League play just different than World Cup play and MLS play even more different than European League play? I enjoyed it though, which is something I couldn't imagine a few years ago. I'm not about to begin following soccer like I do baseball but I now know that I can enjoy the game.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Warriors Scavenger Hunt

I was 11 or 12 years old when I first saw The Warriors. Released in 1979, it was broadcast on the local New York channel, WPIX 11, I believe. The curse words were crudely dubbed. The fight scenes – especially the park fight with the Baseball Furies and the subway bathroom brawl with The Punks – were clumsily edited. Yet, I was enthralled. The Warriors provided two important things for me at that tender age: 1) it helped establish my love for movies; 2) it deepened the mystery and allure of those other Boros – Manhattan, Brooklyn, The Bronx – that this youngster in the outer reaches of Queens had yet to experience. The Warriors quest to return to their Coney Island home through the rough and tumble – and colorful – late 1970’s New York captured my imagination and strengthened my love of movies and of the city that has been my home all my life (that young Queens kid now residing in a not so rough and tumble Manhattan).

Yesterday, I participated in a Warriors Scavenger Hunt, sponsored by Netflix and Alamo Drafthouse , part of their summer Rolling Roadshow. Each team chose a gang from The Warriors and wore that gang’s colors. We were the Turnbull AC’s, those “lousy skinhead fucks” in Ajax’s memorable and apt description.

The gangs met at Riverside Park, where Cyrus’ conclave was filmed. We were given a CD containing clues, which, when solved, would tell us what to do next. We started out going in the wrong direction looking for the Soldiers monument in the park. Once we got our bearings, we spent some time fiddling with math questions and counting cannonballs and adding regiment numbers carved in stone. Then our one big gaffe happened. The clue spoke of a gang called the Hip Po’s. We needed to find hippo icons and count them. We got ahead of ourselves and ventured down to the American Museum of Natural History, thinking that hippos were part of the stone menagerie out front. We were wrong. No hippos there. We soon found out about a Hippo Park in Riverside Park – just 2 blocks from where we had left. We doubled back quickly. We had lost about 40 minutes on the wild goose chase. But to our surprise, other gangs were still working out the earlier clues. We were still in good shape we thought. We soldiered on with the hunt. We hit our spots. We took the photos for bonus points. We sweated through our vests on the hottest day of the year. We regretted none of it.

Finally, we ended up on a subway to Coney Island. Two other gangs were on the same subway, a few cars ahead of us. Fortunately for us, our gang consisted of Coney Island veterans. They knew a faster way to get to our next checkpoint – the Shoot the Freak boardwalk attraction. We jumped off the subway the stop before Stillwell Avenue, ran across the footbridge on Surf Avenue and down the boardwalk. We beat the Satan’s Mothers, the Jones Street Boys and High Hats. We shot the freak and went to the final checkpoint. We were the sixth team to check-in. We had all of the bonus photos save one. We were told we took the most photos. This gave us hope. We could erase our lost time. We waited for the results.

But first, the screening of The Warriors. Or, rather, first was our rap. Another bonus was for each gang to compose a rap and some dance moves. Calvin and Eric wrote the rhymes, Calvin MCed, and we all made turns during the chorus of “Turn, Turn Turnbulls AC’s”. Then the screening. It was great fun watching this classic movie in the shadow of the Cyclone and the Wonder Wheel. The crowd loved it. Everyone hooted and hollered at every Warriors victory. Lines were said along with the characters. A great summer evening experience.

Oh, yeah, we also finished in Third place. Not bad for a bunch of lousy skinhead fucks.