Sunday, March 27, 2005

Dumpling Notes.


Well, Lucas the Dumpling Man is at it again, with the seasonal variations on his logo. Also, he's launched a DumplingBlog. He's set up a DumplingCam so you can keep an eye on things. He's got incredibly sweet new Dumpling T-Shirts. And while he expands the Dumpling Empire in all directions, he's still producing the best affordable meal in the East Village. How does this man do it?


Sunday, March 13, 2005


I got word from Waldo last night that Phil had passed away. And it really kinda shook me. Well, shook, but more saddened. I mean...

Phil. Buddha Phil. Phil Gair. There's a whole bunch of us, kids who hung out (and grew up) downtown, for whom Phil was just... He was a constant reassuring presence. Always there, always would be. Those big iron and wood Mall benches were there for him, weren't they? He was an original Mallfellow, there long before any of us even coined the term. His thick glasses and suspenders and snap-down cap and his child-like smile and his turns of phrase that didn't usually make sense, but really didn't need to. Talking with Phil didn't fall under rules that you'd apply to conversations with anyone else.

He said something to me once, I wish I could remember exactly... About how we had our own rainbows and didn't need to worry. From anyone else, it would've been laughable. But from him, there was a sincerity that made it real.

He also had a surprising degree of hidden talent. How many people who came in contact with him knew he was a world-class blues musician, I wonder? He was far too shy to play in public, but I was lucky enough to see him with a guitar in his hands one time... And he played "Sittin' On Top Of The World" like he was born to it. In fact, he didn't perform it so much as inhabit it, make it his own. He said something about having been in a band, way back when, to some degree of success. Opening for the MC5 at a festival somewhere in the late 60s, in front of many thousands of people. I'd love to find out when, and what his band was called...

* * * * *

When I lived Downtown, I'd see him every day. Two or three times, usually. At Chaps, over in front of the Paramount, sitting on a bench by Central Fidelity. Stop and talk, and he'd often be dispensing words of zen. Or sometimes giggling hysterically about something that he couldn't stop long enough to explain.

One time he was having a fit of laughter. High-pitched and falling in on itself... But he managed to pause for a second. Just long enough to lean over and whisper conspiratorially: "Hey Pat. Those kids over there? They got me HIGH." And then he was back into the whirlwind of giggling.

It was the same once I moved, and I'd be back to visit. Walk down the Mall, there's Phil. If it was raining, he'd be in a yellow poncho, but he'd still be there. And I'd stop, say hello. I'd get a quiet response at first. And then once he said my name, he'd begin to warm, and begin getting more comfortable. Even sometimes reaching out to shake my hand, with the world's gentlest handshake. Understand, NOT the 'dead fish' shake that I'm so loath to receive from anyone. Not at all. There was energy when Phil shook your hand, you knew there was someone on the other end. It was just... Gentle. Barely any grip, but a true commitment, I guess. I dunno.

I'd say it was nice to see him. He'd ask if I was gonna come back anytime soon, and I'd say I wasn't sure... But that I was confident in leaving him in charge of the Mall while I was gone. I'd thank him for being there, and he'd say that it was no problem.

It never really changed, even once I was just visiting from time to time. I'd still see Phil, still stop to talk.

Still, he did have his struggles. Some days, I'd walk by and he'd be somber. He'd be wrestling with an existential dilemma, and looking for reassurance: "Hey, Pat... Sometimes I just don't think the world is okay... Is it okay? Do you really think it's good?" And I'd do my best to lighten his spirits. It didn't always work completely... Sometimes he'd just decide that it needed more thought, say he wasn't really sure, go on looking concerned. But other times, it seemed to get through. Then, his eyes would go BIG behind his coke-bottle glasses, and he'd get a little grin. "You think so? You think it's alright?" Well, yeah Phil. I think it's alright. I'm here. I like it. "Oh. Good. 'Cause I think you'd tell me the truth about what you think. You wouldn't lie to me."

No, Phil. I wouldn't lie to you. I'm gonna miss you, though. The world will be a bit less subtle without you around.

Thanks for keeping an eye on The Mall for me. You did a great job. It looks wonderful.


Lots of pictures. A few words.

As usual, I've been neglecting to keep up to date here. I expect both of you reading have probably noticed. So, let's see...

There's been a LOT of snow. Obviously. Wintertime hitting hard, pausing for a day to psyche us all out... Letting everyone run around in the sun wearing t-shirts, then dropping a blizzard on our heads the next morning.

Most of the above pictures were taken a couple weeks ago, on a night that I'd just gotten home from work and gotten settled in... And then the news of Hunter S. Thompson's death hit, and sent us all back outdoors, right as a nice gentle snow turned into all-out insanity. Rounds of free whiskey, snowball fights with random strangers, and much lunacy ensued. (My buddy Lamb recaps the entire evening here, and gets it all exactly right.)

Other than that, it's been a string of crazy days and nights... A hip-hop concert here, a quick lighting gig there, a job interview that I never hear back about, an almost-constant reshuffling of schedules and plans, working nonstop, and even a four-day run down thru D.C. and Charlottesville to see a bunch of family and friends and a few rock shows. Where I got even MORE snow.

And lest I forget, I bartended the most insane Jigsaw party yet, complete with an alcohol sponsorship, five jillion people, and a go-go dancer in the window.

Perhaps the next few weeks will be a bit more sane, and I'll be back to posting more regularly... But somehow I doubt it. Life doesn't seem to be in danger of slowing down anytime soon. And I'd not have it any other way, really.