Concettina Died and Other Stories of the East Side

End of The Big Pink, posted June 29, 2009 at 03:23 PM



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David Zaza at 40, posted June 28, 2009 at 01:33 AM


Me, at 40..... [Click all images for larger; Lots more pictures of the party can be found here...]

Well, I turned 40 a couple of weeks ago. And I don't feel any different, so I guess I'm okay.

My parents came for five days, and we had a great time. Besides my party we had nothing planned, so we were free to float around the city and enjoy some relaxing time together. We went to the movies, we went to the Met, we ate and drank with friends, we cooked at home. Fun!

I received so many wonderful cards, emails, Facebook notes, calls, texts, presents, drinks, and general well-wishes that there can be no doubt that I am more loved than any person deserves. And lord knows I love being the center of attention so it was an especially gratifying week!

Taka and me at B-flat Authentic Bar

I booked the evening of June 3 at B-Flat, which is an authentic bar, right down in Tribeca near my office. The B-flat guys--all of them but especially Shin and Takaachi--are terrific in the extreme and they really helped make the party a success. The food was delicious, but more important, the drinks were absolutely perfect. These guys are like chemists behind that bar--they know exactly how to make a cocktail so that while you're drinking it it's the best cocktail ever made and as soon as it's gone you're wanting another!

Marijane, Mom, and Dad partying it up

James and Melissa

Stephanie and Mark Nelson get to know each other

Laura and Maureen weep for my aged decrepitude

I think about 40 people showed up--friends, colleagues, and family. My folks, of course, were up from North Carolina, and Stephanie and Joe flew in from Atlanta for a just-over-12-hour jaunt through the city. But the surprise was that Adrienne popped up from Orlando, and in her inimitable style arrived as the first guest at the party and made my day right there and then.

Special surprise guest, Adrienne Zaza, feels the Zazaura with me at B-flat

Patsy Cline Bakes

Patsy made me a cake--two actually: one round layer cake to look pretty and then a larger rectangular sheet to feed the masses. It was a yellow butter cake with a chocolate buttercream frosting. Are you seeing a pattern there? She used eight pounds of butter in the production of it. Oh my. Last time Patsy baked me a birthday cake was for my 21st birthday. In the days after this year's party we were talking about all the different details of the event and Patsy mentioned making the cake for my 50th birthday. Shut up! Jeez!

We started the day at Balthazar for breakfast with Mark Fox. Lovely as always. Mark had to miss the party because of work, so he and Elizabeth joined us for a post-party family supper at Landmarc. It was awesome up until the point I spilled bone marrow all over my (extremely expensive) jacket that I bought in Paris. I almost cried, but pulled myself together, removed the jacket, dabbed my shirt with some water and went back to celebrating. We got home pretty late, and I opened presents and cards.

Stephanie and Joe!

Mom and Dad at Landmarc

Mark, Elizabeth, and Annabel at Landmarc

My new ring (on my index finger)!! Shiny!

My parents bought me a fantastic ring from David Yurman. It's beautiful, and just to my taste. It's big and bold and I've received tons of compliments on it these past few weeks. Other booty collected includes two--yes two!--big-ass iPods, a tie, lots of champagne, gorgeous flowers, sunglasses, chocolate, dinner invitations, opera invitations, and a pair of fabulous cufflinks. It was quite a haul.

So yeah, I'm 40. Kind of freaks me out to be honest. But, as they say, it's better than the alternative!

Lots more pictures of the party can be found here...

Special bonus feature: While I was in Ohio last week I was shown a picture of myself when I was, uh, slightly younger. I once was skinny, and it seems I used to tan:

Maria Catullo and David Zaza dancing at Jerry Zaza's bar "The Belmont," "The Shadows" sometime in the 70s...

I demand a better future, posted June 15, 2009 at 06:03 PM


I have been rather silent on Obama's complete and utter abandonment of LGTB issues. All the promises and declarations of support have turned out, so far, to be wholly empty. Until last week, that is, when his administration argued in court in support of the constitutionality of the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" and therein compared gay relationships to incestuous ones. I know he wants to be "bi-partisan" and all, but using failed Republican anti-gay talking points is really crossing the line, don't you think?

So I was delighted to read this blog entry at Americablog. It ends with this righteous demand: "No more empty statements of 'support.' No more explanations as to how powerless you are to get anything done. We want action. You're the leader of the free world. Start acting like it." A-fucking-men.

PS. Also check out another important and informative entry at Americablog.

UPDATED 6/16/09 12 noon to add:

Once again, Howard Dean gets it right:

Obama in Cairo, posted June 6, 2009 at 12:00 AM


I spent a glorious week indulging in family fun and selfish birthday extravaganzas (more on all that soon!). But history and politics rolled on without even tipping their hats! I just watched the president's speech that he gave yesterday in Cairo. I am very moved by it, and I remain convinced that we elected the right person at the right time. The speech is well-constructed--as always with Obama--and it builds to an ending that allows for the whole to be more than the sum of its parts. If you haven't watched it, please do:

I do not want to see this president turn too far outward at this point--we have far too many domestic issues to address. But so far he has proven his ability to handle more than one task at a time. This speech gives me hope--for the first time in a long long time--that something can actually move forward on the Israel/Palestine issue. (I'm still pessimistic, but for once I actually have hope). More importantly, I think a speech like this truly indicates Obama's commitment to changing the awful course of violence and stupidity that our previous president set us on. Finally, I should note that this speech, which was completely addressed to religious peoples, gave me, a firm non-believer, some confidence that tolerance actually stands a chance of survival in our world. Please god I hope that's true.

Sotomayor, posted May 27, 2009 at 12:11 PM


President Obama has made his Supreme Court pick and now it's up to us to complain. Heh heh. Here's my view....

-Finally another woman, thank god. This was a no-brainer. After Bush's Miers fiasco, and with Ginsburg's cancer diagnosis, this pick simply had to be a woman. And I'd argue that the next one--whether to replace Ginsburg or someone else--should also be a woman.
-Finally an Hispanic. Not only does choosing a Puerto Rican bring needed diversity to the Court, it's good politics. Hispanic politics are a wedge for Republicans. For certain issues, the Republicans are a natural fit for Hispanics. And for so many other reasons, they're a terrible match. So now if the Repubs viciously tear down the first Latina SC nominee, they risk further alienating the entire Hispanic community. The GOP is wrong on immigration, wrong on border issues, wrong on civil rights, and wrong on economic issues that working people care about. Let's let them go to town on Sotomayor and dig themselves deeper into the hole they've already started. I predict Obama's 2012 numbers will reflect a larger Hispanic vote percentage than he got in 2008.
-She's obviously qualified. Unlike Miers, who was picked for being a Bush crony and being a woman, and Thomas, who was a dim undistinguished judge who was picked because he was a Republican mouth-piece and an African-American, Sotomayor's got stellar credentials.
-She seems to rely heavily on precedent. That's a pro when the precedents have been set by the likes of Brennan and Marshall.

-She's too old. Sorry, but Bush stacked the court with young-un's. Obama needed to pick someone in their mid-40s, not their mid-50s.
-She's not staunchly liberal enough. I know I know, beggars can't be choosers, but again, Bush did a great job of pushing the conservative wing of the court ever-more rightward. I want Obama to push the court progressively. I know that Obama's a middle-of-the-road politician who doesn't want an ideologically divided court anymore than he wants an ideologically divided country. Sotomayor's a great fit for Obama, but she's not a great fit for progressives. I want judges cut from the same cloth as Brennan and Marshall, please. (I do realize that their outspokenness would probably prevent them from being confirmed by today's screwed-up Senate).
-She seems to rely heavily on precedent. That's a con when the precedents have been set by the likes of Scalia and Rehnquist.

-I sincerely hope she has paid her fucking taxes.

-Here's a great resource for reading about the judicial opinion's she's written: concise and helpful summaries courtesy of SCOTUS Blog.

Two steps forward, one step back, posted May 26, 2009 at 02:42 PM


California court sides with the bigots. Minority rights being voted on by the majority is not democracy; and it is not right. It was wrong to vote on it in November, and it's wrong that the California State Supreme Court upholds it today.

Recent victories for marriage equality (California, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, New York) have been tempered by recent losses (California, New Hampshire, New York, and California again). We will win this battle, even nationally, but it will take time.

Now is the time for swift action in New York. We're literally 4 or 5 votes from joining the ranks of the civilized and fair states and countries that allow gays and lesbians to marry. Here are some things you can do to help:

1. Donate to the Empire State Pride Agenda. They are leading the fight--directly lobbying the Senators who hang in the balance. Alternative donation location: New York Civil Liberties Union, who are fighting right alongside ESPA.

2. Show up tonight at a protest rally. The California decision is prompting reaction all over the country. In New York there will be rallies and/or marches in Albany, Ithaca, NYC, and Rochester. In Ohio there's a rally in Kent. In Georgia there's one in Atlanta. In Florida, we've got rallies in Fort Meyers, Lake Worth, Sarasota, and Tampa Bay. Alas, North Carolina readers, there are no rallies for you.... Info on all the rallies here.

3. If you live in NY--call your state senator and make sure they're supporting marriage equality. Talking points: 1. Every single state-wide elected official--Governor, Attorney General, Comptroller, and both US Senators are on record as supporting marriage equality. 2. Polling shows that the majority of New Yorkers wants the Senate to pass it. 3. Passing gay marriage does not mean that any religion will have to perform or acknowledge same-sex marriages--religious freedom is protected. Find your Senator here.

Further reading:
1. Terrific rant at DailyKos.
2. A smart, concise way forward: The Dallas Principles.

Cleveland USA, posted May 22, 2009 at 12:33 PM


My Ohio peeps might get a kick out of this....

Happy Birthday, Joe!, posted May 19, 2009 at 11:54 AM


My brother-in-law is so special that when we wears a kilt stars fall from inside it! Amazing!

Happy Birthday, Brother!

Happy Birthday Joe!!

Mother's Day, posted May 10, 2009 at 11:37 AM


click for larger

It's true. It's true.

I love this, posted May 6, 2009 at 11:56 PM


Sorry I can't blog right now, I have a fever, posted April 21, 2009 at 07:55 PM



Financial Chicken Soup, posted April 17, 2009 at 10:58 PM


Wow. Here's some economic commentary that knocked my socks off. Elizabeth Warren, Harvard Professor and chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel policing the TARP bailout, lays out our country's financial history in one very simple lesson: regulate the banks or lose. The pertinent part of this video begins at 1:55 into the clip:

Brava, Professor Warren! As Jon Stewart says at the end, this is the first taste of financial chicken soup I've tasted in quite a while.

Easter was a delicious weekend, posted April 14, 2009 at 01:22 AM


Cotton candy at the Easter Parade. Click all images for larger....And many more pictures of the weekend can be found here.

I love Easter because I love family, I love food, and I love Peeps! For family and food, my sister played Easter Bunny this year and came hippity-hoppity up from Washington. For Peeps, well, I still have some stale ones in the cupboard!

Stephanie arrived on Friday night. Patsy and I were both home and the three of us shared a cocktail and caught up a bit before dinner. We went to Frankies Spuntino in Carroll Gardens. I love this place. I've been three or four times in the last few weeks. Their food is fresh, carefully prepared, and basic in all the right ways. Stephanie had the homemade pappardelle with rabbit, and Patsy and I both had the pork brasciola. It was all divine. Their house wine is 12 bucks for half-liter carafe, and it's delicious. Best wine bargain this side of the East River. Yummy!

The next morning, after coffee and cereal at home, Stephanie and I headed into the city. I had tickets for the opera, which Laura was attending with me. So I kissed Stephanie goodbye at 34th Street as she headed out for a day of shopping. She hit Macy's then buzzed down to Century 21, stopping for a French lunch at Les Halles. I met Laura at the Met and we indulged in five sublime hours of Wagner. I'd never seen Die Walkure before. My god it was great (I'm going to blog about the opera separately, so stay tuned...). Laura brought us muffins and doughnuts from the farmers market. Mmmmmm -- cider doughnuts!

Miss Howell arrives at the Met

We left Lincoln Center five hours later full of music and sturm und drang and met Stephanie at Alta for a cocktail and some bacon-wrapped dates (the fruit, not men). Our bartender was horrified by the idea of a five-hour opera, let alone a five-hour shopping spree, though he seemed to quite like Laura's rather, uh, physically illustrated telling of how her bra wasn't feeling so balanced (he feigned embarrassment, but his macho demeanor and his Boston accent gave him away--he loved it).

Amy and I sharing a laugh

We kissed Miss Howell goodnight and headed east to meet Jim & Alex and Phil & Amy for dinner. Phil and Amy are back in town from London for a few weeks, and it was wonderful to catch up with them and enjoy a nice dinner together. Felt like old times--happy laughter and food and wine.

Stephanie and I at dinner

Easter Sunday arrived with a crisp sunshine and a stiff breeze. Stephanie and I brunched at Clover Club on Smith Street, which is now my favorite place for brunch. Patsy and I went there a couple weeks ago and both times have been spectacular. Let's just put it this way: one of the brunch entrees is called "Bacon tasting." Oh yes indeed I had it! Stephanie and I split it, actually, along with an order of four yummy deviled eggs, which we thought was a funny thing to eat on Easter morning. Then we each had an order of ricotta pancakes. Oh my. I'm a believer again!

After brunch it was time for the traditional Easter Parade!

Fabulous folks dressed to the nines for Easter Sunday's promenade

Scary characters at the Easter Parade!

Now the Easter Parade is not a parade at all--it's a promenade. They close off 5th Avenue in Midtown and the people are free to simply mill about. The bonnets, the bunnies, the bon vivants! Some people are dressed in their Sunday best, arriving at the parade just after church. Some are turned out in fancy bonnets--homemade affairs of eggs and plastic flowers and fur and everything spring. Some are dressed up in costume--Easter rabbits, Alice in Wonderland characters, and all kinds of wacko freaky things you'd expect from an "only in New York" kind of event. We had a blast checking out all the funny hats, all the freaks, all the cute kids. And I took lots of pictures.

Sweet family on parade

Pastelly fellies at the parade

The Easter Bunny takes a break from parading

MoMA is conveniently half a block from the parade, and it's somewhat of a tradition for me to go there afterward. We saw a fascinating photography show of the American West, as well as a nice small show about paper in the drawing galleries. We took in the main painting and sculpture galleries, then we followed another Easter tradition and found ourselves a couple of seats at the bar at The Modern. Along with cocktails we ate some homemade country sausage and an order of liverwurst which the bartender claimed was the "best wurst" in the city. (It was delicious, but I personally think the best wurst is to be found at Cafe Katja on the Lower East Side).

Stephanie and I in the sculpture garden at MoMA
Many more pictures of the weekend can be found here.

Easter is all about eternity, but Easter weekends always come to an end sometime. Stephanie went back to Penn Station to catch a train back to DC, and I picked up my lonely bicycle at the office and enjoyed a nice but windy 6-mile ride just before sunset.

Jesus Christ------SUPERSTAR!, posted April 12, 2009 at 09:52 PM


It's Easter, so naturally I've been put in mind of my favorite counterculture retelling of the Passion Play: Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice's Jesus Christ Superstar. When my sister and I were little we would divide up the parts and sing the opera from start to finish. (With my voice not yet changed I always played Mary Magdalene). Stephanie's on her way home from visiting me for Easter right now, and I just finished listening to the original recording of JCS. And I've been thinking--if I could stage it today (or just produce a new definitive recording), who would I cast? With some great suggestions from Stephanie, I humbly submit my dream cast:


Jesus Christ -- Courtney Love
Rock and Roll, Baby! She can belt out the rockers, break the slow jams over her shredded vocal cords, and be as egomaniacal as Judas sees her character to be. She wants to be the Christ with the most cake.

Judas -- Morrissey
He's so disappointed that he hangs himself from a tree.

Mary Magdalene -- Beyoncé Knowles
Forget Yvonne Elliman--we need a woman who can seriously coooooooooo.

Pontius Pilate -- Rufus Wainwright
As Stephanie put it: He's a total drama queen!

Caiaphas, High Priest -- Nick Cave
The deep-voiced concern, the booming declarations. No one else could play the part.

Annas -- David Byrne
High-voiced and witty, and a role not demanding the greatest voice ever.

Simon Zealotes -- Mos Def
Cutie-pie Mos himself can bring the positive vibe with the political edge that's needed!

Peter -- George Michael
Deny, deny, deny, George.

King Herod -- Tom Waits
I'm thinking a slower, bluesier version of King Herod's song, rather than the jaunty ragtime of the original....

Now the last question is who's gonna play the Roman guard who in the original recording sums up the absurdity of this entire project by referring to Jesus as: "Someone Christ, King of the Juice!"????? (Answer: Sandra Bernhard!)

Pinch me I'm dreaming, posted April 8, 2009 at 09:15 PM


I had the oddest morning. Tell it like a dream.

Mark Fox and I were sitting in Balthazar for our Thursday morning breakfast, on Wednesday, and the couple at the opposite table were kissing passionately. For an hour. Just like in our puppet play The Kiss. So we went up to Park Avenue and stood in an important modern masterpiece of architecture, holding up a broken mirror to the outside world. Suddenly it got dark and started to snow very hard. And then Richard Serra's editor, Heidi Colsman-Freyberger, walked in, looking to buy a rain hat. We looked up and were now in a big bank building where one of Mark's artworks was hanging over an open stairwell. I climbed the stairs to look at it while Mark made small talk with a bank bigwig and a security guard. Back on the train I held a stranger's hand before kissing Mark goodbye. The stranger's friend was hogging the poll, licking his fingers, then touching the poll with the same fingers, so we got in a fight about how disgusting that was. Up on the street in Tribeca, I passed the Soho landmark, Jerry's Cafe. I found Bon Chon Chicken but didn't go in. Willie Nelson's Bubbles in My Beer came on my iPod so I thought of my old flame Christopher, when suddenly a woman bumped into me and knocked me into a red Vespa just like Christopher's. I was then at my desk in my office and the phone rang and woke me up for good.

Everything I just said happened this morning.