Monthly Archives: November 2012

Going On The Account: Blogtober – “…but she doesn’t have a lot to say…”




cking believe that I called “Game Over” on this Blogtober schtick a whole f’n’ day early.  Should’a done this damn day-a-thing-thing back in February…

All right, gotta do one more bit, huh…?  How about…

[Sung to the tune of the Beatles’ accidental anticlimax from Abbey Road]:

This blogging is a pretty sweet gig

If you really have something to say

This blogging is a pretty sweet gig

Even though it doesn’t pay

It really makes you push your writing skills

Whether you want to praise or whine

This blogging is a pretty sweet gig

I think I find it really fine, oh yeah,

I think I find it really fine





And if you are reading the hidden text here, let me first congratulate you for looking for it and finding the “hidden tracks” in this piece.  Three gets you five it’s probably showing up plainly in the subscriber feed; if that’s how you’re seeing this, go, take a look at how this looks on the page.  I’m kinda proud of how it turned out…

Let me reiterate what I said yesterday, a bit more sincerely.  While I kid Jen and Speaker7 for prompting this stunt, I think it had more positives than not.  I hadn’t been doing this much content to this many deadlines since my college journalism days, and the practice did me a lot of good.  I found a few strengths I didn’t know I had, and found a few weaknesses that need to be addressed.  Anyone that helps you find your abilities and tests them, that’s worth something.  If either of you are in my town some time, do look me up; I need to stand you both a few rounds.

I also need to stand for a few rounds Susan Rocan, whose observations during the run were always appreciated, and whose example was inspirational.  She did this before I did, and with a lot more grace than I showed during the course of the run.

I need to thank all the other readers who dropped on by, and hopefully liked some of what I did.  

I need to thank all the historical, referential and news sites that were linked to in The Pirates of New York.  As I said, this is a popular history, so it is rather casual, but I may have more modest plans for the collected work than what I joked about yesterday; when I know more, I’ll share it with you…

And of course my family, Susan and James.  I love you both very much.  There wasn’t quite as much strife as I went on about yesterday, but they did show a lot of patience as I concentrated on this.  The good news is, I think going through this exercise of writing under the gun, with all of us under foot of each other, made me a bit more distraction-proof.

Not that much, but enough that we can work around each other more easily than we could at the beginning of the month.

Again, thanks for coming along this far; hope to keep seeing you all as we plot a further course…

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Going On The Account: Blogtober – And That’s A Wrap!

And here we are, the end of Blogtober!

[SFX: Throngs of cheering crowds]

Yes, our long international nightmare is over, and with this last piece the Internet will once again be safe for cat pictures, silly GIFs and wacko political rants delivered in half-sentences.  I’m going back to somewhere a bit east of San Clemente, and you won’t have Jim Ryan to kick around anymore.

Until the inevitable sequel, probably with a “II” after the title, or if I go old school a “Son Of” at the front…

[SFX: Maniacal laughter]

Or I could just say “Screw it all!” and just commission a spin-off.  I could collect The Pirates of New York and do something with that all by itself.

In fact, I have my people contacting Marty‘s people right now; it’s right up his alley, all that history thing he did, and some of the ancient stuff he just did might put him in the mood for some more.  We can even get Bobby De Niro to play Bill Tyron; I’m sure given a chance, he’d love to take another crack at doing a pirate, only this time without coming up with…

And hey, I bet you that Geena Davis could be up for Sadie the Goat.  Yeah, I know, the last time didn’t work out so good, but y’know, you never know, y’know…?

Speaking of working out good, my thanks for the inspiration from Sips of Jen and Tonic and Speaker7.  Yeah, I took the dare, I made the effort, and I got to the end of the month.

Sure, I did piss off the Lovely and Talented Susan with a lot of snarling as I insisted on staying up late to churn out content, but I think it was worth it, some days.  And yeah, my son just looks at me with contempt because I told him I was too busy to hear him go on about some things at school and in his life, but hey, teenagers, they get over it, right?

So what’s a little strain on the family for the sake of Internet bragging rights, am I right?

And I did it with only a few photos to fill in the content, and one old poem.  Count your blessings, because had the month gone on another day, I’d have had to get back in touch with the dark arts practiced during my filking days.

For those who wonder about filking, let’s put it this way: Remember when Mad used to do alternate song lyrics?  When they would take a tune you kinda knew and put up a goofy set of words for it?

Yeah, that; ’nuff said…

So here I am, with so much stuff out there with all these posts that I could keep an entire PR firm busy doing spin for years to clean all at up.  I regret none of it (yet), and there’s a (small) portion of it that I’m rather proud of.  Like I said, I may do The Pirates of New York in another venue; hey, Julie Taymor may have gotten over her last project enough that this might be just the thing for her…

I’m having another rum and coke as I sit back with pride at having made it through is.  If Nietzsche was right, after this month I should damn well be immortal…

I recommend doing this, if you haven’t given it a try yet.  I can recommend a site that did this last month, mywithershins, that shows us all how it’s done.  The meeting of all these deadlines, one right after the other, does wonders for your discipline, and forces you to find creativity that you didn’t know you had.  And if you find yourself under the gun, you better find that creativity, sucker!

And so, I hope you will forgive me the sin of pride as I raise (yet another) glass to myself, thankful at having gotten through all twenty nine days of Blogtober; if anyone is going to pat you on the back for mak-

[SFX: sudden gag reflex]

Whata-  wait a sec…  Twenty nine days?

Twenty NINE?

Oh for the love of…  What, how the hell did I lose a day here?  I still got one more of these to do?  Of all the damnab

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Going On The Account: RED JENNY Part Ninety

Part Ninety of RED JENNY AND THE PIRATES OF BUFFALO in now up, and may be read here.

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Going On The Account: Blogtober – Pirates Of New York – Epilogue

This is the twenty eighth day of Blogtober; I wonder which of us is more anxious for this to end…


Speaking of endings, we come to the end of the popular history miniseries we’ve run here.  It’s been fun working in nonfiction on this series, and with a little organization consideration, there might well be life for this beyond these blog pages.

Speaking of life beyond…

Epilogue, or Always Something There To Remind Me

There are communities that do a better job of remembering their pirate pasts than New York does.  Salem, Baltimore, Charleston, Key West, all of them have more active remembrances, including pirate themed tours, even pirate festivals, while New York does not bring up that part of its past.  When it comes to pirates, New Yorkers have a case of amnesia regarding their place in the Sweet Trade.

And had it not been for Abdulwali Muse, we might still have been able to claim total ignorance…

The thing about New York, even from before the days when Richard Lonergan was killed by Al Capone, was its tendency to keep looking forward, keep changing, not hold on to the past as it raced towards the future.  It’s this purging of the past that enabled Central Park to obliterate the community of Seneca Village, and that allowed Ebbets Field to be replaced by a housing project.  In fact, the preservation movement to save New York landmarks did not begin until the demolition of Pennsylvania Station in 1963 which helped save Grand Central Station form a similar fate.
Perhaps the most dramatic case of New York putting her face to the future while showing her ass to the past was the fate of Five Points, the most notorious neighborhood in New York.  The center of the Seventh Ward, which abutted the pirate-infested Fourth Ward, it was the center of the major gang activity of the Nineteenth Century, and spawned many a criminal that sailed with the Swamp Angels, the Patsy Conroy Gang, and Sadie the Goat’s crew.

Come the early Twentieth Century, the neighborhood was completely razed; even the streets were re-drawn, obliterating the unique meeting of corners.  In the place of the tenements that had been there, a set of municipal court buildings were placed around what would be re-named Foley Square (named for, of all people, a lieutenant in the Tammany Hall organization).

This act of exorcism by an urban planning commission, removing the nastiest neighborhood in the city and replacing it with the center of all justice dispensation for New York County, southern New York State and the Second Circuit for the United States, was the most deliberate effort to blot out the past.  The effort to remove from our memories all the old gangs, including the river pirates, and by extension the privateers before them, might well have succeeded.

Yes, they would have gotten away with it too, had it not been for that meddling kid…

On April 8th, 2009, the MV Maersk Alabama  was hijacked off the Somali coast.  Four days later, the US Navy recaptured the vessel, with most of the pirates killed.  There was one survivor from the boarding crew, one Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse, who was brought to the United States to stand trial for piracy.

What brought his case to the Second Circuit in New York was the feeling that this court had had plenty of experience hearing cases involving Americans being attacked overseas.  With piracy by this point being considered a form of terrorism, and with the New York court having handled such instances as the Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman case in 1994, the 1998 Kenyan and Tanzanian embassy bombing case, and almost becoming the venue for hearing cases against Guantanamo detainees,  the argument made sense, and New York saw its first real pirate in years.

One could argue whether the Halalis and Sudrys video piracy ring busted in 1996 should count as piracy, or whether the content theft being fought by the Mayor’s Office of Film and TV (the municipal office that overseas permission to film in the city) through a public awareness plan to keep people from downloading pirated music and movies should also be considered piracy. Whether you agree with putting these in the same category as actual piracy on the high seas can be debated over a barrel of grog for an entire evening, and the grog will invariably run out before a consensus is reached…

During Muse’s time going through the legal process, having an actual pirate opened a few memories for some.  Reminders that such features on the map as Phillipsburg Manor, Van Cortland Park, Willets Point and Fort Tyron Park owed their existence to shares from pirate voyages came up again and again.  Reminders that landmarks near Foley Square with ties to pirates came to mind; the fact that some pirate voyages were planned at Fraunces Tavern, better known for being where Washington bade goodbye to his troops, and that Trinity Church was built with some of William Kidd’s booty, were not lost on those following Muse’s case and the circumstances of his arrest.  And remembering the pirate gangs who sailed a few blocks to the east of Five Points when they weren’t walking the neighborhood’s streets after searching for booty prevented Foley Square from hiding from its past.

On February 16th, 2011, Muse pled down in a plea deal; he avoided the charge of piracy itself, pleading to hijacking, hostage-taking and kidnapping.  Had he pled to piracy and been found guilty, under 18 USC § 1651, he would have faced life in prison.
All said, he got a much better sentence than the pirates of old; even if convicted of piracy, he would have fared better than those pirates whose bodies were displayed at the harbor mouth after their hanging.  On these reduced charges, Muse received 33 years and nine months, which would make him 56 years old on his release, older than whatever country emerges from the ruins of Somalia for him to return to would be…

There is no reason to believe that Muse will be the last pirate New York ever sees.  We may be a few years between reminders, which is why we need to better remember the past , to never forget what these sea rovers did for us, how they contributed not only to our culture but our physical features as well.  We should never forget that we New Yorkers owe our place on the banks of the rivers leading to the ocean, to those who had gone on the account.

POSTSCRIPT:  As of this writing, Frauncess Tavern and South Street Seaport need help recovering from Sandy.  Anything you can do, even just visit to shop there, would be appreciated.

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Going On The Account: Blogtober – Testamental

Blogtober, day twenty seven, when we ask the ever-important question:

Just what the hell am I doing?

A few of you are probably saying to yourselves, “So only now is he asking this…?” But the question takes on a whole new dimension after yesterday’s New York Times piece about diaries in the digital age was uploaded.  The were a few things noted by the round table contributors who wrote in that tied in with the Blogtober project that made the timing on the piece perfect for me.

Especially as I was about to run out of content…

The discussion covered a number of points that pertained to what I was dealing with that drew my attention.  One of the chief points involved the connection between blogging and diary keeping, and whether the practice of keeping a diary is attended to today with the same care it was before the Information Revolution.  I’m on the fence on this point (like I am on quite a few), as there are two considerations that need to be kept in mind:

We all have a need to put markers on the field to prove we came through this way.  It’s primal, it’s an inherent compulsion we all have, the same impulse behind our desire to mate, to build an empire, but through an outlet that strokes our minds above all those other organs.  The desire to provide testament, to let others know we were here, that we did walk the earth once, is a strong enticement to put something down by writing it up, whether its on paper, on screen, on the walls of the subway-

-though let me tell you, the penalty for tagging a train these days can be pretty steep…

Balanced with that is how close you want to get to your audience.  I have a few deep things I’d love to offer, but some of those I would probably want to wait until I’m gone to share it.  The problem is, some of the deeper material, I would have to explain that to the millions/ thousands/ hundreds/ scores a couple of people who would read it here and then be upset that something like that was exposed before its time, coming out too early.

Once upon a time, before digital photography, you had pictures being taken on film, which required that that media be developed in a dark room and have a chance to come into focus.  And if the film were exposed to the light before the proper time and conditions were allowed, you ended up with ruined pictures that were nothing like what you wanted to share.

Case in point: Answered Prayers.  Truman Capote called it his “posthumous novel,” in that “either I’m going to kill it, or it’s going to kill me.”

Novel 1, Author 0…

Are bloggers diarists without a cure period?  Are they just columnists (without the value of an editor), or do they do something that goes beyond just the first draft of history as a primary source?

And does it all matter really in the face of Facebook?

Because that was another point brought up in the article of note, that maybe the days of blogging are done with everyone getting on Facebook and relying on sharing their thoughts through status updates.

I admit, I have a presence on there as well, and there’s some content there that doesn’t make it’s way here, sort of like Bill Murray keeping the comedy and drama films separate from each other.

(Though I wish he’d have done a better job of differentiating which were which for his audience; in case you hadn’t gone through this experience yet, don’t expect a lot of laughs from Lost In Translation…)

But with Facebook going through its own self-inflicted threats to itself right now, with the bad reactions to the seven dollar promotion stunt leading to all kinds of tsuris, it may be too soon to write off blogging just yet.

Part of the reason for that is that is getting more social, fulfilling promises Facebook used to make.  The social connectivity routines of WordPress compared to Facebook sometimes feels like the difference between The New Yorker and The New York Daily News; the audience for the former seems smaller, maybe a bit more select, and can discuss the issues in greater detail.

I have enjoyed my times with many of the people I have met through WordPress, and have made some good connections through this confederacy of bloggers.  You can blame two of them, Jen and Speaker7, for this writing stunt, and value the example Susan Rocan offered when she did the blog-a-day marathon last month with more panache than I’ve so far shown.

And while I have also made a lot of good connections through Facebook, as of late it’s been getting harder to hang with my homies at the House of Zuck.  Lately it feels there like I’m at a party where the host looks at you with cold menace because you grimaced after being poured only half a bottle of beer into your glass at the bar; surely you weren’t expecting more than that, were you…?

And because we are all more than just a few links and cute pictures, we will always have a need for a wider canvass, a desire to share more deeply (or at least deeply enough) our thoughts, ideals and dreams.  As long as there are people with something that needs to be said, there will always be means like this to offer such thoughts out there.

There damn well better be, because God only knows how I could shove crap like this into one hundred forty characters


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Going On The Account: Blogtober – Sick Inspiration

It’s the twenty sixth day of Blogtober, and with any luck as you read this I’m still alive.

No, I’m not being that melodramatic.  I’ve been told I sometimes milk it when I feel unwell, usually by people who are a bit of a hypochondriac themselves.  I don’t know if this happens because it’s a way for them to deny their natures, or if I really am as creepy as Joan Crawford in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?  when I feel like crud and need some TLC, as one victim caregiver accused me of once.  The truth lies somewhere between those two poles, probably, maybe 85/15 between their denial and my squealing like Blanche being served a rat when I’m like that…

But I really didn’t want to spend my Sunday waking up fine, then getting a sudden bust of chills that felt colder than the sudden arrival of winter in New York that morning.  The nose got stuffy, the headaches came hard and fast, and I could barely keep my head up.

Worse, it was just me and my illness.  Susan had left earlier to be with her mom and was gone for the day, and Kiddo had plans to go see a movie with some friends. I was not going to impose myself on my son, especially if this was communicable.  It may still be; if so, Susan and James, I am deeply sorry for what you’re going to have a touch of shortly…

How bad it it get at its worst?  I actually turned off RedZone as the Bills game was on…

(Then again, watching them lose to Indy might have killed me…)

And as I lay dying** there in my bed, I started to ask those questions we start to ask when we think there may not be time left and wonder if we were doing the right thing:

  • Was I a good enough husband to my wife?  Did we spend too much time arguing about tiny stuff that grated on our nerves when we could have been doing something else?
  • Did I provide well enough for my son?  With me gone, is he going to be able to go to college with whatever survivor benefits may come his way with my passing?
  • Did I leave enough notes that someone could put the last few chapters online for the novel, so that everyone could see the end of the work?
  • Will anyone else remember me when I’m gone?  And will they say a few good words now and then?
  • Three possessions, and you had to punt them away every time?  No wonder we’re not seeing the playoffs…
  • And why the hell is ARROW still being recorded on the DVR?  I thought I removed that from the queue weeks ago…

Well, with those horrible fears and concerns going through my head, I found my inner Jesse Ventura:

Right:, then  A hot shower, a few more layers, a few rounds of nasal irrigation-

[yes, that:  A little saline solution in boiled water, a squeeze bottle with the nozzle up my nose, resulting in a load of mucus being flushed out the other side of my nose into the sink.  Nasty, yes, but very effective in releasing pressure and removing infectious crap from inside you.  A hell of a lot more effective than bloodletting, and a lot easier for a lay person to perform…]

-some broth, some citron tea, and before you can say “future governor of Minnesota” ver-r-r-r-r-y  sl-l-l-l-o-o-o-o-w-ly, I ended up being functional, well before Susan got home.

And I do what I do every time I get nastily sick:  I revisited the notes for that apocalyptic pathogen piece I’ve tooled with.  Some people tune their motorcycles, the ones that stay in the back of the garage and never go anywhere; some go to boat shows to walk the decks of cabin cruisers that they keep talking about buying and finding a slip at the marina for, that they never actually get around to purchasing and christening.

Me, I have a general idea of a work that involves a nasty disease and what it does to society at large.  And the reason it’s being tooled with as opposed to, actually, written, is the fact that I need to try and work with those elements without owing too much to Stephen King or Rob Kirkman; there are ways to do this, but I need time to get this together.

Provided I live long enough to get around to it…


**Please note that this phrase was typed totally without thinking; I am in no way impinging on the William Faulkner estate, which is suing left and right like crazy as of late; honest mistake, really…


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Going On The Account: Visual Aids

Hey, no one said I can’t put up pieces that are not part of the Blogtober madness…


Just wanted to offer the following multimedia piece published in today’s NEW YORK TIMES online edition, showing the effects of sea level rises on a selection of American cities.  This does a great job of detailing on interactive maps what we can expect in a time our children will know better…


Y’know, maybe we should look again at those listings in southern Ontario…




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