Visiting the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial

When we visited the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, I was reminded that tourists are ugly from all over. Not long after 9/11, I noticed people coming to take photos of Ground Zero. I can understand that, I like taking photos as well. What bothered me was how they posed in front of it, smiling. It just seems disrespectful. I saw the same oblivious ugliness as tourists posed in front of the list of those who died at Pearl Harbor.

The viewing platform.

The memorial is hallowed ground; the ship is below you. The platform crosses it just behind the front turret, which remains above water. This was a clever way to mark the grave of nearly 1200 men who died during the sneak attack, an enormous cross that’s not there unless you think about it. The bow and stern are marked with white buoys. Around the harbor you see cement markers memorializing the other ships sunk on that day.

The list of those who died at Pearl Harbor, without a smiling idiot.

It’s eerie, looking down through the crystal blue water and seeing the rusted hulk of the ship just below, occasionally seeping oil. Small colorful fish dart around the structure. A sign asks you to not throw coins, which contribute to the decay.

The remains of the front turret, gun removed.

The immensity of the battleship is not readily apparent below the surface. Even when you see the buoys, it’s hard to imagine. I’ve seen larger boats, like the ore boats of the Great Lakes, but not from above. The sailors who shuttle you to the platform remind you that this is a cemetery at sea, and to be respectful, but it’s quickly forgotten.

The ship stretches into the distance.

The small white dot below the other ship marks the stern. That and the slightly rust-colored tinge to the water gives you an idea of the Arizona’s size. A torpedo pierced the bow, but it sank with the superstructure otherwise intact. It’s a solemn place, or should be. Maybe they need more soldiers there to give a presence of authority; at Arlington National Cemetery, people were well behaved, especially during the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I think people posed in front of the Eternal Flame, which is still pretty lame.

I didn’t see any people doing this at Bergen-Belsen, or in front of Anne Frank’s grave. Soldiers vs. civilians, I guess. Ground Zero is certainly hallowed ground to the families of the dead, yet tourists feel compelled to smile and pose in front of the empty hole. The stereotype of the Ugly tourist isn’t just for Americans anymore.

The anchor of the U.S.S. Arizona

We visited the U.S.S. Bowfin while we waited 2 hours for our shuttle to the platform. It’s parked right nearby and a good way to kill time while you’re waiting, without sweating with the mobs in the museum and souvenir shops.

The U.S.S. Bowfin, aka “Pearl Harbor Avenger”

It’s about the same as the U.S.S. Growler near the Intrepid museum in NYC. If you’ve never been on a sub before, it’s a good look into the life of a submariner. The cramped beds, the hatchways, the claustrophobic spaces; it makes Das Boot seem roomy.

On the old subs everything is make of brass and looks like antique steampunk machinery. It seems out of place next to the large mechanical switches and analog gauges. It’s sort of in-between the brass equipment of old sailing ships and the voting-booth look of switches and knobs on war machinery of the 70’s and 80’s.

I’m not sure if they allow you on the deck of the Growler, but we got to crawl all over the cannons and guns on this one. And take clever photos. And while I would not pose smiling before 1,177 watery graves, or a list of men who died in combat, I believe the stern of the Pearl Harbor Avenger and Old Glory are perfectly fine.


The Peepland Tour with Christa Faust

A while back the unsinkable Christa Faust was in New York for Comicon, and we went on a tour of Times Square, looking for unDisneyfied corners and found quite a few. The peep shop she worked in is an empty storefront but we visited the last remaining one in the area and even sneaked into the long-gone area where the peep girls once worked. It’s all video now.

So drop by Criminal Element for a tour of old sleazy New York and make sure you pick up Peepland, a great gritty and sentimental visit to ’80s Times Square, by Christa and Gary Phillips, for Hard Case Crime’s new comic imprint. It’s great so far. Issue #1 is out, and #2 streets Nov.30th


and a peek at the villain to come… look familiar?


A Visit to the Fun-Ghoul

I’m not huge on Hallowe’en but I do dig the spirit of dressing up however you please, celebrating the joyful acceptance of the morbidity of human existence, and pillow cases full of terrible candies. It’s the closest some of us get to cultural anthropology, wondering where the heck your neighbor found Zagnut bars and who actually enjoys Necco wafers. (Harlan Ellison, for one. I think he likes the chocolate ones. I remember him writing about the first time he found entire rolls of just chocolate flavor, as if he’d discovered alien life). My favorite candy? I like fake peanut butter. So, Whatchamacallits and Goldenberg’s Peanut Butter Chews (not Mary Janes, those are abominations). Not that I’d turn my nose up at a Twix or a mini Chunky with raisins (good luck finding those anymore).

But enough about candy. The Fun-Ghoul Costume Store has been a New Jersey landmark for decades. In a county where real estate kills off most interesting stores, they’ve expanded. Because they have a great selection and enthusiastic employees. I chatted for half an hour with them about The Thing after buying a t-shirt and a top hat. And they are open year-round, renting professional quality costumes and selling everything from Videodrome t-shirts to skulls and platform ruby slippers.

The name is a joke on an Italian-American pronunciation of a very profane exclamation… Va fa’nculo. Google if you like… Fongool also works.

The Fun-Ghoul Costume Shop, 155 Park Avenue, Rutherford NJ.

Divine America

Happy 4th



I worked in Manhattan then. 14 years ago extremists tried to break us with terror and start a global war that would bankrupt and destroy us. Do not let them win. In your moments of silence today, remember, but do not fear.


I Will Teach You The Ultimate Power

This was too good not to share.

ninja flyer

ginko inspiration

the butterflies carpeted the Earth with their corpses, and left trembling and gravid those of us who’d felt their kiss

ginko butterfly