Monthly Archives: February 2010

Lame Adventure 14: Sick and Sick of Snow

For the past eight days I have been suffering a common cold.  Therefore, I have been feeling rather lackluster.  At first, I was in denial of the obvious that I was falling ill.  The first signs of my oncoming illness were nasal congestion and sneezing, that I initially experienced in a screening room last week.  I assumed that I was sitting near someone with a cat, since I am deathly allergic to kitties, and this is a normal reaction I have to cat people.  My brother, Axel, is a bonafide cat-man. Whenever I’m in his presence, I sneeze frequently.  Oddly, though, when Lola and I saw the play Grey Gardens at the Walter Kerr Theater three years ago, I had a sneezing fit when several cats were projected on a screen at the rear of the stage.  Lola handled my distress with her usual compassion.  She bellowed in a loud whisper, “You’re looking at pictures of cats!  Stop sneezing!”

Ugh.

What I have now is definitely a cold for I am in my very own no cat zone sanctum sanctorum sneezing thunderously as snow falls at a steady clip outside my window.  This has been a very snow-packed winter.  It is definitely not one of those years where we’ve only had a pathetic dusting and we’re all saying knowledgably to one another, “Global warming.”  As I look out my window, I’m seeing vivid proof of global cooling, as well as major roof shoveling.  Mounds of snow are flying off my roof and landing with loud thuds.  One of the guys who maintains my building is shoveling snow off the roof, proving that there are worse jobs out there than being the sap who cleans out the Ricola horn.

Ugh job.

My friend, Roz, who has just recovered from a cold, emails me: try a neti pot – i hear they are great.  i have one but have never used it.

I email her back: They make me nervous. I fear all the crap I’ll try to flush out will somehow slide down my throat instead of out the other nostril and I’ll gag endlessly.

Roz responds: I understand about the neti pot – I bought it 2 years ago and have been afraid to use it.  I take it out and look at it periodically.  I took it out this morning and put it on the counter.  It’s still in its box, though.

The superhero in me is now challenged.

I am on a mission to conquer the neti pot, but first I have to figure out where to get one.  Roz lives in New Jersey, so she either got hers there or maybe ordered it on line.  I want an immediate neti pot.  I approach Elsbeth, my boss, who is sitting at her desk eating a salad.

Me:  Hey Elsbeth, do you know anything about where to get a neti pot?

Elsbeth puts down her fork, rises from her chair, digs into her massive satchel, removes an 800 page manual on neti pots, and hands it to me.

Elsbeth:  You can get one at Rite-Aid.

Since we have a Duane Reade down the block from our office, I decide to try there first.  I make a beeline to the blow-hole section of the store, snag the cheaper Duane Reade brand neti pot, and hightail it back to work.  As much as I would like to resume breathing at my earliest convenience, I refrain from trying out my neti pot in the Tile department restroom.  I wait until I am in the privacy of my own abode where I can indulge in obnoxiously disgusting behavior guilt-free.

I read the neti pot instructions three times.  It is recommended starting with a half bag of solution mixed in warm water.  My proboscis is the most D cup aspect of my person, and it occurs to me that I probably require two bags of solution per nostril.  Therefore, I commence with one bag.  It might be more to my benefit to use a neti kettle, but for now this appears to be a one size fits all noses product.

I diligently prepare the solution per directions, and insert the spout into my right nostril, tilt my head accordingly, and as I wait for something to happen, on cue, I sneeze voluminously and the sink, mirror and me are all immersed in neti pot solution.

I change my shirt, dry off my bathroom, and mix a second pot of solution, when the phone rings.  The caller is my friend, Rhonda, who asks, “How are you feeling?”  I tell her I don’t have time to talk, but we’re on the phone for half an hour.

For a third time, I mix a pot of solution, insert the spout into my right nostril, tilt my head, and fluid starts raining out of my face.  Finally, neti pot success!  I then repeat the process with my left nostril, and encounter a second victorious deployment.  I can shout from my snow-cleared rooftop that I have conquered the neti pot. I can email my friends and family about this achievement. I can even blog about it lamely since my imagination is essentially in mothballs right now.

Only drawback to trendy nasal irrigation, it’s not very magical, and I do not feel much different.

Eh.

Lame Adventure 13: Family Matters

A week from today, my father will turn 83.  Although he suffered a pretty serious health scare a year ago, and he’s almost deaf as a post, overall he seems to be going strong now and he’s still completely self-sufficient.  He also has full use of all of his mental faculties that he has told me is a blessing and a curse since so many of his peers have little use of theirs.  He maintains an excellent rapport with his three children, my sister, Dovima, brother, Axel, and me, but Axel recently put him on the defensive for not recycling his Avatar 3D glasses.  Dad was so distraught over this perceived transgression, he called to voice his lament:

Dad:  Did you recycle your 3D glasses?

Me:  Yeah.

Dad:  Where did you recycle them?

Me:  There were two guys collecting them when I left the theater.

Dad:  They didn’t have any guys collecting them in San Francisco.

Me:  Maybe they had a recycle can.

Dad:  What recycle can?  Like I told your brother, I recycle!  He pissed me off.

Me:  I know you recycle.  When I’ve attended other 3D films, they usually have a place where you’re supposed to recycle the glasses.

Dad:  I didn’t see that place.  You think there was a place?  How’d I miss it?

Me:  Were you still wearing your 3D glasses when you walked out of the theater?

Dad:  Yes, I drove my car home wearing them.

Dad has maintained his sense of humor his entire life, but one area between he and his children that has always resounded with a thud has been gift giving.  He gives us great gifts, usually in the cash department, but we have a history of failing miserably when it comes to returning the compliment.  When we were young and high, we gave him legendary disasters like a polka dot bow tie and a wine making kit.

Legendary disaster 1

Legendary disaster 2 (as I remember it).

Now that we’re middle age and medicated, we give him duds like towels and water purification filters – gifts we end up returning ourselves.  Since he’s a huge sports fan, I thought I found the grail the year I gave him a subscription to Sports Illustrated.  He asked, “What the hell am I supposed to do with this?”  I replied, “In theory, read it.”  I got the message and did not renew it.

Although Dad does not want anything, if we didn’t give him something, he’d be terribly hurt.  Several years ago for Father’s Day, I sent him a VHS of a film I thought he’d like, Far From Heaven.  He didn’t say a word to me about it, and I thought it was odd that a guy who’s pretty open minded about people would have an issue about a tragedy set in the fifties about a white woman married to a gay man who falls in love with her African American gardener.  Dad is a fan of melodrama.  He watches the Lifetime channel.  He loved Philadelphia.  Finally, two months later, I summoned the guts to tell him it was okay that he didn’t like my Father’s Day gift figuring he hated this one so much he couldn’t even talk to me about it.  Relieved, he cried, “You sent me a gift!  I thought you forgot!  I didn’t want to bring it up.”  As it turns out the Post Office lost it, so I practically tracked down the Postmaster General to find it.  They located it, and it was delivered in late August.  Dad thought the film was okay, but was disappointed that Julianne Moore did not take off with Dennis Haysbert.

This year, my mind has been a complete blank about what to give him, so I email Dovima for suggestions.  She emails me back:

“I have no idea what to get Dad and Axel asked me not to ask him either.  I guess we will get him movie tickets.  If you think of anything, please let me know.  How about a bow tie or winemaking kit?”

35 years later, those fiascoes still resonate.

On my lunch hour at work, I visit a bookstore in search of ideas and see that a new biography about Willie Mays has been published.  Dad’s baseball team is the San Francisco Giants and he was a big Mays fan back in the day.  To spare myself the schlep of going to the Post Office, when I return home, I buy it from Amazon.

This year's likely dud.

Although Dovima has emailed me several times to discuss her horrifying colonoscopy conducted by, in my opinion, a poor choice of gastroenterologist, a doctor named Mengele, in my emails to her I forget to mention that I have purchased the Mays book.  When Dovima emails me over the weekend that she is finally feeling better, she adds:

“We decided to get Dad movie tickets and the new Willie Mays book even though it’s around 600 pages.  Hopefully, he will be okay with this gift.”

I email her back that I’ve purchased that book, too, and he should receive it this week.  From clear across the country, I can hear a voice that sounds just like my sister’s screaming, “Shit!”

Dovima before donning her Dad gift giving thinking cap again.

Lame Adventure 12: Welcome to the Doghouse

Milton and I are both in the doghouse with our bosses.

His, Sybil of the Sixteen Lousy Personalities, is angry with him for going to the bank to cash his paycheck on company time.  This has always been against his company’s policy even though everyone in his department does it, and he has actually done this many times with Sybil.  Yet, she woke feeling foul and needed to chew on someone, so she took a big bite out of Milton for the pettiest of offenses.  He expects a department-wide email will be sent out by next payday alerting everyone to end this practice or face termination.  Usually, Milton and Sybil get along, even though she is oblivious to the fact that his contempt for her escalated years ago from mild to red-hot when she overheard he and his colleagues discussing their favorite singers.  While many of Milton’s contemporaries idolize Diana Ross, he gravitates towards Barbra Streisand.  Sybil boomed for the entire office to hear, “I always knew you sided with white people!”  That bit of poetry slammed the brakes on the remote possibility of any friendship developing between them.

Sybil on the rag.

My boss, Elsbeth the Sensitive, is the polar opposite of Sybil.  Elsbeth is educated, quiet and refined.  She is not a screamer, a racist, homophobic, or a whip cracker, and would probably go on a retreat if she were ever accused of being any of those things.  Elsbeth’s managerial style is nearly invisible.  She spends most of the day tucked away in her office with her staff sitting outside her door, a cluster of busy focused beavers.  She takes pride in knowing that we’re all working non-stop, but I have mentioned that I am capable of being both busy and bored simultaneously.  Those kinds of quips she tunes out.

Elsbeth having tea with managerial aristocracy. That's me perched at her knee.

On this day, while doing massive proofreading and number crunching of the equivalent of the Guttenberg Bible, if it came equipped with a complicated 81 page price list, I have a spurt of literary inspiration.  I think, “Holy shit, I have to write this down!”  This seldom happens to me at work since I usually feel listless in the confines of the office, but the idea is a gem and I fear losing it.  I am at an age where the hole in my memory is comparable in size to the one in the ozone.  Rather than scribble it illegibly in the notebook I always carry for this purpose, I remove my green eyeshade and quickly type this light bulb in an email to myself.   While doing so I enter my writer’s zone, and give the appearance of ingesting a supertanker of illegal substance.

Elsbeth steps out of her office and asks, “What are you doing?”

That question jars me as much as a Mike Tyson punch to my head.  I do not have any of my usual arsenal of pithy retorts at the ready: “What does it look like I’m doing?  It’s what I’m always doing.  Suffering.  And dying.  I’ll never be this young again.  I’ve pissed away the best years of my life.  Do you need me to do something for you while I can still function?”  A soliloquy this dramatic is usually enough to make her regret asking me to do anything for the rest of the week.

Unfortunately, all I could do was fumble, and the dead giveaway was that goddamn eyeshade.  She continues, “Why aren’t you wearing your eyeshade?”  I reply, “My eyeshade?”  I pick it up and explain, “Because I took it off.”  She says, “I can see you took it off.  Why would you?”   Suddenly, a removed eyeshade is taking on the significance of an act of rebellion.  What am I doing without my eyeshade, possibly writing the blog she loathes, writing what she fears, toppling our company by revealing our secret formula, why we’re Coke to the competition’s Pepsi, if Coke and Pepsi were competing tile retailers instead of beverages that give me so much gas I could personally fuel China?  Yet, this wasn’t what I was doing at all.  It never even occurred to me.

The bane of my existence.

I could say the truth, “Okay you got me.  I was writing about a carpet delivery.”  Yet, that would open a Pandora’s box of headaches with her, “Carpet!  You’re writing about carpet!  Are you trying to enter the carpet industry?”  Anything I could say would be pointless, and the truth will not set me free.  I had an idea, I needed to write it down fast, I did so on her time, but what about all the time I work through lunch, can’t I get cut a ten minute break to collect an idea before returning my attention to the monotony of proofing?  Yet, day jobs do not work that way.  The second I enter the door and don my eyeshade, Elsbeth owns me.

Now, Elsbeth sees me as a scofflaw, a screw-off, someone who exploits her invisible managerial style, an enemy of her authority, so that eyeshade had better be welded to my head through spring.  Never mind that there are people in her employ who she pays three times what I make that have stolen so much tile their home should be her sixth showroom.  Sheesh, you’d think she’d at least get some editorial coverage from those scoundrels.  I’m facing the gallows for committing the capital offense of stealing ten minutes.

Later in the day, after enduring hours of cold shoulder, Elsbeth asks me how to spell maquette.  I ask, “What’s that, a female Mac computer?”  In a weary tone she explains, “It’s a three dimensional sculptor’s model.”  She resists adding, “your idiocy.”  I find the spelling in Dictionary.com.

Now we can add maquette to our warehouse of useless knowledge.

How I wish I could have said before she walked away:

Me:  One other thing.

Elsbeth:  What?

Me:  I’m giving notice.

Elsbeth:  You’ve found another job?

Me:  I’ve been awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant.

Elsbeth:  For what?

Me:  My blog!

Elsbeth:  Do you have a second blog I don’t know about?

Tomorrow I must remember to keep the eyeshade on and leave the inspiration at home, or maybe come tomorrow, I’ll be looking for a new job after Elsbeth reads this post.

Lame Adventure 11: Apartment Life

Last year, Milton, Albee and I attended an off, off Broadway play called Rambo Solo produced by a theater company called the Nature Theater of Oklahoma (which is actually based on St. Mark’s Place in lower Manhattan) and staged at one of my favorite downtown theaters, SoHo Rep. This play (now closed in New York) is a one man show performed by its creator, Zachary Oberzan, who stands on a stage and tells the story of the novel, First Blood, from start to finish.  You may be more familiar with First Blood as the Sylvester Stallone film that is often called, Rambo, or The First Rambo MovieFirst Blood is the only film in the Rambo series I have ever seen.  I saw it for the first time last year before seeing this play.  I did not inherit my father’s Sylvester Stallone fan gene.

Got testosterone?

SoHo Rep removed the seats for this very imaginative production.  The audience sits on pillows over shag carpet covering the floor watching Oberzan tell the story of this novel in its entirety to the best of his recollection.  Projected on bed sheets serving as three screens behind Oberzan are three videos of him recreating this entire story playing every character in his 220 square foot apartment.  For props, he uses everyday household items.

Zachary Oberzan channeling John Barrymore.

Although it was a massive amount of Rambo to swallow, I thought it was both very entertaining and very creative.  I highly recommended it to many of my friends, but none chose to go, although Rhonda told me that she walked past SoHo Rep on her lunch hour and looked at the poster in the window.  Milton bought the DVD.  Only Albee thought it was a steaming pile of horse shit, but he later admitted his judgment might have been impaired because his spine felt disjointed by the show’s conclusion.  He needed to visit a chiropractor the next day.

The poster.

Oberzan’s apartment is a very accurate depiction of many New York City habitats.  His home is claustrophobic, cramped and filled with crappy furniture.  Hollywood films and TV glamorize apartment living in New York all out of proportion.  The real deal has much more in common with the garrets where people like Zachary Oberzan and I reside.

My brownstone has 18 units and the average apartment probably measures around 300 square feet.  Since I lack Milton’s flair for decorating, it took me almost 20 years to figure out how to furnish it tastefully, so it’s no longer a source of shame when guests visit.  Milton thinks it’s a charming abode.  He didn’t know me when it looked like the aftermath of a bombing in Beirut.  Yet, no matter how clean, neat and organized I keep it, my humble writer’s cave is always going to be a shoebox … Unless when I have that dream.

Garret furnished by someone with taste.

Recently, the tenant living above me, a very lovely young woman who I once had the pleasure of folding clothes with at the laundromat, was engaging in a very serious and very loud pre-Valentine’s Day row.  She was wailing and threatening suicide, but I did not hear a peep from the respondent.  I know she is not a loon, so I determine that she is not talking to an imaginary friend who might be stiffing her on a chocolate heart.  This emotional exchange is probably taking place over a cell phone.  What can I do about it other than feel profound embarrassment over my unwanted eavesdropping?  She’s a decent neighbor; always very pleasant whenever I see her in the hall.  Should I knock on her door and offer my one good ear, and save this child from throwing herself out the window over someone that might be an unworthy turd?

What I do:  I mind my own business and take a nap.

I dream that very New York City dream, the dream where I’m in my 312 square foot dwelling hearing my upstairs neighbor emoting, but I find a portal leading to a bigger space and voila!  I have quiet and space!  Then, I wake, elated, and it is quiet.  I sit up on my bed, looking for my portal, but my modest abode looks exactly the same, portal-less.  I realize that I have been foiled again by that living-in-a-small-space dream that I, and many other small-space-dwellers, share.  To reinforce this reality, my upstairs neighbor is back on the phone venting in surround sound once more with feeling.

Now, I’m completely awake, thinking two thoughts:

Thought 1:  Get through this, girlfriend.

Thought 2:  How can I Google search this dream?

I Google search the dream using this phrase:

recurring dreams of new yorkers about living in a bigger apartment

I get 334,000 results.

Upstairs neighbor update:  thankfully, she did not off herself, but engaged in loud makeup sex late that night, presumably with a partner other than a pocket rocket.

Not invented by NASA.

Lame Adventure 10: Near Miss, Close Call!

Monday evening, this blog almost comes to an untimely end, or at least an extended vacation, as I am walking down West Broadway en route to the Chambers Street subway station for the express train home from labeling tile to the Land of Maker’s Mark.  Flying off the roof of the building housing Odeon comes a grenade-size chunk of ice that brushes against my sleeve before landing on the sidewalk with a violent smack.  In response to the unwanted contact, I am so startled I perform a jump worthy of Winter Olympic coverage, or at least Tex Avery-style stretch and squash animation.

An example of Tex.

My fellow pedestrians, two women, freeze in their tracks.  They acknowledge that I would have suffered certain head trauma had I been walking a little more towards the left.  Until this moment, I never imagined I would ever have any reason to claim that being on the right would save a heathen like me.  One of the women declares, “Today’s your lucky day.”  I counter, “Is it?  Now, I’ve got to find another excuse to miss work tomorrow.”  If she is thinking this bon mot to such good karma is pathetic she holds her tongue.  She and her friend pander me and chuckle.   They walk on, but I linger to take pictures, and pursue more Lame Adventures.

This chunk of ice does not look like much here, but it meant business!

I've always preferred the outside more than the food.

Lame Adventure 9: A Shout Out to Lola on Her Birthday!

Sunday is my friend Lola’s blankety-eighth birthday, and I promise her that Milton and I will attend her celebration.  Lola is a world traveler from Spain, and although she has resided in the US for at least fifteen years, she retains a sense of style and taste that is true to her European heritage.  Simply said, she’s inherently hip, someone that is always well put together no matter what the weather is like, and I imagine she’ll continue to be that way on her eighty-eighth birthday. That’s Lola.

I, her stumblebum American friend, who has seen much of the world primarily via a movie screen, is also Lola’s sartorial antithesis lacking any taste whatsoever in fashion.  I don’t eat as healthy as she. I don’t exercise nearly as often; my body is yoga and Pilates averse.  Thanks to twelve years of Catholic schooling, I hold a Masters in Atheism, and I am about as Zen as a year-old Jack Russell terrier on speed.  Despite these and many other differences, our mutual interest in film, theater and writing has been the glue that has held us together for ten years.  Conversation with Lola has always come easily and I enjoy her company immensely.  I assume she sees me as an oaf she can tolerate.

When Lola, Milton, and I last got together, in October for a screening of French writer-director Catherine Breillat’s Blue Beard at the New York Film Festival, my graying tresses were looking a tad shaggy, not quite Cousin Itt level but it doesn’t take long for me to channel Patti Smith.

Cousin Itt

Patti Smith on a bad hair day.

Feeling very self-conscious of looking like a fright-in-the-making, I defensively babbled about getting my hair cut and colored soon, or maybe it was yak about having a total makeover.  Whatever I said, Lola responded with a monosyllabic grunt.

Fortunately, the film delivered, albeit it was not one of Breillat’s best, as was her 2007 release, The Last Mistress, starring Asia Argento.  If you are unfamiliar with Breillat, this is not the forum to delve into the biography of her life and work, but the Plot Keywords section about her on IMDB, states the following:

Female Nudity | Nudity | Sex | Bare Breasts

Breillat will not be receiving funding for her films from the Wonderful World of Disney in this lifetime.

Best viewed while the kids are away

Fast forward to the present, I am perversely determined to make an effort in the appearance department when I next see Lola.  Since it’s a little late in the day for a nose job, implants, liposuction, or acquiring taste in clothes, I settle on having my hair the aforementioned cut and colored.  The dynamic duo that is Aneta, my colorist from Poland, and Manal, my stylist from Egypt, take one look at me, excuse themselves briefly, scream and vomit, and then get to work.  Two hours later, I leave the salon looking ready for my behind the head close up, and Lola’s birthday gathering at one of her favorite neighborhood bars, The Brooklyn Inn.

Lola's favorite watering hole in Brooklyn

Although I promised Lola I’d spare subjecting her “the Martini Max treatment” (see Post 7), I still happen to have Peabody and Sherman’s Wayback Machine on loan, so with that in mind, I’m going to renege on my promise and share a Lame Adventure from back in the day featuring Lola and yours truly.

Lola and I met when we had screenplays selected for a series of film industry networking opportunities at the Independent Feature Project’s Market back in 2000.  My project, a niche comedy that made many people laugh even though no one knew what to do with it, died, while Lola’s film noir showed signs of life before expiring two years later.  She went through a lot with her script, and I admired how good she was at getting it read.  Unfortunately, she had yet to encounter anyone that was willing to produce it and she was feeling frustrated.

On a Friday night in early spring 2002, Lola and I met for a drink at the bar in the Plaza Hotel.  She was feeling pretty beaten down about her script, and needed to vent to someone about it.  She noticed that sitting behind us at a table was, “That guy from As Good as it Gets.”  I turned and looked but acted as if I wasn’t looking, because that’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re in the presence of a celebrity in New York.  I said, “Oh, you’re right.  Bob Costas.”  Lola sipped her drink and asked, “Who?  He’s that guy, Greg Something, don’t you know?”  I said, “Yeah, he’s Greg Kinnear.  I always get him confused with Bob Costas.”  I explained to Lola that they both hosted a late night talk show on NBC called Later in the Nineties.  She gave me her too much information look, we paid our tab, and left.

Bob Costas

Greg Kinnear

As we were walking west on Central Park South, Lola continued to vent rhetorically about her script, a common practice amongst writers that wonder why their work is being denied the recognition they’re certain it deserves.  Since she’s Spanish, many people reading her screenplay were suggesting that it might be a property for Penelope Cruz.  I thought that was a great idea, but that seemed to go nowhere.  She asked me, “Who else is hot right now?”  Bridget Jones’s Diary had scored a huge hit a year earlier, so I suggested Renee Zellweger.  Lola, whose tastes run towards serious drama, bleated loudly, “And should I turn my script into a vacant comedy and call it The Color of My Lipstick?”  We then both looked left into the window of a restaurant where Renee Zellweger was dining.

She looked up from her meal, I seem to recall with spaghetti dangling from her mouth, and looked right at us.

Renee over a happy meal.

Lola screamed, “That’s her!”

I agreed and for some inexplicable reason we hotfooted it up the block with me donning my ever ready weasel guise asking, “Do you think she heard you insulting her?”  We were being pursued, not by Renee Zellweger charging us with a plate of pasta, but by a passel of tourists from Spain.  They heard Lola’s accent and gushed their guts out to her in Spanish if that was indeed Renee Zellweger.  Lola was gracious and played guide to the star struck group.

Plate of pasta not hurled at us.

Since I took French in high school, I did not understand a single word of what anyone was saying.

After the group dispersed I asked, “Hey, do you know them?”  Lola said, “Do you think I know every single person from Spain?  They’re tourists … Big Renee Zellweger fans.”

I said, “Maybe this is a sign.”

Lola gave me a weary look.  Then, she brightened and said, “It was kinda cool that I said that and she was there.  But who’d believe me?”

I was there, too.  Believe me, it happened.

Happy Birthday, Buddy!

Lame Adventure 6: The Hole in My Head

Flush with the windfall from our Federal tax returns, Milton and I take it upon ourselves to personally lift the sagging economy.  He promptly purchases a 42” flat screen LG TV and a Sony Playstation 3.  My cash inflow is a shade less than his so I splurge on a new shower curtain liner and a quart of Pequa drain opener.

My bathroom’s drain is slow, but I have not replaced my bottle of Pequa since I last used it a year or two ago.  Many years back, a plumber named Luis who used to service my building, advised me to always have a bottle of Pequa in my home.  He was very persuasive when he said, “This shit works.”  I like to think that there is no link between Pequa and his death from cancer a year later at age 34.

Certain that I will forget Pequa because I tend to think of it more as “the shit that works” than its plumbing industry name, I have kept the empty bottle under my bathroom sink since I finished it.  I could have tossed the bottle into the trash and written Pequa’s name on a post-it and stuck that post-it to the inside of a cabinet, but that seems like too much hassle.  It’s easier to keep the empty bottle under the sink for a year or two since that is exactly where its replacement will go.

Before venturing out to my local hardware store I bundle up because it’s 27 degrees today.  Yet, it’s not the layers of clothing I don that takes so much time, it’s making sure that I pack my two digital cameras (one a Flip video), my cell phone, a pen and pocket notebook (can never predict when inspiration might strike), two lip balms (trying to get in the habit of carrying a spare), keys, wallet, and a copious stash of tissues since my nose runs like a faucet in the cold.  Every pocket of my jacket is now bulging.  When I glance at myself in the mirror, it appears that I’ve transformed into a nursing terrier with several swollen breasts.

As I am trekking through the freeze, halfway to my neighborhood hardware store, Beacon Hardware, it occurs to me that the one vital necessity that I forgot to pack was the piece of paper where I scribbled “Pequa.”  The rest of the way, the mantra looping inside my head is, “What the hell was that shit called, what the hell was that shit called, what the hell was that shit called?”

Beacon is a family-owned and operated small business that has been on Amsterdam Avenue since 1940.  They’re my go-to hardware store since their prices are not as extortionist as their competition.  I never feel like I have to barter a kidney when I buy a replacement bulb for my refrigerator or a scrub brush for my grill pan from Beacon.  I also like being loyal to the little guy.

Mayberry in Manhattan

Entering Beacon is like entering Mayberry.  It’s such a time machine when you open the door, a bell clangs, and Bru, a mellow Labrador Retriever, is the official greeter, but today, he’s apparently not on duty.

Store greeter Bru ready for his closeup.

Instead, I see John, who immediately asks me if I need help.  That’s a loaded question in general, but I tell him, “Possibly in a moment.”

I’m still determined to remember the name Pequa on my own.  Therefore, I head over to the shower curtain liner shelf, grateful that I still have the capacity to recall that I need a shower curtain liner.  After locating a liner in my favorite color next to black, clear, I accept reality that this attempt to recall the name Pequa is hopeless.  I grab a liner and head over to John.  I am so flustered at my inability to remember Pequa, I become inarticulate when I approach him.

John:  So what else do you need?

Me: I need …

I pause pregnantly not wanting to say what I’m thinking, “The shit that works.”

John:  Yes …?

Me: I need the stuff that … uh … unclogs the … thing.

Yes, I blanked on the word drain at that pivotal moment.

John:  Oh!  You need Pequa!  Over here.

John walks over to a high shelf, and I follow him.  He reaches up, removes a bottle and hands me a quart of Pequa.  The package looks almost identical to the one I last bought during the second term of the Clinton administration.  I immediately look at the price, $7.99.

Me: Huh, it’s only gone up $2 in twelve years.  I was anticipating it would double. You know this um … um … hmm.

I pause resisting the urge to sound impolite and say “shit.”  Psychic John comes to my rescue again.

John:  Stuff works.

Me: Yeah, this stuff works.

This shit works.