Monthly Archives: April 2010

Lame Adventure 41: The Lip Balm Tragedy

While standing in the 72nd Street subway station waiting for the 1 train, I looked down in the tracks and noticed a small jar of Carmex lip balm looking up at me.  In an imagined voice, or possibly an aural hallucination that sounded distinctly like Jeff Goldblum’s voice in David Cronenberg’s debatably necessary 1986 remake of the horror film classic, The Fly, the Carmex cried, “Help me!”  I grimaced and replied, “Sucks to be you, buddy.”  Then, I whipped out my trusty Canon digital and took a few pictures.

"Help me!"

I have been on the lip balm losing end on more occasions than I care to recall.  It never fails that on days when my lips are feeling painfully dry, I’ll reach into my pocket or messenger bag and sure enough, I will find myself lip balm-less.  If Carmex were my brand I would half wonder if that was one of the many lip balms I have lost through the years sitting in the subway tracks, but I always assume that my many missing lip balms have entered the black hole that also holds hostage the legions of socks I have lost since birth.  Recently, the subject of missing socks somehow came up during a work-related discussion with Elsbeth, my boss, a fellow lost sock sufferer.  She opined with certainty in her tone, “Once you lose a sock, forget it.  You’ll never see it again.”  Truer words have never been spoken by my superior.

Returning to the subject of missing lip balm and the lip pain that always seems to escalate monumentally when I realize that I have once again failed to pack one of the many tubes I have of my balm of choice, Kiehl’s Lip Balm #1, a curious name since none of Kiehl’s other balms are numbered.  This must be Kiehl’s subliminal way of telling Lip Balm #1 devotees like me, “This is the Mercedes Benz of lip balms that tastes like Vaseline, even though a 12 pack of Vaseline lip balms costs $13.99 on Amazon whereas a single tube of Kiehl’s costs $7.00, excluding tax and shipping.”  Maybe Kiehl’s would not say that.  It has occurred to me that if I had saved all the money I have spent on tubes of Lip Balm #1 through the years, I might have painfully sore lips but also a down payment for a Mercedes.

When I am not carrying one of my nine Kiehl’s lip balms (I have purposely counted my many lip balms for this post), and my lips are a source of searing pain, I duck into the nearest pharmacy or stop at the closest newsstand and pretty much buy the Whatever Brand Of Lip Balm To Stop This Pain That Is Making Me Think Of Nothing But How Much My Lips Are Hurting Me At This Moment.

I easily have nine of those Whatever Brand lip balms, but could only locate two, along with three holiday stocking stuffer lip balms my sister, Dovima, and niece, Sweetpea, have given me.  I am more sentimental about hanging onto gift lip balm from family.  As sorry as I felt for the forlorn jar of Carmex destined to meet a tragic end on the subway tracks, I also pity the poor schmuck or schmuck-ette who might be reaching into his or her pocket right now in need of that very jar of lip balm.  Whoever you are, I know your pain.

The Imelda Marcos Collection of Lip Balms

Lame Adventure 40: The Syrup Locker

It is lunchtime and Ling and I are sitting at our desks eating.  My friend and colleague is having a salad while doing some work-related retouching in Photoshop.  I’m stuffing myself with one of my legendarily crummy sandwiches while inhaling The New York Times Magazine online, a story written by Jon Mooallem published March 29,  2010 about if animals can be gay.  Appropriately, it is titled Can Animals Be Gay? Elsbeth enters our office and stands between our two desks.

Elsbeth:  Ling, can you make a sign asking customers to not touch the syrup locker?  They should ask for assistance.

Ling:  The what?

Me:  Did you say, “The syrup locker,” Boss?

Elsbeth:  Yes.  The syrup locker.

Ling:  Huh?

Me (excited):  Is that our version of The Hurt Locker?  Are you going to get all Kathryn Bigelow, Elsbeth, lead us into historical greatness, be a warrior princess, set  a precedent?

Bigelow in action directing The Hurt Locker.

Elsbeth was not overly impressed with Bigelow’s award winning film.  She gives me a withering glance before returning her attention to Ling.

Elsbeth:  You know [thinking/emphasizing] the locker for the syrups.

Ling looks completely baffled.

Me:  Now that’s a Claritin clear way of putting it.

Elsbeth (relieved):  Good.

Elsbeth leaves and returns to her office.  Ling and I are staring at each other like two doofuses.

Me:  What the hell’s the syrup locker?

Ling:  I have no fuckin’ clue.  I have to see that movie.

Me:  I liked it.  It’s good.  Hey, I’ll Google syrup locker.

I Google syrup locker, but that draws a blank.  Googling each word individually draws what one would expect.

Syrup.

Locker.

Ling resumes eating her salad and doing her retouching.  I resume reading about two female birds nursing an egg together making scientists ponder if these creatures are indeed lesbian.  Reading this fascinating article is the most awake I’ve been all day.

Birds of a feather.

The next morning, Ling and I are sitting at our desks eating breakfast.  She, a bowl of oatmeal and I, a cup of flavor-reduced vitamin fortified wood chips in skim milk.  Ling’s phone rings.  The caller is Stan, Elsbeth’s husband, asking Ling to make a sign for the vintage ice cream syrup dispenser we have on display.  Ling hangs up the phone and pounds out the sign. We both know what that is, having played with it ourselves a few weeks earlier.  The syrups are all empty.  We know, we checked.

The Syrup Locker (with sign).

Lame Adventure 39: Chimes in Hell

If sneezing were an occupation, I would have a career, or maybe even find myself CEO of a multinational corporation, one called Sneezers, Inc.  It was Friday night, Milton and I had tickets to see our close mutual friend, Albee, star as Vincent Cradeau, the coward sent to hell, in an Off-Off-Broadway staging of Jean-Paul Sartre’s existential masterpiece No Exit.  The basement theater, 13th Street Repertory, was a tad musty.

As soon as the lights dimmed, I suffered an allergy attack, started sneezing, and managed to sneeze my way through the entirety of this very entertaining ninety-minute play.  When I am at home or at work, I generally sneeze with hurricane force, but in this intimate setting, I stifle my sneezes for fear of shattering the cast’s concentration, as well as distracting my fellow theatergoers.  Afterward, Milton assures me that my incessant sneezing was “remarkably quiet, I barely heard you.  I’m certain no one on stage did, either.”  Albee later told us that the only distraction he suffered was minor, seeing his father dozing in the third row.  If my father attended, I doubt that he would have fallen asleep, but I am sure he would have asked many questions:

Dad:  Where the hell were they supposed to be, hell?

Me:  Yeah, it’s set in hell.

Dad:  So they were just driving each other nuts for eternity?

Me:  Yeah.  Sartre’s most famous quote is from this play, “Hell is other people.”

Dad:  Huh.  Can’t argue with that.

Although this was minimalist staging, and the first production by this new theater company, Marble Bath Productions, when great writing meets talented acting and inspired directing, it’s theater that works well.  It will be very interesting to see what MBP stages next.  In addition, all of the proceeds from this initial production benefited Haiti.  This prompted Milton to remark, “Haiti now has more of my money than I do.”

Professionally, Albee uses the easy to remember stage name Kuros Charney.

A possible side effect of having 327 sneezes implode inside my head over the course of ninety minutes, I wake with a significant headache Saturday morning.  I pop a fistful of high-octane head pain reliever, and just as the pain begins to lift, I hear rustling and jangling outside my window.  Constantine, my next-door neighbor (see Lame Adventure 3: Neighbor and Muffin ), is in the process of hanging wind chimes.  Who the hell hangs wind chimes in New York City?  You hang wind chimes in the country, places with space and soft warm breezes, not cramped urban places rife with airborne soot.  Furthermore, why not hang these wind chimes in one of his other windows, such as the one not facing my bed, and in essence, my aching head?  Now I am feeling beaten in the brains with tubular bells.

I consider raising a fuss about this, but it’s not like he has a belching bagpipe or a screaming car alarm sitting in the windowsill.  Therefore, I decide that getting dramatic about this is rather petty on my part, and besides, my headache has subsided.  I go out and take a walk, burn off some steam.  When I return, I see Constantine leaving our building.

Constantine:  Hi, how are you?

Me (thinking):  Woke with a brain tumor, my neck is always stiff, I can’t stop sneezing, I suffer constant dry eye, and I hate your wind chimes.  Hell is other people.

Me (saying):  Pretty good.  Can’t complain.  And you?

Constantine:  My sister in Greece got me a belated birthday present, wind chimes! They sound so soothing!  I hung them between our windows so you can hear them, too.

If I strangle him, would this be called neighborcide?

Me:  Oh, you shouldn’t have.  You’re just too thoughtful.

I enter my apartment, glare at the chimes and sneeze voluminously.  They tinkle.

My source of force-fed mellow.

Lame Adventure 38: Theater Hiking

The other night I almost killed Milton by accident.  He, Elaine and I went to BAM (the Brooklyn Academy of Music for non-New Yorkers) to see a new translation (by David Greig) of August Strindberg’s play Creditors directed by Alan Rickman (or Snade to Harry Potter film fans).  Even though I’ve yet to cross the pond to London, it’s very convenient that this Donmar Warehouse production is currently being staged in Brooklyn.  The play stars the original British cast:  Tom Burke, Anna Chancellor, and Owen Teale.

Teale, Burke and Chancellor.

Last month, Milton received an email for discounted tickets ranging in price from $18.75 for gallery seats to $56.25 for orchestra.  Since our means are rather modest, everyone was on board to go for the cheap seats.  Center section row B seats 103, 104, 105 looked like a good view to me.  Milton’s only demand was that I make sure we were not in an obstructed view area where we might find ourselves watching the production through a pillar.  All indications were that these seats were full view, and that was indeed the case.

What was not indicated was that we had to literally climb the stairway to heaven to reach the gallery.  When we entered BAM’s Harvey Theater, we were immediately told we had to use a side entrance or as Elaine quipped, “The servants’ entrance.”  When we rounded the corner to the entrance for the cheap seats (the factual name for the gallery), the three of us looked up at the steepest, longest and most daunting staircase of our lives.  Plus, we had each just ingested substantial burgers at 67 Burger.  The view alone was enough to make my silent GERD* scream.

Now it can be told, Led Zeppelin was singing about the Harvey Theater staircase!

I started climbing followed by Milton and Elaine.  Elaine bolstered Milton who began complaining loudly by the third step (only 97 to go buddy!).  To distract him from this slice of Everest in Brooklyn, she told him about having to scale five flights daily to reach our department.  As we approached the top, Milton gasped, “Death!”

We were so high up, our next stop was surely the moon.  Then, we had to walk down half a flight to our second row seats that a woman on Flickr described as “the most uncomfortable ever.”  A fairly apt description.  They were hard elevated stools that looked straight down at the stage at a terrifying angle.

Ugh.

While Elaine and I were trampling over one another, Milton announced, “Either a heart attack or my vertigo’s going to kill me right now.”   It was quite a scary view.  Had we been in row A, Milton might have tumbled over the railing, with me following as I tried to clutch his ankle and Elaine going down with both of us as she grabbed hold of mine.  As she likes to say, “One for all, and all for one!”  Then the three of us sail headfirst into the swells in orchestra.

Geronimo!

Fortunately, we remained seated, but the woman sitting behind us chattering endlessly about the height of the view did not provide the distraction Milton needed to maintain his rapidly diminishing sanity.  To pass the time until curtain, we discussed applause etiquette in London versus New York.  Elaine claims that applause in her homeland is scant compared to here where we applaud every entrance, exit, encore and usher.  Milton is certain that there are paid clappers at most Broadway shows.  Nice work if you can get it.  (If there is anyone out there who pays clappers, I’m available.)  I asked Elaine if UK theatergoers let loose at the end of the show.  She said, “Not like over here.  It’s some polite clapping, but they’d probably kick you out if you applaud over there like we do over here.”  Well, we are the country that stages critically acclaimed shows with names like American Idiot.

Finally, the lights lowered, and the play started with the sounds of the seaside transporting us back in time to a resort in late 19th century Sweden.  Quickly, this riveting tale of obsession, revenge, lust and rage, or all the emotions that make life interesting, unfolds.  Within ten minutes, Milton loosened his grip on his armrest.  The protagonist’s motives in this cat(s) and mouse study are cleverly revealed in the span of ninety intermission-less minutes.  At the end I felt as devastated as the victims.  Following the cast returning for four curtain calls to screams of praise and thunderous applause, the lights came up, Milton’s vertigo returned, Elaine assured him that walking down the stairway back to earth would be easier than the climb up, and I promised that I would take a blood oath and will never again subject him to another play while sitting in the clouds.  Yet, if you are like us and can only afford the cheap seats, the air in the gallery might be thin, but the action on the stage is so brilliant, it’s well worth the hike.

*Chronic acid reflux with no noticeable symptoms unless when looking up a mile long staircase.

Lame Adventure 37: Death on the Premises

It is 12:35 on a weekday morning.  Greg and I are at work standing in our warehouse.  We have just finished discussing some tile minutiae and he confides that he’s hungry.  Considering that most mornings he breakfasts on two cigarettes and three cups of black coffee, this admission doesn’t surprise me.  I feel fine having stuffed myself royally with a bowl of flavor-free organic oat sop a few hours earlier.

Me:  You gonna go to lunch now?

Greg:  Yeah, in a few minutes.

Me:  Should we get Elsbeth out here to take a quick glance at the layout for these boards you have to build?

Greg:  Sure.

Me (mumbling as I enter our office):  This should take two seconds.

I enter our boss’s office and ask her if she can take a moment to make a few mundane, routine decisions so Greg can proceed with his next cluster of projects.  Elsbeth walks with me to our warehouse where she inspects our layouts, and gives everything her seal of approval.  Now Greg is ready to jet in the direction of chow.  Just before returning to her office Our Dear Leader notices some sheeted glass.

Elsbeth:  What’s that?

Greg:  Basketweave.  I like it.

Elsbeth (pleasantly pleased):  It is nice, isn’t it?

Elsbeth turns towards me.

Me:  It reminds me of worms.

Elsbeth ignores my contribution to editorial comment.  She focuses her attention on how we can best display this material.  For the next half hour Greg and I are trying to help her solve this problem, running in and out of the office, digging through boxes, shuffling through samples in drawers in a futile search for some field tile or border that might work with it.  Nothing is quite right, until Elsbeth recalls a dusty two-ton display board packed with marble moldings she’s squirreled away behind my desk.

Meanwhile, Greg’s empty stomach is silently screaming, but Elsbeth is oblivious to his torture.  I conclude that Greg would make a model hostage, and remind myself to tell him to add that talent to his resume.  After another ten minutes of close scrutiny comparing the moldings board against the sheet of glass basketweave, Elsbeth has a very low-key “Eureka!” moment.  Display decisions are reached.  Even though Greg is ready to eat twenty square feet of salted ceramic tile right now, he stoically endures his own discomfort and does all the heavy lifting so I do not have to put anything away.  Then, 45 minutes after first telling me that he was feeling quite hungry Greg is finally free to leave for lunch.

Elsbeth and I follow Greg back out into the warehouse to talk about something else tile-related, when we hear him cry, “Awwwwwwwwww.”  He is standing near the door looking down at the floor.  Apparently, a little mouse, is in the process of dying at his feet.  Now, Elsbeth and I are saying, “Awwwwwwwwww.”

Greg:  What should we do?  I almost stepped on it!

Me:  Put it in a cup.

Greg gets a cup and scoops our dying visitor into it with a piece of cardboard.

Greg:  Do you think he’s dying because he ate some poison?

I look at the suffering little critter drawing its final breaths.  Even though I am not a mouse-ologist, I share an affinity for this helpless captive, checking out in clear plastic.  One can only hope its now in a better place, one full of cheese and sex.

Me:  No, I think this poor creature’s dying of boredom having overheard our discussion about how to display that basketweave tile.

RIP Little Bored to Death Mouse

Lame Adventure 36: The Calculations of Light

I had a very exciting weekend.  When I turned on my writer’s lamp, the bulb blew out.  This was not headache inducing for I had a spare bulb, an energy saving 8,000 hour mini-spiral bulb to be specific.  According to my calculations, if I burn my light every week for approximately 28 hours (a liberal estimate) this bulb should last almost five and a half years.  Since this was my only energy saving mini-spiral bulb, as well as my only spare light bulb overall, and I have a second lamp that currently has an energy spending standard bulb, I conclude that this is a good time to go to the store and pick up a backup bulb.

Therefore, I walk over to my neighborhood Duane Reade, and as fate would have it, they have Ecospiral Eco-friendly mini-spiral bulbs on sale, five for $10.  Yet I only need one, so I ask the clerk for a price check on a single bulb.  He accommodates my request and tells me that one bulb costs $4.99.  Even though I only need a single backup bulb, it makes better economic sense to purchase five so that is what I do.

According to the packaging, my five new Ecospiral bulbs are so long lasting, at 15,000 hours a bulb, it appears that I now need to revise my will since it seems highly likely that my light bulbs are going to outlast me.  Let’s do the math. 75,000 hours worth of Ecospiral bulbs, divided by an average 28 hours of weekly use amounts to 2,678.5714 weeks of light, divide that by 52 and the total equals 51.510988 years worth of light bulbs.

My descendants.

If I never shut off my writer’s lamp again, and burn my six environmentally-friendly spiral bulbs continuously, albeit not a very environmentally-efficient course, 83,000 hours of light divided by 8,760 (the number of hours in a year) equals 9.4748858 years of continuous light, and one supremely pissed off landlady since my building is electrical inclusion meaning I never have to pay an energy bill.  This inconvenient idiocy might also earn me a hard backhand from Al Gore when no one is looking.

This is how you thank me for inventing the Internet?

I call Milton.  He’s in a lather over Rihanna.  Apparently, he just saw her on TV while channel surfing.

Milton:  Every time I see this woman, she’s upstaged by her outfit.

Rihanna clad in Venetian blinds.

Me:  Do you use energy efficient light bulbs?

Milton:  I don’t, but I should.

Me:  I bought five today.  They were on sale.  They’re so long lasting, like over ten years a bulb, it’s inevitable that I’m going to be leaving some of these things in my will to Sweet Pea.

Milton:  I’ll take one.  I’ll eventually need a light bulb.

Me:  Do you want it now or do you want me to will it to you?

Milton:  You decide.

Me:  I don’t get it.  How can these light bulb manufacturers stay in business if they’re making bulbs so energy efficient, they’re going to outlast the consumer?

Milton:  I don’t know what to tell you about that; I’m still trying to figure out Rihanna.  Give me Cher.

Greetings to Milton from Cher.

Lame Adventure 35: A Banana a Day

I am very particular about fruit, but the fruit I am most particular about is the banana since I usually eat one every day.  Therefore, I easily eat close to 350 bananas a year.  Often, when I’m visiting friends or on vacation away from New York, I’ll go banana-less.  Although I like many other fruits — blueberries, apricots, peaches, figs, plums, pluots – and what exactly is a pluot?  You’ve come to the right place for that tidbit of knowledge.

Pluot orgy.

According to Wikipedia – and I paraphrase liberally and perversely — a pluot is the offspring of a shotgun wedding between a plum and an apricot that was the brainstorm of a now 84-year-old biologist named Floyd Zaiger.  Fortune calls Floyd “the most prolific fruit breeder in the world.”  That means that when Floyd buys his rainbow, I’ll read about it in The New York Times.  Fortune declares that Floyd’s “family-owned company, Zaiger’s Genetics, has patented more than 200 new varieties of fruit, all through conventional pollination.”  So Floyd’s fruits get it on the old-fashioned way.  When Floyd strolls the aisle of his local produce department and lingers by the cherry stand while holding a tomato, one can probably assume, “Ah ha, he’s match-making the chemato!”

Floyd in his orchard.

Enough diversion and back to the topic at hand, my long-term relationship with the banana, possibly my longest-term relationship with any foodstuff.  My daily banana eating habit has been going on for many decades. Considering all the bananas I have consumed thus far in a life where I could have easily died three times by now had I been born a dog, I am sure I have easily eaten at last ten thousand bananas, but more likely many, many more.  That calculation tells me two things, “Damn! I’ve eaten a lot of bananas!”  And, “Damn!  Am I really that old to have eaten my weight in bananas at least forty-five times – and have died three times by now had I been born a spaniel?”  How disturbing, and how disturbing to spend time figuring out those calculations.  I did recently cancel my subscription to HBO, so my calculator is filling the void.

In August 1977, when I was a kid, I was hanging out with my older brother, Axel.  We were eating chocolate covered frozen bananas in our parents’ kitchen.  Axel was a big Elvis fan.  He loved to order me to hurry up and walk our dog, Meanstreak, by shouting, “It’s Now or Never!”

So there we were in the kitchen eating our frozen bananas; Axel leaning against the sink, and I sitting in a chair.  In those days we were our own TMZ.  We were gossiping about Liz Taylor, and all of her health problems.  Axel was certain that she was going to check out soon.  I said definitively, “Naaa, your boy, Elvis, is gonna be the next one to kick.”

The next day Elvis dropped dead of a heart attack in his bathroom.

Elvis's death-wich.

Axel always likes to say that I predicted the King’s demise, but I think he had tremendous assistance from all those fried banana and peanut butter sandwiches he scarfed regularly.  I have once or twice, to my gastroenterologist’s horror, eaten a fried banana in a restaurant.  It tasted quite good.  The vast majority of bananas I eat are neither fried nor frozen.  They’re usually straight up, but often chased with a piece of dark chocolate.  As soon as the faintest spot appears, I can barely stand the taste.  I like my bananas solid yellow, even tinged with a little green.

My colleague, Ling, as well as members of my family, can eat a banana so heavy with spots, it almost looks like a leopard.  I would sooner sample fried jungle cat than eat a freckled banana.  The idea of eating either is almost enough to make me gag.  If Floyd reads this blog, I’d like to put in a request for the mush-free solid yellow banana which delays growing spots, but he’d probably advise me to just keep doing what I do, buy two at a time and deal with it.  It does not take a fruit-breeding genius to figure that out.

Ling's banana on the left. Mine on the right.

P.S.  Check out the video posted by Martini Max in the comments section of Chris Elliot channeling Marlon Brando performing the lamest banana dance ever on Late Night with David Letterman back in the day.