Monthly Archives: July 2012

Lame Adventure 327: Going for the Gold in Inactivity

Now that the Thirtieth Olympiad is underway, I blew most of my weekend watching the games in a hypnotic state and doing little else.  I had planned to see my buddy, Coco, on Saturday.  That visit surely would have entailed copious glass lifting and draining while shifting my game-watching venue to her TV.  When I ventured outside for bottled water I got caught in a downpour. My Jack Purcell badminton shoes got wet.  I did not want to venture out into the elements again so I canceled. I returned my attention to my TV where I watched scantily clad women play beach volleyball and embrace each other following every kill. This is an event I find exciting on many levels.

When I was younger and possibly more demented than I am now, thanks to a habit of inhaling, I used to fantasize about competing in the Olympics myself.  This fantasy was misguided since I cannot swim, I’ve never taken gymnastics, I’m allergic to horses, I’m not a fast runner, I take after my mother in archery i.e., I could shoot an arrow into the sky and miss, I’m too scrawny to lift weights, I have an aversion to sharp objects ruling out fencing, I lack the gun-shooting gene, judo has no appeal, so what’s left — competitive whining about the absence of an event to suit Olympic misfit me?

Actually there is one athletic activity I loved back in the day and that was cycling.  I discovered my affinity for bike riding when I attended an eight-week film program at Stanford in summer 1979.  I realize now that pumping the pedals hard to avoid being late for class is not the same as cycling the Tour de France, much less competing for Olympic gold.  At this stage in life I no longer harbor any personal Olympic fantasies.  After watching the endurance test that was Friday’s opening ceremonies I needed ten hours sleep and had to pop two Aleve upon waking I felt so stiff.

Earlier this month I read an article in The New York Times written by Gretchen Reynolds called “The Couch Potato Goes Global”.  Coincidentally I was sitting and eating ginger snap cookies while reading:

“… [T]he total combined weight of human beings on Earth now exceed[s] 287 million tons. About 3.5 million tons of that global human biomass is due to obesity, a third of which exists in North America, although we account for only 6 percent of the world’s population.”

I stopped eating cookies shortly after reading that, but resisted sticking my fingers down my throat.  Hey, they were good cookies. The article went on to discuss research conducted by the World Health Organization about global activity.  They discovered:

“The latest figures suggest that the world’s population has become disturbingly inactive. According to the researchers’ calculations, 31.1 percent of the world’s adults, or about 1.5 billion people, are almost completely sedentary, meaning that they do not meet the minimum recommendation of 150 minutes of walking or other moderate activity per week, or about 20 minutes a day.”

This made me feel a tad guilty about being an armchair athlete all weekend so I worked up a sweat doing masochistic house cleaning.  I scrubbed my bathroom floor with a toothbrush.  Afterward, I resumed watching the Olympics.  During a commercial break I checked out a tool that the BBC posted online that lets users compare their biomass with people in their age groups from other nations.  Much to my relief I discovered that mine is equal to women my age that reside in Vietnam.  This factoid could be convenient if I ever need to pursue a new romantic partner.  I’m confident that I can reel her in by revealing that my Body Mass Index is the same as a grandmother in Southeast Asia.

Here are my Global Fat Scale results.

I can finish eating my cookies!

There are nine nations with women my age with a lighter biomass than me.  They probably cycle and scrub their bathroom floors with toothbrushes.

If you dare, you can check out where your biomass fits in amongst 177 nations by clicking here.  Be forewarned American readers, the US ranks eleventh on the Global Fat Scale.  The mean BMI in the US is 30.46; not an Olympic-worthy feat especially when the medal that’s awarded to inactivity is early rainbow catching.

Lame Adventure 326: Uncle Vanya and Tom Hanks

Currently the Lincoln Center Festival is happening here in New York.  Lincoln Center describes this festival as “an effort to look outside the Western European canon, to broaden notions of classicism by presenting classical works from other parts of the world.”  Milton got us tickets to Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya as staged by the Sydney Theatre Company, a theater company run by Cate Blanchett and her husband, Andrew Upton.

Upton adapted Chekhov’s play and Tamás Ascher directed the terrific cast starring Blanchett as the ravishing Yelena.  Hugo Weaving, and Jacki Weaver, who first came to our attention when we saw her in the film, Animal Kingdom, in 2010 are amongst her co-stars.  Milton was certain that this limited ten-day run was going to garner rave reviews and would be a very tough ticket.  He was right.  This story about bleak love-starved bumblers spending summer together in a run down estate was both hilarious and sad.  It’s not every day that I can declare misery so entertaining.  Milton pronounced Blanchett’s performance, “Luminescent.”  She is sensational on stage and I feel very fortunate to have finally seen her grace the boards.

The theater where this play is being performed is the cavernous New York City Center.  It seats 2,750.  I am quite sure that the entire brief run is sold out.  We sat in the last row of the mezzanine, seats that were rather high and quite far from the stage.  At intermission Milton announced:

Milton:  We’re sitting so far away I don’t recognize anyone.  Which one’s Jacki Weaver?

Me: Jacki’s the nanny.  Cate’s the sexy blonde.  Hugo Weaving’s the doctor.

Milton:  Oh, that’s him? Good to know.

Even without knowing who was who, and seeing it from seats located in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, it was a brilliant production and very entertaining.

There were tiers of theater above and behind us.  I think those sections were located upstate.

It is against theater policy to take photographs of the production, and we did not want to get kicked out.  While waiting for me outside the theater Milton did take this gotcha shot of Tom Hanks with an unidentified female companion.

Tom Hanks pays the price of fame: Milton’s iPhone gotcha shot.

Odds are good that he sat considerably closer than us.  When Milton was in the men’s room he noticed Bill Irwin at the urinal, but he resisted taking his picture.  I’m sure there were other famous people in our audience, but since I emptied my bladder before leaving my garret, I did not scope out the women’s restroom.

Lame Adventure 325: Hanging Out in My Back Yard

I reside in an apartment in a Manhattan brownstone that is so rustic, I suspect that it was built shortly after the pilgrims dropped anchor at Plymouth Rock.  This past Saturday was possibly the best weather day of 2012, a day that was sunny and warm, with little humidity.  It followed an evening so cool and comfortable I entered a coma in my air condition-less hovel where I soundly slept twelve hours straight. I celebrated the advent of this glorious day by doing what else?  I purchased a tube of toothpaste.

Keep it simple.  Pass on complicated.

After completing my errand, I had no desire to return home.  I was feeling uncharacteristically nature-y having had my first good night’s sleep in a month.  Therefore I decided to hang out in my back yard, a place that is walking distance from my sanctum sanctorum, Central Park.

I walked up West 73rd Street where I indulged my Vespa fetish when I saw a lovely red one with a very cool black and red saddle.

Let’s go out on a date.  You do the driving.

Across the street stood the Dakota where Roman Polanski filmed Rosemary’s Baby in 1967.

Back door view of the Dakota.

The Dakota’s fence — a fence on steroids.

I enter through the West 72nd Street entrance and walk a narrow path where I see this tree.

Tree.

I instantly think exactly what you’re thinking:

Me (and you):  Is this a Juniperus virginiana?

Our guess is on the money!

I walk further and see what I am quite sure is People-us On-a-rock-ana but I do not encounter a sign so I have to rely on my stellar powers of perception.

People-us On-a-rock-ana.

To my left is a whole helluva lotta green.

Want green and leafy? You’re in the right place.

To my right I see a cart full of plants.

Got marijuana? No.

Sheep Meadow is significantly more populated this day than it was when I last visited two weeks ago under a sweltering sun.

Sheep-less people-full meadow.

In fact the weather was so lovely it was possible to take a leisurely stroll in a black suit.

For an encore, don’t think about wearing a turtleneck.

I headed over to see the roller bladers showing off.

Anyone lose a water bottle?

This guy with all the joint protection was very good, not that it’s apparent in this picture.

This guy that looked like an accountant had great moves completely unapparent in this picture.

These guys are not performing a bro-dance with each other, even though this picture gives that false impression.

This may look like a pas de deux on skates but it’s not.

It’s even possible that this was the first and last time they ever met.

On my way to the band shell, I walked past statues of Victor Herbert, an early 20th Century composer, and Beethoven with a nymph, possibly symbolizing a 19th Century groupie.

This guy was The Man in the early 20th Century.

Beethoven remains the man in this century.

I also encountered a quartet of modern day musicians that sounded great.

Modern day quartet playing classical drums.

There was a crowd gathered in front of the band shell.

Hm, what’s going on over here?

They were watching these very acrobatic dudes showing off impressively.

I’ll attempt doing this in my next life.

They asked two boys in the audience to participate.

Kids doing exactly what they’re told by dude in red shorts.

How was your visit to Central Park Young Fella? Okay, some guy jumped over my head.

Then, they resumed their acrobatics

Easy for him to do!

I popped an Aleve and moved on where I next encountered the soap bubble dude.

Big ass soap bubble!

Mr. Bubble.

I made my way over to Bethesda Fountain.

I was not alone.

Boating rentals did well.

Boaters boating.

As did the professional photographers.

Cool day to wear hot pink.

This guy was in a world of his own doing yoga moves.

Maybe he’s listening to Victor Herbert on his headphones.

A surefire way for me to pull a hamstring.

Wow.

If I tried this I’m sure I’d bounce off the ball.

I thought:

Me (thinking):  Now I’ve seen everything … and a gondola?  Am I in Venice?

The Central Park gondola.

The boaters were heading towards the boathouse where I’ve been known to pound a beverage from time to time. (hiccup)

Central Park Boathouse.

Here’s the Trefoil Arch.

Trefoil Arch.

I did not walk under it.  Instead I headed for the Ramble, a place that in the not too distant past was notorious for gay male cruising.

Family friendly ramble.

Now it’s considered one of the top bird-watching locations in the US.

All I encountered was a guy serenading his girlfriend with his guitar, a squirrel and one lone robin.

Guitar man.

“Hurry up, photograph me, I’m on the hunt for dinner!”

“Whatever you do, don’t make me look fat.”

I could hear a chorus of birds singing in the branches, but I couldn’t see any of them.

“Hey, if anyone wants to show up for a picture, I’ll send you copies!”

So I photographed a squashed orange safety cone and moved on.

I agree. Not the most photogenic sight.

I then walked down a dirt path, not one of my favorite things in life, since I much prefer concrete and real stairs or an escalator.

Goodbye civilization.

The path led straight to the mouth of the lake but I firmly planted my foot to ensure I would not belly flop into it.

Firmly planted foot in blue Jack Purcell badminton shoe.

Boaters enjoying their idyll as city waits in the background.

I resumed my hike and saw some flora the botanist in me called the ouchy pointy plant.

Trip and fall into this might feel equal to embracing a porcupine.

I also encountered that robin again for I am sure that’s the sole robin in this 1.3 square mile park.

You can’t be serious.

I saw a stream.

Or is this a babbling brook?

And Turtle Pond, the place where there’s all you can eat green algae.

What a time to be without a spork!

I saw the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre, something I had no idea existed – puppets in my back yard!

Swedish puppets only steps away from my humble abode!

I walked past Shakespeare’s Garden, not that the Bard ever saw this patch of foliage himself.

Greens for the Bard.

The Delacorte Theater where free Shakespeare in the Park is staged was doing sound checks.

Terrific outdoor free theater — if you can get a ticket.

Hey Romeo & Juliet, get a room!

Don’t mess with this guy.

Meanwhile more fresh air lovers were hanging out on the Great Lawn.

Great Lawn under beautiful blue sky.

I hope whoever is assigned to mow it has access to a lawn tractor.

The ducks were taking it easy, too.

We love this weather and, oh yeah, quack.

So were the turtles in Turtle Pond.

“MIchael Phelps has nothing on me!”

Here’s Belvedere Castle, no big city park is complete without its castle.

Just a castle in the big city.

Then I headed home to brush my teeth.

Think I’ll take the scenic route back.

Lame Adventure 324: Mother Nature Flips Me the Bird

Following another productive day of unwinding paperclips at The Grind, I exited the 72nd Street subway station at 5:55 Tuesday evening.  I looked up at the temperature on the Apple Bank digital clock at 73rd and Broadway and thought:

Me (thinking):  I can’t believe it’s 94.

Believe it.

What compelled me to think that made no sense for it’s July.  July is always hot.  Some July days seem hot as hell. What would call for genuine disbelief is if the temperature was half that, 47.  Or 57.  How about 27 and snowing?  Snow in New York City in July would certainly be a global news top story.  The Big Apple had snow in October last year and en masse everyone was bracing for a winter worthy of Siberia.  In fact, last winter was one of the mildest on record. We had next to no snow all season.  Of course people were bitching about that.  I paraphrase:

Bitching New Yorkers:  Where the hell’s the snow?   It doesn’t feel like winter.

Back to the present on this seasonably hot July day that feels exactly like summer, sweat was surfacing from my scalp down to the soles of my feet and all body parts in-between.  Soon you could probably fry an egg off me.  A minute passed. It read 5:56 on the clock.  There was a correction that added validity to my disbelief.

The reward for staring.

I wondered if I continued to stare at that clock like a slack-jawed doofus for another five minutes would the temperature climb to 100?  I didn’t stand around to find out.

Lame Adventure 323: One of Those Days

As I have mentioned in earlier tales, I like to volunteer usher off-Broadway plays.  In return for my services I get to see theater for free. My most recent ushering gig was for a musical at a respected off-Broadway playhouse.  The audience was replete with jerks.  It would be easy to blame the heat and humidity but this theater’s temperature is set twelve months of the year at Freeze Your Ass Off level.

Approximately ten minutes before curtain a male-female senior citizen couple that looked like they held post-graduate degrees in the Department of Equally Unattractive Toads approached.  They were either married forever or siblings.

Me:  May I see your tickets please?

Senior Citizen Man:  Go fuck yourself.

He brushed past me followed by her and they headed straight for two front row seats.  I resisted the urge to croak like a frog.

Cute lizard since I don’t have a shot of an ugly toad in my library.

Soon after it was discovered that a seat with a number belonging to a woman with a ticket had been double-booked and removed to accommodate a wheelchair bound chap.  She was understandably perplexed.  The House Manager offered to relocate her to an empty seat next to two elderly gay men, but they pitched such a fit it gave the impression that he had suggested she sit on them rather than next to them.  He repeatedly tried to explain the situation but they were livid.

Often, it’s usual to commiserate with co-ushers about audience members with the social skills of tree stumps, but I was coincidentally working with a mute, gum-chewing middle aged guy devoid of any signs of possessing a personality gene.  If the chemistry between us could be illustrated, it would be a flat line.  In fairness, maybe he had just quit smoking and was chewing nicotine gum.

My co-usher as shown in the animal kingdom.

The House Manager had instructed us to stand in front of the stage during intermission because the footlights were highly calibrated and very sensitive.  If touched they could go instantly out of whack.  He instructed my co-usher and I to stand watch at opposite sides of the stage.  As soon as we reach the stage I see a morbidly obese man leaning on my side of the stage.  I think:

Me (thinking):  The portrait of the story of my life.

I approach the man:

Me:  Sir, theater management has requested no leaning against the stage.

Man:  Why?

Me (what I want to say):  Why?  Because your BMI is a liability, and we don’t want the lights knocked off their axis by your wide load!  That’s why!

Me (what I say):  The lights are computer controlled and any contact with them risks nullifying their highly sensitive calibration.

He moves.

Meanwhile my gum-chewing co-usher is staring into space possibly fantasizing about lighting up.  He’s completely oblivious to the three women on his side of the stage parked against it.  I approach the women and ask them to move.  They do.  My co-usher extinguishes his imaginary Marlboro.  I give him the stink eye.  Upon seeing me return to my station the three women resume leaning on the stage, but this time Dudley Do-nothing finally takes his mind off his chewing and tells them to scram.

As intermission is ending a woman asks me:

Woman:  How much longer is this?

This, a sure sign that she hates the show, but I’m not too keen on it, either.  Maybe I should ask her for her number?  Possibly she lives in digs with air conditioning?  I repress my inner pimp and remain professional:

Me:  An hour.

She’s visibly upset but resists telling me off.

After the show, my co-ushers and I do a quick sweep of the theater. Fifteen minutes later, I bolt, grateful that this annoying gig is over. I zig and zag through the dense crowd filling 42nd Street to my uptown subway.  Even though I’m subject to a three-minute wait and the platform is hotter than the Sahara, I can still feel the residual chill from the Arctic-like temperature in the theater.  I don’t feel like I could collapse from heat stroke with a thud.  The express train pulls into the station.  It’s not terribly crowded and although I could grab a seat, I let other passengers do so instead.  I only have to travel one stop.  Life is good!

Free as this butterfly!

My thoughts return to my favorite sports, eating and sleeping. I absently move my right foot. It feels glued to the car’s floor.  That’s when I realize that I’m standing on a huge, soft sticky wad of gum.  It was definitely one of those days.

It smelled like spearmint.

Lame Adventure 322: Cake Chaos

Whenever someone’s birthday rolls around at my company we have a cake.  In departments other than mine, where quantity steamrolls quality in appeal, it’s often a mammoth-sized confection of a dense cheese variety topped with gelatinous uniformly sized strawberries that I suspect are manufactured by Dow Chemical.  Our showroom manager, Coco, refers to these cakes in two words:

Coco: Colon cleanse.

Any cake that can double as colonoscopy prep is not welcome in my department, Design.  In general we prefer delightful treats in bite sized-portions.  I’m thinking that next year I might request a cake so small and luxurious that my sidekick, Greg, will be assigned to stand next to me to hold my candle.  That’s another rule of Cake in Design.  The candle is limited to one.  This probably has more to do with my boss Elsbeth and I being a combined 833 in dog years.  We share a mutual disinclination to blow out a forest fire of eyebrow singeing flames.

This week my buddy and colleague (not) Under Ling (anymore) celebrated her natal date.  (not) Under Ling (anymore) told me that she didn’t want a cake and was more in the mood for a fruit tart.

Me: Could you go for a raspberry tart?

How about a raspberry tart like this one decorated with a single candle?

(not) Under Ling (anymore):  Yes.  And don’t worry I’ll act completely surprised like I had no idea it was coming when you guys give it to me.

Me: Possibly you could appear so shocked, you could fake fainting?

I called Le Pain Quotidien and special ordered a seven-inch raspberry tart for my colleague.  Elsbeth gave me the payment in cash.  Greg, who does all the heavy lifting including that of 14 ounce tarts, picked it up. Then, we had to come up with the latest harebrained ruse so (not) Under Ling (anymore) could feign surprise.

Elsbeth sent her to the photo room to take a photograph.  I had the bright idea that if we sent our unpaid Summer Intern to the photo room to get (not) Under Ling (anymore) this might take our veteran staffer off the scent for a nanosecond.  Elsbeth thought that was brilliant.  The boss gave Greg, who was working in our warehouse, the universal hand signal screaming one of two things, “Yes, I have read all three installments of the Fifty Shades of Grey series” and “Get your ass in here now!”  I lighted the candle on the cake and ordered Our Summer Intern:

Me:  Okay, go now — get her!

Greg raced into our office as our Summer Intern raced out.  Elsbeth, Greg and I  waited.  And waited.  We were approaching a ten count when our superior spoke:

Elsbeth:  Where did our Summer Intern go?

Greg:  Wasn’t she just supposed to get (not) Under Ling (anymore)?

Annoyed, I left our office, and thoroughly scoured our warehouse for our missing  Summer Intern.  She was either expertly hiding from me, or she instantly found a paying gig, or she was living my fantasy i.e., she walked out the door and just keep going.  I returned to our office intern-less with this report to my waiting Superior.

Me: I don’t know where she went.

Elsbeth: You took so long I thought you went missing!

Greg:  Like an episode of The Twilight Zone.  Everyone who steps out to get (not) Under Ling (anymore) disappears!

[insert beat]

Elsbeth (to me):  Just get (not) Under Ling (anymore).

I visit (not) Under Ling (anymore) in the photo room, and lamely say:

Me: Elsbeth wants the camera back.  Now.

(not) Under Ling (anymore) (muttering to self):  Finally, I get my cake!

We eat the cake baffled over what happened to our Summer Intern, but not that baffled that we sent out another search posse.

Picture perfect slice (not) Under Ling (anymore) cuts for herself.

Mangled slice (not) Under Ling (anymore) cuts for me.

My phone rings.  It’s Coco’s extension:

Coco:  Your Summer Intern wants to know if she can come back upstairs now?

Me:  Was she down there with you all this time?

Coco: Yeah.  What the hell’s going on with you guys?

Me:  She was supposed to get (not) Under Ling (anymore) – not visit you!

In response to Elsbeth asking me what happened to our missing Summer Intern I calmly explain to my superior that there was a miscommunication.

Then I popped my fork through my plate.

Stabbed plate held by Elsbeth.

Lame Adventure 321: Sunday in the Park with Lola

It’s been a brutally hot summer in the city thus far this year.  Since I live in digs that are not wired for air conditioning, my queen-sized pillow-topped mattress that usually feels like the comfiest of clouds feels more like a grill pan over high heat these days. Yet who am I to complain about not having had a restful night’s sleep since May?  At least I reside walking distance from the oasis that is Central Park.

On Sunday, when the heat and humidity were a millimeter below sweltering, I visited the park with my friend, Lola.  We entered, took a wrong turn, almost crossed a triathlon’s finish line, reversed course, grabbed lemonade for her and iced tea for me at the Le Pain Quotidian near Sheep’s Meadow, exchanged yak about how that LPQ must be a goldmine, and then made a beeline for a shady tree where we promptly suffered that familiar middle age malady, CRS (Can’t Remember Shit).

Sheep’s Meadow sun bathers dotting Great Lawn.

Both of us blanked on the name of the famous landscape architect who designed the park.  Lola tried in vain to find the answer that was on the tips of our frozen brains on her iPhone but the Gods of wifi were against us.  Later, while I was batting away a bug the size of a hornet, Frederick Law Olmstead’s name popped out from one of the holes in my head.  Actually, Olmstead co-designed the park with Calvert Vaux, whose name I did not know until now, but I’m confident that I’ll be brain freezing on him as soon as I finish writing this sentence.

Sheep’s Meadow has often been a sea of sun worshippers.  The sheep were relocated in 1934 because (according to Wikipedia):

“There was fear for the sheep’s safety by hungry folk during the great depression. Officials were concerned that starving men would turn the sheep into lunch.”

On this hot and humid afternoon the meadow was not only sheep-less but also relatively empty.  It seemed that the shade had more appeal than the pursuit of skin cancer.

Sheep’s Meadow shade worshippers clustered under trees.

While we were sheltered under our tree we discussed the recent death of writer-director-humorist, Nora Ephron.

Me:  All that’s left is Joan Rivers and Tina Fey.

Lola: What about Kristin Wiig?

Me: Yes, I do believe I’ve just insulted her and Amy Poehler and Sarah Silverman among others.

Lola: One of my favorite books is Joan’s I Hate Everyone … Starting With Me.  The title reminds me of you.

Me:  I love that title.  I love Joan.  I feel honored that you think that.

While we were heading over to watch the players playing in the bocce ball courts, we encountered signs that free comedy was happening very near.

“Let’s find the bocce courts so we can find the comedy!”

Bocce ball is a very slow game prompting me to suggest:

Me:  This is almost as riveting as curling.

Bocce: a game that doubles as a sleep aid.

We then headed over to catch some free comedy.

Shade loving comedy audience.

The searing heat occupied the best seats, but we did stick around long enough to hear Ophira Eisenberg, a comedian that I had read about in The New York Times in April.  Getting to hear her perform her witty brand of topical standup in Central Park was very entertaining.  I particularly enjoyed her take about people getting her name wrong and guests visiting her in her fifth floor walk-up in Brooklyn gasping when they reach her door, “Do you do this every day?”  Performers like Ophira give me hope that the ranks of funny women are growing.

I left the park with Lola feeling good.  When we reached 72nd and Broadway my friend traveled south and I north.  Just as I was considering that I’m being a wimp about the heat — summer in New York can be truly wonderful, I crash landed back to reality.

Going commando.

Hopefully, it will cool down soon for all of us out here.