Lame Adventure 426: Am I Being Tested?

I admit that I will never be mistaken for someone who is conducting a passionate love affair with their day job. What I do is label tile, an occupation that is equal to tossing years of one’s life off a cliff, but I make an effort to consciously label tile accurately. Labeling tile is an honest, and at times, a stupid living. A recent example of stupid: I received a delivery of tile samples where I discovered I was missing two tiles. I notified the vendor that I needed two more pieces of three-inch square tile, one in the color, Latte Matte, and the other in Steel Grey Matte. Pictured below is what the vendor sent me in the follow-up delivery.

The story of my life in three tiles.

The story of my life in three tiles.

One of the many reasons why I enjoy living in New York so much is that I love the culture. It’s everywhere including in the street.

It's those krazy klowns: Kim and Kanye!

It’s those krazy klowns: Kim and Kanye!

But I also love the theater. Last week, my friend, Milton, treated me to the current Broadway revival of the musical Cabaret playing at Studio 54 starring Alan Cumming and Michelle Williams. This was my Christmas present. When Milton purchased the tickets in 2013, the best seats available were for this performance in July. We’re two patient people who were fine with celebrating our Christmas in July. For those of you who appreciate feedback about shows (the rest of you skip to the next paragraph): this is a terrific revival of a brilliant musical. We were both entirely in our bliss. Alan Cumming has been playing the role of the Emcee off and on since 1993. He was born to play this seductive character. Milton noted that for a guy who is not very handsome, Alan Cumming is so charismatic in that role, he becomes the sexiest guy in the world. This revival is a first for Michelle Williams who had never appeared on the Broadway stage before. She’s cast as Sally Bowles, a role I had only seen on film played extraordinarily by Liza Minnelli. Michelle plays Sally as someone sincere but with minimal talent. Her Sally is infinitely heartbreaking. When Liza powerfully belts the title song, Cabaret, in the film, I recall feeling uplifted. When Michelle’s Sally sings it earnestly on stage, I had the impression that she’s thinking that she’s going to follow the lead of the friend who died “from too much pills and liquor”. She was so vulnerable. We thought she did a fine job in that pivotal role. It’s a shame that she did not score a Tony award nomination. We thought she got robbed. It was a great night of theater in New York City.

Usually, Milton and I find ways to get discounts on our theater ticket purchases. One way is to subscribe to a theater company’s season. One of the theater companies we subscribe to is the Public Theater. Recently, we had to order all of our tickets for the 2014-2015 season. We got great seats at great prices on all the dates we wanted. I had the tickets mailed to my apartment. Imagine my dismay when I opened my mailbox to find our tickets in this envelope. My friend, Coco, suggested it could double as a skateboard ramp.

Special delivery.

Special delivery.

It rained buckets that day, but if my letter carrier had a beef with Mother Nature, was it necessary to direct the hostility on our theater tickets? This person had to shove our ticket envelope into my letterbox, and then they rolled and plunged two catalogs and that week’s issue of The New Yorker on top of the envelope. This took concentration and force. I told Milton that I sniffed the envelope and was relieved that it did not noticeably smell like urine.

There are days when I don’t feel like labeling tile samples, but I’m not going to take a hammer, smash them to smithereens, and send them off for display. By doing my job relatively whole assed, I can afford to attend the theater. As for my letter carrier, I’m unsure what to think other than I’m irked.

Irked!

Irked!

I wish he or she would invest in another way to express hostility, preferably far away from my mail, possibly at a more appropriate place like an active volcano. Occasionally, I have to junk discontinued tile samples. Maybe I should offer them to my letter carrier to throw when feeling rage.

At least our tickets are smiling.

Our tickets are smiling.

Lame Adventure 425: TV Tales

Unlike my friends and family, I would prefer to watch a squirrel in a tree eat its breakfast scone than watch TV. But perhaps, my friends and family would enjoy watching that squirrel if it were on TV. Maybe even the squirrel would like to be on TV, if it was paid in scones.

It's a good day to be a scone-loving squirrel.

Let’s negotiate a rate in foodstuffs.

The expense of TV irks me. Last year, my cable TV provider increased the cost of service. With taxes and fees I would be paying about $110 for hundreds of TV stations I had no interest in watching. As much as I hated forfeiting the few stations I liked, I refused to shell out over a grand a year for a service I watched scant hours a week, often in a semi-coma. So, I pulled the cable plug. My TV-loving friend, Milton, the unofficial advocate for the TV industry, suggested I purchase an RCA digital TV antenna to still view the major broadcast networks. I thought that idea was brilliant. When I hooked the antenna to my TV, I could only access snow. We learned that my TV was obsolete and incompatible with the antenna. Minus that costly cable hookup, my 86-pound set was reduced to the electronic equivalent of a beached whale rotting in my apartment.

For about a year I streamed TV onto my computer via Aereo, an $8 subscription service that the Supreme Court put out of business last month with a ruling that Aereo was basically committing theft. As much as I personally disagreed with that ruling, I knew the networks had a very solid case. Once Aereo shuttered, I considered buying a new TV, if only to use my RCA antenna to watch the broadcast networks.  Then, the people that manage my building informed me that they would be vacationing in Poland for three weeks.

Building Manager: Is there anything you’d like us to do for you before we leave?

Me (light bulb to self): Here’s my opportunity to unload the 86-pound eyesore!

Now living in a landfill.

For services rendered: next stop, a landfill.

Over the July 4th weekend, I researched TV models. I concluded that a 32-inch Samsung Smart TV would fit my needs. Recently, I visited my neighborhood Best Buy store where an affable dude sporting a hickey only the size of Topeka sold me a set that fits within the confines of my budget: cheap. Even though the box was a tad cumbersome, it was light affording me to carry it home on the bus. I appreciated that fellow passengers did not seem to detest me too rabidly for traveling with a space-hogging parcel.

Much more portable than its heavy as a boulder predecessor.

Much more portable than its heavy as a boulder predecessor.

Setting up my smart TV proved a bit problematic. My decade old Apple Airport Express is borderline obsolete. In addition, when I was reciting its serial number to Apple’s automated prompt, my iPhone somehow called my across the street neighbor. She texted me about this. I explained what happened, but I have the sinking feeling that she thinks I’m an orifice, and not the ear canal.

Thanks to Jeff at Apple Support, he walked me though a few adjustments in a configuration that resulted in compatibility. Something else wonderful Jeff let me do was revise my wireless password. For ten years, it had been the name of a former friend’s cat, an animal that has long since died. At the time I named it after that cat, at the former friend’s insistence, had I known I would be stuck living with that cat’s name as my wireless password in perpetuity, I would have put a tad more thought into this.

When I set up my digital antenna, I was dismayed to discover that I could only access four obscure stations in New Jersey. After nine more tries, I was able to access ABC, provided I place the antenna on a pillow on my bed while shaking my right knee and positioning my left thumb at a right angle. When I blinked, I lost access to the four obscure stations in New Jersey. I suspect that this antenna could be challenging for the long haul, or until Milton visits and tries to work his magic on it. One thing I do not want to do is pay for cable ever again.

I accepted my friend Beagle’s generous offer to sponge off her Amazon Prime i.d. as long as I promise that I will refrain from ordering porn. Fair enough.

Einstein, the Smart TV getting ready to show off.

My Smart TV ready to flaunt its inner Einstein.

Lame Adventure 424: Gay Pride 2014

For the fifth year in a row I have attended Gay Pride with my dear friend, Milton. This celebration in lower Manhattan is the largest Gay Pride event in the country, and probably the world. Together, he and I photograph the march to share it with the Lame Adventures audience. Each year, Pride seems to have more corporate sponsors vying for the LGBT dollar, more politicians attending, signifying the value of the LGBT vote, and an ever growing crowd of marchers participating, many dressed in ordinary street clothes anemically waving a rainbow flag. Milton misses the old days when the majority of the participants were flamboyant. He has concluded that with more and more states allowing same sex marriage:

Milton: We’ve become as boring as everyone else.

Have we?

Glam Dyke on Bike at parade's start.

Glam Dyke on Bike at parade’s start.

Dyke on Bike getting spray misted by Tiny Tim lookalike.

Dyke on Bike getting spray misted by Tiny Tim lookalike.

Obviously, three nipples and one pink flamingo.

Obviously, three nipples and one pink flamingo.

Eagle Scout: the Boy Scouts had quite a presence in this year's festivities.

Eagle Scout: the Boy Scouts had quite a presence in this year’s festivities.

Angel in America.

Angel in America.

Bert and Ernie marching.

Bert and Ernie marching hand in hand.

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio marching with his daughter, Chiara.

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio marching with his daughter, Chiara.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, a regular Pride attendee.

New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, a regular Pride attendee.

Grand Marshall actor Jonathan Groff.

Grand Marshall actor Jonathan Groff.

Grand Marshall Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Grand Marshall Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

"Orange is the New Black" float, substitute image for third Grand Marshall, LaVerne Cox, a member of that show's cast.

“Orange is the New Black” float, substitute image for third Grand Marshall, Laverne Cox, a member of that TV show’s cast.

Masked Man with Fishnets Friend.

Masked Man with Fishnets Friend.

Masked Man's no heel shoes that Milton found particularly fascinating.

Masked Man’s no heel shoes that Milton found particularly fascinating.

Pretty girls.

Pretty girls. Focusing on them caused me to miss photographing Edie Windsor.

Laser beam stare.

Laser beam stare.

Yes, that is a live bird atop this green bearded bloke's head.

Yes, that is a live bird atop this green bearded bloke’s head.

Live cat atop this guy's head.

Live cat atop this guy’s head.

Getup purchased with a gold card?

Getup purchased with a gold card?

Doing as the Romans do in New York City.

Doing as the Romans do in New York City.

The gladiators are here.

The gladiators are here.

The gay crusader.

The gay crusader.

Gay Yankee ingenuity when you lack a rear pocket.

Gay Yankee ingenuity when you lack a rear pocket.

Rainbow fan girl.

Rainbow fan girl.

Hello!

Hello!

Lesbian and proud, or just stretching her arm.

Lesbian and proud, or just stretching her arm.

Man in yellow literally leaving little to the imagination.

Man in yellow literally leaving little to the imagination.

Hello sailor.

Hello sailor.

Joyous cop.

Joyous cop.

Fleet of foot flag waver.

Fleet of foot flag waver.

Marching incognito.

Marching incognito.

Peacock.

Peacock.

Peacock network banner and a sign of corporate sponsorship.

Peacock network banner and a sign of corporate sponsorship.

Rainbow flag gown. What will they think of next?

Rainbow flag gown. What will they think of next?

Next is here. Hello Beardonna.

Next is here. Hello Beardonna.

Corporate sponsor Mastercard.

Corporate sponsor Mastercard.

Mastering the possibilities.

Mastering the possibilities.

Twerking.

Twerking.

Power pumping the asphalts in pink pumps

Power pumping the asphalt in pink pumps.

Splits and pass us the Aleve.

Splits and pass us the Aleve.

Dancing in the street.

Dancing in the street.

Starred and labeled.

Starred and labeled.

Magnificent!

Magnificent!

Didn't see that coming!

Didn’t see that coming!

Shirtless fellows in rainbow socks.

Shirtless fellows in rainbow socks.

Old Blue and Lavender Hairs.

Old Blue and Lavender Hairs.

Pretty in pink.

Pretty in pink.

Serena Williams cross-bred Ronald McDonald.

Serena Williams cross-bred with Ronald McDonald.

Gay dads with kids.

Gay dads with kids.

Guys in red boxers gyrating on float.

Muscle Beach guys in red boxers gyrating on float.

Israel float and Michael Lucas.

Israel float and Michael Lucas.

Attitude Man.

Attitude Man.

Everyone say cheese and keep your wings still.

Everyone say cheese and keep your wings still.

Nice to know.

Nice to know.

Butterflies aren't free.

Butterflies aren’t free.

Apparently  Pride was watered its way down to Walmart.

Apparently Pride has watered its way down to Walmart.

Gotcha! Shooting the crowd!

Gotcha shooting the crowd.

 

Lame Adventure 423: Chew on This

Recently, I traveled to the land of my living ancestors: San Francisco. For much of the week before I left Manhattan, I diligently prepared for my getaway. I thoroughly cleaned my sanctum sanctorum, did laundry and made sure all of my bills were paid. I had even placed my Father’s Day card in my duffel bag weeks in advance, so there was no way I would forget to take it.

Hearts and flowers-free sentiment.

Hearts and flowers-free sentiment.

As sentimental as I get.

As sentimental as I get.

The pre-planning for my trip went spectacularly. I even remembered to get gum.

Gum is an issue with me. I am not a gum chewer. I don’t like the taste and I think that chewing it plays Russian roulette with my dental work. But, I always chew gum during take off and landing because the plane’s cabin pressure wreaks havoc with my ears. One of the consequences of not being an aggressive gum chewer is forgetting to pick up gum. As a passive gum chewer I often have to purchase it at the airport and pay more. This time, not only did I remember to pick up gum in advance, I considered where to get it.

Instead of going to my neighborhood everything store, Duane Reade, I decided I would try the guy at my corner newsstand. I was in the mood to bargain. His selection is vast. Instantly, I was overwhelmed. I knew I would prefer a minty flavor, but when I started reading the ingredients, it all looked like a nauseating concoction of chemicals. I have been eating predominantly organic all year to compliment my fitness routine. I didn’t want to put any of this crap in my mouth, but I had no choice due to my ear situation. So, I relented and decided to go with original flavor Trident.

Newstand Seller: A dollar fifty.

Me: Really? Are all of these a dollar fifty?

He pointed at a few packs of bubble gum.

Newstand Seller: These are a dollar.

Me: Well, that’s a drag. I don’t chew bubble gum. In fact, I don’t chew any gum. I’m just getting it because I’m flying on a plane.

I put the Trident back. He reached down and handed me a pack of Stride Sugarfree Sweet Peppermint flavor.

Stride.

Stride.

Newstand Seller: You can have this one for a dollar.

I bought the bargain pack of Stride that reeked of mint and headed over to the laundromat to fold my clothes. As I’m folding I start thinking about my pack of bargain gum. I realize that I’m so unfamiliar with Stride, in my head I’m referring to it as Strive. As I am securing my socks (none went missing this load; I felt victorious over the machine), I wondered:

Me: Did he sell me that pack of Strive for less because it’s made in China? Could a key ingredient be lead?

Suddenly, I feared deplaning with incubating stage three tongue cancer. Is it conceivable that I’ll say hello to my sister upon arrival and goodbye to my sex life upon return?

It appears that Mondelez Global LLC manufactures Stride in East Hanover, New Jersey. Even though every ingredient sounds straight out of a mad scientist’s laboratory, Stride has its own Wikipedia page, which eases my mind considerably.

Ugh.

Ugh.

That makes no sense since Ebola, phenylalanine, and possibly one of my ancestors, (the) Village Idiot, have their own entries, too.

About phenylalanine, that’s in my pack of Stride. But why? It’s an amino acid that’s found naturally in breast milk, but unnaturally in gum for complicated reasons that almost make my head explode. One thing I know for certain: I am not going to put Stride in my pie-hole.

Hey look, a pigeon was on the ferry to Angel Island!

Hey look, a pigeon was on the ferry to Angel Island!

Angel Island with (possibly) pigeon-free sailboats in foreground.

Angel Island with (possibly) pigeon-free sailboats in foreground.

So, I visit the organic department of my market, Fairway, where I unload $2.38 on two packs of made-in-Rhode Island Glee Gum. It’s aspartame free with no artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners or preservatives and “made with Chicle for rainforest conservation”. Excluding the “resinous glaze, beeswax and carnauba wax”, coupled with the sky-high probability that Glee Gum is a frontrunner in the Department of Tooth Decay, it seems like a safe alternative to the oral deathtrap that is Stride. After balking about paying a dollar fifty for a pack of Trident, I end up paying $3.38 total for three packs of gum to chew on the plane.

Glee gum with little guy who does not look glum like purchaser.

Glee Gum with happy dancing little guy who does not look glum like Glee Gum purchaser.

Appropriately, I have no idea what I did with that pack of Stride. Hopefully, it did not fall behind a chair and is now in the process of burning a mint-scented hole in my carpet.

Thurber the family dog, "Your gum problems are so first world."

Thurber the family dog, “Your gum problems are so first world.”

Lame Adventure 422: Eulogy for The Flusher

The Flusher was not the type of tenant inclined to smell the fragrant roses that bloomed last week in my apartment building’s garden.

In bloom!

In bloom!

Nor was he the type who would appreciate this sign that was recently posted over our mailboxes.

Happy House notice.

Happy House notice.

He was the antithesis of friendly, the embodiment of prickly, with an accent on the first syllable. When I first encountered him in my building’s vestibule almost 31 years ago, I was 24 and he, 42. I made the mistake of saying hi. He narrowed his eyes trying to focus on where this offensive sound had emanated even though I was standing right in front of him. His forehead looked reminiscent of a slab of slowly melting Monterey Jack. He growled with a heavy German accent:

The Flusher: Fuck you.

Contempt was not the response I was anticipating. I became friends with The Flusher’s next door neighbor, Paul, the tenant in 2D, or as he called it:

Paul: Too delicious!

Paul was a kind-hearted, gay, 33-year-old photographer and my all-time favorite fellow tenant. He dished about The Flusher.

Paul: He’s the building menace. He hates everyone. He’s always threatening to shoot me. Have you heard him screaming yet?

Me: I don’t think so.

Paul: You will — and honey, you’ll know it when you hear it.

Me: Do you ever talk to him?

Paul: I’ve only spoken six words to him in my life: shut up, shut up, you asshole.

The Flusher had been a tenant probably since the Sixties. His lease was rent controlled so what he paid in an entire year was considerably less than what other tenants pay per month. He was a solidly built, pasty white, compact man with the classic bad comb-over. He wore the same uniform every time I saw him — a short sleeve, plaid, button down shirt, faded blue jeans — about an inch and a half too short, white socks and black oxfords. When the weather was cool, he wore a black satin baseball jacket emblazoned with the New York Times logo. Paul told me that he worked at the Times.

Me: What does he do?

Paul: Probably folds section c.

Around the time Paul succumbed from AIDS in 1986, The Flusher and I locked horns on a workday morning. I was blindsided when he detonated while I was doing my usual morning work-out, claiming it was too loud. This prompted him to bang on my door, ring my buzzer, call me “a fucking kike” and promise to kill me. It was surreal. It was the same workout I had been doing for years. I didn’t suddenly add a jackhammer to it. Even though I’m not Jewish, I was feeling very threatened, afraid that he might be lurking outside my door. I called the cops.

The police came quickly, a white male and a black female. I told them my side, they went down to visit The Flusher to hear his, but he wouldn’t open his door. When he finally relented and let them in, the black female cop asked:

Black Female Cop: Sir, have you been drinking?

The obvious answer was yes but he denied it. She disagreed. He disagreed back and called her the N-word. I thought for sure that they would cuff him then and there, but they didn’t. They sternly warned him to stay away from me, or face arrest. He never came banging or buzzing on my door again.

But he continued to harass other tenants. He also liked to curse loudly out his window at people in neighboring buildings who would play music at back yard gatherings in summer. After Paul died, that started a revolving door of new victims for The Flusher to antagonize. His midnight hour screaming made tenancy short for whoever took up residence next door.

As for his name, The Flusher, a friend of mine came up with that moniker ten years ago. We were having dinner when we heard my downstairs neighbor flushing his toilet incessantly.

My Friend: What the hell is going on down there?

Me: Lately, he’s been flushing his toilet non-stop. Ignore it.

But my friend decided we should call him The Flusher. It was especially irritating when he’d get on a flushing tangent while I was showering. The flush would consume all of the cold water and I risked getting scalded. It had crossed my mind that he was so full of vitriol he was doing that intentionally.

When I would see The Flusher on the street, if he were walking ahead of me, I would slow my pace. If he were walking toward me, I’d cross to the other side. As for how he walked, his body lurched forward. It was an odd gait, perfect for an odd man. I warned my friends and sleepover guests that he was bad news and they should keep their distance. Drunk or sober his usual expression was a frown. Never once do I recall seeing him smile. He was always alone.

About twenty years ago, his apartment door was open, allowing a glimpse inside. It was very dark. Hanging over the non-working fireplace mantle was a mirror with multiple cracks that extended from a bullet hole in the center. He was always threatening people with gun violence so maybe he shot his mirror.

Sometimes as I would be leaving for work, I’d see him coming home, carrying a six-pack of Budweiser.

Pioneer Market on Columbus Avenue, shithole market with great prices on beer: The Flusher's go-to retailer.

Pioneer Market on Columbus Avenue, market with great prices on beer: The Flusher’s go-to retailer.

Other times, particularly on sunny days, I’d see him out walking, carrying a slender paperback book. Possibly he had been re-reading the same novel for decades too soused to recall the story.

About a year ago, I noticed that he was looking gaunt. I suspected that he was ill. Last fall, I was going out as he was coming in. He was wearing his old black satin New York Times jacket. Normally, he would just walk by me, but this time, he waited and held the door for me. This simple act of common courtesy from someone so hostile surprised me as much as when he told me “Fuck you” thirty years earlier. I said:

Me: Thanks.

Maybe that was his way of saying he was sorry that he had been a dick toward me for thirty years. Or maybe because he was sober he was just being courteous.

My building’s management discovered The Flusher dead last week on the floor of his apartment. He was 73. The tenant below reported that water was leaking. The Flusher had left his faucet running. Possibly he was too weak to resume a final hurrah of constant toilet flushing. His mail had piled in the vestibule all month, but it did not occur to anyone that he was home, gravely ill and unable to climb down the flight of stairs to get it. It seems that he has no friends or family so the police have sealed his apartment pending a routine investigation.

NYPD DOA premises seal on The Flusher's door.

NYPD DOA premises seal on The Flusher’s door.

I spoke with the woman who co-manages my building about him. She is gracious and friendly. He was always nasty to her.

Co-manager: He was an old man, he was sick and he died alone. I should feel sorry for him because he was a human being, but my cat’s sick right now and I’m so worried.

Me: I’m sure your cat is a lot nicer to you than he ever was.

She asked if I remembered when I last saw The Flusher. I said I didn’t. She said that she couldn’t either, but he paid his May rent. It’s possible that was the last time he stepped out of his garret.

The Flusher's pile of mail.

The Flusher’s pile of mail.

This pathetic misanthrope, who was loathed by every resident and building management, who suffered a lonely and agonizing death, will soon be forgotten. But that’s where Lame Adventures enters the picture. I Google searched The Flusher expecting to find nothing, but I discovered that this belligerent drunk, who was quick to spew racial slurs and seemed to detest anyone of color, LGBT or human, contributed $3,750 to the Democratic Party in 2012, including $250 to Elizabeth Warren’s campaign. I expected to discover that he was an NRA cheerleader, a white supremacist, or both. Even though I  shared two words of civility with him thirty years apart, I now know that he was not a total douche bag after all. In tribute to The Flusher, I will now flush my toilet.

Dean man's door.

Dead man’s door.

Lame Adventure 421: My First Love

This isn’t the tale about the fetching ten-year-old blue-eyed blonde haired Latina vixen waiting to kick my ass in the schoolyard, encouraged by a devious sixth grader who claimed that I was sweet on her boyfriend, a guy with as much appeal to me as a dented hubcap. Vixen perched on the flagpole’s concrete base eating her breakfast: Fritos. When I entered the playground she called me over by my last name. I sensed danger; she was the type that reeked attitude. She also didn’t talk to innocuous kids like me. Even though I was a year older, she towered over me, a whippet thin and pasty white comic-bookworm. I kept my cool, walked over and groused, “Yeah, what?” My lack of intimidation threw her off her tough girl game. I might have been small but I was feisty, confident that I could talk my way out of this predicament. She got nervous and stammered, “You, you, you like Richie! I don’t like that!” I looked her straight in the eyes and said in a definitive tone, “You’re mistaken. I don’t like him.” Even though her complexion was dark olive, her face flushed crimson. I thought she was the prettiest girl I had ever seen in my eleven years. She was flummoxed, unsure of what to do next. It was a standoff. I wondered if I was about to say ‘adios’ to my teeth. Instead, she offered me her Fritos. We also shared chemistry and she ditched Richie. Decades later, I’m still finding same sex love in the most unlikely places, but to reiterate, this tale is not about that, it’s about another of my life long passions: animation.

When I was a kid growing up in San Francisco, I had a steady diet of Saturday morning cartoons with my favorites being any fare pumped out by Warner Brothers — Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes. When I reached my teens in the Seventies I caught a screening of Disney’s Fantasia at the Larkin, a movie house that seemed determined to play the re-release of this masterpiece in perpetuity. It featured the early work of the animator John Hubley. He participated on “The Rite of Spring” segment. At that time I was enrolled in the Teenage Animation Workshop at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Not only did kids get hands on experience animating their own films, the instructors enlightened us about the pioneers of the craft, including Hubley, whose frequent collaborator was his wife, Faith.

Hubley left Disney in 1941 during the animators’ strike. Next, he joined United Productions of America where he created Mr. Magoo, based on an uncle. Due to the blacklist, he was forced to leave UPA because he refused to name names before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Next, he founded his own company, Storyboard Studios. There, he made animated TV commercials, including the Maypo cereal ads.

With Faith, he continued to direct his own independent animated films, films that resonated with me. They often featured soundtracks with jazz greats. My favorite Hubley film is a timeless six-minute impressionistic love story made in 1958 called The Tender Game. The soundtrack features the Oscar Peterson Trio with Ella Fitzgerald delivering a satin smooth vocal on the song, Tenderly.

When I first saw this film about forty years ago, I was certain I wanted to be an animator. When I informed my mother about my goal, her reaction was comparable to what a mom of today might think if her daughter announced that she aspired to be a pole dancer. 1974 was decades before the arrival of Pixar. Animation, particularly the independent style of animation, was a guaranteed one-way ticket to the poorhouse. My mother feared that she and my father would be stuck supporting me forever. In college, I shifted gears and earned my degree in live action filmmaking. I worked for almost ten years in TV commercial film production. Eventually, I lost interest in making films on my own, preferring to write unmarketable screenplays.

In honor of the centennial of John Hubley’s birth, Manhattan’s Film Forum is holding two tribute screenings of his work. The first screening, this past Tuesday, included The Tender Game.

Ray Hubley delivering an introduction about his father before the screening.

Ray Hubley delivering an introduction about his father before the screening.

I attended with my colleague, Godsend. It was a delight to see this classic short in a pristine 35 mm color print.

When an event is shown for one screening it doesn't make the marquee.

Film Forum under blue skies.

Considering that this weekend starts summer, and all the promises that come during the warm weather months, embedded below is a crummy quality YouTube video of The Tender Game. The story is set in the fall, but falling in love is not seasonal, unless I missed that memo. Even though the characters are abstract the emotion is familiar, and the overall effect is quite charming.

 

Lame Adventure 420: Springtime Spewing

Three months ago I looked down my block and it looked like this.

Cold and snowy February.

Cold and snowy February night.

On Sunday it looked liked that.

Warm and sunny May.

Warm and sunny May afternoon.

When the weather is warm, sunny and the humidity is low, it’s the perfect time to go outside and take a hike in the hood, which is exactly what I did.

Stop raising plows!

Stop raising snow plows!

Toss that snow shovel away!

Toss that snow shovel away!

Sit the flowers on the sill.

Sit the flowers on the sill.

Upper West Side water towers looking good against a clear blue sky.

Ogle a water tower or two.

Last week, on a lovely spring day, my friend, Coco, noticed this magnificent tree that is growing on the West Side Highway at Canal Street.

Coco's magnificent tree.

Coco’s magnificent tree.

This prompted yet another in our ongoing series of philosophical text exchanges.

Exchange of deep thoughts.

Exchange of deep thoughts.

For those of you who read this site for its vast educational component, Coco accessed her inner dendrologist and has since learned that it is a Redbud tree.

I’ll admit it: I have some quirks. I fantasized about eating cigars as a small-fry thinking that tobacco tasted like chocolate. I started reading the obits at age ten. Whenever I see a ticket stub on the sidewalk I try to see what event it is for — but I don’t flip the stub over.

Frustrating.

Frustrating.

I also pay fairly close attention to my small change.

Recently, when I was purchasing carrots, kale and bananas in my market’s organic department, I needed a penny to complete the transaction. As I was digging through my coin purse, I noticed that I had a wheat penny. No way was I going to part with that special cent, even though the clerk insisted I do so.

Me: No, I can’t spend that one. It’s from 1920.

I pulled the year 1920 out of thin air. I had no idea of that penny’s vintage. The clerk gave me a look that screamed:

Clerk’s look: Nerd!

It takes more than a hairy eyeball to intimidate me. If she wielded a bat, knife, or surface to air missile, then I would have handed her the entire contents of my wallet and a kidney. But, the transaction reached a peaceful conclusion. It so happened that my wheat penny was not from 1920. It was from 1918. Woodrow Wilson was president. The most popular film that year was Tarzan of the Apes starring Elmo Lincoln. (Who?) The second most popular film was the infinitely more intriguing sounding I Don’t Want to Be a Man directed by Ernst Lubitsch about a crossdressing teenage girl who thinks she can have more fun being a guy.

My 1918 penny.

My 1918 penny.

How often does one have a 96-year-old penny in one’s change? Apparently I have one in the 288,104,000 that were minted in 1918. Hold the smelling salts.

I realize that this one one-hundredth of a dollar is showing its 96 years and would never be mistaken with being US mint factory fresh. But it’s been out on the front lines of the world for nearly a century, except maybe when it sat neglected in Hubert’s sock drawer for three years starting in 1936 and then it was stuck in Ida and Ralph’s couch cushions for a decade that began in 1954. Those periods of isolationism aside, it’s been kicked around proving that it’s a coin that can withstand the test of time, it’s a sliver of copper with character. How admirable. Can we say that about the nickels, dimes and pennies in our usual change?

Therefore, it was disheartening to learn that its value is only somewhere between four and forty-five cents today. How can that be? If only this heavily battered and bruised cent, tattooed with nine decades and six years of wear and tear could enter a time machine that reveals all the pockets, change purses, sidewalks, fountains, cash registers, piggy banks and occasional loafer (leather and human) it’s been in. Its many encounters with the rich, the famous, the notorious, the historical, the obscure, and now me, the hysterically insignificant, then it could come full circle and reap the respect this common but rather rare vintage of coin still floating around Manhattan island in 2014 deserves. Then, it could skyrocket in value, merit being displayed under glass and finance my retirement … or possibly just some organic carrots, kale and bananas. I’ll settle for free groceries.

1918-ish looking street lamp and flag displaying a Bill Cunningham photography exhibit at the New York Historical Society.

1918-ish looking street lamp with banner for a Bill Cunningham photography exhibit at the New York Historical Society.