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.



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.



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.



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.

Lame Adventure 419: The B Word

The b word I have in mind is birthday. Mine occurred on Sunday. This is the first birthday in forever that I am physically fit. On December 30th, I stopped eating like a starving hog and started riding a spin bike for 40 minutes four days a week. I’ve been a barnacle to my diet and exercise routine. As a result, I’ve shed a dozen pounds, went down a pant size and rediscovered my waistline. When I glimpse myself naked in the mirror my immediate thought is no longer:

Me: Ugh, I’ve gotta do something about that.

Now that I’ve returned to being lean, I wonder:

Me: Why are you still single?

Another dividend of de-flabbing is that I have much more energy and I feel much less cranky. On Saturday, I was walking down my block when I encountered a squirrel. We made meaningful eye contact. I dug my hand into my pocket. The squirrel looked hopeful. I took out my iPhone. The squirrel realized that I was a useless source for treats, scampered under a shrub and dug out a snack from its stash. The critter then hopped onto a ledge and struck a pose.

Last critter photographed at 54.

Last cute critter photograph at 54.

I snapped a shot. A woman approached:

Woman: What’s he eating?

The Old Me: How the hell do I know? Do I look like a squirrel-ologist?

Now that I’m mellow I’ve muted my snark. If she was lesbian and we had chemistry, this could have been a brilliant way to meet: bonding over a charming rodent nibbling God-knows-what.

As for my birthday, I’m not big on celebrating, but I appreciate low-key acknowledgment. My friends and family know that I’m not into gifts. My bud, Coco, once remarked in sheer exasperation:

Coco: You’re the hardest person in the world to get a black tee shirt for.

I welcome cards and my annual birthday cake at The Grind. This year, I wanted a pie, specifically an apple pie. My boss, Elspeth, opened her wallet, and my colleague, Godsend, ordered the exact pie I craved: crumb topped from Billy’s Bakery. Billy’s is known for their cakes, but note this fellow pie enthusiasts: Billy’s crumb topped apple pie is superb.

Birthday pie.

Birthday pie.

My birthday wouldn’t be complete without attending the theater with Milton. This weekend, we saw two plays on Broadway. As I power slept on Saturday he rose at daybreak to wait in line for $29 rush seat tickets to The Velocity of Autumn, a one act play starring Estelle Parsons and Stephen Spinella.

Pre-theater crowd waiting to enter.

Pre-theater crowd waiting to enter.

It’s a very moving, unsentimental story about a middle age son trying to talk his elderly mother out of blowing up her Brooklyn brownstone with one hundred Molotov cocktails she has scattered throughout her home in defiance of his siblings demand that she enter assisted living. It is not a comedy, but it is packed with hilarious jokes. It strikes many chords about aging whether you’re 85 or 55.

86-year-old Estelle Parsons delivered a knockout performance as the mother. She was nominated for the Best Actress Tony award last week. Ticket sales were slow so the producers closed the show on Sunday. Because time was running out to see it, Milton hightailed to the Booth Theatre’s box office in pursuit of the cheap seats. He scored third row orchestra, but was warned that they were partial view, proving the new adage that skinflints can’t be choosers. When we got to our row C seats that hugged the theater’s wall, Milton gasped in terror:

Milton: What an angle!



Fortunately, when the curtain lifted, the view was good. Milton declared:

Milton: I would gladly pay $29 to see every show on Broadway from this seat.

Stephen Spinella and Estelle Parson at curtain call.

Stephen Spinella and Estelle Parsons at curtain call.

On Sunday, my birthday proper, we saw Of Mice and Men starring James Franco and Chris O’Dowd. We bought those tickets in January. The theater was packed with young women, many probably attending a Broadway play for the first time. But they behaved. No one screamed or threw her underwear at the leading men.

Pre-theater crowd entering the Longacre Theater.

Pre-theater crowd outside the Longacre Theater.

Ben Brantley of the New York Times gave this inspired revival a bitchy review. He ridiculously compared James Franco to Yosemite Sam. Milton said that for film stars that had never performed on Broadway, both gave very solid performances. We thought it was entertaining. Furthermore, Milton never once complained about having to climb 51 stairs up to the balcony.

First pigeon photograph at 55.

First crummy pigeon photograph at 55.

This year is off to a great start.

Lame Adventure 418: Stair Crazy

My friend, Milton, is trying to come to grips with having to climb 79 steps to see the Broadway play, The Realistic Joneses, from the balcony of the Lyceum Theatre next month. Looking as if he’d just seen Donald Trump pre-elaborate comb over, he groused:

Milton: That’s like climbing five flights.

When Milton mentioned five flights that struck a chord with me. I have climbed up and down five flights every day over the course of the nearly ten years I have been employed at The Grind. During any given work day I scamper up and down those stairs several times. When I left on Friday night with my colleague, Godsend, we counted the steps. They numbered 84. That’s a heart attack waiting to happen for those that do not ride a clothes rack that doubles as a spin bike.

Excluding weekends, vacation time and holidays, I whipped out my abacus and calculated that I easily climb 50,000 steps every year at my place of employ. Multiply that by ten years and the total is half a million steps. And that’s a conservative estimate. But why stop with the stairs I climb while at The Grind? What about the stairs I climb on my way there, leaving my sanctum sanctorum (a third floor walk-up: 34 steps) and entering the 72nd Street subway station (26 steps), then exiting the Franklin Street subway station (26 more steps)? Coupled with doubling those numbers for my return trip, that adds another 40,000 steps to the equation. In essence, over the course of the past ten years, I have climbed at least 900,000 work-related steps. In reality, the number is probably much closer to a million steps. Too bad I’m not paid a dollar per step.

Downtown 72nd Street subway station staircase I have climbed down countful (considering the nature of this post) times.

Downtown 72nd Street subway station staircase I have climbed down countful (considering the nature of this post) times.

Then, I turned my focus to my third floor walk-up apartment, where I have resided close to 31 years. I calculated that I have easily climbed up and down over three million sanctum sanctorum-related steps these past three decades.

Some of the less than magic carpeted stairs in my sanctum sanctorum.

Some of the less than magic carpeted stairs in my sanctum sanctorum.

What about my childhood? My childhood home had three levels and my room was on the top floor. There were approximately eighteen steps in that climb, a climb I made numerous times over the course of twenty-one years. The conservative estimate is a million steps climbed. Impressive for a slacker.

As for when I was an undergraduate Film student at NYU(seless), my dorm room was on the fourth floor. I took the stairs, so let’s toss in another 40,000 steps scaled there. I recall that I rode an elevator to get to most of my classes. That’s about all I remember from my illustrious film school education and probably explains why I make my living labeling tile today.

When I worked a completely thankless job for eleven years in broadcast news, my office was on the sixth floor. I would ride the elevator up but walk the six flights down when I took my lunch break and left for the day. I never thought to count those steps possibly because my attention was focused on how much I hated working in broadcast news. Today, my friend, Coco, lives on the top floor of a six-floor walkup. I asked her to count the stairs to her lair.

Coco: There are 80 lovely steps. I pray there is never a fire.

Over the course of those eleven years I worked in broadcast news, often six-day weeks, I climbed down approximately 80 stairs twice a day. If I worked a five-day week, factoring in three weeks vacation and time off (we always had to work holidays in news) that would be at least 440,000 steps climbed over eleven miserable years. The figure probably well exceeds 500,000 steps considering how many weekends I had to work.

In conclusion I have calculated that over the course of my entire life thus far, I have climbed the following steps:

Childhood Home 21 years (excluding from birth to age two): 1 million

College dorm room 1 year: 40,000

Manhattan apartment 31 years: 3 million

Miserable broadcast news job 11 years: 500,000

The Grind (including commute) 10 years: 1 million

Miscellaneous: 2 million*

Example of miscellaneous steps: steps leading into off-Broadway theater bathroom.

Example of miscellaneous steps: steps leading into off-Broadway theater bathroom.

*Figure pulled completely out of thin air.

It seems that I have climbed in the vicinity of 8 million steps in the course of my life. This achievement reminds me that the staircase is a great design wonder like the wheel or the shoebox, coincidentally another name for my apartment. Possibly after Milton reads this post he’ll feel less grumpy about having to climb 158 steps (79 up and 79 down) when we see that hit comedy play. Or, this will further remind him about how much he resents the theater’s lack of another great invention: the escalator.

Lame Adventure 417: Theater Karma

As much as I love theater, I hate the ticket prices. But, it is my passion so I try to see as many plays as I can for bottom dollar. Volunteer ushering off-Broadway plays has allowed me to see three of the last five Pulitzer prize winning shows for free. Unfortunately, Broadway does not allow volunteer ushers. About a week ago, Milton, sent me an email asking about The Realistic Joneses a 95 minute hit comedy written by Will Eno playing on Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre. The poster features a dead squirrel lying atop a mailbox.

Eye catching poster.

Eye catching poster.

Milton wrote:

Milton: Are you interested in this?

Is grass green, is the pope Catholic, does New York stink in summer? Sign us up! Because we are both of modest means, we agreed that we would settle for balcony seats to the tune of $39 each. We’re not wild about seeing it from the proximity of Canada, but at least we’re getting to see it. The ticket seller asked:

Ticket seller: Can you handle climbing seventy-nine steps?

Me (thinking): Is this a test, should I be insulted, can she not see that I am the icon of fitness for my age demographic?

Me (answering): Yes, absolutely!

As soon as I spoke I imagined Milton screaming:

Milton: I’ve got to walk up seventy-nine fuckin’ steps?

We’re not seeing it for another month, so he has four weeks to prepare himself mentally and physically for this challenge.

As I walked past the Cort Theater, where a revival of Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan starring Daniel Radcliffe, was in previews, I noticed a sign on the door announcing the $37 rush ticket policy.

Head turning sign.

Head turning sign.

I asked the ticket seller how soon one should get in line for rush tickets for weekend performances.

Ticket seller: I’d say an hour would be fine. No one is aware of the rush policy yet. The sign was just posted today.

When that play was staged in London, where it also starred Radcliffe, it was a huge hit. The run sold out. Word travels fast in New York. I had seen this play five years ago off-Broadway for free when I ushered it. I loved it. It is a black comedy set in 1934 Inishmaan, an island in Ireland, where nothing much happens. Even the gossip is dull. One day a film crew arrives. That causes tremendous excitement, but no one is more excited than Billy, the cripple in the title, whose favorite pastimes are reading and staring at cows. It’s a tale packed with idiocy, cruelty, redemption and a lot of wit. It’s a guaranteed crowd pleaser.

I had a feeling that it would get rave reviews here and then I learned that it was opening this weekend, on Sunday. Once the raves pour in, getting weekend rush tickets might require getting in line several hours in advance. The weekends are when I power sleep. So Milton took sleep deprivation upon himself and got into the rush line this past Saturday at 8:52 in the morning waiting for the box office to open at 10 am. At 10:09 am, while I was deep in REM sleep, he emailed me that we got tickets to that evening’s final preview performance at 8 pm.

Cort marquee.

Cort marquee.

Our seats were in the center orchestra, row AA. That’s directly in front of the stage. We could almost eat the styrofoam painted to look like Inishmaan’s sea wall.

We resisted biting into the stage. We figured it does not taste like chicken.

We resisted biting into the stage. We figured it does not taste like chicken.

I asked Milton what he thought the seats behind us cost.

Milton: $400.

As for the play itself, the story was as wonderful as I remembered. The supporting cast was brilliant. The way one actress repeatedly delivers the three-word line, “Not a word” blew what remains of Milton’s mind. Daniel Radcliffe was a far prettier Billy than Aaron Monaghan, who I thought was perfect in the role five years ago. Milton was impressed with Radcliffe’s gay male following in attendance, but he thought that Radcliffe was the weak link in the production. Yet, his star power guarantees box office sales. He is adequate in the role. To his credit, he doesn’t chew the scenery. Overall, we were entertained.

When we were leaving the theater, a woman who probably paid ten times what we paid for her ticket, found my iPhone. Unbeknownst to me, it had slipped out of my pocket and she noticed. Afterward, at a pub, the bartender bought us our second round of suds. Overall, it was an excellent night. The play opened on Sunday to the rave reviews I anticipated.

Bring on that dead squirrel!