Lame Adventure 409: Unloading the Kangaroo

Last November, I revealed that my gastroenterologist urged me to shed a bowling ball and seven bananas in weight that I gained over the course of the previous four years. One or two of you may have wondered:

One or Two Lame Adventurers: How’s that going?

I was motivated to purchase a spin bike and a package of chocolate sea salt cookies. The cookies I inhaled quickly. A few weeks after the bike arrived, I got around to assembling it. As a reward for this accomplishment, I treated myself to a box of Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Stars cookies. It was the holiday season, that six-week period when I am eating and drinking myself into oblivion.

Assembled conversation piece.

Assembled conversation piece.

When I returned to New York from a West Coast getaway on December 28th, I did a Fairway run for foodstuffs, and purchased a new slice and bake cookie they make called the Kitchen Sink. This cookie is high octane. It has everything in it — chocolate, nuts, oats, raisins and maybe even a drain.

Yee ha!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My kind of cookie!

That evening, I dined with my buds, Milton and Coco. I mainlined a burger, fries and four pints of beer. The next day, Sunday, December 29th, I had a brunch date with my friend, Lola. I continued stuffing myself with gusto.

On Monday, December 30th, I glimpsed myself sideways naked. I looked like I had a baby kangaroo stuffed in my mid-section. Whatever was going on in there was nearing the point that no amount of black clothing could conceal. When I stepped on the scale the number was so sky high it was as if I was carrying the mothership kangaroo. There was no denying it: six-weeks of holiday season indulging resulted in my now having to lose an adult marsupial in weight. The time had come for me to ride that spin bike. I could no longer avoid it.

I popped in a DVD that came with the bike called Ultimate Energy. It’s described as “a fun and challenging ride while exploring the potential of your own power with smooth hills and seamless straight-aways”. It stars a Son of Stepford, an international fitness educator who never stops smiling or breaks a sweat. He doesn’t mention that if you’re middle aged and suffering late stage Fat Ass-itis, you will feel no fun — just a humiliating degree of challenge with a heaping help of suffering. When he declared in a perky tone “it’s okay to smile” as I was crying blood, I renamed this DVD Ultimate Cruelty.

When it was over, I was drenched in sweat and certain that I could never do this again for forty minutes. This bike was destined to be only a $449 clothes rack.

Multi-tasking spin bike.

Multi-tasking spin bike.

But, shortly afterward, the endorphins released and I felt that high I feel on those rare occasions when I have great sex i.e., coupling with someone who does not require begging from me. I thoroughly read the manual that came with the bike about dietary habits. Cookies, burgers and beer were omitted. The emphasis was on whole grains, fruit and vegetables and something that had completely escaped my mind over the course of the last four years: portion control.

I decided that it would behoove me to re-think my diet. I baked the Kitchen Sink cookies — but gave them to a guy at The Grind without eating one myself.

Christmas in January came to a guy who works on the floor above me.

Kitchen Sink Cookies: banished!

I am now eating primarily organic. It doesn’t cost much more because I’ve eliminated bagels, beer, and cookies from my shopping list. I have quit watching that Son of Stepford DVD. Apple’s iTunes Radio has a station called Rev Up that introduced me to heart rate soaring dance music rife with synthesizers and drum machines, exactly what I would have dismissed as aural pollution BS (Before Spinning). My favorite song to ride to is Maximal Crazy.

A song that makes shock therapy seem mellow.

A melody as mellow as shock treatment.

Even though I no longer pound four beers in a sitting, I have not become a healthy lifestyle fanatic. When I’m dining out with friends, I don’t announce:

Me: Just water and a plate of steamed leaves for me.

When I started spinning a month and a half ago, I did it three days a week. Two weeks in, Milton encouraged me to ride every other day. Now that I feel it is less likely that I will drop dead doing this, I am going to try riding it five days a week. Even though Coco, who is a buff gym rat, wishes I’d ditch the scale; she’s an advocate of how you feel over a number, thus far, I’ve shed seven pounds. I feel much less spongy and much more solid. Best of all, I no longer look like I’m carrying a large footed beast in my guts.

Lame Adventure 408: Hearing Things, Smelling Things, Seeing Things

It was bound to happen at some point in this winter of apparently endless snow: it’s playing tricks on what’s left of my mind. I seem to be in a perpetual snow-induced delirium. For example, I’ve been hearing things at The Grind: groaning and moaning in the walls as well as invisible pigeons cooing outside. Sometimes I hear hammering. I’m not sure if that’s in the walls, if it’s outside or maybe it’s inside my head? My colleague, Godsend, hears none of this. She has smelled things I cannot sniff. Sometimes gas, other times toast. She thinks I’m suffering aural hallucinations and predicts that I’ll be seeing things next.

Me: Oh, hardy, har, har. [pause] Hey, who’s that in the back of the room?

Godsend looks.

Godsend: Athena!

Athena is our industrial designer who’s worked with us almost two years.

Me: I know Athena! My mind’s not that shot. I just want to know who’s the guy near her that looks like Benjamin Franklin. Sheesh!

One thing I was certain I saw were two pigeons conjugating the verb on an air conditioner across from our building.

Me: Hey, Godsend, check out the pigeons screwing on the a/c!

Godsend: I don’t want to see pigeon porn!

Well, maybe you do.

This magic moment.

This magic moment.

A nano-second later: "Hey, do you happen to have a cigarette?"

A nano-second later: “Do you have a cigarette?”

On the way into The Grind on Monday, I recognized the graffiti smeared on the 2 Express train’s door. It’s not like it was very memorable graffiti, nor was it in the forefront of my thoughts since whenever it was that I last saw it, a period of time between 24 hours and 24 days earlier. For some reason, it stuck in my head.

Monogram in coffee, dried blood or was that once gravy?

Monogram in coffee, gravy or dried blood?

Subway rider who failed to read the memo that wearing ballet flats in 21 degree weather will not induce spring.

Subway rider who failed to read the memo that wearing ballet flats in 21 degree weather will not induce spring.

Recently, I saw one of my former next-door neighbors on the street, almost a year after he moved out. I made sure not to say hello. Why start acting friendly when we never acknowledged each other during the year he was singing loud and off-key through our shared wall? I may have said on more than one occasion at the top of my lungs:

Me: Please, shut the hell up! You’re torturing me!

One welcome sight I’m sure I glimpsed was this miniature Frosty on a brownstone’s stoop.

"I love this cold weather!"

“I love this cold weather!”

I thought it was a very New York City touch to use pennies for his eyes and belly button. If there’s any city in the country where people are inclined to throw money around, this is that place.

Lame Adventure 407: Bottomless Pit of Winter

The winter of Endless Snow is continuing here in New York City. The slushy, slippery, icy eight inches that fell on Monday produced ankle deep puddles requiring the wearing of all-terrain footwear. That dump set a record for February 3. Rah.  Maybe I mean:

Me: Blah already.

Milton's photo of City Hall Park looking pretty, but looks are deceiving. This is white Hell.

Milton’s photo of City Hall Park looking pretty, but looks are deceiving. This is white Hell.

Back in the day when I was a youngster growing up in foggy San Francisco, I had mental issues: I longed for snow. I yearned to touch it and ached to play in it. I fantasized about forming fluffy snowballs and building snowmen. But, I was stuck living in a place where all the seasons were moderate save for a few days in September when the Mercury might top 85. My family would grouse about the day or two of heat as if we were being held hostage in the Sahara. Then, in the distance, the familiar sight of a fog bank would roll over the bay into the city, my hair would morph back into a giant cloud of frizz, I would return to wearing a heavy wool sweater under my coat and all would be right in the world again.

Now I’m a middle age-ster haunted by one of my father’s favorite sayings:

Dad: Everything in moderation, nothing in excess.

At last count, he doled out that unsolicited slice of advice to my siblings and me 3,457 times until I had a light bulb when I was a teenager.

Me: Dad, if that’s true, then you’re excessively moderate.

He did not have a quick comeback to that unsolicited slice of snark.

Fast-forward to 1982 and my first winter living in New York. I was a film student at New York University who had no comprehension about how cold an East Coast winter could be. On a weekday in early December, I experienced my first snowfall. I looked out my dorm room window and was delighted to see snow falling softly. I raced outside with a few friends and ventured over to Washington Square Park. It did not take long for me to realize that snow felt exactly like crushed ice. I had a delusion that it would feel cottony soft and not so cold. In fact, cold was never a factor in my snowy fantasies. Snow is very cold. Freezing cold. So cold in fact, it burns. About an hour, or maybe it was just six minutes of getting familiar with my first New York City snowfall, snow starting getting old. Real fast. My fingers hurt, my toes and nose were frozen. My love affair with snow turned into the equivalent of a quickie without a kiss in a fleabag hotel.

Fast-forward to the present and this winter of seemingly endless snow. I looked out my window Monday morning and again saw the now familiar sight of sloppy wet flakes softly falling. I thought a rhetorical variation of my father’s old adage:

Me (thinking): This winter and all this snow is so excessive! Where the hell’s the moderation?

As if one can reason with weather. I got ready and raced outside to catch the subway to The Grind. I walked at my usual pace, a maniacal clip just short of eliciting a coronary. When I entered the station, the electronic message board announced that an express train was pulling up to the platform at that very moment. I hightailed down the steps and slithered into a jam-packed car just before the doors closed. I was pressed against the door with five other passengers intimately wedged against me as the train lurched forward. In incredibly uncomfortable situations like these, I remind myself that if everyone were naked, it would be ten thousand times worse. Then, my glasses fogged and I rode blind all the way to Times Square. At Times Square, when the doors opened, I stumbled out and shot across the platform to a local train that I rode the rest of the way. When I emerged from underground I walked the quarter block to my place of employ at warp speed to further escape the weather’s wrath. I proceeded to spend the entirety of my day safely tucked away behind bars, every so often looking out the window and hoping my commute home would not be screwed up by that bitch goddess, Mother Nature.

View from The Grind.

View from The Grind.

Winter has so lost its magic. Another eight inches could fall on Wednesday and a third dump this week is forecast for Sunday. How I’d love to ship this precipitation to the Sierra Nevada mountains for drought-stricken California.

Trees outside the 72nd Street subway station: look don't touch.

If I was still five, I’d want to eat that snow on the fence.

Frosted trees outside the 72nd Street subway station.

Frosted trees outside the 72nd Street subway station.

Island on 73rd Street I visit frequently.

Island on 73rd Street I visit frequently without sunblock.

Look but don't touch.

Pretty branches that will lose their luster when they break under the weight of this snow and the photographer gets killed.

Frozen bike with missing seat; maybe it's warming up indoors?

Frozen bike with missing seat; maybe it’s warming up indoors?

No obvious bags stuck in these trees.

No bags obviously stuck in these trees.

Sugar coated block - right.

Sugar coated block and marshmallow topped cars: sure.

Lame Adventure 406: Feather Headed

When I label a ton of bricks like I recently did all afternoon at The Grind my thoughts naturally stray from the mind-numbing task at hand and I start wondering. I wonder about what became of my grade school peers, people I primarily last saw in 1973 most of whom I loathed and whose names have faded from memory, but their acne and braces have real staying power. Are they now happy and fulfilled, or miserable and adrift? Do the girls look dowdy, have the guys lost their hair, how many of them are orphans, how many are dead themselves? On that uplifting note, my mind drifted in the direction of the somnambulant: what should I prepare for dinner, chicken with steamed spinach or fish with zucchini? To regain some semblance of consciousness, my thoughts shifted to a reliable source of pick-me-up: sex. But they landed there only for a moment; about the length of time it takes me to maintain interest having descended into being a magnet for women who are dedicated practitioners of room clearing halitosis. Instead of suggesting, “I’ll bring the wine” when invited over, would it be misinterpreted if I offered to bring the Listerine?

Suddenly my reverie was interrupted with a familiar musical interlude for those of you like me who find the frantic beating of pigeon wings on an air conditioner soothing. As I listened to the rock doves clamoring outside that were either passionately mating or engaging in a feather flying turf war, both acts uncannily sound equally aerobic, I thought:

Me: What a joyful noise!

According to this veteran avian observer, when pigeons party on the air conditioner like it’s 1999, that means that the temperature outside might actually be the unthinkable: above freezing. According to the New York Times, “By January’s end, if the forecast holds, there will have been 15 days with temperatures in the teens or lower.” By the Times’ count, January 2014 has had only  “roughly four days” with average temperatures. I checked the temperature on my phone and saw the unimaginable this winter. It was a balmy 45 degrees!

Balmy!

Balmy!

I thought:

Me: I could tear off my clothes and run around the block naked and screaming.

Then, I remembered that if I did that, there might be many clothed people screaming right back at me including my superior, Elspeth:

Elspeth: Put your clothes back on and finish labeling these bricks!

Of course three hours later, when it was quitting time, it had plummeted to 28 and I could not be clothed enough.

Chilly!

Chilly!

I informed my colleague, Godsend, that the temperature was once again in freefall. I accessed my inner Al Roker, minus the lap band, and forecast that it would be about 25 when she returned to Queens that evening. I warned her that the longer it would take her to get home, the lower it would go. If she delayed getting back until 2 am, it might only be 16. She assured me that she was going straight home. In fact, mentally, she seemed to be following my lead and had not shown up to The Grind at all that day.

Back to pigeons in winter, when they are not around, or worse, when they appear, but their feathers are puffy and they’re perched quietly, like this one planted outside my window over the weekend, when it was a bone chilling 18, then you know that’s a sure sign that it’s frigid cold again.

"What I'd give right now for a donut and for it to be 40 degrees."

“What I’d give right now for a doughnut and for it to be 40 degrees.” Me, too!

Lame Adventure 405: Window Undressing

Now that the holiday season is long gone, but Valentine’s Day is soon approaching, store windows are going in the hearts, flowers, candy, lingerie and pubic hair direction. Yes, you read that correctly. According to my pal, Coco, sheer lingerie over shag carpeting can be seen on display right now in the window of a downtown American Apparel store. You want proof, here it is.

The thinker.

The thinker.

Flaunting the furry friend.

Flaunting the furry friend.

Me: Hey, is that American Apparel store near a school? And I don’t mean NYUseless.

According to Coco, this display is at a store located on Manhattan’s Lower East Side on East Houston and Orchard Street.

Coco: It’s an American Apparel people pass on their way for pastrami or methadone.

Me: Well that’s comforting.

American Apparel is a clothing manufacturer, wholesaler and retailer that Dov Charney founded in 1989 when he was 20. On a positive note, all of the clothes are made in the USA. On the gag note, Charney has spearheaded several sleazy ad campaigns featuring scantily clad barely legal looking young women. These windows are not much of a surprise considering this company’s provocative style of marketing is a drooling horn dog’s paradise. Even if you’re not a drooling horn dog, when you see these ads, it’s easy to give them a double take before rinsing your eyeballs with bleach. Charney’s been hit with several sexual harassment suits from former employees. Five years ago, the company settled a $10 million lawsuit from Woody Allen to the tune of $5 million. Allen was incensed that Charney used images of him dressed like a rabbi from the film “Annie Hall” in one of his ads.

I suspect that most New Yorkers walking down the street who glimpse the sight of these mannequins in see-through underwear and retro 70s-era spectacles, reminiscent of the ones I wore in my sophomore year of high school, will follow Coco’s lead: guffaw, giggle and whip out their camera phones. But will they be compelled to enter the store to buy this underwear to model privately for their Valentine’s Day loves? Coco does not think a display of pubes is enough enticement to encourage smart shoppers to drop $25 on a pair of barely visible knickers. She walked on, but she did share a few other observations.

Coco: By the way, American Apparel is the first to have mannequins with nips. I don’t know what the bush is, but I think it’s related to Brillo.

Maybe it’s sold separately?

Attention whores.

American Apparel attention whores.

Lame Adventure 404: Morons Mingling with Magritte

As tempting as it is to hash incessantly on this site about the foibles, peccadilloes and images of winter, give it up for Milton who decided that it was time to go indoors now that it is once again mild outside. Last Friday, we headed to the Museum of Modern Art to view “Mystery of the Ordinary”, an exhibit of the work produced by the Belgian surrealist René Magritte in the years from 1926 to 1938.

We decided to go on Friday after we were cut loose from our respective grinds. From 4 pm until closing admission is my second favorite four-letter f-word.

Free with ticket.

Free with ticket.

In addition, Friday was our last chance to see this show for zero cents because it closed the following Sunday. It travels next to the Menil Collection in Houston, and after that to the Art Institute of Chicago.

MoMA allows visitors to view the exhibit, but whether you pay or not, signs announced that photography was forbidden. This makes sense because MoMA wants visitors to purchase the catalogue. There were guards hovering approximately every two feet bellowing reminders:

Guards: No photography!

Sign outside exhibit entrance with human fur ball in corner.

Sign outside exhibit entrance with human fur ball in corner.

These words of warning, that were repeated often, had little impact on the iPhone wielding masses. We did not see any guards asking violators to delete their images. We were certain that if either of us had tried to snap so much as a corner of a picture frame with our phones, not only would our phones be confiscated, but also our hands severed. For those of you curious to see a glimpse of the many iconic Magritte paintings in this show, the New York Times was granted permission to snap away. Click here to see their photos.

Milton could not believe how crowded it was to see a display of familiar paintings in person that everyone has seen reproduced a million times. There was the train coming out of the fireplace, the big eye and guys in bowler hats. What blew his mind even more was that there were two lines: one for fare beaters like us, and another, for members. MoMA membership allows free admission all year round. That prompted Milton to ask:

Milton: What kind of idiot would attend on a free night?

Members had since late September to see this exhibit six days a week before the final 4-8 pm Friday night free-for-all. Possibly, a member who would be unfazed about attending with the herd is This Woman who announced:

This Woman: A lot of the pipe-ones are famous.

Full confession: we walked through the entirety of the exhibit twice because I was obsessed with seeing The Son of Man, the painting of a guy in a bowler hat with an apple obscuring his face. You know the one. I insisted to Milton that it had to be there. We were baffled how we could have missed it. Milton suggested:

Milton: Maybe it’s very small.

We approached the human equivalent of the Jolly Green Giant, a guard so tall I addressed his belt buckle:

Me: Excuse me, but can you tell us where’s the painting of the guy wearing the bowler hat with the apple in front of his face?

Guard: I think I’ve seen it here. Look in the back, unless it’s not there.

Me: Okay. Thank you very much.

We proceeded to circle the exhibit again for that second time. Milton’s head was spinning:

Milton: That was a complete non-answer! It might be there, or it might not!

But, if it was, we missed it a second time.

Milton: Maybe it’s on loan or on another floor in the permanent collection?

Me: If it’s in this building, it has to be included in this exhibit. It would be idiocy to exclude it!

We left the exhibit and leafed through the entire catalogue. Son of Man was not there. When I returned home, I researched that painting online. Magritte painted it in 1964. Who’s the industrial-strength idiot now?

A post-script: after we completed our two visits to the Magritte exhibit, we wandered next door to the much less attended Isa Genzken retrospective that is running through March 10. MoMA calls Genzken, “arguably one of the most important and influential female artists of the past 30 years.” Milton’s initial impression of her work was a tad different:

Milton: This reminds me of bad houses in the 70s.

We were allowed to photograph her work at will. Here is a sampling of what’s on display.

70s-type thing.

70s-type thing that irked Milton.

Welcome and photograph your heart out!

Welcome and photograph your heart out!

Lady Gaga look-alike.

Channeling Lady Gaga.

Baby in the corner.

Isa leaves baby in the corner.

My brain. 1984 (Note: actual name of piece and sign of sense of humor. We hope.)

Pile of Rubbish. 1984

Pile of Rubbish. 1984 (Note: actual name of piece.)

World Receiver. 1988-1989. Apparently Isa created dozens of concrete receivers in the early 1990s.

World Receiver. 1988-1989. (Note: Isa created dozens of concrete receivers in the early 1990s.)

What are we looking at?

The joke’s on us piece. No clue what we’re looking at. This was one in a series.

Milton's trash is Isa's art.

Milton’s trash is Isa’s art.

"Milton, watch out — don't step on the Barbie on the floor!"

“Milton, watch out — don’t step on the Barbie on the floor!”

Milton, "This could be my room."

Milton, “This could be my room.”

Executive office with Scrooge McDuck.

Executive office with Scrooge McDuck on desk reminding wage slaves who’s in charge.

Milton, "This is something interesting. I don't know what."

Milton, “This is something interesting. I don’t know what.”

"Why didn't we think of this?"

“Why didn’t we think of this?”

On closer inspection: packed with teeny, tiny toy cars.

On closer inspection: packed with teeny, tiny toy cars.

Isa display on MoMA's first floor lobby for those feeling it for luggage lost at the airport.

Isa display on MoMA’s first floor lobby for those feeling it for lost luggage.

As we left Isa’s retrospective Milton concluded:

Milton: This should be a lesson: if we haven’t made it it’s our fault.

Lame Adventure 403: Slippery Invisible Ice

Many of you were kind enough to glance at this site’s previous post about snow falling overnight in lower Manhattan. It featured some fine photography shot by longtime Lame Adventurer, my bud, Coco. After Hercules left town and Friday turned frigid cold, Coco ventured out again. Pictured below are photos of post-blizzard lower Manhattan in the light of day.

The obesity epidemic extends to snowmen.

The obesity epidemic extends to snowmen.

Washington Square Park under vibrant blue arctic cold sky.

Washington Square Park under vibrant blue arctic cold sky.

The kind of fluffy white snow I used to fantasize about when I was a kid growing up in San Francisco. That fantasy is long dead now.

Fluffy white snow I fantasized about when I was growing up in San Francisco. I should have been on medication.

Coco's fire escape. We won't be pounding beers on here anytime soon.

Coco’s fire escape. We won’t be pounding beer there anytime soon.

On Sunday, two days after Hercules bolted, I received the following text from Coco as I was doing my ablutions before ushering an off-Broadway play.

New alert!

News flash!

Wiping out on Slippery Invisible Ice is a perennial wintertime dread. Like my friend, I have suffered my share of spills. It was two years ago that I took a flying leap off a patch of this sneaky vicious foe. It was blanketing a storefront’s wooden ramp on a section of Columbus Avenue that was then undergoing sidewalk repair. If memory serves correct, the song playing inside my head as my feet upended was titled: I Know This is Gonna Hurt and I Hope I Have Enough Good Karma Points That I Don’t Break Anything.

I slammed down hard. My innards seemed to rattle around inside, but I was lucky. Aside from a twinge in my left elbow that faded fast, nothing fractured and my internal organs remained in their proper place. The only bruise I suffered was to my ego. Although New Yorkers are quick to look out for each other, it was a welcome relief that no one saw me lying on the ground in a daze. I got up, and resumed my trek — oblivious to the humiliating two-foot stain of gray sidewalk detritus smearing the back of my black coat.

On a winter’s day three years ago, I witnessed Slippery Invisible Ice practice its special brand of cruelty on a businesswoman approximately my own age, over forty under death. She was walking in front of me down West End Avenue. But while crossing West 73rd Street, she began fighting the losing battle to maintain balance. As she valiantly did the familiar slip and slide dance, her legs buckled. She fell into a heap defeated by that unseen frozen villain.

I hurried to her side half-fearing that I might lose my footing in the slush carpeting the sidewalk, belly flop onto my stomach, and speed-ram my head into hers. Fortunately the other half of me that was fearlessly fleet of foot raced to her rescue with the agility of an Olympic Gold Medalist in Snowy Sidewalk Navigation. I offered her my hand and helped hoist her back onto her feet.

Me: Are you okay or just embarrassed?

She sighed, that familiar sigh of someone just bitch-slapped by Mother Nature.

Businesswoman: I’m the latter.

After I suffered my memorable tumble on Columbus Avenue, I invested in a pair of winter boots with solid traction from the Ugly Style Great Price collection.  I was wearing motorcycle boots that freezing night when I took my flying leap. After reading Coco’s text I’m considering wearing my snow shoes every day until spring, unless the fashion police issues me a terrible taste in footwear citation first. I love living in New York City, but I’d also love to avoid leaving another full body imprint in the pavement this winter.