Lame Adventure 431: Why a Penny?

Not that long ago I was in Brooklyn, waiting for the subway to arrive, when I looked down on the platform where I saw a penny.

Look close like I did: it's there.

Look close: it’s there.

Was this my lucky penny?

My lucky penny closer.

My lucky penny closer.

Is this slender disk what it will take to turn my life around? Will it lead to an unfathomable degree of happiness with the soul mate that will desire me forever or, second choice, a solid week of good hair days?

It was dated 1974. This forty-year-old coin’s melt value is more than double its one-cent buying power. As of September 1, 2014, this penny is worth $0.0211471.

Melt-value facts.

Melt-value facts.

In another forty years, it’s conceivable that its value could double again. By 2054, it might even be worth a dime, something to look forward to when I’m 95, shrunken to the size of a walnut and speaking fluent gibberish.

So I picked up this lucky find and slipped it into my pocket. If I needed two more cents to complete a cash transaction for a toothbrush and shower shoes, but I only had this single penny on my person, would it be enough to appease the clerk without my having to toss the purchase on plastic? I could argue that my lucky penny’s value has doubled over time. If accepted, I would be reasonable and would not quibble about forfeiting the extra $0.0011471 or losing the passkey to great sex and good hair. Maybe I should rethink this …

I could put my lucky penny in the change compartment of my wallet. But I have many pressing things on my mind: US Open Tennis, pigeons, lunch. Coinage is not very aforethought. Therefore, it might behoove me to keep my lucky penny separate from my other change. In fact, I could keep it with the three pennies on my writing table and note which one it is.

My Lucky Penny with three wannabe pennies.

Look which penny is the Beyoncé in this quartet.

There are so many finds literally littering the streets of this magnificent metropolis. Do none of them pack a scintilla of magic in the luck department like a penny?

Lucky tooth cleaning implement.

Lucky tooth cleaning implement.

Lucky casino chip in asphalt.

Lucky casino chip embedded in asphalt.

Lucky glove in street.

Lucky glove in street.

Lucky dump of pistachio shells on subway platform.

Lucky dump of pistachio shells on subway platform.

Lucky crushed water bottle.

Lucky crushed water bottle.

Lucky fallen tree branch.

Lucky fallen tree branch.

Lucky peach pit in sidewalk crack.

Lucky peach pit in sidewalk crack.

Lucky coat hanger.

Lucky plastic coat hanger.

Maybe not so lucky parking ticket.

Unlucky parking ticket.

Probably everything in this cluster is landfill-bound crap. The unpaid parking ticket might even bring its unfortunate recipient a special brand of bad luck: a penalty on top of the ticket cost and having to hear Wayne Newton’s Greatest Hits in its entirety while waiting to fight the penalty on top of the ticket cost.

But what is it that makes finding a penny face up in the street lucky? If it’s heads down, leave it there or give it to someone else? Give it to whom? If it’s tainted, why pass on the taint to anyone? Re-gifting is already an epidemic. According to wiseGEEK this is nothing more than superstition and folklore. But they do point out that money symbolizes power, so that is another reason to pocket found change but leave that schnook’s parking ticket in the gutter. That’s toxic.

Pigeon feather on laundromat floor; not lucky.

Pigeon feather on laundromat floor; not lucky. Just ask the pigeon.

Lame Adventure 430: Mediocrity Cast in Terry Cloth

Possibly you’re like me: whenever you think of sculpture your mind wanders in the direction of monuments to greatness. Solid structures cast in bronze revering brilliant and usually, long dead contributors to culture, society or politics — memorials destined to withstand the test of time.

Show biz legend George M. Cohan giving his regards to Broadway.

Show biz legend George M. Cohan giving his regards to Broadway.

Monument in Riverside Park to humanitarian and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

Humanitarian and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt reflecting thoughtfully in Riverside Park.

Legendary three term New York City mayor Fiorello LaGuardia at LaGuardia Place in Greenwich Village.

Legendary three term New York City mayor Fiorello LaGuardia applauding the weather at LaGuardia Place in Greenwich Village.

Bonus sculpture: dancing farm animals I happen to like.

Bonus sculpture: dancing farm animals I happen to like.

Then, there’s the monument from one blogger, specifically Lois over at My Cruise Stories, to another, specifically me. The choice of material, terry cloth, is spot on for the blogosphere and perfect for the author of Lame Adventures. The fact that this towel sculpture is destined to withstand the test of bath time truly tickles my funny bone.

Immortalized with the greats as well as bath mats.

Immortalized with the greats and great bath mats.

Thanks Lois!

To learn how to create towel sculptures and to read Lois’ s blog about the cruise ship industry (she’s quite an entertaining authority) click here.

Lame Adventure 429: A Heartfelt Farewell

Some of you may have noticed that I have been absent from the blogosphere for a while. I was in San Francisco with my family. A week ago today my dear old dad died. Naturally, a part of me is bereft. I am now an orphan and I hate that. But Dad was 87, terminally ill with cancer and had suffered from a serious heart condition that worsened significantly when he reached his ninth decade.

Dad on his honeymoon in 1951.

Dad on his honeymoon in 1951.

Since October 2012, the going only got tougher for him. He was in and out of the hospital several times. After every hospitalization, his dwindling supply of energy further depleted. For much of the past year he told anyone who would listen that every night before going to bed he prayed that he would die in his sleep. Four weeks ago, following a collapse, this ferociously independent man’s decline accelerated at warp speed.

Lovebirds: Dad and Mom.

Lovebirds: Dad and Mom.

Soon, Dad was too weak to get out of bed. My siblings who lived near Dad, Dovima and Axel, made the painful decision to start hospice. Initially, Dad wanted to die at home. My brother, Axel, had checked in on him daily for the last fifteen months. Dovima volunteered to be his primary caregiver during Dad’s final days. I flew out to join her, but Axel was always near.

Fit and trim at 50.

Fit and trim at 50.

Dad loathed the indignity of home hospice. During one particularly rough night when he cried out in pain, Dovima came to his rescue. When he saw his eldest daughter he spoke two last words to her:

Dad: Oh, crap!

His last word to me was about how he was feeling:

Dad: Lousy!

His last utterance to Axel was a monosyllabic, a groan when Axel said:

Axel: Dad, it’s me, Axel.

Still buff at 74.

Still buff at 74.

We shifted into overdrive to enter Dad into a hospice facility. We heeded the advice of our Pathways social worker and got him into Zen Hospice, an oasis of nurturing and tranquility. Dad was so far gone there was concern that he might not survive the ambulance ride from his house to Zen. We knew he no longer wanted to die at home, so even if he bought his rainbow in transit, we decided that we were responding to his revised wish. I was allowed to accompany him in the ambulance, a bumpy twenty-minute journey. Dad, who could no longer speak, looked scared. I promised him that he was going to a place where he’d get great care and we would still be there with him. Dad survived the ride. The wonderful staff and volunteers at Zen backed up my claim.

Clowning for his 4-year-old photographer, granddaughter, Sweet Pea.

Clowning for his 4-year-old photographer, granddaughter, Sweet Pea.

At Zen, Dad was no longer restless, his dignity was returned, and he was comfortable. All of us, Dovima, Axel, my niece, Sweet Pea, brother-in-law, Herb (with a silent h) and Cousin Lou, held his hand and let him know how much we loved and appreciated him. Two days later, with Dovima and I at his bedside, Dad drew his final breath. His wish was granted. He died peacefully in his sleep.

Chirstmas 2012 (l to r) Axel, Dovima, Sweet Pea holding Thurber, Dad, Me photographed by Herb.

Christmas 2012 (l to r) Axel, Dovima, Sweet Pea holding Thurber, Dad and Me photographed by Herb.

Following our father shedding his mortal coil, there was a lovely ceremony at Zen where his caregivers took turns washing his face, hands and feet. They each said words of comfort. Dovima and I were invited to participate, but the pain of losing our father was just too fresh. We sat and watched. When Dad was carried outside, his face was exposed to the sun and he was showered with flower petals. Dad had told Dovima that when he died, he wanted to make his exit under tons of flowers. So, that wish was granted, too.

Dad's flower petals.

Dad’s flower petals.

This past Tuesday, we had a traditional funeral, but it was not a morose affair. We celebrated Dad’s life in pictures, and with many of his own words in a program we created that showed his wit and wisdom. A sample of his wit was what he liked to say to me when he thought I was behaving like a flake:

Dad: You have more crust than a pie factory!

A sample of his wisdom:

Dad: Do good and forget about it. Do bad and think about it.

But I agree with Axel, who wisely said:

Axel: Let’s be careful not to make him bigger in death than he was in life.

Our father was not a perfect man; possibly this was his most familiar expression:

Dad: God damn it!

But he was the perfect father for us.

In conclusion, I would like to share a tale about Dad in his prime, call it an early Lame Adventure. Our father was a very athletic man. In high school he lettered in Gymnastics and he maintained those skills well into middle age. He could be quite a show off; something my siblings and I loved. After Sunday dinner, he would take us out on walks in our neighborhood. He loved to sing an asinine ditty, John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt, at the top of his lungs. I recall doing a duet with him on it. It is an understatement that we had nothing on Nat King Cole and daughter Natalie’s duet on Unforgettable.

On this particular Sunday in 1966, as we were walking down Holloway Avenue at Denslowe Street, I begged Dad to do “the flag” as we approached a signpost.

An historic place in  family history.

An historic place in family history.

The flag was an extraordinary feat of physical dexterity. My dad, who had phenomenal arm strength, could extend himself completely perpendicular to the signpost.

Historic signpost.

Historic signpost.

It was quite a sight to see.

Witness's rendering of quite a sight.

Witness’s rendering of quite a sight.

As we were marveling at Dad’s truly awesome feat, a motorist slammed his or her brakes and we heard an awful screech. Looking back, the sight of a 39 year-old-man suspended completely perpendicular from a signpost into the street must have been discombobulating in 1966 … or maybe even today.

The father of Lame Adventures.

The father of Lame Adventures.

Lame Adventure 428: Angry Bird in the Hood

New York is a city that is well known for skyscrapers, glass, steel, concrete and asphalt, but it is also a place with significant urban wildlife. And I’m not dwelling on a dream I recently had where I lifted the lid off a garbage can in front of my apartment building and a skunk leaped out directly at me. Why my subconscious was thinking about a big, furry, livid skunk springing from a normally peaceful trash receptacle to scare the kale out of me, I can’t say. But the odor of skunk is familiar in my neighborhood, the Upper West Side. When I snapped this shot of the San Remo building while doing my laundry last week, what is not evident in the image is that there was the acrid scent of skunk permeating the warm summer air. Luckily for me, the skunk responsible for the stink chose to remain invisible. It even resisted the urge to take a flying leap in front of my lens.

Clouds or skunk vapors behind the San Remo's towers?

Clouds or skunk vapor behind the San Remo’s towers?

However, the topic of airborne urban wildlife has been weighing heavy on my mind. When I enter my Tribeca-based office in the morning at The Grind, and see a pigeon perched on the sill outside my window, I welcome that feathered sight. A bird on the sill is comforting. Its tranquil presence gives me the impression that it could be a good day.

A pigeon of peaceful presence.

A pigeon of peaceful presence.

That was until bird Angry Bird started coming around and began monopolizing the sill.

Angry Bird looking to pick a fight.

Angry Bird looking to pick a fight.

If a pigeon can be bi-polar, this is that pigeon. Of all the sills in New York City, why has this lunatic bird chosen to perch on mine?

"I like it here!"

“I like it here!”

Angry Bird is a pigeon with some serious anger management issues that lives to ruffle feathers. Angry Bird hates sharing the sill and has a mean hook with its flapping right wing.

"Get off my sill!"

Feathers flying.

If you need further proof, witness Angry Bird in action.

For the past two months Angry Bird’s bullying has diverted all the pigeons that used to sit on the sill outside my window to perch on the railing across the way.

Not troubling trouble.

Not troubling trouble.

This proves to me that bird brains are highly under rated. Pigeons may not be eager to perform stupid pet tricks, but it’s evident that the ones in Tribeca have all gotten the memo to stay away from my sill. It’s obvious that no one wants to get bitch slapped with that wild right wing.

"We like to eat a lot but we're not gluttons for punishment."

“We’re not gluttons for punishment.” (Note: shot taken before Angry Bird moved into the hood.)

My friend, Coco, thinks that Angry Bird, with its orange beak and black and white markings, might be part seagull. I think she might be onto something, but I am not going to feed that avian terrorist a piece of fish to find out. Then, it will likely never leave my sill and I’ll find myself forever grousing about this feathered foe.

"I'm feeling right at home."

“Message to everyone: stay the hell away.”

Lame Adventure 427: Can we complain?

About two months ago I saw the Broadway play Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill with my friend, Milton. He stood in line at the crack of dawn to snag a pair of terrific $40 rush ticket seats that were very close to the stage. These seats were so incredible that when Audra MacDonald, who transformed herself into Billie Holiday, took her bow at the end of the show, Milton threw caution to the wind and committed a cardinal sin of theater going: he snapped a shot with his iPhone. You’re not supposed to sneak pictures inside a theater, but more and more people are doing that these days with the proliferation of smart phones.

When everyone was applauding, Milton snapped this shot.

When everyone was applauding, Milton snapped this shot.

As we were waiting for Lady Day to start, I noticed that Joan Rivers was sitting across from us toward the back of the theater. Normally, Milton is the one with the celebrity spotting radar. He was very impressed that I noticed Joan. I was stunned because I hardly ever notice anyone. My natural inclination is to observe urban wildlife, bags stuck in trees, gum blots on the sidewalk or clouds. But sometimes, even when I attempt to photograph those sights, I get it wrong.

"Hey, this isn't the clouds above!"

Unintended selfie.

Fluffy clouds I was intending to take.

Fluffy clouds I was intending to take first.

As the crowd was exiting the theater at the end of Lady Day, a guy shouted:

Guy: Joan Rivers!

That alert prompted everyone to recognize her. She was besieged like metal to magnet. Milton was surprised that I didn’t join the masses that were photographing her, but I was on a Billie Holiday high. Later, I regretted not taking a picture. How often do I get to see a living comedy legend?

This past weekend, I volunteer ushered a very entertaining play at Second Stage Theater written by Laura Eason and directed by David Schwimmer called Sex with Strangers. When the house manager emailed the volunteers about accepting requests to usher this production, I leaped headfirst through my computer screen to get a slot, somewhat inspired by the thought provoking title.

There are four ushering slots per performance, three in the front of the house and one in the back, where I was assigned. The back can be a no man’s land if the box balcony is not busy, and there were only four people sitting in that section. They were offered a free upgrade to better seats, but three were content to stay in their assigned seats. I thought that was odd because they didn’t look brain damaged. Two explained to me that they like sitting in a section that was essentially all to themselves because they wanted to spread out. Extra legroom took priority over a better view.

As I was watching audience members file into the theater, my usually defective celebrity spotting radar activated for the only celebrity I can recognize: Joan Rivers. Yes, Joan and I were in the same theater at the same time once again. The play’s 3 pm Sunday curtain was delayed due to technical difficulties, something that can happen on occasion in live theater. Audience members were offered free wine at the concession stand. This induced a slight stampede.

Before heading to the concession stand, Joan glad-handed the ushers working in the front of the house, oblivious to the one working in the back. She went to the concession stand where she graciously mingled and took selfies with audience members. I snuck a few crummy shots of her from my post with my iPhone.

The best of my crummy Joan shots.

The best of my crummy Joan shots.

After the play ended and the audience had left, I was working clean up towards the front of the house when Joan returned with her entourage via the back of the house. She was meeting the cast, Anna Gunn and Billy Magnussen, back stage. And, once again, I got to miss meeting Joan.

Having the thrill of seeing this living comedy legend twice in two months, I have concluded that she is a celebrity who sincerely welcomes meeting with the public. I think that’s very stand up of her. If I have a third opportunity to be in the right place at the right time to see her again, and I probably have a better shot at winning the Triple Crown riding a saw horse, I’ll refrain from blurting, “Joan Rivers!” But, if she were on board, I would love to take a selfie with her.

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.



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.