Tag Archives: summer

Lame Adventure 383: Heat and Delirium

“It could be better but it’s not terrible.”

Approaching terrible.

Approaching terrible.

This recent observation by my colleague at The Grind, Godsend, about some holes we drilled through wood, could double as a single sentence summary statement about my entire life thus far. There’s always room for improvement, but if I become road kill under the wheels of a beer truck tomorrow, my 28,382,400+ minutes walking this planet have not all been entirely misspent excluding the fear, agony and humiliation I’d surely suffer were I to find myself flattened by a ten ton vehicle. Many of the nearly 16,293,600 minutes that I’ve lived in New York City have been okay, and thankfully, relatively pain-free. This excludes the emotional suffering incurred when my go-to market, Fairway, stopped carrying my all-time favorite summertime confection, chocolate dipped frozen bananas that they sold for two bucks Back In The Day. Oh, how I miss those rock hard bananas that, come to think of it, could also double as instant justice in lieu of a baseball bat. If A Mystical Being were to suddenly pop into my sacred space right now and offered me one of the following three choices:

A Mystical Being: You may resume committing your favorite consensual lewd acts to your heart’s content with Daffodil the Merciless, you may stuff yourself royally with chocolate dipped frozen bananas from Fairway for $3 each (price adjusted for inflation), or you may have your name fast tracked in the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Win $5000 for Life Sweepstakes and Pass On That Haul to Anyone of Your Choosing After You’re Dead, but here’s the fine print: the likelihood that you’ll be the actual winner is nil. What is your choice? Think this through. Choose wisely.

Hit the pause button. Mystical Beings, favorite lewd acts, frozen bananas, inane win-less contests, but back to favorite lewd acts: would I really prefer to lick a piece of frozen fruit on a stick over a willing cruel vixen? These days the sad but true answer is: yes. Where is this going, am I suffering a meltdown? Yes, I am! The mercury over here has been hovering close to 90 at midnight, and feeling closer to 100 during the day, with humid air that is thick and breeze-free. What do I think about this week-long heat wave?



Me: It is terrible and it could be better.

Exceeding terrible.

Going in the wrong direction from better.

I take no pleasure living in Hell. My energy is depleted. I now have three strategically placed fans blasting in my sweltering hovel* at all times — coincidentally inspiring me to rename my digs Fan Central Station. I rather like dry heat, but this humidity that engulfs me when I am walking two feet outside, making me leak two pints of perspiration that leave my clothes dripping wet and sticking to me like glue — not the most attractive image when clinging to runaway waist flab — has got to go. I hate it. Hate it, hate it, hate it. It impacts the order of my thoughts. Fantasizing about frozen fruit my market stopped carrying a decade ago should never, ever take priority in my mind over real or imagined naked fun. This is an outrage!

Meanwhile, I am now salivating over what frozen chocolate dipped blueberries might taste like? I wonder if Trader Joe’s carries anything like that?

*For anyone new to Lame Adventures, my modest abode is in a century old Upper West Side brownstone  is not wired for air conditioning. In July and August of every year it is still 1913 in my rent stabilized garret.

Lame Adventure 324: Mother Nature Flips Me the Bird

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

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

Believe it.

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

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

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

The reward for staring.

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

Lame Adventure 321: Sunday in the Park with Lola

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

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

Sheep’s Meadow sun bathers dotting Great Lawn.

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

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

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

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

Sheep’s Meadow shade worshippers clustered under trees.

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

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

Lola: What about Kristin Wiig?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me:  This is almost as riveting as curling.

Bocce: a game that doubles as a sleep aid.

We then headed over to catch some free comedy.

Shade loving comedy audience.

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

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

Going commando.

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

Lame Adventure 319: Baking in the Apple

It was very hot and humid all weekend, just the way I loathe it.  I don’t dare use my oven.  I’m eating so much rabbit food I’m nearing the point of scratching myself behind my ear with my foot.

Salad days.

This is the situation: I reside in an electrical inclusion brownstone that used to exclude air conditioning for all.  In recent years my building’s management began rewiring vacated apartments so that incoming tenants can have air conditioning.  They also pay obscenely higher rent than me. My sanctum sanctorum was wired in 1917 for little more than a kerosene lamp, a battery powered kazoo and public access TV stations that I never watch.  In years past, I frequently had companions I could crash with on extremely hot and humid nights.  My Current Companion has air conditioning and a roommate that is as immobile a fixture as a refrigerator so basically until September, when temperatures cool, I’m stuck suffering solo in my sweat lodge.  My Current Companion did meet me for dinner in midtown – and little else:

Current Companion (reasonable tone):  We don’t have to have sex every time we hang out you know.

Me (morbid tone):  We don’t?

Current Companion:  Sometimes it’s just nice to talk.

Me:  Talk about what, us not having sex?

One thing that was discussed was my fan situation, and I’m not referring to you, my seven loyal readers.  Shortly after I returned from my West Coast getaway, my beloved sixteen-year-old Vornado fan, which I admit had been showing signs of death for nearly a year, died.  None of my fan whispering techniques worked in my attempts to revive it.  These techniques included everything short of me doing a fan dance — shaking it gently, coaxing the blades with my steel letter opener (to avoid slicing off a digit I might need to use later) or turning the off/on button on slowly.  The hum the motor used to make was silent.  Frustrated I cried:

Me:  Please work!

My Beloved Vornado Fan:  I’m dead bitch!  I ain’t never gonna work again!  Don’t you get it?  You need to replace me!

Put that way, I went online and researched Vornado fans because I am brand loyal.  I also happen to have a backup Vornado, but it’s not an air circulator (Vornado’s preferred term for their fans) that could work the entirety of my garret.

Little workhorse Vornado fan that’s multidirectional and can blast air 65 feet.

During my research I discovered that Vornado now makes a tower fan.  When I was visiting my sister, Dovima, she had an oscillating tower fan that felt pretty good, but it was not a Vornado.  The Vornado tower fan doesn’t oscillate:

Vornado Tower Fan:  You don’t need no stinking oscillation!

The Vornado has a wide cooling zone so it blasts a constant span of airflow.  That works for me.  I did further research and I learned that my local Bed Bath and Beyond had the Vornado tower fan in stock.  It was selling for $99.99, but I created my 437th G-mail account to score a 20% off in-store coupon.  Including New York’s 8.875% sales tax the total came to $87.09.

The challenge was getting it home.  The box seemed to be taller than me, if I stood three and a half feet high but it was light, weighing around fifteen pounds.  I knew it was going to be bulky and I considered asking my companion to come uptown to help me get it home, but I knew what she would say:

Current Companion: Oh. My. God. You are so stupid! Just pay seven dollars and put it in a cab!  Promise me that you won’t carry it home yourself.  You’ll pull something or collapse.  Take a taxi!

Yet, I’d rather invest those seven shekels in a before noon movie screening at my local multiplex and then slip into another screening unnoticed since all women over forty have the invisibility gene.  I have yet to see Brave!

Realizing that it would behoove me to avoid this discussion with my companion, I didn’t seek her advice, I kept my seven clams pocketed and I decided to carry my ten-foot-tall-seeming Vornado tower fan home on a city bus.  I just made sure that all the senior citizens boarded ahead of me, but when a young woman tried to hop on before me and my tree-sized parcel, I flashed her my “not gonna happen” look and breathed a little fire.  She got the message.

Upon exiting the bus, I still had to carry my tower fan a short distance.

New Vornado tower fan resting outside my building. I am offscreen inhaling oxygen out of a tank.

Once inside my building, there was the Everest aspect of the journey, trekking up three flights of stairs without banging it constantly into the walls or against the doors of fellow tenants.

Where’s a sherpa when I need one?

If I encountered anyone annoying enough to ask me what was in my box emblazoned with pictures of the fan within, I was prepared to quote the old Woody Allen line, “Earrings.”  Fortunately, I made it into my apartment without bickering with anyone or straining anything.

New Vornado tower fan standing proudly inside my sanctum sanctorum. Offscreen, I am lying in a fetal position on the floor.

I set up my new tower fan quickly.  It has a remote control that is a nice accessory but it fails to work if you point it at yourself instead.

Warning: pointing at self will not activate tower air circulator.

Now, ten days later, as I currently bake, unlike others on the Atlantic seaboard at least I have electricity in my room full of steamy air blowing all around me.  Yet, fall and hot food and the return of hot companionship cannot come soon enough.

World class hot air circulators.

Lame Adventure 220: Vespa Worship

In exactly one month and a day, on September 23rd at 5:05 AM EDT, the fall equinox will arrive and summer 2011 will officially end.  Even though I much prefer early and mid-fall to the more sweltering days in summer when I feel boiled alive, I always suffer melancholy once the days start to grow shorter.  My sidekick, Greg, just feels remorse that women will be wearing more clothing.

An aspect of warmer weather that I love is seeing the many Vespas that end their hibernation.  I seem to notice more Vespas in the city every year, and I think this iconic scooter is the go-to summertime cycle in New York, and possibly other major US cities.  Last winter, one of the more haunting sights in my Upper West Side neighborhood was this rampant case of Vespa neglect.


I wanted to rescue this poor little scooter parked next door to my laundromat or at least shelter it with a covering.  Every time I walked past it I could practically hear it shiver.

As the days grew longer I noticed more cyclists (scooterists?) tooling around town on these classically designed sexy little Italian machines manufactured by Piaggio.  I also noticed many parked in the street in cheery shades.

Barbie's Raspberry flavored Vespa.

Electric Blue Vespa with big accesories.

Parking ticket accessory Electric Blue Vespa owner would probably prefer not to have.

Rear view orange Vespa with black chrome protection bar.

Vespas in any color, bright or dark, are always a very welcome sight to me, unlike the 45-year-old yutz channeling his (or her) inner nine-year-old riding a razor scooter down the street.

None of my friends nor does anyone in my family have a Vespa, but in the early 2000’s when I worked in TV news, I had a colleague who dated a guy that rode one that was mint green. Whenever she talked about him she referred to him as Vespa.

Mint Green Vespa, but not Vespa's actual Vespa.

A few years ago, I ran into him on the 1 train.  He remembered me, but I could not recall his actual name.  I resisted the urge to ask:

Me: Why are you riding the subway?  What happened to your Vespa, Vespa?

My current colleague, Darkness, told me that he’s considering getting a Vespa.  He urged me to visit the Vespa boutique on Crosby Street in Soho.

This must be the place.

Ramp out front is not for wheelchair accessability, but to wheel out Vespas. Youths also love to ride their skateboards over it.

I took his advice and stopped by on a recent Saturday afternoon.  Vespa Soho is a Vespa lover’s paradise.

Pick a shiny color.

Pick a matte color.

Make a statement with red.

Dan, Vespa Soho’s Sales Manager, told me that Piaggio halted Vespa sales in the US market in 1985 due to our raised emission standards which were stricter than Europe’s.  Eventually Europe raised their standards, and Piaggio’s improvements to Vespa’s technology met the Environmental Protection Agency’s standards, clearing the way for the Vespa to return to the US in 2001.

Dan told me that the high-end Vespa, the 300, has a top speed of 80 miles per hour, and it can be driven on the expressway.  It averages 70 miles per gallon.  Depending on style selection, it can cost between $7,200 and $8,200.

The most popular model for the average New York City slicker is the 150.  Its top speed is 60 miles per hour, it gets the same 70 miles per gallon gas mileage as the 300 model, but costs between $5,200 and $6,400.

There is an economy model, the 50.  It has a smaller engine and a top speed of 40 miles per hour and sells for $4000.  It gets 100 miles per gallon.

All three models have the same size gas tank, 2.3 gallons.

In order to drive a Vespa, you need a motorcycle license and you must obey the same driving rules that pertain to cars.

Dan said that the darker colors are the most popular in New York all year round, but he’s noticed that lighter colors tend to sell better when the weather is warmer.  This did not surprise me since black is the most popular clothing color out here twelve months of the year.

Basic Black Vespa.

Maroon Vespa with serious windshield.

Chocolate lover's brown Vespa.

I asked Dan what can be done to prevent the scratches and dents I so often notice on the rear panel covering the back tire.

Dents on left side.

Scratches on right side.

They sell an accessory, chrome bars protection, but Dan insisted that a common sense way to prevent this problem is to avoid parking behind an Enormous Vehicle that can crunch the Vespa since it is completely invisible to the Enormous Vehicle Driver.

Red Vespa with chrome bar protection parked where motorist can see it.

Brilliantly parked Vespa at a distance from Mini Cooper.

Living on the edge Vespa asking to get crunched by SUV.

To hell and back Vespa tempting fate once again.

Dan insisted that the Vespa can be a year-round mode of transport in the city.  He pointed out that in winter we’re not blanketed with snow all season long.  He did admit that this past winter was unusually snowy, but most of the time, we get a dump of snow, it melts after three or four days, the streets are clear again, and the Vespa rider can resume riding.  I thought:

Me (thinking):  Yeah, but that rider better be dressed for the Arctic.

If I had a Vespa, I’d be more inclined to ride mine in spring, summer and fall.  I see it as a romantic getaway vehicle I could hop on at day’s start and end.  Of course I would ride it all over the city on weekends.  I’d breeze past motorists stuck in traffic as I make my escape from the monotony.  Feeling exhilarated I imagine myself singing my favorite Broadway show tunes horrifically off-key at the top of my lungs.  Although I could ignore the bugs splattering me in the glasses, the possibility of swallowing a live bee whole while belting out a sustained note in my rendition of Cole Porter’s “You’re the Top” made me return to reality.  Pictured below is the Vespa best meant for me.  <sigh>


Lame Adventure 215: Riding the Rails

Truth in advertising.

As any veteran New York City subway rider knows, whenever a train packed with a horde of passengers pulls into a station, but one car mysteriously has both space and seats, that’s a neon red flag if it’s a hot day in the middle of summer.  That space and those empty seats are the obvious giveaway that the air conditioning in that particular car is dead on arrival.  When the doors open, the riders eager to escape the sauna of the sweltering subway platform into a cool train enter collectively hopeful.  Even I have done this, and I’ve been riding those rails so long, I still remember what it was like when air-con on subway trains was not the norm.

To put it succinctly, it was rolling hell.

So like lambs to the slaughter we enter a train that feels like a barbecue pit.  There are loud shouts and soft murmurs of contempt for this situation.  The more Type A types (myself included) are mute.  We simply clamor to open the doors in-between cars that will lead us to the chill in the air we crave in the next car, even if it means breaking subway rules.  Passengers are not supposed to go from one car into another via those doors, but in this case, many of us cannot flout the rules quick enough.  Hey, we’re veteran subway riders and we also happen to have sweat trickling down our backs

This car was particularly cruel for the doors between cars were locked!  That generated more frustration, and I announced to a fellow steamed rider:

Me:  This is a health hazard! I’m about to spontaneously combust!

She chuckled at me in shared sympathy and then proceeded to take a step backward.  We were in effect being held hostage in this tube of stagnant hot air until the next stop when we could file out and make a beeline for the oasis of the next car.  As I charged out the door, I warned an overheated business-guy in a suit that was about to enter:

Me:  It’s Dante’s Inferno in there!

He got the message.

Overheated Business-guy in Suit:  I’m following you!

He raced behind me and entered the next car that offered the welcome cool air we sought.  He and I exchanged the New Yorker nod of “thanks” and “you’re welcome” (I’m old school, I don’t say, “no problem”) and then returned to our own focus and had nothing further to do with each other.  Also very New Yorker-like.

Anonymous passenger editorial comment to the MTA.

Lame Adventure 73: It’s Not the Heat It’s Definitely the Stupidity

Welcome Home!

My building, which was erected shortly after the Mayflower docked, has bad plumbing.  For the third day in a row, the hot water has been out, and Building Management has been stymied when it comes to fixing it.  Finally, someone had a daylight moment and realized, “We need to replace some parts!”  Probably it is just the hot water “on” switch … Possibly, it is something a bit more complicated than that, but I am suffering some agitation so I’m feeling surly.  In addition, I am the only tenant in this brownstone of eighteen apartments who has reported the problem every day from Day One.  Building Management thought they fixed it twice this week to no avail.  Either all my neighbors are out of town, or they are all subscribers to the Saturday Night Bath Club, or they just assume that I’ll do all the calling.

Considering that it’s been the hottest summer in years, in theory, the hot water being out is not as much of a crisis as if it was inoperable in the dead of winter, but even when it’s 85 degrees outside, I’m not a proponent of taking an icy cold shower on any day of the year, much less three days straight.  I might feel different about this situation right now if my shower stall was outdoors, but this is a residential neighborhood on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.  Everywhere I look there’s either a small child or a large retriever on the prowl, so if my shower was located in the great outdoors of the West Seventies, the peace might be disturbed with sounds of terrified wailing and agitated barking.  Maybe French women in my over-40 under-death age group have the capacity to stay in shape by just walking and eating sparingly, but I’m only a touch French, and very American, so most of me has a fondness for laying around, drinking too much, and eating in front of the TV.  It’s a long way from Juliette Binoche-ville over here, but easily just an arm’s reach from brioche-land.

Yet, I am not intending to do any exhibitionist showering, so dwelling on this lunacy must be a side effect of cold shower delirium.  I just long to take a comfortably tepid shower instead of what I have been doing first thing every morning since Wednesday, staring a heart attack straight in the eye with every hair on my being, including my eyebrows, perpendicular and frozen.  On some level though, this longing for heat in a summer that rivals the fire in hell does seem perverse.