Tag Archives: Upper West Side

Lame Adventure 420: Springtime Spewing

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

Cold and snowy February.

Cold and snowy February night.

On Sunday it looked liked that.

Warm and sunny May.

Warm and sunny May afternoon.

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

Stop raising plows!

Stop raising snow plows!

Toss that snow shovel away!

Toss that snow shovel away!

Sit the flowers on the sill.

Sit the flowers on the sill.

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

Ogle a water tower or two.

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

Coco's magnificent tree.

Coco’s magnificent tree.

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

Exchange of deep thoughts.

Exchange of deep thoughts.

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

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

Frustrating.

Frustrating.

I also pay fairly close attention to my small change.

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

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

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

Clerk’s look: Nerd!

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

My 1918 penny.

My 1918 penny.

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

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

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

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

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

Lame Adventure 411: Light Bulb with Tea and Agony

Recently, my friend Coco observed that I am “like an Amish rebel”. I don’t know what that means exactly but I suspect that it is an accurate assessment of what I am minus a beard missing a mustache. I don’t have air conditioning. I’ve never owned a microwave. I have been without a TV since July, and this week, when I’m home, I am sitting in the dim. My fifteen-year-old Pottery Barn desk lamp, which had been showing signs of death, bought its rainbow on Saturday night. I performed the equivalent of lamp CPR and swapped out the bulb to no avail. Then, I tried plugging it into another outlet but there was no light.

The lamp that doesn't light.

The lamp that doesn’t light.

On Sunday, I was meeting my friend, Lola, for tea at a place we never get into, Alice’s Tea Cup. I also wanted to set up having my lamp repaired, but I did not want to hightail over to my hardware store with my lamp. What if they couldn’t repair it? Then, I’d be stuck bringing it to the cafe. That would draw attention that would surely work against us. The hosts at Alice’s Tea Cup are gay guys with attitude who are younger than the plaque in our teeth. Add me holding a lamp, it is conceivable that this will be the time that instead of telling us the wait is two hours, we’ll be told to leave and never return. I went to my hardware store armed with an iPhone photo of my lamp, and showed it to a guy named Danny who thought they could fix it.

This affirmation prompted me to race back with my lamp. Even though I told Danny about the tests I conducted, he repeated them. Possibly this was to ensure that I am capable of screwing in a light bulb correctly and I’m able to properly insert a plug into an outlet. I reasoned:

Me: If my lamp turns on for this guy, I will feel betrayed by my appliance.

As badly as I wanted my lamp to work, I did not want to suffer the indignity of looking like an incompetent who’s incapable of turning on her own desk light. On the flip side if it did work for Danny, then I would not have to pay to have it repaired. My cheapskate side, which is most of my being, considered this.

Me: Bring on humiliation! C’mon, little lamp, turn on for Danny!

My lamp remained dead, but it can be resuscitated in a week to the tune of thirty dollars. Danny handed me my repair slip. Just as I was about to leave he said:

Danny: Oh here, take your light bulb.

I was not carrying a satchel. I had no place to put my light bulb. I did not want to stuff a glass light bulb in my pocket, envisioning an explosion inside my coat on par with the bombing of Dresden. So I trekked to one of the snottiest restaurants on the Upper West Side carrying my light bulb. Lola and I met simultaneously.

Lola: Look at you, you brought your light bulb!

We entered Alice’s Tea Cup where we encountered a hostess who was uncharacteristic i.e., pleasant. She told us that the wait was twenty-five minutes. Lola didn’t want to wait. We left, walked two blocks but couldn’t decide where to go. We returned. I was anticipating that the hostess would transform into an eight-headed hydra and tell us that because we were wishy-washy dingbats, the wait had escalated to three hours. It was reduced to fifteen minutes.

A quarter hour later we were sitting at a charming wood table in an estrogen filled room that was so deafening loud, my ears were bleeding. Lola surmised that it was like being trapped in a bird cage. If there were sixty guests, at most eight were men. The male of the species does not flock to Alice in Wonderland themed eateries dotted with loquacious females wearing fluttery angel wings.

Winged woman.

Winged woman.

Winged girl.

Winged girl.

My tea cup and light bulb. Note: no wings attached.

My tea cup and light bulb. Note: no wings attached.

I don’t know what all that wing wearing was about, but the tea and scones were good. I ordered a pot of potent black tea that kept me wired until 2 am.

My tea pot with little cat stopper standing guard over high octane tea.

My tea pot with non-Cheshire cat.

Lola sipped a very fragrant herbal concoction that looked reminiscent of urine, but apparently it tasted considerably better than steeped bodily fluid.

Lola's fragrant herbal concoction.

Lola’s fragrant herbal concoction.

Lola's mixed berry scone.

Lola’s mixed berry scone.

I was feeling tranquil. The conversation was good. I enjoyed nibbling on my warm pumpkin scone topped with sticky sauce.

Warm pumpkin scone. Yum!

Warm pumpkin scone. Yum!

I dabbed it with whipped butter and raspberry jam. Lola screamed:

Lola: What are you doing? You can’t eat that! It’s cream!

Both tea post, my cup of tea and my light bulb all jumped in unison when they heard that.

Both tea pots, my cup of tea and my light bulb all jumped in unison when they heard that.

I have severe lactose intolerance. What I thought was butter was clotted cream, a delicacy known as You’re Spending the Night Writhing in Pain in Your Bathroom in my world.

Lola: Do you have any pills? Take some pills.

I resisted swallowing the foil.

Inhaled lactaid pill wrappers.

I no longer eat anything that requires I pop a pill, but I had two pills that expired last October in my wallet. I swallowed them immediately. I ate such a trace amount of the offending substance I survived without suffering any side effects. But I know I dodged a bullet. Or maybe it was a light bulb.

Next time, leave home the light bulb, but bring ear plugs!

Next time, leave the light bulb but bring ear plugs!

Lame Adventure 384: For the Love of Cats

Even though I am a committed dog person who is deathly allergic to cats, I now have two critters of the feline persuasion prominently in my life over here on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Pictured below is the sister act, Primo on the right, and her sibling, Segundo, on the left. It is evident that they both share my zest for sleeping.

Do not disturb.

Do not disturb.

Their slave had committed the unthinkable: she had taken a two-day getaway to the Newport Folk Festival.

Beth Orton playing at Newport.

Beth Orton playing at Newport.

As someone well versed in giving the illusion of being a few I.Q. points higher than a Bonsai tree, that attribute convinced their serf to appoint me designated cat-sitter. I was paid handsomely with air conditioning and permission to eat all the fake-ice-cream-chocolate-almond-bon-bons from Whole Foods sitting in the freezer. There were two pints in there along with a neatly folded frozen bib inscribed with my favorite philosophical quotation, “Batteries included.” In response, I took my Cat Patrol duties seriously and ensured that the kitties were fed, watered, and only partially neglected. I even coaxed Segundo, who briefly threatened suicide, off a ledge.

"Goodbye cruel world!"

“Goodbye cruel world!”

Me: Hey! You! Get down from there! You’re gonna scratch the thing up!

At last, those seven years I spent minoring in Animal Whispering at NYU(seless) had paid a dividend. Call me an egotist, but whenever possible, I seize the opportunity to flaunt my vocabulary of 309 words starting with “a” and ending, obviously, with “zither”.

I was spared the responsibility of performing litter box janitorial service, but I was in the know about where to find the cleaning supplies should someone dribble fluids or leave a deposit in the middle of the living room floor. Those accidents did not happen.

Primo-approved reading material (not pushed out).

Primo-approved reading material (a partial accident).

By the second day of their servant’s respite I sensed that both varmints were feeling bereft. I, too, was suffering a degree of heaviness triggered by either their enabler’s absence, or more likely, having consumed both pints of fake-ice-cream-chocolate-almond-bon-bons that had settled like an immovable lump the size of Rhode Island in the ever expanding pit of my being.

Overseeing two melancholy cats did posit an emotional challenge. I took it upon myself to orchestrate some spirit lifting in the guise of exercise, so I threw a tennis ball around the living room expecting them to watch me chase it. But, the game they excelled at had a cerebral slant: Watch Me Ignore You.

"Yes, I am ignoring you and I win!"

“Yes, I am ignoring you. I’m also winning.”

It dawned on me that what they craved most was simple contact: a belly rub and being petted on that sweet spot around the ears — coincidentally my favorite acts of foreplay especially when slathered in I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! As mentioned earlier, I am deathly allergic to the kitties so this presented a conflict. They were in dire need of being stroked as I was in dire need of being able to breath — preferably through the nose without the assistance of an oxygen mask to alleviate my wall-rattling wheezing. This wheezing always happens whenever I pet cats for inevitably I will touch my face prompting a transformation that rivals that of the Wolfman but with “why-me?” whining replacing full moon howling.

Both Primo and Segundo took turns nudging my elbows with their heads, their way of urging me to take action. As someone who does not have an iota of Cirque du Soleil flexibility, there was no way I would ever be able to rub my eyes with my elbows so this seemed like a compromise solution bordering on genius.

"Something that works for all of us? That's an eye opener!"

“I’ll always be smarter than you.”

Unfortunately, elbows lack the dexterity of digits. The best belly rubs are not done with hinge joints, even hinge joints that strike a delicate balance between rubbery smooth and switchblade sharp. So, I threw caution to the air conditioning and substantially petted everyone everywhere. All three of us purred contentedly. Then, I hacked a hairball and washed my hands up to my elbows so vigorously, I left two layers of skin and what was once my watch floating in the sink … But I was still able to breath freely.

"Glad you survived us. Now we've got sleep to do."

“Glad you survived us. Now back to regularly scheduled sleeping.”

Lame Adventure 377: Freedom from Oppression

Possibly the title of this Lame Adventure is a tad dramatic, but I am a fan of three day holiday weekends. This Memorial Day respite from The Grind was productive. I volunteer ushered two plays and purchased three rolls of paper towels. Obviously, I have living the high life in this jeweled metropolis down to a science. The weather on Memorial Day itself was gorgeous and exactly the way I like it — warm with a vibrant clear blue sky. A sunny tribute to the people that got screwed for freedom.

The Upper West Side's sky is so blue the soot is undetectable.

The Upper West Side’s sky so deep blue the soot is barely undetectable.

It was the comfortable kind of warmth I love replete with low humidity. Good air quality, or as good as air quality gets in the dense urban jungle, is something that is very welcome. It allows me to walk down the street and reach the curb without my back dripping so much sweat I give the impression of having trudged in the Bataan Death March or my personal equivalent, climbing the five flights of stairs up to my office at The Grind.

Bosco the dog keeping cool in his fur coat.

Bosco the aloof keeping cool in his fur coat.

In the not too distant future, once the calendar inches towards late June or by early July, the downside of summer will kick in with full force. That’s when the stifling heat and humidity return: puddles of garbage soup will fill subway train tracks while the platform transforms into the seventh circle of hell. My air condition-less garret will double for a sweat lodge, but minus the benefit of a purification ceremony. I will also suffer the indignity of not having another good hair day again until mid-September. On the upside, this year I’ll have a four day holiday weekend in July and another one on Labor Day that coincides with U.S. Open tennis.

Good time to invest in a new cap.

Time to invest in a new cap.

Bad hair under here.

Bad hair under here.

But, until I am once again reduced to wearing a storm cloud of frizz on my head and stewing in my own juices, this weekend that launched summer was indeed lovely.

Nice day to bring out the '64 Buick Lesabre.

Nice day to bring out the ’64 Buick Lesabre.

Too bad these user-friendly temperatures will not continue through August. Meanwhile, I rather enjoyed hearing a free jazz version of Misty while walking up Columbus Avenue feeling as free as a pigeon.

Photographing Museum of Natural History turret while hearing music.

Photographing pigeon-less perch, a Museum of Natural History turret.

In fact I appreciated it even more when I realized that I was not suffering a Johnny Mathis-themed aural hallucination while running that simple errand for paper towels.

Unexpected source of Misty-playing free jazz.

Surprise source of Misty-playing free jazz.

Lame Adventure 375: Sappy Encounter with a Sapling

The other night I was walking north on Columbus Avenue. A handsome young hustler dressed 127 times better than me — my rumpled tee shirt with a dried Liquid Nails stain on the sleeve magnified that factoid, approached. He declared:

Handsome Young Hustler: You look like a nice person.

Me (thinking): Don’t hit me for money, Sonny.

Me (saying): Looks are deceiving. If you want me to give you the time, it’s 8:02. If you want me to open my wallet, fat chance.

Handsome Young Hustler: But I just got out of the hospital!

Me: Keep that in mind the next time you go hipster hat shopping.

Earlier that same evening I had an infinitely more pleasant encounter with another sapling on West End Avenue. This one was not of the panhandling variety. It was a freshly planted Hackberry tree that I considered worthy of photographing.

A tree grows in Manhattan.

A tree grows in Manhattan.

I restrained myself from snapping any images of the French bulldog evacuating its supper at the tree’s base. Whenever I stop to photograph something, even something as seemingly mundane as this young tree, that’s when people walking along the sidewalk take notice, and punt pups are inspired to heed the call of nature. The dog’s owner did pick up after his relieved beast.

Tree pride!

A tree name so lovely it inspires fruit craving and loud throat clearing.

Right now, New York City is in the midst of a project called Million Trees NYC. As the tag declares, this tree is one in a million. Specifically, 220,000 street trees are being planted along with 780,000 others destined for parks and private partners. I think the latter refers to private homeowners who would like to adopt a tree. I would do that myself, but growing a tree in one’s apartment is not an option that this program condones because the people that run it are not mentally defective.

Tree care tips.

Tree care tips tag — can’t wait to see how that’s hanging in March.

The tree that previously stood where this sapling now stands was knocked down when Hurricane Sandy pummeled the Tri-state area last October. Looking at that tree gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling. I thought:

Me (thinking): Ah, how wonderful, new life!

I returned home compelled to research the Hackberry. My curiosity quickly entered freefall and I landed with a rude thud. Apparently the tree I found so charming is one that’s considered good for almost nothing. An article published on Reporter Herald implies that the Hackberry is about a half step above a Chia pet and its wood is of very low value:

“No one uses hackberry wood to make wine barrels, whiskey casks or fine hardwood furniture. Mostly, people cut down hackberries just to get rid of them. Occasionally, the wood is claimed for crates or pallets; sometimes it gets burned as firewood.”

Apparently, the Hackberry, which is planted all over this fine metropolis, is the tree equivalent to the ubiquitous pigeon — my choice for state bird, should anyone ask. I admit that my areas of expertise, tile labeling and sleeping, often done simultaneously, are a bit of distance from having a clue about botany. In fact, I can barely tell the difference between a redwood and a Douglas Fir even if both uprooted and fell on me simultaneously. I do know that were that to occur, it would hurt significantly.

This sap still likes that sapling very much. If Barbara Walters, who this week gave her year-long notice that she is retiring from network TV in 2014, so she’ll surely be conducting a final few fat fish interviews, decided to ditch her credibility and engage in this exchange with a smelt:

Barbara Walters: If you were a tree, what would you be?

I would proudly declare:

Me: What else but a Hackberry!

We even resemble each other a bit around the leaves.

We even resemble each other a bit around the rumpled leaves.

Lame Adventure 356: For the Love of a Nickel

It was shortly after seven on a recent chilly weeknight on the Upper West Side.

Freezing cold night.

More like a freezing cold night.

I was doing some after work multitasking – laundry and food shopping at my market on Upper Broadway, Fairway.  I had just tossed my clothes in a drier and then made a beeline to purchase foodstuffs.  As I was exiting Fairway in my usual irrational hurry, as if walking faster would somehow make my chores finish sooner,  I noticed an elderly man with a cane walking stiffly.  The expression on his face looked disoriented.  I wondered:

Me:  Is he okay?  Am I supposed to do something here?

He had a thick thatch of snow-white hair and was wearing crisply pressed casual clothes and immaculate white sneakers.  His cane looked like it was made from some fancy wood, not a piece of crap you can buy at The Piece of Crap store.  I figured that he was a long time Upper West Side resident, probably a lifelong liberal that made good money, has had at least one wife and a few kids and grandkids.  It’s possible that his family loves him very much.  He probably is respected amongst his peers, however many of them are still kicking.  He didn’t look like a bastard and might have even had dogs and cats in his life.  Possibly he might even have or had a crazy bird bursting with personality like my longtime bud,  BatPat, and her feathered friend, Buttafuoco.

"I am always ready for my close-up!"

“I’m always ready for my close-up!”

For all I know he might even have a lovely aquarium in his home right now.  This old guy was very likely a good guy, someone who will be sorely missed by many when he buys his rainbow.

As I walked on, I was haunted by the likelihood that this fellow was in the throes of some sort of health emergency.  Since I did notice him, I was his human Life Alert.  How could I walk on?  What if this man was my own Dear Old Dad, there was a woman like me that noticed that he might be in trouble, but she ignored the signs and walked away?  I thought:

Me: You cold-hearted bitch.  I hate you!

Instantly, I suffered Grade A level guilt.  I turned back to look at the man on the bustling avenue, narrowly avoiding getting run over by two completely oblivious teenage girls that had just blown past him.  They momentarily obscured my view of what was going on with this fine fellow.  This prompted me to think:

Me (thinking): Just the type of brats that would suck the marrow out of their grandfathers’ bones!  Ingrates!

Quickly, my senior citizen was back in view.  He was now looking quite contorted — bent at the waist, knees starting to buckle, awkwardly holding his cane with his left hand while reaching down towards the sidewalk with his right.  I reasoned that he was desperately trying to break the hard fall that was surely coming.  I gasped.  I shifted the gears in my feet to turbo-charge.  Arthritic knee be damned!  With puffs of exhaust jetting out of my butt-ugly hybrid winter boot-sneakers courtesy of the Land’s End Women of a Certain Age Exchange Style for Price collection, I motored to his rescue.  I could hear him groaning.  I screamed inside my head:

Me:  Hang on, Mister!  A lot of people love you!

As I was almost upon him, I realized that he wasn’t suffering a stroke or a heart attack.  He was reaching down to pick up a nickel off the sidewalk.

Crisis averted.

For this.

Coveted coinage.

Lame Adventure 348: Before and After

Last month, I either entertained or bored (depending on who you are) my dedicated readership of seven, when I took you on a virtual tour of the outdoor Saint Clair Cemin sculpture exhibit currently on display near seven subway stops on upper Broadway here in Manhattan.  For those of you that would like to take that tour click here.

“In the Center” in the center of the exhibit map.

Since I am a tactile type I have been known to run my hand over a surface, but I recall keeping my grubby mitts to myself when I photographed each work of art.   The sculpture called In the Center struck me as rather intimidating.  It’s an imposing fourteen and a half foot tall plaster of Paris, wood and metal figure in a gaucho hat holding a divining rod.  It’s so big it’s easy to feel like a dwarf when in its presence.

Before: “In the Center” under cloud cover giving me the divining rod.

A week ago, as I was approaching it, I was distracted from my regular go-to thoughts about sex and death while narrowly sidestepping a slow moving pigeon, when I did a double take.

After: “In the Center” under wraps under blue skies.

I thought:

Me (thinking):  Why is it in that huge plastic baggie?

Then, I looked closer and saw the answer.

Memo that arrived too late

Arm before.

Arm after.

I suppose the downside to a public art exhibit is some members of the audience, in particular those with the intellectual acuity of a small soap dish coupled with a lack of impulse control.   I don’t know who was compelled to climb it; possibly it was some dunderhead inspired to do chin-ups using the arms.  Or, it might have been a child that garnered parental approval when he or she needed to scratch the jungle gym itch.  Whoever it was I imagine that they had an audience and laughter filled the air until someone asked:

Someone:  Hey, is it me or do you hear something cracking?

Whoever was the culprit, it was not raining geniuses that day.  As for the progress of the restoration, In the Center remains under wraps.  In this state of disrepair, a more accurate name for it might be In the Bodybag.

It seems to be a very slow moving restoration.