Monthly Archives: May 2010

Lame Adventure 55: Go to MOMA, Get Arrested

Since today is Memorial Day and I do not have to be at work (yea!) I decided to log onto the Museum of Modern Art’s live feed of the final day of performance artist Marina Abramovic epically sitting in the museum’s atrium.  I figured something interesting might happen and I figured right.  Barely thirty minutes into the first hour, a svelt young Karen Finley wannabe appeared.  She approached Marina clad in what looked like a simple cotton shift, immediately lifted her dress revealing her nude body and the museum’s guards from possibly every corner and floor of the building descended instantly ending the presence of the naked woman with the artist.

See for yourself.

Marina waiting for her next guest and blowing her nose proving that allergy season affects everyone.

"What'd I do wrong?!" Hogging the spotlight?

"My job is to open my jacket in instances like this."

"You guys are so overreacting! Everyone's naked on the sixth floor!"

"Hey, look at my authority! I can open my jacket, too!"


The Abramovic endurance test sitting performance has ended.  She has achieved her goal of sitting more than 700 hours staring across at over one thousand sitters.  MOMA’s guards continued to be extra vigilant following the aforementioned stripping incident, but I only noticed one other young woman who had the potential to set them off.   She was clad in a dual purpose lavender color skeleton suit – perfect to wear when sitting across from Marina Abramovic or when scuba diving.  It might also make a good method of birth control if inclined to turn off one’s mate.  This woman seemed rather emotional and I do not think it was due to any feelings of embarrassment.

"It's laundry day, this is all I have to wear."

"Oh God, did I turn off the iron!"

A sitter nearing the end of the piece was an ersatz Marina doppelganger, but in male.  The guards hovered in the background no doubt ready to make creamed corn out of him should he attempt any funny business.  He didn’t.

"I like your style."

"Move on before we move you on."

Around 4:30 an army of guards arrived and I wondered, “Hm, is Obama gonna take a seat?”  Not quite, but this Buddhist monk, the Dalai Lama, or the Dalai Lama’s body double showed up.  He roused Marina’s attention.

After about ten minutes or so even his serene presence did not stop the guards from whispering something like, “Time’s up, pal; move on,” in his ear.

"Hey padre, gotta go."

Finally, the final sitter arrived, MOMA’s Chief Curator at Large Klaus Biesenbach arrived and Marina probably thought, “Thank you Jesus, quitting time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”  Or maybe not.

Klaus, the final sitter, and Marina.

"Marina, it's time to get up."

"Ugh. I never want to sit again."

"I hope I don't trip on this thing."

"Hey, I did it!"

"Thanks for watching. Exit through the gift shop."

Marina surrounded by the performers who recreated her performances.

The Artist is No Longer Present.


Lame Adventure 54: “Blog away!”

One of the indirect benefits of making ends meet on a 1998-era salary in 2010 is that unwanted frugality forces me to be financially intrepid.  Since I have so little fun money to toss into the sagging economy following the 20% pay cut I’ve endured since January 2009, I have hit upon a creative way to feed my ravenous theater-loving beast for free by slithering in through the out door when no one is looking …  Actually what I really do is not remotely sneaky, I volunteer usher off-Broadway plays.  Stuffing Playbills an hour before curtain, then afterward picking up those same Playbills, now discarded, and flipping up seats for five minutes is an easy way to see shows for free.

All of my ushering gigs have gone well.  Once after I tore a ticket and handed a Playbill to an older woman reeking of wealth, she pressed a dollar bill in my hand.  I resisted the urge to return the greenback to her inscribed, “Adopt me.”  Another time, following a flat comedy by a revered writer I admire very much, a cluster of older women wearing the fragrance Fort Knox by Chanel, refused to leave their front row center seats and worse, they seemed angry.  Since the play was a disappointing stale lump of writing so uncharacteristic of someone so talented, I had the distinct impression that might have been a factor in their exasperated discussion that prominently featured the words awful, horrible and terrible preceded by “that was.”  One of the women, who resembled Diana Vreeland cross-bred with Ruth Madoff, called me over.

Me:  Yes, ma’am.

DV meets RM:  Has this play been reviewed in the Times yet?

Me:  No, it’s still in previews.  It opens next week.

DV meets RM:  It should close today.

Me:  Uh, okay.

DV meets RM:  Did you like this play?

Me (channeling my inner non-committal weasel):  I’m just a volunteer usher …

DV meets RM:  I don’t care about that.  (demanding) What did you think of this play?

Me (reaching for words):  I think it worked, uh, well.

DV meets RM:  You just lied to my face!

Very true, but there’s no way that I’m going to bite the theater company that feeds me free tickets especially when the director, someone extremely prominent on Broadway and off, is sitting in the back row talking urgently to his crew and writing copious notes.  Plus, as mentioned, the writer of that dud of a play is one of my favorite writers.  Does Alex Rodriguez hit the ball out of the park in every at-bat?  What I really would have liked to have said to DV meets RM is, “Lady, have you ever written a play?  Do you have a single solitary clue how hard it is?”  Of course, I was mute.

This past Saturday I am happy to admit that I volunteer ushered a genuine gem of a play currently being staged at the New York Theatre Workshop, Restoration, written by and starring the theatrical powerhouse, Claudia Shear.  Claudia Shear is someone that if you have a chance to see her on stage, somehow find a way to go.  As of now, Restoration closes Sunday, June 13th.  It might extend, but it might not.  Tickets for Sunday performances are $20 and there is not a bad seat in the house.

A few years ago Milton and I lucked into seeing Shear in a delightful $10 play in the Summer Play Festival series called Esther Demsack written by Billy Finnegan.  Shear played one half of the tag-team of two hilarious eccentric mother-daughter neighbors.  Milton practically suffered a seizure he laughed so hard.  Afterward, he asked me, “Who the hell was that?  I can’t breathe!”  I said exuberantly, “Claudia Shear!”  He added. “How come we’ve never seen her on stage before?  She’s incredible!”  I said, “Because we’re idiots!”

Restoration is a story about Giulia, a middle-aged almost forgotten art restorer whose smart mouth has nearly killed her career until a former college professor helps her get awarded the rare opportunity to clean Michelangelo’s David.  If anything in that description sounds sappy, the play as written and performed by Shear, fortunately, is not.  Giulia is quite a jerk but a very empathetic jerk. The story that unfolds is witty, poignant, and by the conclusion, exhilarating.  Giulia’s year in Florence working this job of a lifetime is also a time for some serious self-restoration.  She battles with the statue’s curators, with her former professor, and most of all with Max, the motor mouthed security guard, who initially irritates hers with his endless musings but over the course of the year becomes a valued friend.  At the play’s conclusion, it’s evident that this snarky Brooklynite is going home a better person.  Shear so masterfully embodies this self-proclaimed nerd – she even delivers the “please turn off your cell phone” announcement in Italian before the play’s start — it’s easy to share her feelings of accomplishment at the play’s conclusion when the fruit of her year of intense labor is majestically unveiled.  Giulia’s proud of herself and the audience is, too.  It’s also easy to feel proud of Shear for having massively researched and written such an entertaining play.

As spot on as Shear is as the story’s protagonist, she is surrounded by an excellent supporting cast – Alan Mandell as the sage Professor, Tina Benko as Daphne, a cool and beautiful Italian sophisticate as well as Giulia’s nemesis, Natalija Nogulich in three roles – the cleaning lady, the curator and Nonna, a woman who has adored David since childhood, and finally, Jonathan Cake as Max, the witty, charming and heroic security guard.  The production design by Scott Pask is off-Broadway at its best with a very imaginative recreation of the actual David statue and museum where it is on display.  Christopher Ashley directed this well paced delightful 90-minute production.

Where this ushering gig differs from all the others I have worked in the past is that I did something I never, ever do, I hung around the theater’s lobby waiting to meet Shear.  I see actors as people who give their all up on the stage or screen, but when they’re on their own time, I think the greatest show of appreciation is to leave them alone.  They give us their performance, and if it touches you, great, they did their job well.  Now, stay out of their space.  Scram.  Considering that Shear is someone I admire very much and I knew if I liked Restoration, I would write about it here, I shelved my inner weasel and channeled my inner lame adventuress, who is always at the ready to do something featherbrained.  By the time Shear entered the lobby, only a few fans were lingering.  I was close to feeling physically ill since I so despised what I was doing.  After the other fans dispersed, she noticed me vomiting inside my mouth.  She gave me a wary look.  I explained that I would like to write about Restoration here, but I wanted to illustrate my post with a photo of her.  She told me to shoot her waist high, put on her sunglasses, struck a pose, and declared, “Blog away!”

Claudia Shear

Lame Adventure 53: Tea Time

As the weather transitions from cool to warm to hot, I am transitioning from drinking hot tea to iced tea.  I seldom drink coffee because I cannot stand the aftertaste, and I simply prefer the taste of tea.  When I was a child and suffered a nightmare in the middle of the night, my bleary-eyed father would make me a cup of tea to calm my nerves.  I remember sitting across from him at the kitchen table jabbering about whatever it was that scared the daylights out of me while sipping my tea.  The conversation went something like this:

Me (age 5):  And this witch, Dad, she was flying on a broom all over my room, almost hitting me in the head!  She was laughing and I knew she wanted to eat me up!

Dad (exhausted, face covered in 5 o’clock shadow):  There’s no witch in your room.  No one’s gonna eat you up.  Drink your tea.

Me (sip, sip, sip, thinking all the while):  Are you sure she didn’t hide when she heard you coming?

Dad:  No witch was hiding when you were screaming.  You imagined her.

Me (sip, sip, sip, still thinking):  But why would I do that?  She was real scary.

Dad:  Then forget about her.  Think about someone you like.

Me (sipping, thinking):  I like Woody Woodpecker.

Dad:  Good. Think about Woody Woodpecker.

For my sixth birthday, my parents gave me a talking Woody Woodpecker puppet.  His head was plastic and his body was blue corduroy.

Someone I liked a lot at age 5.

I loved pulling the string and hearing Woody’s trademark laugh:

Doing this in the middle of the night was not something Dad loved, so that habit came to a screeching halt fast.

Back to the present and the topic of tea.  For a while I drank Snapple, sometimes Arizona Iced Tea or Sobe.  Even though they tasted pretty good, they were full of sweeteners and crap that I felt was unhealthy.  Then I switched to teas made by Honest Tea.  I particularly liked the Assam flavor, but one day while sipping a bottle of it I did not notice the sludge at the bottom until I swallowed some of it.

I nearly projectile vomited.

Then, I contacted them.  They were very upstanding plying me with coupons and even some bags so I could brew my own.   When I mentioned this to another iced tea aficionado, a fastidious chap that Martini Max liked to call Felix Ungar, Felix said, “Why don’t you drink Lipton Cold Brew?  It’s hassle-free iced tea that you brew for a few minutes in cold water.   It tastes a lot like Assam, but you can get 22 quarts for the price of about three bottles of Honest Tea.”  Felix was so sure that I would be a fan of Lipton Cold Brew he gave me a bag.

I tried it.  I liked it.  When I considered how much I would be saving drinking Lipton Cold Brew over the costly ready-made varieties, money I could spend on theater, movies or the spirits of the gods – alcohol — I liked it even more.  Yet, there is a catch with Lipton Cold Brew: finding it.

For years, the Food Emporium in Tribeca near where I work has been my go-to source.  This year it appears that they have stopped carrying it!  My next go-to source is Amazon.  For $17.86 they sell it in six packs containing 44 bags per box.  That’s 264 bags.  Even if I used 44 bags of this elixir each month in summer, that accounts for 132 bags or three boxes.  My apartment is  small, where am I going to put all these boxes?  Clear space in my bookshelf, empty half my sock drawer, stack some next to the juicer I haven’t used in five years?  I next considered giving a few of the boxes to my friends, but Milton is averse to anything healthy, Albee would use it as a doorstop, and Martini Max prefers the variety that is full of sugar and his favorite artificial lemon flavor.  Plus, Max and Mabel, his Magnificent Muse, just gave me a framed signed movie still of Tura Satana for my birthday.

Birthday present wrapped by the Baroness of Bows!

Birthday present unwrapped.

Do I show them my appreciation for their thoughtfulness with a box of tea that they might think tastes like flat giraffe piss?

Not a good idea.

Resisting the urge to purchase enough Lipton Cold Brew to hydrate every resident in my apartment building all summer, I don my pith helmet, and hunt for it in the markets in my neighborhood.  Unfortunately, I do not find it anywhere.  There is a Food Emporium not far from Lincoln Center, but I loathe the thought of trekking down there and coming up empty.  Why would the Food Emporium on the Upper West Side still carry it while the one in Tribeca has stopped?  Possibly because the Food Emporium on the Upper West Side did not get the message to stop selling it?  I was so happy to see it sitting on the shelf, the Edwin Hawkins Singers started playing on my internal iPod.

Oh happy day!

Ahhhhhhhhhhh, refreshing!

Bonus shot courtesy of Martini Max's iPhone of Tura Satana signing Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! autographs at Chiller convention In NJ in April.

Lame Adventure 52: Onto the ER

Following lunch at the CIA (see Lame Adventure 51) last Friday, Martini Max, Mom of Martini Max and I headed over in the Maxmobile to The FDR Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park where MoMM had a pass that granted us free tickets to visit ERVK – Eleanor Roosevelt’s home, Val-Kill Cottage, which is maintained by the National Parks Service.

Ticket Seller:  How many are in your group ma’am?

MoMM:  Three.  My son’s in the toy department and his friend’s on the floor playing Diane Arbus by the dog.

The chess set of Max's dreams.

Lifesize monument to FDR's beloved Scottie, Fala.

When we reached Val-Kill, ER’s private sanctuary; the place she called home following Franklin’s death in 1945 until she bought her own rainbow in 1962, we marveled at the beauty of the surroundings.

An idyllic pond, appropriately named Val-Kill Pond, flows nearby.  It was so pleasant to see happy fish swimming in a body of water that has yet to be fouled by flowing BP oil.

A view that's easy on the eyes.

Val-Kill Pond with Stone Cottage in background.

We walked across the footbridge and stopped at the boarded over swimming pool where FDR, Eleanor, and their brood used to gather.

Boarded swimming pool with blocks frame right where diving board used to be.

Max and MoMM noticed what we thought was a weathered doghouse near some trees, but I later learned that it was a dollhouse.

Crummy image of dollhouse.

Stone Cottage.

As we waited inside the gift shop in Stone Cottage for our tour to begin, I noticed a Royal manual typewriter.  I asked if this was Eleanor’s actual typewriter, but the clerk did not think so.  She thought it was similar to the one Eleanor used to write her 7,000 My Day newspaper columns between 1936 and 1962.  Eleanor was blogging before blogging.

Typewriter similar to ER's?

One of the park workers told us we could enter the playhouse to watch a film biography about Eleanor narrated by Jane Alexander.  We were looking forward to this, but a woman with the body of a middle linebacker sitting in the front row completely obscured our view of the screen.

Hey lady! Your back makes a better door than window!

MoMM (sotto voce): Let’s move!

MoMM got up, and Max and I followed her to seats with an unobstructed view.  After the film, a park ranger started the guided tour over the grounds.

ER's cottage nestled behind trees with garden in foreground.

Before entering Eleanor’s cottage, he mentioned the names of many of her illustrious guests that entered the door we were about to step through.

Tour Guide: … and John F. Kennedy [eyeing my camera] and no photography inside.

Great American Max about to enter Val-Kill Cottage.

I did manage to elude arrest by photographing a picture of Eleanor that was taken in her cottage’s study, where she would meet with dignitaries.

Great American ER inside Val-Kill Cottage study.

Although a rope separates visitors from setting foot into this study, the wood paneling, the placement of the photo of Sara, her difficult mother-in-law, even the framed pictures on the wall and wall sconces, have all been preserved to recreate what her home was like when she resided there.  It made us feel like we were stepping into history.  Max was so overcome he wanted her easy chair and magazine rack.

At the tour’s end, Max assumed the role of guide and led us to the outdoor grill.  Channeling his brilliant powers of observation, he pointed out that it was specially built at a low angle to accommodate FDR’s wheelchair.

Fireplace grill.

Then, we regrouped back inside the Maxmobile where Hanna, his dashboard hula girl, acted as Max’s GPS and we headed home.

"Cross Mid-Hudson Bridge, Max."

Lame Adventure 51: Visiting the CIA

Martini Max, MoMM (Mother of Martini Max), and I all took off work on Friday to venture up to Hyde Park in the Maxmobile for lunch at the CIA.

The Maxmobile.

No, not the cloak and dagger government agency immortalized by the Coen Brothers in Burn After Reading, but the toque and chef’s knife hospitality school, the Culinary Institute of America, where I imagine the food is much better than whatever is served in the Spy vs. Spy cafeteria.  It was a lovely warm spring day which helped offset the hangovers Max and I were suffering following dining with Max’s long-time friend, The Impresario, Thursday night.

If I recall correctly, the three of us were on Max’s terrace staring at the wonderful view of the George Washington Bridge, quaffing supertankers of cabernet and shakers full of icy martinis with side dishes of grilled steak.  Around 1 AM we were back inside Max’s apartment, where Max was snoring like a congested marine mammal as The Impresario and I were watching possibly the worst grindhouse film ever made, Spider Baby.  The Impresario declared, “Max, this movie is crap!”  I added in a slurred voice, “Yeah, that’s the word for it!”  Those reviews jarred Max out of his sound sleep.  When The Impresario left, Max and I had to figure out how to inflate the Aero guest bed.  As Max stared blankly at the Spanish language portion of the instructions, our 2 AM conversation went something like this:

Me:  Hey Max!  What do the instructions say?

Max:  Don’t do this drunk.

The hands that have held many martinis.

Aero bed success with no assistance from fork on floor.

The next day, with Max sipping a mega sized coffee, and I, an equally huge black tea, we took the scenic 90-minute drive to the Hudson Valley.

Idyllic ride the dashboard hula girl watching Max wished she could see.

The CIA campus is so lovely I almost forgot my headache.

Roth Hall where the student-staffed restaurants are housed.

MoMM with Max walking in the background.

We were dining in Escoffier, the student-staffed French restaurant, where the patrons can view the chef-instructor, Dominick Cerrone, oversee the student-staff through a large window.  We were seated on the opposite side of that window so we had a view worthy of Cinerama.

Escoffier Restuarant student-staff hard at work.

For appetizers, MoMM had the French Onion soup, Max had the Sautéed Shrimp with Baked Tomato, Goat Cheese and Niçoise Olives, and I had the salad since it did not contain tomatoes; they are the equivalent of a death sentence for me.

MoMM's soup with cheese-encrusted croutons.

Max's shrimp.

My picture-perfect salad.

For lunch, MoMM had her favorite, the Roast Leg of Lamb with Spring-Vegetable Medley and Potato-Prune Gratin while Max and I had the Duo of Duck with Rhubarb and Herbed Gnocchi that is prepared table-side.  Unlike the server at the table next to us, who bragged loudly to his customers that he was heading to a restaurant in Beverly Hills following graduation this week, Max suspected that our server, an earnest but jittery young man, was probably going to be flipping burgers at a McDonald’s in Keokuk, Iowa for the summer.

Overall, the food was excellent, and the service was attentive.  The only item that was dropped on the floor by our wait-staff was a roll.  The duck prepared table-side, was a feat that our server, with assistance, accomplished while I channeled my inner Diane Arbus with the Canon Powershot camera that has become welded to my hand since I started writing this blog.

Table-side prepared duck.

By time for dessert, we were all feeling pretty sated, but when Max last visited Escoffier in November, they were out of cheese.  Apparently, this displeased him immensely.  I have known Max for the better part of twenty years, and I have never known that he was such a cheese enthusiast.  To compensate for being cheese-deprived last fall, when our server presented us with the cheese cart, Max announced:

Max:  We’ll have them all!

MoMM:  Max, I don’t want any cheese.

Max:  Get whatever you want, Ma.

MoMM:  I’ll have the three-berry sorbet

Me:  Max, I’m lactose intolerant.

Max:  Take a pill, you’re gonna eat cheese.

Me:  But I already took a pill.

Max:  Take another!

Me:  It’s gonna be like Valley of the Dolls of the lactose intolerance pills for me.

Max:  I don’t care; you’re eating cheese.

Server (to me):  What would you like, ma’am?

Me:  I’ll have a Madeira.

Max:  With cheese!

Server:  The Madeira goes very well with cheese.

Me (after our server had left):  And does it compliment lactose intolerance?

Max:  Take another pill!

Our platter of cheese that could have easily served all arrived.

Say "Cheese!"

I nibbled on the non-cows milk varieties and also kept my distance from the stinky ones as Max scarfed the triple crème Brie that would have killed me as effectively as a bullet in the head.  As heartily as Max ate the lion’s share of the cheese, MoMM was right when she said:

MoMM:  That’s a lot of cheese, Max.  You’re never gonna finish it all.

Me:  Maybe they’ll give him a doggie bag.

Max (hopeful):  You think they do doggie bags for cheese?

MoMM (in the you are two idiots tone):  They don’t do doggie bags for cheese!

Me:  Good point.  It would probably stink up the car.

Max:  If they do, I’m gonna grill it!

Our server did not ask if we wanted a doggie bag for our remaining cheese, nor did we ask.

To be continued …

Lame Adventure 50: The Satchel Situation

Eleven years ago I wrote a screenplay, a rather lame comedy about a lesbian, her brother and their father who are the trinity of boneheads in their failed relationships with women, but at least the father had a good excuse since he was a widower; sis and bro were two knuckleheads.  This script elicited the level of response that lies between indifference and buzz.  Now this script lies in a Pottery Barn wicker basket full of other screenplays, plays and stories I’ve written that have a promising future as mulch.  What I remember most about that script, since even the title escapes me as I write this post, is that it was the calling card that granted me a meeting with a script reader at Miramax, when the company was still run by the Brothers Weinstein.  Full disclosure:  I would like to say she agreed to read my script and hold a meeting with me because I wrote such a stellar query letter, but what separated my project from the herd was that I included a Valrhona chocolate bar with my pile of typing.

Although I would never be mistaken for a vanity case, and my sartorial tastes run more in the direction of the Larry David Collection as opposed to the latest designer offerings unveiled on the Fashion Week runways, I decided that before attending this important meeting it would behoove me to carry a satchel that better matched my predominantly black attire.  The satchel I had was brown.  The satchel I purchased specifically to impress this Miramax script reader was a navy blue Manhattan Portage canvas bag.  I was not so delusional that I actually thought this script reader was going to say:

Script Reader:  I was on the fence about your script, but now that I see you’re carrying a navy blue Manhattan Portage satchel, I’m going to pass it onto Harvey and Bob.

Yet, that would have been novel.

In reality, the meeting went well.  She said she liked my script, she was under the impression that I had literary promise and wanted to read whatever I write next.  Her exact industry-sounding phrase was, “I’m going to track you.”  Unfortunately, there was little to track since it took me five years to write a follow-up opus, and by then, that script reader had moved on and the opportunity had derailed.

Fortunately, the navy blue Manhattan Portage satchel stuck with me for another five years until last month, when I noticed the zipper was wearing out and had ceased to close properly.  I had recently read an article in the New York Times about Eddie Feibush, the 86-year-old proprietor of a store on the Lower East Side called ZipperStop.  His inventory has over a million zippers.  Eddie’s website ( declares, “Zipping up America since 1941.”

I thought, “I should bring my ailing satchel to Eddie!  Surely, he’ll have the zipper I need!”  What might that zipper cost me?  I looked on his web site and it seems he has YKK products that cost as little as $1.50.  Sweet!  Hm, where would I go to have my satchel repaired?  I could go to one of the tailors in my neighborhood that hems my pants.  These guys charge $12 for hemming.  What might they charge for an alteration that is not even on the alterations chart?  On the Upper West Side, if it’s not on the chart, that means prepare to pay even more.  I can handle a needle and thread; maybe I should just assume this task myself?  Considering that I have yet to get around to resewing a button that fell off a coat two months ago, who am I kidding?  It will probably take me years before I would find the motivation to make this repair to my bag myself.

“So, what to do?” I asked myself.

In response I screamed, “Go on Amazon, you idiot! Order a new bag!”

And that’s exactly what I did.  I ordered the same bag.  It now costs $5 more than what I paid in 2000.  I thought that was odd but when I received my new bag a few days later, I noticed that the label has been updated.  It’s still the Manhattan Portage logo, but it no longer claims it’s made in Manhattan, for obviously, it’s not.  If it were, then it would cost much more than what I paid for it ten years ago.

New bag made who knows where on left and an original made in Manhattan Portage on right.

I still want to meet Eddie Feibush and check out ZipperStop.  I’m sure that’s a building full of not only a million zippers, but millions of stories.

Lame Adventure 49: Bathroom Matters

The time has come to steer Lame Adventures straight into the toilet.  Elsbeth, my boss, is a respected award winning interior designer.  On the night she won her most recent accolade for creating an eye-catching three-dimensional tile, I was undergoing colon prep.  While my Lord and Master was clutching her trophy and delivering a speech thanking the little people I was completely indisposed.  As soon as she could escape the glare of the flash bulbs, she forgot that I had specifically told her that I was spending the evening evacuating my being.  While I am relieving myself voluminously, an elated Elsbeth calls and leaves a message on my home answering machine.

Elsbeth:  We won!  We won!  We won! (pause)  Are you there? (remembering) Oh! … I know where you are, uh, well … Just wanted you to know we won!

Insert sound effect:  toilet flushing.

One of Elsbeth’s most inspired creative feats, at least amongst her staff, has been the red light in our office that she had the company craftsman install a few years ago.  If I recall the root of Elsbeth’s inspiration, it was her very own bladder after gulping down yet another 20-ounce bottle of Diet Coke.  When this light bulb is lit, this notifies us when our bathroom is occupied.  This is great since our bathroom is inconveniently located outside our office in our department’s warehouse.  That light bulb was truly another stroke of Elsbethian genius.  Prior to its existence, often one would trek through the warehouse, over to the bathroom, only to find the door shut, forcing the outsider to make a decision, do you wait or return later?

If the occupier was our former cleaning lady, Agnes the Bitter, a pygmy sized woman who excelled at vacuuming near ones desk whenever one was on a business call, odds were good that you might have to wait up to half an hour for her to emerge.  This was not due to A the B diligently cleaning every inch of our bathroom with a toothbrush, it just happened to be her choice destination to park herself with her cell phone.  Since the advent of the red light, our bathroom was no longer a safe haven of privacy for A the B to grouse about how overworked she was, although I suspect that once that red light bulb was installed, it was topic A on her call sheet for weeks on end.

Fast forward to the present.  I am sitting at my desk re-proofreading the same document to the point of developing hysterical blindness, when I polish off my third cup of tea in two hours.  Suddenly I feel the need to urinate with an urgency akin to my ancestors, if any of them happened to be tea-drinking barnyard animals.  I steal a glance in the direction of the red light.  It’s not lit.  I think, “Oh happy day!”

Yes! Vacant!

Fleet of hoof, I race to the bathroom, turn on the light, but before closing the door, I see this:

Maneuver of an imbecile.

With bladderial floodwaters rising rapidly, I defy the odds, speed-race back to my desk, and grab my camera to take the above image.  Then, I am free to thoroughly drain my being.  I emerge feeling three gallons lighter with slight dry-eye and itchy knuckles.

Back in the office, I immediately show the picture to my colleagues, Greg, Elaine and Ling.  Both the Quiet Man and Elsbeth are on the phone so they’re spared.  Greg is quite sure that The Company Blockhead was the culprit.  One of the requirements for anyone working under Elsbeth is that your signature is not your thumbprint.  Therefore, this does appear to be the handiwork of the love child of a small soap dish and a tree stump.  An old adage claims that a picture is worth a thousand words, but I deduce that the positioning of this toilet paper roll rates just eleven more:

This is a statement in the language of bathroom etiquette stupidity.

Groan. Occupied.