Monthly Archives: August 2010

Lame Adventure 92: French Gangsters vs. Bedbugs

This weekend I was itching to see a highly touted French film called Mesrine: Killer Instinct that opened Friday.  It stars Vincent Cassel in the true story of a notorious gangster called Jacques Mesrine.  It is playing in two Manhattan movie theaters, the Angelika, a multiplex located downtown with screens the size of thumbnails, a sound system modeled after my sister’s ancient 45 rpm record player, seating so cramped whether Rocky or Bullwinkle sits in front of me, it’s highly likely that the middle section of each subtitle will be obscured, and last but not least, I will be distracted by the rumble of the nearby subway throughout the screening.  For this completely unrewarding film-going experience, the price of admission is $13.00.

The other theater is the spacious AMC 25 located in Times Square.  Even the smallest screen at this theater is larger than the Angelika’s, the seating is stadium guaranteeing that the view is always perfect, the sound system is so superb when bullets fly I’m prone to duck, and the price of tickets for all screenings before noon is $6.00.  Did I omit any other pertinent details about this movie palace?  Oh, yes.

It’s infested with bedbugs.

Or, at least theater management claims that two were discovered in early August, but then a theater patron complained of being bitten ravenously mid-month so the entire multiplex was closed for extermination – if that did any good.

Dark zipper. Stay away.

Now showing: nothing.

Apparently, DDT all but wiped out bedbugs in the forties and fifties, but the critters that did survive eradication are resistant to pesticides today.  Knowing that there is now a super-race of bedbugs invading New York and other major cities is not a comforting thought.  Since mature pregnant females can lay between 300-1000 eggs in a lifespan of six to twelve months, how about spraying them with some toxin that renders these bloodsuckers infertile?  The ingredients in my grandmother’s ghastly tasting polenta might be a good place to start.

According to a Marist poll one in ten New Yorkers have had bedbugs in their homes, New Yorkers making less than $50,000 a year were twice as likely to have bedbugs as opposed to people earning more, 2% of Republicans admit having them whereas 12% of Democrats did.  There is no figure on the extent of Republican denial about the problem.  I read these results and reasoned that even if I do not leave my apartment again for the remainder of the year, according to that poll, I’m doomed since so many of the infested are people like me.

Normally, I am not a fearful type.  I don’t live my life worried about the next terrorist attack, I ride the subway daily, and I like my steak so rare that when I stab it, I can hear the cow scream in agony, or maybe that’s myself suffering stomach cramps six hours later due to monumental food poisoning.  Yet, New York is the number one bedbug infested city in the country and that disturbs me a million times more than a mosque near Ground Zero.  Muslims do not scare me.  My Egyptian hairdresser is Muslim.  She doesn’t bite.  Bedbugs do.

AMC 25 went into overdrive to keep this problem on the down low for as long as possible since an infested movie theater is the kiss of death.  Knowing that they could continue to lurk there has stigmatized this theater in my mind.  As much as I’d love to have my head filled with French car chases and gunfire, I’d prefer not having my limbs gorged by parasites as well. Therefore, I chose to be a coward.  As much as I’m itching to see Mesrine, I can live without seeing it in a theater that could give me the nastiest of itches and a home invasion.  I love gangster movies, not horror.


Lame Adventure 91: Pedal Pushing

I was walking down Hudson Street on a lovely summer day in the city, a phrase seldom said this steamy summer, when I noticed the carcass of the dead bike pictured below chained to a pole.


Every so often when I see the remains of bikes like this one I’ve wondered how this happens.  What was the owner thinking when he or she initially chained it to this pole?  “Goodbye bike.  Thanks for all the rides.  You’re on your own now”?  When this bike was originally locked to this pole, I imagine it was intact.  It probably once looked as appreciated as this one I saw later that day on the Upper West Side.

Someone's beloved Raleigh.

When the owner of the dead bike went to wherever he or she needed to go, did the bicycle vultures promptly descend and strip it bare?  Was this a bicycle hate crime, or a case of bicycle abuse?  Should there be organizations established called the ASPCB (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Bikes) or PETB (People for the Ethical Treatment of Bikes)?  Did the owner see the ruins of his or her bike and just walk away?

Milton surmised that the owner may have originally removed the front wheel, but for whatever reason, never returned for the bike.  He thinks that over time, hungry bike vultures picked it apart.  Albee offered a more succinct observation,  “Cyclicide.”

Since I was not inclined to get very CSI about what led to this particular bike’s demise, I continued my walk and strolled past my favorite bike boutique, Adeline Adeline, located on Reade Street.

In case you blank on the first name, try to recall the second.

I would not dare enter this store, but often I have gazed at the lovely bikes within from the outside. I drool inconspicuously and tastefully.  I hold a small plastic cup under my lower lip.

It just so happened that on this particular day, they had my all time favorite bike, a Dutch model called the Batavus Breukelen, which normally sells for about $1150, on sale for $1035, ten percent off.  As much as I love the Batavus’s design, it seems like the ideal city bike to me.  The frame is lightweight aluminum.  It’s weatherproof so it won’t rust when chained outside on rainy or icy days.  It’s a solidly built vehicle that can withstand the rigors of potholed Gotham City streets.  It’s in my favorite color.  Last but not least, if I rode this bike most of the time to and from work, instead of the crowded subway, I would be in much better shape physically and mentally.  There is also the added bonus of saving the $89 a month I spend on a Metrocard.  Within 11.62 months, I will have recouped my $1035 investment and find myself the fittest I’ve been in years!

Four Dutch beauties.

Nice price.

Even though this looks like such a sweet deal, if I only had an extra $1035 to throw around, but if I did, am I kidding myself?  I’m going to buy a Dutch bike? If I had an extra $1035, I’d probably get an iPhone, a burger at The Spotted Pig, and a mole removal instead.  Even more realistically, the second the first flake of snow falls, I am certain the last thing I’d want to do is ride a bike half-way though Manhattan to work, even one as cool as the Batavus Breukelen.  If I found myself riding a bike in a snowstorm or Nor’easter, I am certain that the mantra playing inside my head would go something like this:

Me:  I’m not Dutch, I’m miserable; this is insane. I’m not Dutch, I’m miserable; this is insane. I’m not Dutch, I’m miserable; this is insane.

By December, I would sheepishly return to paying $89 for Metrocards until April.  If anyone would dare ask me if I’m still riding my Batavus Breukelen or when do I plan to resume riding my Batavus Breukelen again, I’d probably be so irked I’d beat them with a wrench.  So much for my master plan where I foresee my sexy black bike paying itself off within a year.

Yet, I am certain even if I chose to quit riding this bike I covet forever, I would never leave it chained to a pole so it could suffer a humiliating and public death.   I would not want to flaunt that this idea that appears so brilliant in August, proves to be rather boneheaded by December.  Still, that’s a nice price for a lovely bike.

Lame Adventure 90: Rainy Days and Wednesdays

For the past four days, Gotham has been cloudy and rainy.  It feels much more like October than August, but considering that most of July felt akin to being trapped in Hell’s basement, particularly while being broiled alive on the subway platform, I’m not complaining.  Well, not complaining much.  My hair does look like a big brown cloud, and I am not too thrilled about that.  Pictured below are the crippled remains of an umbrella; an umbrella that was very likely purchased by some drenched sap or sapette for around five dollars from a New York City rainstorm institution, The Umbrella Man.

Undignified ending.

The Umbrella Man is a guy, and always a guy — I have never seen an Umbrella Woman, that miraculously appears on every Gotham City street corner and outside subway stations the second it starts to rain with a pile of cheap, crummy umbrellas.  He chants, “Umbrella, umbrella, umbrella …” almost as if this word was on an endless loop.  Every so often he zeroes in on a potential customer, usually someone holding a soggy newspaper or wearing a plastic shopping bag – the definitive rainstorm fashion statement — over his or her head.  Directly, The Umbrella Man says to this target, “Five dollars,” but controls the impulse to add, “You fool.”

I’ve lived in New York so long, I remember when these guys used to charge three dollars.  Since I am almost always equipped with my own umbrella, I have two turbocharged models that might have been manufactured by Maserati for they almost pull my arm out of its socket when I press the button that opens them, it’s possible that The Umbrella Man might be charging six dollars or more by now.  One thing that I am certain of is that the quality of The Umbrella Man’s umbrellas remains trash can worthy, and that’s the likely destination of the vast majority that are not ditched in the street like the one pictured above.

Almost as soon as you open one of The Umbrella Man’s umbrellas, if there is as much as a Chihuahua’s sneeze in the air, it will instantly blow inside out, so you can imagine how sturdy they are under gale force wind.  It has occurred to me that these umbrellas might blow inside out if opened under a sunny blue sky, simply because there is an umbrella industry conspiracy in play here.  The conspiracy is that The Umbrella Man’s umbrellas are purposely designed to blow inside out to ensure that customers will either buy more umbrellas from The Umbrella Man, which could be another definition of insanity, or just before these users commit themselves to a mental institution, these same customers – people like me – break down and invest the equivalent of a one way plane fare to New Orleans on JetBlue in a top of the line umbrella instead.  Also, if I were inclined to visit New Orleans this time of year, it would probably behoove me to pack my performance-enhanced umbrella.

Returning to the subject of the defective nature of The Umbrella Man’s wares, the handles tend to be wobbly and the little round piece at the top holding the entire apparatus together has been known to fall off, especially if you’re like me and bought one that said Totes.  That batch of The Umbrella Man’s umbrellas was probably manufactured in the same third world sweat shop that produces knock off Coach and Louis Vuitton handbags.

If the user of an umbrella purchased from The Umbrella Man is able to get three uses out of it, that user is qualified to be ABC News’s Geek of the Week, and/or they should make a guest appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman to discuss this phenomenon, for it simply does not happen.

Lame Adventure 89: The Breast of the Matter

After swearing to myself that I would never pay more than $2.99 for a pint of blueberries, when I am out running errands, what do I do but pay $3.49 at Westside Market for a pint of one of my favorite summertime fruits as the season winds down and the price ratchets up.  Apparently, I’ve personally scarfed every locally grown blueberry in the Tri-state area and they’re now being imported from Canada.  I leave the market grumbling when I am distracted by this thought provoking sign pictured below.

Start spreading the word -- or cream.

A weasel-sized middle-aged fellow found this sign and another more explicit one so titillating, he was describing both in vivid detail to someone on his cell phone, possibly a fellow middle aged anti-Adonis.  I flashed my all-seeing hairy eyeball Excitable Middle-aged Boy’s way.  This prompted him to tone down his exhilaration as he flashbacked on the threats of blindness his mother regaled him with in response to his constant self-servicing to the pile of sticky girly magazines stashed under his bed.

More explicit sign. Eh.

What I found most interesting about the sign featuring the six models was the inclusion of a pale, scrawny, hairy male and the exclusion of any women of color.  What’s that about?  Not to get too Robert De Niro about this, but the pasty white women selected looked rather fugly to me.  In fairness I suppose in that harsh lighting, even Salma Hayek would look more “eh” than “ah,” a feat that would normally seem impossible.  Although the pale, scrawny, hairy guy is hopeless, and should definitely be replaced by at least one woman of color, possibly all of the women, if lit with freshman year film school level artistry, would look great.

Once home I went online and checked out what Lush brand Lovely Jubblies Breast Cream is about.  The first thing I noticed was the cringe inducing tag line, “Keep your knockers in tit top shape.”  Apparently, the purpose of this “brilliant” breast cream is to avoid the fate of Marlon Brando’s abundantly endowed companion, played by the abundantly endowed Maria Schneider, in Last Tango in Paris, who he predicts, “In ten years, you’ll be playing soccer with your tits.”  Now, thirty-eight years after that film’s release, she’s closing in on sixty.  Therefore, she might be pushing her monumental rack around in a wheelbarrow today.

Lush hails this product as being “packed full of tightening meadowsweet infusion and firming tiger lily petals to help your girls fight the forces of gravity.”  In addition, this magic elixir will “leave your cleavage smelling like a fresh floral bouquet of orange blossom, rose, jasmine and ylang ylang.”  After reading that, I sneezed.

Back in the Eighties, there was a jewelry boutique on Columbus Avenue called Ylang Ylang.  I once mistakenly referred to it, after imbibing a supertanker of cheer, as Duran Duran.  The real name for Ylang-ylang is the slightly more pedantic sounding, Cananga odorata.  Cananga odorata is a tree that produces an essential oil, as opposed to a nonessential oil, such as the grease on my face, from a flower that is used in aromatherapy.

Lush encourages users of Lovely Jubblies Breast Cream to “smooth a generous amount” on presumably their breasts, but then they coyly refer to where it should be applied as the more generic sounding “wobbly bits.”  Does this mean that when my D-cup sized nose starts showing signs of sag, I could apply it there?  This cream is available in 3.5-ounce jars to the tune of $24.95.

I’m confident that my ironing board replica breasts, and possibly even my well hung nose, will all remain perky and firm even when entering the crematorium.  It’s the stroke I’ll surely suffer if I were to shell out such a ridiculous sum of money for a product that is one part marketing and two parts sham – a part sham for each of my “girls” – that would kill me before gravity has a chance at having its way over here.  The thought occurred that if I smeared my breasts with smashed blueberries, it might yield a similar result; aside from a telltale purple stain I would prefer to live without.

Lame Adventure 88: Chain Letter Lunacy

Pictured below is Cali, a very obedient, mellow and friendly Upper West Side pooch sitting on the street corner waiting patiently for the light to change so she can continue with her evening exercise.

Cali smiling for the camera.

I asked Cali’s Best Friend:

Me:  What kind of dog is she?

Best Friend:  A mix.  I got her from a shelter.  There are so many of them there.  Why not?

Good point.  They seemed like an excellent pair.  Judging from the blueness of Cali’s eyes, my guess is that there’s a little Paul Newman somewhere in her lineage.

It is no secret that I am very fond of hounds, especially mutts.  Aside from being playful and affectionate, another wonderful aspect of dogs is that unlike their human counterparts, they have absolutely no interest in sending chain letter email like the one I received yesterday from an acquaintance I have not spoken to in nearly two years.

This acquaintance is an educated woman, a journalist by trade.  She even appeared in The New York Times last year – with her dog, Maggie.  I met her about three years ago through a mutual acquaintance, my close friend, Albee.  He and I both lost touch with her when she relocated to Colorado last year.  I have no idea where she is living now, but in recent months I get occasional impersonal e-blasts from her on an email address I no longer use.

The chain letter she forwarded to me was forwarded to her from a dimwit in the fashion industry who e-forwarded it from her workplace email providing recipients with her address, cell phone, work and fax numbers.  Sheer genius.  I suspect this dimwit is not the next Donna Karan.

The instructions are as follows — within five minutes read Saint Theresa’s Prayer (included in the email),  lift the left foot at least twelve inches off the ground and with the right pinky pointed at the tip of the nose spin around three times, make a wish, and then forward this idiocy to eleven people. Within eight minutes of all this I “will receive something you have long awaited.  Have faith.”  Oh my, the clock is ticking!  The thinly veiled chain letter threat, for there is always some hint of threat in chain letters, is that Saint Theresa’s prayer cannot be deleted.

Huh.  Hm.  Guess what?  After being subjected to twelve years of Catholic schooling in my formative years I’ve been a committed atheist ever since.  So …


That took all of two seconds.

Next, I emailed Albee.  I asked him if he also received this chain letter email from our mutual acquaintance.  He responded, “My inbox has reserved itself for African banking schemes.”

Then, I queried the three other main men in my life, Milton, Martini Max and my sidekick, Greg.  Milton and Max have both been recipients of chain letter emails and they both told me that the senders are always women.  They both delete them instantly.  Greg boasts that he never gets these kinds of emails and attributes that to his anatomy or to quote Greg-speak, “It’s because I have a dangler.”  Or, because he’s under thirty he knows fewer crazy women than Milton or Max.

I don’t know how big a role anatomy plays in this stupidity, but Greg might be onto something.  When I get these emails, it has always been from women, and usually women I know well whom I consider very intelligent.  In January, my boss, Elsbeth, fell victim to the Neiman Marcus $250 cookie recipe story that has been floating around for decades.  Possibly it’s because females are genetically programmed to be nurturing, and it is their natural inclination to want to help someone in need, but it baffles me why their olfactory properties shut down to this distinct smell of bullshit.  Cali and I could both easily sniff this one out.  Woof!  Or, grrrrrrrrrrr.

Lame Adventure 87: Chump Change

Whenever I have extra pennies, nickels or dimes, I deposit them into my change jar and note the amount on the blank side of one of my yet to be published literary masterpieces since I am a staunch believer in recycling the trash.  When I calculate that I’ve crossed the $35 threshold, and my change jar rivals the weight of Milton’s right foot, I haul it over to my bank’s penny saver machine to cash it out.

Milton's right foot playing the diva.

35 bucks in a jar.

Earlier this month, when I last accomplished this task, I stood in line behind a kindred spirit approximately one-tenth my age that was carrying her change in a Dora the Explorer bank.  Ah, my peer!

My change jar should now contain $2.10, but at this moment, it only holds $2.04 because when I was recently going to deposit 44 cents into it, I noticed that one of my nickels was minted in 1939 and a penny was from Canada.  I wondered, “Wow, what are the odds of that?”  My mind was more focused on the 1939 nickel when that thought crossed it.

$2 and four cents.

The penny I would later recycle at my grocery store, Fairway, in a smooth as gravel transaction.

Penny in question.

Surly Cashier:  This isn’t American.  It’s from Canada.

Me:  Actually, like the US, Canada is in North America.  You know, the other day, I got this penny in my change from one of your colleagues.

In evident appreciation of my geography lesson, Surly Cashier tossed my Canadian penny into her change drawer with a flick of her wrist worthy of Serena Williams.  The clink it made sounded remarkably similar to, “Fuck you.”

Returning to the topic of my 1939 nickel, according to Wikipedia 1939 was indeed a banner year for the Jefferson profile nickel for only a mere 120,615,000 were minted without a Philadelphia “P” mint mark – just like mine!  The world’s population back then was approximately 2.3 billion, so this further puts into perspective just how rare indeed that nickel was.  For example, I am sure that very few goat herders in Tibet had a 1939 nickel in those days, but here I am, 71 years later, residing in the heart of Manhattan, and one just falls into my wallet.

What are the odds?

After conducting further research I learned something intriguing, 1939 was one of the dates that counterfeiter Francis Leroy Henning of Erial, New Jersey used on the nickels he produced.  He minted approximately half a million and 100,000 Henning nickels entered circulation in 1954.  He was arrested the following year, served three years in prison, and fined $5000.  It is believed that he dumped many of his nickels in Copper Creek and the Schuylkill River in New Jersey, but they were never recovered.  Even if he was tempted, I doubt that he pressed his luck with the authorities and paid his fine in Jefferson profile coins.  Although it is technically illegal to own a counterfeit, Henning nickels dated 1939, 1944, 1946, 1947 and 1953, with one more date still undiscovered, are worth between $20 and $30.  The telltale signs of a Henning nickel are a hole in the “R” in Pluribus and the lack of a P mintmark in the ones dated 1944.

Henning nickel -- see hole in R in Pluribus.

With this warehouse of knowledge filling my head, I grabbed my magnifying glass and checked out my 1939 nickel.  I did not see a hole in the R in Pluribus.  Undaunted, I then went online and found the Coin Values Guide for Jefferson Nickels in  A chart declared that a 1939 nickel minus a mintmark is worth 25 cents.  The site also said that if a coin is “fairly worn” it’s “worth much less than the coin prices given.”

Therefore, it appears that seventy-one years later, my 1939 nickel is worth all of five cents.  Hence, the title of this post.

Lame Adventure 86: Please Do Stop the Music!

Today Elvis has been dead for thirty-three years and Madonna turns fifty-two.  Although I liked much of Elvis’s music, I could have easily lived without seeing most of his mediocre movies, and as for Madonna, her films are so bad, she makes Elvis seem like Laurence Olivier.  As for Madonna’s music, I am not much of a fan of that, either.

Yet, four years ago I had a friend who was hell-bent on seeing Madonna at Madison Square Garden when she was on the Confessions tour.  If I recall correctly, the sponsor was Geritol.  The ticket cost $169.50 and I still suffer chest pain when I think of all the other entertainment events I would have so preferred to see aside from the Material Middle Aged Girl gyrating all over a hydraulic horse while singing Like a Virgin.  Also, the date we saw her was July 2nd.  It was very hot and very humid both inside and outside the arena for she insisted that air conditioning dries out her throat.  It never occurred to me until then that a performer whose entire career has been based on shock and style with scant vocal ability posing a distant third on her talent chart, would suddenly channel her inner Maria Callas, but she did.  I can still feel the sweat trickling down my back while watching her perform.  One positive aspect of Madonna is that her music is so forgettable, it never sticks in my head, and that I appreciate very much.

A stuffed badger theatrical prop that was not used in any Elvis film nor on the Confessions tour.

Although one generally thinks of music as a source of pleasure, except perhaps when the military uses it as a form of audio assault, on a much more reduced level in everyday life, it can also be quite painful.  For example, my normally indifferent boss, Elsbeth, cannot refrain from vocalizing her disdain whenever she hears Sometime Around Midnight by the Airborne Toxic Event.  One of our former assistants played that song on her boom box and I warned her to never play it in The Boss’s presence unless she had a death wish.  My sidekick, Greg, is convinced that he’s being stalked by Dishwalla’s Counting Blue Cars. There may be some validity to this for it is uncanny that this fifteen-year-old song always seems to play on the radio whenever he is sitting at his desk.  My dear friend, Milton, practically transforms into the Wolfman whenever he hears Rihanna, but he seems to have particular contempt for Please Don’t Stop the Music.  As for me, aside from Barney crooning the I Love You song, Kylie Minogue’s Can’t Get You Out of My Head, is enough to make me want to rent a Zipcar and drive it off a cliff.

I am certain that anyone reading this post has at least one song, if not a number of songs, that is both torture to hear and sheer agony when stuck on one’s internal iPod.  Possibly it’s a song by either Elvis or Madonna.