Monthly Archives: November 2010

Lame Adventure 130: Pre and Post Turkey Day Inanity

Wednesday, Thanksgiving Eve, my company closed an hour early, presumably so that employees could get a jump on the holiday weekend, but my boss, Elsbeth, took it upon herself to shut every single light on our floor Tai Chi-style with my sidekick, Greg, following close behind, leaving Ling, Under Ling and I waiting anxiously by the door.  I had strained my lower back a few days earlier while auditioning for Cirque du Soleil in the privacy of my own bathroom.  Therefore, I stood waiting in agony, carrying my messenger bag, a bottle of wine, a duffel bag and a month’s worth of New Yorkers to read on my journey to New Jersey since I was doing my usual, spending Turkey Day with my friend, Martini Max, and his family.  Fearing that my metamorphosis into a human pack mule would worsen my injury I delicately asked of my superior:

Me:  What the fuck is she doing?  Let’s get the hell out of here before I end up in a full body cast!

Elsbeth, who is equipped with hearing worthy of a feral beast hunting for prey deep in the woods, got the message and joined us in the doorway.  While staring at me grimacing in pain laden with luggage and gifts, she asked:

Elsbeth:  When are you going to visit your friend in New Jersey?

Me (thinking):  If we can ever get the hell out of here and I can forgo getting a morphine drip, the goal is today.

Me (saying):  Today.

It was evident that it never occurred to my Lord and Master that I generally do not carry an extra forty pounds of luggage and gifts on my person every day.  As for the grimace on my face, she probably assumed it is my natural expression as I approach completing a second full year of 2008 level wages memorably reduced by 20% in the wake of inauguration day 2009, an act of cruelty that could soon turn me into a homicidal maniac.  By the time we walked out the door, everyone else in our company had bolted and night had fallen.  When I reached the Canal Street subway station the A train I needed to catch was pulling out.  Fortunately, another arrived quickly, and I was on my way to Max-ville.

My three-day hiatus with Max and his kin was therapeutic and the food, as always, was excellent, the guests were amiable, the children behaved, and even the dog, gifted with a bone, was mellow.  I was so uncharacteristically relaxed I forgot to take pictures.  Upon returning to Max’s apartment following Thanksgiving dinner, we noticed that one of his neighbor’s got a jump on cluttering his hallway with their Christmas decorating, or as Max said:

Max:  Oh look, Christmas dunce caps.

Christmas Coneheads.


Lame Adventure 128: Uninvited Guests

I am not a fan of killing living things.  I suppose if I had to fend for myself in a strange environment, I might be able to find my inner Bear Grylls, or maybe not.   For ultra urban me a strange environment is not the woods, since I am more likely to find myself on planet Neptune than in a place full of dirt and packed with trees that prohibit cell phone use.  For me, a strange environment is a suburban shopping mall without a multiplex, if there is such a thing.  I am sure I could find something to eat in any mall, and maybe even a restaurant serving a decent Pinot Noir.  Therefore, I would not need to chow down insects or drink my own urine in an effort to survive while vomiting.

Occasionally, a waterbug comes up through my bathroom’s drain, and I do kill those, but if I encounter a spider or a ladybug, I would capture them and put them out the window.  Mosquitoes and flies would be subject to the same harsh fate as the waterbug, so I admit when I have a bug visitor, I do not treat all insects equally.

From time to time sparrows or pigeons perch on the sill outside my window.  They don’t disturb me at all, but if one were to make it’s way into my apartment, I’d likely lose every ounce of cool, and toss such a fit, I might need sedation.

What would disturb me just as much as a bird flying in my sanctum sanctorum would be a lurking rodent.  Years ago, when I was a student at Not Yet Useful, I heard rustling in my roommate’s half of our dorm room.  She was out so the lights were off.  I was in my room reading.  I got up to investigate when I saw a rat’s two shiny black eyes making contact with mine.  We both stood frozen for what seemed like four days, but it was probably closer to four tenths of a second.  Then, the rat darted one way back into her room, and I ran out the door, which closed behind me.  Brilliantly I locked myself out.

Recently, while in the bathroom at work, I had an encounter with a centipede on the wall.  Centipedes are safe with me.  While I was peeing, it appeared to be sleeping.  After completing my visit, I went to my desk, retrieved my camera, and returned to the bathroom where I photographed the slumbering crawler.  I took several shots with and without flash.  All were lousy, but it never flinched.  Obviously, it was a sound sleeper – just like me.  I returned to my desk thinking:

Me:  Huh.  Who knew I have something in common with a centipede?

My centipede alter ego.

A few hours later, I was feeling bored.  Greg, my sidekick, was sitting at his desk fighting a coma while typing tile labels.  I approached him with my camera.

Me:  Want to see some crummy pictures I shot?

Greg (regaining consciousness):  Sure!

I flipped through my photos of our department’s centipede.

Greg:  Hey, I killed that.

Me (horrified):  Why?

Greg:  Under Ling asked me to.

Me:  How’d you do it?

Greg:  With a piece of toilet paper, and then my foot after it fell.

Hitman hands at rest.

It disturbed me to think that my very own 21C (Evelyn Waugh-speak for second-in-command) had been enlisted to perform this execution of my kindred spirit as it slept so peacefully against the bathroom wall.   There it was, possibly having a lovely dream when suddenly, it was bludgeoned, squished, stomped and then the final humiliation, flushed.

I glanced at Ling’s sidekick, Under Ling, sitting at her desk, working in a fog of boredom.  Under Ling’s a sweet soul, and I reasoned that centipedes are simply on her creepy crawly death wish list.   Next time I encounter a centipede in the bathroom, I’ll make sure to chuck it out the window … where it will probably be promptly eaten by a pigeon.


Lame Adventure 127: Don’t Leave It to Bieber

I was trying to read The New York Times online, but I suffered momentary ADD when I was distracted by an image of a bespectacled middle age male model in a shirt ad sporting an utterly ridiculous Justin Bieber-style haircut.  This made me wonder if there was a picture of a bespectacled Justin Bieber out there so I did a Google search to appease my curiosity.  Sure enough, there he was, the tween heartthrob and his mother’s retirement plan, wearing utterly ridiculous oversized spectacles.

A cultural low point.

Even New York Patriot’s quarterback, Tom Brady, took some heat when he appeared to be wearing Bieber-inspired locks.  Body beautiful Brady would have made an infinitely more attractive cotton shirt model.

Brady-Man vs. Bieber-Boy

A once again bespectacled Bieber posted a cringe-inducing rap video where he mocks Brady’s hair and takes ownership of the do indicating he’s never heard of the Beatles.  In 1964, a reporter asked George Harrison what he called the band’s hairstyle.  Harrison quipped, “Arthur.”

The Fab Four and Arthur.

Upon viewing Bieber’s awkward and embarrassing rap, which I hope he’s forced to watch on his fortieth birthday so he can feel my pain, it occurred to me that Bieber makes best forgotten Vanilla Ice appear to have been the second coming of James Brown.  One particularly Insightful Viewer posted this comment about Bieber’s rap:


(For you pedants out there, “WIT” is an intentional Insightful Viewer spelling.)

When a 102 pound 16-year-old falsetto is influencing how men’s shirts are sold, this confirms that the planet is overheating in the worst way.  If Mad Men’s Don Draper were an actual retired 80-something ad man living in today’s world, and he had not succumbed to lung cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, or a massive coronary while getting horizontal with someone other than his wife, seeing ads like Cotton Work would have surely provided the tipping point that makes him happy to check out in 2010.

Lame Adventure 126: Fresh Out of the Oven

Pictured below are seven cakes that my dear friend, Mer, baked when she went on an inexplicable cake-baking binge on a Monday night after work last February.

Cakes before being devoured by colleagues.

Coincidentally, around this same time that Mer was channeling her inner Betty Crocker, she also conceived her daughter, Sophie.  I now know that when a woman’s fertility is at its peak, and her husband is intoxicated on his favorite perfume, Fragrant Cake Aroma, this is a recipe where not only seven cakes can come flying out of the oven, but a healthy baby girl can follow nine months later.

Freshly hatched Sophie.

Even though I am an avowed non-breeder, I am actually rather fond of the children produced by my friends, and of course, Sweet Pea, the heir my sister was considerate enough to spawn.  Yet, last week, my patience was sorely tested when seven-year-old bored-out-of-his-mind Little Lance visited my office.  As his temporary sitter met with my boss, Elsbeth, to talk tile, Little Lance made a bee-line for the scissors on my desk and proceeded to cut up a tissue before attempting to tackle a horse hair dust brush.  With visions of this child slicing off his own thumb, I calmly asked him to put the scissors back 687 times.  Eventually he got the message – after eying a far more enticing silver knife that Elsbeth had lying atop a stool.  That knife could have been sitting on that stool for three seconds or thirty years, but I never noticed it until that moment.  Screaming inside my head I thought:

Me:  Jesus Christ, Elsbeth, why the hell do you have a knife on a stool?

Naturally, that knife brought out the Road Runner in Little Lance as he rocketed over to the shiny weapon of child destruction.  I knew if I attempted to hurdle my Acme brand desk to reach that knife pre-Lance, I’d probably morph into Wile E. Coyote, catch my foot on a corner, only half-dive over the desk, and painfully smash my face into its back wall breaking my nose and glasses.  This would surely elicit peals of laughter from Little Lance who might then grab the knife and stab me like a piñata for more fun.

Before anyone needed to call an ambulance for me, Little Lance’s sitter finished his meeting with Elsbeth and grabbed the knife out of the boy’s hand.  The sitter, who at the moment brought to mind Joan Crawford, announced, “This is exactly why I never want to have kids.”  As they left, Greg, my sidekick, entered.

Greg:  Our office isn’t a very safe environment for kids.

Me:  Thank you for noticing, Dr. Spock.

To younger readers, this is not a reference to a certain pointy-earred Vulcan, but to Dr. Benjamin Spock, the pediatrician that wrote The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care. This tome has sold more than 50 million copies since it was published in 1946.

Dr. Spock.

Some may remember Sophie’s entry into the world this past Tuesday as the day that Apple began selling the Beatles catalogue on iTunes, or Prince William announced his engagement to Kate Middleton, or if you’re New York Congressman Charlie Rangel, the day your colleagues deemed you guilty as sin of eleven ethics violations.  Sophie’s big sister, Kennedy, will probably remember it best as a cause for celebrating the debut of her buddy and rival.  The games can really begin in Mer’s house.  Dr. Spock might urge Mer to lock up all sharp objects now.

Kennedy, Sophie and Mom, as Kennedy plots the future.

Lame Adventure 125: Memories of Mean Streak

My childhood dog, Mean Streak, would have turned 287 in dog years this past Sunday, had he not taken leave of this world to commence peeing on the fire hydrant in the sky back in the spring of 1986.  Mean Streak was an excellent watchdog but a bit on the high strung side.  My family and I did not excel at dog training, as much as our dog excelled at getting us to play by his rules.  Revered dog whisperer Cesar Milan probably would have shouted himself hoarse at us.

An example of Mean Streak steamrolling us was that he expected warm toast with butter for breakfast.  One morning, I entered the kitchen where I discovered Mean Streak was exceptionally snarly as was my father.  I avoided the dog but confronted my dad.

Me:  What did you do to piss off the dog?

Dad:  I made him breakfast.  Why won’t he eat it?

Me:  Did you toast it?

Dad:  Of course, I toasted it!

Me:  Did you butter it?

Dad:  Butter it!  Which one of you jackasses started him on that – you or your brother?

Me:  Try your mother.

Granny, who lived with us, would make the same breakfast every morning for herself and Mean Streak, except she had coffee with her buttered toast.  She would have gladly given him a cup of java, too, but she had the capacity to see that he was excitable enough without adding caffeine to his diet.  Whenever Granny went away, Mean Streak would be a bit out of sorts.  He was confident that she would get his breakfast right unlike her son.

A particularly bad habit my grandmother taught the dog was how to bribe.  Mean Streak would not allow anyone to touch his supper dish when he had finished eating.  The only way we could get it back was to show him a biscuit.  If you were foolish enough to try and take his dish away without a treat, he’d sink his teeth into your arm.  He made it very clear he was in total control of that dish.  Therefore, you’d prominently extend the cookie towards him so he could clearly see it since he was so nearsighted.  After he was certain it was indeed his dessert in your hand, and not the exploding cigar he deserved, he’d punch a paw into the dish prompting it to stand on its side.  Then he’d carry it to you in his mouth, and drop it at your feet in exchange for his end of the deal.  Once he punched his dish so vigorously, it went flying under my dad’s Buick.

Mean Streak went ballistic.

He crouched low but could not shimmy his way under the car.  He was barking frantically, which did not faze me since he was always barking at something, including the wind.  He even barked in his sleep.  As Mean Streak was freaking out, I was in the living room calmly reading the newspaper, tuning out the racket.  My grandmother arrived on the scene.  When she realized what had happened, she ordered me to intercede on the dog’s behalf.

Granny:  Get the dog’s dish.

Me:  No way.  He’s on his own.  Sucks to be him.

Granny:  He’s upset!

Me:  When he bites my arm off, won’t that upset you to have a granddaughter the neighbors call ‘Stumpy’?

Granny (demanding):  Go under the car now!

Me (channeling John McEnroe):  You can’t be serious!

She was.  I went under the car.  All the while Mean Streak is crouched low, anxiously watching my every move with a crazed look in his eye and white foam dripping off his jowls.  When I get a hand on his dish, I whack it out.  He grabs it without saying thanks, and obediently hands it to my grandmother who rewards him with his biscuit adding:

Granny:  Good boy!

Alongside barking and growling, Mean Streak’s other favorite activity was to lie under the kitchen table and chew on his nails, as opposed to his countless chew toys and tennis balls.  One day he gnawed with a little too much gusto.  Hence, as seen in the picture below, his bandaged right paw.

Mean Streak flaunting the wounds of war with himself.

Lame Adventure 124: Cat Lapping

The Science section of The New York Times has published a story about how cats lap water.

Another mystery solved.

The Times online has also embedded a four minute forty-five second video illustrating “the biomechanics of feline water uptake.”  Translation: see for yourself in slow motion how Cutta Cutta, an M.I.T. engineer’s pet cat, drinks.  While this engineer was having breakfast, he was observing Cutta Cutta lap.  Instead of investing his vast intellect in the direction of global warming, our dependence on fossil fuels, or the rapidity of college student alcohol intake, he focused his attention on his cat delicately darting its tongue into its water bowl at lightening speed.  This seemingly ordinary act of feline nature fired this engineer’s imagination, as well as that of an M.I.T. colleague, and two other engineers, one from Princeton, and the other from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

I have deduced that these four brilliant men of science had an immense amount of time on their hands, and were also under pressure to look busy.  I have experienced a similar situation in my own place of employ, where I oversee the labeling of floor tile.  When there is a lull in my workload, I exploit this opportunity to clean my desk, an act I have performed precisely once in six years much to the astonishment of my boss and colleagues who initially assumed that I was preparing to give notice.  Returning to the topic of the study of cat lapping I suspect this research would have gone in an entirely different direction had that engineer been focused on Cutta Cutta making use of the litter box.

Although I am personally a dog person by default, being deathly allergic to cats, I do have a soft spot for Maru, the superstar box jumping cat from Japan.  While watching the video below, I noticed that I sneezed.

After detailing precisely how a cat laps, the rate of lapping, and the amount of liquid consumed, the Times notes, “To the scientific mind, the next obvious question is whether bigger cats should lap at different speeds.”  To my unscientific mind, the more obvious follow-up question is, “Who the hell cares?”   Why four engineers from some of the brainiest think tanks out there would be prompted to study a cat tonguing a dish of milk baffles me, unless this is just to prove that they’re worthy of collecting a paycheck.  How does knowing how a cat laps, whether it’s my boss’s two calicos, or Leo the MGM lion, or Cutta Cutta, make this world a better place?  Considering that some of our greatest minds are investing their time studying the mechanics of how cats drink assures me that the world is definitely going to the dogs.

We're here!

Lame Adventure 123: West Side Chair Story

Weekends are prime time for me to indulge my literary pursuits and this past weekend was no exception.  Saturday morning around ten o’clock, I was home, six minutes into working diligently on my current pet project, the book for a musical about itchy, dry skin, when I was suddenly compelled to take a nap.  As I was resting my head on my keyboard, I heard the familiar thuds, thumps, and drags of an upstairs tenant moving out of my brownstone, Casa de la Shangri-La.

Since there was no sleeping through that racket, I stayed on the computer and read a fascinating email from Duane Reade featuring the Goddess of Adventure — a smiling woman half my age and forty-fold my fitness level surfing. Borrowing a page out of the classic tampon ad proclaiming that tampon users can swim, play tennis and ride horseback, the 21st century version of that message declares that this woman is able to ride ocean waves because she shaves with the Venus Embrace.

With the right toothpaste, I can also pilot a plane!

Reflecting that I shave with the Erida Reject, could this shine a light on why I nearly landed on all fours while stepping off the curb in an effort to cross West End Avenue en route to purchasing a bagel?

Yet, I am getting ahead of myself.  First I had to exit my building to walk up the street to West End Avenue to engage in this act of ill coordination.  Once the sounds of moving had subsided, I realized that I was hungry for a cinnamon raisin bagel.  Knowing that the coast was clear and I would not be in the way of the departing tenant(s), I decided to venture outdoors, a generally uneventful endeavor.

Just as I opened the door of my building leading to the outside world, what do I see but a crappy chair on casters blocking the walkway.

You don't look happy to see me.

Had whoever left it parked it closer to the front door, my more whimsically-inclined mentally impaired neighbors could have sat in it and pushed their way over to different trash cans to make their deposits.  I briefly considered moving it up to the sidewalk but just as briefly considered pulling a hamstring.  Therefore, I walked around it, walked up the street on my bagel errand, and almost fell off the curb when my faulty peripheral vision mistook a pigeon for a rat.

Not this rat.

When I returned home, bagel-in-tow, the crappy chair still stood proudly in the walkway rivaling the toilet with the open lid that had been placed in front of my building on a snowy night last February.  I did not dare look at whatever might be in the bowl.

An image of my block not found on Google maps.

A more pleasant site, that cinnamon raisin bagel.

On any given day in the many trash heaps throughout Gotham City, the eyesore pile is bound to visit my building.  Or not.  The second time I went out, someone had moved the crappy chair up to the sidewalk outside the gate where the recycle cans are located.  The third time I went out, it had relocated west in front of a tree near a building two doors down.  The fourth time I went out, it was gone.

I suspect it has found a second home proving the new adage that one tenant’s trash is another’s source of bed bugs.

The survivor.