Monthly Archives: January 2011

Lame Adventure 156: Oral Sex in the Workplace!

If your workplace is anything like mine, no one’s lapping up anything other than caffeine, but a few weeks back, my boss, Elsbeth, colleague, Ling, sidekick, Greg, and I engaged in a discussion about the film Blue Valentine before any of us had seen it.  We were familiar with the notoriety surrounding Blue Valentine and that it had narrowly escaped an NC-17 rating due to a scene where one character performs oral sex on another.

Put that away now!

Elsbeth (baffled):  Why would that cause it to get an NC-17 rating?

Greg (Mr. Explanation):  It’s because the guy goes down on the woman and she has an orgasm.

Elsbeth and Ling (attacking Greg in unison):  So?

Elsbeth (accusatory tone):  What’s wrong with that?

Lone male Greg sees a pay cut and possibly unemployment heading his way.

Greg (defensive):  I’m not saying it’s wrong!  I’m just saying what I heard!

Me (via the peanut gallery):  But if he raped and killed her that would probably get an R.

My boss and buddies agree with this assessment.  Greg narrowly escapes his own evisceration, and he hightails to his workshop to build more tile samples.

Albee and I have since seen Blue Valentine.  Had I been asked what film with an intense oral sex scene narrowly had an NC-17 rating overturned, Blue Valentine or Black Swan, I would have assumed it was Black Swan.  The oral sex scene in Black Swan is kinky erotic fun, and oh yeah, it’s between two hot women.  I’d buy that DVD.  I’d put it in my collection next to Bound.

The oral sex scene in Blue Valentine between Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams is poignant.  Although it did not reduce me to tears, the way the film is edited, the voyeuristic viewer is aware of much more than the characters at that point in time and feels wistful.  It’s a very beautiful scene in a very painful story.  If the jug heads on the ratings board forced director Derek Cianfrance to cut or edit that scene that would have so detracted from the emotional weight of this film, and it’s not a film with subject matter — a crumbling marriage — that horny teenage boys would want to see.  I am very glad that Cianfrance won his appeal.  I would be even happier if whoever sits on the ratings board would read a sex manual since these romance loathing violence-lovers must suck out loud in bed.

Deserving Academy Award Best Actress nominee, Michelle Williams, with co-star Ryan Gosling, who should have received a Best Actor nomination, in a scene from Blue Valentine.


Lame Adventure 155: Insult to Misery

Since the Eastern seaboard has been pummeled with a fifth snowstorm in the first month of winter, with more surely to follow, the time has come for the silly statistic, a claim that is blathered solely to blow the average Joe or Joe-ette’s mind.  For example, last June, on Day 63 of the Gulf Oil Spill, CBS News reported that the spill would fill 9,200 living rooms.  Naturally I felt immense relief knowing that my home would be spared since it’s a living room-less studio apartment.  How that calculation was determined would be another report in itself.  I hope that either the Onion or Saturday Night Live tackles that story soon.

Today’s silly stat comes courtesy of ABC News blandly handsome correspondent Jeremy Hubbard who reported on Thursday evening that so much snow has fallen over New York City in the past month; it’s enough to fill 1000 Empire State buildings.

The son of Mother Hubbard with his producer standing in the background, who's either the smallest man working in network news, or a tool to illustrate a point that this mountain of plowed snow could fill Neptune.

Real deal silly stat.

Aside from wondering why anyone would want to know that the Empire State Building could pack the past month of snow one thousand times, all anyone who lives in the Big Apple needs to do is walk out the door and look around.  There are miles of snow everywhere.  Who needs to know how many skyscrapers, golf courses, or used car lots it can fill?

The look of ugh.

Where'd the sidewalk go?

Suck morning.

Lambs to slaughter entering West 72nd Street subway station.

With my naked eye, as far as I can see, I see snow everywhere I look.  I get it.  There’s a gargantuan amount of snow out there.  If I hit my head on a low hanging air conditioner, knocked myself out, and fell face forward into a snow bank in the middle of the night, I’d probably wake up dead, possibly with a Friedrich logo partially tattooed across my forehead.

There’s so much snow, some of it was even in my apartment when I left my window a tad too open during the fourth storm two weeks ago.  It was not enough to fill the entirety of my modest digs, but it was annoying and rather snarky.

Suggestion from Cyclops the windowsill snow woman, "Next storm, lower your window, stupido."

Furthermore, I do not need to know how the size of the small toxic lake currently floating in front of the West 72nd Street subway turnstiles compares to 987 sixteen ounce Starbucks Grande soy lattes.  I just know from entering and exiting that turnstile that it’s another snowstorm-related butt-pain I, and thousands of other rush hour commuters like me, would prefer to live without.

Heading to Hell.

Lake Pea Soup

One silly stat that anyone has yet to measure is the steam generated by grousing New Yorkers riding public transit.  My guess is that the hot vapor we emitted en masse as we exited that uptown express 2 train when it went out of service at 14th Street Thursday night was enough to launch a rocket into the next galaxy.   In addition, we could have collectively fueled the rocket’s return to earth in time for a monsoon-like spring.  Maybe it would behoove me to price wet suits now.

Lame Adventure 154: Fun with First Aid!

When I woke on Monday, it was six degrees outside, and not much warmer in my workplace where the office felt akin to an igloo the entire day.  Elsbeth, my boss, and Ling, my colleague, manipulated the thermostat repeatedly to little avail.  I groused:

Me:  Where’s a hot flash when I need one?

Frustrated, Elsbeth complained to me that her lair, which gets the lion’s share of the heat as Ling and I sit under a vent that blasts us with gusts of arctic air all year long, was feeling much too cold.  As this designer’s hand-picked assistant of a mere 54,816 hours, one minor surgery and two invasive medical procedures — but enough digressing about our good times together — I suggested she design a working fireplace and have it installed in her office.  My superior settled for donning warmer boots instead.

As cold as we were, almost all of us dressed in layers.  The one exception was Under Ling, who wore her usual uniform of sneakers, skinny jeans, a tea shirt and a hoodie.  Meanwhile, her superior, Ling, sat next to her clad in eleven layers and a scarf.  Under Ling, a bolt of fat free energy, sat huddled at her computer shivering under her hoodie.

Suffering in silence.

Considering that Under Ling grew up on Long Island, she should know by now that winter is cold out here.  Possibly, I should email her a reminder.  Fortunately, Ling saved the day and assigned her charge to shoot some photographs on a warmer floor.  To Under Ling this assignment was equal to an all expense paid vacation in the Bahamas.  She was out the door faster than the speed of light.  Too bad she failed to pack sunblock.  I was heading to the restroom to wash my three-gallon tea thermos when Under Ling stops me:

Under Ling:  I burned my thumb on a light bulb.  What am I supposed to do?

I observe a pea-sized brown spot on her thumb.

Me:  Run it under cold water, dry it, slather it with burn cream, then give me a $25 co-pay.  I accept PayPal.

We enter the bathroom together.  Neither of the two first aid kits has burn cream – or much else.  I leave Under Ling in the bathroom where she cools her sore thumb under the tap.  I call Rowena, our source for copier supplies, tissues, sarcasm and drugs.  She has burn cream.  I send Under Ling to Rowena for treatment.  Under Ling returns and shows me her treated thumb.

Under Ling:  I guess it’s a first-degree burn.

I scrutinize it further.

Bathtub gin?

Channeling my inner Dr. Quackenbush, I offer a second opinion:

Me:  I’d say it’s more like half a degree.

As he is leaving, The Quiet Man asks Greg, my sidekick:

The Quiet Man:  How did Under Ling burn her thumb?

Greg:  She touched me.  I’m so hot.

The Quiet Man resumes his silence as he departs the premises faintly muttering, “keyhole,” or possibly my semi-deaf ears misheard the exact key word.

The next day Under Ling’s thumb is significantly better (and our office about 40 degrees warmer), but this toasted thumb situation troubles Elsbeth.  She e-blasts the staff to weigh in about refilling our essentially empty first aid kits.

Medicine cabinet with two empty first aid kits.

Box with one adhesive bandage.

Under Ling suggests bandages, an ice pack and burn cream.  As Greg is writing out his laundry list of ideas, I flip through our office supply catalogue and see the Red Cross Emergency SmartPack.  Aside from containing the usual bandages and ointments, this kit is so over-the-top I imagine it even has steroids.

"Hey gang, let's hurt ourselves so we can tear into this!"

I mention it to my peers.  As soon as they hear that it contains food, they start drooling, and when they hear it also has a blanket, a sling (Under Ling wants that) and flares, they’re ecstatic.  Yet, this kit costs $51.99.  Therefore, Elsbeth dictates that we’re settling for the $21.59 94-piece refill box even though it’s food-less, blanket-less, sling-less, and flare-less.  Greg will go to our neighborhood pharmacy to pick up some fresh rubbing alcohol to replace the bottle that’s mint flavored that expired in December 2006.

I have no idea why we got mint flavored rubbing alcohol, but it’s possible that some long gone intrepid colleague also used it as mouth wash or improvised mixing a crème de menthe, a cocktail my father used to make for my siblings and I that my sister thinks tastes like Scope.

Bottoms up.

Lame Adventure 153: Tree Piles

I was running errands on the Upper West Side.  Everywhere I looked I encountered piles of discarded Christmas trees heaped on the sidewalk waiting for the trash collector, another post-holiday Gotham City tradition that is not as exalted as when those same trees were standing tall and fresh or when they were clad in traditional tree-drag.

Battalion of trees at 72nd and Broadway

Trees with rigor mortis still clad in tinsel.

Tree suffering double indignity piled under snow and carpet.

That afternoon, they were simply reduced to piles of tree corpses that were of no further use to their owners.  Most New York City apartments are tight on space, so the average resident is not going to be inclined to compost his or her tree.  Last week, I tried a new Trader Joe’s cereal containing a key ingredient that could have been mulch.  I gave it to my sidekick, Greg.

Bark in a box.

At the risk of encountering the wrath of The New Yorker and a beating from the angry ghosts of Harold Ross, William Shawn, and their current fire-breathing legal department, pictured below is one of their more profound cartoons by Jack Ziegler that perfectly captures the post-holiday spirit.

Another New York City tradition, dumping trees in any available trash can.

This cartoon is also available as a holiday card on their The New Yorker Store web site.

Some years back I had a next-door neighbor that kept her over-sized holiday wreath hanging outside her door for six months.  By February, it was shedding needles so profusely I had to sweep my apartment’s entryway every time I entered.  By April I was practically vacuuming hourly.  Possibly, every time she entered her apartment, she was blind to the shower of needles forever falling.  Maybe this wreath had some sentimental, or more likely, mental symbolism.  I recall that she worked for Lord & Taylor, or Ann Taylor, or maybe she was a tailor.  She did not strike me as a tree hugger-type.  Several times, I considered politely asking her to “please take that eye-sore the hell down,” but it was her wreath, her door, and it was not as if she was hanging a giant holiday fruitcake that had attracted every fly on earth.

Finally, one day in June while I was home indulging my favorite hobby, procrastinating,  I heard a thunk outside our respective sanctum sanctorums.  We simultaneously opened our doors to find her wreath collapsed in a heap on the floor.

Me (thinking to myself):  Oh happy day!

Neighbor:  How’d that happen?

Me:  Old age or suicide.

Neighbor:  Do you think I should take it down?

Me:  Or piece it back together.  I have a mini pine forest in my vacuum cleaner that I can pass onto you.  Christmas is barely six months away!

She got the message and threw it out.


Lame Adventure 152: Hurry up and wait

“Futurists have long predicted that one day, shoppers will swipe cellphones instead of credit cards to make purchases. At Starbucks stores nationwide, that is about to become a reality … “We’re providing them with the fastest way to pay,” Brady Brewer, vice president for the Starbucks card and brand loyalty, said in a statement.”

The New York Times, Buy a Latte by Waving Your Phone

For the past few years, my brother, Axel, has given me a $20 Starbucks gift card for Christmas.  This Christmas, my sister, Dovima, also gave me a $20 Starbucks gift card.  Add this $40 in Starbucks gift cards to the $3.59 unused portion of the Starbucks gift card I received from Axel in 2009, and it becomes apparent that I am either Mormon or a lifelong tea drinker.

$43.59 Starbucks gift card collection.

In actuality I am a tea-loving atheist, and tea is not Starbucks’ signature beverage.  In fact, Starbucks hot tea tastes rather anemic to me, but that could have been due to it being so hot, I scalded both my tongue and esophagus with such severity I lost my ability to distinguish flavor for three days.

Before my lactose intolerance started registering on the Richter scale, I guzzled many a Frappuccino as well as an occasional latte, but my all-time favorite Starbucks’ beverage was their peppermint hot chocolate topped with whipped cream and drizzled with chocolate.  According to my gastroenterologist, this combination of milk, chocolate, and peppermint is the perfect Bermuda Triangle for someone with guts as fragile as mine, so I’ve quit the Frappuccinos and lattes.  Now, when I think of it, I order the less lethal soy hot chocolate, but since I still have $43.59 in Starbucks gift card credit, this idea has yet to catapult to the forefront of my thoughts.

As for Starbucks new lightning fast pay via smart phone technology that launches today, that’s a great rush hour gimick.  Every time I visit any Starbucks in Manhattan, it’s during the off-peak period so waiting an eternity to pay is not an issue.  What remains an issue is the indecisive customers ahead of me or the barista that transparently hates his or her job.  Both are institutions that remain intact.

A few weeks ago, on a Saturday night, Milton and I went to a Starbucks on Columbus Avenue.  There were only a few customers ahead of us, and they knew what they wanted.  The person working the register efficiently swiped my gift card.  The problem was the lackluster barista.  If this guy had been a car, he would have been a Yugo stuck in second gear – and that was before he mumbled he was out of ice and traveled to Antarctica to replenish the supply.  He disappeared for fifteen minutes.  Since he was the only one making drinks, there were easily a dozen customers waiting for him to return.

Considering that it was 17-degrees and there was a mountain of snow outside, possibly this was the barista’s way of delivering a statement to the icy beverage buyer, a bubbly young woman who weighed about as much as my thumb.

My thumb ready for its close up.

Her posse had already downed their hot lattes by the time she was served her iced variation, but she was vacant enough to find this hilarious.  I would have beaten the barista with a tube sock full of ice.  What annoyed me more was when he did not fill our orders back to back.  He first prepared my crummy soy hot chocolate, and then proceeded to make someone else’s coffee drink.  I blurted:

Me:  Where’s my hot chocolate with whipped cream?

Milton was denied his drizzle of chocolate over his whipped cream in response to that outburst, but my brother footed our tab so my friend did not complain.

Since my career overseeing tile labeling merely pays health insurance and a potato, I can only afford a dumb phone, I have a two year supply of Starbucks gift card credit, and I would sooner belly slide naked on hot coals than visit Starbucks at peak hour.  Paying via smart phone does not impact me, but if it did, I don’t see much advantage to paying quickly if the goods are not delivered quicker.  Even if Starbucks employed baristas on speed, there’s no way they’ll ever eliminate the indecisive customer who is standing at the register holding up the line.

If futurists (a modern name for the they say-ers?) are right and a time comes when paying via cash or credit card is rendered obsolete, the wallet will be replaced by the smart phone, laptops by tablet computers, and obesity eliminated by eat-as-much-of-anything-as-you-want-and-stay-thin pills (the biggest pharmaceutical cash cow this side of Viagra), I am sure that subway commuters will still carry bulky bags and backpacks as they sip their Starbucks during rush hour and the steady decline in the quality of life will continue no matter how fast we pay to get caffeinated.

Lame Adventure 151: Forbidden Fruit

On a chilly late Saturday afternoon, I was standing inside the entrance of Whole Foods in Union Square, waiting for Albee.  To kill time I photographed the wall of All Natural Tortilla Chips in olive flavor and then I turned my camera’s attention towards the opposite side wall of Darling Clementines.

Great wall of tortilla chips

Before I could attain a properly lit shot of this apparently forbidden fruit, Bored Security Guard, a woman half my age and twice my size, begins yelling at me:

Bored Security Guard:  What are you doing?

Me:  I’m photographing the clementines.

Bored Security Guard:  You can’t do that!

Me:  Why?

Albee enters mid-commotion.  The Bored Security Guard is stumped, not wanting to admit that shoplifting is slow and she’s itching for something to do which is why she has zeroed in on innocuous me.

Bored Security Guard (light bulb):  You need permission!

Albee: We’re with the FDA.

That quip instantly thwarts any possibility of me facing further harassment and frees us to proceed with our actual mission – sampling the zeppole at Led Zeppole on East 14th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues.

Led Zeppole at dusk.

After dining at Francis Ford Coppola’s restaurant, Rustic, last month where I had excellent zeppole for dessert, I wanted another fix of this Italian delicacy, but I was unsure where I might find it in Manhattan since winter is not synonymous with street-food season.  A quick Google search took me to Led Zeppole’s site.  I forwarded the link to dessert-lover Albee who was immediately on board for a fix of fried dough, too.

The shop is a minimally decorated simple storefront, with a modest array of desserts on display in a case.  Interior Design magazine will never publish a feature on this shop unless they do a story on how best to present product in an effort to lose customers.

Minimalist decor.

Desserts on display.

Menu board

A more welcome message than, "Clog arteries here."

I asked the friendly chap behind the counter about the zeppole and he said he’d have a fresh batch made “in two minutes.”   Within minutes, this man of his word gives us a bag with three piping hot, powder sugar-smothered zeppole that proved very satisfying – crispy on the outside, doughy within, and not greasy at all.  Yet, as soon as we bit into these treats the fronts of our black winter jackets were so heavily dusted with powdered sugar, to the unassuming observer we surely appeared to be two graduates of the Tony Montana School of Cocaine Addiction.

The star attraction zeppole on display, but the delectable fresh fare is smothered in powdered sugar.

Fried Oreo's - another Led Zeppole crowd pleaser.

For those that are not lactose intolerant, these cream puffs rate a thumbs up, too.

I asked Albee if he wanted the third one, but he also had a slice of the carrot cake.

Albee's carrot cake.

Although I could have easily stuffed myself with a second zeppole, I resisted.  As good as these zeppole are, one is excellent, two is pushing it, and eating three in one sitting is a one-way ticket to the Land of the Third Butt Cheek, a place I intend to never visit.  Yet, for $3 for a bag, this is a very sweet deal to share with friends.  We’ll be back, but I’ll make sure to avoid Whole Paycheck up the street on my way over.

Forbidden fruit.

Lame Adventure 150: Billy’s Bakery to the Rescue

“Nothing is easy,” could have been my boss Elsbeth’s mantra this entire week where one tile snafu followed another.  She repeated that phrase so many times, I suggested we translate it into Latin and put it over our entrance.  In addition, she beaned herself royally when she smacked her head into an elevator door.  She misjudged this door she had previously managed to walk through without incident for at least a dozen years, but apparently her successful-door-entering karma took a holiday.  When she handed out our weekly paychecks, my sidekick, Greg, looked at his baffled.  An exclamation mark popped up over his head, prompting Elsbeth to flash an expression best described as “now what’s wrong?”

Greg:  How come I was only paid for 39 hours?

Elsbeth:  Don’t you get paid the same salary every week?

Greg (in a tone reeking of feeling screwed):  Not this week.

I took a long drag on my Sherlock Holmes pipe and concluded that our payroll processor orchestrated this miscalculation straight out of left field.  Elsbeth shifted gears away from the tile challenges to plead Greg’s case for his missing fortieth hour of weekly pay.  With the going getting dumber by the day, The Boss confided to me that we needed emergency cupcakes.

Elsbeth:  Get me one with chocolate cake and chocolate icing.

Me:  That’s serious chocolate, Boss.

Elsbeth:  This is serious.

Ling and I sprang into action.  Our destination was Billy’s Bakery, a short walk up Franklin Street in Tribeca.  Ling ordered the troops to give her their first and second choice flavors.   Greg and Under Ling complied.  The Quiet Man announced:

The Quiet Man:  I want coconut or nothing.

Ling:  Last week, when we got cookies, they didn’t have your triple chocolate.

The Quiet Man:  I want coconut or nothing.

Ling:  You’re setting yourself up for disappointment.  What’s your second choice?

The Quiet Man:  I live on the razor’s edge.

I give Ling my screaming let it go glance which looks very similar to my forehead smacking you realize that this is a completely hopeless situation so why are you wasting your breath? glance.  We head out the door and trek like two mush dogs through lower Manhattan’s icy tundra.

Get cupcakes here. Now.

As soon as we enter Billy’s, a homey palace of dessert, we trample each other en route to the cupcake case and scope it out wild-eyed.

The selection.

Elsbeth's chosen one in the spotlight, chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream icing.

Ling:  I don’t see coconut.  Do you?

Me:  No.

Ling asks a clerk for coconut and is told that it’s a special order flavor that is sold in quantities of a dozen.  Ling is dismayed.

Ling:  I feel bad for him. You’re good with impossible situations.

Me:  Am I?  I’m two thirds of the way to the crematorium and I’ve yet to turn my dead end life around.

Ling:  Yeah, I know that, but are we really going to go back to the office with nothing for The Quiet Man?  Think of something!

Feeling pressured, I approach a second clerk, Kim the Magnificent.

Kim the Magnificent

Me:  We’re in a situation.  Our boss wants us to get cupcakes, but our colleague who refuses to come up with second choices, only wants coconut. Last week, he wanted a triple chocolate cookie when we got cookies, but his cookie wasn’t available.  We hate denying him.  Is there a compromise solution we can work out here?

Kim the Magnificent:  We have coconut cake.

Pie and Cake-land

Me:  How much is a slice?

Kim the Magnificent:  Five dollars.

Ling and I wince.

Me:  I bet that’s a huge slice.  He doesn’t want a huge slice.  Yet, I suppose if you did a half-slice that would screw up the cake’s slicing system, right?

Kim the Magnificent processes this idea.  She consults her colleague, who had previously offered the gloomy coconut cupcake forecast.

Kim the Magnificent:  Do we still do those small slices?

Gloomy Coconut Cupcake Forecast Colleague:  We do.

Me:  How much is a small slice?

Kim the Magnificent:  Two fifty.

Ling:  We’ll take one!

When we return to the office, The Quiet Man is not at his desk, so we leave him a subtle message:

A hint of cake to come.

Ling gives everyone his or her chosen cupcake that we all inhale in seconds flat.

Gone in 60 seconds.

I get my favorite, the yellow daisy with chocolate icing.  It’s a classic yellow butter cake with a generous swirl of sweet, but not gag-inducing sweet, soft chocolate buttercream icing.  On a freshness level of week old fish 1 to piping-hot-out-of-the-oven-pizza 10, this cupcake brings out the Spinal Tap grade of level 11.  Elsbeth, Ling, Greg and Under Ling, award their tasty treats with the same sky-high honor.  Until her phone rings again, The Boss celebrates 47 solid seconds of pure Billy’s Bakery comfort food bliss.

The Quiet Man returns to his desk under the false impression that his request only rated a plastic fork.  Ling explains the impossibility of getting a coconut cupcake.  The sound effect here is a downbeat.  We then hand him his cake box that weighs comparable to a kitten.

The box.

The Quiet Man:  What’s this?  [hopeful]  A coconut cupcake?

Me:  No, it’s your second choice.

The Quiet Man:  But I don’t make second choices.

Me:  We did for you.

The Quiet Man opens the box and sees his small slice of coconut cake that looks enormous to our amateur cake-cutting eyes.

The (small) slice.

The Quiet Man (excited):  Is this coconut?

Ling:  Yeah!

Me:  And they call it a small slice.

Greg:  That thing’s huge!  I want one of those!

Under Ling:  Me, too!

The Quiet Man escapes the salivating vultures and hightails to his lair in the back of the office.  Afterward, completely sated, he informs Ling and I:

The Quiet Man:  That was the best coconut cupcake I ever had!

Thanks to Billy’s that “cupcake” was about the only thing that went right in our department all week.

Billy's menus

Sandwich cookies and pies!

Pecan pie

Billy's Bakery, a source for excellent eats.