Monthly Archives: May 2012

Lame Adventure 312: Read My Mind

Flaunting my small spender status, I recently went to my go-to Upper West Side market, Fairway, and purchased this single 69¢ dinner roll, called Three Seed.

69¢ Three Seed roll or two for $1.38.

The trio of seeds is poppy, sesame, and for the third one, I’ll take an educated guess and call it bird.  Possibly one of my seven loyal readers, and I am certain that all of you minored in Seedology in college, will be compelled to enlighten me with the correct identification of this particular seed should my guess be in error.  The clerk looked at the roll, then looked at me, and asked me:

Clerk:  Is this a bagel?

Guess what I said:

  1. After I shellac it, it’s going to be a conversation piece about various ways I waste my time to avoid doing anything of worth with my life.
  1. Good question.  I was wondering the same thing.  I was sure you’d know.  Guess I need to find myself a new roll Sherpa.
  1. No.  Bagels have holes [inaudible muttering] like the one that’s expanding in my head right now.  Who the hell works in a grocery store in New York and doesn’t know a bagel?

Lame Adventure 311: Not Another Day at the Office

I am one of those horrible Americans that does not put much thought into the meaning of any holiday aside from Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Turkey Day is when I overstuff myself with fixings and fowl with my pal, Martini Max, and his family.  Christmas is that time of year when I play freeloader with my own family on the West Coast.  The rest of the holidays I’m here in New York so that means I’m busy with my other preferred activities, sleeping in, not doing much and taking a break from my usual dull breakfast at The Grind.

Squares and blueberries. Not quite the dullest breakfast ever but in that neighborhood.

My Memorial Day weekend started with getting released from The Grind early so I pounded a few brews with my sidekick, Greg, and it will end tonight when I pound more liquid joy with my bud, Milton.  Greg and I had private Greg and I talk including some shared observations about the anatomy of fellow patrons, his frustration that the men’s room line was so long, and why did two guys exit together?  Our shared silence about that was our answer.  Any mention of the armed forces was not on our radar.  It’s possible that Milton might mention how much he adores men in uniform passing through town since it’s Fleet Week out here.  That’s one way of paying tribute to the soldiers serving overseas on our behalf.

Last year when I was in Times Square to purchase theater tickets for Milton and I to a play, I saw three Marines, two men and a woman.  They were young officers and seemed rather genial so I sniffed the scent of camaraderie.  I liked that.  They had a theater ticket discount and were trying to purchase tickets to a musical that was not sold out and available for the time they wanted, but there was some problem so they were denied seats.  I felt outraged.  I did nothing about it other than I called Milton and groused.  He shared my outrage.

The way we see it, you go someplace halfway around the world, you risk your life for God knows what, and then you get a pass to hang out in The Big Apple for a few days before returning to the danger zone where you might end up maimed or dead, you rate perks.  Even if I have questions about the validity of the wars we’ve been fighting or fought, people willing to participate in them are okay with me.  When they’re in my town, if they want to see dancing and hear singing, let them and let them have a great dinner, too, on my tax dollar.

While I was in Times Square this weekend, the Marines were conducting demonstrations as a recruiting tool.  I took pictures but didn’t ask questions.  I hope these troops at least got paid overtime.

Real Big Truck.

Marine climbing out of Real Big Truck. I’d probably sprain an ankle doing this.

Big Long Hunk of Many Wheels (probably what the Pentagon calls this vehicle, too).

Looking down the snout of the Big Long Hunk of Many Wheels.

Snout of Big Long Hunk of Many Wheels I nearly walked into. That would have hurt.


Marines setting up show and tell in Duffy Square.

Seeing rocket launchers in Times Square is a bit surreal.

Uncle Mickey Sam aka it must be hot as hell in there.

Lame Adventure 310: Couch Potato Hero

This year, as in any given year, many high profile people have been dropping like flies – Etta James, Mike Wallace, Whitney Houston, Maurice Sendak, Andy Rooney, Donna Summer, Maurice Gibb, Davy Jones, to name some names.

I have not read the vast majority of their obituaries.  Yet, I have scoured The New York Times obit section for decades.  Around age forty, my trademark paranoia and narcissism kicked into overdrive when I started paying much closer attention to people my age that seemed to prematurely purchase their rainbows.  What I wanted to know most was what caused their demise. If they were wiped out on the Interstate in a freak accident, I would think, “How tragic.”  If it was anything intestinal-related, excluding food-borne illness acquired during exotic travel (I hate to leave Manhattan so I don’t anticipate that problem), I would enter full freak out mode, break into a cold sweat, ignore the fact that I generally feel perfectly fine, and think:

Me: Holy crap, I’m next!

The death that has interested me most thus far this year is that of a relatively low profile man who was many decades my senior, an inventor named Eugene Polley.  In an obituary written by Margalit Fox that was published in The New York Times, she states that Mr. Polley was, “ … an inventor whose best-known creation has fostered blissful sloth, caused decades of domestic discord and forever altered the way consumers watch television … Mr. Polley, the inventor of the wireless television remote control, was 96.”  Hey, my kind of guy.

In 1955 he invented the Flash-Matic.

The start of fat ass-ness. (NY Times image.)

The ad states that pricing for Zenith brand televisions “begin as low as $149.95” or $1,267.40 in today’s dollars.  The set pictured in the ad in the “blond grained finish cabinet on casters” costs $399.95 or $3,380.43 in today’s dollars.  What bargains.  The median salary in 1955 was $4,418 or $37,341.53 in today’s dollars.  Once again Lame Adventures is flaunting its vast educational muscle if one overlooks the redundancy of the phrase, “in today’s dollars”.

Although Mr. Polley’s invention did not fly off store shelves, I doubt that 99% of US households had a single TV in 1955 much less that the average household had 2.24 sets as the households of today.  Since I watch on average two hours of TV a week (exceptions that I avidly tune in: Wimbledon and US Open tennis, the Academy Awards, the Tony Awards, election night results, and on those rare occasions when Saturday Night Live sounds like it might actually deliver), my  eleven-year-old Sony behemoth qualifies as a .24 set.

Sony .24 set circa 2001 (note remotes in foreground).

This is not to imply that I’m a snob that considers TV beneath me. My preferred mode of procrastination is the Internet.

The Flash-Matic allowed the TV viewer to turn the set on, off, change channels and mute the sound of commercials – something that I personally highly appreciate.  Thank you Mr. Polley.  Ms. Fox describes Mr. Polley as “a plain-spoken man who seemed to avail himself of his own internal mute button only rarely”.  His being a chatterbox further endears him to me.  Mr. Polley indulged in whining about  shoddy reporting that often credits his colleague, Robert Adler, who invented a better selling remote, as being the sole inventor of this device.  Not so!

Mr. Polley took pride in his invention proclaiming, “The flush toilet may have been the most civilized invention ever devised, but the remote control is the next most important. It’s almost as important as sex.”

Eugene Polley (NYTimes image).

Therefore, I conclude that the  visage of this founding father of the wireless remote should grace a new coin, at least the two-cent piece.

Lame Adventure 309: Eye Catchers

Every so often I hang out with my friend and fellow blogger, Natasia, from the demurely named site, Hot Femme Writing in NYC.  On this particular get-together we are walking down my block to my sanctum sanctorum when she notices the Recreational Vehicle that has been polluting my Upper West Side neighborhood for years.  It’s curbside blight that I have written about before.  Tas reacts like she’s had a celebrity sighting.

Easily confused with Angelina Jolie on a bad hair day.

Tas:  Hey, there’s that RV you hate!  It’s almost parked in front of your building.

Egging me on, she adds:

Tas:  That pisses you off, doesn’t it?

It does, but I am a self-control machine.  Therefore, I say nothing other than a low growl.  My contempt for this vehicle strikes me as ridiculous considering that I spend most of my time in one of four places – inside my apartment, inside a subway station or train, inside my office, or outside in general Gotham City.  I spend very little time on any given day standing like a doofus in front of my building hyperventilating about a legally parked eyesore.  Yet, irrationally, whenever I see that unsightly trash barge on wheels hogging space outside my door, it sets me off like a Roman Candle.  At that particular moment, I know my blood pressure is rising.

Tas:  Look, matzo!

I assume that she is firing her special brand of snark at me.  I detonate:

Me:  What are you talking about?  Why are you yammering about matzo now?  It’s out of season; it’s May!  You told me you wanted to eat a baguette!

I pause for breath half-wondering if the chest pain I feel is gas or a heart attack, and if it’s the latter, will she hesitate to call an ambulance from the iPhone that seems surgically attached to her mitt?  Ignoring my conniption Tas points at the vehicle and insists:

Tas:  Matzo!

Displaying her own level of self-control, she resists adding for emphasis:

Tas:  Look dumbass!

Window dressing matzo — move over Martha Stewart.

Me:  Huh!  How’d they do that?  Gee, good eye, Tas.

We conclude it’s probably very stale and walk on.

A few days later, I’m running an errand for dish soap.  As I wait to cross Broadway at 77th Street, I look up at a boring high-rise apartment building.

Another innocuous tall box that could have been designed by Ambien.

This is the exact kind of building I usually find invisible, but this time I do a double take.

That mannequin’s butt naked! Hide the small fry!

Logically, this naked mannequin might belong to an artist or designer, but illogically and based on nothing other than my own imagination run amuck, I make the assumption that it might belong to someone with kinky proclivites.  Hm, all roads return to artist or designer.  My next thought is I wonder if they own or rent?

My favorite eye catching sites are the Peter Woytuk bronze sculptures that dot the Upper West Side.  Three of them are in a three and four block radius of my home base.  Last year, he had a giant blue kiwi on display outside the 72nd Street subway entrance (or exit if you’re leaving instead of entering).  That big blue bloated bird (try saying that three times fast) has now been replaced with a raven standing tall atop a cluster of apples bringing to mind Edgar Allan Poe, fruit that’s available year round and an impressive balancing act.

How do you like them apples? I do! I also like the raven on top.

I admire his three fat hens planted in the median on Broadway outside Fairway.

“How dare you call us fat!”

My blood pressure appreciates all of these sculptures and I would welcome any one of them outside my building.

This might also scare away the rats and skunks.

Lame Adventure 308: Little People Power

I have never been compelled to spawn.  The second Someone I’m Dating declares:

Someone I’m Dating:  I want to have children!

I declare back:

Me:  See ya!

I know that I’m about as maternal as an oil slick, but I instinctively allow children and their parents/nannies/caretakers priority.  Translation: I get the hell out of their way.  It recently occurred to me that I’m not the only one following this unwritten rule.  As I was recently walking down Hudson Street in Tribeca to buy a few bananas at a grocer’s near my place of employ, I noticed a footloose toddler who had just been released from the confines of his stroller take off as if he was running the fifty-yard dash.  His mother, who had been pushing the stroller, watched helplessly as her companion hightailed after the wild hombre.

I had been walking at a healthy clip but the second I caught sight of this potential crisis, I downshifted my pace to tai chi speed.  The other pedestrians around me — a businessman and a chap in his twenties — both did the same.  I crossed the street to lengthen my distance from the sidewalk blockade.  Picking up my pace again I pondered:

Me: Wow, you stand 2 ½ feet tall, you weigh 32 pounds, you have an eight word vocabulary, but your presence practically stops traffic.  That’s power!

A short while later, when I approached the checkout lane at the grocer’s with my two bananas I observed that a mile long line of at least eight shoppers waiting at one register, but no one was standing behind the two nannies with four tots in double-wide strollers filling the aisle at the only other open register.  I assessed the situation and ascertained that between the six of them, all they were purchasing was a single bottle of water.  Again, what power!

The chosen few.

On my way back to the office with my bag of two bananas, I saw a girl about five-years-old speed demoning up the street on a toe scooter.   This child was the second coming of Evel Knievel.  Her mother shouted out at her that the chinstrap on her oversized helmet was loose.  Little Evel Knievel-ette obediantly toe scooted back to her mother who presumably tightened the chinstrap.  This did not impair the flow of my thoughts as I was making a mental note to remember to bring home my eight packages of woven tooth twine that night; something I had failed to do the day before.

Haul of floss.

Suddenly my concentration was shattered when I heard the sound of a fast moving toe scooter that seemed to be heading straight for  my back.  The  little daredevil must have been making up for lost time or she was preparing to practice jumping over me before taking on the Grand Canyon a few years hence.  Immediately  I switched gears and did a steady jog when two words from all the French I failed to learn in the five years of pointless study in my youth came to mind:

Me: Zut alors!

As I hot-footed my pace to a fierce trot, my thoughts reverted to English:

Me:  No way am I going to subject myself to the humiliation of being reduced to road kill by a five-year-old burning plastic at supersonic speed!

I returned to my office winded but alive.  I was also impressed with the wee one’s power.

I’m perfectly fine sitting right here.

Lame Adventure 307: Dental Floss Hunting

I spent my Mother’s Day breaking out in a drenching sweat worthy of birthing a litter as I combed the entire Upper West Side in search of Johnson & Johnson’s elusive Reach Woven Dental Floss.

The Cadillac of dental floss.

It was very warm on Sunday with the temperature topping 80 degrees.  Had I known I was going to reenact the Bataan Death March hunting for my preferred variety of tooth twine, I would have ignored my horror at flaunting my pasty white limbs and worn shorts.

Pasty white forearm dotted with freckles, liver spots and melanoma(?).

Yet, I was not anticipating any difficulty locating this product that has been reliably available for over a decade at my local Price Wise Discount store that is a short walk from my sanctum sanctorum.  Granted, Price Wise is the only store in all of Manhattan where I have ever seen this floss, but it never occurred to me that a day would come when they would no longer carry it. Upon reflection, in my youth I never thought that Pillsbury would cease making my favorite after school snack, the chalk-flavored Space Food Sticks, so from a tender age I have been familiar with retail-world disappointment.

I questioned the Price Wise manager about my floss.  He said that it was not in their most recent shipment of Reach products.  In fact, he was unsure if they would ever carry it again.  Upon hearing that, I felt stabbed.

Yet, I remained upright and I hotfooted into countless Duane Reades, two CVS’s, and some stand-alone pharmacies including one on 72nd Street where a woman that appeared to be a direct descendant of Lurch stalked me.  Three times she made an overt point to walk in front of me to coo:

Daughter of Lurch:  Pardon me.

How I regretted not carrying a mallet.

I left without my floss, crestfallen with the futility of my effort.  How could this tragedy happen?  Western civilization as I knew it, albeit predominantly from a steady diet of watching and reading cartoons, was in freefall.

I prefer gentle gum care products.  I’m a fan of soft bristle toothbrushes, but I’ll resist rhapsodizing poetically about the merits of those because they don’t require I don a pith helmet and hire a search party to find.  Regular waxed dental floss is punishing.  It makes me feel like I’m sliding stiff cable between my teeth without the benefit of accessing HBO.

Mint. Waxed. Nasty.

I returned home, floss-less, frustrated and sweaty.  As I quaffed a quart of iced tea, I searched for my missing floss online.  My usual go-to source, Amazon, had a 50-yard dispenser for $12.95 from an off-site seller that doubles as an extortionist.  Or, if I wanted to invest $89.95 and another $19.99 in shipping, I could be the proud owner of a case of 144 5-yard packets from BuyNowDirect.


Next, I went on Reach’s web site, just to torture myself further for I was expecting to learn that the product has been discontinued.  Much to my surprise, it not only still exists but Reach referred me to where it’s available for $3.29 per 50-yard packet. claims that it is temporarily out of stock, but it will ship in a week or two, probably because I’m the first person that has ordered it all year.  Orders exceeding $25 qualify for free shipping.  Therefore, I’ve ordered eight 50-yard packs.  According to my abacus, four-football-fields-worth of woven floss should last me 800 days.  That translates into two years, two months and ten days if I use the recommended 18 inches of floss per day.  And I will do exactly that even if every tooth in my head falls out between now and then.  In that case, I’ll just use it between my toes and behind my ears.

Lame Adventure 306: Technical Difficulties

Shortly after I figured out how to set the time on my department’s fax machine from Scottsbluff, Nebraska to Gotham City, it started jamming.  I diagnosed that it needed the roller replaced.

“Help me. I need a new roller.”

Therefore, I notified an assistant at the Grind about the situation and asked if she could set up a service call.  She told me that our 14-year-old fax no longer rates a contract.  She advised we get a new one.

Me:  But it only needs the roller replaced, we’re talking a $2 part.  It can send faxes just fine.

She said she’d discuss it with our company’s I.T. guy, Mr. Hat.

Mr. Hat:  I’ll get you a new one.

Me:  Can’t you take a look at it first?

Mr. Hat: I’ll visit next week.

Translation: he thinks it’s a lost cause.  As far as waiting days to visit, his office is located three floors away from ours.  He could visit in less than three minutes.

Me (bleating to my colleagues):  Why must this take days?

My sidekick, Greg, and (not) Under Ling (anymore) are as baffled as me.

Greg:  Can you get the part online?  Maybe we can install it?

Two years ago, Greg and I performed brain surgery on our color printer.  We got it to work again.  I call Canon and speak to a technician named Mike who asks me the model of our fax machine.

Me: We have a CFX L4000.

Mike: I don’t have that one on my list.  When did you get it?

Me: During the Hoover administration.

Mike puts me on hold.  He is probably accessing Canon’s Obsolete Machines Database or his Magic 8 Ball.  He returns and explains that they no longer service this model but he gives me the name and number of a local technician that might be able to help.  I call the technician and I’m told that they no longer service our machine because they can no longer get replacement parts.  She declares:

Technician: Nobody really sends faxes anymore.  Everyone uses email.

Me (deadpan):  Email?  What’s that?

There’s an awkward pause except for the crickets on the other end of the line.

Me:  That was a joke.

She rocket launches into a sales pitch trying to entice me with a souped-up fax machine that can do countless things that I’m tuning out.

Technician:  I’ll even give you ten percent off!  What do you think of that?

Me:  I think we’ll use email.

I walk over to our fax machine and have a blunt chat with it.

Me:  Listen, if you don’t suck up the paper anymore, you’re gonna end up in a landfill.

Instantly, it prints a fax.  Greg and (not) Under Ling (anymore) are both up on their feet.  The three of us gather at the fax machine.  We’re jubilant.

Greg:  What did you do to get it to work again?

Me: I told it it could end up in a landfill.

I call our colleague, Rhonda, and ask her to send a test fax.  She does and again it works!

Test fax.

I leave The Grind for the weekend feeling empowered.  I fantasize about marketing my phenomenal powers of persuasion.  The ability to speak to office machines could save small businesses thousands if not millions and make me millions.  Whoa!

Finally, I may have found my calling in life!  Suddenly, my unique skill will turn my dismal finances around.  With my newfound success I can afford that beach house I’ve never wanted since I can’t tan or swim.  Yet, why be selfish?  I’ll write a check that will pay for my niece’s entire college career and even throw in a car for Sweet Pea.  Milton and I will always sit in premium center orchestra seats and see every Broadway show.  Come to think of it, I must finance the staging of one of my pal Albee’s plays.  I’ll donate heavily to whatever event Martini Max is spearheading over in New Jersey, even if it involves Jerry Lewis, who I utterly loathe.  Plus I cannot forget my fashionista buddy, Coco. She gets a blank check to feed her Christian Louboutin shoe habit.  Also, what about my loyal colleagues, Greg and (not) Under Ling (anymore)?  He can have that baritone sax he wants and she, a crate of videogames.  I should not just focus on material gifts for my posse.  I must also pursue worthy philanthropic concerns.  Gee, where to start?  The world is such a troubled place.  I’ll go through my junk mail for information about what crusades George Clooney endorses.

When I return to work on Monday, our fax machine is jammed again.

Ominous red alarm light.

For an hour I give it the office machine equivalent of mouth-to-mouth.  My credibility as an office machine whisperer and potential seven-figure income are on the line.  Unfortunately, nothing I do, even speaking to it in the single word of the French I retain from five years of inattentive study (“merde!”) can persuade it to pull up paper.

Resigned that I’m just a fax machine whispering fraud, I do what I hate.  I admit defeat.  I call Mr. Hat and ask him to order us a new one.

Two minutes later he enters our office carrying the fax machine he ordered a week earlier — when our problems started.


It’s so state-of-the-art, it can work within five minutes, even though it takes Greg and I closer to two hours to get it going.

Five minutes to get it to print. Another 115 minutes to get it to fax … Probably because everyone uses email.

I reason:

Me:  All we needed was 24 five-minute intervals to set it up.

“Talk to me. I’m a good listener.”