Tag Archives: family

Lame Adventure 446: Radiator Cover Gift Giving

Now that my father is no longer walking the earth this holiday season, my family is reduced to its essence: my siblings, Dovima and Axel, brother-in-law Herb (with a silent h), and my college student niece, Sweet Pea. There are also the animals: Dovima’s dog, Thurber, Fred, her geriatric fish (he’s 9; a year older than Thurber), and Axel’s two cats: Blackie, the feral guard-cat at work, and Bandit, the pampered, at home. Seven of the eight rate holiday gifts from me.

Sorry, Fred, you're screwed.

Sorry, Fred, don’t look so glum, but you’re screwed.

I am famous for saying:

Me: If I can’t get it online, you’re not going to get it from me.

I like fast. I like simple. If I must go to a store, as I did for my sister and Herb’s presents, I go at off hours when I know the crowds will be just the way I like them: anemic. After I exited The Grind on Friday, I blew into a store, found exactly what I wanted to get my sister and brother-in-law, paid, and was back out on the street in six minutes flat Toyota jumping for joy. Almost immediately, I suffered a flash of five alarm fire, heart attack-inducing panic. That was because I brilliantly left their gifts in a convenience store aisle when I absently put the bag down to pick up an eight pack of pocket tissues. Then, I walked away. I made it back to get their presents before the four second window of retrieval granted to preoccupied stumblebums had slammed shut.

On Saturday, I shipped my gifts to my sister’s house on the West Coast. I’ll wrap them during my upcoming visit. The gifts that I’ve ordered online are being shipped directly to her; how I’ve been sending my gifts for years.

Now that Trader Joe’s Brandy Bean season is over, and with necessity being the mother of invention, I rewarded my gift giving accomplishment with a bottle of port and a chocolate bar.

Happy holidays to me!

Happy holidays to me!

As I was entering my building with my treats, I noticed a tire pump outside the door.

Home is where the tire pump is.

Home is where the tire pump is.

I thought:

Me (thinking): My building: the gift that never stops giving.

Once again some nameless tenant, possibly the one who places the cardboard pizza boxes in the recycling can meant for plastic and glass, left this hand me down up for grabs.

Does this person also wear their shoes on the wrong feet?

Does this person also wear their shoes on the wrong feet?

If I were inclined to be Tightwad Incarnate to those near and dear, based on what tenants have left on my building’s radiator cover through the years, there are many offerings I could have given.  I occasionally photograph them. Pictured below is a selection. Often, there are books and magazines. Sometimes, appliances, including computer hardware. Once, a glove I lost was left there and once, I placed a glove I found on there. Hey, pay the good deed forward. With great regret, I did not photograph the samurai sword someone left in the trash a few years back, but that artifact from feudal Japan, or more likely, China via a Canal Street junk store, was not gracing the radiator cover.

This is the radiator cover as it is seldom seen: naked.

This is the radiator cover as it is seldom seen: naked.

Here it is with a trinity of plastic what the hells possibly produced by Acme.

Here it is with a trinity of plastic What The Hells possibly produced by Acme.

Acme what the hells.

Acme What The Hells. But anyone’s for the taking.

Currently, there's a soup pot someone no longer wants.

Currently, there’s a soup pot up for adoption.

And a calendar with both November and maybe December!

And a calendar with both November and maybe December!

In September 2012 there was an empty binder and card stock.

In September 2012 there was an empty binder and card stock.

A month later, there was the ceramic blob.

A month later, there was this glazed ceramic blob.

One summer there was The Mystery Box. It sat around for about a week screaming volumes about the lack of curiosity.

One summer there was The Mystery Box. It sat around for about a week screaming volumes about the lack of curiosity amongst the tenants.

These magazine paper wrapped boxes sat in the vestibule for several days last spring.

Magazine paper wrapped boxes that sat in the vestibule last spring. A few were taken by some schmuck or schmuck-ette addicted to clutter.

The annual Christmas tree that makes my friend Milton's heart melt as if it's a puppy. But I don't think it's up for grabs.

The annual Christmas tree that makes my friend Milton’s heart melt as if it’s a puppy. But I think taking it is theft.

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Lame Adventure 443: Test Time

Last month I had an annual checkup. I was wondering if my doctor might notice my fifteen-pound weight loss. She did:

My Doctor: You’ve lost seventeen pounds from a year ago!

Me (thinking): I was seventeen pounds heavier last year? That’s like packing a terrier!

My Doctor: This is terrific. For someone your age, it’s not an easy thing to do. What made you do it?

Me (thinking): Feeling like crap and looking like crap.

Me (saying): I thought things were going in the wrong direction.

I didn’t mention that my gastroenterologist had read me the riot act about my weight, prompting me to invest in a spin bike that I strenuously ride four times a week for forty minutes a session. In addition, I eat significantly healthier and do something highly un-American: practice portion control. I steer clear of processed foods. I am no longer on eating terms with cookies, chips and bread.

On my Do Not Eat list: beer flavored jelly beans.

Coincidentally on my Do Not Eat list: beer flavored jelly beans.

All year I have been predominantly eating organic: mountains of whole grain, acres of leafy greens and fields of fresh fruit. Gone are the days when I’d slap together a sandwich in twenty seconds and toss a banana in my satchel for lunch at The Grind. Now I spend over an hour preparing cous cous, sautéing tofu and steaming vegetables for a low calorie, nutritious mid-day meal.

Mid-day meal now: organic cous cous, mushrooms, kale and black beans.

Mid-day meal now: organic cous cous, mushrooms, kale and black beans.

As much as I hate cooking (and the subsequent clean-up), I hate feeling like flab on feet even more. Home cooking fresh ingredients is not only a cheap and healthy way to eat well but it keeps the lost weight off. My formula for staying fit is simple: eat less, eat well and exercise.

But now it is holiday season, a.k.a. eating season. My self-control will be sorely tested. I am not going to be eating less. That pimp, Trader Joe, has brought back one of my favorite seasonal indulgences: Brandy Beans.

Crummy iPhone photo (was not drunk when taking this image at The Grind).

Crummy iPhone photo (was not drunk when taking this image at The Grind).

I bought those the second I saw them — and brought them straight to The Grind. Sharing them with The Boss and my colleague, Godsend, allows me to eat them, but not inhaled in a single sitting, something that could happen if I were alone with them in my sanctum sanctorum.

I will be spending Thanksgiving in New Jersey with my long-time friend, Martini Max. With a name like that, he’s not the type who guzzles sarsaparilla. Max and I spend Thanksgiving Eve at his man-cave and Thanksgiving Day at his sister’s house. She makes a superb turkey basted in bourbon and butter. I am not much of a turkey fan. I think it’s rather bland, but turkey basted in bourbon and butter is quite tasty. If tradition prevails, Max and I will stuff ourselves royally on alcoholic beverages and appetizers. One year we ate so many deviled eggs, by the time dinner was served, they had expanded so exponentially they completely filled our intestinal cavities. I can say with authority that I know exactly what it feels like to be a hen. This coming Wednesday and Thursday are two days that I intend to thoroughly indulge, but I will practice restraint around those eggs.

In the weeks ahead, there will be more occasions when I will ditch my diet in favor of holiday conviviality, but I will still be riding my spin bike regularly, possibly closer to six times a week at five hour stretches. Come Christmas, my spin bike will remain in New York, cooling off, and I will be with my family. My sister, Dovima, who loathes kale, knocks herself out preparing food. She has some great holiday dining traditions.

Kale ready for steaming: nowhere to be found at Casa Dovima.

Kale ready for steaming: nowhere to be found at Casa Dovima.

On Christmas Eve, she bakes a spiral cut ham on the bone. She uses the bone to make a terrific split pea soup. Christmas morning, she prepares pancakes and bacon. Christmas dinner, we have Chicken Marsala, a dish she hit on several years ago that everyone likes. There’s usually a night when she serves fresh cracked crab with incredible San Francisco sourdough bread. She also always has a stash of Brandy Beans on site as well as other candy and a bottle of port we quaff together. When I visit, Dovima gets great wine. My niece, Sweet Pea, bakes her brains out. Her specialty: cookies.

This is one test I am destined to fail, but I don’t mind. This is why I time seeing my doctor before holiday season. The masochism of my healthy habits will resume after the New Year.

New Year's Day breakfast.

New Year’s Day breakfast.

Lame Adventure 320: Me in Drag

Last month when I was visiting my family in the San Francisco Bay Area, my 17-year-old niece, Sweet Pea, wanted to go mall shopping, specifically to Urban Outfitters.  This is one of those stores where I half-expect to find myself carded and then denied entry because I am so beyond their target teen to 20-something age demographic.  Unfortunately that didn’t happen.  There I was, aimlessly wandering the aisles while Sweet Pea was trying on a mere 693 outfits.  Several times clerks invaded my reverie and asked:

UO Clerk:  Can I help you?

Me:  No, not really, and never.

Approximately three hours into this sentence, I noticed a table full of books.  One called Awkward Family Photos caught my eye.

Crappy cell phone photo.

I pointed this tome out to my sister, Dovima. We each grabbed a copy.  We laughed.  We devoured it whole. We belched.

During a subsequent Father’s Day visit to my dad’s house in San Francisco, I thought of one of my own loathed family photos.  Although it was not particularly awkward, this portrait my parents had taken back in the day of their three offspring, my siblings, Dovima and Axel, and me, was one this trio despised equally.  It was taken so far back in the day I think Lincoln was president.

Les Miserables.

I have known Dovima my entire life.  I have never known her to look like that.  Ever.  Axel looked a lot like that.  Briefly.  As for me, who is that?  Someone out of a Brontë novel?

I don’t recall much about the photo shoot, but I vividly remember the photographer trying to force me to cradle a baby doll.  I objected with hurricane force fury.  His issue was what I should do with my hands.  I improvised.

From the earliest age, even the immature me was showing prominent signs of the finely honed wicked personality I have now.  That cherub in the pink poofy party dress enjoyed peeking up store mannequin’s skirts, not sure what I was looking for, but I recall considering using a flashlight for a better view.  When taking breaks from playing with Mr. Potato Head, this little horn dog liked masturbating under the mirrored glass coffee table, positioning my pint-sized self in such a way my rotund four foot ten 200 pound caretaker granny could not possibly get hold of me.  As I’d rub myself into a frenzy she’d scream in Italian:

Granny: Maiale!

Translation: pig.

I loved to joke around. I was fascinated with actresses, especially Sophia Loren, Julie Christie and the singer Dusty Springfield.  I could not get enough of Barbra Streisand, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.  By age ten, Woody Allen and  Andy Warhol were added to that list.  Axel was my #1 playmate.  He invented brilliant games.  One of my favorites was Crash, Bang, Boom where we’d slam our bikes into each other.

I only played with boy’s toys – cars, guns and the Marine G.I. Joe. I loved comic books, but graduated to Mad magazine and by adolescence, The National Lampoon. I was obsessed with gags including plastic vomit, rubber dog-doo, whoopee cushions, and in a sure sign of my budding sophistication, positioning a dollop of fake blood out of a nostril.

I also made my own gags.  One of my crowd pleasers was when I carved a finger-sized hole into a little cotton-lined box, I’d coat my finger with chalk (stolen from where else? — my Catholic grade school), insert it into the hole and then open the box.  The sight of my dead-looking finger always guaranteed a gasp and then when I’d wriggle it, the freak-outs would come.

I loved that.

When asked if I wanted to be a wife and mother, I’d say:

Me:  No.  I want to be a cartoonist.

When I was told I’d change my mind when I’d meet my future husband who’d give me a litter I’d say:

Me:  No, that’s never gonna happen.

This troubled my mother who thought if she tried hard enough to make this tiny terror into a girly girl in ringlets and pale pink taffeta, she could stop my snarky soft butch nature. I’d suddenly transform into someone else instead of me.

Fat chance.

Lame Adventure 315: Out of The Comfort Zone

Yes, I am away from my beloved island of Manhattan.

Away from my neighborhood theater that staged the Tony Awards Sunday night.

Live from New York [last Sunday night], it’s Neil Patrick Harris!

Away from The Grind where I steadily pigeon watch the day away when I’m not being tormented by our new and evil fax machine.

We’re accepting carrier pigeon resumes if either of you would care to apply. We’ll pay you in Girl Scout cookies.

Away from the subway train with its special brand of surprises.

Looky here, some cretin stuck their gum on the overhead pole!

The time has arrived for a vacation. I may even read a book.

72 pages in; I may actually finish reading this one.

I am in The Land of My Ancestors — the San Francisco Bay Area.  This is my second Comfort Zone.  I‘m freeloading off my sister, Dovima and brother-in-law, Herb (with a silent h).  Friday, their daughter and my niece, Sweet Pea, is graduating high school. Sunday is Father’s Day so I’ll be with the man who gifted me with his narrow feet, significant nose and capacity to explode at the TV screen when my team or Rafa Nadal is losing.

Since I arrived a day early, Dovima was concerned that I would be bored out of the little brains I have left home alone with Thurber, the family hound.

“I’m not fun to hang out with doggie a mano?”

Dovima was also been worried that I might have difficulty making lunch for myself, but I assured her that I mastered the art of mediocre sandwich-making at age 45.  Meanwhile, Thurber and I were busy doing our own thing.

“You only power sleep on weekends? I do it daily!”

“Where’s the cat? He’s a great excuse to bark!”

“Put the camera down and lie on the floor like me! This feels sensational.”

I did.  Hopefully my pulled groin muscle will heal by the time I fly out.  Dogs are great but resist following their advice.

Lame Adventure 262: Picture Perfect

Apparently,  my sister, Dovima, has reached her statute of limitations with me constantly photographing, Thurber, the family dog.

"Christmas, is over, am I stuck wearing this red bow until New Year's?"

She has asked me to shoot a Christmas day family portrait of her with Sweet Pea, her daughter/my niece, and Herb (with a silent h), her husband/my bro-in-law.

Mr. & Mrs Smith with The Cookie Maker (yes, that be you, Sweet Pea)

In return, my sister, has taken it upon herself to shoot an action shot of me sitting in-between our pappy and brother, Axel.

Axel worrying about the sodium content of the Christmas dinner for everyone in America.

Lame Adventure 261: Christmas Overload

The Lame Adventures family dog, Thurber, is suffering.  Everything he got squeaks.  In fact, he did not seem like his usual perky self when I suggested:

Me:  Next year I’m gonna get you a squeaking Excedrin, Little Guy!  What do you think of that?

"God in Heaven, please make it stop!"

At Target, my sister found the equivalent of a Harry & David sampler with a squeaking sausage, pear, Swiss cheese, cheesy ball and bag of crunchy cashew nuts.  I gifted him with the purple squeaking duck.

"Hm. This doesn't smell like a pear."

"Hey! This Swiss is squeaking!"

"I'm trying hard to not appear to be suffering mental cruelty."

My niece, Sweet Pea, turned on the TV to the Yule Log.

American classic or why Europe thinks we're idiots.

"This is mesmerizing!"

"You change that channel, I'll bite your paw off!"

Lame Adventure 260: Child Labor

While my sister, Dovima, and I pound Trader Joe’s Brandy Beans by the fistful, her daughter, my niece and heir to my string collection, Sweet Pea, is busy baking all the Christmas cookies.

Excellent!

Gotta say Dovima has raised that kid right!  Sweet Pea is baking snowballs, press cookies and Oreo Truffles.

Snowballs, also called Mexican Wedding cookies or Sandies (a name preferred by our late grandmother, Vesuvius) are my favorite.  Sweet Pea is baking those first.

Cooling sheet of naked snowballs.

Bowl of powdered sugar snowball dressing.

Dressing the balls.

Unwelcome intruder.

Snowballs!

After baking the snowballs Sweet Pea moves onto another holiday hit, press cookies in the shape of Christmas trees.

Pressing away!

Pre-launch press cookies.

With the leftover dough Sweet Pea makes three freak-shaped cookies – one each for her mother, father and aunt, which we eat while watching The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo at the multiplex.

Freak cookies. Yum!

Company cookies.

A few words about the film; we liked it very much, but everyone spoke English with a Swedish-y accent.  This reminded me of films made back in the day when the bad guys whether they be German spies or Japanese military men always spoke English to each other with accents, probably because Hollywood has issues with subtitles.  Our real problem with the accents is that our three sets of middle age ears each missed portions of the dialogue.  Dovima is still banging her head against the kitchen counter since she entirely missed the twist at the end The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo resolving the mystery with Christopher Plummer’s granddaughter.  My sister’s new mantra is:

Dovima:  Idiot!

My brother-in-law, Herb (with a silent h), and I have tried to assure her that she’s not an idiot, just pretty deaf.  Herb even went so far as to claim:

Herb:  Honey, there were times during the movie when I wanted to stand in front of the screen with a hearing horn!

His attempt at delivering a comforting lament fell on deaf ears.

Overall, this film is a very entertaining thriller and probably even better if heard in its entirety.

Back to cookies, after baking the press cookies, Sweet Pea made some Pillsbury slice and bake for a friend of hers.

Not bad.

Product placement shot like Coca Cola and Marlboro cigarettes in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Dovima and I, the official tasters, tried a few of those.  Surprisingly, they were pretty good.

Dovima:  What do you think’s the center stuff that makes them taste so good?

Me: Probably a lot of hydrogenated fat.

Then, Sweet Pea made her own favorites, Oreo Truffles.  Just smash a package of Oreos to smithereens, mix in a brick of cream cheese and refrigerate for two hours or freeze for 45 minutes.

Pulverizing Oreos.

Mixing cream cheese with Oreos.

Truffles ready for chilling.

Thurber keeping his distance.

Outside cat taunting Thurber, "Hey Big Dumb Wuss!"

Highly not recommended for the lactose intolerant set.