Tag Archives: new york city

Lame Adventure 256: Holiday Tales in Manhattan

Normally I dedicate my weekends to my top three career pursuits — power sleeping, beverage guzzling, and overall aimlessness, but this past weekend the forecast called for clear skies and perfect late autumn temperatures in the forties and fifties – excellent weather for shooting pictures here in the Big Apple.  The perfect pictures to take?  The window dressing decorations courtesy of the major department stores that put on a show every holiday season — Macy’s, Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Barney’s, Bloomingdale’s and whoever else has an interesting display to share with the fawning masses.

Forty-five minutes after the alarm kicked me in the head at seven thirty on Sunday morning, I was riding the downtown express train to Herald Square.  Even though Macy’s does not open until nine, crowds were already gathering outside the entrance to Santaland and the Puppet Theatre.

Beating the rush.

I suspect that New York Times’ top theater critic Ben Brantley will resist reviewing that show.  Macy’s theme this year, as it has been for a while, is Believe.

In case anyone misses it, Macy's has Believe plastered on the side of their flagship store.

Macy's Believe meter. Macy's believes. Seriously.

All this believing initially activated my gag reflex, but I quickly ascertained that this believing goes back to the Virginia O’Hanlon story – the tale about the quizzical girl writing the reporter to ask if there is a Santa Claus.  I am certain that any woman named Virginia must so wish that girl had been named Lucinda or Adelaide or Hiawatha instead.  I imagine that it must get head-banging-into- the-wall-excruciating having to constantly hear “Yes Virginia …” throughout one’s life … if I were cursed with the name Virginia.

Macy's "Yes Virginia" window display.

Macy’s also managed to tie in Jessica Simpson and Martha Stewart with their other windows illustrating the secret behind how ornaments are made.

Macy's animated Jessica Simpson ornament display.

In Martha’s window, I did not notice any mention of Teflon being a key ingredient as I considered her felonious past.

Macy's elaborate ornament ingredients display.

Overall, Macy’s delivered.  I give their windows a solid B for jaded adults and an A+ for the people that count most, the small fry.

I hightailed over to Fifth Avenue where Lord & Taylor’s flagship store is located between West 38th and West 39th Streets.  I arrived before the stampede, but this character clad for the season was clearly captivated.

"I love this so much I wish I had thumbs!"

Lord & Taylor is another department store with displays that aim to delight the kids and possibly inadvertently, the critters.  Everything looked like a dollhouse on steroids to me, but if I were decades younger or walked on all fours, it would probably rock my world.

The Cadillac of dollhouses.

Dolls skiing.

Gingerbread house.

Winter wonderland with Santa scene.

I’ve also always been a sucker for micro-sized Etch-a-Sketches and was pleased to zoom in on this one.

Scaled down perfection.

Another deft Lord & Taylor touch is that they have framed holiday drawings by children plastered all over their displays. Even though you see one kid drawing, you’ve essentially seen them all, if I were a youngster, I’d be thrilled to have my artwork on display on Fifth Avenue.

Six-year-old Kristen's masterpiece.

Artwork by kids.

For that alone I rate Lord & Taylor an overall A+.

I pounded the pavement up Fifth to Saks Fifth Avenue’s display that gives a cursory nod to the kiddies with an animated mannequin riding a bicycle through each window featuring couture fashion.

Together at last - animated mannequin riding bicycle and an Oscar de la Renta gown.

I thought their display’s mechanical theme was rather perverse.  Saks clearly has an eye on more sophisticated girls and boys.  It’s also where my hardcore fashionista buddy, Coco, shops.  She recently revealed to me that she was invited to the opening day of this display.

Me (pouncing):  You were invited to the opening day of a window display like it’s an exhibit at the Met?  What the hell is that about? It’s a department store!

Coco (defensive): I didn’t go!

Unlike Coco, I did go, but unfortunately the glare bouncing off the picture windows limited the number of pictures I can share.

Ackerman design with wheel in well-thing.

Stella McCartney design on mannequin on scale. Huh?

Olivier Theyskens design on another mechanical mannequin that turned wheel that did who-knows-what.

Overall, they scored a B with me, good, but not mind-blowing.  The fashion on display deserved better.

Lots of Old Glory flying outside Rockefeller Center.

I crossed the street and visited Rockefeller Center.

Angel Gabriel blowing his horn in Rockefeller Center.

Do the tens of thousands that visit Rockefeller Center know this?

As usual, they pull out all the stops on the tree and it sparkles even in daylight.

This tree is much more impressive in person.

As I inched my way up to the skating rink, the ice from below made me feel like I was standing in a freezer.  That got old quickly, especially as I consider that is how the air will feel on a daily basis for months on end soon enough.

Rockefeller Center drummer boy not hitting anyone in the head.

Rockefeller Center flags blowing in breeze over skating rink.

I resumed walking up Fifth Avenue; stopping to annoy a chocolatier at Godiva who I am certain would have loved to smack me with a spatula.

Dipping strawberries in chocolate.

Yum!

Once I lift my camera and start taking photographs, this prompts others to take notice and start snapping shots.   I have determined that picture taking is definitely an STD – a socially transmitted disease.

Next, I passed Henri Bendel, an eclectic department store I used to shop at regularly when I was fit and made an effort with my appearance.

Apparently the holidays means Rockettes Season at Bendel's.

Bendel's Rockette tribute continued.

As I glanced at my reflection and shuddered, it dawned on me that I probably have not set a toe in there in twenty years.

Towerless Trump Tower shooting stars at ground level.

Other pictures I shot in the area included Trump Tower shooting stars, and Fendi’s odd belt buckle celebration of the season.

Fendi's buckled building.

Maybe this is a subliminal message to shoppers to loosen up?

Then, there are the monuments to expensive jewelry that Marilyn Monroe memorably sang about in Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend from Gentlemen Prefer Blonds:

Tiffany’s!

Cartier!

Black Starr!

Frost Gorm!

Talk to me Harry Winston.

Tell me all about it!

Tiffany's

Tiffany's merry-go-round-themed window.

Cartier - show her you love her, give her the entire store wrapped in red ribbon!

Harry Winston's advice, "Get that ice or else no dice!"

Finally I reached 58th Street and Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman and this year’s version of (to get Moulin Rouge! here) their Spectacular, Spectacular.

Bergdorf Goodman - the Louvre of holiday window dressing displays.

If there is only one set of holiday display windows to see in New York City, I suggest flipping a coin between Barney’s and Bergdorf’s but this year, Bergdorf’s is in a league of their own — miles ahead of the rest of the pack and that includes Barney’s.  Bergdorf’s theme is Carnival of the Animals.  Couture fashion combined with antiques and exquisite set design worthy of a Tony award.  Bergdorf’s windows are opulent, elegant, imaginative and simply breathtaking – across the board A+; must-see I Love New York-style extravaganza.  These pictures are anemic offerings.

Breaking the Ice.

Detail of Breaking the Ice animals. Note the leather muzzles.

Testing the Waters - Alexander McQueen display.

Detail of McQueen design, a genius with feathers.

Paper zebra.

Literally, this zebra's head is constructed out of paper.

Super paper-trained dog made from paper.

Snowbirds posing.

As I headed east to Barney’s on Madison Avenue at 61st Street, I was still feeling high from Bergdorf’s production, but I could hear the Lady Gaga music and I was again feeling excited.  I knew Barney’s had recently opened Gaga’s Workshop, but I didn’t realize that it would consume every display window.

The Gaga Machine.

Gaga's Crystal Cave.

Gaga's Boudoir.

I did not find it particularly holiday-themed and thought it could have worked just as well in March or July.  It was imaginative and I do find her entertaining, but I was not knocked out.  It would have been very disturbing to me when I was a small fry.  I am sure I would have been haunted until age thirty by the naked hair-covered version of her lying on a hairy chaise.

If this would not have terrified me as a child, the hair surely would have activated my allergies.

Still, overall, I’d rate it A-.

Following Barney’s I walked further east to Bloomingdale’s.  Their display is kid-proof, but when compared to this year’s family-friendly titans, Macy’s and Lord & Taylor, rather dull.

Good Deeds.

Penguins <yawn>

Santa and Reindeer boxed in.

Santa and Reindeer unboxed.

One novel aspect of Bloomingdale’s is an interactive component where you hit a button and a camera takes a photograph of you that appears on their Facebook page.  Personally, I think I’d rather appear on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List, but that’s just me.  Bloomie’s rating B.

Although by now I was developing blisters on my left foot that were about the size of Donner and Blitzen, I continued with my hike in the hope I might see other sites worth sharing here.  It came as no surprise that Bergdorf Goodman’s men store offered more novel displays.

Santa Squirrel bearing gifts!

Reality Squirrel munching acorn near festive red bottle cap.

Athletic display of wolf making nice with penguins.

Talented display of cardinal in Alexander McQueen jacket.

As I walked west on Central Park South, I encountered the Columbus Circle Holiday Market.

Get. Stuff. Here.

How about puppets that look like Muppets?

Call it what it is, Material Things.

Surely, Santa was somewhere in this candy cane colored shopping megalopolis, if you had the mental fortitude I lacked to make your way through the maze of stands and the dense crowds.

Santa - nowhere to be found in here!

If there was a sign giving directions to Santa, I missed it.

The hour was approaching eleven thirty and I did not feel like walking over to Broadway to catch a bus or subway to my Upper West Side abode, but I was also too cheap to spring for a taxi. Therefore, I just continued to hoof my way up Central Park West with visions of liquefied juniper berries dancing in my head.  A few blocks north of the Columbus Circle Holiday Market, I noticed these feet.

Hmm ...

Then, I looked up at the owner of those feet, a very familiar cheery looking guy sitting on a park bench.  I thought I might be hallucinating.  To see if he was real, I approached him.

Me:  May I photograph you for my blog?

Very Familiar Looking Cheery Guy:  Sure.

Me:  Um … What’s your name?

Very Familiar Looking Cheery Guy:  Let’s not go there.

Me:  Can I call you Nick?

Nick:  Sure.

I took his picture.

"Nick"

Yes Lucinda, Adelaide, Hiawatha, and even you, Virginia, there is a … “Nick”.

Advertisements

Lame Adventure 252: Kiwi Appreciation

I was walking up Broadway on the Upper West Side when I noticed a massive bright blue sculpture outside the 72nd Street subway station.

No inhibitions on display here.

I wondered what this enormous spread-eagled blue blob was about so I walked over to inspect it further.

Rather bottom heavy.

This exhibit is a public art program featuring the whimsical sculptures by artist Peter Woytuk currently on display in Manhattan along Broadway from Columbus Circle up to Mitchell Square Park at 168th Street in Washington Heights.

A mother exiting the subway station with her son, a boy about seven or eight, insisted to the lad:

Mother:  Look!  There’s Flipper!

Flipper through the eyes of Fernando Botero?

Lad:  Why does the sign say kiwi, Mom?  Who’s Flipper?

Sign more noticeable to people under five feet tall.

Mother looks at sign, perplexed.  Another woman exited the station and she, too, assumed aloud that she was looking at an abstract version of the TV star dolphin boomers grew up with in the Sixties.  I thought:

Me:  If that’s Flipper, he sure got morbidly obese.

To younger Lame Adventures readers, Flipper was the Lassie of the Sea; he was raised by a single father with two sons.  This was the era of TV shows featuring heroic animals and mischievous offspring raised by kind, patient and understanding single parents.   No one was divorced and the single parents never seemed stressed.  This utopian family unit almost made me wish I was a half-orphan especially when my mother was bellowing at me to clean my room, stand up straight, or when we engaged in negotiation mom-style:

Mom:  Do you want a slap?  I’m warning you, that’s where you’re headed if you keep it up!

The perfect parents on these TV shows were always widowed. They never had a financial worry and were never grieving.  The deaths of their spouses were seldom explained, so with all the wisdom I have acquired forty-odd years later, I can only assume that these cheerful single parents must have had extremely crummy marriages to show no signs of remorse.

Back to the sculpture, no way was this sculpture of a dolphin. The lad with great reading and comprehension skills that his mother lacked since she failed to read the sign next to the sculpture identifying it as a kiwi, got it right.  This blue blob in a state of ecstasy is a bird, specifically a chicken-sized flightless bird endemic to New Zealand.  It has the distinction of laying the largest egg in relation to its body size when compared to all other species of birds.  It’s also an endangered species.  Weasels, dogs and cats love to munch on them.   Apparently, on the Upper West Side, idiots with black marking pens find scribbling on them irresistible.

Is this really necessary?

This sculpture, made from aluminum and weighing 18,000 lbs stands 12 feet tall and it’s 6 feet wide, so had it fallen off its base and onto the scribblers, they would have been flattened.

Lame Adventure 247: Sleeping or Dying?

I have not been having a banner week.  I’ve overslept every day. I keep missing my regular train coming into the office. I’ve been arriving later than usual.  Once at the grind I’ve been fact checking and proofreading a 365 page tome about tile that I fully expect I will encounter again should Hell exist and I become a resident.  Completely exhausted half a page into my punishing assignment, I remove my glasses, rub my eyes, and when I put my glasses back on, what do I see but this puffy pigeon perched on the ledge outside my window.

Not looking good.

I ask my colleague, Ling:

Me:  Do you think this pigeon’s sick or sleeping?

Ling gets up and looks at the bird.

Ling:  It’s not asleep.  Its eyes are open.

She returns to her desk and the pigeon closes its eyes.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz or death rattle?

Me:  Hey, I think it’s asleep now.

Ling gets up to look at it again.  The pigeon opens its eyes.

Me:  Wait, forget it.  Its eyes aren’t closed.

Ling sits back down.

Ling:  You should quit looking at it.

Me:  You’re right.

I take out my camera and start photographing it.  Ling flashes the I-cannot-believe-this-stupidity-of-yours look but holds her tongue, her way of ignoring the situation and probably hoping the culprit will go away — the pigeon or me.

I hear Elsbeth, our boss, stirring.  She has just printed something and is approaching the copier directly across from my desk.  I resume proofreading.  Elsbeth returns to her office.  I resume my pigeon-watching and ask Ling:

Me:  What if it dies?  What do I do then?  This pigeon is directly in my sightline.  Am I going to be stuck staring at a pigeon corpse rotting on my sill for weeks?  I dread that!

Ling:  Call Jose and he’ll deal with it.

Jose is our go-to building services guy.  He’s always been someone I can count on.  I take a closer look at the Urban Wildlife on the Sill.

Me:  First, the economy tanks, and now this.  Does the suffering ever end?

Ling:  It’s a pigeon.

Me:  I know that, but I hate to see a creature* suffer.

*If it was a rat scurrying on my windowsill, I am certain that my compassion would shoot straight out that window.

Ling:  Seriously, quit looking at it.

I take Ling’s advice and resume proofreading for a ten count.  Then, I sneak another peek at the feral avian.  All that I can see is a tail feather.  It’s now moved to the corner where it’s nestled against the brick wall.  Since I have transformed myself into an Animal Planet reporter I provide Ling with an unsolicited update about the pigeon’s progress.  She distinctly looks like someone that would prefer to change the channel possibly to the Shut the Hell Up Network.  I return to my desk and proofread another half-sentence but since I can only glimpse that tail feather, I’m quickly back on my feet.  Ling looks at me.  She screams inside her head:

Ling:  SIT DOWN AND QUIT THE BIRD WATCHING!!!!!!!!!!

Then, a miracle happens.

Resurrected and refreshed!

It flies away.  I am elated.  I focus on proofreading for the remainder of the day but craving squab.  I suffer fresh guilt.

Lame Adventure 227: Bad Influence

Our employer closed business early on Friday so my colleagues and I happy danced our way out the door to the tune of Born Free into the three-day weekend.  The weather was lovely as I entered the subway station determined to have a highly productive 72 hours focusing completely on household chores and writing.  Just as I set foot on the subway platform I noticed that I received a text message from my buddy, Coco.

45 minutes later, my original plan is drowning in Sangria.

On our way to Sangria-land, Coco and I walked from TriBeCa through SoHo.  As we strolled west on Houston Street, we passed several street vendors selling their wares.  We have sauntered past street vendors countless times without them ever registering on our radar, but on this occasion, one stand that was essentially full of junk caught all four of our eyeballs.  In lockstep we motored over to this table to further inspect a Mad Men-era Polaroid 150 Land camera.

Don Draper’s Polaroid.

Coco:  This is such a cool camera!

Me:  Yeah!

The vendors, two women in their mid to late sixties, or maybe they were in their late forties and just looked to us as used as the goods they had on display, or possibly they were in their late seventies and they’re of French descent, and are actually aging far better than the rest of us … but I digress.  However old they were they were oblivious to Coco and I drooling over this relic designed by Polaroid’s founding father, Edwin Land.

Coco:  I want it!

Since I am the older and by default more level-headed half of our equation, I frequently remind young Coco that there is no such thing as retail therapy. It is infinitely more important to save than spend. Therefore,  I dole the following advice:

Me:  Go for it!

It’s a camera and cameras are my kryptonite, and apparently, they’re Coco’s, too.  You know someone for over six years and go figure, you continue to learn new things about them every day.  Coco signals for one of the vendors to approach.

Coco:  I’m interested in this camera.

The vendor takes it out of the box, and shows us how to open and close the bellows.  She has no idea how old it is but insists that being in the original box enhances the value.

Folded Polaroid 150 in box.

She’s pretty certain that this camera is still operational.  Upon hearing that, I briefly escape my delirium.

Me:  But they discontinued making the film.

Vendor (cornered):  They discontinued making the film?  Huh.  Hm.

Coco:  How much is it?

The vendor asks her partner the price and is told $50.

Coco (boldly to vendor):  I’ll take it!

Afterward, we are sipping our Sangria and chowing on tapas with the camera on display on our table.

Box with bullet hole, but Coco’s okay with that. She’ll claim that it originally belonged to a member of the mob.

Suddenly, we both have an eiphany and do a spit-take at each other:

Me:  You could have bargained with them!  We had leverage!  The film’s obsolete!  Why didn’t I think to tell you this?  Am I losing my edge?

Coco is wiping my Sangria out of her eye.

Coco:  What’s wrong with you, what’s wrong with me?  Am I so used to shopping at Barney’s I have no clue how to price haggle with old ladies selling junk on the street?

Then Coco reasoned that even if she did overpay for it by $15, she’s okay with springing for drinks for those vendors.

We later did some research on that camera.  Approximately 400,000 Polaroid 150’s were manufactured between 1957 and 1960.  In its heyday, it sold for $109.95, the equivalent of $873.14 in today’s dollars.  Upon reflection, Coco got a pretty sweet deal on this novelty after all.

Say cheese.

Lame Adventure 223: Anticipating Hurricane Irene

Hurricane Irene has yet to arrive, it is getting breezy outside my apartment’s window, but most people seem to have gotten the memo – streets are quiet and roads are empty.  My core group of dearest friends and I are predominantly safe (for now).

Tree outside my window that could possibly kill me if it uproots, crashes through my window and I fail to dive into my bathroom fast enough.

Even though we all share a degree of cynicism about Irene taking on Gotham City and the tristate area, no one seems too inclined to do anything too ridiculous.  This excludes my cabin fever suffering Friend From Jersey, Martini Max, who has already made an impulse purchase, specifically this poster of Theda Bara circa 1915.

Theda Bara tearing her hair out for Max. Still from her lost film called "Sin."

He intends to hang it over his TV.  Did I mention that Max is divorced?

Milton is nestled in his Upper East Side apartment with plenty of staples and some massive dessert he waxed about poetically.  While waiting for Irene we discussed our New York Film Festival ticket buying strategy for an hour.  We’re very dull that way.

My sidekick, Greg, is housebound in Brooklyn.  From his texts I’m under the impression that he’s feeling a tad grumpy.

Lola, who also resides in Brooklyn, was evacuated, but she’s made the best of a bad situation.  She’s with her boyfriend in Manhattan, taking it easy.  When I last spoke to her she said he was cooking.  What a guy.

Albee has extended his visit to California until Tuesday.

Ling texted me that she is about three hours away from the city.  On Friday Coco asked me:

Coco:  Where’s Ling?

Me:  At a wedding in Toronto.

Coco:  Oh!  Who got married?

Me:  Lowell’s [editorial comment: Ling’s guy] parents next-door neighbors’ brother’s son.

In response to that response Coco’s eyes glazed over.  Hopefully, Ling will make it back before the heavy rain starts to fall and the wind picks up.

This morning, I took some pictures of unusual sites on the Upper West Side.  Both Fairway and Trader Joe’s closed early.

Eerie site: empty fruit bins outside the Upper West Side's Fairway.

Eerier site: the store that is open every day, closed.

A Guy About My Age (GAMA or JERK) with the physique of a noodle tossed an out of body fit at the burly-direct-descendant-of-Thor-bouncer standing guard outside Fairway’s closed doors.

GAMA or JERK: Why close the store?  This is ridiculous!  The subways are running until noon!

Note:  It’s after 11 am.

Burly Bouncer:  You should have gotten here earlier.  The store’s closed.

GAMA or JERK sneers at the Bouncer, a sneer about as threatening as a Chihuahua’s sneeze.  The Bouncer returns the gaze that I translated as:

Bouncer’s Gaze:  Sucks to be you fool.

I took these other pictures in my neighborhood.

Closed Trader Joe's at 72nd Street and Broadway.

Typical TJ's cheeriness. Why I prefer to shop at jaded Fairway.

Baffled tourists trying to figure out how to escape the city reading a subway map.

MTA poster announcing mass transit closing.

One of the last 1 local subway trains entering 72nd Street station.

FedEx making deliveries.

Time Warner cable is there; but when I need them, they're always nowhere to be found. Grrrrr.

My sister, Dovima, has texted me that our 84-year-old father out on the West Coast would rather talk to me on Sunday, during the heart of Irene possibly pummeling Manhattan into oblivion and knocking out my cell phone service.  He is busy watching sports on TV tonight.   I texted her back to tell him to call me next week.

I was supposed to usher an off-Broadway play today, but all theaters on and off-Broadway are dark.

Coco lives in the meatpacking district in lower Manhattan, near, but not in an evacuation zone.  The intrepid type, in lieu of a flashlight, she has glow sticks.

Coco's glow sticks.

Donning her Lame Adventures journey(wo)man photographer hat Coco has also emailed me these pictures from downtown.

Brilliant time to be on a cruise in the Hudson River.

Apocalypse approaching?

Lame Adventure 222: The Rejection of Strangers

Strangers entering and exiting the 72nd Street Subway station on Stranger's Day.

If you happened to read Lame Adventure 221, you’re aware that this past Wednesday was the inaugural Stranger’s Day celebration, and I embraced this brand new commemoration with a degree of gusto more commonly reserved for participating in a holy war.  It never occurred to me that while holding a Stranger’s Day greeting card in my paw and politely asking fellow subway riders if they are familiar with The New Yorker, the cartoonist Roz Chast, or if they’d now like a Stranger’s Day card, some would look at me like I was harassing them.  The thought bubble above my head said one word:

My thought bubble:  Yikes!

One woman in her early thirties seemed petrified, so much so that she scared me.  I discussed her with my sidekick, Greg.

Me:  What do you think that was about?

Greg pondered the question.

Greg:  Could she have suffered a flashback to a time when she was brutally raped by a woman that looks just like you, dresses just like you, and was holding a weapon that looked just like a greeting card?

Of the five people I found the nerve to approach on the subway train, three rejected me – the aforementioned woman that literally ran, another woman who looked at me as if I had grown a second head, but the Wall Street businessman in the pink power tie was gracious.  He simply said, “No thanks.”

Of the two people that listened to my pitch and accepted cards, one was a woman around my age (over 40 under death), and a guy in Greg’s 18-34 demographic.  She seemed charmed by the idea and he said, “Thank you.”

Personalized Stranger's Day greeting card note or rantings of a mad woman?

I arrived at work dragging my feet for I was still carrying one card that now seemed as heavy as a boulder.  I conferred with Milton about strategy in an email exchange.

Me: Wow, giving three Stranger’s Day cards out on the commute in is much easier said than done.  Plus I didn’t see anyone reading The New Yorker this morning.  Joy.  Maybe everyone is boycotting it because they’re so horrified by Stranger’s Day?

Milton (donning his Mr. Succinct chapeau): On the subway, people are on their guard for criminals.

We decided I should hand out the last card at Starbuck’s.  I selected the one in the Barnes and Noble at Warren and Greenwich Streets in TriBeCa, primarily because everyone in there is reading so I was confident that whoever I focused on also knows how to write.  I zeroed in on a guy around Greg’s age scrolling through Craigslist postings on a MacBook.  He did not seem scary at all, nor was he and he did not seem to mind accepting that third card.  I left thinking:

Me:  Okay, he’s sitting at a computer in a place with WiFi.  He was willing to accept the card.  I can’t expect any more from him than if he asked me to write his comment on my site for him myself.  Hm, should I have suggested that?

What I have concluded from this experience is that Stranger’s Day is rather strange indeed since it appears that 99.9% of the populace has no idea what it is and they’d prefer not to know more about it.  A more appropriate name to some might be if it were called, “Don’t Approach Me Day.”   Yet, if I had to do it all over again, would I?

Hell no!

Hey, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different result.  I might be a bit off my rocker, but I’m definitely not a candidate for a strait jacket … yet.  Still, it was worth trying once, but now I’ll gladly hand the Stranger’s Day baton back to its creator, Roz Chast … hopefully she’ll accept that from me.

Lame Adventure 220: Vespa Worship

In exactly one month and a day, on September 23rd at 5:05 AM EDT, the fall equinox will arrive and summer 2011 will officially end.  Even though I much prefer early and mid-fall to the more sweltering days in summer when I feel boiled alive, I always suffer melancholy once the days start to grow shorter.  My sidekick, Greg, just feels remorse that women will be wearing more clothing.

An aspect of warmer weather that I love is seeing the many Vespas that end their hibernation.  I seem to notice more Vespas in the city every year, and I think this iconic scooter is the go-to summertime cycle in New York, and possibly other major US cities.  Last winter, one of the more haunting sights in my Upper West Side neighborhood was this rampant case of Vespa neglect.

Heartbreaking.

I wanted to rescue this poor little scooter parked next door to my laundromat or at least shelter it with a covering.  Every time I walked past it I could practically hear it shiver.

As the days grew longer I noticed more cyclists (scooterists?) tooling around town on these classically designed sexy little Italian machines manufactured by Piaggio.  I also noticed many parked in the street in cheery shades.

Barbie's Raspberry flavored Vespa.

Electric Blue Vespa with big accesories.

Parking ticket accessory Electric Blue Vespa owner would probably prefer not to have.

Rear view orange Vespa with black chrome protection bar.

Vespas in any color, bright or dark, are always a very welcome sight to me, unlike the 45-year-old yutz channeling his (or her) inner nine-year-old riding a razor scooter down the street.

None of my friends nor does anyone in my family have a Vespa, but in the early 2000’s when I worked in TV news, I had a colleague who dated a guy that rode one that was mint green. Whenever she talked about him she referred to him as Vespa.

Mint Green Vespa, but not Vespa's actual Vespa.

A few years ago, I ran into him on the 1 train.  He remembered me, but I could not recall his actual name.  I resisted the urge to ask:

Me: Why are you riding the subway?  What happened to your Vespa, Vespa?

My current colleague, Darkness, told me that he’s considering getting a Vespa.  He urged me to visit the Vespa boutique on Crosby Street in Soho.

This must be the place.

Ramp out front is not for wheelchair accessability, but to wheel out Vespas. Youths also love to ride their skateboards over it.

I took his advice and stopped by on a recent Saturday afternoon.  Vespa Soho is a Vespa lover’s paradise.

Pick a shiny color.

Pick a matte color.

Make a statement with red.

Dan, Vespa Soho’s Sales Manager, told me that Piaggio halted Vespa sales in the US market in 1985 due to our raised emission standards which were stricter than Europe’s.  Eventually Europe raised their standards, and Piaggio’s improvements to Vespa’s technology met the Environmental Protection Agency’s standards, clearing the way for the Vespa to return to the US in 2001.

Dan told me that the high-end Vespa, the 300, has a top speed of 80 miles per hour, and it can be driven on the expressway.  It averages 70 miles per gallon.  Depending on style selection, it can cost between $7,200 and $8,200.

The most popular model for the average New York City slicker is the 150.  Its top speed is 60 miles per hour, it gets the same 70 miles per gallon gas mileage as the 300 model, but costs between $5,200 and $6,400.

There is an economy model, the 50.  It has a smaller engine and a top speed of 40 miles per hour and sells for $4000.  It gets 100 miles per gallon.

All three models have the same size gas tank, 2.3 gallons.

In order to drive a Vespa, you need a motorcycle license and you must obey the same driving rules that pertain to cars.

Dan said that the darker colors are the most popular in New York all year round, but he’s noticed that lighter colors tend to sell better when the weather is warmer.  This did not surprise me since black is the most popular clothing color out here twelve months of the year.

Basic Black Vespa.

Maroon Vespa with serious windshield.

Chocolate lover's brown Vespa.

I asked Dan what can be done to prevent the scratches and dents I so often notice on the rear panel covering the back tire.

Dents on left side.

Scratches on right side.

They sell an accessory, chrome bars protection, but Dan insisted that a common sense way to prevent this problem is to avoid parking behind an Enormous Vehicle that can crunch the Vespa since it is completely invisible to the Enormous Vehicle Driver.

Red Vespa with chrome bar protection parked where motorist can see it.

Brilliantly parked Vespa at a distance from Mini Cooper.

Living on the edge Vespa asking to get crunched by SUV.

To hell and back Vespa tempting fate once again.

Dan insisted that the Vespa can be a year-round mode of transport in the city.  He pointed out that in winter we’re not blanketed with snow all season long.  He did admit that this past winter was unusually snowy, but most of the time, we get a dump of snow, it melts after three or four days, the streets are clear again, and the Vespa rider can resume riding.  I thought:

Me (thinking):  Yeah, but that rider better be dressed for the Arctic.

If I had a Vespa, I’d be more inclined to ride mine in spring, summer and fall.  I see it as a romantic getaway vehicle I could hop on at day’s start and end.  Of course I would ride it all over the city on weekends.  I’d breeze past motorists stuck in traffic as I make my escape from the monotony.  Feeling exhilarated I imagine myself singing my favorite Broadway show tunes horrifically off-key at the top of my lungs.  Although I could ignore the bugs splattering me in the glasses, the possibility of swallowing a live bee whole while belting out a sustained note in my rendition of Cole Porter’s “You’re the Top” made me return to reality.  Pictured below is the Vespa best meant for me.  <sigh>

Pathetic.