Tag Archives: roz chast

Lame Adventure 244: An Hour with Roz Chast

Star attraction!

A few days before the recent freak “What the hell is this snow in October and who ever dreamt of a white Halloween” snowstorm that blanketed The Big Apple this weekend [pause for breath and now, continue], Coco and I hightailed up to my neighborhood Barnes and Noble to attend the appearance by Roz Chast, the terrific cartoonist for The New Yorker.  Thanks to Roz, the mastermind behind Stranger’s Day, I made a complete fool of myself this past August 24th.  Roz is currently shilling her latest book What I Hate from A to Z.

Me:  Gee, Coke, I bet you could have written a book with that same title.

Coco:  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Coco and I arrived separately.  I get out of work a half hour earlier than my buddy.  She had had a stressful day and told me to get to the store first and get seats.  She needed some chill time and wanted to ride the uptown subway train alone.  I understood completely.  When Coco arrived I could tell from the corner of my eye that the train ride had not worked its magic.

Me (cautiously):  What’s wrong?

Coco (expressionless):  I was stuck riding the train with Under Ling.

Under Ling is my video game loving colleague, but unlike other gaming nerds, she has a personality and the gift of gab.  Coco has also endeared herself to Under Ling because she often feeds her snacks.  Unfortunately, Coco did not have a cookie on her person to make Under Ling disappear.  Hence, when she joined me, my pal was still in a foul mood.  As a woman sitting near us continuously dry hacked, and someone else heavily phlegm-fill coughed, I made a feeble effort to comfort my still-steaming friend:

Me:  You’ll drink a martini afterward and relax.

Coco: I need a vodka just to sanitize this place.

Coco surveyed the room and realized that she was the only person in the audience with fashion sense.  A cop approached a particularly disheveled man.

Coco:  If that cop’s the fashion police, it’s gonna be a busy night of ticket writing.

Me:  Hey, I’m wearing fleece.

Coco gives me the stink eye. The woman sitting next to me, whom Coco has determined is named Sonya, seems to be calling everyone in her iPhone’s phone book.  As Sonya is speaking rather loudly about Roz’s new book she announces:

Sonya:  This is a good gift for Emma!

Coco:  Call her and tell her!

Before Sonya or any of the coughers beat us, Roz arrives, conducts a slide show and gives a talk.  Coco finally relaxes and starts laughing.

Terrible picture of Roz at lectern.

Roz opened her talk with reminiscences about her childhood in Brooklyn, reading the Merke Manual at age nine and reflecting on what the adults around her were prone to say before showing an assortment of her clever and witty cartoons.

Self portrait at age 9 reading "The Big Book of Horrible Rare Diseases".

Little flesh-colored blob at bottom of frame is a chap's bald dome.

This could also be my family at Xmas.

Day job hell.

This one elicited quite a laugh from the Upper West Side audience.

I relate.

Hey, that's my radiator, too! I'll try baking cookies on it.

Could double as my Dad's remote.

My personal favorite.

This one scored quite a hit with Coco.

Roz shared with us that her major influences included the cartoonist, Charles Addams, and Mad Magazine, a magazine I enjoyed immensely in my youth even though my mother promised that my allegiance to it would guarantee failure.  Obviously, Roz skipped taking a ride on that bus, but I … <sigh>

Roz, who is one of the forty cartoonists at The New Yorker under contract, shared with us the selection process.  Even though she has had approximately 800 cartoons published since 1978, there is not a guarantee that her submissions will be selected for publication. The competition is stiff.  She said that “a few hundred” cartoons are submitted every week for the 15-20 publication slots.

Roz's workspace.

The fax machine Roz uses to submit her cartoons.

The phone Roz uses when she makes "the call of pain" to learn the status of her submissions.

Roz's image of The New Yorker's art meeting judges.

During the Q&A an audience member asked Roz what was her most satisfying professional cartoon sale.

Roz: The first cartoon I sold to The New Yorker and the last.

I imagine this cartoon below was pretty special to her, too, even though her parents thought the man was a doctor lecturing about all the bad artery clogging food emanating from ice cream, not quite what Roz had in mind.

Roz's first New Yorker cover.

Even though she knows she’s a professional cartoonist she added:

Roz: I feel cautiously anxious about it.

Roz's file cabinets full of her rejected cartoons.

Someone else asked how she might express herself if she wasn’t a cartoonist.  After some thought, she said:

Roz:  I’m into hooking rugs now.

Upcoming Vatican Announcements - the Roz print in my bathroom.

Advertisements

Lame Adventure 230: The Agony of Intellectual Ecstasy

I have been subscribing to The New Yorker for exactly half my life, specifically for over 1,200 issues.  It normally arrives in my mailbox on Monday, but there are times when it’s delivered on Tuesday.  If I don’t see it by Tuesday, I go completely out of what’s left of my mind.  Even though I can access it digitally, since I only have a dumb phone and I don’t have a PDA, I’d have to print the stories I want to read and that’s a hassle.   Also, I like to flip through the pages.

Every Monday, The New Yorker emails me a link to that week’s issue, along with headlines about the stories.

New Yorker headline news.

This Monday they notified me that several of my favorite writers are being featured in this issue.

Ariel Levy, a journalist that is brilliant, babelicious and bats on my team, has written about the sexual revolution. This excites me almost as much as getting laid — if I did not already have a date with my TV to watch the US Open Men’s Tennis Final.

Ariel Levy interviewing Alec Baldwin at The New Yorker Festival in 2010.

My favorite short story writer, Alice Munro, has written a memoir piece, Patricia Marx, an excellent humorist, has taken on Shouts & Murmurs.  There’s a Roz Chast Sketchbook called “Walkabout”, Gay Talese investigates Tony Bennett collaborating with Lady Gaga, Art Spiegelman has an Artist’s Sketchbook called “Crossroads”, Michael Schulman covers playwright Katori Hall, and last but not least, the fiction is by Ann Beattie.

Could this be the best issue of The New Yorker ever?  Probably not, but it’s an issue I will likely read cover to cover.  As soon as the tennis match is over, even though my guy, Rafael Nadal, loses, I will have this Christmas in September issue of that magazine to provide solace and to distract me from my mental anguish.  There is one glitch.

When I open my mailbox, my magazine is missing.

On Tuesday, I half-heartedly suggest to my pal, Coco, that we get a drink after work.  Half-heartedly since the delivery of my magazine is possessing 98% of my thoughts.  Fortunately my gym rat friend has other plans.  She later texts me:

Coco’s text:  I ran 9 miles and lifted weights.

I up the dosage on my morphine drip and text back:

My text back:  Jesus, did u circle the entire island? After that epic workout did u quaff 2 martinis & call that home cooking?

Coco ignores my questions, counts to 100 and changes the subject; her tolerant way of telling me to go fuck myself.

I am in a foul mood after discovering that my magazine has not been delivered on this second day.  If I don’t see it by Tuesday, odds are good that I will never see it.  I have the sinking feeling that my treasured magazine has entered the void.  It occurs to me that it’s possible that my letter carrier deposited it in another tenant’s mailbox.  This makes me brood.  I wonder if that tenant made my loss his or her gain?  This makes me seethe.

Me: For the love of David Remnick, do something!

I force myself to do the unthinkable, wake early on Wednesday and call my post office, Ansonia Station, to lodge a complaint.  Bill, the supervisor, puts me through to my letter carrier, a very defensive woman who insists that she “always delivers” my magazine.

Me:  I’m sure you do always deliver my magazine, but can you say with 100% certainty that you put it in my mailbox this week?

She has no response and hands the phone back to Bill.  He also insists that I must have received my magazine adding:

Bill:  How can you prove that your letter carrier didn’t deliver it?

Me:  I didn’t get it so that’s a pretty good indication that it wasn’t delivered – at least to me.

Bill:  Are you sure though?

Me:  Am I sure of what?  It’s 7:57 in the morning.  Are you implying that I’m calling you at this hour about a magazine that I have and this is all some ridiculous game playing on my part?

Bill shifts gears and is now blaming Conde Nast for my missing magazine.

Bill:  Contact the publisher and ask them to send you another one.

Me:  Send me “another one” as if I received my copy of it already?

Since I am fully aware of the US Postal Service’s dire economic reality, I go in for the kill.

Me:  I suppose I could do that and see this week’s issue a month from now.  Maybe what I should really do is invest in an iPad, and just read it electronically.  That way I wouldn’t have to rely on the Postal Service at all.

Bill:  Hold on.

Bill puts me on hold probably to chew a Rolaid.

Bill:  I just saw that we still have some copies of New York here.

Me:  I got my copy of New York on Monday; I didn’t get my New Yorker.

I resist adding that I also subscribe to Time Out New York – since that might give the impression that I have a fetish for periodicals with New York in the title.

Bill:  I meant to say The New Yorker.

Me (intrigued):  Really?  Is there one with my name on it?

Bill:  I don’t know, but we do have some copies of it here.  I’ll see what I can do.  I can’t guarantee anything.

Since there is still the possibility that my letter carrier had simply placed it in the wrong mailbox, I pound out a letter to my fellow tenants as well as my letter carrier.  I ask my fellow tenants if they got it by mistake to please return it me personally, or leave it on top of the radiator cover.  I ask my letter carrier if she sees it on the radiator cover to put it in my mailbox.  I conclude that I am now completely out of the closet about being a loon, and should have myself fitted for a straitjacket.  I dread the idea that some douche bag or baguette might write something profane on my note.

A lunatic's plea.

When I come home, there is a message scrawled on my note by my letter carrier:

“It just arrive today.”

I open my mailbox and I have both my copy of The New Yorker as well as Time Out New York.  Inside the jukebox in my head, Edwin Hawkins is crooning the Gospel classic, “Oh Happy Day”.

Possibly, the happy ending to this debacle is the highlight of my year.  I lower my morphine drip and start reading.

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 221: Will You Be My Stranger?

It is August 24th and here it is, the inaugural Stranger’s Day!  This is a brand new holiday first announced on page 73 of the August 15 & 22, 2011 issue of The New Yorker by Roz Chast, the hilarious cartoonist with her inking pen on the pulse of the world.  She’s the mastermind behind Crankster.  (Confidential to Mark Zuckerberg: watch out.)  Stranger’s Day is Roz’s next phenomenon in the making, and I’m determined to do my part to make it very strange indeed.  You ask:

You:  What the hell is Stranger’s Day?

According to Roz, this is the holiday where we acknowledge the billions of random Joes and Joettes out there that we don’t know, don’t care about, that neither know nor care about us!  What symmetry!  What simplicity!  What a middle finger to the oozing sap that’s Valentine’s Day!

As a resounding social networking clod, Stranger’s Day is definitely my kind of holiday.  Last week when I received the Laughter Lovers e-blast from Blake Eskin of The New Yorker (filling in for Bob Mankoff) announcing that Roz had made Stranger’s Day greeting cards available through Café Press for $23.99 for a pack of 20 (bargain rate of $1.1995 per card) or $2.99 each, I thought:

Me:  Sign me up!

Then, I noticed that shipping these cards in time for Stranger’s Day would set me back $31. I next thought:

Me:  Screw that!

Then, I resumed crunching numbers at my desk and fighting a coma until a light bulb blew out over my head.  It dawned on me that maybe the kindred needy spirits of Café Press would cut me a break on shipping if I praised them all out of proportion on my blog.  I phoned Café Press’s call center in Mississippi and I got through to Synetra the Wonderful.  Following is an edited version of our exchange.

Synetra:  Café Press.  This is Synetra.

Me:  Hi, are you familiar with the Stranger’s Day cards on your web site?

Synetra:  No ma’am.

Me:  Are you familiar with the cartoonist Roz Chast?

Synetra:  No ma’am.

Me:  Are you familiar with The New Yorker magazine?  It’s been around since 1925, it remains very popular and it’s still profitable.

[Editorial comment: okay maybe there was some leading the witness there.]

Synetra:  I think I’ve heard of them, ma’am.

Omitted: ten minutes of back and forth exchange primarily filled with nine minutes of shameless begging from me for three single cards at a radically reduced shipping rate.  Fast forward to the conclusion of the conversation:

Synetra:  When your order ships, the $31 in shipping charges will be deleted, ma’am.

Café Press and Synetra the Wonderful, you rock!

The cards arrived on Monday and as I held them in my sweaty little paw, I was overcome with nausea.  Hey, I now have to exit my comfort zone and select three strangers to be my stranger.  <gulp>  Who will I select?  My criteria:

  1. Someone that does not look like they’re carrying a concealed weapon.
  1. Someone that does not look like they’ll yell at me or beat me up.
  1. Someone that smells good or is unscented.
  1. Someone that is not wearing a tee shirt with the caption, “I’m not hung over but my mouth tastes like a brewery.”
  1. Someone that looks like they know how to read (preferably The New Yorker).
  1. And of course, someone I don’t know that doesn’t know me that I’ll never see again.

If you were one of my three strangers, how strange was this?  If you take the time to comment here, remember to mention your code word so I know that you are you and not someone that thinks they can punk me.  If I threw up a little when I handed you your card, I hope it was not on your attire, and I apologize profusely.

Will any of these chosen Strangers respond?

 

Lame Adventure 212: Life Imitates Tee Shirt

One of my remaining affordable guilty pleasures since I have zero fashion sense combined with a tight budget is tee shirts with captions from my favorite New Yorker cartoons.  I like these tee shirts even more when The New Yorker emails me a twenty percent off discount code.  They provide the perfect compliment to Jack Purcell badminton shoes.

Pictured below is an actual New York City pigeon that I encountered as it was pecking at half a toasted bagel on West Broadway on a sweltering afternoon.  I thought:

Me:  How fortuitous!  I just ordered this tee shirt!

Where's the schmear?

To anyone as skeptical as me, no, I did not toss half a toasted bagel into West Broadway to get this shot.  It was fate.

Fashion statement.

Cartoon caption closeup.

The cartoon is by veteran New Yorker staff cartoonist, Roz Chast, and the tee shirt is available online at The New Yorker Store in sizes suitable for the entire family.  It is also available as a unisex hoodie, a mug, note cards, art prints (framed or not) and the original drawing is also for sale at an undisclosed price that starts at $1,900.  One could conceivably dedicate two months salary to this cartoon alone, if one suffered a massive head injury.  I’m content with just the tee shirt.