Tag Archives: subway

Lame Adventure 468: Period of Adjustment

This is just a post for anyone who might take a nanosecond to wonder if I still have a pulse. I do. Or, at least, I had one that bounced off the sky when a creepy crawly critter skittered across my naked thigh (the perils of wearing shorts on a hot summer’s day) in the dark of a movie theater recently. Life outside the blogosphere is still very demanding. I anticipate that it will continue to be so through the months ahead on both the work front and very soon, on the home front, when those walls will come crashing down for a while compelling me to continue my disappearing act. The home front hysteria of  this year’s mania will one day be Lame Adventurized. It’s epic.

On The Grind front, I have been adapting to working in Long Island City. The commute is about ten minutes longer from my sanctum sanctorum, I’m not feeling tortured in The New Place, but I’m not in my bliss, either. Culturally, it’s very different from Manhattan’s chic and trendy Tribeca. But, the take out is cheaper when I don’t bother to pack my organic kale lunch. I like that. There’s a nearby Greek deli that makes an excellent chicken gyro. Even though my boss and colleagues have not complained, I know that when I get that gyro, unlike my usual kale, carrots and whatever else I add to that dreariness, it stinks up our entire office something fierce. Possibly, it stinks up our entire factory. With that in mind, I’ve cooled it with inhaling gyros at my desk.

As for settling in, that’s proceeding at tai chi pace. We still have mountains of stuff to slog through and shelve. It fills much of our factory space and about two thirds of our new location’s cavernous basement. It’s overwhelming. One of our sales associates thinks that the lost ark of the covenant is somewhere in there.

Some mountains of stuff.

Mountains of overwhelming.

Last week, I ventured down to that basement with my colleague, Godsend, to look for something other than the lost ark. We didn’t find what we were seeking, but I think we stumbled upon a piece of the San Andreas Fault.

"Don't step on that!"

“Godsend, don’t step on that!”

We made a quick exit to avoid antagonizing it.

We’re fairly settled in in my department’s new office space. The Boss has planted her roots; she’s shelved both her ceramic lizard and industrial sized light bulb.

Elspeth's lizard.

Elspeth’s lizard.

Elspeth's holy honking light bulb next to cup of headache pain reliever.

Elspeth’s holy honking light bulb next to cup of headache pain reliever.

I have followed her lead on a reduced scale. I placed my polished onyx alligator between my keyboard and monitor next to my favorite mystery tile.

Gator buddy.

Gator bud and don’t ask me what the thing behind it is.

Something that I could not take with me from our former location were the pigeons that perched on the sill outside my window and the mourning doves that cooed under the air conditioner. What’s outside my window now are subway trains rumbling on the elevated track and a symphony of horns honking on Queens Boulevard. Naturally, the horns honk most when I’m on the phone.

Seven train perched outside window.

The 7 train perched outside my window.

I think I might be going through something akin to bird watching withdrawal. Occasionally, I see a few when I’m waiting for the train to take me back home to Manhattan. I find the sight of a perched pigeon comforting, particularly if that pigeon is not perched on the bookcase in my sanctum sanctorum.

A pigeon perched in LIC, so close and yet so far.

A pigeon perched in LIC. So close and yet so far.

Recently, when I was home on the Upper West Side, I had this up close and personal encounter with a feathered friend.

I wish everyone well until whenever I next resurface.

Lame Adventure 461: Four Fateful Dollars

In 1982, when I moved to New York City from San Francisco, the subway token cost seventy-five cents. Last week, subway fare rose again. The single fare is now $2.75, an increase of 266.6667% in the course of 33 years.

Quality of life advice from the service noted for leaking life of any quality.

Quality of life advice from the service noted for leaking quality out of any life.

Almost every two years the Metropolitan Transit Authority increases subway fare. It was not always this way. From 1904 through 1948, a single fare was a nickel. It doubled to a dime in 1948 and increased to fifteen cents in 1953, the year the subway token was introduced because turnstiles could not accept two different coins. It stayed at that price point until 1966 when it was raised to twenty cents. On New Years Day 1970, that decade rang in with a Bronx cheer when subway fare increased 50% to thirty cents. Over the course of the next forty-five years, the increases steadily piled on. In 2003, the token was rendered obsolete in favor of the Metrocard, which offers free transfers.

The Metrocard.

The Metrocard.

The monthly Metrocard has the best volume discount. It has been my go-to means of transportation tool since 2004. That was the year that I quit a job that was walking distance from my hovel in favor of my current Grind in lower Manhattan. Eleven years ago, a 30-day Metrocard cost $70. This year, on March 22nd, that fare card increased from $112 to $116, a 3.5714% increase, if I were the type obsessed with industrial strength nitpicking percentages. This monthly pass is a good deal for someone who rides the subway as frequently as me. I average around sixty rides a month, so each fare costs about $1.93, less than what a single fare cost in 2003 when it held steady at $2 until June 2009.

At The Grind, I participate in a program called TransitChek. $28 is deducted from my pay every week to cover the cost of my Metrocard. In return, I get a tax break, and every four weeks, a new Metrocard. Easy peasy. When it was announced that the monthly Metrocard was increasing four dollars, I was expecting that my weekly deduction would increase to $29. That didn’t happen. I was suspicious.

TransitChek Metrocard.

TransitChek Metrocard with misleading expiration date.

Last week, when I received my new Metrocard, I noticed that the card was still at the old $112 rate. The head bean counter at The Grind, Agnes Pennywise-Dollardumb, oversees the Metrocards. She finagled a way to get employees old Metrocards so we would not have to pay the new $116 rate. She didn’t factor that there was a short grace period between old rate cards and new rate ones. All old rate cards had to be activated by March 29th. After that, when inserted into the turnstile, you don’t pass go. Instead, you go straight to a fare booth wielding your defunct card and tell your sob story to a transit worker. Good luck with that.

The Metrocard that I had activated on March 4th, that was good through April 2nd, I had to stop using on March 29th. That’s the date I needed to start using my new card. Therefore, that savings of $4 for my new monthly pass cost me five days of fares that calculates to a loss of $19.30. My friend, Milton, was outraged. He wants me to demand reimbursement from Agnes. That would not go over well. When I politely pointed out the problem with getting us soon-to-expire Metrocards, instead of saying, “Sorry, I screwed up,” she’s stopped speaking to me and now refers to me with a word that rhymes with shunt. She’s prickly about owning her mistakes.

Meanwhile, around four thirty in the afternoon on Sunday, March 29th, I found myself with two monthly Metrocards, one that I had been using since March 4th and the new one I just activated to avoid losing $112. I also had a dilemma: what to do with my old card? Trashing it seemed wrong, but giving it to a stranger might not be easy. New Yorkers are savvy and skeptical. Would someone think that I was punking them? Fortunately, I am fairly articulate, I don’t drool and I look about as terrifying as puppies. I was determined to find someone deserving with standards. It occurred to me that a good place to center my search was the West 72nd Street subway station, particularly at the Metrocard vending machine.

 

This must be the place!

This must be the place!

Or, better yet, over here!

Or, better yet, over here!

That’s where I encountered Verneda, a seventh grade science teacher, feeding her hard-earned cash into a ravenous MTA Metrocard dispenser. I tested her standards and asked three questions:

Me: Do you love your family? Do you love New York? Are you kind to animals?

She said, enthusiastically:

Verneda: Yeah!

I handed her her award and urged her to read this blog post. She seemed genuinely grateful to be included in this lame adventure and I’m genuinely grateful to have encountered her.

Lame Adventure 449: It’s the Most Familiar Time of the Year

New Year's Day hangover balloons.

New Year’s Day hangover balloons.

Sixteen hours into January 1, 2015, my holiday season officially entered the ether and the most familiar time of the year resumed. This happened when I encountered my first asshat of the New Year: a chap about my age at my go-to supermarket, Fairway. Fairway is a place where, a few years earlier on another New Year’s Day, the toes of my right foot were nearly severed by a girl not much taller than a walking stick burning rubber on a scooter in the produce section. Apparently, that moppet, with parental approval, was training to compete in the Dakar Rally via the broccoli bin. My market could serve double duty all year round as the Asshat Convention Center of America, or ACCA for short.

Fast forward to the ACCA around 4pm on New Year’s Day 2015. I am patiently waiting my turn in a cue of fellow shoppers to grab a hand basket. The man in front of me takes his hand basket that contains some detritus left behind by previous users of that basket. There is a trashcan nearby at the store’s entrance, but Mr. Asshat upends the trash from his basket into mine.

Me: Was that necessary?

Mr. Asshat looks back at me and cringes, possibly flashbacking on his nagging mother. I swipe out the detritus and dump it in the trashcan he chose to ignore. Sufficiently humiliated, he mumbles an apology before scampering down an aisle in a failed effort to turn invisible. But, I appreciated his civility, unlike the last asshat I encountered in the Old Year: a woman half my age reeking attitude.

She crossed my path on another reliable source of suffering: the New York City subway system. This episode in the series, Meet the Asshat, occurred on my second-to-last train ride before embarking on a two-week hiatus from The Grind.

Ms. Asshat was sitting on the crowded 1 local during the morning rush hour with her legs crossed, determined to give anyone near her the boot.

Shin kicker's boot.

Shin kicker’s boot.

Unlike Mr. Asshat in Fairway, my subway riding survival instinct warned that this was a Code Red Asshat, i.e., someone with the potential to detonate. Don’t provoke her. I got lucky and scored a seat allowing me to escape her foot follies. Everyone else near her came close to getting it in the shin. Her nasty expression screamed f-bomb. Fellow riders shared my cautious vibe and were mute around this volatile asshat. There are times when New Yorkers know to zip the lip.

Days later, I was in mellow mode visiting kith and kin in the San Francisco Bay Area. While in Sausalito with my best friend from college, BatPat, we strolled through a neighborhood of storybook-style houseboats docked on calm waters.

Mini mansions in idyllic Waldo Harbor.

Mini mansions in idyllic Waldo Harbor.

Many of these whimsical vessels belong to artists and writers.

Tim Burton-esqe style houseboat from behind.

Tim Burton-esqe style houseboat from behind.

Tim Burton-esque style boat from the front-ish.

Tim Burton-esque style boat from the front-ish.

I flashed on ditching the steady stream of petty irritations that are such a key ingredient in big city life in exchange for the tranquility of a floating nest and the camaraderie of courteous neighbors with cool cats.

Super cool houseboat cat Bow.

Super cool houseboat cat Bow.

Bow's super cool houseboat home.

Bow’s super cool houseboat home.

But whom am I kidding? Within a month, or an hour, my blunt force trauma temperament would surface and I could be the resident asshat in Shangri-la.

In front of my home, this bombshell might be active.

In front of my home, this bombshell might be active.

I am allergic to cats, I can’t swim and my astrological sign should be Seasick. I can do mellow by the shot glass, but my personality is frantic by the barrel.

Cool in principle but not for me.

The Neversail Ark: cool in principle but not for me.

Shortly after I returned from my California getaway, I was briskly walking down my block on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. It was five in the afternoon, a time of day that looks exactly like ten at night in winter, when I found myself doing a double take on what else? A sweating package identified as fresh chicken.

Re-gift chicken.

Re-gift chicken.

I don’t know what gave me the willies more: knowing that I reside in close proximity to a New York City asshat who re-gifts fowl, or later that evening, when I went out again and saw that there had been a taker. A few years ago, New York City was besieged with a bedbug epidemic. Have we graduated to salmonella sharing in 2015? Meanwhile, a New Year has dawned once again replete with a new crop of New York City asshats. The time of the year may no longer be the most wonderful, but it is certainly back to being the most familiar.

Asshat New Yorker-style Christmas tree disposal.

Asshat New Yorker-style Christmas tree disposal.

Lame Adventure 408: Hearing Things, Smelling Things, Seeing Things

It was bound to happen at some point in this winter of apparently endless snow: it’s playing tricks on what’s left of my mind. I seem to be in a perpetual snow-induced delirium. For example, I’ve been hearing things at The Grind: groaning and moaning in the walls as well as invisible pigeons cooing outside. Sometimes I hear hammering. I’m not sure if that’s in the walls, if it’s outside or maybe it’s inside my head? My colleague, Godsend, hears none of this. She has smelled things I cannot sniff. Sometimes gas, other times toast. She thinks I’m suffering aural hallucinations and predicts that I’ll be seeing things next.

Me: Oh, hardy, har, har. [pause] Hey, who’s that in the back of the room?

Godsend looks.

Godsend: Athena!

Athena is our industrial designer who’s worked with us almost two years.

Me: I know Athena! My mind’s not that shot. I just want to know who’s the guy near her that looks like Benjamin Franklin. Sheesh!

One thing I was certain I saw were two pigeons conjugating the verb on an air conditioner across from our building.

Me: Hey, Godsend, check out the pigeons screwing on the a/c!

Godsend: I don’t want to see pigeon porn!

Well, maybe you do.

This magic moment.

This magic moment.

A nano-second later: "Hey, do you happen to have a cigarette?"

A nano-second later: “Do you have a cigarette?”

On the way into The Grind on Monday, I recognized the graffiti smeared on the 2 Express train’s door. It’s not like it was very memorable graffiti, nor was it in the forefront of my thoughts since whenever it was that I last saw it, a period of time between 24 hours and 24 days earlier. For some reason, it stuck in my head.

Monogram in coffee, dried blood or was that once gravy?

Monogram in coffee, gravy or dried blood?

Subway rider who failed to read the memo that wearing ballet flats in 21 degree weather will not induce spring.

Subway rider who failed to read the memo that wearing ballet flats in 21 degree weather will not induce spring.

Recently, I saw one of my former next-door neighbors on the street, almost a year after he moved out. I made sure not to say hello. Why start acting friendly when we never acknowledged each other during the year he was singing loud and off-key through our shared wall? I may have said on more than one occasion at the top of my lungs:

Me: Please, shut the hell up! You’re torturing me!

One welcome sight I’m sure I glimpsed was this miniature Frosty on a brownstone’s stoop.

"I love this cold weather!"

“I love this cold weather!”

I thought it was a very New York City touch to use pennies for his eyes and belly button. If there’s any city in the country where people are inclined to throw money around, this is that place.

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 285: Barrier Method

In general I have a three-track mind that predominantly thinks about food, sex and scribbling.  On this particular morning while riding the subway into work I had a small feast of crap dominating my thoughts.  Elsbeth, my boss, sprang for Girl Scout cookies for my colleagues, my sidekick, Greg, (not) Under Ling (anymore) and me.

Crowd pleasing flavors.

I was also carrying a new nosh of my own, a package of Pub Mix.

How I cover my sodium intake.

Of course, Pub Mix solo leaves something to be desired.  What immediately comes to mind is it being washed down with a few pints of frothy suds.  This is not something I’m inclined to do with my lord and master sitting in an office approximately ten feet away from my desk.  Hm, maybe I should live on the edge and relocate my desk?  We have plenty of empty space in the back of the room.  My fantasy exchange with my superior:

Elsbeth:  Why did you move your desk?

Me:  Now that I’m noshing on Pub Mix, I want to drink beer while I’m here.

Elsbeth:  Should I install a TV for you so you can also watch sports?

Me:  That would be so considerate of you, Boss!

(not) Under Ling (anymore):  Can I sit back there, too?  I love beer!

Elsbeth:  Sure, why not?

Greg: What’s going on?  What are we doing?

Me: Move your desk back here.  Elsbeth has given us the okay to get drunk!  Have some Pub Mix with me, gang!

Back to the reality of riding the subway, I’m distracted from thinking about cookies, Pub Mix and beer by a middle aged bloke who stands next to me with his fist pressed against the pole.  Pictured below is a Lame Adventures re-enactment of this chap’s unique style of pole handling featuring Greg’s fist and a shiny metal pole in our workplace environment.

Greg's fist pole pressing.

On the train I had the following exchange with the Pole Presser:

Me:  Excuse me, may I ask why you’re pressing your fist into the pole that way?

Pole Presser:  I forgot my hand sanitizer.

As soon as I arrive at my destination, whenever possible, I simply wash the subway off my hands, but hey, to each germaphobe his own.

As Greg and I were preparing our re-enactment ever helpful Greg suggested:

Greg: Do you want me to spit and piss on it, too?

Me:  No, but thanks for offering to share your precious bodily fluids.

I told my sidekick about my dialogue with the Pole Presser.

Greg: Doesn’t that guy ever rub his nose?

Me:  Apparently not.

Greg absorbs this possibility.

Greg (in his best running for dog catcher voice): Get pink eye like a real man!

I’d vote for Greg.

Lame Adventure 271: Mood Altering Substance

Thus far, this has been an irritating week commute-wise.  Although it is part of my charm to come into work twenty minutes late every morning, this week I have had extra assistance in the Department of Tardiness from the MTA due to signal problems plaguing the downtown 2 and 3 express subway trains.  Usually, I hop onto the express train at 72nd Street, and ride it to 14th Street where I transfer to a waiting 1 local to take me the rest of the way to The Grind.  Yet, this week, every time I have done my trademark hop onto the express, it’s been crawling like a constipated snail from one stop to the next.  It has been moving so anemically, local trains that arrived after I boarded the express have not only passed my train like it was standing still – and indeed my train had been standing still, but my moving-in-inches express train failed to catch up to the local trains that have bypassed my train.

This activates my ire as well as my gastritis.  Logically, I know it would benefit my overall health and well-being if I were not inclined to not “sweat the small stuff” .   It would also behoove me  to make a genuine effort to leave earlier, but I don’t have a choice in this matter.  If I recall correctly, my astrological sign is Disgruntled.

Furthermore, on Terrible Tuesday, as my practically paralyzed express train was doing the equivalent of Tai Chi moves from one station to the next, it dawned on me that in my haste to get out the door, I forgot to bring the quart of skim milk I pour on the bowl of organic, lightly sweetened tree bark-flavored cereal I had planned to eat at my desk.  Inside my head, I used the Lord’s name in vain — such a convenient time to be an atheist.

When I finally arrived at my place of employ, We’re Not Happy Until You’re Unhappy, a full half hour late, the first person I encounter is my musician sidekick, Greg. He’s looking cheerful.  I announce:

Me:  Signal problems!

Greg:  Sure, that’s what they all say.

I growl at him.

Greg:  I got you something.

Me:  I hope it’s a quart of watery skim milk!

I approach my desk and see this welcome sight.

Herbal essence?

My foul mood instantly evaporates.  Greg is looking at me, smiling slyly.

Greg:  You know, it’s that tea I told you about last week, Assam Hazelbank.

Me:  Oh, yes, that tea … my second guess!