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Archive for the ‘New York’ Category

So, Warner Bros. is at war with the producers of the new revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, over their refusal to release Daniel Radcliffe to do press and red-carpet for the final Harry Potter movie.  Radcliffe’s contract keeps him in NY and in the show until November, while the movie opens in July.  Warner Bros. feels they can’t adequately promote the film without Radcliffe, but How to Succeed producers have held firm, forcing the studio to buy out the houses for the nights they want Radcliffe, to the tune of about a half-a-million dollars.

It’s chump change, really, when you consider that the Potter franchise has grossed over $6 BILLION WORLDWIDE. To put that in perspective, based on my salary last year, I’d have to have lived 600 million years to make that kind of money.    Are they really concerned that if Harry Potter himself isn’t there, the movie won’t open big?

Can you find yourself?

 

Are they seriously worried about this?  Between the books and films, HP is a phenomenon that we’re not likely to see again in our lifetimes (unless it involves some skeevy, sparkly vampire, and even then, only maybe).

 

HARRY POTTER TATTOOS!

HARRY POTTER FAN ART!

HARRY POTTER FAN FIC!

HARRY POTTER FOOD!

HARRY POTTER COSPLAY!

HARRY POTTER PICK-UP LINES!

HAIRY POOTER PORN!  (NSFW)

 

So, really, Warner Bros., thanks for “supporting” the theatre, and kudos to the How to Succeed producers for standing up to Goliath.  As for the show, it just went into previews, but the images I’ve seen from it so far are distinctive.  Here’s Hedy LaRue, on the left:

She does look great, though.

 

And here’s the Evolution of Bud Frump, from the 1960s to today:

 

From realistic nerd to fashion icon. See you in the Village, Bud!

 

The ad campaign and poster art are gorgeous, though, and another comparison leaps immediately to mind.

Hm. There are even faint buildings in the background.

 

 

 

I’m not imagining this, right?  You see this?

 

Palette, style, pose, truth, justice, and the American way.

 

And what’s amazing is you take the glasses off Clark Kent, and you get Superman; but if you put the glasses ON Daniel Radcliffe, you get…

The Boy Who Lived

 

Somehow, I think neither Warner Bros. nor How to Succeed have anything to worry about.

 

 

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Is this happening everywhere?  Today, on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon – the 27th of February, in fact – walking around Park Slope, I was struck by the sheer number of people who won’t or can’t let Christmas 2010 pass into the record books.

(I took every single one of these pictures, and I took them earlier TODAY.  And by today, I mean Sunday, 27 February 2011.)

This is how it went down:

I’m walking to the Key Food for toilet paper and a roll of quarters (unrelated necessities), and I see this in the window of the New China Tung nearby:

We have this very same decoration. The one in the middle, I mean.

 

By itself, no big deal.  One random Christmas decoration in one random window does not a crisis make.  But then, in the Key Food itself, I see this in the breakfast aisle, between wheat germ and oatmeal:

Egg Nog for breakfast? Maybe. But only in DECEMBER, where it belongs!

 

Weird, huh?  Well, wait!  Walking home, I begin to notice the scary abundance of neglected Christmas all around me.  For example, a massage parlor:

"Away in a Massage Parlor..." "Acupuncture Fideles..."

 

The  vegan yogurt place:

At least they're owning up to the "year-round" thing.

 

One of the five-thousand real estate agencies on 5th Avenue:

Subtle, but still wrong.

 

Nearly apoplectic with shock, I hurried home.  But when I took Margot out for a walk, the horrors followed me.

A parenthetical observation:  One of the strangest sights in New York is the proliferation of dead trees after Christmas.  It starts literally the day after, with dead trees strewn on curbs in front of buildings inhabited by people who probably shouldn’t have bothered with the Christmas fuss at all if they were so ready to ditch the damn things.  Then, it continues for weeks, well into January, with tree carcasses finally appearing on the stoops of people who are fascinated with decay, or who really like the smell of dried pine, or who were probably just too busy to take the ornaments off the dead thing in the living room.

But it’s the penultimate day of February.  There is no excuse.

Please take me...six weeks ago.

 

My whole block is a feast of sad Christmas blight:

It didn't grow this way, but this is how it will DIE.

 

A-wreath-a Funklin

 

Seven Deadly Sins: Lust, Pride, Envy, Gluttony, Sloth, Greed, and WREATH

 

A stick in a door? A crappy half-string of lights? YOU DIDN'T EVEN TRY!

 

Let it NO.

 

In one building, you can even see Christmas crap haphazardly piled in the window, as if a tornado of good sense swept up (almost) all the other neighborhood decorations and deposited them here.

 

This is where Christmas goes to die.

 

I think the best shot I took is of desiccated evergreen with fake berries in a window planter.  I like it because the silhouette reflection of another tree in the window reminds me of the evil forest at the beginning of Tales from the Darkside.

 

Because dragging Christmas into March is EEEEVIL.

 

Maybe I’m overreacting.  Maybe the sustained celebration of holidays is just a New York thing.  I mean, look what was in my miso soup today:

 

Aw, you love me? Well, I loved you two weeks ago.

 

To be fair, I passed New China Tung again later on, and I noticed something positively progressive on their door:

 

You'd think this is for Easter. You'd be wrong.

 

But then I realized…it’s not Hoppy Early Easter.  No.

 

It’s Hoppy Late New Year…of the Rabbit.

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Seen & Heard in NYC

Seen on 6th Avenue, in the teens:

You'll never have to go out again.

 

 

Overheard in Union Square Friday evening:

OBNOXIOUS TWENTY-SOMETHING WOMAN: I think I’ve figured out my problem.  I’m too good at dating.  I think I’m too interesting, and guys can’t handle it.

WOMAN’S PATIENT MALE FRIEND: Yeah, I don’t think that’s it.

 

 

Seen at the N, R, D platform, Atlantic-Pacific station, Brooklyn:

He did not.

 

 

Overheard in Park Slope, also yesterday evening:

WOMAN: I mean, can you tell me that?  It’s been, what, four years now?  What am I supposed to tell people when they ask me?  WHY AREN’T WE MARRIED?  HUH?

MAN: Well, there’s conversations like this, for a start.

 

 

Seen on the High Line, two women making out under a pashmina:

Red Riding Hood, indeed. (They did this FOR AN HOUR.)

 

 

Overheard on the High Line, as two permissive parents try to talk it out with their insanely screaming and disobedient toddler:

PASSERBY #1: God.  Is it too late to abort?

PASSERBY #2: Yeah.  Once they’re out of the womb, it’s murder.

PASSERBY #1: No, that’s a mercy killing.

 

 

Seen at the New School, near Union Square.

Oh, so that's where they go.

 

 

Overheard on the High Line:

MAN: There’s so many guys in the bathroom.

WOMAN: What?

MAN: Like four or five guys, packed in there.

WOMAN: In your ass?!

MAN: What?  No.  In the bathroom.  I can’t fit that many guys in my ass.

WOMAN: How many can you fit?

 

 

Seen in Chelsea (not the gentleman quoted above):

He's wearing these on purpose.

 

 

Overheard on 14th Street near 8th Avenue:

WOMAN #1: And the Burlington Coat Factory there is shit.

WOMAN #2: Burlington Coat Factory everywhere is shit.

WOMAN #1: No way.  I shop there, like, all the time.

WOMAN #2: It’s stuff nobody wants.  Everything’s irregular.

WOMAN #1: (A revelation.)  Huh.  Maybe that’s why nothing ever fits right.

 

 

Seen on the Manhattan-bound N train:

Happiness is not a riddle, when you're listening to that BIG BASS FIDDLE!

 

 

And finally, one more from the High Line:

I just found them like that.

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So, Cammie’s doing demos in Yonkers today, and I took the drive with her, thinking I’d have a nice change-of-scene and be able to get some work done.  Wrong.  The first place I hit – a little coffeeshop called “Slave to the Grind” (kinda great, right?) in old-timey downtown – I spent $5.00 for a coffee and croissant, only to discover the following after I’d been sitting there a few minutes:

ME: Excuse me, do y’all have WiFi?

COUNTER GIRL: Do we have what?

ME: WiFi?

COUNTER GIRL: What’s WiFi?

WEIRD CUSTOMER LADY: He means the internet.  Do you mean the internet?

ME: Yes.  Do you have the internet?

COUNTER GIRL: Oh.  No.  I don’t think so, no.

ME: You don’t think so.

WEIRD CUSTOMER LADY: The library has it.

ME: Oh, great!  Where’s that?

COUNTER GIRL: Down past the high school.

WEIRD CUSTOMER LADY: It’s a real nice library.

ME: Where’s the high school?

COUNTER GIRL: (Looking at me like I’ve suddenly sprouted horns) Um, you don’t know where the high school is?

ME: Well, I’m not from here.

COUNTER GIRL: Well, you can’t miss it.  It’s huge.

WEIRD CUSTOMER LADY: It is big.

ME: But where is it?

ANOTHER CUSTOMER: It’s about three blocks that way.

ME: By the post office?   I’m parked three blocks that way, right past the post office.

ALL THREE: No.

WEIRD CUSTOMER LADY: You can’t miss it.  It’s big.

OTHER CUSTOMER: Three blocks that way.

So I finish my coffee, and I leave.  (As I walk out, Weird Customer Lady is still talking to Counter Girl, and I swear I hear the phrase, “And that cyst was as big as a baby.”)  I walk three blocks or so, right past the post office, to my car, which is parked where? RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE SONOFABITCHING HIGH SCHOOL.  The library is two blocks past that.  Because I’m parked in some weird timed zone, I move the car to the library parking lot, and walk up to the door.  The library is closed, and it won’t open until 1:00 pm.  It doesn’t open until 1:00 pm EVERY SINGLE DAY OF THE WEEK.   Why, when a stranger is asking for help at 10:30 am, would you direct him to a building three blocks away (five, really, but who’s counting?) THAT DOESN’T OPEN FOR ANOTHER TWO-AND-A-HALF HOURS?!?

I try to kill time by driving around a little bit, but the GPS on my phone would simply not connect.  I mean, at all.  I have a pretty good sense of direction, and I’m good at remembering landmarks, but I still have no idea where I actually am.  But I manage to find my way back to the store where Cammie’s working, and I decide to pop in and watch one of her presentations.  (She’s really good, y’all.  Really good.)  Her pitch starts with a P.A. announcement about a free gift, and she does it away from the actual stage where the presentation takes place.  The idea is that it gives people time to gather so that she can make an entrance.  And she does about three or four of them, which means that she doesn’t magically appear on the stage as soon as the last word escapes her lips.   So, she makes the announcement, and within thirty seconds, the most annoying woman on earth walks up.  (If you want to imagine her as a short, fat Latina woman about 60 years old with frosted blond hair, too-tight clothes, and a voice more abrasive than an asthmatic donkey, I won’t stop you.)  She’s screaming about her free gift, bitching because the “announcing girl” isn’t there yet, digging in the props on the stage, trying to engage anyone who will listen to her, the whole bit.  Awful.  Cammie makes her entrance, and starts her presentation.  By now, about twenty customers have gathered, and Most Annoying wants them all to know she was there first.  She’s pushing her way to the front, and when Cammie asks her to move her cart to the side, she ignores the request.  A few minutes later, she realizes she is in the way, and maybe she feels like a total asshole.  She tries to move the cart through the people, and in so doing, she knocks over a line of bicycles on display, which topple like dominoes.  She says simply, “Shit,” and free gift in hand, she blows off the rest of the presentation and leaves the scene of the crime.

It’s now about 12:30, and I figure I can make it back over to the library and work until it’s time to pick Cammie up.  I take my time getting there.  I pull into the parking lot at 12:59, and it’s packed, so clearly EVERYBODY knows what time it opens.  At exactly 1:00, a staff member comes out and unlocks the door, sort of like the opening of the Chocolate Factory, and I join the other Golden Ticket winners in their exodus from parking lot to free Wifi.  Only, it’s a total waste of time for me, because you can’t use the free Wifi unless you have a library card – THEIR library card.  So, screwed once again, I go off in search of a Starbucks.

And here I am.  But oh, God, does the weirdness continue.

At the table next to mine, there’s this older bald guy with a one-inch ponytail (no lie), talking to two young “Gotti boys” with those weird monastic-looking hairdos.  After Bald Guy brags about his iPhone 4 and deconstructs THE MATRIX (did you know it’s really about Jesus?), this happens:

BALD: You guys work out?

GOTTI 1: Yeah.

BALD: You know, the best way to work out is with your own body weight.

GOTTI 1: I’m 178 now.  I weigh 178.

BALD: Yeah?  You work out a lot?  You should work out with a buddy.

GOTTI 1: I got him.

GOTTI 2: Yeah.  He got me.

BALD: You guys buddy for each other?

GOTTI 1: Yeah, all the time.

BALD: Well, if you ever need another buddy, like a three-way work out, I could do that for you.  We could work something out.

GOTTI 1: I guess.

BALD: We could go right now.

GOTTI 1: I don’t know.

BALD: You up for it?  I’m up.

Yeah, I bet you are.  Then this happens at the counter.

STRUNG-OUT LOOKING GUY: I used to do caffeine all the time, all the time, all the time, but it turned on me, you know?  One day I was like, and then I was like, and I was like, shit, I don’t know.  So, I hadda cut it out.  ‘Cause I don’t wanna be like, you know what I mean?  Know what I’m saying?

And then this, at the condiment station behind me:

WOMAN IN SUNGLASSES ON CELLPHONE: I just can’t get out of bed.  I don’t want to do anything.  It’s been like a week now.  I don’t even bathe.  I just wet a paper towel and hit the parts that need it, you know?  I don’t want to be disgusting.  (Pause)  Huh?  Oh.  Starbucks.  I threw on some makeup and some pajama pants.  I needed a chai.  But other than that, I’m like “Screw it.”  I’m so serious.

Even the signs are weird here:

How many brutes in a tribrute blend? Ah-one, ah-two, ah-three. CRUNCH! Three.

Anyway, it’s time to leave.  I have to go fetch Cammie, and another woman at the counter just asked for “nonfat milk!  Not fat-free.  Nonfat!  There’s a difference.”

Yonkers, it’s been real.

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I suppose it’s good to be exposed to the great works of literature at an early age.  It helps one develop a sense of cultural literacy, and if all goes well, it whets the appetite for more.  I wonder sometimes, though, if we’re just too young for some of the books we’re forced to read in school.  I mean, when I was really young, I was a voracious reader.  Everywhere I went, I had a bag of books with me. (Don’t believe me?  Ask my family.)  And I have a pretty good memory for stuff I read when I was that little, too.  For example, I still remember vividly the details of certain Encyclopedia Brown cases.

Bugs Meany was ALWAYS a douchebag.

SIDEBAR #1: Topless Robot has a fun list of the 10 Most Ridiculously Difficult Encyclopedia Brown Mysteries

SIDEBAR #2: It’s a shame what happened to Encyclopedia Brown in later years, too:  Read about the ultimate tragedy.

SIDEBAR #3, because I fell into a Proustian reverie with the Encyclopedia Brown reference and can’t stop finding shit to distract me: Mental Floss spins some quick EB trivia right here.

But I digress.

What I’m getting at, in my typically rambling fashion, is that I read The Great Gatsby in high school, and I’m shocked today that I remember very few things about it.  Here is an arguable candidate for the title of Great American Novel, and what I remember about it can be reduced to patter in a blogpost.

For example, I remember that the book had quite possibly the greatest cover I’d ever seen, one of the most iconic in publishing history:

Shut up. It's gorgeous, and you know it.

SIDEBAR #4, because I’m into it: The painting on the cover is called Celestial Eyes, and it’s the work of Francis Cugat.  Read this fascinating article about it by publishing scion Charles Scribner III. (Warning: the article has weird random characters throughout, like ò in place of intended punctuation marks.  Seriously, 2011 and we can’t stop that from happening or fix it when it does?  The article’s good, though.)

SIDEBAR #5, because I love this: Francis Cugat emigrated from Spain to Cuba in the early 1900s, and then eventually to the U.S.  He was the brother of bandleader Xavier Cugat, who himself was once married to Charo.  It’s all true, look it up.

SIDEBAR #6, because this freaked me out: When Cugat married Charo, he was 66.  She was 15.  TRUE.

Cuchi-cuchi. (I'd totally go see her live. No lie. In a heartbeat.)

Okay, so I remember the gorgeous cover.  I remember West Egg and East Egg, where much of the action of the book takes place, because I had no idea where the hell they were. (They’re imaginary, but Long Island.)  I remember the green light on the dock, but I don’t know why it’s important or what it’s meant to symbolize.  I remember people’s names: Nick Carraway, Daisy Buchanan, Jay Gatsby, Jordan Baker.  I remember – SPOILER – that Myrtle gets hit by a car.  (I did not remember until just now, when I looked it up, that the car was driven by – SPOILER Jay Gatsby Daisy, driving Gatsby’s car.  I looked it up, typed it in wrong, and my friend Ricky helpfully corrected me.  I’m telling y’all.  I can’t even retain what I read on Wikipedia anymore!)  And that’s pretty much it.

Oh, and I remember that Nick Carraway worked for the New York Probity and Trust Company, because I missed that costly question on a test in Mr. Templet’s class in 10th grade, and I AM STILL NOT OVER IT.

SIDEBAR #7, because it’s cool: Did you know that aspiring actress Susan Weaver chose her stage name from The Great Gatsby?  It’s true!  Looka:

Can you guess who it is?

Anyway, the point is, I should remember much more about this book.  I had to dig up my copy to take the picture above, and now that it’s out and I’m bitching about it, I’m going to reread it.  I mean, what am I gonna do instead?  Watch the movie?

I look great, but I am bad. Very bad. (Oh, how bad? Well, I once gave birth to the spawn of Satan, will that do?)

SIDEBAR #8: If only a possibly-insane Australian filmmaker with a middling track record would remake this movie — someone like Baz Luhrmann, yeah! — and maybe if he made it with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire, and maybe if he’d shoot test footage to see if it would work in 3-D, well, then maybe that one would be worth watching.  Or not.

Hell, you know what?  If you watch the one below, it’ll make sense AND you’ll remember what happens. Because it’s Sparknotes.  But I still would have missed that sonofabitchin’ question on Templet’s test.  HERE BE SPERLERS (and droning, monotone narration):

But why bother with all that when you can play the VIDEO GAME!

(LAST SIDEBAR: This game is what inspired me to write this whole post. Thank you for making it this far and taking this free-associative journey with me.  Enjoy!)

Here’s an actual magazine ad from the late-’80s, early-’90s.

Click the image to go to there.

Below are some screenshots I took.

Beautifully done, even for 8-bit.

Your task: FIND GATSBY! Your wallpaper: FLEUR-DE-LIS!


A triumph, indeed. (There's a waiter on that bookcase!)

In case you didn’t click the game ad, here’s the link.  Thanks to Flavorwire and io9 for the scoop.  Good sites, y’all.  Check ’em out.

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About a week ago, I posted that I would be back on track, fulfilling the promise I made to myself to post every day.  Well, I was a filthy liar.

I'm still cute, though, right?

Unfortunately for the blog, the past week has been a veritable swarm of deadlines for other projects and of obligations that kept me far away from a computer, and I had to do some cruel prioritizing.  Sometimes, when I get really busy, the days melt into each other, and I lose a meaningful sense of time.

Hello, Dali!

Call it what you will: laser focus, single-mindedness, obsession, pathology….whatever.  The good news is that all of the projects are now significantly further along, so yay!  I earned myself the right to post today without impunity.

And it’s appropriate, because today really is melting!  (Well, kind of.)  Up here in NYC, the temperature has reached a positively spring-like 55 degrees, and the mounds of gray snow and hard-pack ice are finally disappearing.  (Well, a little.)  Which is a damn good thing, pardon my French, because let me tell you what happened yesterday.

Well, hello again, Dali.

Cammie had to be to work in armpit of New Jersey (no offense) for about 10:00.  I had to be to work at the High Line for 11:00.  She was taking the car, and since the drive was about an hour, she left the apartment shortly before 9:00.  I stayed in bed while she got ready, so I’d be out of her way, and I got up about 10 minutes before she left.  I was just settling down with a cup of coffee when she calls me:

ME:  Hey, what’d you forget?

HER:  I’m stuck.

ME:  What?

HER:  I’m stuck.  In ice.  I can’t get out.

ME: (Exasperated but helpful sigh)  Where are you?

HER:  Down the block.

I throw on  pants and a sweatshirt, and because I think I’m going to be out there just long enough to drive the car out of the spot, a pair of flip-flops.  Now, we haven’t had snow in a couple of weeks, but the streets haven’t really been cleaned since Christmas.  A week ago, however, NYC reinstated alternate-side parking rules to facilitate the long-overdue cleaning.

The broom in the Ghostbusters symbol suggests cleaning will be done. This is only a suggestion.

In Park Slope, we’re lucky that we only have alternate-side rules twice a week, as opposed to four times a week, as they do in other parts of the city.  But I digress.  The point is, Cammie was parked in a Thursday zone, which meant that it should have been cleaned the previous Thursday, between the hours of 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.  That’s the time for that particular zone; and during that time, no one should be parked on that side, and the CITY SHOULD COME THROUGH AND DO ITS JOB.

That’s how it’s supposed to work.  But that’s not what happened.  They ticketed people for not moving cars that were still snowed or iced in, but then they didn’t clean the streets.  (Honestly, I’ve managed to dig our car out after every storm.  I didn’t expect anyone to do that for us.  But this clearing the snow off the streets is not something the average person can do.)  Maybe Manhattan got cleaned up, but Brooklyn’s still a mess.  So, the snow has been slushing and refreezing in a vicious cycle for weeks now, no one’s doing anything to remove any of it, and thereby hangs the tale.

When Cammie parked the car Saturday night, the area around her spot was still a little slushy.  Now, the weather, as I said earlier, has been nicer the past couple of days, and the ice packs of recent weeks are finally beginning to disintegrate.  But this particular patch must have frozen again overnight, because by Sunday morning, her car was parked on a sheet of futhermuckin’ ice, and there was no going anywhere.

She has to be to work for 10:00 am.  I have to be to work for 11:00 am.  It’s right about 9:00 am.  There is time to save us both.

This is what it was like in my head.

This is what it was like in real life, but in a hoodie and flip-flops.

I jump into the situation in an appropriately male way and attempt the very same thing Cammie’s already been trying for the past ten minutes.  No luck.  The wheels just keep spinning.  Then I rip open a recycling bag in the snowbank on the curb and pull out some newspaper.  I wedge the newspaper around the wheels, thinking that it will provide the much-needed traction to get the car out.  Sadly, it did not provide such traction.  What it provided instead was a wet, pulpy blanket on which the wheels could continue to spin in futility and the car could continue its frozen immobility.

I realize we’re not going anywhere until I break up some of this ice, and I grab the first thing I see in the car that could be remotely useful: a removable headrest from the fold-down backseat.  It looks like this:

Not intended for ice removal.

I figured the prongs would be effective for chipping away at the ice.  Again, I was wrong.  They were, however, incredibly effective at chipping away at my sanity.  Cammie, smartly observing this devolution, offers to go get a hammer from our apartment.  Brilliant.  Yes.  Please.  She goes.  I continue to struggle with a headrest and wet newspaper.

Yes, I'm aware of that. Thank you.

By now, it’s about 9:30.  Cammie’s already late, but if I leave by 10:00, I’m still safe.  I’m convinced I can get the car out in time, and I fall into a little system of chipping ice with the headrest, wedging some newspaper, and hopping behind the wheel of the car to check my progress.  And every time, I’d manage to get the car up the crest of the ice pack, only to feel it slide right back down as I tried to turn the wheel.

Cammie comes back with a hammer and a snow shovel.  I start beating the ice mound with the hammer, and within minutes, I’m covered in a spray of gray ice chips.  But the ice won’t break up.  I’m barely scratching the surface of this thing.

Shut up. Don't mock me.

Another few minutes of this – it’s like 9:45-ish now – and this delivery guy comes over.  He had parked up the street from us at about 9:20, and he was watching the struggle.  He says we have to push it out, and he offers to help us do it.  That takes another 10 minutes or so of us pushing, and Cammie cutting the wheel and applying the brake.  And miraculously, right before the stroke of 10:00, after almost a solid hour of tribulation, the car is freed.  Cammie’s finally on her way, and there’s a slim chance I can still make it to work on time.   I rush home, hop in the shower, get dressed, and I’m out the door in about 15 minutes.  When I get to my subway stop, though, I’m greeted with this:

Can you believe this shit?

Who knows why?  But I have to walk another 11 blocks to the Pacific Street stop, which ensures that I am LAAAAAAAATE.  And the whole time, negotiating piles of alternately crunchy and slippery frozen stuff, I’m fuming, thinking, and sometimes actually muttering, “WHY DO PEOPLE LIVE THIS WAY?”

I have to pause for reflection after experiences like that, and I’ve had a lot of experiences like that lately.

Look, maybe it’s residual Katrina bitterness that gets me so worked up because, God knows, I am full of that.  When Cammie and I were in Seattle in October 2007, two years after Katrina, we were small-talking with a woman while waiting for an elevator.  When we told her we were from New Orleans, she was a little incredulous.  “Why,” she asked, “does anybody live there?”  We stepped into the elevator, and we saw one of these:

Frightening.

I simply said to her, “Well, you have an earthquake button in your elevator.  We’ve never seen that before.  Why do you live here?”  We rode to our respective floors in silence.

She was referring, of course, to the fact that New Orleans is below sea level, that we get hit with hurricanes all the time, that we don’t have the infrastructure to cope with natural disaster when it strikes.  I understand that.  I don’t agree – I think Katrina was extraordinary, and we generally cope pretty well – but I understand.

But there are very few places that don’t live with some kind of threat from nature.  In the West, it’s earthquakes.  In the South and Southeast, it’s hurricanes.  In the Plains, it’s tornados.  Or drought.

Fun, huh?

We’ve all got something. (Okay, maybe Wyoming doesn’t.)  And we all have ways of coping with those things, or if not, we get the hell out of the way.

Unless you’re New York, where you get snow all the time and can’t figure out an efficient way to manage it.  Hey, even flood water drains, right?  It was 55 degrees today, and THERE IS STILL SNOW AND ICE ON THE GROUND EVERY-FRIGGIN-WHERE.  How does that happen?  Why is that?  And why does it bother me so much?

The risk of natural disaster is the price we pay for the beauty of the places we choose.  Sure, New Orleans gets hurricanes, but it is a gorgeous place, so green and lush that you can feel yourself growing with it.  It also has Mardi Gras, and I have yet to see anything, anywhere that even comes close to bringing a community together the way Mardi Gras does.

To be fair, New York has a spring that is truly breathtaking.  The temperature is PERFECT, and I almost wept the first time I saw the cherry blossoms bloom in my neighborhood.  (Although they did make me homesick for the azaleas and crepe myrtles of New Orleans.)

Every location has its pluses and minuses, the things you love and the things you loathe.  And if you’re lucky, the good outweighs the bad.  If not, you soldier on until the scale tips back in the other direction.  And so I will.

But I still don’t understand how people deal with this goddamned snow every year.  That is all.

Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day!

Yeah, you right.

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Easy Reader

When I started this li’l blog o’mine, the deal I made with myself is that I would post something every day.  Well, that didn’t happen; the deal has been broken, and frankly, it’s liberating.  See, one of the reasons I started the blog in the first place is to have an outlet for fun, free-form, whatever-I-wanna-write-about writing.  It’s a tool to help free me up for all my other writing (of which there is much to be done) and so far, it’s been great for that.  I figured if anything would prevent me from posting, it would be any one of the four or five projects I’m juggling at the moment.  But the thing that did me in this past weekend, the thing that derailed the blog train, wasn’t writing at all.  It was reading.

I'm special, so special.

Last weekend, I was hired to read student submissions for a national writing competition whose name I probably should not divulge (but which rhymes with monastic).  For eight hours a day, for two days straight, I read plays, short stories, poems, and essays by students from all over the country, and then rated those pieces on a scale from 1-10, judging them for originality, technical proficiency, and strength of voice.

I give them a 10.

It was rewarding but grueling work. The first day, I read 10 plays and then 25 sci-fi/fantasy stories.  The second day, I read 10 student portfolios (the longest of which had 16 separate pieces) and then 25 short stories by 7th and 8th graders.  Each day began with trays of croissants and muffins — “breakfast provided” means the same thing, no matter where you go — and coffee.  Now, y’all know how I love my coffee, right?  Then answer me this.  Why would the “breakfast provided” people offer only two tureens of coffee, and why would one of those be a decaffeinated option, exactly the same size as the proper coffee?

You're just being polite.

Look, I understand offering decaf as an option, but offering it in an equal quantity to the regular makes no sense.  Of course, with about 30 people reading, the real coffee ran out in about twenty minutes, leaving the next few hours to be fueled by the tool of the devil.

Truth.

Turns out, though, the coffee inequality wasn’t that big a deal, because at about 11:30, they picked up the coffee service altogether and laid out lunch.  Now, the “lunch provided” people do tend to show a little more imagination than the “breakfast provided” people, but it’s not a surprise to see trays of sandwiches, wraps, cookies, brownies, and such.  Right?  This is the kind of thing you would expect to find when you’re informed that “lunch” is “provided,” and if you have, I don’t know, a SEVERE DIETARY RESTRICTION you would plan appropriately, wouldn’t you?  Well, not if you’re the decaf-swilling hipster twat who engaged our group leader in this conversation:

DECAF-SWILLING HIPSTER TWAT:  Is this our lunch?

GROUP LEADER:  Yeah, help yourself.

DECAF-SWILLING HIPSTER TWAT:  (After a quick glance at the food table)  Um…

GROUP LEADER:  Is there a problem?

DECAF-SWILLING HIPSTER TWAT:  Yeah.  Is there a gluten-free option?

GROUP LEADER:  A what?

DECAF-SWILLING HIPSTER TWAT:  Gluten-free?  You know, like without gluten?

GROUP LEADER:  (Genuinely trying to be helpful)  Well, these over here are vegetarian.

DECAF-SWILLING HIPSTER TWAT:  (Dripping with sarcasm and superiority)  No.  I eat meat.  I just can’t eat gluten.

GROUP LEADER:  (At a loss, brain racing for a solution)  Oh.  Well.  Um.

DECAF-SWILLING HIPSTER TWAT:  Nevermind.  I’ll just pick the meat off a few of these.

(DECAF-SWILLING HIPSTER TWAT proceeds to rape about four or five of the sandwiches of their little meat souls, leaving their soggy bread carcasses for the under-caffeinated zombies to carbo-load.  Lights fade.)

What a foul person.  Look, I realize that gluten is a problem for a lot of people, and I probably should remove it from my own diet like yesterday. But when you’re that hateful a person, I wouldn’t be surprised if God gave you Celiac Disease just to spite your nasty ass.

But I’m not kidding about the carbo-loading.  Holy crap.

SATURDAY

Breakfast: baby croissant, mini-muffin (bran), a piece of fruit (to look good for the hipsters), coffee.

Mid-morning pick-me-up in the middle of a long play about teen alcoholism: Another mini-muffin (poppy seed, for the opium).

Lunch: A half-sandwich (turkey, unraped by Hipster Twat), a half-wrap (veggie option, to prove a point), Sprite Zero

Mid-afternoon snack in the middle of a weird story about Satan training an angel: Two peanut butter cookies.

Second mid-afternoon snack in the middle of same Satan story, which was really freaking long: A brownie.

Third mid-afternoon snack in middle of the sugar coma brought on by cookies, brownie, and caffeine deprivation: A little bag of Lay’s Barbecue and a Diet Coke (with no ice, because they ran out).

Also, at some point in the afternoon, they put out a big pile of Hershey’s miniatures, which is like putting out a big pile of cocaine at a Charlie Sheen party.

SUNDAY

Breakfast: Baby croissant, mini-muffin (bran), no fruit (screw them), and coffee.  Today, I have brought my travel mug so that I can artfully hoard more than my share of coffee.  This ploy will not work as planned.

Mid-morning pick-me-up in the middle of a portfolio entry about a guy whose brother knew some guys in college who were starting a social-networking website, blew off a chance to be involved, and is now a high-school teacher…a deeply bitter and regretful high-school teacher: Another baby croissant, and chai tea, because every other douchebag in the place brought a travel mug today, and the coffee ran out faster than yesterday.

Lunch: Two half-sandwiches (both chicken salad, both with grapes in the chicken salad — unnecessary and distracting), a Coke Zero (with too much ice, so I’d have some later)

Mid-afternoon snack, in the middle of a really good 7th-8th grade short story about soldiers in World War II: One peanut butter cookie, which I eat walking down the hall, forcing me to turn back for a second one.

Second mid-afternoon snack, in the middle of a nowhere-near-as-good 7th-8th grade short story about a boyfriend who doesn’t know how much his silence at lunch yesterday hurt, I mean, really, really hurt: Two brownies.  They were cut differently today and were smaller.  I swear.  THEY WERE SMALLER.

More Hershey’s miniatures.  But only three, because I didn’t want them to think I have control issues when it comes to food.  (Okay, four.)

Fruit is demonic.

Really demonic.

In all, it was a great experience.  I really was thrilled to find that there was so much writing, and even more thrilled that so much of it was good. I was, however, completely unprepared for the toll it would take on me.  You’d think I’d be used to spending eight hours in front of a computer screen, but normally, I’m free to bounce around wherever my whimsy takes me.  Yes, there was a relatively uninterrupted stream of reading content, but I guess what’s really exhausting is having to exercise self-control over one’s undiagnosed adult-ADD.  Because, now and forever, reading is cool.

Who's cool and has his thumb pointed in the opposite direction? This guy.

Anyway, blog is back on track.  I’ll post more miscellanea soon to make up for the radio silence.  Yay!

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