Archive for December, 2012

Clouseau

Losing weight, exercising, quitting smoking, cutting back on alcohol, salt, or Romanian women, taking a class…these are the standard New Year’s resolutions. I avoid the gym for the first couple weeks in January. That’s about how long it takes most people’s resolve to start to subside. I’d be lying if I said I was any better. When God was handing out tenacity and self-control, I was in the Twinkie line…chain smoking and drinking a beer.

There is one thing I would like many of my fellow human beings to resolve to do in the new year, and to please, please, PLEASE in the name of everything holy, try to stick with it. I want people to strive to find a clue…to think…and to exercise and develop common sense! Intelligence and stupidity can come in many forms. Some people are just dumb. They have low IQs, their brain is a rickety old elevator powered by an elderly and underfed gerbil. I have written to my elected officials to ask if we could work out some kind of federal ID program for the double digit IQs folks out there…Nothing mean spirited or intrusive…maybe a forehead tattoo. Just so we know who were dealing with before we are ordering ice cream, choosing a window at the DMV or getting in line at Radio Shack.

I’m not talking about the intellectually stupid. Their brain power or lack thereof is not their fault. I’m talking about those of average or better intelligence who do mind bogglingly stupid things, regularly. These are college grads, with important pieces of paper and letters after their name, who still haven’t figured out the geometrical intricacies of parking their shopping cart across a grocery store aisle as opposed to to the side of it. I can’t for the life of me relate to this thought process…and I’ve tried. It made my head hurt. They don’t pull their cars into the opposite lane to avoid traffic do they? (Well, sometimes they actually do, which is sad) The reason they don’t is because there is an obvious risk involved. Maybe instead of stopping, heaving a loud sigh and glaring angrily at people who clog our shopping aisles up, we should back our cart up 10 or 20 feet, and then charge our cart at theirs going top speed and BASH. Organic range free eggs and Newman’s Diet Caesar dressing everywhere, and possibly (hopefully) the offending party gets a minor injury and has to pay for and clean up everything broken. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to silently hand these people a bill and a mop?

Today I asked my best friend what she thought might happen if I asked these people why they did such a clueless thing. We both agreed that no matter how politely I asked that it probably wouldn’t go over too well. “Excuse me miss, I’m a writer and I have been working on a piece about super markets and human behavior. I noticed you placed your cart across the aisle while you debate your tuna options. The Bumble Bee solid white is on sale, by the way, over by the register. I love that stuff. Ever put scallions in your tuna salad? No? Oh give it a try, it’s lovely. Anyhoo… getting back to your cart…my question, and I gather by the 4 or 5 other shoppers here waiting for you, theirs as well, is . . .um. . .Why?” My best friend and I agreed that there isn’t a polite enough preface to any question that points out someone’s cluelessness. We conversed a bit longer until she closed with our standard “Honey, I love you very, very much…but you exhaust me.” Awww.

I have a friend; Robert, who is not stupid. When there is something he wants or needs, he is incredibly intelligent, tenacious and resourceful. But there are far too many moments where he is maddeningly obtuse and certain things he does, repeatedly and chronically are simply unacceptable. Lateness, for example…he is regularly up to an hour or an hour and a half late…doesn’t care who he keeps waiting, how much he screws things up or what they miss out on…he is going to be late. What makes me, his other friends, family, employers etc. want to beat him about the head and face with large pieces of lumber are his explanations.

“The train was late.” or “There was traffic.” I have tried to question him in regards to these excuses slowly and methodically, so that maybe, just maybe he will see that his excuses are not only lame, but that they insult one’s intelligence.

“The train was late.”
“The train, huh?”
“Yep.”
“How long does it take you to get here using the train?”
“I dunno…maybe 30 or 40 minutes.”
“Uh huh, and you’re 90 minutes late.”
“Yeah?”
“So, you left half an hour before you were supposed to meet me?”
“Uh, I left 15 minutes before I was supposed to meet you.”
“So, you were going to be late and you knew it?”
“I guess.”
“You guess.”

I pause here and put the beer bottle I am becoming very tempted to hit him with out of my immediate reach.

“You take the train every day, right? A couple times a day even?”
“Yeah.”
“And, does it seem like the train is usually sitting in the station awaiting your arrival? Has that ever happened, or do you find that usually you have to wait, 10, 15 or 20 minutes for the train to pull into the station?”
“Uh, what do you mean?”
“I mean that sane people, people who think make allowances for the inevitable bullshit that happens with public transportation.”
“How am I supposed to know if the train is going to be late or bypass stations?”
“By living in the city for over 35 years and figuring out the painfully obvious law of averages.” I say wondering exactly how quickly I can grab the bottle and hit him with it.
“What are you so pissed off about? I’m here aren’t I?”
“Yeah…an hour and a half late.”
“So?”

Robert, a college educated man, a creative man with good taste capable of brilliant conversations about art, politics, history and current events has not been able, in his 45 years on earth to figure out that rush hour is between 7-10 am and 4-6 pm and that there will be traffic that slows things down. Would a severe beating help? I think of how dog owners when housebreaking a new pup shove their faces into their doggies flop and swat them on the bottom with a rolled up newspaper…and lo and behold…the dog makes the connection in a week or three. I guess the question is, what do I shove Robert’s face into? My watch? More importantly, what do I beat him with?

Doesn’t everyone have a Robert or two in their lives?

My inspiration for this piece has to do with my freelance catering business. I have a small business I am trying to get off the ground where I provide catering, bar staff, servers, party planning and DJs. Naturally nights like New Year’s Eve and Halloween are busy nights. Yet people feel the need to try to book with me 24-48 hours prior to the big night. People who work in the service/ hospitality business, contrary to what seems to be popular opinion; don’t sit staring at their phones and begging them to ring on Dec 29th.

Since this is business I refrain from making comments about being the sharpest crayon in the box.

I think what we need to do as a society is to develop a system for a polite indication of gross and willful derpitude. A gesture would work well here. No, not my favorite of my fingers…Something polite, remember? Maybe we could look into the eyes of the offending party and gently tap the side of our heads while smiling sympathetically and kindly.

I wonder what, if anything would work.

What hump?

What hump?

After three months in a cast, followed by three weeks in a Darth Vader-esque walking boot, I was finally cleared by the over-worked orthopedic doctors at the medieval charity hospital to return to the ranks of the pedestrian.

I think I gained 15 pounds of flab from indulging in comfort food, sloth and a bout of injury related depression and self-pity. I was so very anxious to get back to work and move around once again. I’d hopefully be back to my job shortly and start anew with building up my savings, paying off some debts, etc. At least until the universe decides to throw another catastrophe my way. I don’t like to gain weight, and sadly gaining has never exactly been difficult for me. The man behind the bullet proof glass at my local check cashing place noticed I was without crutches and felt the need to exclaim ”Wow, You got heavy, huh?” I have never understood people saying this to others, and especially when they say it to me. I’m always at a loss with how to reply to this unsolicited and unwanted observation. Usually I get angry and say something to the effect of a sarcastic “Gee, thanks.” I am starting to think I need to take this up a notch. “Really, I gained weight? Thanks for telling me because I recently stopped keeping mirrors and a scale in my apartment. Things were too cluttered so I threw them away and have been doing all of my personal grooming by instinct. I’ve been lucky enough that people like you take the time to point these things out to me. Thank you!!! You know, just saying “thanks” doesn’t seem like enough. I need to do you a solid now….Hmmm let’s see. You know, your skin looks quite greasy lately. Have you been eating a lot of fried food? It really adds to the already blinding shine of your male pattern baldness…Oh, did you already know that? Oh, well OK…Just wanted to make sure you were aware.”

Strangers or acquaintances saying this is to me bad enough. Family seems to feel the need to bring these things up too. “Oh, you got fat.” my grandmother blurted out once after she hadn’t seen me in several months. It used to be a grand -motherly “Oh, he’s getting so big!” said sweetly and usually in reference to my height. Seems to me if I had been 5 or 6 years old and said “Oh, you got fat.” to an adult I’d have been taken into another room and spanked after receiving a little talk about the importance of tact and manners. Again, I was at a loss when my grandmother said this. My mother had tried to discourage me from saying “Oh, Fuck You Grandma!” Or “When are you going to die anyway?” So, I said nothing, and later that night, I hid her dentures. My mother had also tried to discourage me from punching and kicking my grandmother ever since the 1983 Thanksgiving incident. I know she’s 80… next time she’ll be a little quicker passing me the green-bean casserole.

"I'm walking here!" (And, I'm really happy about that. No, seriously. Sorry for the yelling, I'm actually quite tickled)

“I’m walking here!” (And, I’m really happy about that. No, seriously. Sorry for the yelling, I’m actually quite tickled)

It has been great to be active and mobile again. I love walking. Even if I am walking stiffly and a little painfully I am thrilled to be walking in any capacity. I wanted to get out and go for long walks every day prior to going back to work. So, on Tuesday I packed up some of my late mother’s books and went downtown to sell them at the Strand book store and then to shop for some new work clothes. I loaded up my backpack and filled a green reusable grocery bag with some books and bopped on over to the subway to head downtown.

The train ride was fascinating as the subway car was filled to the brim with cartoonishly unattractive people with strange physical imperfections. It looked like something Robert Crumb or Francis Bacon would create during a severe case of food poisoning. A young woman standing in front of me stretched to reach the holding bar exposing her midriff a foot away from my face. I looked up from the book I was reading and saw that her stomach had a healthy crop of thick black curly hairs on it. Ewwww, honey. Some Nair if you please?

At 59th and Lex a young man boarded the train. I couldn’t help but notice that he had a thumb sized mole on his cheek that was covered in dense coat of fur. Tres yucky. I found myself wondering if anything could be done about this. Can a mole that large actually be removed by a dermatologist? If not, that has got to be a serious bummer.

Coulda been worse, right?

Coulda been worse, right?

Other members of the subway freak show included:

A young man with a long protruding overbite, literally a saber tooth, a smorgasbord of warts, growths, mutant noses, ears, unibrows, several gross and willful fashion violations and finally a woman with a beard. I have never understood this. Sure some women (and men) have unwanted hair in unwanted places, but this is why we have grooming products and procedures. Maybe the nice man behind the bullet proof glass at her local check cashing place was more tactful than mine and didn’t make depiltating commentary or suggestions. Still, one can rub their face and determine, “Time for a shave”. This woman reminded me of the summer of 1986 in my hometown. There was a particularly big and mean butch lesbian woman with a mustache that rivaled Burt Reynolds or his gay life partner Dom DeLouise. Being stupid and obnoxious punk rockers we decided to double-dog-dare one of our friends; Coiln to go up and hand her a razor. Colin, succumbing to the peer pressure, did so with an exceptionally obnoxious shit eating grin on his face. Ms. Billie Dee Sensible Shoes took issue with his offering and wouldn’t you know it, she had studied martial arts. She beat the ever-living snot out of the hysterically laughing Colin, and then turned to the rest of Spanky and our gang and started walking toward us, her eyes blazing with images of young punks with black eyes and bloody noses. We got up and ran as fast as our little combat boots could carry us. Colin was a pretty tough kid and seeing how quickly she dispatched him…well, we didn’t want to stick around for our very own version of Enter the Dragon.

I got off at 14th street and walked over to the Strand on Broadway. At first I grimaced in horror as I saw that Forbidden Planet was no longer at the corner of 13th and Broadway. In its place was a trendy clothing store. Blasphemy!!. I was relieved to see that Forbidden Planet had just moved a few doors down. It’s a great store for comics, cruising cute geek girls and browsing for toys.

I got to the Strand and was directed to the back of the store where they did the book buying. There was an angry and over worked looking old man with a name tag that read “manager” who was scanning books and making various low ball offers. My guess was that he regularly deals with scavenging homeless people who argue with him over books picked out of trash barrels and dumpsters. “That’s a first edition hardcover…just clean the dog shit off it and you could resell it easy!” (hic) There was one guy in front of me and he was offered $12 for his books. Another young man tried to pull “cutsies” with me in the non-existent line. I stepped in front of him assertively and glared at him. It was a bluff. I wasn’t about to get into a brawl at a book store. My knee was that of an 85 year old man, and I was 15 pounds over my fighting weight. Angry manager man scanned the bar codes of all the books I had brought, and put them into two piles. When he was done, without looking at me he gestured to the piles and said “These we can’t use, and these I’ll give you $16 for.” I agreed and he gestured to a much friendlier young man standing in front of a cash register.

Why do I like this store? Yeah, it's a mystery!

Why do I like this store? Yeah, it’s a mystery!

After the Strand I walked to a couple clothing stores to buy some work. By the time I was done, my knee was throbbing with pain. I hobbled slowly back to the train station. When my train finally lumbered into the station I was fascinated that this train was the exact opposite of the downtown train a couple hours earlier. Everyone on it was handsome, pretty, cute or sweet and friendly looking. There was a really adorable and kindly looking elderly couple. I am almost out of grandparents and was tempted to ask them to adopt me. There were some pretty women in my subway car, happy looking couples sitting close and holding hands, a happy looking nerdy guy reading contentedly from a comic book. I envied the look of satisfied serenity on his face. Maybe he was glad that Forbidden Planet hadn’t left us either. The main attraction of the subway car was sitting across from me. It was a dad with his daughter of perhaps 4 or 5 years of age. She had big brown eyes and long dark hair. I had no doubt whatsoever that she’d be quite the heartbreaker in about 15 years. Her dad was a handsome Latino guy of an age I couldn’t determine. They looked like they had been having a really fun afternoon together. The little girl was talking a mile a minute, and dad was trying to keep up. It made me realize why parents go into a daze and say things like a deadpan “That’s nice, honey.” I dug into my backpack to find one of the library books I had brought for the trip. Of course it was at the bottom of the pile of Strand rejects. I cracked it open and half read, half listened to the banter of the girl and her father. At one point the little girl squealed at a volume reserved for a young child’s inappropriateness “I farted…I fah-tid….I far-ted..” She kept saying over and over between giggles. I sucked my cheeks in to keep from laughing and exchanged conspiratorial and humorous glances with my fellow passengers. Dad said something to try to get her to stop repeating her gastrointestinal updates aloud so she took to whispering (still loud enough for everyone to hear) “I farted daddy…I farted.”

I made it home, tired and still sore, but happy that I had been out and about, able to walk, and to have gotten some things done