Monday, August 18, 2014

Three for the Road

Every so often, I think about buying a car.
 
More precisely, I think about encouraging my husband to buy a car, since I don't drive.  I used to drive but was very, very bad at it.  I accepted the fact, quite early in the game, that behind a wheel I was definitely a menace to society.  And though it has been inconvenient at times, both for myself and for the kind souls that have had to ferry me about on occasion, better some inconvenience - I daresay -  than a body count.
 
In truth, we do have a car - one car, second-hand, held in common with our children on their occasional visits, and unworthy of any insurance beyond the requisite collision  - that has managed to function quite nicely as our mode of conveyance in this ill-conceived, God-forsaken confluence of habitation known in the United States as a "suburb".  But our car is old and ratchet and may be ready to retire and sit in our backyard for four years (like our last one).  Until some gypsies come by and offer to buy it  (also like our last one).  My husband, though possessed of many fine qualities, has difficulty parting with material possessions, a trait that is nicely balanced by my own tendency to throw everything away, often to my later chagrin ("I'm sorry, were those your baby teeth?") and regret.    
 
Thus, I have recently given some consideration to the acquisition of a (real) car and a driver's license.  I am thinking that, just maybe, I now have the emotional maturity to maneuver a vehicle as far as the train station, the library, and a grocery store. I would trust myself to drive no further and, even then, would confine myself to days when I was in a good mood.  True, I would be giving up the smug feeling of moral superiority that I so enjoy over those who lose thousands of hours of their lives half-listening to books-on-tape and despairing at the realization that the moron who just cut them off might possibly go on to spawn offspring and/or be the deciding vote in the next presidential election. 
 
And, also true, I would be missing out on a considerable amount of fun.
 
A train trip into the city last weekend is just one example of how much fun it is, sometimes, to transport with the public. 
 
My husband and I had found the last two adjacent open seats.  "Lucky us!"  I thought, before realizing that there was, indeed, a very good reason for those two seats to be open.  Kitty-corner from us was a person - male, plethora of tattoos, legs splayed in the air, shoeless feet hooked over the seat in front of him - speaking in angry, ear-rending tones on his cell phone.  I often marvel that people who speak loudly on cell phones while on public transportation can have people in their lives who actually want to talk to them, but then I recall myself and acknowledge that I, too, have been guilty of this same crime on a few occasions and am overwhelmed with guilt and feel contritely grateful to those in my life who actually want to talk to me.  However, the effects of this soul-searching do not extend to charitable thoughts toward other offenders, and I can happily say that I have not splayed any part of my body in public since 1976.
 
My husband is perilously close to being stone-deaf and refuses to get a hearing aid, citing that the condition holds distinct advantages, and had to wait for the re-telling of the following conversation:
 
"Fuckin'-A.  And you know what she said to me, man?"
 
(No.  Do tell.)
 
"She said, 'No job, no date.'   Can you fuckin' believe that?  Fuck!"
 
(I can believe it.  But I think what she probably meant was, "No meds, no date.")
 
This went on for several minutes, and at an objectionable volume, until:
 
"Okay.  Okay.  I gotta go."
 
(So soon?)
 
"Bye, Mom."
 
(!)
 
At about the same time, I had taken notice of a young man sitting across from us, behind the gentleman with the tattoos who was now singing and swinging his feet.  I took notice because the young man was in the circumstance of being approached by an attractive and stylishly attired (designer sports bra, designer bike shorts, designer bike bag, and super-cute helmet) stranger, a "bicycle" person of the female persuasion.
 
"Hey, I locked my bike to yours back there."
 
The young man immediately straightened up (from his own splayed position), pulled the earphones out of his head (cue: powerful sucking noise), and said:
 
"Go for it."
 
Now, "back there" meant the three seats in the back of the train car usually occupied by mothers with babies and buggies, pre-empted today by the young man's bicycle.  If my calculations are correct, he now occupied four seats on an overcrowded train but only paid for one, which never ceases to amaze me and is somehow deemed reasonable by lesser intellects.
 
"Can I sit here?"
 
(Oh, goody.)
 
"Yeah!"
 
The next fifteen minutes were occupied by an intense discussion of where they respectively resided, which - after much sparring and convoluted explanation - turned out to be, predictably, in the suburbs and with their parents, though "just until I decide what I want to do" and "only during the week, because I spend most of my time in the city."  (Anthropologically speaking, it would seem that in present-day American culture one's degree of attractiveness corresponds directly to one's tenure within the official limits of a metropolitan area.  And rightfully so.)  Hence, it became vital that each conversant carefully establish a level of metro-sophistication consistent with the other's need for such in an acceptable mate.
 
"Yeah, I was in the 'burbs this weekend because my friend had her wedding at The Arboretum."
 
(Of course she did.)
 
"Nice."
 
(This could be love.)
 
"Where do you work?"
 
(No job, ...)
 
"Oh, here and there.  I'm in construction."
 
(Translation:  I work with my dad.  Sometimes.  Loser.)
 
There was an ominous moment of hesitation.
 
"Well, I'm, like, in finance."
 
(Like in finance?)
 
"That's cool."
 
(Ya think?)
 
"Like, I'm in investment banking."
 
(Like, I am so, so glad you're not investing my money.  Can I get an "OMG"?)
 
"Do you bike a lot?"
 
(Well, given her elaborate and costly accoutrement, I sure hope so.)
 
"Not really.  Did you forget your helmet?"
 
(This could be a deal breaker.)
 
"Nah, I don't use one.  I hate 'em."
 
(You should have said you forgot it at home.)
 
"Yeah, my boyfriend won't wear one either."
 
(See?  I told you.)
 
"Yeah, like, this old dude came up to me the other day and really went off on me about the whole helmet thing."
 
This last statement got the enthusiastic attention of the gentleman with the tattoos, who had stopped singing and was listening intently - as was I - to their conversation.  He turned around suddenly, and shouted:
 
"Be a rebel, dude!"
 
An unexpected turn of events.  The suburban bicyclists gave him their polite and undivided attention, probably for the following reasons:
  1. After the mention of the "boyfriend", there was nothing left to talk about;
  2. They suspected that the gentleman with the tattoos lived in "the city", and it was therefore important to demonstrate how well they could deal with "city" people in order to maintain their credibility;
  3. They were scared shitless of this guy.
"Dude, I didn't used to wear a helmet either, dude, but then I, like, - you know - fell off and knocked myself in the head."
 
(You don't say.)
 
"Whataya guys up to in the city?"
 
(Watch out, he smells fresh meat.)
 
At which point the conversation was promptly and deftly turned to protracted whining about the abuse and mistreatment of bicyclists in an ignorant and uncaring world:
 
"Chicago cabdrivers are such assholes!"
 
"Dude, I barely clipped her and she kept crying!  Yeah, okay, she was eight-years-old, but, dude."
 
In all of Hollywood, there is no one who could write better dialogue.
 
We pulled into the station.  The gentleman with the tattoos put on his shoes and went to get his girlfriend out of jail.  The construction worker and the investment banker studiously and meticulously spent a minimum of ten minutes unlocking their bicycles.  Until they were sure Elvis had left the building.
 
This was some quality entertainment, and my husband agreed after I filled him in on what he had missed (using semaphore flags).  Screw cars.  The closest one comes to any significant human interaction while driving a car is road rage, which is unpleasant and usually not at all entertaining.  For my money, I'll take a comfortable seat on a train - after 5, with a cocktail - and let the games begin.  Where else could one witness life's unfolding drama between a part-time construction worker, an investment banker, and a lunatic with potential brain damage?  I particularly enjoyed the bit about the eight-year-old girl. 
 
And I would love to hear her side of the story. 





Sunday, August 3, 2014

Post Script

It was too good to last.
 
Not ONE HOUR after publishing my thoughts on catastrophe-free living and its negative influence on the writer's muse (at least this writer, whose sense of self-esteem and source of inspiration relies heavily on frequent interactions with comparatively inferior beings), I received a telephone call from a pre-recorded voice identifying itself as a representative of the wholesale warehouse club where I occasionally shop.  It informed me that the case of peaches my husband and I had been gorging ourselves on over the previous week had been recalled due to a risk of Listeria.  Which is actually a very unpleasant sort of infection, mind you, in spite of the fact that it has a name reminiscent of air fresheners and the daughters of long-time Kentucky residents.
 
My first thought was, "How can one recall peaches?"  My husband's first thought was, "Damn!  These are good peaches!  Maybe if we wash them with soap...?" 
 
Just like a man. 
 
In this case, my natural tendency to anticipate being hit by lightening at any given moment prevailed, and the few remaining peaches went into the trash.  However, in retrospect, I think we should have taken the peaches back to the seller - audibly retching - and demanded a case of imported vodka in compensation.
 
The relevant fact about Listeria, which I found out upon a hurried investigation, is that it has an incubation period from one to 90 days.
 
One to 90 days.  That means, for the next three months, one or both of us could be suddenly struck down by a potentially deadly disease with highly disgusting symptoms.  Of course, this is true of just about everyone and almost any disease.  But still.  I had only lately achieved a tentative sense of being at home in my own private Sea of Tranquility, to be wrenched away by a cruel fate. 
 
Particularly disturbing, because, finally:
  1. My job had settled into a pleasant, stress-free groove;
  2. I had acquired hardwood floors;
  3. A tornado hadn't decimated my neighborhood in ages;
  4. My bangs had grown out; 
  5. My house had recently celebrated seven whole months of not being on fire.
(Is that too much to ask?  Really?  Maybe a BMI within normal range, too?  Oh, and eyebrows.  Of the two, let's go with eyebrows.)
 
And now I may - or may not - be incubating Listeria.  Which definitely does not appear on my wish list of situations I would welcome to add a little dramatic tension to my life.
 
Here is what I would find acceptable:
  1. A kale shortage
  2. An argument with Justin Bierber (in Ibiza) over Miranda Kerr;
  3. Homeless suburban tortoises;
  4. Anatomically correct boy dolls;
  5. The Washington Redskins (who, BTW, could easily change their names from the "Redskins" to the "Fedskins" with very little cost in alterations to their wardrobe and/or decor, and having the added bonus of insulting people who are truly deserving).
But I'm stuck with Listeria.  A three-month grace period.
 
It will have to do.  For now.



Monday, July 21, 2014

Me and My Wonderfully Horrible, Awful Day at Work

Life has settled down lately.
 
It almost makes me believe in seven-year-life-cycle theories, since it was almost exactly seven years ago that some not-so-good stuff started happening to me. Some of it was my own fault; most of it was not. Some of it had silver linings; most of it did not.
 
But, thankfully, there seems to be a lull at the moment. In fact, not only has my life been devoid of cataclysms, but I have had a few nice surprises.  That's a good thing, right?
 
Sort of. Without jinxing what I hope will be the trend for the next seven years, I confess that my state of beatitude has a drawback: whatever am I going to write about?
 
Truly, as I have struggled over the past few weeks to come up with a topic that doesn't sound like a dispatch from Hello, Kitty's litterbox, I have come to realize how much of my creative genius relies upon the adrenaline boosts provided me by anger, frustration, dread, and a general contempt for the American middle class. (I can't decide whether this is healthy or not.)   I am like a soldier, home from the wars to find that peace can be a little boring.
 
However, as I wallowed in my new-found bliss with little more than my upcoming colonoscopy to provide some much-needed dread, Life Itself intervened with a treat for me:  last Friday I was scheduled to work at my least-favorite location, an office in a government building.
 
There are several reasons why hate this office and this building:
  1. Like most government buildings, this one is dark and dirty and has inadequate temperature control;
  2. The denizens of the building - and hence our clientele - are government workers, who personify the American middle class.  They almost universally share the delusion that they are important, and should be accorded the same deference and awe they feel are due a freely-elected, high-ranking official.  Like the President;
  3. There is one, two-stall, public ladies' room, to be shared with the entire female homeless population of downtown Chicago, many of whom are disgruntled with the treatment they have received at the hands of the government workers, probably for not showing sufficient deference and awe, and they find the public restroom a perfect venue for revenge.  And bathing. 
Anger and frustration ebb and flow.  The American Middle Class is forever. Culturally, if not economically.
 
So it wasn't long before an incredibly annoying person walked in.
 
"I broke my glasses."
 
(I can see that.)
 
"This is the second time."
 
(Which does not surprise me, since you weigh at least 300 lbs. and have hands that Oscar Meyer would want to deli-slice.)
 
"I'll come back for them."
 
(Okay.  Your name?)

"Brenda."

(Got it.)
 
"Don't you think you ought to write that down?"
 
(No, Brenda, I don't.  And I already have a supervisor.  Not being a government worker myself, I'm pretty sure I can remember a two-syllable word.  But I am also post-menopausal, so you may have a point.)
 
An hour or so passed without incident, and then we were visited by a veritable harpy who seemed to step out of a very scary Greek myth directly into our office, and who proceeded to tear into one of the sweet, quiet technicians, who was just sitting there and minding her own business, woefully unprepared for the maelstrom to come.
 
"It's hotter than HELL in here!"
 
(Maybe it's just you.)
 
"I am bringing in my MICHAEL KORS glasses, which I waited FIVE WEEKS for, and which are BROKEN now!  I JUST CAN'T BELIEVE THIS!"
 
(If I stand very still, perhaps she won't notice me.)
 
"FIVE WEEKS!!"
 
(That's what you get for buying a yesterday's-news designer.)

"THIS IS RIDICULOUS!!"

( I completely agree.)
 
"Five WEEKS and now THIS?!  I WANT TO HEAR WHAT YOU'RE GOING TO DO ABOUT IT!!!"
 
(This is where the technician promises you anything, just to make you go away, though you interpret it as victory-is-yours and calm down a bit.  Noblesse oblige.)
 
"You know, I'm not yelling at you."
 
(Yes.  You are.)
 
"I'm just VERY FRUSTRATED with the whole situation."
 
(And now we all are.  When will women with big butts realize that a khaki capri is not their friend?)
 
The technician basically promised Mrs. Harpy that Michael Kors, himself, would be making her a new pair of glasses by hand, which would be ready on Monday, giving her - the technician - time to find a new job on another planet.
 
The phone rang.  I answered it.  Brenda.
 
"Did you just call me?"
 
(No, but maybe it was someone else from this number.  Did you listen to the voice mail?  No, you didn't.  Because pressing one button is so much easier than pressing two.)
 
"Who is this?"
 
(This is your doctor's office.  If you had listened to your voice mail, you would know that your glasses are taking a long time to fix - since you managed to mangle them almost beyond recognition - and therefore aren't ready yet.  We will call you when they're ready.)
 
Silence.  "What agency are you from?"
 
(Okay, I'll say it again.  More slowly and with shorter words.)
 
More silence.
 
"Why did you call me?"

(I'm beginning to enjoy this.)
 
But my hands-down, personal favorite nutbar-of-the-day was a mousy little creature who apparently forgot to take her medication that morning.
 
"I would like to have my glasses adjusted.  They're too loose."
 
(So far, so good.  Of course.  Gladly.)
 
One of the technicians tightened the glasses - no charge, thank you - and Mrs. Mouse went away.  Only to come back an hour later.
 
"These are terrible!"
 
(Uh-oh.)
 
The technician who had helped her before tried to take the glasses to see the problem.  Mrs. Mouse recoiled in horror.
 
"Not youYou stay BACK!  I don't want you touching them!!"
 
(Simmer down.  She's not trying to lance your plague boil.)
 
"You didn't even listen to me!  You just ran off with my glasses and ruined them!  I don't want you touching my glasses ever again!!  You did a terrible job.  TERRIBLE!  I want somebody else!"
 
(Sure.  Share the love.)
 
"And if she can't do it, I can find somebody in the suburbs who will."
 
(Ah, yes, the suburbs.  Where you reside in a little condo, since your husband ran away years ago, in a building full of commensurately demented souls.  Suburbs are such a wealth of talent.  Remind me to move.)
 
"You didn't know what you were doing.  You adjusted the WRONG SIDE.  They're worse than ever!  They hurt!  I'm in pain!!"
 
(Breathe...now, pant.)
 
"Only ONE person has ever been able to adjust my glasses!"
 
(I believe you.  But don't you find that odd?)
 
"I'm VERY sensitive!"
 
(Really?  That must mean that we "non-sensitives" should understand that our only role in life is to provide you with an appreciative audience for your bullshit.)
 
Brenda came in to pick up her glasses.  You're welcome, Brenda.
 
But no underemployed workday is complete without a soupcon of adventure on public transportation.  I had decided to forgo a martini-for-the-road, feeling happily inspired from my day-out-with-humanity, and had just settled in with a book for the ride home, when my train car was invaded with young suburbanites, feeling bad-ass after a day at a Chicago beach, giving a loudly spectacular display of the combined effects of sun, alcohol, and a suburban upbringing.  Summertime commuter trains are usually full of these little tourist groups, who merrily harken back to their halcyon days of school buses and field trips.  And, of course, we poor drudges are welcome - nay, compelled - to appreciate their ongoing festivities.
 
I immediately regretted skipping the martini.
 
Fortunately - for me, unfortunately for everybody else - the train broke down and we all had to switch to another one on the far side of the station.  Which afforded me the opportunity to avoid the beach party.  And to get that martini.
 
Recently, I have entertained thoughts of going out and finding fulfilling work - something significant, something I love.  My life now permits this pursuit.  But last Friday showed me that, no, this is what I love.  This is what I live for. 

Who else will speak for The Underemployed?
 
Maybe I should be moving in the other direction - Walmart,  McDonald's.  Radio Shack.  Sears!  Comcast!  Each day a tour de force of survival.  I'm ready.  Bring.  It.  On.
 
I think I've found my calling.  And it was right here all along.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Freedom

The Fourth of July is an American holiday which commemorates the Declaration of Independence of the United States from England in the year 1776.  In a nutshell, the actual Declaration of Independence was a document that politely requested England to take their toys and go home.  The English said no, and what ensued was the Revolutionary War, a nasty business at best.  To be fair, the English were not bad as far as colonial oppressors go, at least on the North American continent, and certainly there were a great number of colonials ("loyalists") who were pretty much okay with the status quo and appreciated the help fighting Indians.  But contemplating the state of affairs in places like Ireland was enough to convince the more rebellious element amongst the colonials ("patriots") that even something as innocuous as a tax on tea wasn't going to lead to anything good.  Amidst mounting tensions, the non-European residents of North America were probably rolling their eyes and hoping that both sides would get back on their ships and disappear, but this didn't happen, and thus began the United States of America.

On this solemn occasion, I am taking the opportunity to do some musing on the topic of freedom.
 
In particular, I would like to say a few words about the Supreme Court of the United States.
 
To begin with, the Supreme Court of the United States is more and more commonly known by the Twitteresque acronym of "SCOTUS" which, for some reason, brings to my mind "scrotum" one of those awful words that comes to English from Latin to identify things of a sexual nature.  On account of this unfortunate word association, I am - at present - predisposed to thinking of the Supreme Court as "icky".

Wouldn't it be better to call them, "The Supremes"?

That being said, I now turn my attention to their recent ruling on "buffer zones".  In summary, there are some people who are anti-abortion who have been offering something they call "sidewalk counseling" to people entering health care facilities that provide the procedure to which they object.  In response, many of these facilities have resorted to establishing buffer zones of various size around their entrances, since some of this sidewalk counseling has tended toward the overzealous.
 
The sidewalk counselors say that this violates their freedom of speech.  The health care facilities say that their patients have the right to freedom from harassment.
 
The sidewalk counselors won.  Personally, I think that if certain like-minded citizens chose to display the same enthusiasm for sidewalk counseling in front of gun shops, this case never would have made it to the Supreme Court.
 
Without raising a moral or religious issue, I confess to being on the side of freedom-from-harassment.  And I was disappointed at the ruling.
 
But there's still hope.  Because, now follow me closely here, it is still legal - at a local level - to establish, not buffers, but bubbles, harassment-free floating buffer zones surrounding individuals.
 
And I am ALL for that.
 
In Chicago, where I live, the bubble zone is an 8-foot radius.  I want to know how I, as a private citizen, can apply for one of these.
 
Think of the possibilities.  For example, here is a list of people I would keep outside of my bubble:
  1. Religious nutbars;
  2. People who haven't bathed in more than two days;
  3. People in suits who are talking on mobile phones and using the word "feedback";
  4. People wanting to stop me on the street to talk about "the environment";
  5. People wearing more than one designer label;
  6. People whose entire vocabulary - nouns, verbs, and adjectives - consists of various forms of the word "fuck";
  7. People with small, unhappy children;
  8. Politicians;
  9. Clowns;
  10. Anyone with the job title of "regional manager".
My husband thinks there should be prenuptial bubble contracts, too.

I'm with you there, babe.
 
But never pass a law you can't enforce.
 




 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Business Psych 101

I have just arrived home from New York, a city where EVERYBODY dresses better than you do, except for the people in Penn Station waiting for New Jersey Transit. 
 
Previous to this trip, New York - for me - was synonymous with Manhattan, an error that my daughter was determined to correct.  Consequently, she took me to Flushing, which besides having the most amazing Chinatown in the United States, provides one with the opportunity to see signs like "Keep Flushing Clean" and t-shirts that say "I Love Flushing", and goes to show you what kind of fun can be had when you're in a place named with a gerund.  Similarly, while in Flushing (which is located in Queens), one would  - I presume - eventually espy something saying "I Love Queens", which is also fun, and thus the same rule applies to nouns.
 
I had a great day there, and I encourage travellers - upon arrival in New York - to go to Times Square and catch the #7 train to Flushing.  When you get to Times Square, avail yourself of the opportunity to shop at the local H&M.  It may very well be the most perfect place on Earth, in spite of the fact that, if you should decide to buy something, you will spend an inordinate amount of time waiting to make your purchase, especially if you are in line behind someone trying to do an exchange, which takes a minimum of twenty minutes and a three-fifths majority in Congress to transact.
 
(On this vacation, I was also planning spend a day on pilgrimage to my husband's childhood neighborhood in Brooklyn, until I found out that it is, for all intents and purposes, in the Bronx.  He refuses to accept this.)
 
Some things I learned on my trip to New York: 
  1. Fashion continues to dictate that all females, under the age of 70, need to be five inches taller than what nature intended.  This needs to be explained to me in short, easily understood sentences;
  2. The behavior of smart phone users leads me to believe that nobody, not ONE person, ANYWHERE, AT ANY TIME, is with the person they actually want to be with; 
  3. It is never a good idea to sing opera in a subway tunnel.
I learned something else, too:
  1. Air travel has become ridiculously expensive;
  2. Especially if you're flying to or from New Jersey;
  3. Maybe because nobody flies to New Jersey anymore;
  4. Perhaps because they're afraid Chris Christie might suddenly shut down a runway, just for the fun of it.
Upon expressing my concerns about the future of aviation travel to my son, he told me about Jet Blue.  According to him, Jet Blue:
  1. Is cheap;
  2. Allows you to check a piece of luggage without charging you .0005 percent of the gross national product;
  3. Does not fly out of ratchet airports.
But most impressive:  They give you free chips.  That's right.  Free chips.
 
"Free chips?"
 
"Yeah, I ordered a drink and they asked me, 'Do you want chips or cookies?'"
 
"For free?"
 
"For free.  And apparently, you can have unlimited quantities."
 
This was a stunning revelation for me, so stunning that it took some time to completely grasp the psychology at play here.  Yes, you could buy a bag of chips before you get on the plane, but...WOULD you?
 
The answer is no.  What you would do, in this age of in-flight food deserts, is to consider buying a bag of chips as you wandered aimlessly through the airport, waiting for your boarding time.
 
You would consider the calories, the fat and/or sodium content, the price, the sordid lure of junk food.  You would do this and continue to wander aimlessly until it was time to board and then say to yourself, "Screw it, it's only a three-hour flight."
 
And, chipless, you would get on the plane.
 
No, the "yes-to-chips" moment comes when someone hands you a cocktail.  Jet Blue understands this.  "Do you want chips or cookies?"  "Yes!  A thousand times yes!  Bless you.  And your descendants to the tenth generation." 
 
You will never forget it.  The timing is perfect and they have earned your eternal love and gratitude, with little cost or effort to them.  These people are fucking geniuses.  Obviously, a company that displays this level of perspicacity can surely be trusted to fly a plane.
 
Business psychology at its resplendent best. 
 
I'm sold.  
 
 





Tuesday, June 10, 2014

On the Waterfront

I am on vacation in the beautiful city of Boston, Massachusetts - where there are lots of wharfs (wharves?) - and I am happy.

I am happy for several reasons:
  1. I am far, far away from my place of underemployment, where an incident last week with possibly the dumbest woman alive nearly cost me what little sanity I have left;
  2. I am far, far away from Chicago, where the body count every weekend between Easter and Halloween is a becoming a little unnerving;
  3. The people here talk funny, an endless source of amusement, though this from a person who is a longtime resident of America's Midwest - where we quack like ducks - works both ways, I'm sure.
In addition to their charming accent, which truly sounds like the result of brain damage to the uninitiated, Bostonians are really nice.  Granted, historically this is not true, as the book I am reading on the Battle of Bunker Hill and other events leading up to our Revolutionary War is not slow to point out.  Were it not for Boston's propensity to mass hysteria, this country would probably have continued on to be much like Canada, where one can now purchase marijuana from a vending machine, and this is not a bad thing.

Actually, there is one thing about Boston that leads me to believe it is really a suburb of Canada.  Bostonians have the same inferiority complex regarding New York that Canada has regarding the United States.  When I was travelling in Canada a while back, I found it interesting that Canadians spent so much effort on being Canadian (my daughter, reading a Canadian newspaper one morning, commented that it was like being in a big theme park called "Canadaland"), and worrying about what the United States was thinking about them, whereas, far as I can tell, Americans don't think about Canada at all.  Same thing with Boston and New York.  Bostonians seem to have a great many ready and negative opinions about New York (mostly valid), yet New Yorkers barely acknowledge Boston's existence, except as a place where you can't get a hot dog in a ball park in October.

All in all, though, I am having a wonderful time.  I spent my first day here walking the "Freedom Trail" which is truly awesome - in the dictionary sense of the word - stopping only to enjoy St. Anthony's Feast in the North End (don't call it Little Italy, you moron, that's in New York, which is dirty and ugly and has Yankees), and was a nice surprise.  I have this memorable encounter with St. Anthony's devoted followers, which included a visit from a marching band in the pizzeria where we were dining, to thank for the spiritual revelation that during most of my waking hours in Chicago I am actively engaged in trying not to act Italian.

I spent my second day here not technically in Boston, but in Cambridge, at Harvard University where there are a great number of very smart, friendly, and attractive people.  Harvard also has a kick-ass natural history museum, open to the public, with miles of dead animals, the slimiest of which are kept attractively displayed in fluid-filled jars.

But getting back to the Boston-New York thing, much on my mind since my next destination is New York, I have distilled the differences as follows:
  1. Boston is surprisingly small, physically, but surprisingly large, culturally.  New York is physically large, but has a children's playground named for Diana Ross, which automatically cancels out most of its claims to culture;
  2. Boston traffic signals seem to contain a secret code known only to Bostonians.  Every time I think I have it figured out, I almost get killed.  A person of average intelligence can cross the street in New York;
  3. Every drink in Boston costs $11 and contains exactly one-and-one-half ounces of alcohol, certainly not the case in New York, where a good drink is easy to find.  Boston needs to work on this.
Tomorrow, more culture and more seafood is on the agenda and then I am off to New York, where my daughter is promising to introduce me to the wonders of Coney Island and Flushing.  I'm sort of done with Manhattan, since I never want to see a guy in an Elmo suit again, so I am looking forward to it.
 
Speaking of my daughter, I am seriously considering an arranged marriage between her and that handsome bartender at the pizzeria where we were serenaded by the North End Marching Band.
 
She has no objections.  We can act Italian here.






Sunday, May 25, 2014

Rules of Engagement

Every now and then, some tidbit of popular culture - usually emanating from California - comes to my attention unawares and reinforces my profound belief that sometimes being poor and obscure is much, much better than being rich and famous.
 
I am talking about the ongoing Twitter tiff between Charlie Sheen and Rihanna.  For those of you who are blessed with a sufficient amount of self-control to prevent your reading celebrity gossip on the Internet, here's what happened.
 
Charlie Sheen and his fiancee were celebrating her birthday in the same Italian restaurant where Rihanna happened to be dining.  Charlie Sheen's fiancee wanted to meet Rihanna.  Rihanna did not want to meet Charlie Sheen's fiancee.  Charlie Sheen retaliated with a ten-paragraph, insult-ridden rant on Twitter (yeah, I'll bet your fiancee really enjoyed spending her birthday watching you struggle with that), which was countered in like fashion by Rihanna, and so on.
 
To the average resident non-alien of Earth, this is extremely silly.  In fact, it could serve in court as Exhibit A for a case of why Twitter shouldn't be allowed to exist.
 
But to the primaries involved, life simply doesn't seem to be able to move forward without more "I know you are, but what am I?" and the world awaits on tenterhooks for one or the other to blurt "Infinity!"
 
In the absence of anything more important to occupy my mind today, and before the feudsters progress to holding their breaths until they turn blue, I'd like to offer some perspective.
 
Rihanna -
  1. Honey, I understand your position.  "I'm a celebrity and so are you" is not a relationship, and you have no obligations to this man whatsoever;
  2. On the other hand, it never hurts to make a friend.  You may need bail money someday;
  3. But the only person for whom you should let your pasta fazool get cold is the Pope.
Charlie Sheen -
  1. Rihanna has one name and you have two.  This is not an affectation on her part, but a measure of her popular regard.  When you are known simply as "Charlie" then you will, indeed, be "kool" enough to introduce your fiancee to Rihanna;
  2. In fact, your middle name is Irwin, is it not?
  3. And you have a fiancee.
Really?
 
Frankly, I am sick to death of "fiancees".  Case-in-point, Charlie Sheen is 48-years-old, has three ex-wives under his belt, five kids, and I'm pretty sure his affianced isn't saving herself for the wedding night.  Engagements (and the ensuing weddings) are for those under the age of thirty, about to embark on their "starter" marriage, whose limited imaginations preclude conceptualizing better uses for a large amount of money.  Engagements are not for people who have been sleeping - and/or living - with each other for years, those with a marital rap sheet, and those with live issue. 
 
I know of a young lady, someone I am very fond of so it hurt to bear witness to this nonsense, who languished in genuine suspense - until she was six-months gone with his child - for the man of her dreams to finally "pop the question".  She later told me that she was "so surprised" (seriously?) and that she "cried".  If that were my daughter (and I hope she's listening), under similar circumstances, the only crying being done would be that of Mr. Right removing the buckshot from his ass.
 
Call me a traditionalist.  But I don't blame Rihanna for not wanting to get involved.
 
In other celebrity news, I also read that Leonardo DiCaprio's new abode features (and I'm quoting from a quote here, allegedly the New York Post, whatever that is):
 
"...purified air and water, a circulated aromatherapy air supply, posture-supportive heat reflexology flooring and dawn simulation provided by a circadian lighting design."
 
Wait, Leonardo, you’re a guy, right?  Dude, there are rules.   Do you comprehend that, once this information becomes public knowledge, no sane human will ever want to be left alone in a room with you?  Have a PB&J and go lie down for a while.  Watch some TV.  These things pass.
 
In your favor, I will allow, you regularly give money to worthy causes, do not litter your trail with fiancees, are planning a trip to the moon, and already know Rihanna.  Which more than makes up for the circadian lighting design and all. 
 
Sort of.