Saturday, November 21, 2009

One Ringy-Dingy...

Here are three things that you should know about me:

1. I like making lists.

2. I think raisins were put on Earth to ruin perfectly good desserts.

3. I love my family, because we are all crazy. But in a good way.

When I was growing up, my father called his father every morning from work. He and George would have a short conversation about the weather, about which son sent him the dried fruits dipped in chocolate, and about his need to buy a new clock radio the next time we visited.

My grandfather passed away in 2006 just short of 99 years old. Which is when I carried on the tradition – I started calling my father every morning from work. It just felt like the right thing to do.

Now I’m used to it, and I look forward to my morning call with my father.

But my parents took a cruise recently, and I needed something to blog about, so here are our conversations from the three days we didn’t speak.

While You Were in Bermuda,
Here is What We Talked About

November 9, 2009

Hi Dad,

It’s Monday at 9:45 a.m., which is when I would usually be calling you. We didn’t chat yesterday, which was no big deal because it was a weekend. But today is a work day, and my routine includes our morning call. So darn you for taking a vacation and ruining my routine!

(Don’t ever die, because then my routine would be really interrupted. I’d have to start calling Josh every morning, and he would never forgive you for allowing that to happen.)

So, in your absence, you and I discussed the following:

1. why hopping is so great;

2. how soon you can send me $4;

3. the fact that Mom is evil, but we love her anyway; and

4. anything that includes the phrase, “or as I like to call it…”

Good talk! See you tomorrow.

-----

To: Mom
From: Nancy
Date: November 9, 2009 at 11 a.m.
Re: Howdy!

I asked how you were doing, if you had fun last night at your concert/movie/dinner/meeting, and how your bedroom renovations are going.

You told me that you had fun but are super tired. You made a very strong cup of tea (with two tea bags) in order to stay awake, but it’s not really working.

I proceeded to inform you that I have now decided what to name my future kidlets (Cinnamon Toast for a girl, Radiator SteamHeat for a boy). Which prompts you to ask if I’ve even looked at eHarmony lately.

Wow, I have so much work to do! Gotta go!

November 10, 2009

Hi Dad,

Our conversation this morning was somewhat contentious. After I called mustard “God’s favorite condiment,” you reminded me that a) I am an atheist and that b) only people fighting in Satan’s army would choose mustard over ketchup. But I reminded you that we both love ducks, and all was quickly forgiven.

Afterwards, I told you about a funny dream. You started fake snoring, so I drew out the rest of the story in order to torture you. Then, you told me about your plans for the day. I started fake snoring, but you didn’t realize it because you were too busy concentrating on Tetris.

You got another call. You said, “Hold on for a second,” and then proceeded to hang up on me. I still think it might have been on purpose.

-----

Nancy: (11:30 p.m.) Hey Mom, we didn’t e-mail today. Instead, you called me at 5:40 p.m., when you knew I would be on the subway. I called you back on my way home, but you were already shopping at Trader Joe’s, so we had a quick IM around 11:30 p.m.

We’re both night owls, so even when we stop instant messaging we both start posting on Facebook around midnight. This is when I send you another IM: “Hey, I thought you were going to bed!

Hilarity.

November 11, 2009

Hi Dad,

This is what you told me you would do today: go to the You (aka “the gym” or “the Jim”); pick up groceries at Wegmans; play guitar with your brother; play pool with Ed, and then start dinner. Retirement agrees with you, I think.

I told you about last night’s dream, in which you had renovated your entire house. Your bathroom had an amazing cherry wood floor, a claw foot bathtub, a sauna, bidet, towel warmers and personal valet.

You responded by begging me not to tell Mom about my dream, for fear she would be inspired.

I agreed, but only on the condition that over Thanksgiving you let me fill in some answers in your New York Times crossword puzzles in PEN, with no moaning, groaning, or gnashing of teeth. You reluctantly accepted my deal.

Nancy, FTW!

----


To: Mom
From: Nancy
Date: November 11, 2009 at 2 p.m.
Re: Hola!

Hi Mom,

I told you all about my dream. You were inspired, so I blew my deal with Dad. However, I like redecorating with other people’s money more than I like crossword puzzles, so it was totally worth it.

Then I mentioned the dead body I saw last night on the way home from work. There was a fire truck, paramedics and a crowd of onlookers. He was slumped against a building, eyes open, being poked by a paramedic.

I said how this reminded me of the time you and I walked into an office building in New York and saw a dead body being dragged out of an elevator, a trail of blood dripping in its wake. You told me that I was only 5 or 6 years old, and was greatly exaggerating what happened. You also told me that when I was 5 years old I believed in flying spiders. I reminded you that while flying spiders may not be real (they totally are! I know it!), I definitely saw a trail of blood in an office building.

At this point you signed off to go home. I worked another half hour, contemplating the reliability of childhood memories.

___________________________________________

Welcome home, guys!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Contest!

So the theme of this week is: I am confused and I am on the loose in New York City with a crummy mobile phone camera.

I was walking home from work the other day and saw this:


The first person who tells me what this means gets a great prize (or a nice shout-out on the blog). Here's what I came up with:
  1. Nerve Supply
  2. Nerves Apply
Ok, I didn't get too far. I know this means something, but what?

Also intriguing was this scribbled message, which I saw in a public garden downtown:


Let me first say that no rolly-bugs were harmed in the making of this picture. At least, none that I know of. Frankly, some rolly-bugs may have been harmed, since I don't really know what they are. Don't they sound adorable, though?

If this is a regional term, like when southerners refer to soda as "pop" (which is ridiculous), please clue me in.

In conclusion, I am confused and I desperately need your help.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Down the Hatch

Last Friday I was informed by my doctor that I have a duodenum and an esophageal junction.

No worries, though. Apparently they're lurking within all of us. I found this out following my endoscopy. Considering a colonoscopy is actually in your, um, end, I think an endoscopy, which involves a camera down your throat, should be called an other-end-oscopy.

Here is what I learned from pictures of the procedure: I am very pink inside. On a side note, I also learned that my stupid veins will explode spontaneously, leading the anesthesiologist to have to stick me FIVE TIMES before we found a successful vein. (By the by, oh-my-god-sweet-jesus that hurt.) And I learned that I do not like anesthesia. I was fine right afterward (although thanks to those damned Yankees and their ticker-tape parade, I was forced to take the subway home -- the bridge-and-tunnel crowd stole all my taxis!) and stopped at the Union Square Greenmarket for a fresh cup of steaming hot apple cider. I went home, took a brief nap, during which I was convinced I was sleeping on a bed of velvet. But once the anesthesia wore off I was jumpy and incapable of sleep.

Cue me at 4 a.m., waiting for slumber and considering some heavy subjects, including why I didn't know Veteran's Day was coming up, but I could give you the date of Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19th); what kind of reviews Fantasy Island would get on Expedia, since it never actually fulfilled anyone's fantasy; and why you would name a medication Aciphex, when it clearly sounds like "Ass Effects."

It's almost a week later, and this Friday I go in for my IVIG treatment, which I get every four weeks. I can tell when I'm due for treatment depending on how I'm feeling. The first week I'm a little tired and then slowly perk up. Week two I feel much better. Week three starts out well, but by the end I'm getting a little tired. And by week four I'm ready to go in again. I call it my "monthly cycle." Which, in retrospect, might have another meaning.

My endoscopy took 10 minutes. The IVIG infusion takes several long, Benadryl-filled hours. But I'll take IVIG over another endoscopy any day.

Never saw that coming.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Dream Girl

Last night I poured Neil Patrick Harris a cup of coffee and sat down to join him at the café table in my apartment. Across from me, the large picture windows looked out on a chichi Upper East Side apartment in the building next door, where we could see a large party in progress.

I blew on my steaming cup of coffee and asked Neil if he had ever seen a reality show on TLC called “Say Yes to the Dress,” in which women spend money they don’t have at a posh New York bridal shop. He had seen it, he said, and couldn’t believe how ridiculously addictive it was.


We laughed at our shared guilty pleasure.

Suddenly, the roar of the party grew unbearable until a women in a beaded, Cinderella-inspired bridal gown sauntered to the window, looked over at us and called out, “Sorry for the noise!” as she closed the windows.

Neil and I smiled at each other, took another sip of coffee and settled in to chat.

I woke up.

When I was a kid, I would periodically wake up in the middle of the night, run into my parents’ room with a particularly vivid dream, and recount it at length. My mother – in what I believe may have been her most ingenious parenting maneuver – always told me that if you “gave” someone your dream, it couldn’t haunt you. So I went back to bed, free to stop picturing every minute detail.

Sometimes I would remember these dreams during the day, so in order to get rid of them I’d find the closest parent and "give it away."

I don’t think my parental units would appreciate a 3 a.m. wake-up call from your truly at this point in my life, so I hold on to the insignificant dreams, and only unload those that won’t go away. But it occurred to me recently – I have a blog. Yes, I know that hearing about someone else’s dreams is potentially like watching paint dry. But this is my blog! So suck on this, I’m going to tell you my awesome dream and you can…um…skip this post, I suppose.

Sometimes I have cogent story lines in my dreams. I often think I’m picking up a ten year old boy’s thoughts via wifi. (Not the naughty thoughts, though. Those are my own.) There’s a lot of shooting, running and chasing. Aliens. Spies. Astronauts. Secret missions. It’s exhausting!

But on Friday night it was a lot quieter than that. I was in space, floating among the stars. I didn’t have a body; I was just a presence, as if I had always been there. From my vantage point I could see our entire solar system. All the planets were aligned on one flat plane. I could see that the solar system was like one vast ocean, and the planets were peacefully bobbing in this black ocean.

At first I was amazed by the sheer size of my surroundings, and then the dream shifted. I could see that I was a great distance from any other star. I felt a chill, and then the emptiness of the vacuum became overwhelming.

I woke myself up, sprung out of bed and put my feet on the floor. I was thankful to be anchored to something solid. I got back into bed after taking a sip of water, and drowsily hoped that I would be earth-bound for the next few hours.

I went back to sleep and had a nice, normal dream about the newest craze in mass transportation: blimps.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Murder, She Blogged

I have long held up my lack of gray hair as both lucky and proof that I am not yet old. However, I have realized that old age is not just in the color of one's hair.

The following are five signs that I am rapidly aging even though I refuse to accept it:

1. I abruptly ended a telephone conversation on Sunday night because I was excited that Masterpiece Mystery was starting on PBS.

2. My teeth are falling out of my head.

I was brushing the other day when I noticed a slight jagged edge on the bottom of my front tooth. After dreaming all night that Martha Raye was offering me Polident martinis, I went to the dentist and was informed that I had indeed cracked my tooth due to excessive grinding while sleeping. After a little bondage (or is it "bonding"?), my repaired tooth was sent home with instructions to not open beer bottles and to come in immediately if it decided to take a trip to Paris for the weekend and left me behind with a hole in my mouth. On a side note, I don't understand how I both snore and grind my teeth. You would think one would exclude the other! I guess I'm talented.

(I was reminded of a trip my family took to Florida a couple years ago, where the cap on my father's front tooth popped off. We called him "Farmer Jim," and when he laughed I swear it sounded like "Haw haw haw." We found it immensely funny, even if he didn't. In retrospect, in light of my recent scare, I am trying to have my sympathy. But I do not.)

3. I lose my glasses while I am wearing them.

4. The ringer on my iPhone is the theme song to "Murder, She Wrote."

This has more to do with my love for mystery shows, but I have secretly wanted to be Jessica Fletcher as long as I can remember. She's feisty! She's a successful writer! She solves crimes! Granted, all of her acquaintances die or are accused of murder, but she's always perfectly fine. So as long as I am Jessica Fletcher, and not Jessica Fletcher's friend, there should be no problem.

Jessica Fletcher and two friends/potential murder victims.

5. My family wants to take the car keys away from me because they think I am a terrible driver.

When I visit my parents, they offer to chauffeur me everywhere instead of letting me drive. I am well aware this is not because they are extremely magnanimous or because they are applying for a livery license and need to practice. I am easily lost, directionless, and drive about 20 miles per hour no matter where I am. I can’t merge onto highways, and I once took a detour through Morristown while going to Edison…from Princeton. For those of you who are unfamiliar, that would be like driving from Florida to New York via Maine. (It made sense at the time.)

So, even though I do not have gray hair or wrinkles, I think today is the day to buy that bottle of peroxide and find my local Botoxologist.

I want to be like Jessica Fletcher – not look like her!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Prize Patrol

I wish that just once I would get a message like this and it wouldn't be junk mail.

Dear Nancy:

We are having trouble shipping you your XPS M1530. Please click the link below to confirm your zip code: http:\\please-clam-prize.com\xps1530. Confirmation Code: hdbz409481.

Thank You,
Associate #24149
Shipping Department

First of all, the M1530 is a nice laptop that starts at $1,000. And I like Dell laptops. In fact, I own one.

However, I suspect that "Associate" is not a given name. And that it's a bad sign when the "Shipping Department" isn't attached to an actual company. But the biggest clue that this e-mail promising riches via laptop was not real? The e-mail address was: www.please-CLAM-prize.com.

So, in conclusion, I decided not to clam my prize.

I'm holding out for a free flat screen television.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Market Research

I love my local Rite Aid. Besides their delightful shelf combinations, the scowling man near the entrance who is either an ineffective security guard or an unfriendly store greeter, and their propensity to stock onesies that read "Somebody in Queens Loves Me!", their staff is always looking for ways to improve my shopping experience. And I appreciate that.

Someone at the store has clearly been taking a correspondence class in the benefits of cross-selling. However, I don't think they've reached that point in the pamphlet that mentions how to employ this useful marketing strategy in a subtle and appealing way. For example:

Target demographic: Mothers who never read "What to Expect the First Year" and don't know they can't feed their newborns Gatorade and pizza.

Public service?

Maybe.

However, I quickly realized that this was not isolated when I spotted the following:

If you can't figure out that you need ice in order cool down that sparkling glass of lemon lime Big Fizz (preferred by those who feel Sprite is a luxury), then you don't deserve to be told. Warm drinks for you!

Needless to say, I felt my shopping trip was a success. I went for a bottle of detergent, but left with a smile. I want to hug everyone who works at the Rite Aid. Best store in Queens!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

An Abundance of Ethels

On Saturday, my parents held a Rosh Hashanah picnic. Normally, we go to my cousin's house for Rosh Hashanah and Passover, which involve appetizers, dinner and chatting. When I was a child, we would read from the haggadah, which, according to www.dictionary.com, is "a book containing the liturgy for the Seder service on the Jewish festival of Passover."

We never did the entire book, and I was happy to be spared a two-hour prayer dinner so I could instead focus on what was really important – my cousin's fantastic matzo ball soup and to-die-for brisket. I was raised as a happy little heathen, so when the haggadah asked, "Why is this night different from all other nights," I would think, Because I get to eat gefilte fish. We eventually stopped reading on Passover, and instead started with the most important element: food. I'm told the haggadah is still in the room, but we leave each other be.

This year, there was a fantastic addition to the festivities – family from my mother’s side that I had never met. I learned something this weekend: I do not have a small family. Finding this out made me happy. I always envied family reunions where all seven aunts and uncles, 22 first cousins, 13 second cousins, their kids, and various family friends crowded into one house for a lobster boil, sack races and in-fighting. Doesn’t that sound marvelous?

My mother had conveniently omitted (or, more likely, I hadn’t paid attention to the fact) that she has a bunch of first cousins, four of whom I had never met. They were invited to the picnic, and I was slated to be introduced to a few of her first and second cousins and their wives and children.

I was so excited that I started using exclamation points after everything:

“Here are the platters!”

“I’m taking a shower!”

“Did you clean the tables and chairs!”

Not grammatically correct, but I was a little emotional.

With all of these extra people we needed a venue bigger than my cousin's house, where it's normally held. Thus, my secular family ended up hosting their First Inaugural Rosh Hashanah Picnic. It had all the traditional food, including brisket, matzo balls, chicken with brie, spinach and pears, noodle kugel, kasha varnishkes and tandoori chicken. For dessert: cakes from a Lithuanian bakery, fruit salad, gulab jamun and Chocorooms.

Take notes, non-Jews. I will teach you the right way to throw a religious Jewish holiday party.

My long-lost relatives turned out to be lovely and, thankfully, talkative. I learned that I had a great-grandmother named Ethel. She was highly beloved, and after she died, my grandmother’s generation followed the tradition of naming their children after this respected relative. Therefore, my mother has three first cousins named Ethel. My grandmother didn’t like the name, and chose to use only the letter “E” and pick the name Ellen. Smart lady – none of the Ethels like their name. (Even though they did love their namesake.)

There’s New York Ethel. She uses her name, but thinks it’s ugly. There’s Boston Ethel, who goes by “Saf,” an abbreviation of her maiden name. And there’s Florida Ethel, who is referred to alternately as “Big Ethel” and “Tall Ethel.” It wasn’t clear whether she objects to her nicknames or her actual name. I’d understand either way. (On a side note, I find it telling that at 5-foot-7-inches, she is considered the tall one in our family. We are a short people.)

Disappointingly, my dreams of a crazy family reunion were dashed. Not one of my new relatives showed up drunk. No one appeared bitter about their portion of a long-forgotten will or wanted to continue arguments begun in 1968. And all of the children were adorable, well-behaved and friendly.

However, I still have high hopes. You never know who’ll show up next year!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Kosher for Passover

Behold, the nation's first religiously-sanctioned shoe store:


This was taken during a recent trip to Florida. I know there's a big Jewish contingent, which necessitates all sorts of glatt kosher delicatessens and markets, but I'm still trying to figure out which part of the shoe is considered edible.

The tongue?

The sole?

Monday, August 31, 2009

Right on Track

I really wish I had a scratch-and-sniff blog, because then I would be able to illustrate how lovely my weekend was simply by giving you a whiff of lilac or freshly-baked cookies. I didn't interact with either, but I don't think the scent of New Jersey Transit would inspire the right reaction.

After a fun friends-and-family-filled three days, I hopped on the train back to New York yesterday afternoon. Two stops later, I glanced up and immediately recognized the face of the gentleman sitting across from me: Willie Garson, the actor who played Stanford Blatch on Sex and the City. He was with a young boy, who I understand was his recently-adopted son. Mr. Garson at turns played with his son (it looked like they were getting along famously) and napped. Here he is napping...

Ha, you didn't think I'd be tacky enough to take an actual photograph, did you? I am not a paparazzo. And I am not an obsessed fan who submits distorted camera-phone pictures to Gawker or TMZ. I simply did what all respectable New Yorkers do -- surreptitiously glanced over once (so I could confirm his identity), and then respectfully ignored him for the rest of the trip.

Instead, this is my rendition of Mr. Garson napping on NJ Transit. I have omitted his son from this illustration since he's a minor -- and because I couldn't draw two people from the side view. Trust me, I tried.

He was sitting on two seats facing each other with a box on his lap. The green mark on the opposite seat was his ticket and the railroad track above him is actually supposed to be a luggage rack. I am not explaining this because it is interesting, but because I am pretty sure no one will understand my sketch otherwise.

However, being in the vicinity of a celebrity can be somewhat distracting. I was once in the student union at Columbia University when I heard a very familiar voice behind me. I was on deadline to complete an assignment, but was compelled to turn around. Lo and behold, it was Joseph Gordon-Levitt of 3rd Rock from the Sun. I enjoyed his work, but would hardly walk over and say that. So I turned back to my notepad, smiled a little, and returned to writing.

Hearing a well-known voice and not listening was impossible. It was like being unable to turn off a television. I had a deadline, so I left to find a spot without an actor nearby. This did not prove too difficult. Even Columbia is mostly filled with nobodies. Rich nobodies, maybe, but still nobodies I could easily tune out.


New York is filled with celebrities. An actor in the wild can be difficult to spot because they don't always wear sunglasses, they usually don't have an entourage and there are no roving bands of photographers (that I have encountered) pointed toward an obvious target that happens to be wandering around mid-town Manhattan.

And still you stumble over people. I once saw a man on Madison Avenue wearing khakis, sneakers and a baseball hat that made me think, "He looks like he's wearing a Woody Allen costume!" At which point I realized it was Woody Allen.

I spotted Conan O'Brien near Radio City Music Hall with a cute little girl riding atop his shoulders after what I assume was a taping of his show. He looked like any dad who is glad to spend time with his daughter. Only he was 7-feet tall and topped with bright orange hair.

I rode the 1 train uptown next to Willem DeFoe. He was wearing a black and red sweater, which I found very amusing. He had starred in Spider-Man, which filmed at Columbia when I was there. So when we both exited at 116th Street and Broadway, I immediately called my brother to tell him I had ridden uptown with Green Goblin, who was wearing a sweater made from the skin of his nemesis, Spider Man.

Sometimes you can stumble over a subway-riding celebrity and accidentally provoke them. Any New Yorker will tell you that seats are a precious commodity on our jam-packed rails. I was listening to my iPod and riding the 1 train when I saw a man shift in his seat as we neared the next stop. I thought he was leaving, so I started toward him in order to take his place.

He, on the other hand, stayed put and flashed me a mildly dirty look that said, "I don't care if you recognize me, please leave me alone." I looked closer and, with a start, realized it was my longtime crush, Neil Patrick Harris.

So in conclusion...

I adore you, Mr. Harris. But I just wanted a seat on the subway.

Monday, August 24, 2009

This is Why I Love New Yorkers: Tippi Hedren Edition

Last Friday night I happily escaped my day job as a filing cabinet with arms (which is how I describe my life as an admin), boarded the mildly air-conditioned subway and then exited into the oven that was Queens.

While the frigid temperatures of winter make it difficult to comfortably wait for subways, there are always options: layers, warm drinks and long hugs with strangers. During the summer, however, there are laws against marching around the streets of New York nude, fanning oneself furiously with all of the pamphlets for cell phones and restaurants people try to pawn off on hurried passers-by.

I was walking home on Friday night after work, mostly thinking about the air conditioning that was about 7 minutes in my future (set on a timer, for those of you worried about my wasting energy), when I was viciously and for no reason AT ALL attacked by this:

Pigeons in New York have a different attitude than other birds that are just passing through. They march around the five boroughs saying things like, “You gonna feed me, mofo?” and “Get any closer and I will HURT YOU.” They are aggressive little creatures – but their attitude is closer to the West Side Story gangs than the Bloods or the Crips. They will be rude, but will back down while singing and dancing about it.

Which is why I was surprised when I walked toward one on the way home and it didn’t fly away, it flew at me. I raised my arms, surprised, and out of the corner of my eye saw the women standing next to me do the same. I felt a wing, a rush of air, and then nothing. I slowly lowered my arms, and looked around. I appeared to be unharmed.

The woman looked back with that same startled expression, and then started smiling. I did the same. Suddenly, we were both laughing. I nodded, she did the same, and that was it. We both parted ways, sharing the knowledge that we were attacked by the killer pigeon but survived to tell the tale.

There will be a reward for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of this outlaw pigeon. Eyes open, people – we are all at risk!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Exeunt, Stage Left.

I always go to the movies on two occasions: 1) Christmas and 2) any weekend during mid-August when running my own air conditioning would cost more than $10.50 per hour. As the 90-degree days seem to have made their debut, Monday morning reviews are on the rise at work.

My boss recently reported that he saw 500 Days (of Summer), which he called “Summer 500” – revealing his desire, I believe, to see a drama about a fictional Indy 500 – and said he quite liked it. I was surprised. Much like my father, who believes that all movies can be improved with female nudity, car chases and explosions, this was not something my boss would pick. (In other ways they are nothing alike, but I wonder if this is more a Y-chromosome issue than a matter of taste in movies.)

On the other hand, I saw something that I would definitely pick, although in this case it was my brother who suggested we see Julie & Julia. This is a spoiler-free zone (unless I hate the movie), so I will not reveal how it turns out, except to say that she was a man (The Crying Game), the crew survived (Apollo 13) and they won the championship (All Sports Movies Ever Made).

I will say this: Meryl Streep is fan-freaking-tastic. Over time, I have grown more enthusiastic about her work. I wasn’t particularly impressed with Ms. Streep in my youth. This may have had more to do with my introduction to her in She-Devil, starring Rosanne. I’m sure she was fine in it, but it was more notable for the eye-searing moustache that Rosanne wears before her makeover than for plot or acting. It was released in 1989, when I was in my pre-teens, which I guess is why it was my first Streep film.

It was hard not to be won over by what I saw later, including Kramer vs. Kramer, Angels in America, and Doubt. By the time I arrived at the theater on Friday night, I needed no convincing that she is a great actress.

However, my favorite Meryl Street moment occurred off camera, about seven years ago.

It was a summer weekend, and I was wandering around Union Square, downtown. As I walked along 14th Street, I stopped to check out a cheap clothing store. I picked up a t-shirt, put it back. Looked at a pair of shorts, figured I’d try them on. And right before I went into the dressing room, I spied…Meryl Streep. I froze, mid-perusing, and gave her a second, covert look. Definitely Ms. Streep. So I did what any honorable New Yorker would do – I pretended not to notice her. This was before camera phones, so I couldn’t even contemplate that, thank goodness.

I stepped into the dressing room, my heart still racing, and tried to peer through. I couldn’t see anything. Damned privacy curtains! What I heard was this: “MoooOOOM, it doesn’t fit. It’s the wrong size!”

And then Ms. Streep responded, “Bigger or smaller?”

She came over to her daughter’s dressing room with the new sizes. They continued chatting, just like any mother and daughter would during a Saturday spent wandering around the City.

You can’t interrupt, be smitten with or be covertly obvious about noticing a celebrity when they’re out shopping with their daughter. It’s just…tacky. So I tried on the shorts (didn’t like how they looked) and left.

She may be a fantastic actress, but even better – she seemed like an awfully nice mom.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Fact.

I had an epiphany recently. Even if you satisfy the following conditions:
a) you are holding a box of freshly-baked cupcakes; and
b) you are on a very crowded subway,
you cannot yell, "Stop squishing my cupcakes!" without people assuming you're talking about your boobs.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

'Tis the Season

There are so many good holidays in August. While I'm staying away from Potato Day (too high in carbs), Work Like a Dog Day (or as I call it, "every day") and World Sauntering Day (I don't saunter in public), there are a few that I might celebrate.

National S'mores Day: August 10
Several years ago, I went on the most romantic date of my life. It was with my friend B, and she and I agreed that had one of us been a man, the other would have definitely wanted a second date. It started off with Italian for Beginners, a funny, sweet film that seemed very magical at the time. I recommend it highly. We then walked around Washington, D.C. and ended up at a little restaurant where we made s'mores for dessert. They gave us a little flame, all the s'mores accoutrements, and then let us go to it. Highly delicious and interactive, which was a great combo. I like to be hands-on. The day culminated on her doorstep, where we both went in, neither for coffee nor for "coffee," because I was visiting her for a long weekend and also because it wasn't an actual date.

On August 10, I will send B a picture of a s'mores and tell her I'm still waiting by the phone.


Roller Coaster Day: August 16
If this holiday were Christmas, I would be like, "Well, I'm Jewish so I can't really celebrate. I already celebrated a similar, not-as-fun version of this holiday several weeks ago, when it didn't yet feel like the holiday season." (Although I can't actually complain, because my parents gave us Christmas presents too. There are advantages to being a secular Jewish family.)

The truth is I have always hated the sensation of falling. Thus, I would place "Eternal ride on a log flume" at the top of the list that God would use to punish me in the afterlife for being an atheist. I distinctly remember my mother standing on the platform of a roller coaster, getting in the car and shouting as it pulled away, "If you try it, I'll buy you a denim jacket! And matching jeans!" I should note that this was a kiddy roller coaster, which did nothing more than gently traverse a few low-lying hills and valleys. I opted out, even if it meant losing out on what might have been the seminal outfit of my '80s childhood.

So I will participate in Roller Coaster Day by holding everyone's jackets and purses as they race skyward at unnatural speeds.

National Radio Day: August 20
Little-known fact: I was an extra in Radio Days, the Woody Allen film. I will be celebrating the holiday by passing along this nugget of information to you, thereby enriching your life. Do you feel enriched? There! Holiday celebrated.

National Secondhand Wardrobe Day: August 25
How you observe this holiday depends on where you live. In America, the younger sibling traditionally sends a card to their older sibling bearing the message, "Thanks for those crummy hand-me-downs. I really hated wearing your stupid old clothing." I prefer the British version of this holiday, which mostly involves dragging out the C.S. Lewis books and reading the Narnia stories to your children while gathered around an armoire. Which, in Britain, is called a wardrobe.

When my grandfather passed away, I inherited (by virtue of helping to clean out his apartment) a vintage dice game called Scribbage
(which is unrelated to Cribbage), a backgammon set and his favorite magnifying glass. I gratefully took home a coffee table book of paintings by Ralph Fasanella that I had always loved. Incidentally, I got the coffee table too. I needed furniture, so I ended up with what I call the Faux-moire - an ugly cabinet-on-top, drawers-below behemoth that weighs a good 300 pounds and is deceptively un-spacious.

But in honor of the holiday, I will set aside my dislike for the Faux-moire and instead appreciate where it came from.

Won't you join me in making a National Secondhand Wardrobe Day resolution?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Exciting Investment Opportunity!

Dear Prospective Investor:

I am currently seeking people to invest in two projects that are sure bets. When I say "sure bet," I mean "projects that, despite this economy, cannot fail to reap Midas-like rewards." I truly believe that immediately after learning about them, you will clamor at my door to hand over your check.

You may be skeptical. "Nancy," you will say, "in these dismal economic times, why should I part with my hard-earned money?" And I will tell you, with a grin and a wink, "Because a sound investment idea can weather anything."

Are you curious? Of course you are!

So let me tell you what sizzling opportunities await you.

Idea Number One

After visiting Key West last year, I quickly realized that there is a revenue stream that is, as of now, currently unexplored. Thus, I propose:
During the day, Banana Hammocks will be a smoothie bar/hammock store. Customers sit on hammocks, which are also for sale. Each evening, the store reopens as a gay nightclub. Instead of smoothies, there are cocktails with smoothie names. And there are hammocks instead of generic bar seating.

Picture ABC Home and Carpet selling smoothies and then turning into a nightclub on weekends.

Idea Number Two

I propose a store that sells quality, upscale undergarments in a fun atmosphere - the style of La Perla with the price point of Victoria's Secret. The ideal first location would be Las Vegas, where a themed lingerie store would fit the local aesthetic.

Capitalizing on the atmosphere of one of North America's premiere party towns, I propose: Mardi Bras.

This store would be an interactive experience. Employees would be stationed on balconies (modeled after those in New Orleans). Any customer who flashed their chest would then receive a beaded necklace thrown to them by the employee. Market research shows this would be a great draw to the men accompanying their wives or girlfriends to Mardi Bras.

Advertising would look like this:

These are but the bare bones outlines of two very exciting investment opportunities. For more information, please contact me at 555-1212.

I look forward to taking your hard-earned dollars!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Bed Bugged.

Two apartments and seven years ago, I was doing what most New Yorkers in their mid-twenties were doing – finding a new place to live after being kicked out by my insane current roommate.

She decided to move her boyfriend in and me out. But after only two months, I couldn't afford to leave. I asked if I could send the rent in two weeks so I could pay to move as quickly as she requested. And that's when she started screaming, saying she would call the cops if I didn't pay and leave immediately. So much fun. (On a side note, she was pretty and had a son who was staying with her parents in her native country in Eastern Europe. When I asked what she did for a living, she didn't want to say, but later vaguely referred to a job in "finance." To this day, I suspect she was a dancer or an escort.)

Thanks to the miracle of Craigslist, I found a new roommate pretty quickly, and moved into a miniscule room in a fairly nice Hell's Kitchen, sorry, "Clinton," apartment. If I bought a full or queen-sized bed (which was my preference), the entire room would have been bed, bed and more bed. So I compromised, bought a twin, and shoved a couple small pieces of furniture in there.

Two months later, Laura decided she wanted to move. She held the lease, and they were looking to jack up the rent, so I was once again out on my ear. I was furious she had taken me in, knowing she would be leaving so soon. I was also crushed and emotionally wrecked about moving for a third time in one year.

I called my best friend, K, and wailed, "She" sob, wheeze, sniffle, "toooooooooold me," sob, sob, hyperventilate, "to MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE," sniffle, sob, drop the phone, pick it up and start deep breathing. Because K has the Nancy Rosetta Stone, she understood and started to cheer me up and calm me down.

This is when I decided I was done with roommates. I felt like I had checked off a list of things I needed to accomplish. I had lived with a roommate's parrot, waking up each morning to violent screeching at 6 a.m. I had cleaned up the dirty dishes a roommate had left on my bed. I had been tormented by my roommate's mother constantly screaming about her daughter’s good-for-nothing ex-husband and unruly children. I had even been directed not to speak to the private detective following my roommate's married lover.

This is how I found myself paying way too much – and loving it – so I could traipse around naked in my Upper West Side apartment any time I wanted, sleep in, cook at midnight, and decorate any which way I wanted. I was in a studio apartment, so while it was bigger than the prison cells I was previously housed in, I now had to fit an entire apartment of furniture into one long room. Which meant I was stuck with the damned twin bed.

Three years and two rent increases later, I was looking at an empty bank account and a quickly gentrifying neighborhood. Next door, a sign went up over new construction that read, "Coming soon – 2 to 5-bedroom Condos!" However, what I read was, "Dear Nancy, it's time for you to move. You can't afford it here anymore!"

I can take a hint, so I started looking. Washington Heights, the Lower East Side, the Upper [Upper] East Side. My mother kept recommending Astoria. And I kept telling her, "Forget it! Queens is where old people go to die."

In a moment of desperation, I considered having a roommate. She and I went out to Astoria, where she showed me the neighborhood and explained that, 1) she didn't believe in air conditioning, and 2) she had an algorithm to determine television volume, based on a variety of factors: time of day, number of people at home, and if she was taking her meds (that last one was unspoken).

Needless to say, we parted ways – but I was hooked on Astoria.

So here I am, three years later, loving my family-friendly neighborhood and my one-bedroom apartment. Yet I never replaced that effing twin bed. Yes, my living room couch pulls out into a Queen-sized bed, but it’s lumpy and awful. And not particularly practical.

On Friday, mother called and said, “Sleepy’s is having a sale.” With her bartering skills (by telephone, no less!) we used her senior citizen discount to take $200 off a fantastic mattress set.

It was delivered on Saturday, and I couldn’t stop grinning. Here we are (“we” meaning me and Sleeping Beauty, my new mattress):


I keep smiling every time I walk into my bedroom. No more pushing pillows onto the floor when it’s time to go to sleep. No more feeling like I’m laying in a coffin.

Here she is on Sunday morning, after the first test run:

I’m in love. What a beauty!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

On a recent trip to Stew Leonard's -- the inestimable, incomparable grocery store that my grandmother Barbara often called a museum of food -- I discovered that my photo-resistant younger brother, Josh, is a big chicken. Wait, no, I meant he likes chickens.

The same guy who will only take family photos after no small amount of coercion, will apparently jump into any old shot if it involves this:
Really, could he look any happier? I have NEVER received a grinning, twinkly-eyed, thumbs-up pose from Josh. Not even once.

If you look closely, he's even subtly restraining the man-chicken from running away from this momentous occasion by stepping on his large, orange toe. (Do chickens have toes?)

So Josh, be forewarned, I am hiring the man-chicken! You will appear in family photographs, and you will like it, even if it means that Six-Foot Sammy next to you will be in them too.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

This is Why I Love New Yorkers, Part II

You know how sometimes you wake up at 8:15, take a shower, get ready for work (including applying the new Sleek'n'Shine leave-in conditioner system you just bought, brushing both your teeth and your anti-grinding night guard, and deciding which podcast to listen to on your commute), and then finally make it to the subway platform, where a little old lady curses you with the Evil Eye?

It seemed so innocent at the time. All I said was, “Excuse me, could you move your bag?”

Does that seem threatening?

When I arrived at the subway platform this morning, ready to go to work on my next-to-penultimate day before the long weekend, there were plenty of people and the lone bench appeared full. As I walked by, I realized that one seat was actually taken by the small tote bag of the white-haired lady sitting next to it. All New Yorkers know that this is a faux pas – you don’t put bags on the seat if the train is full. This rule applies to subway platforms, too.

So I said, “Excuse me.” She ignored me at first, and I figured she didn’t hear me, so I said it again, and then asked the ill-fated question.

What happened next was unexpected.

First, she moved her bag. Then, she started mumbling in Hungarian (or some such), gave me the stink eye, got up, and walked about 10 feet down the platform.

I was confused. I clearly didn’t ask her to leave. And she was pissed – she stood there staring right at me, mumbling in Hungarian, until the subway came five minutes later.

The woman next to me, who had been witnessing this spectacle, looked over at me and shared a sympathetic eyebrow-raise, then started laughing. I joined her, but started to wonder if the “Evil Eye” (were it real) could be effective from 10 feet away.

However, I have yet to sprout a tail, grow horns, lose my hair, gain some warts or turn into a forest animal.

So I’m probably safe. (For now.)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bananas & Nectarine

Dear Barnes & Noble:

I get it -- times are hard. People are losing jobs and don't have the paper to spend on your paper, so I understand wanting to branch out, see what other revenue streams might be available.

Maybe you're afraid that you're going the route of The Shop Around the Corner in "You've Got Mail." I mention that movie because: a) everyone knew the fictional Fox Books was a B&N stand-in; b) Fox Books was on the Upper West Side, where there's a real B&N (the one where I used to shop, when I lived there); and c) my brother had small recurring role on a Meg Ryan project when he was an infant.

Maybe you're concerned that Amazon's cheaper prices, access to used books and Kindle are hastening you toward an inevitable, vestigial, Blockbuster-like existence.

Or maybe you see the writing on the wall -- books are out, fruit is in!

Really, that's the only explanation I can come up with for this:




Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Weekend at Bernie’s

While updating my podcasts in iTunes the other night, I saw an ad for the recently released Sims 3. I’ve always been curious about this franchise, but after my experience with Sim City a decade earlier (I got bored after building two houses, a playground and a bar), I wasn’t willing to spend the cash. Which made this iPhone game perfect: inexpensive, pared down and easy to play on the subway. Ca-ching!

It started auspiciously, with me crafting a smoking hot avatar out of the two choices they give you. So my game cyber-gal was probably a little generic, but she was itching to step out of the wardrobe and into her new, awesome life as…a town clerk.

I started to learn about what Nancy Sim (“NS”) wanted out of life by the goals that were set for her. They included NS becoming a Chef de Cuisine; a Landscape Architect; a Master Repairman; and a Competition Fisher. Not my first choices, but I was open. Mini-goals you can ignore also pop up periodically, and range from “grow a head of corn” to “stay rested for three days.”

I chose “rise to top of career ladder,” so NS met her boss, Ruth, on the street and asked her for a promotion. After chatting Ruth up, NS was offered a position on the town counsel. I was excited by this fast-track to success, so NS knocked on her door the next evening, and proceeded to coo over Ruth’s home and personality. When asked for another raise, NS was declined. So she made Ruth laugh and chatted with her at length, then asked again. Bingo. MAYOR of Simsville!

I was feeling heady with all of this success. On Saturday, I had NS bump into Ruth at the park. After similar efforts, she was promoted once again: Vice President Nancy Sim!

I was now officially drunk on power. On Sunday morning, around 5 a.m., NS visited Ruth’s home and asked for another promotion. No go.

I had NS coo, joke, compliment, and then flirt. No promotion, but they became best friends. NS then flirted, hugged, and tried to kiss Ruth. She did the same the next day…and the next. Ruth became the only Sim in the game for me, while I had NS attempt to sleep her way to the top. I eventually had to choose the option: “apologize for creepiness.” Even though we were still officially best friends, I put a TRO in place to give Ruth some space. In the meantime, I was developing relationships with other Sims.

(Keep in mind, this was months in “Sim Time,” but in real time I had been playing for an hour.)

NS became friends with Marcel, Jack and Jill, Theresa, Walter and Kia (her future spouse). She invited people over, chatted, and periodically accepted requests from them; she brought Walter five eggs and gave Marcel a salmon. But it got interesting when one Sim asked her to be mean to another. After working, staying rested and trying to make friends, a little naughtiness was welcome.

Bernie was the last Sim that NS met. They bumped into each other at the park right after she received a request to “insult a Sim.” He was convenient, so I clicked “Be Mean” and watched another task be crossed off the list. The next time I was asked to “kick over a garbage can,” NS made her way to Bernie’s house (after all, he already didn’t like her), and accomplished the next task.

I quickly developed a strategy: persecute Bernie.

Every time a similar mean-spirited goal was set, I proceeded to find Bernie so NS could carry it out. This included:

1. Stopping by at 2 a.m. and inviting myself in to eat a snack from his kitchen.
2. Chatting, making him start to like me, and then using his shower.
3. Apologizing for my previous rudeness and then taking a nap in his bed.
4. Instigating an argument and then proposing marriage.

Bernie eventually kicked me out of his house. Five times.

Nancy Sim may be a creepy, slutty avatar. But at least she’s a creepy, slutty chef de cuisine, landscape architect, master repairman and competition fisher avatar.

Vote Nancy Sim for President!

(Ruth, are you listening?)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Blame it on the Rain

It was a dark and stormy night. (I’ve always wanted to write that!)

The roaring thunder and the eye-squintingly bright lightning tore through my apartment at 2:30 a.m. and lasted about 45 minutes.

I woke up this morning completely exhausted, took a shower while still half-asleep, and then managed to blow a fuse while drying my hair. I was only partway to an exquisite 'do but decided the lack of light was more urgent. So I peeked into my bedroom to confirm the power was off there too (it was) and made my way into the kitchen, where the fuse box is mounted about 7 feet off the ground. I used a spatula to open it and flip the bottom switch back to the “on” position. Voila! Power was restored. I'm like Bob Vila, but with kitchen utensils.

I returned to the bedroom so I could get dressed. I then reached for my glasses...which were no longer on my night stand, where I had placed them before going to sleep last night.

Forty-five long minutes passed, during which I did the following in order to locate my much-needed glasses:

1. Pushed night stand away from wall, looked in all drawers, then lifted it up and looked underneath.

2. Moved bed to center of room, tore off all linens, including pillowcases, put lost socks back into laundry basket, decided it was time to sweep behind my bed.

3. Ransacked my newly-folded (now unfolded) clothes.

4. Looked in my laundry basket. Left giant, heaping pile of linens and assorted clothing on floor.

5. Examined my closet, faux-armoire, hallway, living room, kitchen and front hallway.

6. Approached highest levels of desperation, began peeking in toilet, medicine cabinet, refrigerator, underneath my jewelry box and inside my air conditioner.

At this point, I was supposed to be at work in 5 minutes. I was half-dressed, completely confused, and entirely certain that a cockroach had wandered in during the night and decided my prescription would be perfect for his elderly cockroach father.

I also was starting to feel like my apartment was getting unbearably stuffy and humid. A bead of sweat proceeded to roll down my forehead and land...on a lens. On my face.

On the glasses which I had apparently been wearing THE ENTIRE TIME.

You know what? I still have no idea when I put them on, since I definitely wasn’t wearing them in the shower. On the way to work (clocking in a whopping 30 minutes late), I periodically touched my face, still unable to believe that I was in possession of my glasses.

Clearly, both my brain and the fuse shut off simultaneously. And I’m starting to think I will never know what truly happened during those lost minutes.

Hey, have you seen my watch?

Never mind.