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


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!