Friday, February 12, 2010

"Thanks, Dad."

In a recent post I mentioned that I can often hear my father on his headset after he thinks he has disconnected our phone calls. Well, in the clip below, you can hear me forgetting that my handy little point-and-shoot camera, which takes short video clips, also has sound.

This was from Key West, Florida, a couple years ago, and I find the water absolutely mesmerizing.

I think you'll find the dialogue equally impressive. Or not.

I'm thanking him for bumping into me and ruining my shot. Because I am clearly the Scorsese of low-quality vacation videos, and he blew my one chance to be featured at the next Tribeca Film Festival.

So...thanks, Dad.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Eat, Pray, Shove

This afternoon, a coworker and fellow avid reader handed me a book that she said was “spiritual” and “transformational.” It had changed her outlook on life.

I promised I would give the book a try.

But I was instantly brought back to July 18, 2007. It was around 6 p.m., and I was standing just inside the AT&T store on 43rd Street and Lexington Avenue. The line was long, and I was thinking that if I stayed I would probably be late to my book club.

I had turned to leave when I heard a loud boom! and saw a couple people outside the store look behind them and start to run. As I’ve mentioned before, my fight-or-flight response is pretty heavy on the flight, so I opened the door, adrenaline already sparking like electricity throughout my body. It wasn’t unfounded. I stepped outside and saw a thick cloud of dark gray smoke. I couldn’t see the Chrysler Building right behind me.

As I ran uptown along Lexington Avenue I heard – and felt – a series of at least a dozen explosions and thought, I’ve always been afraid of dying. I can’t believe today is the day that I’m going to die.

I heard someone scream, “They’re blowing up Grand Central” and someone else yell, “The subways are exploding!” Shockingly (to me, at least), my brain kicked in and I thought, Hmmm, if the subways are exploding, is it a good idea to run along the Lexington Avenue line of the SUBWAY? At 45th Street I took a quick right and kept jogging until I hit First Avenue.

The decision to get out of harm’s way was an unexpected yet heartening flash of logical thinking for someone prone to panic.

My second flash of brilliance also happened at the corner of 45th Street and Lexington Avenue. I realized I needed to get rid of dead weight. Since I couldn’t drop 50 pounds on the spot through the miracle of the Hollywood Cookie Diet, the Hollywood Juice Diet or the Hollywood Methamphetamines Diet, I did the second best thing. I looked down at the book in my hand, which I was forcing myself to finish for my book club that night. I knew that my life was worth more than a crummy book – no matter how beloved it was – and as I was fleeing the 2007 Con Edison Midtown New York Explosion, I threw it on a pile of black garbage bags.

I never finished “Eat, Pray, Love,” by Elizabeth Gilbert.

I don’t care how much Oprah loved it. I don’t care that it was optioned for a movie that is being released this August and will probably be a smash hit. I don’t care that I seem to be the only person who hated it. But I really, really did.

I’m sure that Ms. Gilbert really did have a transformational experience. But once she left the bacchanalian portion of her journey, I had to keep suppressing the frequent eye-rolling that her earnest prose seemed to induce in me. I have read and enjoyed truly inspiring books. But this was not one of them.

Without a second thought, I released “Eat, Pray, Love” from my left hand and took off across town.

I eventually hot-footed it up to 59th Street and First Avenue, where I barged into a pizzeria and demanded napkins to wipe my face. It was July, after all. They hadn’t heard the news yet, so I got some choice looks.

I called my father, hoping he could tell me what was happening. At first, he said nothing was on the news. And then he called back, saying that by all reports a transformer had exploded. I told him that it had seemed worse than that, and much louder. He calmed me down by saying that it had probably sounded like that due to the noise bouncing off buildings.

My mother called and told me that I should take a deep breath, radio reports were saying it wasn’t a big deal, and that I should go to my book club.

Despite shaking, sweating and crying, I walked over to the subway and met my book club at Katz’s Delicatessen on Houston. I spent the first 15 minutes taking deep breaths and telling my friends what had happened.

During dinner, which I wasn’t eating, my mother called.

“Oh my god, are you ok?” she said, sounding a lot more upset than she had earlier.

I asked what was wrong.

The real story had hit CNN and she was finally seeing what I had seen a couple hours earlier. According to Wikipedia (not always the most accurate source, but I promise this is what happened):

The July 18, 2007 New York City steam explosion sent a geyser of hot steam up from beneath a busy intersection, with a 40-story-high shower of mud and flying debris raining down on the crowded streets of Midtown Manhattan in New York City, New York, United States. It was caused by the failure of a Consolidated Edison 24-inch underground steam pipe installed in 1924, at 41st Street and Lexington Avenue, near Grand Central Terminal, just before 6 p.m. local time, near the peak of the evening rush hour. The towering cloud of billowing steam, higher than the nearby 1,047-foot (319 m)-tall Chrysler Building, persisted for at least two hours, leaving a crater about 35 feet (10 m) wide and 15 feet (4 m) deep.

I assured my mother that while I was upset, I was basically fine. I hung up my cell phone and proceeded to discuss “Eat, Pray, Love” (well, minus the last 20 pages I hadn’t read) with my fellow book clubbers.

I already disliked the book prior to July 18, 2007, but now it would forever be linked to one of the most traumatic events in my life.

So, I’ll read my coworker’s “transformational” book. But if I don’t like it, I'm going to ditch it at the corner of 45th Street and Lexington Avenue.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Dial "A" for Annoying

My father does not know how to use his Bluetooth headset, so after we speak I am constantly treated to his inner thoughts. For instance, I get to hear him sing made-up songs as he drives.I hear him curse at other drivers. And this morning, I heard him pick up lunch at the supermarket, during which time I texted him:

My brother has a propensity for butt-dialing. I arrived at work last week and found a 14-minute voicemail from him, recorded after he came home one night and chatted with my parents. Because I wear a headset and can type pretty quickly, I transcribed my favorite parts and e-mailed it to all three of them so they could enjoy.

And now you can enjoy it, too.

Dad: …even temporarily.

Josh enters.

Josh: What’s that?
Dad: Just an adventure movie, a good one…
Josh: [Burp.]
Dad: …Rock Hudson …
Dad: What are you doing tomorrow?
Josh: I don’t know, I forget. I think I have plans.
Dad: ‘Cause you’re welcome to watch the game with me.
Josh: That will never happen. In a million years.
Dad: C’mon....
Josh: I hate sports.
Dad: You're a clicky head.
Josh: I'm a nerd.
Dad: This movie is wonderful, by the way.
Josh: Remember, I’m a nerd? Hey, if you want to watch the first season of Firefly, let’s do it. I’m down. Let’s do it, right now!

A few minutes later, as conversation continues…

Dad: Blah blah blah, Sam Rockwell in “Moon.”
Josh: Plot spoiler.
Mom: Let’s ruin the movie for Nancy !
Josh: Awesome! But let me butt-dial her again, so when this message cuts off we can ruin the rest of the movie!
Dad: Yay! Let’s do it!

Exeunt, stage left.

[Note: I was paraphrasing that last bit.]

And now I have begun to suspect that Duane Reade is drunk-dialing me. I got an automated call today that said: “Your prescription of [silence] is ready at [silence]” several times, and then cut off in the middle of the sentence.

So beware, you drunk, butt-dialing, techno-incompetents – I have a blog, and I am not afraid to use it!