Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category


Late Start

One morning recently, I nearly fell over when an intense, sharp, pain shot through my ankle. I was putting on a sock or playing with the cat or something; I don’t remember. But I’m only 31! I’m far too young to be falling apart.

And then it was gone.

Minutes later, when I was walking to the bus, it hit again, but a little less intensely. It stems from a two-year-old rugby injury. I rolled my ankle this summer at a practice. We were in Central Park, and an officious little groundskeeper was busying himself by whizzing by on his little golf cart every 15 minutes to yell at us for running on the open lawn of the North Meadow.

We weren’t wearing spikes, which are verboten by the Central Park Conservancy. And we were taking up very little space in the corner under some trees, far away from the baseball diamonds, where nobody goes anyway. But I guess we’re not allowed to use a ball larger than a softball or to run on the grass. It defies explanation.

So this groundskeeper finally succeeded in chasing us outside of the fenced region to a downward-sloping area of patchy grass, tree roots and the odd broken bottle. We made do with this until I was chasing down someone during a game of touch, missed a step on the side of the hill, and went down hard.

My teammate made his try. I, on the other hand, spent the next 10 minutes on the ground in a quivering heap of agony. As I was contorting myself into various death throes, I considered how my life might change should I need to amputate my right foot. I wouldn’t look that bad with a prosthesis, right? At least not in the winter. With long pants. And boots.

This is the same foot that sent me into physical therapy when I screwed up my plantar fascia the previous season. As a result, my right foot is considerably weaker than the left — and prone to ankle injuries.

The physical therapy got me in the habit of stretching really well. But it’s never been quite the same since. Not three blocks from my apartment, I tripped on a jutting corner of sidewalk while coming to a stop at a red light and rolled the same ankle. Can’t catch a break.

So now I have these recurring pains. And a new season brings new aches. What keeps me sane is the blessing of regenerative tissue.

But I curse this body sometimes. I’ve spent 30 years actively not conditioning my body to take this kind of stress. Coming to athletics so late in my life puts me at particular risk. But I love it, so I keep with it.

This is why kids should play sports. It makes their bodies grow in ways that will help them later. Note to self: When we have a kid of our own, he will play something. I won’t push him to anything in particular. My parents never pushed me to anything, which I have always been thankful for. But I will definitely push him toward choosing something he likes.

Like rugby.


99.44% Pure What?

Is there a more vile substance in all this earth than Ivory soap? The moment I open a package — assuming I can scrape the vacuum-sealed skin-tight paper from the bar — I have to sneeze and I feel like I have to throw up a little. It is concentrated evil.

It looks like frozen lard chopped into fist-sized bars. It feels like a lump of laundry detergent, and it seems to suck all moisture out of the air around it. I imagine the poor souls who produce the stuff in factories. Their noses and throats must be as raw as ground beef. Their skin must be as dry as Bob Newhart. And we are delighted to scrub down babies with it.

I picked up some Lever 2000 yesterday.


A Disaster Waiting

Everyone has something that sets his hair on end. Fingernails on a chalkboard. A high-pitched dog yapping. Bugs and spiders. An old high school friend of mine could not even bear to look at a picture of a snake in a science book. I know someone for whom the thought of touching raw wood is literally nauseating. Mixing that brownie batter with a wooden spoon? As good as a toothbrush down the throat. A doctor with a tongue depressor? Call an ambulance.

For me, it’s glass — from a paper-thin martini glass to a gigantic window pane. This morning, walking the dog we’re sitting this week, I was already annoyed that she was stopping for a thorough examination of every five feet of sniffable surface. But when she picked a tree to piss on that placed me right next to a parked glass-delivery truck, my ankles began to sweat.

The truck backed up, and I tugged the lead slightly to encourage Honey to move on. I eyed the layered panes, completely stationary and secure yet still threatening at any moment to spontaneously shatter and explode, embedding irretrievable shards into my face and neck and arms. I imagined one of the larger ones buckling under its own weight to send a shimmering guillotine sliding down on my neck.

How does that truck make it all the way from the shop without shattering its cargo all across the highway? Why are the sheets of glass all arranged on the outermost edges of the truck bed — where they can do ordinary citizens the most harm? How do those workers each still have all 10 of their fingers? How can you allow small children and old people to pass within close proximity of this truck?

I have also always intensely disliked floor-to-ceiling mirrors. For one thing, in a home it’s usually just tacky and done for all the wrong reasons. (Want to make your room look bigger? Knock out a wall. Move into a different apartment.) Mostly, though, it’s just the sheer size of that sheet of glass. Moving a large unframed mirror from a friend’s apartment to another friend’s pickup truck, there was a moment when I thought it might slip through the gap between the elevator and the floor. It could easily happen. Loosen your grip for less than a blink, and someone’s certain death is suddenly hurtling through 32 floors of elevator shaft.

Glass table tops? Gag me. Ever see Heathers? Or that other movie (I think it’s a David Lynch) where the guy falls into the corner of a glass coffee table and it hacks halfway into his head — starting with the eye — like a sharp hatchet through a boiled egg?

When I first moved to my neighborhood, I met my ultimate horror in a set of glass shelves in a storefront window. Rising maybe five or six levels, each horizontal pane is suspended by a set of four tall, narrow pint glasses. A little too much weight on any one shelf, and you’ve got yourself a death scene. What merchandise could possibly be worth such a risk?


Dreary Christmas and Tacky New Year

At least the super put some kind of Christmas tree in the lobby of my building. I smelled it before I saw it. Such a gorgeous scent, pine. I love walking to the grocery store past the French Canadians selling trees on the sidewalk. They live for six weeks in a van on the corner and camp out among a forest of leaning pines to make their sales. (But rather than heating a tin of baked beans by campfire, they have any number of empanada shops or Columbian and Ecuadorian pollo kitchens to choose from.) It must be one of their models in our lobby.

It sat there for two days, fully erect in its plastic base but bound with twine. Then one night, I came home to find it expanded to its full width, draped rather sadly in multicolored lights. Left untrimmed, the branches have resolved themselves into a shapeless mass, a far cry from the mythical triangular pines of Christmas card landscapes. A single string of chasing golden lights running in an upward spiral around the trunk gives it an air of hasty indifference, and the splash of shiny red plastic ornaments look more like a constellation of acne than a project of holiday inspiration. There is no garland; there are no bows — no star or final touches of any kind. It stands in front of the main doorway like someone half dressed and waiting for the mail.

But it is our tree, and it still fills the hall with that singular odor of Christmas. How can I not love it even for its mediocrity? I only hope someone is watering the poor thing.


The Postman Always Bleeps Twice

Doot doot. Beep beep.

How charmed am I that the U.S. Post Office is dressing up hundreds of public mailboxes across the country as R2D2?

Of course it’s all part of some bizarre marketing scheme tied to the release of a new stamp. But I’m willing to forgive that, because it’s just so fun. Despite all that is wrong about the most recent three movies of the series, I’m very happy to see that there’s life in the old droid yet.


Packaging Majors of the World, Unite!

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These red-headed stepchildren of the Hershey family are not festooned in playful holiday colors.

Rite Aid is trying very hard to be a toy store or a carnival side show. It’s Eastertime apparently. I might not have known but for the enormous duckies and bunnies hanging in the doorway, threatening to take my head off the moment I pass through the automatic doors. For the entirety of January and February, we had oversized frogs holding fluffy hearts that read: I LOVE YOU! In December, we got “Plush Bear Figurines” dressed as toy soldiers, and statues of bears leaning on snowshovels or something.

When I walk in with freshly sharpened darts looking for a wall of balloons to pop, hoping I can win one of those anthropomorphic monstrosities, all I get is a dirty, yet slightly worried, look from the manager.

I get the Camel Lights and leave quietly.

These days, Rite Aid is selling the hell out of its Easter candy. Which is to say it’s selling the hell out of the same candy it was selling the hell out of for Valentine’s Day. But in different wrappers. The chocolate’s been done over in pastels, distasteful even at the best of times, instead of the reds and whites and purples of the festival of love. I think it’s hilarious that the same stuff on super-discount-clearance, everything-must-go sale last week is now in another package and going for the regular price.

What is the difference, I ask, between a miniature Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup in a red foil and one in a robin’s egg blue foil? Packaging is an exact science — to be sure. And what a bizarre science it is. My alma mater, Michigan State University — to which I still give money as a sappy, gullible alumnus — had one of the premier packaging major programs in the country. Apparently. Someone would introduce himself to me in front of a keg as a packaging major, and after I sized him up as someone I would or would not like to sleep with (usually not), I would sort of admire him as one of those people who figured out how to fit an IKEA kitchen table into a box the size of an index card. But now I know he’s really just spending his days flipping through a palette of colored swatches and dressing confections. He and his peers could be a Bravo reality show.

Or maybe he’s making a mint as an investment banker, like everyone else (but me), regardless of his major.

Whatever. Personally, I’m holding out for the yellow and orange and brown ones that come out in October. Far superior.

(You know, I saw a Fear Factor-themed Easter basket today. What… does it contain raw bull testicles that we are Triple Dog Dared to eat? Instead of Easter grass, is the basket filled with mealworms or maggots or nightcrawlers? Bravo. What better way is there to celebrate the Resurrection of our Savior?)

Better than the Reese’s are the Hershey’s Miniatures. Well, except for Krackel. Krackel sucks. Everyone knows it. (So watch out for the pink ones.) When you were selling candy bars to pay for your seventh grade trip to Chicago or Washington, D.C., or … oh, I don’t know … Stratford, Ontario, no one ever bought the chocolate with crisped rice. It was all about the Caramello knock-offs or the Hershey’s with Almond.

Krackel. Feh! Fie upon it! I just eat the Special Darks and the Mr. Goodbars. Nothing else even matters. Not even the ridiculous, waxy, stomach-turning regular Hershey bars.

Only in America could we make something out of chocolate that no one likes.


My Kingdom for a Shredder

Thumbing through the— excuse me, attempting to thumb through The New Yorker or The Economist, my best attempts at quietly turning pages are often thwarted by a vile, vicious advertising technique: heavy paper stock.

Running my thumbnail along the edges of the pages to find my place doesn’t work anymore. I hit a heavy-stock ad and stumble, and 10, 15, who knows how many pages skip on past. I have to open the magazine at ad’s point of insertion. Then I rip out the offensive page in one swift stroke, crinkle it up and stuff it in my bag or pocket so I can drop it into a trash can (or burn it) later. Then I count over one by one to find my place.

Of course this is the point. They want the magazine to open to these pages. If the thing should drop, they want it naturally (or unnaturally) to fall open to their special place.

Subscription cards used to be the worst of it. Opening up a magazine, several would come flying out in all directions. They still do.

Surprise! Remember me? Subscribe to me!

I am often amused when people pick them up and hand them to me — as if I want the thing, as if it isn’t a blessing to be momentarily rid of it. But I have to take it, don’t I? Or face the shame of being a litterbug.

Sometimes I go through a magazine first thing and rip out all the crap and shake it upside down until the cards fall out. I curl the volume in my hands, undulating it this way and that, relishing its supple pliability. I marvel at the ability to open it to any page of my choosing at will. Then I read, uninterrupted, as I speed through New York City’s tunnels.

Do they think this insistence on presenting itself will embed the ad further into my subconscious? I hardly see how. The only reaction I seem to have is to silently but vehemently curse the advertiser and throw away the ad as soon as I can. A pox on you, Microsoft! Oh, no. Maybe they are sticking!


Death and … (Well, You Know…)

Three things are inevitable in this world. In order of difficulty: Death, taxes and the propensity for party guests to stain one’s rugs. (This, among other reasons, is why white carpet is a cardinal sin.)

Death… well, let’s not get into that right now.

And I am coping rather well, I think, with the recent news that I owe thousands of dollars to the governments of the United States and the state of New York. That’s the big news in my life, at present. I just did my taxes last night and accidentally opened an artery. Those paper cuts can be a bitch.

At this rate I’ll be serving government cheese and generic brand soda crackers at the Oscar Night gathering we’re planning for Sunday. It’s not a party, I hasten to clarify. It’s a very small gathering.

At an Easter party we threw last year — bloody marys and mimosas; boiled eggs, kielbasa and saurkraut — a few of our thirstier guests wreaked unintentional (i.e., drunken) havoc on our floors, spilling red wine or cranberry juice (or both — who brought the wine anyway?) on literally every rug in our apartment. The colors in our rugs run from beige to gold, gray to brown. Mostly neutral tones, except for a blue, white and gray rug in the bedroom. You don’t exactly need a map to hit the lighter, easy-to-stain areas, but our guests were a consistent lucky shot.

A tempest in my head roiled and sent electricity coursing up my spine every time I saw someone teetering this way and that, red wine or a strong cape cod sloshing dangerously close to the edge of his or her plastic cup.

I had been told that cold water and salt will usually lift the color out of a wine stain. So I got all Martha Stewart and managed get the stains out. I kept calm and maintained a good host’s smile — and, to a degree, conversation — while I flitted from spot to spot all night, liberally sprinkling Morton’s. (When it rains, it does indeed pour.) The rugs remained largely unspoiled, and I felt spiritually and emotionally purged. It was a triumph.

After that trauma, however, I think we’ll have white wine this time on Sunday. And white cranberry juice. (But I’ll have my spot remover, my yellow rubber gloves and a salt shaker at the ready, stashed behind the couch, anyway — just in case!)

the untallied hours