Sunday, June 18, 2017

Marcy who are these clowns?

It was Rachel, Rafael, Tom and I, minding our own business over at Karin and Ronnie's. Suddenly, Karin's phone beeps. It's her work phone, weird that someone is trying to reach her on a Saturday night. 

Here's the text she got:

The text Karin got on her work phone at 7:13 PM Saturday night.

Karin has no idea who any of these sassy ladies are. What a puzzle. 

We make some deductions. Clearly, the gal pals have gone away for the weekend. And one of them has texted photos to a wrong number.

Tom checks the metadata on the photos, as you do, if you're Tom. We feel our suspicions are confirmed. The photos were taken and sent from a resort in Florida:

The Metadata on the photos reveals the photos
were taken at a resort in Florida.

We are woebegone with envy. Here are these ladies whooping it up poolside, while we are indoors because it's freezing and pounding rain in New York.

Someone has a great idea. We should re-enact the photos. Is it even possible to re-enact poolside photos in an apartment on the Upper West Side? Challenge accepted:

Our re-enactment of the poolside photos,
in an apartment on the Upper West Side.
We send the re-enacted photos back to the wrong-number lady, along with a nice note to enjoy her vacation.

We get a response!!!!

Response to our re-enactment. Rafael translates.

"Marcy, who are these clowns?"

Now the question becomes... when will our wrong-number lady figure out that she is not sending vacation photos to her friend Marcy? What will her facial expression be when she realizes? Can we re-enact?

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Very fancy in Carnegie hall

When I go to Carnegie Hall, I like to dress the part. I take my Grammy’s mink from the back of the closet. Sometimes I find a hat. Definitely a vintage velvet handbag. It’s hectic to pull this kind of finery together on such short notice, but you can only get the $4 rush tickets a couple hours before showtime. Also, comfortable footwear is a must, given the endless and dizzying staircase up to the nosebleed section. 

I like it up there. The musicians on stage are several miles away, but you’re really close to the ceiling. Plaster artisans back in the day had some kind of attention to detail. 

The stage at Carnegie Hall from the nosebleed seats.

Most lately, we were up there with Kent and Darcey before they left town. We settled into our red velvet seats, bathed in the cavernous golden glow of the place, occasionally brushed by a crystal from one of the massive chandeliers dangling just overhead. 

The gorgeous chandeliers in Carnegie Hall.
So close, you can practically touch 'em.

The music starts. Soaring orchestral harmonies that slither and braid every air molecule. My favorite musician is always the timpani player. It’s usually a guy with glasses who looks like Kenneth from 30 Rock. He stands back there, counting in his head. The three notes he plays all night are the best of the evening. Boomchackalacka. Whoot whoot! We all clap wildly.

At the intermission, a woman who looks like an artistic quilter approaches. Meanwhile, the four of us are very engaged with the whole idea of being in Carnegie hall under the twinkly lights. The woman beelines for Tom and says, “Just so you know, you don’t clap between the movements. Some might consider it embarrassing.” Tom thanks her. She strides off.

We all look at each other. I wonder why Tom was selected as the target recipient. Does he look like the one most open to constructive criticism? Or was he just the tallest and most obvious? We discuss.

The lights dim. The music begins again. A movement ends. Everyone up in our sky-high section— the families with the six kids, the workers who just got off their 11-7 shifts, the rows and rows of people who paid for their tickets with crumpled dollar bills and shorted their grocery spending to afford it—   

Everyone up there with us in the nosebleeds applauds with great fervor and heart-felt emotion. This is clearly not the right section for those who know how to properly enjoy the symphony.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

On the List of Things Not to Do Again

This weekend I learned a valuable life skill. If your parents give you birthday gift that happens to be compost-pile related, it's the not the best idea to leave it in the car for three days. 

A bag of cow shit tied with a festive ribbon.

But seriously, what girl doesn't love some fresh cow shit to sprinkle on compost? Thanks, Mom and Dad! ❤️

Guest Post by my Pop: The Traffic Stop

My dad was out riding his bicycle and he got pulled over by the cops. Here's his account of the incident:

I was biking south on winding Sandbridge Road in Virginia Beach last week.  The road was being prepared for a much needed repaving and the construction crews had milled about .7 mile section of the road creating a surface a Paris-Roubouix bike racer would find challenging.  

The milled area was far worse on the edges where the grooves were deeper.  Though there were smooth spots where car wheels had worn down portions through the travel lanes.  I escaped the first section of creases by riding a multi-use lane that more or less paralleled Sandbridge Road.  The multi-use lane, as many do, abruptly ended forcing me out on to the milled roadway.  

I now had a choice to ride the side of the road with strewn gravel and deep milled  ridges or take the far smoother, cleaner travel lane flattened surface. The road is heavily traveled and I felt I was far safer in the travel lane than navigating a treacherous, uneven surface on the edges only a few feet from passing vehicles where a slip could be fatal. With only about .2 miles until the milling ended, I opted to ride the travel lane.

It was at that moment a northbound Virginia Beach police cruiser saw me with several cars behind me, all, I might add, being quite patient.

The police seizing the moment made a U-turn with lights flashing came up behind me. I saw the patrol car and thought they wanted to pass me in pursuit of a speeder or a real criminal but to my surprise they were after me!  

I moved off the road on to the grass. At this point, I was passed the milled surface, and had already moved to the right.  The cars behind me had gone on, so as i pulled over the only car i was impeding was the police car who chose to ride directly behind my bicycle. Both car doors swung open and out popped two officers.

Officer#1, who did 99% of the talking, “Do you know why I stopped you?”  

Me, puzzled, “No.”

Officer#1 “You were blocking traffic. You must bike on the right side of the road.”  

And, obviously not block traffic.  The reality is I was blocking traffic for less than a minute (Traveling at 15 mph over .2 miles would take 48 seconds). 

I wondered if everybody else who blocked traffic for 48 seconds was being pulled over— somebody backing out of a driveway?  Any motor vehicle being driven significantly under the speed limit on a winding road?

I was told that I probably didn’t know Virginia law, but it requires all bikers to ride to the far right of the road.  I thought, “I don’t think you know Virginia bicycling law.”  But I kept my mouth shut and remained smilingly polite. I didn’t believe this was going any place beyond a firm fatherly lecture.

Officer#1 proceeded to tell me the road is bad and if I blocked traffic an irate motorist might make my life miserable. He intimated I find another route.  There are no other routes into Sandbridge. 
He patriotically noted this was America and I could ultimately do what I wanted but if I blocked traffic again I would be issued a citation.

I told him I was staying in Sandbridge and had to travel this road. I thought , “It would be nice if during the repaving they added shoulders to make this inhospitable road a bit safer for biking or walking.”

Officer#2 suggested I stick to riding the roads in Sandbridge (about a 15 mile loop); ignorant of how far I wanted to bike or if my bike trip was to get a prescription or to see my ailing mother.

Both officers were polite and professional through the whole road stop and then when I started to cycle away they protected my back for a time before they turned off.  I thought I’d get an escort all the way into Sandbridge. I made it the rest of the way (2-3 miles) on my own without any more police stops or overtly irate drivers.

Giving the police the benefit of the doubt that they were worried about my well-being and not having some fun before their shift ended they still did not know Virginia bike law. Unfortunately, they are not unusual as many officers who know lots of other laws do not have a firm grasp of bicycle laws.  Their ignorance could have caused me to be injured or worse if i would have had to follow their orders.

Virginia Law:
Bicyclists operating a bicycle on a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place under conditions then existing shall ride as close as safely practicable to the right curb or edge of roadwayExceptions to this are when bicyclists are overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction, preparing for a left turn, avoiding unsafe conditions

Granted I’m not a lawyer or a policeman but the law in my reading and checking with more knowledgeable people  seems clear:  In deciding how far right to go, safety is the main issue.  The VA Beach police never asked why I was where I was.  

The use of  “practicable” in bicycle law does not mean possible, but rather as far as is safe.  As such, bikers’ safety comes up multiple times (note the summary law quote above).  Thus, the question is really who decides how far right a biker could go and be safe?   

State laws vary, but one fact remains  important—bikers have the right to the road, and with that comes the right to make decisions about their safety.  So who decides how close to the edge is safe? The bicycle riders do, after all it is their well being.  Although their decision needs to be reasonable.  Avoiding deeply cut grooves, an uneven surface and large gravel pieces seems to be reasonable to avoid .   I would have hoped my safety is worth 48 seconds of someone’s time.

As for the police, giving them all the benefits of doubt as to why the stop was made, their ignorance might well have jeopardized my life.  Perhaps the Virginia Beach Police Department needs an in-service on bicycle law.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Our Trip to Havana - Jenna Style

Just got back from dodging babies on the streets of Havana. It's not a sight I'm accustomed to, toddlers striding purposefully down the sidewalk that close to midnight. Some are off to the ice cream shop. You have to hold the door because these shorties can't reach the handle. It's easy though. You just pull open the door and they saunter right under your arm. 

Don't get me wrong, it's not like munchkin city. But once you say "excuse me" to a member of the under-5 set like you'd say "excuse me" to any fellow pedestrian you almost tripped over, your worldview scrambles just a little bit.

We were very busy in Cuba, and I mean even beyond Mission Mojito, which I think we won.

Upon arrival at our Air BnB, I spotted a thick packet of papers tucked between some magazines on an end table. It was a print-out of a Powerpoint presentation, clearly left by someone who stayed in our room before us. The Powerpoint detailed a very, very, very comprehensive Havana itinerary. Upon further contemplation, it struck me as odd that the print-out had no business-class report cover or binding-- only one sad staple, upper left. 

I mean, seriously. Check out this cover art:

The Cover of the Cuba Deck left in our Air BnB

Realization: This must be the back-up copy. No way the serial obsessive who pulled together this caliber of a powerpoint masterpiece would forget to pack up something this pivotal and accidentally leave it behind. She'd have picked up the oversight in her ten-point departure checklist.

Generally, persons exhibiting this kind of thoroughness cause me to pass out from lack of oxygen, but I grew to love this person, we'll call her Jenna because that's actually her name. When stalking someone's itinerary with the diligence that we ultimately applied to the effort, there's a great chance you'll run across a name. Or you can pump Claudia, the walking tour guide, for the info.

Hot Tip: If you show up in Cuba with no real plan, be sure that Jenna has stayed in your room just prior to you and left behind the back-up copy of her 20-page Cuba Power Point Deck, complete with maps, phone numbers and instructions for what to do in case of emergency.

It was nice to recall what our Air BnB looked like before
Tom hung his running underpants up to dry.

These maps were an excellent add, Thanks Jenna!

Another geo-location angle. Air BnB is spelled wrong though.
Two points to Tom for noticing and HA HA HA gotcha on that detail, Jenna.

We were not on this flight.

Jenna had planned a busy first day with a walking tour, salsa lessons and dinner at a fancy restaurant. I could only get the restaurant reservations a few days later and the walking tour guide could only fit us in the next day.
We decided against the salsa lessons in favor of more mojitos.

If only we'd gotten our hands on Jenna's itinerary before we left stateside, we could have saved ourselves $3 a minute making arrangements. We also might have learned ahead of time that you can't bargain with the taxi driver after you're already in the taxi.

Each day's itinerary was followed by several pages of handy maps.
I love a handy map.

We were unable to get a reservation at El Coccinero. What a pisser.
We did not take the *potential car ride* because we were unclear as to the purpose or destination.
Luckily, there were mojitos.

Google driving directions are a nice touch.

Close up of the destination, the intriguing Factory of Art.
If I understood Spanish, I would have had a fighting chance of understanding
the performance with the men in leprechaun masks. But I kind of doubt it.

We did a few things on our own because we're not total stalkers who can't be left to our devices for one afternoon. We went to Hotel Nacional and attempted to get onto the roof deck, for example. We took the elevator the whole way to the top floor and wandered down a corridor of guest rooms asking the maids how to get on the roof.

Turns out, there is no roof deck at the Hotel Nacional.

I sort of blame Jenna for not going there and printing out a map of the available amenities. I mean, everybody knows the place is a landmark, for chrissake.

I felt more secure knowing where the embassy was located.

We were not on this flight.

We debated possibly heading over to Jenna's college friend Dave's place in Miami.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Say what? (English Language Conversation Hour, Part 2)

Last week at English Language Conversation Hour, a lovely twenty-something from Puerto Rico was in my group. She said she was having trouble with a word. I said hit me with it.

“Bitch,” she said, enunciating very clearly.
“Mmm, I think you got it,” I replied.
“No, no,” she said kind of frantically. “I don’t mean bitch. I mean like ‘It’s really hot today so I was thinking of grabbing my bathing suit and my sand bucket and heading to the bitch.’”

We spent about ten minutes of me saying “BEEEEEETCH” and her replying “BIIIIIITCH.”

Finally, I suggested she might want to skip 'the bitch' and just go with 'the shore.’ Discretion is the better part of valor and there are worse things than sounding like you’re from jersey. 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

A Tale of Three Rats in the City

So what's new with you, Rat?

At Uncle Bob’s birthday dinner, someone asked what was new with me, and I said I’d just seen a remarkably huge rat galloping down 51st street. The rat swerved out of a garage, covered some quick ground and vanished through a hole under the door to someone’s office. It was the size of a herd animal, this rat. It was big enough to harness up and plow a field, which could have major implications for sustainable micro-farming. 

Because the family is generally okay with inappropriate dinner conversation, Sue remarked with some remorse that she didn’t recall any personal incidents involving a rat. Not to worry, I have plenty. My all-time favorite was the one in the 2nd Avenue F-train stop. 

We looked down the subway tunnel and saw a newspaper billowing in the air, coming toward us. Odd, because there was no wind. At all. It was one of those sultry nights where the still air becomes a Petri dish and the smells of the lower east side blossom into their full glory.

Anyway, this flapping and billowing newspaper got closer and closer. Finally, we saw the rat. A rat had a corner of the newspaper clamped between its tiny jaws. It was hauling ass down the tracks like some kind of zealot charging into battle in the name of the NY Post. 

How interesting, nodded everyone around the dinner table. Mark buttered himself another piece of soda bread.

But wait, there’s one more really good one. Last fall, Tom and I were walking up 7th Avenue. Sprawled in the middle of the sidewalk was a rat. The rat was dead. And someone had, with great care, placed a blue baseball cap upon the rat’s head. It was one of those things you stumble upon (literally) and like five blocks later it occurs to you how peculiar it was. 

Sunday, March 05, 2017

We make good on Xmas Gifts-- Taking the Niece and Nephews to the Lion King

Ella wasn’t hungry and Jack said he would only eat a hotdog. Only a hotdog. Mark was hungry and so was Tom but Seth and Mary were not hungry. So we canceled our lunch reservation at the place across the street and walked to the closest hotdog joint - Chelsea Papaya. 

In a wild coincidence, Chelsea Papaya occupies the exact former location of my grandfather’s furrier manufacturer business. So we felt right at home, even though the furrier manufacturers lost their lease sometime prior to 1950. We ordered a vat of deep fried nitrates. Turned out, Jack didn’t want a hotdog at Chelsea Papaya. He wanted a dirty dog from a midtown food truck. 

At the bar table by the window, Uncle Tom played a fun game called “talking about the tourists on the sidewalk but not pointing at them.” It’s harder than you’d think. With no need to waste valuate time eating anything, Jack practiced holstering his finger for the duration of our stay. Unfortunately, he takes after Grandma Tan in the finger department, so he needed the extra time.

Holster that finger!
At Chelsea Papaya.

Back out on the sidewalk, it took us something like two hours to walk 20 blocks to the Lion King. We stopped eight or fourteen times for bathroom breaks, water, tea, coffee, a bag of nuts, M&Ms, a small amount of fruit from a fruit bar and a greeting card. I only bought the greeting card because we were waiting for Jack to pee in Whole Foods and I knew we were looking at logistical and distance delays. Finally, Jack got his dirty dog on the corner of 40th and 7th Avenue. I’m sure it was delicious.

The Lion King is a big show. Big. The kids didn’t know what to do with their eyeballs. Red damask wall paper, red carpet, chandeliers, high ceilings, windows overlooking Time Square, a huge huge curtain across a massive stage. An orchestra with a conductor. Drums in alcove in the wall. 

Row H at the Lion King. Great Seats!

Row G at the Lion King. Great Seats!

Despite Jack’s tiny hieny, he took full advantage of his entire seat. Cheeks to the left, to the right, up, down, two bounces. Repeat. 

Ella stuck her face between the seats in front of us. Luckily a little kid was up there so she didn’t breath on anyone’s neck.

Meanwhile, I was at full medical alert. If the lights flashed, I needed to slam my palm across Jack’s face. I hope the people sitting next to us knew Jack had a concussion. Otherwise they probably wondered why every now and then my nephew found himself in a headlock. There were a number of unnecessary pre-emptive strikes. This may or may not have caused my occasional attacks to appear random and very odd.

As we were walking out, I asked Jack what he thought of the show. He was mostly fixated on the standing ovation. Uncle Tom asked Ella what part she would play, if she could play any part in the performance. She said she’d like to be a plant. Mark kept his thoughts to himself. He’s almost a pre-teen.