Wednesday, September 20, 2017

It's a professional courtesy: Notes from the Atlantic City Half Iron Triathalon

Atlantic City Ironman -
map of the run part of the operation
Andy and I stand at the rope separating we spectators from the triathletes running by. We're waiting for Tom and Stacie to chug past. At this point in the race, the Ironman competitors already swam 1.2 miles, rode their bikes almost 57 miles and were about half done with a 13.1 mile run. It's hot in the sun. Most of the runners look some greyish shade of completely beat.

Andy gives me this weird look when all of a sudden I break out a really spirited whoop and shout, "Go David!"

He wants to know what just happened there and how I knew the random Ironman dude's name was David.

I say I just interviewed David for the podcast like last month. I knew exactly who he was because he had his company name emblazoned across his shirt and he looks exactly like his headshot. I tell Andy I sent David a LinkedIn invite and he never accepted it.

Andy pauses for a beat and then he says, "Instead of cheering, you should have yelled, "WHY DIDN'T YOU ACCEPT MY LINKEDIN INVITE?! IT'S A PROFESSIONAL COURTESY!"

I laughed and laughed.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Not Veganing

Andy says to me, "I always worry that you won't be able to find something on the menu that you can eat. But then you manage to order something gigantic." He eyes up the salad I could barely fit on the table. And I know he's thinking of these pretty huge eggplant rolls I put down at dinner yesterday.

"Yep," I say, through a mouthful of broccoli rabe. It's hard to chew broccoli rabe fast. You have to fletcherize."I'm excellent at hunting and gathering." I dig into my beans.

Just a quick sidebar for the uninformed who don't know what fletcherizing means. Your father clearly did not take it upon himself to regularly squawk about its importance. Fletcherizing just means to chew really thoroughly so you appreciate your dinner. I have no idea why or how my pop became so enamored by the idea of it. He's not exactly what I'd consider an epicurean.

Regardless of your capacity to fletcherize, it takes a lot of energy to do this no meat or dairy thing. Much of it involves procuring and preparing vast quantities of plants.

An insanely time-consuming meal I found on the internet.

I fritter away hours adding and subtracting nuts and berries and toting up milligrams of B12. I look up nutritional charts like I'm mining for gold. Or mining for calcium as the case may be. Who knew molasses was a power pack of essential minerals? The vegans knew, that's who. And they can fight all day about whether its high glycemic index outweighs the benefits.

Speaking of fisticuffs: Just so I don't get trolled mercilessly, I will state for the record that I am not a vegan. I'm a plant-based diet person. I recently learned that real vegans are all about the animals. They don't wear leather and they don't wear fur. I hardly qualify. I lasted about 45 seconds on the Vegan Subreddit before realizing that I'm actually a total fraud. But at least not as big a fraud as this guy:

Please note the part where the super vegan writes: "And I just looked at your instagram and see a bunch of disgusting meat. Stop lying."

OMG. Here is some dude posting in the vegan forum WHEN ON HIS INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT THERE ARE PICTURES OF BARBECUED FISH! How did he think he wouldn't be called out? The Vegans are thorough fact-checkers, give 'em that.

I read a business book that talked about a study showing vegans are 3x more prejudiced toward vegetarians as vegetarians are toward vegans. The reason for this is called the "Narcissism of small differences." Click on that link and you'll discover some other vegan who is onto this concept.

Here's the bottom line: I do not wish to join the vegan club, even if they'd have me which they would not. I despise being harassed by the holier than thou. For this exact same reason, if you must know, I've left all the Indivisible groups I was formerly a part of. I'll send money directly to candidates and write my own damn postcards, thank you very much.

Probably the best part about this plant-based thing are the insta-conversations with plant-based strangers. I mean a really zealous totally absorbing kinds of conversations. Topics are intense, for example:

  • things you can make out of cauliflower
  • scobies
  • The instant pot, the most amazing device ever
  • protein bars
  • hot sauce
  • magnesium
As an adorable footnote, I scanned this plant recipe Audrey made for me:

It's nice to get watercolored plant recipes on little cards from friends.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Big Night Out - Taking the water taxi to Brooklyn

First we went to the Crows Nest, that place on the East River behind the hospital. As we approached the restaurant, Tom said, "I see how this went down. They needed more seating and someone thought, 'hey, let's just jam a boat right up against the side here.'"

Very practical, I nodded. Very practical.

You go in the Crow's Nest and feel like you're in the cartoon part of Nantucket or something. The part of Nantucket where the interior designers only have a misty impression of what goes on in Nantucket, but joyfully barrel forward anyway. A checkered napkin, wood paneling, life rafts and ship steering wheels, astroturf, salsa and chips, lots of Russians attending a private cocktail party in spandex.

Astroturf adds a sportsy touch.

It was all good. Darcey and Kent were in town and we met up with Helen and Matt. Ancillary to seeing our awesome friends, I had a little revelation up there atop the Crow's Nest: I'm a raging tonic water snob. Bam, that happened fast. Once you get used to Fever Tree with your Kettle, please be advised that whatever the hell comes out of the squirter on the bar will not do. This constitutes a problem for me. I blame Matt.

Anyway, continuing our nautical theme, we went over to the East River water taxi. This is when my shoe fell apart. And when I say "fell apart," I mean "achieved supernova destruction."

This is what a real shoe problem looks like.
I now consider these shoes fully amortized. This pleases me, being a serial obsessive and all.  Ever since I began keeping track of my clothing cost per wear, I've realized the extreme subjectivity of the whole endeavor.  So many variables; so many opportunities for rabid overfitting. I appreciated the mathematical precision of the circumstance. Meanwhile my shoe slowly disintegrated into one of those ergonomic earth shoes.

The water taxi is an option not to be underestimated. You can order beer on the water taxi. I think some people were having a birthday party right there on the boat. I tossed a little piece of shoe up in the air in celebration.

We walked from the water taxi dock past a bespoke abandoned field in Williamsburg over to this Italian restaurant with a lot of cheese on the menu. After dinner and because it was like 1am at that point, we headed to the Bedford L stop. Helen and Matt veered off into this dive bar. Later, they encountered a parrot.

We went home so I could throw out my shoe and make a note in my ledger.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

The Flavor of Chocolate "Crick" Cookies

Jack on the 1st day of 4th Grade
Jack went with Grandma and Grandpa to the Insectarium in New Orleans. There's a cafeteria at the Insectarium. Jack ate a few chocolate "crick" cookies. As in, cookies made from crickets.

I asked Jack what the cricket cookies tasted like.

He tilted his head to the side and contemplated his answer:

"They tasted like regular cookies. With a hint of meat."

Monday, August 28, 2017

Hence the speed differential

Photo credit:

1 am in Greenwich Village:

On the sidewalk in front of us, the one pudgy short girl in very tight pants motored ahead of the other pudgy short girl in very tight pants. And when I say, "motored ahead" I mean in a relative kind of way. Tom and I just kind of strolled by the two of them.

We might have appeared nonchalant, but make no mistake, we were paying attention. There was drama.

The one in the back squawked at the one in the front, something about slowing down. I couldn't really hear so well. I was totally distracted by the frantic slapping of their strappy sandals on the sidewalk and my disbelief over how it was possible to move one's legs that rapidly and at the same time achieve such low velocity... I was astounded really. It was like watching hummingbirds. Hummingbirds from say Long Island.

The one in the front really started to pull away. But by then they were way behind us.

I asked Tom what was going on back there. He said, "The one in the front had to pee a lot more than the one in the back. Hence the speed differential."

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Jack and Ella's first game of Dungeons & Dragons

The twins, my niece and nephew, turned ten last Monday. I decided the big one zero was certainly old enough for Jack and Ella's first game of Dungeons & Dragons. 

We all were upstate for the week. My mom and pop, otherwise known as Grandma and Grandpa, rented a cottage in the woods near Lake Placid. I was full-on prepared to overcome long evenings with only dial-up DSL. We would go OG old school with dice and graph paper and photocopies.

No worries that I had not actually played D&D for something like 30 years. Being Dungeon Master was like riding a bike, right? 

It seemed frivolous to consider that nobody else besides me had ever actually played a game of D&D before. Tom and Grandma were in, and so were Jack and Ella. Grandma grabbed a piece of graph paper and said she’d draw the maps. Ella situated her iPad-mini on the table, at the ready to total up her gold pieces. I was pleased with the adventuring party.

First thing after reaching the Keep, our stalwart adventurers went into a tavern. Jack announced his character wasn’t allowed to sit at the bar because he’s not 18. Ella immediately retained two henchmen. She had rolled a high charisma and the party seriously needed some extra fighters after grandpa and my brother lamely showed zero interest in playing with us.

It took about ten minutes to figure out that being a dungeon master is not a whole lot like riding a bike. 

Mostly I just made shit up. Happily, I have not lost my flair for dramatic dice rolling. And I’m excellent at noisily pretending to consult one of the many manuals my mother recently dropped off at our house after declaring it was high time for all my old boxes of crap to not be in her basement. 

Stash of 1st edition D&D gear

The good news is my fast and loose DM’ing style went completely undetected. Nobody else had ever played D&D before. What did they know from saving throws? Turns out it’s kind of great to play with a party who totally believes you when you say that armor classes can vary from round to round for no particular reason, for example. 

It was magical.

Exploring the Caves of Chaos.
Our intrepid party of adventurers explores a dungeon. 

Pure awesomeness to watch the kids totally get into it. You could practically see their imaginations sizzling as they puzzled out mysteries and decided what to do next to rescue their own sorry asses from the pickle they got themselves in. Occasionally Tom took charge when he “just couldn’t take it anymore” but in general, the kids endeavored to lead the party. 

Grandma contributed a few excellent suggestions and prevented the execution of some very bad ideas. She also was the only one who brought along enough food when the gang headed out to the Caves of Chaos. She cooked dinner at the campsite. Some things don’t change much no matter what world you’re in.

After their first outing to their first dungeon, the party returns to the Keep. 

Ella is too cheap to pay two silver pieces for her henchmen to stay overnight at the inn. She announces "my two henchmen will just sleep with me in my room."

Grandma says, “Absolutely not. No henchmen upstairs in your room.” 

Some things don’t change much no matter what world you’re in. 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

July at the Furriers

The sun boiled the city in a pot of July humidity. Meanwhile, I decided it would be the perfect morning to lug one of Grammy’s fur coat uptown to get the pockets and lining fixed. I Yelped like a mofo and meticulously determined the finest establishment to perform the fur surgery. 

The furgery, if you will. 

I wrapped the coat in a garment bag and slogged up to a place on 30th, in the heart of what’s left of the fur district.

Both my dad’s grandfathers were furriers who had shops on 28th street. And my grandfather was a furrier manufacturer, whatever that entails exactly. His place was on 23rd. This is what I told the fur store owner after I managed to get inside his establishment. Apparently I really suck at noticing doorbells and signs saying you have to ring to enter, no matter how large they are.

We discussed the coat I’d brought in, made by Louie, my dad’s dad’s dad. For at least the first half of my life, I would have told you it was made of “pushin.” I can hear my grandfather’s voice talking about the “pushins” his father made for the family. 

At some point, I’m sure in an embarrassing incident that I blocked from my memory, I learned that “pushin” is how you say “persian lamb” when you’re in the fur business and your Bronx accent is as thick as a third rail. I can just imagine the moment I learned this factoid: Me, discussing fur coats... “well you have your minks, your foxes, your pushins…”

When Grandpa Louie made a coat for you, he sewed your name in the lining:

Grammy's name embroidered in the lining
of a fur coat made by Grandpa Louie 

I took the coat out of the bag and I showed the fur store owner Grammy’s name in the lining. He said it was a “Persian Stroller” from the late 40’s early 50’s. He said it was beautiful. I think he meant it. He only charged me a crumpled 20 for all the repair work needed. 

I sat down in the owner’s desk chair while he wrote up the ticket. He asked my great-grandfathers’ names. When I said Frimmer, he said, “That’s a very old name.” He mused a little and then said he might have heard of Louie. I said Louie had a heart attack and died on 28th street coming out of the subway in 1970. The owner said he opened up his shop in 1976, originally on 28th street. All the fur stores moved from 28th when they tore down the old buildings to build FIT.

Louie used tinfoil to get as tan as possible.
Once he took a road trip to the south
and was refused service
at white-people counters.
He did other things that might very well have
earned him a reputation still going strong
years after his death.

The owner told me his fur store is like Switzerland. “Everybody comes here,” he said. “We have your CEOs and your rappers and your drug dealers and your mobsters. We never have any trouble. You got Fortune 50 coming in the door and 50 Cent going out the door. And no trouble in here.”

I smiled. That sort of, but not really, explained the thin black man in a beige baseball-ish cap sitting at a round lunch table nearby type type typing on a Mac Titanium laptop. At one point, the man told me I was welcome to take a seat while I waited my turn. Beyond that, the man didn’t say anything to anybody and nobody said anything to him. He had the complexion and lankiness of Snoop Dog. But he was dressed in Burberry. With a beige cap. It looked a lot like those caps that shield your brain from wifi electricity and don’t show up in infrared surveillance. I know all about these from the Hansel and Gretel exhibit we saw on Friday.

“One time,” the fur shop owner told me, “I got taken by a string of bad credit cards. So I called up a customer of mine— he might have run a credit card forging operation. The next day, this customer comes in and he gives me a lesson on how you forge credit cards and what you just can’t duplicate. It was these little indentations. On the real credit cards, the indentations were on both sides. But even the best fakes only had one indentation on one side.”

“No kidding,” I said.

“I kid you not,” replied the owner. “I knew exactly what to look for after that. And when a fraud came in, I’d go, “Gimme a real credit card why don’t you. 

But then, do you believe it, the credit card companies decided to save shekel and they got rid of the two-sided indentations. My customer was overjoyed, he was. Those were salad days for him. But he got caught eventually.”

“That’s some tough luck,” I said. 

The owner asked if I wanted to get the coat cleaned, he recommended it. And then he typed in my address and phone number and I gave him my credit card to pay for the cleaning. He said I didn’t have to sign the credit card slip because he trusted me. He said after all these years he knows a person he can trust with a credit card.

I grinned analytically.

True, he had my Grandmother’s fur coat to hold as ransom should it come to that. Then again, I am the kid of a kid of a 28th Street furrier. If I can’t get some street cred for that in the fur district, this world is surely going to hell in a hand basket.

“The Jews, we weren’t given anything when we came here,” the fur store owner continued. “We never would have come to this country if it was then like it is today. We liked to work with our hands. We liked to make things…. We made furs and clothes and we did carpentry... Now all these jobs are in China and there’s no money in them. Entry level is McDonalds. You don’t learn a skill at McDonalds. You aren’t an apprentice learning a skill at McDonalds.”

After that the fur store owner waxed a little poetic about welfare and gaming the system. I got to use "sechel" in a sentence.

By the time I left, it was way after lunchtime.