Monday, May 27, 2013

My Hometown Memorial Day Parade

The Annville Memorial Day parade featured a horse-drawn carriage hauling a coffin. My hometown can always be counted on to muster up some morbid exuberance in the name of America.

Little Dutchmen Annville Memorial Day Parade
The Little Dutchmen Rock Memorial Day Parade
The day kicked off in true Pennsylvania style. A flock of leathered up vetrans straddling spit-shined Harleys thundered down Main Street. Then came about a dozen floats bedecked with plastic garden of eden interpretations. Intrepid children perched on folding chairs while the wind smacked them in the face with artificial palm fronds. They held signs selling competing Summer Bible Camps. One of the more promotionally minded outfits had a rear guard handing out lollipops wrapped up in new testament advertisements. If child molesters are good for nothing else, obviously their victim recruitment strategies are worthy of emulation.

We got to see cocker spaniels up for adoption in a pick up truck, followed by a raucous mob of 4Hers whooping it up with a tractor sporting a "Born2Farm" license plate. Seventeen firetrucks, ambulances, the mayor in a corvette, the high school valedictorian and a brass band on a flatbed steel truck rolled past. Then came Fezz'ed out Shiners wedged into miniature cars honking their tiny bleating horns. Goddamn those Shiners are annoying.

Shriners Annville Memorial Day parade
Shriners honking at the Annville Memorial Day Parade.

My childhood friend's highly strung ex-husband marched past toting a banner advocating healthy living. He's now a highly strung medical professional. Back when he used to come around our neighborhood, my family started calling him "The Oven." 

In some unspoken familial pact, we always employed the third person while conversing with the guy: "What has The Oven been up to lately?" "Could I bring The Oven a deviled egg from the kitchen?" "I saw The Oven driving down Manheim Street in your convertible last week." I'm not going to take any credit for the eventual and contentious divorce, but no one in my family unit is anywhere near his favorite people short list.

After The Oven disappeared behind a Chevy bearing six non-winning Miss Pennsylvania contestants, my mother leaned over and informed me that Pop had lost his cell phone for a week. He was completely baffled where he had left it. Finally he found it buried beneath an economy pack of Dots in the center console of their Honda Odyssey mini-van.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Age before beauty is me on NJT

I would never pan out as Miss Subways. First, when it comes to locating MTA stations in Brooklyn, I can most often be found circling the block like a mad cow. Second, the contest ended in 1976. Third, and most gravely of all, I'm no ingenue with big dreams and coifage of any kind.

But if Miss New Jersey Transit were a contest of only strength and skill, I might have a slightly warm snowball's chance at a title. I can do a lot of pushups. I can also pull off the following:
  1. I know, and do not hesitate to take, the shortcut through the garbage tunnel in Penn Station.
  2. I can sit in exactly the right car to jump off the train 2-5 steps from the platform stairwell leading to the exact door to the street which is closest to my final destination. 
  3. I never, ever, get stuck in a seat facing backwards. Barf.
  4. I have long since overcome my curiosity about the chirping bird noises blaring from a single loudspeaker downstairs underneath the NJT departure board near the Krispy Kreme. (But seriously, WTF?)
My commuter craftsmanship stems from brutal repetition. If you do something fifty thousand times, you get good at it. I've been doing the NJT thing since 1998 when they told me I could no longer bum a ride in the Pfizer inter-office mail truck. I haven't gotten on the wrong train since... like... never. So color me shell shocked last week when I boarded the Trenton Local by mistake. 

I had leisurely ambled down the platform in Penn toting a gigantic and mediocre strawberry smoothie. The Midtown Direct to Dover was not scheduled to depart for a full 6 minutes. I stepped onto the train. And the doors closed behind me and we were off. Jesus Christ on a Bike. I was on the wrong train bound for unknown Jersey wetlands.

I flagged down the conductor and inquired how I might most promptly get myself off this train and onto the Dover line. With true good egg sincerity, he told me I could simply switch at Newark Broad Street, no worries. I settled down in a seat and observed the strange habits of commuters going somewhere different from where I wanted to go.

At last, we approached Newark Broad Street. I was not caught unawares. The conductor's voice boomed over the PA, "IF ANYONE HAS ACCIDENTALLY BOARDED THIS TRAIN AND NEEDS TO SWITCH TO THE DOVER LINE, GET OFF AT THIS STATION STOP.


Thank you, Mr. Conductor. My Miss NJT crown has now been publicly surrendered. Good luck, Miss June.