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.