Friday, May 26, 2006

Vintage Chik-Fil-A

I'm re-reading "Forced Feedings" (1979) by Maxine Herman:
In the blissfully self-sufficient circles in which I travel, knowing someone's last name or where he grew up, or getting a slight tinge of angst if you know he's been sleeping with another woman, or--and this is the sure-fire sign of the overly dependent personality--wanting to set up a specific time and place and date to meet again, to do this with conscious planning and IN ADVANCE, well, these we know are the machinations of someone who is out of control, perhaps in need of hospitalization.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Martian Earphones

Those blue things that look like neon prosthetic devices are custom-made earbuds.

About a month ago I went to the audiologist for a hearing test. I found out I have "Freebird," a mild age-related hearing disorder caused by spending your youth in concert arenas yelling "Freebird!" The audiologist, a woman about my age, could identify with my quest for good iPod headphones. The earbuds that come with the iPod fall out of my ears if I even blink, and the over-the-head earphones are the most adjustable but cumbersome in the winter when you're wearing a hat.

She took an impression of my ears for the earbuds. They're made by the same company that makes custom-made earplugs for swimmers. She was very enthusiastic about them; so much so that I'm wary of a possible sideline business on her part.

I picked them up today and was very impressed. They blocked a lot of the ambient noise and shot warm, thumping base sound directly through the little holes. The doctor showed me how to put them in, and I finally got the hang of it after I figured out it was like giving Ashley the drops in her ears last Summer: You lift the top of the ear and then stick it in the hole.

I listened happily to a playlist of '80s synth pop as the bus crossed the park. Then, suddenly, my left ear began to itch. Badly. I took the earbud out, and it stopped. I wrangled it back in again, and the itching started again. I took it out and rubbed my ear, which was becoming sticky, and it stopped. In, out, in, out.

So I got home and left a message for the doctor, who had left for the day. She will call me back tomorrow. It's not an emergency, since it only itches when these (expensive) custom-made earbuds are in. So the only emergency operation I would need would be an "Oh God, I just bought something expensive and non-refundable, dammit"-ectomy.

It's unlikely that the itching is being caused by an allergy to rubber. I don't even know if the damn things are made of rubber. And why would just my left ear be allergic? There probably is a simple explanation for this phenomenon, and until I get it, it's back to the over-the-head phones.

Update: Okay, I spoke to the doc, and just as I had thought, the ear buds are made of silicone, not rubber. The material is supposedly hypoallergenic and is used in hearing aids for little old delicate people, who have no trouble with them. So we've narrowed it down to either the blue dye or the lubricant the doctor used to insert the ear buds the first time. (And hey, don't we all need a little lubricant the first time?)

But she did go through the trouble of ordering a pair of clear-colored ones for me to see if it's the dye. And good old alcohol will clean any lubricating product off the blue ones. So either I will end up with yet two more sets of iPod earphones that I cannot use, or they can just attach a hearing aid to one of them someday when I go deaf from all the loud music.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Fuming Mad

I love Discardian, but I get the feeling that her aversion to ashtrays is a political one. And I say that as an of yesterday, two years.

Smoking has become the last vice that's politically correct to attack. Alcoholics and drug addicts have a "disease." Smokers are just inconsiderate schmucks who want to kill everybody and who probably voted for Bush. (Heck least not this ex-smoker.)

I started smoking when I was in my late teens, for some of the usual reasons: Something to do with my hands while I was hanging out after school, usually with other smokers. Then once I got hooked, I didn't quit because I was afraid to.

My friend Alene said in this comment a year ago that when she was a smoker as a very young woman, her friend's mother had told her, "You don't need that cigarette." I had been told that by several people, and I'm not even talking about the ones who acted morally superior about their lack of a smoking habit. I'm talking about people who were stating it as a fact. And I would always reply, "Yes I do. You don't know what I'd be like without it."

And the thing was, I wasn't being glib or trying to shrug them off so that I could suck away at my stick of chemicals. I was stating it as a fact, too! You don't know what I'd be like without this. If you think I'm difficult now, you would flee in terror from me without my fix. I would be the 50-Foot Woman, I would be Godzilla trampling Tokyo. An obese, screaming, red-faced and sweating bitch, I would be stomping down the street with a piece of Entenmann's in each hand, a colossus of inappropriate emotions.

But when I finally made the choice to quit, I did it cold turkey, and I had to reach the point where I told myself, "No matter what you feel, no matter how you act, even if you end up in a loony bin, even if you alienate everyone you've ever known, even if you God forbid gain weight, you will not light a cigarette."

Well, my weight's gone up and down since then. Ironically, it went down first, but I was very active at the time. Then up a bit around the holidays, but it always had even when I was smoking a pack a day. And I did alienate people, but I was alienating the same people before. They were alienated people. And since I couldn't suck back my anger at them, I had to learn how to deal with it. And I learned that they were wrong, and that I was somebody who could deal.

So smoking may be the last incorrect vice, but it was only through being willing to risk incorrectness that I came out the other side. And I'm still working at clearing up some of the fumes that hold nice girls back, especially when those restraints that keep us safe can have deadly consequences. I had CT scans last year and I'm having another one this week. Nothing life-threatening was picked up, thank God. But some damage cannot be picked up by any scan except the one within your mind.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Adventures of Johnny One-Door

I ordered a new hardwood wardrobe cabinet a couple of weeks ago, and today it's sitting comfortably in a corner of the bedroom. Well, three-quarters of it is.

When I got up this morning, it looked for a minute as if none of it was going to be delivered, since the furniture truck would have to make it through the annual multi-block street fair ("Oh my God, it's today?".) We called the furniture place, and the guy said he couldn't reschedule unless the drivers called him to say they can't get through.

"Well, when would that be?"

"When they try to get there and can't."

"But what time? A number!"

"I don't know." But he did know we were the fifth delivery, so that gave us a little leeway. A quick recon of the neighborhood showed that the street around the corner was open, and a quick sniff of soy candles at one of the street fair booths showed that soy candles are going to be big at street fairs this Summer.

At one on the dot, just as we'd emptied tons of my worldly goods out of the old closet, a couple of Peruvian guys showed up with the new closet, which they'd wheeled through the crowd outside. But when they got it upstairs and peeled off the cardboard wrapper, we discovered that one of the doors had a big crack down the middle.

I called the furniture store guy, who apologized profusely. Fortunately, they didn't have to take the whole thing back; just the door. We'll have a new, uncracked door in about a week. And for a handsome remuneration, the delivery guys took the old closet out back.

So now I keep lying on the bed looking at the naked contents of my closet, micro-managed to the millimeter as all New Yorkers' closets are, and I keep seeing more stuff I can get rid of.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Kewl Post About Badfinger

Complete with video, at Sippican Cottage:

And when you've got the Beatles helping you out -- at least the ones not named John Lennon, who thought you too, well, unserious -- you're likely to do OK. It doesn't hurt to have Paul McCartney singing back-up on your songs, like this one, (knock down the old grey wall) and George Harrison and his friends playing on your others.

Thirty-five years ago, simple, lyrical, happy, glittering pop used to come out of the radio every few minutes, like No Matter What. It didn't save the world, or grant any inner peace or enlightenment, it didn't rage against the... well, let's just say, there was no rage in it at all. It was fun and vibrant, harmless and marvelous.

A great book on that era is "Precious and Few: Pop Music of the Early '70s."

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Mechanisms Are in Place

On Marc Cooper's blog the other day, folks were kicking around that over-generalized chestnut, "The Anti-War Left." To the right-wingers, it's anyone to the left of themselves. To moderates and liberals, that's the folks who've been organizing the anti-war rallies for the past three years.

I'm one of those people who had no complaints about the Iraq invasion at the beginning: I figured, so we'll get Saddam the way Daddy Bush nabbed Noreiga and be out in a month. But even as things began to evolve in quite a different direction, I still had reservations about marching in the demonstrations here in NYC. Rather than go into detail about why, read this cartoon of Peter Bagge's.

So why is it that seeming nutjobs are in charge of something very serious? It's because during the '90s, while we moderates/liberals/libertarians were grooving along to relative peacetime in the Clinton economy, the people at the fringes of the left and right kept manning whatever barricades they could get their hands on, getting the permits and organizing the troops. They had the mechanisms firmly in place, so in a time of crisis, when more mainstream people were looking for an outlet, they had one to provide.

The whole thing reminds me of another area and another experience. When my husband's cancer was first diagnosed a couple of years ago, the holy-roller cousin of a good friend announced that she would pray for him. This sentiment was also expressed by less sanctimonious friends, and welcomed by us. But while the holy-roller was somebody we would have ordinarily avoided during normal times, during that particular crisis I somehow had this idea that her prayers would carry more weight with the Almighty than the improvised amalgam of my Judeo-Catholic upbringing and some mumbo-jumbo I picked up when I was learning to read tarot cards in high school. I figured she had the mechanisms in place.

Jim went for the set-up for his radiation treatments yesterday. They spend a couple of hours positioning you and marking you so that they know where to shoot the rays that will kill the invader without killing you. So the mechanisms are in place for that, too.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Eye in the Sky

Although I'm wary about the implications of this NSA thing for pretty much the reason this guy states, I'd have to crack up if I saw David Horsey's rendition of Dubya's head looming above Times Square. It would remind me too much of this scene from Woody Allen's portion of New York Stories.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Out, Out, Damned Spots!

About a year ago, I wrote about my husband Jim surviving lung cancer, after two surgeries, some chemo, and enough radiation to kill Godzilla. His scans were clean for a year and a half.

A couple of weeks ago, his CT scan showed that a "suspicious" spot on his left hip that the doctors have been following right from the beginning had grown, and that there was a new suspicious spot nearby. A biopsy last week confirmed a couple of metastases: Lung cancer that had traveled through the bloodstream to the hipbone and set up shop there. A PET scan today showed another two tiny spots nearby.

Fortunately, there was no sign of any other suspicious activity anywhere else..and you wouldn't believe where this stuff can go.

Jim's going to meet with a radiation oncologist on Friday and discuss treatment options. Radiation was near-miraculous at clearing up multiple brain mets for him a couple of years ago, so he's got a good track record with that treatment. His regular oncologist also discussed the possibility of more chemo. Never a fun thing, but it may have kept that suspicious spot dormant for the past year and a half.

So if you're reading this, please say a prayer, do a chant, and, oh yeah, join an advocacy group.


Half-Century Modern

Lileks talks about his house:

this is a house of right angles, as befits the style of the time. Mission, Arts & Crafts, whatever you wish to call it. I know some people expect me to live in a jet-age 50s-style joint, and believe me, I’d love to. But I would feel compelled to walk around in a bowling shirt with black-framed glasses, listening to Esquival, and that would feel like 24/7 dress-up.

I know what he means. If I were living in one of those white high-rises built in the same era as the motels on these postcards, I would feel compelled to go around the house dressed like Laura Petrie, and do the cha-cha while I vacuumed. But that would be silly. I never vacuum.

One thing I've found with this apartment re-do is, you have to design for the type of place you have. I would love to have those low-slung Danish Modern pieces, those coffee tables shaped like kidneys. But our place is tall and narrow.

When I first got out of school and was looking for a place in the City, I wanted to live in one of those pre-WWII luxury buildings on the Upper West Side. This was before gentrification made those buildings co-op and spectacularly unaffordable. But in the late 1970's, most of them were rentals, and rent-stabilized. Some even had rent-controlled tenants who had moved in well before 1968, when rent-control laws were abolished.

In the pre-yuppie West Side, you basically had two types of tenants in those places:

1. Older people who had been there since World War Two;

2. Half a dozen young people sharing a two-bedroom apartment.

So I would go to the home of a scene partner from acting class, and she would greet me with, "Oh this is Steve, and Heather, and Wendy, and Bob, and there's another guy Michael but he's waitering tonight, and this is my room, I have the dining alcove."

As attached as I was to my fantasy of big-roomed, high-ceilinged grandeur, I was turned off by the idea of being the seventh roommate. And the alternative was to wait for one of the elderly tenants to die, but that wouldn't have done any good anyway because the apartment would have been taken off rent control and raised to Fair Market Value.

If I did live in one of those places, though, I would have had French and English Country antiques; furniture that had weight and heft and looked as if it belonged to people who had studies. We didn't have studies in Queens. You studied for the Civil Service Test.

But something eventually opened up in the West Village, even if I regarded the place as a stopgap that I'd be in for a year instead of a place I'm still occupying. In fact, to the twenty year olds visiting some of the newer tenants in the building, we're the old people who have been living there since World War Two.

I had been ashamed, at first, to say that I lived in a tenement. If you weren't living in a high-rise, the only other place to have lived back then was in a brownstone, preferably with an Exposed Brick Wall and a Wood-Burning Fireplace. Tenements were for losers who couldn't afford brownstones. But a couple of years after I moved in, New York crawled out of a recession and into a real estate boom, and even a tenement became a hot property. In fact, many had been built to last and have fewer violations than some of the high-rises that were thrown up virtually overnight, to house a lot of kids with more money than sense who came here to make a killing on Wall Street.

I'd recommitted to this place a couple of times already: Once in 1984, when I said to myself that this is probably where I'm going to live until I'm either incredibly successful or married to someone with a bigger apartment, so let's stop treating this place like a giant dorm room and make it a real home. This was an emotional risk in those days, and maybe these days: A girl pushing thirty actually committing to making a home for herself as a family of one. But it changed me from a loose end to somebody who could leave the party knowing she had someplace to return to.

The second time I recommitted was when I married someone from out of town who wanted to relocate to New York. Somehow, I was able to make room where I wouldn't have believed there could be any.

The third time has been in the past couple of years. Two factors contributed to this: The insane price of real estate anywhere near enough to the City that would permit me to take a job other than weaving on a loom in Vermont, and my husband's chronic illness. But these two factors have also inspired me to make changes and take chances where I had always accepted "no" in the past, and not just with my walls and my furniture.

Ironically, while I'm planning the future of the apartment, I'm also looking back to the beginning, when I first moved in. I always got sort of a "cottage" vibe about this place, even though it's in the City. The "rustic chic" thing is wide open to interpretation, so I've been very particular at sorting out things that say "beach house in Nantucket" and not "the Gunne Sax dress I wore in high school."

On the agenda for this summer are new kitchen cabinets and beadboard paneling, and a new painting and replastering job. This is something I'm not leaving to my DIY skills, so it involves a whole new learning experience of asking around and interviewing people. But I'm looking forward to it anyway.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Cat Tract

The canned food we've been giving the cats for the past year and a half has been changing its formula more than New Coke recently. The latest incarnation has been as a watery glop that left them unsatisfied, making a frightening number of trips to the litterbox and grabbing food frantically off our dinner plates.

So last night on the way home I picked up a bag of one of those "premium, natural" dry foods that's fortified, chelated, electroplated, etc. Chico and Ashley attacked the bag before I had it open, and I doled a cup into each of their food bowls before sitting down to read my e-mail.

About a half-hour later, I hear this gurgling noise. My neighbor's sink must be on the fritz again, I figured. This kept up for four or five minutes until I figured I'd better investigate an alternative source. It turned out to be Chico, who was sprawled on the kitchen table emitting the loudest borborygmi I'd ever heard in my life.

I awoke my napping husband and we scrambled for shoes, jackets and the number of the emergency vet. Then we happened to notice that Chico was looking perfectly fine, and regarding us with an expression that said, "What?" So we took off the jackets and put down the phone and just sat there watching him for the next ten minutes, waiting for him to explode out one end or the other. Chico stretched out and went back to sleep, and never did explode. His midsection soon stopped gurgling.

At last headcount, both felines were just fine, exhibiting the restful and relaxed poses of people who had just come off diets. So far, so good.

Sunday, May 07, 2006


A heartbreaking week, for reasons I can't go into just now.

That's why I find some comfort in reading amba's post here and knowing I'm not the only one who emits those banshee howls of frustration, especially at the West 4th Street subway station.

The spellcheck reads "amba" as "ambushed," which explains a lot about the post.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Solving the Gas Price Crisis

Guest Blogger today. Barry Feldman e-mailed this insightful treatise to me and several other friends/relatives the other day, and has given me permission to post it here. Barry is a sharp, no-nonsense guy, and I say this because 1) he's my uncle, and b) I agree with what he's written here. He begins with a sentence I've found myself saying all too often in the past couple of years.

I am by no means a crazed left wing liberal, but recent events have left me shaking my head regarding what is going on in this country regarding tax policy and the gasoline crisis. I know that we are still paying substantially less than people in Europe, but I get little solace from that. As a chauvinist who believes that this country has the ability and resources to solve problems more efficiently than our European brothers and sisters, I think the people in Washington, D.C. have not been fully utilizing the brainpower which it has available to it in solving these problems.

In particular, the most recent Republican proposal seems a bit short sighted. Furthermore, even in its shortsightedness, it doesn't seem to really accomplish what is presumably intended. Rather, the Republican approach seems to follow what they usually refer to when Democrats and Liberals do it as the "let's just throw some money at it and the people will be happy and think we're actually doing something."

As I alluded to earlier, I like to think of myself as a moderate with no particular axe to grind. I don't think that all wealthy people are evil, nor do I believe that all poor people are lazy. Some Liberal ideas are good while some border on insanity. Some Conservative positions have the ring of reality, while some of their positions express a veiled form of unjustified elitism. With all that having been said, I turn to the events of the last nine months and, in particular, the past few weeks.

Let me see if I have this straight –

Make sure that their constituents can afford it.

Personally, I'd like to think that we can do better. What do you think? I know that elections are still a long way off, but I think that whoever is running for office, Republican or Democrat, Conservative or Liberal, should be confronted by the electorate and made to outline his/her ideas regarding how the problems should be solved. Anyone who says that we should leave it in the capable hands of the oil companies should not even be considered competent to serve in any elective position. Anyone who believes that the AMT is operating just fine should be considered uninformed at best and treated accordingly (i.e., banish him/her to a village in need of a resident idiot).

My best to all.


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Biggest Fire Since 9-11

Dori photo-blogs the Greenpoint Terminal Market Fire, a ten-alarm fire that started early yesterday morning on the riverfront in Brooklyn and is still going.

News reports this morning deemed the fire "suspicious," which is yet to be determined. All I know is that this is one of the areas in the city that's being developed into expensive housing and big-box stores.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

"Ohio, The Sequel"

I was in J&R Music on Sunday when a white-haired little old lady rushed in and excitedly said to the manager, "Do you have the new Neil Young album, 'Impeach Bush'?"

After the manager had answered her in the negative and I stopped cracking up, I told her that the CD wasn't out yet. But she could listen to selections from the new album, which is called "Living With War," free of charge at The song she was thinking of was "Let's Impeach The President."

This album makes Neil the second Vietnam-era rocker to weigh in on the current situation, along with John Fogarty's "Deja Vu All Over Again." So I can take back my comment about having not seen the country so polarized since 1970, and "the music had been a lot better then."

Nah, the music really had been consistently better then.

"Hey, Craze!"

I spent the morning getting root canal and I now sound like Crazy Guggenheim.

If you're under a hundred, here's who that is.

Here's a warm childhood remembrance of Crazy from comedian Larry Miller.

Here's my warm childhood remembrance of Crazy Guggenheim:

"Daddy, is that man supposed to be retarded?"

"Just wait till you hear him sing!"

Apparently, Crazy was the "Rainman" of Irish vocalists, a baritone savant. But Larry Miller is right: Everyone's father would always say that.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

nyc bloggers map