Friday, April 17, 2015

And I Bet They Thought Soundcheck Would Be Their Biggest Pre-Performance Problem

It's my dad's birthday month. My brother got him a luxury SUV. I got him two (general admission) tickets to see his longtime favorite musician perform live, with one of those tickets explicitly earmarked for me. The show was last night.

Six weeks ago, I tracked down this musician's manager and asked if I could take my dad backstage after the show so he could meet the Main Man, as a lovely surprise. The manager emailed back something like: "Yeah, sure. Email me a reminder a couple of days beforehand." That's what I did and he failed to respond. I just got back from Northern Italy, where I averaged about 3 hours of sleep a night. In the handful of days since I've returned to this time zone, I've averaged about 5 hours of sleep a night. This is not the week to break promises to me or leave me high and dry.

Once I got my dad settled in his seat, I pretended to head to the bathroom, so I could go hunting around the venue for the manager.

"Where is he?"

The fabulous aging hipster working the front door left his post to help me storm the green room, where I introduced myself to everyone. Seventy-five percent of the famous people I've met or had close run-ins with are nothing like what I expected them to be. But most at least keep their coldness polite, and that'll do.

"Why don't I bring my dad in here now instead of after the show?" I suggested, since nobody looked busy and I wanted to get this goddamn surprise over with.

I sprinted back upstairs, told my dad there was an emergency in the bathroom that only he could help with, and he was really pissed and confused as I ran him across the club and through the swinging doors marked "PRIVATE - BAND MEMBERS ONLY," but I liked the way he and his musical idol smiled at each other when they first locked eyes and everything that happened afterwards, other than the borderline ungrateful lecture I got, to "never do that again" (it turns out the two of them already have met, 30 years ago). But he calmed down when I distracted him with images from my latest escapades in Italia, as we waited for the opening act to begin.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Get a Room: A Pay-by-the-Half-Hour Story

Once upon a time, immediately after moving into my current apartment, I told a mentor of mine that I was thinking about adopting a four-legged baby, most likely a cat. She was neither encouraging nor supportive.

“That cat will only hold you back,” she argued, “you’re too young and unsettled to give up your freedom. Right before you leave town for a week, 7 out of 10 times, the downtown or Bronx-based buddy who agreed to feed it while you’re away will dick you over at the last second, mark my words.” (These are bits and pieces of an impassioned 15-minute monologue, not unlike an attorney’s closing argument, pleading with a jury to keep a defendant off death row.) “What you need is a cat room. A place where you can show up and play with a cat whenever you get bored or depressed or sick of it all, without being the one responsible for the cat’s welfare.”

Didn’t know such rooms existed (and doubt she knew either) until skimming an article in the local paper a couple of months ago. A cat café recently opened in Chinatown. $4 to spend half an hour in a room with cats. There’s a waiting list.

I’d been looking forward to it ever since I reserved my spot in January. On the day of your appointment, you’re allowed to spend more than the initial 30 minutes with the cats, but I promised myself I wouldn’t dare because I’d get too attached and adopt one, something I’m in no position to do at the moment. It’s like going to a hooker - you get in, collect what you came for, and get out. Anything beyond that is too risky.

I expected private rooms (one customer in a room with at least one assigned cat) - the type of delusion that can crop up after you’ve skimmed, and not studied, an article. There was one room, in total, filled with many cats and many people. Most of the cats were sleeping. Most of the awake ones weren’t impressed with us, even me. We were an imposition. It turned into half an hour of respecting the cats’ personal space.

Dogs would love a room like this. A larger, local, partially outdoor dog café, nothing too bougie – great idea! But, per usual, another hustle-happy Manhattanite (or two of them, it seems) has already beaten me to the punch: See “NYC's First Dog Cafe in Development Now,” available at http://www.amny.com/lifestyle/dog-cafe-in-nyc-1.9814188.

On my way out, a person walking by cornered me about how things went - her first appointment is next month. I told her it was good, but most of the cats were sleeping.“But you can still pet a sleeping cat, right?" she asked. "No one will try to stop you?” Now here’s someone who doesn’t get cats, or animals, or just anyone really. Would you want a stranger fondling you while you’re sound asleep?

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Survey Says....

My airline wants to know how a recent flight I took went.  One question on the survey asked: "What emotion best describes how you felt when your trip ended?" My  options were: "Delighted; Appreciated; Pleased; Content; Relieved; Indifferent; Disappointed; Hurried; Frustrated; Neglected; Angered; or Other (please specify)."

Note the conspicuous absence of  "All of the Above," as a choice. 

A single, one-word answer wasn't easy for someone who brings a multi-dimensional emotional state to the table. When this particular flight ended I felt:

Delighted - I was on my way to hang out with two of my favorite people!

Appreciated  - Talk about the "friendly skies." We passengers gratuitously smiled at one another, loudly but warmly forgiving any accidental trespasses. Flying to a city located in the Southeast or Midwest usually involves a whole different caliber of personalities. 

Pleased - At one point, I looked down at my rings, which led to glancing down at the rest of what I wore. I really hit it out of the ballpark with the ensemble I'd thrown on that morning. Five stars. 

Content - Understatement, understatement, understatement. 

Relieved - Still couldn't believe I didn't end up missing this flight, given how late I'd woken up and the amount of unexpected cross-town traffic. 

Indifferent - "What was with the pilot first announcing the local temperature in Celsius degrees, before slowly translating it into Fahrenheit? " I thought, before eventually shrugging it off and thinking, "Whatever," as I continued checking myself out.  

Disappointed - We landed 15 minutes too soon for my liking. I didn't get to finish another chapter of my book.

Hurried - When I first looked up after gathering all of my stuff on the way out, I was the last passenger in the cabin. Everyone else seemed long gone. 

Frustrated - This plane was too small to haul my second carry-on item into the cabin with me, so I had to pass it over to a baggage handler on the jetbridge. On one of the last flights I took, a flight attendant-in-training told me about the opening minutes of one of the last flights she took - the door to the baggage compartment under the plane hadn't been properly locked, and the pilot turned around to head back to the airport, once he realized that passengers' luggage had been falling out of the plane and into the ocean. 

Neglected - Another round of seltzer would have been nice.  

Angered - Of course, the second-least-likable passenger sat in my row. She cut in front of me, no acknowledgment, after we both stood up to stretch and head out.

But since I could select only one answer, I chose "Other" and specified Hungry.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Special Sentencing Proceeding

I love a good competition. Or even a bad one. Spelling bees, backyard bocce ball matches, staring contests. I’m competitive with other people and competitive with myself, competitive but not cutthroat, competitive because the alternative feels too much like treading water when I’d rather swim.

Here’s a healthy competition we’re all eligible for. (And, by “all,” I mean anyone able to follow along with these letters and words. I don’t want to see any self-righteous, “Well, you know, not all of us are eligible. Not everyone in this world knows how to read - just the lucky ones….” notes in my inbox.) A new literary journal, Easy Street, is holding a sentence contest. Have you ever written, spoken, or thought of a specific set of words, about an idea, that kind of impressed you? About 7 years ago, I took somewhat of a shine to a sentence, a question really, I wrote in my journal:

What’s more deflating than ultimately having no choice but to conclude that someone you’d initially deemed very special is actually no different from pretty much everybody else?

I wowed only myself with this one. Of the 11 or so people I repeated it to, 10 mutely projected, “Is this about me?” looks. One straight-up rolled his eyes.

But I can come up with others. So can you. We have until the end of this month.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Take Your Hat Off

Who remembers this scene from The Sopranos?


People keep doing this to me (currently re: my nice warm, pink, winter hat) and it’s infuriating. A swanky restaurant? I'll automatically take it off in there. But when I’m sitting down at the DMV? I’m cold. And haven’t combed my hair. Someone seated a couple of tables over asked me to take it off at a deli earlier today. She suggested it nicely, so I did as she asked. “I like your earrings,” she followed up, and we became fast friends, discussing our birthdays/zodiac signs, boy troubles, the endless struggle of deciding whether our favorite color is purple or pink. She offered me some of her chips and told me I’m funny. We made tentative plans to get together again sometime soon, but since she’s 6 years old, we had to run them by her mean grandmother first.

“Aren’t you hot? Aren’t you cold? Shouldn’t you be wearing more? Shouldn’t you be wearing less? Why are you wearing long sleeves? Why are you going sleeveless? You dress too warmly. You don’t dress warmly enough.”

When it comes to hats, coats, sweaters - taking them off, leaving them on - consider leaving women alone. I’ve never heard anyone approach and ask the men wearing 3-piece suits in 95-degree heat whether they’re too hot; or interrogate the ones parading down the sidewalks in shorts in 40-degree weather about being too cold. If you’re “getting hot [or cold] just looking at” me, please turn the other way.

The Sopranos clip has nothing to do with temperature or sexism. But I love it too much to leave it out, and wish YouTube/Blogger had allowed me to upload the extended version. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Stay with Me, and I’ll Show You a Good Time

It’s time to just come out and say it: I'm so good of a hostess (a skill I picked up after years of observing my mother in action) I sometimes wish I could have the opportunity of being a guest in my home. 

What’s the best part about hosting out-of-town guests you haven’t seen in awhile? The extensive catching up in person stuff? Not really. The biggest bonus is having an excuse to venture into touristy territories you don’t normally have the time, energy, or poor judgment for.

At certain times and in certain places, people have asked me what they should see or do if they have one day in New York. I used to be like, “I don’t know, it all depends on what you’re into. Maybe Times Square and Central Park? Try roaming the streets, and taking it all in.” Now I’ll tell them to take the A or C train into Brooklyn, get off at High Street and stroll into Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge, before walking over to the 9/11 Museum and Memorial. Such a rewarding way to spend an afternoon.

A little more than a year ago, I interviewed for a job, I didn’t get, at this 9/11 compound. The brilliantly designed outdoor Memorial was up, but the museum wasn’t open to the public yet. Today was the first time I’ve walked through the finished product, and I encourage any of the commentators comparing this week’s crazy terrorist attacks in Paris to what happened on September 11th to swing by this compound the next time they’re in town as well, since their sense of proportion seems a wee bit off.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Easy, Quickie, Last-Minute Gift Ideas for the Randoms in Your Life

It’s crunch time. I’m only halfway done with my holiday shopping, and don’t particularly care. These are all just items and objects. This is the luxurious kind of stress.

Shopping for my friends and family is no problem. I know exactly how to satisfy their needs and tastes. However, most of us have people in our regular lives we’re not close to, but have that obligation to buy holiday gifts for. Constant-contact co-workers, lovely neighbors, great new acquaintances, etc. These are the types who used to be responsible for my worst retail angst. Cologne? Lotion? Gloves? Xanax? A decorative basket filled with tangerines and Triscuits? How the hell do I know what they could use, when the only talking we do is small?  

Many years ago, it all became clear to me. Chocolate or wine. If I teach you anything, let it be: when in doubt, gift chocolate or wine.

Neither are unhealthy, neither are as impersonal as a gift card, you never need to pay more than $25 for either, and - most importantly – you get the peace of mind that neither will go unused. Even if it turns out the people you give the chocolate or wine to don’t eat chocolate or drink wine, they’re sure to know at least one person who does who they can re-gift it to (while making themselves look good in the process). You don’t have to worry about your money going to waste.

One holiday season, my first NYC boss at my first NYC job got me an Armani Exchange scarf. “That’s a little extravagant,” I thought, “We ain’t tight. But, so what, he’s rich and I do so much for him.”

He left the tags on. That scarf came off the A/X clearance rack, after getting marked down about 5 times before a final price of something like $21. The following year, he got me this:

Each holiday season, I gave him a bottle of shiraz or syrah. His face lit up every time he opened the bag, lifted up, and studied his spoils.