Saturday, December 31, 2011

Two Hours Until 2012


Out with the old. In with the new!

I'm going to try to accentuate the positive as the New Year rolls in -- and I am really aware of how much I have to be positive about. So here's to all of us and best wishes first for good health, then happiness, enough money to splurge a bit, good times, and lots of laughter, especially at ourselves. Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

My Incredibly Stupid Move

I haven't done anything this stupid in a while. I was whining that I had to go to the mailbox on the corner, and I had worked this up in my mind on par with climbing Mount Everest. After much procrastination, including deciding to take a shower, wear my new winter coat, take out the garbage as I go, I head toward the door carrying the bunch of outgoing mail, the garbage, my keys, my purse. I see that my maintenance bill (like a condo fee) is under the door and I contemplate whether I should stop and write the check or just keep going. I decide to keep going, and I open the door to see what might be a letter carrier at the mail boxes which means I could just hand the mail to her.

In other words, I had a lot of details on my mind. It turned out to not be a letter carrier so I proceed outside, throw away the garbage, go to the mailbox, stop to buy a magazine, stop at the corner pizza place for a late lunch, come back home, sit on my steps for a while because it really was a mild day.

A grocery delivery guy arrives to deliver to my building and I start to get up so he can get by me with all the bags of groceries. And I decide to get up and go back inside. I hold the door open for him, and finally as I turn to go to my apartment, I see my front door is wide open.

Yes, folks, I never closed the door behind me.

What was funny is that I had also left the lights on since I wasn't planning to be gone long so any n'er-do-well would no doubt be hesitant to enter my apartment since who the hell would leave their front door open and the lights on if they weren't home?

Nothing was amiss, and I remembered that about 25 years ago, I spent the evening with the keys to my apartment in the front door. Only when I tried to leave in the morning and turned my apartment upside down looking for my keys did I open the door in desperation and found them.

I do not take this event as the onset of senility -- diagnosis is too much on the mind.

Back to Betsy Wetsy

You may have missed this comment from Barbara since I am probably the only one that goes back to see if there are any new comments -- and this one made me laugh.

She writes:

I never had a Betsy Wetsy, but I DID have a "Flying Nun" doll --based on the TV show at the time. Ugh! As for dolls that do things, I saw a "Kissie" doll at a flea market recently that reminded me that my oldest sister had one of those -- you push her little arms together and she puckered up and made a kissing noise. What I remember about her was that you couldn't kiss her on the lips while she did her thing, because her arms had to clap together to make it work, so the arms were in the way of actually kissing her while she kissed you. Maybe the manufacturers were worried that we'd grow up to be lesbians if we could actually kiss the Kissie doll back?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Momentary Ethical Dilemma

I had a pile of mail and cards, some opened, some not, that I finally went through last night. There was one piece of mail from Citibank and their "Thank You" program. I know I had signed up for that via my Citibank accounts, thinking why not? You get a point for every dollar or something, but I never paid much attention to it.

So I open this letter, thinking it's going to be about some aspect of the program and since the program has been in existence for a few years I'm thinking that maybe I have enough points to do something interesting.

Inside is a letter with a $50 gift card to Bloomingdale's spot glued to the letter. Wow. I instantly start thinking what I would buy at Bloomingdales. Then I read the letter that starts, "Here is the gift card you ordered..."

Hmmmmm. Uh, no.

It is only then that I notice that the letter is not mine -- it's addressed to someone else in the building.

OK, the thought did flit through my mind to keep it. Only for a second or two.

Then I was faced with the dilemma of do I fess up to having opened the letter. I had opened it roughly so there was no chance of resealing.

What I'm going to do is put the original opened envelope in a bigger envelope with a note of explanation. I will sign my name, thinking it wasn't my fault that the post office delivered it to the wrong mail box.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Politicizing Christmas

This is from a Tweet via Salon.com -- it's the California cop pepper spraying the occupying students -- although you could have guessed that yourselves.

Mary Heading Home


Mary writes: A beautiful drive home today - this was approaching Gettysburg. The sky was like this the whole way south. Now I'm home and relaxing.



Christmas Kitties

 Fran checked in on Milo while Mary went to Pennsylvania, so this was Milo on Christmas day awaiting Mary's return while Fran plied him with some sort of kitty crack so that Milo is always happy to see her.

This is a new cat -- Calvin -- and it's the companion of the folks where Fran had her Christmas dinner. Evidently Calvin is part of the family as seen here eating Christmas lasagna at the table. I must say Calvin looks very well-behaved; no elbows on the table.


Back to Fran's kitties. Here is Angelina selecting the Christmas CD she wants to hear:




And more of Fran's cats with her captions:

Angelina turning her back to the world.



Valentino and Angelina, getting high on powerful catnip, which I think was cultivated in Colombia.

Valentino with his Dyanmite.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Story #4 - circa 1976

I was working at the magazine, receiving ad materials (what advertisers -- in those days -- mailed to the magazine so the magazine could print their ad; now it's all done via email). There was an advertiser who shall remain nameless that was running a page and a postcard which the magazine was printing. I always looked over the ad materials and often caught a typo or a mistake -- and advertisers were very grateful if I'd catch something in time to fix it. Anyway, I found a major mistake in the materials this ad agency provided. I phoned the agency guy and alerted him, and there was time to change it. I can't remember what the mistake was, but the postcard would have been printed wrong and they would have had to eat the expense for reprinting it.

He told me he was so grateful that he was going to send me a present -- and it was the run up to Christmas too. I was a low-level person at the time (oh wait, I still am). The thought of a gift from a New York ad agency had sugarplums dancing in my head. Tiffany? A gift certificate? Leather bag?

The present arrived via UPS and since I wasn't home -- I thought it was a good sign he had sent it to my home -- I had to traipse over to the UPS warehouse on 12th Avenue...after work. Ok, nobody goes to 12th Avenue except trans-sexual hookers -- I picked up my package.

Inside was the cheapest piece of crap I've yet to see -- like something you'd see in a dollar store -- it was a clear plastic doll about 12 inches high with a blue and white checked dress on it. Inside the doll was cheap ass hard candy. So it was a plastic doll cum candy container. Around the neck of the doll was a tag labeling her as "Little Miss Gingham Goodie."

I confided to my friend Stancie, then my coworker, about my disappointment, and somehow this name -- Little Miss Gingham Goodie survived. I can't even tell you how we use it -- like if someone is uptight, we call her "Little Miss Gingham Goodie" or we compare other presents to "Little Miss Gingham Goodie." How's your Christmas shopping? Get your Little Miss Gingham Goodie yet? I'll call her and say hello and she'll say, "Is this Little Miss Gingham Goodie?" It's all-purpose; it's our term, and it's our joke. So if you ever see Stancie, go ahead and call her Little Miss Gingham Goodie.

No doubt Little Miss Gingham  Goodie -- I think we just enjoy saying it -- was a great gift after all since it still amuses us after 35 years.

Remake of "The Birds"

Fran writess that Alfred Hitchcock couldn't have staged these birds better -- this is on her way to her Christmas dinner with friends.


God Bless Family Traditions

This is from the daughter of a grade school friend of mine -- sent from her iPhone -- and I am happy to be remembered with this Christmas greeting. This photo was accompanied by this message:

Merry Christmas! Hope you are having a fun day. The attached picture of the christmas tree is my sister in law's inheritance from her mom. It is an authentic aluminum tree from the 50s. Very cool!


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Worst Present Ever?

A friend of mine has a sister-in-law who looks down on her because she is not married. Poor thing and all that, you know. A few years back, the sister in law gave my friend some of that Spode Christmas dishware -- this stuff:



So far, so good, right? Here's the rub. The SIL gave my friend service for ONE with the warm wishes that she should be able to celebrate Christmas too on her own. I had optimistically pointed out that maybe the SIL was planning to give her one place setting each year, but no, it was so my friend could set her lonely Christmas table and try to feel like a normal person.

Just now saw the present I hope is not under my tree. It's a Justin Bieber Singing Toothbrush:

Any horrible gifts in your past?

Modest Needs

I know everyone has their own charities, and I'm not going to hit you up to donate to mine, but if you happen to be looking for a place for year-end giving, I suggest you check out modestneeds.org.

This is a site, similar to Donors Choose, where you can pick a case to help. At Modest Neeeds, these are people on the brink of homelessness or poverty. These are mostly working people who can support themselves, but one bill, one illness, cut back in hours have thrown them for a loop. These people just need temporary help to get over a hump.

In the past I picked people who needed dental work. I figured I bitch enough about that and I have money to pay for it -- how much worse it would be to be in pain and not have the money to fix it.

So this time around, I picked a chef who broke her leg, had to have surgery, had no medical insurance, and the medical bills wiped out her savings. She couldn't work, had no money coming in, she has sold her TV and other belongings in order to pay the rent and other bills. She applied to Modest Needs to catch up on her car payments. You can see without her car, she couldn't get back to work, look for work, and it would be a downward spiral. Now the car payments are made, and she is recovering and can get back to work.

Modest Needs checks out all the stories so you know there are no scam artists. You can just donate a few dollars and add it to the person's fund whom you want to help. Just now received a thank you note, and here's what she said:

How do you properly thank so many wonderful people who have done such a nice thing for you, I honestly don't think words are enough. But as words are all I have right now I would like to try to express the extreme gratitude that I feel and thank all of you angels who have helped me through this very trying time. It has been such a hard road going through this injury and the healing process has been so painful and overwhelming that at times I have felt like I was not going to make it through.

Being an independent self-reliant woman, it has been difficult for me to ask and allow people to help me. I have had to reach deep down and let God find strength in me I did not know existed to do this. I never expected strangers to be so kind, and to get help from you has given me the strength to heal and get better. You all have inspired me so much and given me faith in a world that can at times seem like everyone is only out for themselves. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you all so very much and thanks to Modest Needs for creating such a wonderful outlet to help people in their time of need. I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and hope your holidays are bright and full of love.

New York Christmas Story #3 - circa 1956

The popular doll of the day was named Betsy Wetsy, and I wanted one for Christmas. Betsy was a baby doll where you could actually feed her water out of her own little baby bottle. After a few minutes, Betsy would actually do #1 -- "give back" so to speak all that water.  It was "just like a real baby," the Saturday morning TV commercials promised. So Santa brought me my Betsy Wetsy, and I was thrilled. Loved dressing her up and then feeding her. Shortly thereafter, though, Betsy would do her thing.

Well, I soon tired of that since I didn't have that many clothes for Betsy and I'd get her dressed up, looking cute, and then would feed her only to have her wet her fresh clothes once again. It seemed like a vicious circle.

Then a lightbulb went off.

I got some scotch tape and put the tape over Betsy Wetsy's little (ahem) hole which was anatomically accurately located.

Problem solved.

That is, until I proudly showed off to my mother what I had done. She was appalled. Really. I can still play back her reaction in my mind. She was angry, no doubt at the lack of any maternal instinct on my part, and demanded, "How would you like it if someone did that to you?" She repeated that a few times. I imagined it, didn't like it, but I stood by my solution.

Friday, December 23, 2011

New York Christmas Story #2 - Circa 2003

I'm in Tal Bagels, and it's Friday afternoon, close to Christmas. In front of me is a very old, frail lady who wants to buy a loaf of challah bread. She has one of those old-fashioned change purses that snap close at the top. The people who work there are impatient, moving fast, barking things out, constantly trying to move the line along. She is not getting out her money fast enough for them and then realizes she doesn't have enough money. She asks them to hold the loaf of bread and says she's going to leave the line and figure out how much money she has.

I'm next in the line and I ask how much the challah bread is, and I'm told "three dollars." So I said I'd buy it for her. The counter clerk says, "Really?" Like why would you do that? So I paid for my things, took the wrapped challah bread over to a table where the lady was sitting, counting out her coins on the table with those bony, swollen knuckly, old lady hands.

I sat down at the table with her, gave her the bread, told her I'd gotten it for her, and she was so appreciative. I helped her put her coins back in the little purse and she leaned forward and whispered to me, "I'm so confused." She told me she had just gotten out of the hospital that morning and still wasn't herself. I walked with her out the door, asked her if she thought she could get back to her place OK, and she said yes.

This exchange has never left me, and I have long thought that the blessing was mine to have, not hers. But it's more than that. When I ask myself why this event is so important to me, the answer I come up with is that it is one of the few times in my life (and frankly, I'd be hard-pressed to come up with many more) where I knew, with metaphysical certainty, with 100 percent confidence, that I'd done the right thing.

New York Christmas Story #1 - circa 1978

It was Christmas Eve and I was on the subway, coming home from work. It must have been a half-day. I was standing in the subway car and holding on to the bar. The person next to me had a bunch of shopping bags which she held in her hand, also on the bar.

The bags hung down and were swaying with the subway, intruding on the personal space of another woman who was seated in front of her. Refer to this photo  and check out the horizontal bar people are holding onto. Then imagine shopping bags hanging down. Add in a crowded, overheated subway car and this was not going to have a happy ending.

First it was semi-polite requests from the seated woman to watch the bags, followed by a nasty "I'll do what I want" response from the bag swinger.

More verbal insults were exchanged, and the situation quickly escalated  to the point that the standee dropped her bags, the seated person stood and they started this punching, pushing match on the subway.

I'm thinking, "Oh no, a fist fight on Christmas Eve."

People around were pleading with them to stop, when suddenly one voice emerged among the rest. It was this man around 45 years old who admonished them that this is no way to act on Christmas Eve, they should be ashamed, we all have to get along -- and then added what horrible examples they were providing for the children in the car seeing this behavior.

There was something about his voice that was so commanding, but in a gentle way. There was silence in the subway car, seconds ticked off and then the two women simultaneously apologized to each other, then actually hugged each other, and the whole subway car burst into applause. It still makes me smile.

Move over, Little Drummer Boy

One other thing that drives me insane at Christmas is the various parodies of "The Night Before Christmas." Mary and I have complained about these to each other for years. I thought I had escaped this year, but this just arrived (An A&P is an airplane mechanic):

'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the hangar,
Not a builder was working with a friend or a stranger.
The windsocks were filled with gusts from the north,
As Santa was pre-flighting with his A & P dwarfs.

and it goes on.

And on.

And on.

And on.

Did I mention it goes on?

And on.

But then, just when I needed it: RELIEF in the form of a kindred spirit. I follow political satirist Andy Borowitz on Twitter who today Tweeted:

A holiday tradition I have is finding someone who has done a parody of "A Night Before Christmas" and killing them.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thursday Afternoon in New York

So you're on the way to the periodontist with me... We get in a cab right in front of my building, head west, across the Park, down Central Park West and see the Museum of Natural History:
The first time I went there was in fourth grade, and that was the outing for all fourth graders. When I first moved to New York, I hadn't been since then, and I was stunned to see some of the same exhibits. It was a beautiful day today, sunny and nearly 60 degrees.

Farther down Central Park West is the Dakota at 72nd Street. Sadly, this is the building where John and Yoko lived and where John was shot out front.



Here's the tree in the lobby of my periodontist's building.

And more decorations on the way to the elevator.

So here are the carriages around Central Park South -- I am not necessarily a fan, although I love the sound the horse's hooves make and today the carriages were decorated for Christmas.

This is on the way back home -- down Fifth Avenue a block to turn East and this is the crowd looking at the windows of Berdorf Goodman.

This is my artistic photo -- I have captured three iconic New York images in one photo: a yellow cab, pigeons, and a bagel. (The pigeons were eating the bagel under the cab.)

Back in my neighborhood, passing Maz on the way home, and thinking of Stephanie.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Celebration - Part 2 Sunday Brunch

The festivities continued this morning with scrambled eggs and bacon and bagels that Dave brought fresh with him. We also had orange juice and coffee. Here's my plate:


Here's Mary doing something (checking email?) and Milo.


Close up on Milo:

Then Matt left since he had a headache (or so he claimed), and Dave, Fran, Mary and I sat at the dining room table and talked about everything under the sun for about two hours -- everything from UFOs to the Republican debates, death, family relationships, charitable giving, ghosts, bras (Dave didn't have much to add to this topic, but he listened intently).

The highlight of today was a call from Afghanistan from Meredith so we all asked various questions about life in the compound. The food is bad, but her spirits are good.

Then Dave left since he has a paper due (working on his PhD in international something... development?  something like that) and he offered Fran a ride home so she left as well and it was Mary and me and we watched a movie, gabbed, and then ate leftovers for dinner which, if possible, tasted even better than yesterday.

I head back to NY tomorrow morning.

Christmas Celebration at Mary's Part I - Dinner

Mary, Fran, Dave (Meredith's husband) and Matt (Mary's nephew) had a fantastic Christmas dinner tonight, followed by presents, followed by pie.

My drive down was great for the first three hours, and then traffic and other circumstances conspired to triple the time of the last 90 minutes -- construction, detours, accident, a 7-mile crawl -- it was horrid, but I made it.

So here are the highlights of dinner:

Here's the table set for dinner.
Here's Matt cutting the bread. Mary got this wonderful crusty bread that is infused with rosemary. It was fantastic.
This is Dave holding the root vegetable salad that Fran made out of beets, parsnips, sweet potatoes and I don't know what else but it was delicicious and quite an effort as the vegetables had to be roasted, but we loved it.
This is Fran showing off Mary's salad which had kale, apples and I don't know what else but it was also delicious. I don't know if I've ever had kale, but I enjoyed it.
Here's my finished plate. Starting at the top with smashed potatoes (mashed with skins on), moving clockwise to kale salad, corn, pork tenderloin and gravy, root vegetable salad, rosemary bread. One word: YUM

And finally, here's Milo. I had given Mary a very soft knit lounger/kaftan as a gift. That's the maroon thing you see on the sofa. When Mary opened it, she remarked how soft it is, and Milo decided to check it out for himself, and very happily adopted it as his bed while we talked, ate pie, etc.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Late Friday Night

No trapped mice; off to DC in the morning.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Feeling a Bit Grouchy

Despite having a more than OK day, I am thin-skinned these days. My eight-month mouse-free streak was broken yesterday when I saw one of those disgusting things in my living room. I swear I thought I had it beat with Ray, my handyman, having closed up all holes.

What's funny, although not ha-ha funny, is that earlier that day, I was looking at the baseboard molding and the floor in this one spot where Ray had used silicone gel to seal it, and it looked like -- maybe with cold weather? -- it had an opening again.

So I called Ray yesterday and he rode in like the cavalry tonight and has laid out about 10 glue traps (banana scented -- who knew mice like bananas?) and he left his silcone gel gun with gel and will return tomorrow where there will hopefully be a dead body in one of the banana-scented traps.

That whole thing has me on edge.

I didn't buy groceries this week and have sort of run out of food for lunch, so I ordered a sandwich today and the bill was $11.98 and I gave the guy $20 and asked for $5 back. I might as well have been talking Martian to this guy. He kept pointing to the amount on the slip and I kept repeating "give me five dollars back."  He clearly spoke zero English. So finally I'm fairly yelling, "I'm giving you a $3 tip" and he peels off $3 and I'm sighing and being a bit of a bitch and saying to give me two more dollars, over and over.

I don't want to sound like Sean Hannity and the rest of the group, but I do sometimes get worn out trying to do business with non-English speaking people. I'm not saying that English has to be an official language, but come on. So I called the restaurant to complain -- I said I didn't want this guy to return and say I'd ripped him off -- which I was afraid of as he clearly did not understand the transaction or basic arithmetic. The restaurant said the guy was new, apologized, etc., offered to bring me more food or more money. This sounds so fricking petty, but I want to say "does everything have to get this complicated?"

And yes, I know, I know. I do know how amazingly privileged I am, but I dread going upstairs in the morning and leerily (if that's a word) checking out my traps for dead or dying mouse bodies. Yuck.

On a positive note, I asked Ray who works days as a building superintendant in an office building in midtown about this horrible elevator accident in a "normal" office building where a woman got killed and, from what I gather, pretty mangled. He said that buildings have to take elevator infractions very seriously as the elevator inspectors are very strict, and will shut the elevators down in a flash which means the tenants would have to use the stairs and would withhold their rent. Good to know, along with Ray's observation that you can't bribe the elevator inspectors. Glad someone is honest.

PS: Safety tip -- Ray mentioned how hard elevator doors close and how dangerous it is to stick your arm in as the doors are closing so that they open again. That's something I don't do -- have never been in that much of a rush. Besides, about 30 years ago, I knew someone who did that and the elevator doors broke his wrist so he was walking around with a cast for a few months. Just breathe deeply, knowing another elevator is coming soon. And here's a confession -- when someone yells "hold the elevator" I only pretend to be confused by the buttons as the doors close and I'm on my way.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tuesday Lunch Out

Had lunch with Russell Munson, our Christmas tradition. Russ is a brilliant photographer -- and those outside of aviation may know him as the photographer for Jonathan Livingston Seagull. He is always willing to come up to my neighborhood -- he lives in Soho, and so we went to Sotto Cinque which was beautifully decorated for the holidays.

The Second Avenue subway construction has now branched out to 86th Street which put a big dent into my shortcut to this restaurant. I leave my building and cut through a parking garage that has an entrance on 87th and 86th Streets. I walk through the garage, entering at 87th Street, then exit on 86th Street, jaywalk across 86th Street right to the door of Sotto Cinque. If I toddle along fairly quickly, I can get there in about one minute. However, now this construction has blocked my jaywalking and so I had to go around it almost to the corner, slowing down my progress considerably.
Stopped here and got two "everything bagel" breadsticks which I had for supper along with a great bowl of soup.

The photo really doesn't do the garland justice. It was real pine and real lights.

Coming home through the garage, I noticed this odd license plate. Dr. Timonthy Leary perhaps?
Winter comes to East 87th Street. No more flowers; no more green leaves; no more vibrant yellow leaves.



The Scene of the Crash

Got this from an old industry friend. The accompanying note said:

This must be the penultimate Christmas yard decoration…
The site is about 4 miles from the Oak Creek Bridge on the St. Michael’s Road [MD 33]. The folks who own the property always have eye-catching displays celebrating various ‘holidays’ through the year… this year for J├╝letide they have certainly outdone themselves!

I believe this is in Maryland, and she's right -- I've never seen anything quite this elaborate!






Note the name of the pilot on the airplane.