Monday, August 27, 2012

The Good Luck Girl

Shit Happens. But does it have to happen to me?

I was happily enjoying a day at Jones Beach on Saturday, laying in the sand, half under an umbrella, half out, listening to the crashing waves and letting each one lull me into a state of relaxation. And while the careless other beach goers shuffled sand into my face and on my towel as they walked by, annoying conversations wafted into my ear space, and too many kids were afoot, I didn’t let any of it get me down. And then, shit happened.

In other words, a seagull flying over head let one go. From where I lay, I could see it as if in slow motion: the Hershey squirt rolling around in the air and morphing into an abstract splash of art before it landed in a warm splat on my leg. NOOOOOOO, I cried. Not again.

According to the World of Feng Shui and other Web sites (yes, I googled bird poop, why me?), bird shit is supposed to be an omen of good luck:

“Many people believe [a bird shitting on you] to be a major sign of wealth coming from heaven. Hence, although, it is really yucky and a major inconvenience, when something like this happens to you, take comfort in the fact that this is described as good luck being just around the corner!”
If this true, I ought to be really freaking lucky. Because this is not the first time I have been crop dusted by an avian bomb squad. No readers, I have been crapped on by birds in several countries, on two separate continents. Once, in my early 20s, it happened as I strolled around the river Seine in Paris. That time, my travelling companions told me I would be lucky in love. Harrumph.

Another time, it happened as I ate lunch at a café terrace in Barcelona. That time, my work colleagues told me to wash my hair quick to ward off cytomegalovirus.

So forgive me if, as I ran into the ocean on Saturday to rinse the fortuitous feces off of my person, I wasn’t feeling particularly comforted by this omen. Further reading suggested that this phenomenon is considered lucky because of the “what are the chances” aspect of being in the right place at the right time for the shit storm. I beg to differ. At Jones Beach, where masses of seagulls swoop around to steal scraps of people’s food, like a scene from the movie The Birds, I don’t think the chances of me being a prime target were so slim.

Looking at World of Feng Shui site, other good luck omens include the following: when you see a shooting star (yay!), when a butterfly flies into your home (cool!), when it rains and the sun is shining, producing a rainbow (oh my!). In fact, among the 18 omens listed, only one was seriously gross. Mine.

So stay tuned to see if I win the lottery, get my dream house, publish my first novel, or have Daniel Day Lewis tell me I’m the love of his life. Until then, I may take to walking the streets of New York City with a parasol.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Life Lessons From Sunny

Reenactment of Sunny in the lake.
We all have “one of those” people in our lives who can’t stop talking about their pets (or kids), obviously pets being the more tolerable of the two topics. And while pets are cute, I often don’t feel the need to hear a play by play of what they’re up to, their furry antics, or their bathroom schedule. It can be annoying, can't it? Great – now that I got that out of the way, I'm going to completely break protocol here and tell an annoying, cute, sentimental pet story.

This past weekend I vacationed with my family in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania. We were all lounging on our floating dock, with Sunny, my golden retriever, included. If we don’t bring the dog to sit with us by the lake, she cries and whines from the house, as she is the neediest dog on the planet. Wonder where she got that from.

Suddenly a small duck was seen making its way across the lake, some 20 feet or so from the dock. Sunny was immediately on red alert, ears lifted, tail straight back, whining away. I had her leash wrapped around a chair on the dock, as she never listens and will run off at a moment’s notice. Not sure where she gets that from either.

“We should let her loose and see what she does,” I said, as I knew she would never get in the water. You see, even though golden retrievers supposedly love water, my dog is deathly afraid of it. As a puppy back in Barcelona, Spain, she’d accidently fallen into the pool at my old house. I'd scooped her out immediately, but she’d never gotten over the trauma. Even years later when I would bring her into the pool with me, she’d cry and scamper out as soon as she could. If I was swimming, she’d run to the other side of the yard and hide. I could have drowned and she wouldn’t have come in to save me.

Now as the duck circled around, teasing Sunny into a frenzy, I unclipped her leash and she bounded off the dock to the shoreline of the lake. In total hunter mode, she bounced back and forth along the shore energetically. Feeling slightly bad for teasing her in this way, I was about to go get her when suddenly and gloriously she dove into the water. She took a few uncertain steps, and then began to swim. Her little head bobbed up and down as she pursued the duck with reckless abandon.

“She can’t swim!! OMG she can’t swim!” I cried, flailing my arms about unbecomingly, like a spastic mother whose seven-year-old child had just jumped into the water. But of course she could swim. She’s a dog.

The gap began to close between Sunny and the duck. And though the whole thing was very comical, I suddenly began to worry for the duck’s life. “She’s gonna eat the duck! OMG she is gonna eat that MOFO duck!” I cried, while continuing to flail.

But the duck, tiring of the chase, eventually flapped its wings and flew a distance away. Knowing she’d missed her chance, Sunny turned back towards us. I could almost hear her saying “Oh sheeeeiiit” as her retrieval mode faded and she realized she was now in the middle of the lake. But after a pause, she began to swim back gracefully, climbed out of the water, shook herself off all over us, plopped down on the grass and basked in the sun and her glory.

As I watched her, so relaxed and unaware of her accomplishment, I began to envy her animal instinct, which was clearly stronger than any fear she harbored. I thought about my fears, which are a plenty (fear of death, fear of illness, fear of flying, fear of the dark, fear of heights, fear of crowds, fear of beards [kidding about the last one, but it is a REAL fear!]). It dawned on me that over the years I’ve let those stupid fears keep me from doing so many things that I love. And that I needed to start diving in head first, letting my animal instinct take over. Be more like Sunny. Except not as hairy, smelly, wayward and gluttonous, of course.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The King of the Cruise Collectors

As some of my five readers may know, last year I took a cruise to Bermuda and was baffled by the subculture that is the cruise ship. I quickly learned that cruise goers are in fact collectors, racking up trips like more sophisticated people might rack up original art. Not only do these collectors show off the number of cruises they’ve been on, vessels they’ve boarded, destinations they’ve ended up in and days at sea, they also feel the need to compete with other passengers by asking “how many?” (For more on this past trip and categories of collectors, read my post from last year.)

Well readers, you will be happy to know that this summer I embarked on cruise number 2, officially launching my career as a confirmed collector. No more would I lower my eyes in shame when asked how many I’ve been on.

Or so I thought. The piano lounge of the Norwegian Star, my recent Bermuda-bound cruise ship (I can now say I’ve “done” Holland and Norwegian), was filled with cheesy cruise goers. Everyone came to hear ‘The Piano Man’, an incredible piano player who sang everything from Billy Joel to Elton John to . . . well, whatever, you get the idea. Each night after my three course meal and bottle of wine I’d stop in to listen before the onboard entertainment started. Being increasingly anal with age, and distraught over the fact that Norwegian has no fartin clocks anywhere on board because we are supposed to be “off the clock”, I leaned over into the space of the large old man next to me and tried to read his watch.

“You’ll never see the numbers,” he said, unclasping the monstrosity from his wrist. “The face is transparent . . . check it out.” The five-pound watch was subsequently thrust into my hands. Panicking over the sure spread of norovirus, I did an obligatory look over and handed it back.

“It’s REAL porcelain,” he said proudly. “On my last cruise my watch got wet and broke. Nothing is going to break this sucker. It can go under 100 feet of water.” My eyes widened.
“Where did you get it?” I asked, feigning rapture.

“Home shopping network,” he said, making a face as if I should have known that. Where else? My interest in the watch opened a can of worms and the next thing you know, he’s asking the magic question. “So . . .uh . . .how many?”

“Two!” I say, excited that I can say more than one. “Last year I did Holland.”

“Pfft, that’s an old person’s cruise,” he said, dismissing me with a wave of his hand and obviously unaware of his own advanced age.

“Well, how many have you had?” I asked, crestfallen.

“This is my 64th cruise,” he said. No readers, no typo here. SIXTY FOUR FAHREIKEN CRUISES.

“Holy shit,” I said, forgetting my manners.

“I am a VIP on this ship. When I get onboard, the waiters know my name. You wanna know who I had dinner with last night? The captain, that’s who. I don’t pay for a single drink on this ship. All of them are on the house. Guess what happened to me last night? The captain asked me which I like better, Norwegian or Holland. I say, and this is the truth, I like Norwegian better but Holland offers king crab on their menu. Guess what I get delivered to me tonight at dinner. You’ll never guess.”

“Um, King Crab?”

“You're goddamned right.”

“But how does one rack up 64 cruises?” I asked, bewildered and feeling inadequate.

“I take one a few times a year. And then there are “repositioning” cruises. When the ship makes its way to a destination to start a new trip. You get BONUS points for those,” he says, raising his eyebrows. “My grandson is five, he’s already been on five cruises. A few months ago I got home from a Caribbean cruise, stayed a week, got bored and tired of snow, called them up and said, put me on another.”

Leaning toward me, winking like a used car salesman, he moved in for the kill.

“If you listen to me and take my advice, you take those repositioning cruises, become a member, and take advantage of their onboard kickbacks for booking next year’s cruise, soon enough you’ll be at my level.”

My eyes light up like a slot machine as a voice inside my head says yes . . . one day you can be at his level. On your 64th cruise. Showing off your home shopping network watch to a cruising newbie while your seemingly mail order bride half your age and size sits primly beside you, letting you regale other ladies in the piano lounge with tales of your great sea adventures.

Let me end this tale by issuing a Cry for Help. Please readers. If you ever hear me bragging about hitting double digits . . . if I start to reposition, demand king crab for dinner or spend more time on a boat than on land . . . help me. Oh lordy, help me. And organize an immediate intervention. Preferably on ‘Royal’– I haven’t tried that line yet.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Right on, Mr. Snivels

This time of year—with pollen a flyin’ and people a snifflin’ at my office—always takes me back to high school English with Mr. S. English had always been my favorite subject, one I later majored in at college. But the year I had Mr. S. almost made me hate the subject, and was my first experience with true panic-inducing fear.

Mr. S. seemed ancient to my young teenage self (he was probably only in his forties). A shock of white feathery hair swept across his head. He was short and stout, his diamond pattern sweaters always taut over his rotund belly. His face looked porcine, with big full cheeks that hung down into jowls, a turned up nose, and a splotchy redness that suggested alcoholism or high blood pressure. His Spartan desk was clear of any clutter, and only boasted a box of Kleenex.

With other “old” teachers, we students had the run of the show—swinging from rafters, talking back, throwing paper. But Mr. S. somehow commanded a militant discipline; each of us sat in our desk, hands folded, looking straight ahead. Nobody dare flinch.

There was one thing, however, that really got Mr. S.’s panties in a bunch—and it was something none of us did on purpose or could control. Sniffling.

The first time we learned of his pet peeve was a few days into the beginning of school. Some poor slouch sniffled and Mr. S., who was writing on the blackboard, suddenly stopped, shoulders hunched in annoyance, before slowly turning around, cheeks flaring up, hands shaking. With undisguised disgust he literally growled: “USE. A. TISSUE.” The boy who had committed the crime timidly approached the desk, took a tissue and returned to his seat. Wiping some snot away, he left the balled up tissue on the corner of his desk and continued to sniffle.

Mr. S. put down the chalk and turned around. By this time his face had taken on the shade of a beet, and looked like a balloon that had been filled with too much helium. “BLOW. YOUR. NOSE,” he said dangerously before turning back to the blackboard. But what teenager likes to blow their nose in class? It’s a recipe for disaster, and can only end with visible boogers hanging out or some other source of fodder for bullies or teasing.

Tension filled the air. The only sound in the room was Mr. S.’s clickety-clack chalk working its way across the board. I was afraid to swallow. But snot boy couldn’t help himself…his faucet was a drippin’. He sniffled—a big one—and all hell broke loose.

Mr. Smith threw down his chalk, jumped over his desk with the finesse of a football player and grabbed the boy by his collar. “GET OUT!” he shouted, escorting the boy to the hallway. “GET OUTTTTT.”

We all looked around, laughing nervously while inwardly assessing our own nasal passages and whether or not they had the potential to leak. Throughout the year, especially during winter and spring, a record number of students were thrown out of Mr. S.’s class. Nerd, dirtbag, punk or prep—nobody who had the sniffles was safe.

I remember being anxious to go to class. I remember using the rest room beforehand to blow my nose. I remember HATING Mr. S. with all of my being and thinking how utterly unfair he was. I remember thinking: what’s the big fartin deal about a sniffle?

Now in my mid-thirties, I can tell you what the big fartin deal about a sniffle is. IT’S ANNOYING. As I sit at my desk amid the sounds of coworkers' throat clearing, coughing up of phlegm, dry hacking coughs, over-the-top sneezing, and sniffles galore, I can honestly say that I totally sympathize with Mr. S. and totally "get" him.

If you’re still out there Mr. S., if you’re still alive and torturing students with poor immune systems or allergies, or even if you are in an old age home ready to go postal on your snivelling fellow residents, all I have to say to you is this: I hear you, man! Right on!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How Very Dare You!

Photo by  blmurch, via Flickr 
It’s spring and one should be humming and enjoying the strange OTT early heat, but unfortunately one (in other words, me) still has to deal with annoying commuters.

The day in question started off good enough. I was on the way uptown to babysit for my BFF. Since I had serious arse ache from sitting too long at work, I decided to walk several blocks to the East Side and catch the 6 train uptown. A coworker mentioned that if I just walked a few blocks more, I could catch an express bus that shot right uptown with only a few stops. She gave me specific directions and explained that a separate machine was used to purchase the ticket for the bus.

I was already happy just to find the bus and the machines, since I don’t have the best internal GPS. But then I was overcome with feelings of “all is well with the universe” when an attractive man in a suit offered me his ticket when he saw me fumbling with the machine. I was clearly not “in the express bus know,” and he took pity on me. I grasped the ticket and smiled, excited for the free bus ride. But boy, did I end up paying for it.

Squeezed between old people with stale breath and teenagers with noxious BO—the kind of stench that warrants a parent discussion that it’s time to use deodorant—I held on to a germ-infested bar and closed my eyes to block out the “others.” The first two stops glided by, and I was starting to feel giddy at the prospect of getting uptown quickly, above ground. At the next stop, a man who thought he was cool but looked like he just stepped off the set of a Miami Vice remake, barged on. He wore a cheap suit and dark shades and immediately started to barrel towards the back of the bus. That’s when I heard the annoying commuter strike.

“What do you THINK YOU ARE DOING?” a woman’s voice raised above the rest in an impossible-to-take-seriously overdramatic voice (think of Meryl Streep’s rendition of Julia Childs.)

“You PUSHED me!” she continued her outrage. Then, “You should be ASHAMED of yourself.”

I couldn’t help but giggle, as the woman’s voice conjured thoughts of the funny British sketch comedy program “The Catherine Tate Show” and her character Derek Faye, who routinely and dramatically screams out, “How very dare you!” (If you haven’t seen it, check it out here).

“DRIVER…STOP THE BUS” the woman called out, at which point my fellow New Yorkers started to lose patience, murmuring ‘what the hell’ and shifting in their seats.

“Look lady, it’s a crowded bus, it’s called ‘Riding the Bus 101’ here, maybe if you’d moved over more, I wouldn’t have pushed you,” said Don Johnson.

A sound like an injured animal spread across the bus as people reached their heads up to see what the ruckus was all about. “So now you’re going to INSULT me in addition to ASSAULT me!”

“Give me a break!” “Shut up!” “Get over it!” were the responses from various riders. But the woman would not be deterred. She continued to scream at the driver to stop the bus, which he did. An overweight MTA officer waddled over and asked Don Johnson to “step aside,” while the complainer (I could now see her: 60s, dress suit that looked like my grandmother’s couch upholstery, a tight bun and bedazzled in gold jewelry) stood red faced and indignant as people shuffled off the bus, shooting daggers at her.

Don Johnson took one look at the officer, laughed, and ran away as the complainer screamed “STOP THAT MAN!” The fellow passengers were told that the bus was now a crime scene and had to wait for another bus. No express bus came, so I got on a local, which stopped on every street from the 50s to the 70s. To make a long story short, I would have arrived uptown faster walking.

So to the bedazzled annoyer in question: Beware. Should our paths cross the next time I take the express bus, I will personally boot ya butt off if you start up with your shenanigans. YOU should be ashamed of yourself for preventing a crapload of people from getting home after a long, hard work/school day. That’s right! How very dare you!

Abbreviations for those who aren’t “with the times”
OTT: Over The Top
BFF: Best Fartin Friend
GPS: Global Positioning System
BO: Smelly FN Body. Slap on some roll-on. Seriously.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Songs You Don’t Want to be Caught Singing in Aisle 4 of the Supermarket*

Have you ever been in the car with someone, humming a nondescript tune, when the person you’re with asks you what you’re singing? You may not have even noticed you were singing, and now, as you focus and think about it, you're horrified by the result.
“Erm, nothing,” you say, followed by “Hey look how lovely the foliage is!”
“Yeah…you were singing. And there are no leaves on the trees,” your companion says to your sheer vexation.

“I don’t remember.”

“Sure you do, come on!”

“I was just humming!”

“Nah, but I recognize it! What was it?”

“Oh for the love of all that lives I was singing Air Supply, OK? 'Making Love Out of Nothing At All' by freaking Air Supply. Happy Now?”

But it could be worse. You could be caught in aisle 4 of the supermarket belting out a song and be caught by, say, me—a complete stranger—as one poor muscle head in a Giants jersey recently did. I rounded the corner and I heard, quite loudly and enthusiastically:

“And I said, what about Breakfast at Tiffany’s? She said, “I think I remember the film? And as I recall, I think, we both kinda liked it,” and I said, “Well, that’s the one thing we’ve got!”

As he finished the verse, our eyes met and he turned five shades of scarlet. In response, my eyebrows raised with a look that clearly stated, “Dude, WTF are you thinking?”

What happens when your mind is hijacked and forced to sing Celine Dion or similar? How is it that we never get caught singing some hard core gansta rap or an obscure yet brilliant indie group like the Subterraneans? Oh no, it’s gotta be Hoobastank or Nickelback or anything that Casey Kasem would have put on his Top 40.

So to all of you who’ve been caught singing a strange song—including the waiter at Dish who absentmindedly sang “Abra Abra Cadabra” while Blog Commenter Jana Lia and I sat giggling and finishing up with “I wanna reach out and grab ya!”—I feel your pain. I grew up in the 80s, I liked big hair bands, and have an uncanny knack for singing music my grandmother would rock to at any given moment.

*This post may make no sense to those under 30 who have never heard of Air Supply or vinyl for that matter. Just substitute the bands I mention with any music that you wouldn’t be caught dead humming—is it too soon to be embarrassed by Bieber?