Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Is There ANY Symptom Of Menopause That I DON’T Have?

It is 1:33 AM and I am sitting at my computer, unable to sleep, which is a symptom of menopause. I alternate between shorts and a tee and a sweatshirt and flannel pajama bottoms because of the menopause-induced hot flashes. I cannot focus on any one thing because…menopause robs you of that skill.

I gained 30 pounds in a year in spite of not having changed a thing about my diet or (lack of) exercise. Then one sleepless night while looking up “menopause” I discovered that sudden weight gain was also a menopause thing. Oh-my-God.

Lately I have been sneezing. I mean, really sneezing. Those come-from-your-belly sneezes that feel like you are going to sneeze up a gut. And I don’t just sneeze two, three times. Oh no. Multiple times a day I sneeze between 15 and 25 times in succession.

And now I am wheezing. So as I sit here, fat and alternately hot and cold, as I sit here, wheezing in-between sneezes, I did a search for “menopause and wheezing” and sonofabitch if it isn’t another damn symptom of menopause.

I tell you, if men had to go through this there would be a cure -- or at least a panacea for my troubles.

I have to go now. Although I don’t know why because I can’t focus, but I think I do just the same because I need to find some tissues, a snack, a fan, a sweater and an inhaler.

Copyright (c) 2009 Inkwell Television

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Goodbye to Summer (sigh)

I am not happy that summer is coming to an end. Not happy at all. I hate seeing all that Halloween crap in stores, I don’t want to “Fall into____(insert “savings” or “school” or “a manhole” here). All I want to do is wear shorts and tank tops all year long and never have to don a down jacket. The occasional hoodie, sure, I’ll wear that. But I don’t ever want to wear a hat or gloves. Never.

I love summer. I love the heat and the humidity, I love the beach and the long days and the food. I love driving around with the beach chairs in the back of my truck, all the time, just in case. I love sitting on the beach listening to the Atlantic sing it’s songs for me. I love Jersey Fresh corn and tomatoes, Vidalia onions and the sweet watermelon with seeds that come in late August. I love walking on the jam-packed boardwalk on a hot Saturday night, playing Skee-Ball and trading tickets for trinkets. I just plain love it.

Perhaps it is my aversion to any season that isn’t summer that has kept me from caring about my birthday. I was born on the 28th of October, right smack dab in the center of autumn. Not the colorful, changing leaves, apple-picking half of October – no, I was born in the gray, rainy and cold part. And right before Halloween, meaning that from the age of about 5 onward, most of my birthday cakes were a jack-o-lantern, a witch’s hat, or a layered affair with lots of red and orange leaves. Autumnal. Don’t get me wrong, I am not one of these “I don’t celebrate my birthday” types. I am old, and that’s that. But birthdays aren’t special to me. Maybe if I were born in June, July or August I would feel differently. Then I could have had cookout parties instead of bowling parties. I don’t much like bowling either.

Before long I will indeed embrace the season. I will say “Oh, aren’t those leaves pretty,” while wishing they were still green. I will comment on the crisp air as I wrap a scarf around my head, remembering fondly the flip-flops and bathing suit that sit alone in deep storage. And I will eat (hopefully) Fudgie The Whale as I celebrate my autumn birthday. And when I blow out my candles and make a wish, I will wish for June.

Copyright (c) 2009 Inkwell Television

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day 2009

Today is Earth Day, according to all the signs in the streets and on the Google home page. As a user and abuser of the Earth as opposed to a conserver and preserver, I really don’t know what that means. I guess it has to do with trying to ‘save the planet’ or something, but in all honesty I never paid it much mind. Just as my ancestors never did as they burned ton after ton of coal, blackening sky and lung alike. Hey, they’re long dead and buried, what do they care, right?

I took the train in to work today (yes, I know the name if this blog is “Unemployed, So I’ll Blog,” but I can’t very well change it to read “Employed for the Next Seven Weeks, So I’ll Blog Sporadically”), so that is better than traveling alone in my SUV, idling in traffic as my exhaust pipe spews invisible toxins into the otherwise pristine New York air. Yeah, good and all, but I prefer aiding to the demise of the ozone layer over sharing a smelly metal tube with strangers. Sorry. At least I am honest. (And, it actually costs more to take the train than to drive. But that’s okay, because when I am homeless down the road because no one will hire an over-the-hill TV producer who has no savings after spending it all on expensive LIRR train rides, at least my environment will be clean and fresh!)

The office building where I am working pretends to care about Earth Day. I am not so sure if they do, of if they are just paying it lip service to get the environmentalists off their backs. For instance, yesterday they put up a little sign in the kitchens near the coffee machines announcing the “Ugly Mug Contest” in an effort to use fewer Styrofoam cups. I guess buying paper cups instead of Styrofoam cups was not an option. They want you to bring your ugly mug to the lunch area on the bigwig floor, where the owner of the ugliest mug will “win a prize.” They don’t even make it enticing by telling you what the prize is. Maybe it’s a recycled banana peel made into an iPhone cozy. Now there’s something worth entering the contest for!

Okay, I guess I do care a little. I try not to let the water run when I brush my teeth, I am trying as best I can to avoid beverages in plastic bottles, and I hardly ever over-use hair spray anymore. And I am writing a blog instead of publishing a book in an ongoing effort to save some trees. Of course, if anyone wanted to publish my essays in book form I would be the first one at the edge of the forest with a chain saw, felling virgin trees in anticipation of a giant run. But until then, I will write for the ether of the Internet whilst sipping organic coffee from my ugly mug.

Copyright (c) Leslie R Becker

Monday, April 20, 2009

Shopping At Fat Girl World

I was never thin. Well, wait; I was thin when I was very little. So thin in fact that when my sister Lynne and I took baths together she would tell me I better get out before my mother opened the drain or I would be sucked away with the bath water. I was skeptical, but not skeptical enough to chance it, so I usually jumped out soaking wet. But then at about the age of 12 (right about the time my friends the hormones kicked in) I started to pork up, assisted in part by the opening of our town’s first McDonald’s. (No, I am not about to blame my weight on a fast-food chain. I was the one jamming fistfuls of French fries in my mouth, not Ronald McDonald.) And while I have had my good years and my bad years weight-wise, I have been on a steady upswing lately (right about the time my friends the hormones decided to abandon me), assisted in part by my renewed interest in McDonald’s, something I had been averse to since the age of about 30. But all of a sudden a Happy Meal sounded good again. And that is what has brought ne to my current weight, which has in turn brought me to the plus size department when shopping for clothes.

I call these departments by many names – fat girl world, big girl world, jumbo world (notice the pattern…) or my favorite, which I cannot take credit for, Lane Giant. However, department stores have their own names for the place where women of a certain size shop. Macy’s calls it “Macy Woman,” presumably because thin people are always girls, whereas heavy people are women even if you are 17 years old and a size 24. Kohl’s, Target and Wal-Mart call it like it is – Plus Size Women. No fuss, no muss…but of course, you can’t actually buy plus size clothing at Wal-Mart because all they do is add a few yards to styles that have no business coming in large sizes. I mean really, who wants to look at someone wearing size 22 Daisy Duke shorts? Yeah, no. But my favorite of all is Nordstrom’s: They call their plus size department “Encore.” Yes indeed. Encore: Because there is more of you. Encore: Because more is better. Encore: When regular just isn’t quite enough. Encore. Yes indeed.

And where in the stores can one find Big Girl World? Put on your walking shoes, you have a trek ahead of you.

Most department stores are set up the same. The cosmetics and the men’s departments are located right inside the door from the mall and the parking lot respectively. I am not sure why cosmetics are so readily accessible, but presumably the men’s department is so close to the door because men refuse to travel more than 50 feet into a store to purchase clothes. If their stuff is not right there at the door then they will simply turn around, leave the store, and resort to wearing whatever they happen to already own. I don’t know that I buy that theory, but that’s neither here nor there. Juniors and young men are typically on the first floor as well, since teens have the attention span of a gnat and they must be grabbed before the smell of the food court works its magic and drags them out into the mall where they will spend the next five hours standing by the fountain and texting their friends, who are on the other side of the same fountain. The second floor houses women’s clothing, because most women will travel three states away for clothes – the second floor is easy. But where is Fat Girl World? Keep walking…

The plus size department is always located on the top floor, way in the back. You have to go past housewares, lingerie, children’s clothing, furniture, gift wrap and customer service. And there, way in the back of the back can be found the women’s department, the plus sizes, big girl world. By the time you get there you are so weary that you will buy just about anything simply to justify the time and effort spent in travelling to the summit of the store. But really, why do they make the fat girls travel the furthest? Is it some sort of mean ploy on the part of the store designers? Do they think that by putting our department furthest from the door it provide us chub-ettes with the only exercise we’ll get in the next few weeks, aside from the walk from the car to the all-you-can-eat China Buffet? Do the people who watch shoppers via the cameras in the black bubbles on the ceiling take bets when a fat woman enters, sizing her up to see if she will actually make it to jumbo world without passing out from fatigue or lack of oxygen in the rarefied air of the top floors? Or am I being paranoid?

Ironically, the plus size department is usually found right next to petites, because nothing makes a fat girl happier than to inadvertently wander one rack over and mistakenly pick up a pair of size 4 petite Capri pants thinking they are fat-people shorts. But the biggest insult of all comes when you have finally settled on an outfit, whose combined material could make a jib sail for a small racing yacht, and you go up to the register to pay. (And pay more than the exact same outfit down in skinny girl world because of the extra material, and all the extra stitching required in the making of your sail, I mean, blouse.) It is at the register that you really feel like a big schlump. Why? The Godiva Chocolate display. That’s right, here in Fatty Land they sell candy at the register. Because fat people simply cannot resist a good candy, I guess. Or they think we will be so weakened from the climb and the shopping that we’ll think “what the hell, I’ll take this $8 candy bar because I will need sustenance before I begin the descent to sea level.” That is just the ultimate in insults. I am sure that candy is tasty, but I will never, ever buy candy at the register in the plus size department. I refuse to support that stereotype. Of course, if they had a McDonald’s up there, that would be a different story. French fry, anyone?

Copyright (c) 2009 Leslie R Becker

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Camping With Gay Men

I love camping. I have been camping ever since I was I was a tiny girl. Not that my father took me, as you are all assuming in your heads right now. No. My father hated camping. It was my mother who was more outdoorsy in this area. My father loved fishing and being out in the fresh air, but at the end of the day he wanted a hot shower, a meal cooked in a real kitchen, and a bed that was more than 6 inches off the ground. So it was my mother, and the Girl Scouts of America, who took me camping.

I have never been sure if my mother truly loved camping, or of it was just something she put up with just so she could wear the tailored green leader’s uniform (that she looked fabulous in, I may add…she had, and has still at the age of nearly 82, a cute little Irish body. I got the German hips and bosom from my father. Figures.) But at any rate, it was her leadership in Girl Scouts that started me out on a life-long love of camping. And the lessons I learned in Girl Scouts have served me well when in the wilds of a state park, which is about as remote as I’ve ever gotten.

But no Girl Scout Jamboree could have possibly prepared me for camping with gay men.

Let me preface the whole “camping with gay men” statement by qualifying a few things – first, none of the five men I camp with are very girly or anything like that. A few of them are downright butch. So I was fairly confidant there wouldn’t be any “Ahhhh! There’s a SPIDER in this wretched tent!” moments. And there weren’t. So while that stereotype didn’t play in camp, just about every other one did.

First, one couple was shocked and dismayed to see that the tent they purchased at a big warehouse store lacked all the poles essential for it’s erection (you can’t have a story about gay men without the word “erection.”). So almost as soon as they arrived they had to go to the local Wal-Mart to purchase another tent. While they were gone the rest of us busied ourselves with setting up camp. Aside from the couple who went tent shopping, there were two lesbian couples, another gay couple, and one gay man who is in-between relationships. And it was this man who brought the item that made the others very, very jealous. Because gay men are competitive, I was to learn that weekend. I guess when you strip away the word “gay” you still have “men,” after all. They can’t help it – it’s in their DNA.

I was busy putting up my tent when I realized that there was a lot of noise coming from Howard, the single man’s, tent. I walked over to see what was causing this not-very-nature-like noise, and there he was, his oh-so-fabulous tent pitched perfectly against the autumn backdrop, and he was vacuuming. And the vacuum was plugged in to the wall of his tent. “What are you doing?” I asked, loudly, over the noise of his camouflaged camping Dyson . He shut it off and said, as if everyone in the world vacuumed their tent, “I am vacuuming!” And with that the other two gay men screamed from inside their tent, where they were hanging faux-Persian rugs on the walls, "Whaaaaaaat? You have a vacuum?!?! Oooooo! Let us borrow it! There’s all this nasty dirt in here!”

And thus began a weekend (the first of many) of tent vacuuming. But wait, there’s more. Remember couple number one, who went to Wal-Mart to get a tent? Yes, well they arrived back in camp and began the very complicated set up of their tent-come-chalet. Vacuum man helped them since he was all done with his electric tent set up. I heard lots of “Oooo-ing” and “Ahh-ing,” and exclamations of “What a pretty color!" but when I heard Howard, the man with the coveted vacuum, say, with just a tinge of jealousy in his voice, “Are those closets?” I couldn’t stand it anymore. I had to go over.

Sure enough, their multi-room tent had closets, one on each side of the tent. The right closet had shelves; the left had a hanging bar. For all their camping suits and dresses, I suppose. These closets jutted out from the sides of the tent, looking like little after-thought additions to a summer bungalow. And remember the other gay couple, the ones who borrowed the vacuum? Yeah, well, by the time we all went camping again a few weeks later, they had purchased a new tent the size of a small park. We could have driven one of the cars right in to it. But they kept it very clean with Howards’s vacuum!

Soon I will write a story about how these men used tea lights and tiny paper bags to illuminate not only our campsite but the banks of the creek we camped upon. And about how Howard went in to the woods for firewood and came out with an entire dead tree that he knocked down. It’s true. I was there. Camping was never this much fun before the gay men started going…

Copyright (c) 2009 Leslie R Becker

Sunday, April 5, 2009

“Everyone Gets A Trophy” Ruined Our Economy

The Trophy Generation

I know I have blamed the ruination of our economy on everything from George W. Bush to the rising cost of cashews, but today I realized what truly, I mean really and truly, caused our recession/depression: The “everybody gets a trophy” policy that was brought in to play by some annoying parent with a child who was uncoordinated, a sore loser, stupid or all of the above.

When I was a kid you got a trophy if your team won the big game at the end of the season. Only one team got the trophy, and even of you were the team that played the winner, which of course made you second-best, you got squat because YOU DIDN’T WIN. It made us want to win, but it also taught us how to lose. Because guess what, all you undeserving trophy holders of the last two and a half decades – sometimes you lose and that’s all there is to that.

So now we have a young workforce full of people who got a trophy for showing up for more than half of the soccer practices. They got trophies for managing to not break a bone, they got trophies for wearing matching socks, they got trophies for coming in tenth out of ten. And now they want bonuses for not calling in sick every week and actually doing their jobs.

My sister told me the story of two 19-year-old workers who told her, their boss, that they felt “unappreciated.” Their job was to either hand out towels at a hotel’s poolside towel shed, or bring chairs to the beach for guests. And they felt unappreciated because she didn’t say “Nice job! Here’s a trophy!” after every time they actually did their job quickly and efficiently. She told them that the paycheck they got every week was appreciation enough, and that they should appreciate the fact that she didn’t fire them for performing at a consistent 80%. They quit and she replaced them with one 45 year old school teacher on summer break who did both of their jobs far more efficiently, and never once asked for appreciation or a trophy.

And today we have a Wall Street that is populated with the trophy generation, stock-brokers who seem to believe that even if they fail, even if they lose fully and completely, there is a trophy on the table at the end of the field already engraved with their name, and they get it no matter what. You made a huge error in judgment and told clients to buy Merrill Lynch? That’s okay; you still get a bonus and a trophy. You work for AIG? Here, we have your trophy AND a huge bonus! Whoops! You lost your company millions of dollars? That's okay, you're still a WINNER in our eyes! Have a cookie and a big trophy because you have a big heart! And we wonder why we are in this economic mess.

The Trophy Generation had better wise up soon -- even though their inability to comprehend loss if not their fault -- because if they don’t we are all gonna be in some sorry shape, just you wait and see. So to all you parents who celebrated your inept child’s trophy for 15th place, to you mothers and fathers who told your children that a D average was worth a trip to McDonald’s, to you coaches that allowed the kids with no athletic skills whatsoever to play in the game even though it was obvious that their two left feet were going to cost the team a win, I say shame on you. I may be looking at a dismal old age because you were too weak to tell your kids they needed improvement. But you will suffer the same fate as me, I suppose. So when we retire, I’ll see you in the cat food aisle as we each shop for lunch. I hear 9-Lives has the tastiest shredded beef in savory sauce.

Copyright (c) Inkwell Television 2009

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

All I Want To Do Is Go To A Yankee Game

I never wanted to be one of those old people who say things like “I remember a time when…” but this ticket buying nonsense at Yankee Stadium has me all riled up.

So here I go.

I remember a time not too very long ago before cell phones and pagers and even before answering machines when we would call our friends at work because that was the one place we knew we could reach each other. Back then I was living in Hoboken and my good friend Donna was living in Montclair, and we were, then as now, Yankee fans. And one of us would call the other at work and say “Hey, wanna go see a game tonight?” And it was that easy.

Of course, that was in the dark years between 1978 and 1996 when we celebrated if the Yanks finished the season one game over .500. But even last year, the very last year that the House the Ruth Built was open for business, I was able to easily and somewhat affordably purchase tickets to the last Tuesday night game ever played, the fifth-to-the-last game ever at the renovated original Yankee Stadium , and I did it just two days before the game. But I digress – I was talking about the good old days. I will kvetch (because old people don’t bitch, they kvetch) about the new days later on.

Donna and I would do what fans have been doing since time immemorial – we would meet at the bat, the giant Louisville Slugger that towered over the plaza near Gate 4. From there we would go to either the little red ticket booths, or then when they closed, to the blue ticket booth shoots right at the gates. These booths were staffed by men who were already middle aged when Gerhig gave his “Today (today today today), I consider myself (consider myself sider myself), the luckiest man (man man) on the face (facefaceface) of this Earth (this earth earth), so by the time Donna and I showed up in 1985, these men were ancient. I mean old as crap. Nearly blind, and almost always deaf. And they held your fate in their hands.

We would survey the lines, watching to see whose line was slower. A slow line could simply mean that the all but comatose man inside was just slow as molasses (and yes, they were always men, it was what it was and I am not in the mood to discuss women’s rights at this moment – right now I am bitching, er, I mean kvetching about tickets to a stupid baseball game), but a slow line could also mean that the nonagenarian housed within was actually taking the time to find the very best seats for his anxious fans. We always chose the slowest line.

When we arrived at the Plexiglas window, each clutching a five-dollar bill (with another in our pockets that would buy us a beer and a hot dog, and maybe some Cracker Jack), we would smile our best twentysomething smile and say “Do you have anything on the first base side for $4.25?” and then we would wait, hoping one of us reminded him of either his great, great granddaughter or his first girlfriend. And also hoping he liked his great, great granddaughter or his first girlfriend. The little man in the booth would reach for a stack of rubber-banded tickets and he would thumb through them like a deck of cards, making that thhhhhffffttt sound. And then he would stop suddenly, remove two tickets from the three inch thick stack and say “How about first row loge, box 421?” JACKPOT!

Sometimes we got a mean old man who resented Reaganomics and the fact that he still had to work at the age of 94, so we got really bad seats, buried in the middle of a 45 seat row with nothing but drunken blue collar Jersey boys all around us. That was great for Donna, who would spend the entire game flirting, but for the person with the walnut sized bladder and no interest in any men at the game other than the pin-striped ones, it meant pissing off a bunch of construction workers every other inning as I "excuse me, pardon me" 'd my way to the end of the very long row.

But the point I am trying to make, and not doing a very good job of it, I may add, is that if we wanted to go to a game, we simply went. And it cost us no more than $15 including our train ride. Less of we brought a submarine sandwich with us. It was a fine way to entertain ourselves well within our budget.

But today, well today I wanted to look into getting tickets for the Yankees at their new stadium. But apparently, here, one short month away from opening day, single game tickets are not yet on sale. But I discovered that there is a plan for buying single game tickets, a plan I didn’t know about. No one told me about it. Apparently I was supposed to register to be a part of a lottery. If I were chosen at random in that lottery, I would then be allowed to try and purchase tickets online. Try, but there is no guarantee. Try. But I missed the deadline by 34 minutes to register for the lottery that may or may not lead to tickets , so I was told that if there were any left after the lottery winners have at them, then they would be put out for sale. And if I do manage to snag a seat, it will cost me about $75. That’s right, seventy-five dollars. Per seat. Way out near the foul pole. Seventy Five US dollars.

The average salary in New York City in 1985 was $20,000. Today it is $80,000. That means that my seat at the stadium should be $17, based on what it was in 1985. But no, it is $75. Parking is another $30, a hot dog, beer and Cracker Jack runs another $22. So for just $127, I can go to a game! Oh wait, no I can’t – because I didn’t register for the lottery to be considered to have a chance at being one of the people who tries to buy tickets. Alas.

What happened to us? And how to we get back? I am starting on the time tunnel tomorrow. I’ll let you all know when it is done and we can go back to 1985 when there were only 18,000 people in a stadium that held 50,000, when boys with names like Mattingly, Henderson, Winfield and Righetti played a game in a place that that was hallowed, a place where cheers and boos alike lingered long after the fans left for the season. I remember that place. That place may be gone soon, but not from my heart. So my heart will get to keep the memory while the Yankees get to keep the contents of my wallet, assuming I even get a ticket.

Copyright (c) 2009 Leslie R Becker

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

More Olde Stuff

Dear Blog Readers:

I apologize. I have been busy editing and have not written a blog, and for that I apologize. However, because I sometimes write crap just to amuse myself, I have a bunch of old things that I can recycle here, things you probably have not yet read -- and if you have, maybe you would like to read it again.

This was written in December of 2005. I hope you enjoy it. I looked for something about St Patrick's Day or Lent or Easter, but I guess I never wrote about another Christmas-themed blog it is. Christmas in March.

Shopping in New York City is a challenge on the best of days. Shopping in New York City in December is downright insane. But that's just what I found myself doing today. Why, I wonder, when I have a car and I live in Brooklyn and I can easily drive to any number mall-ettes, do I feel the need to travel, by subway of all God forsaken things, into the city? Oh, and I call them "mall-ettes" because where I come from, there are strip malls and real malls. Here in the outer boroughs of New York City, you have the "mall-ette." Not big enough to be a mall, but way bigger than a strip mall. But I digress…I'll wax poetic on the joys and pitfalls of the uniquely American shopping phenomenon at another time, in an essay entitled "I Hate Malls."

So there I was. I had been to The Container Store over the weekend. Sunday to be exact. I needed containers. They have many. But they also had tables full of cool stocking stuffers. A wind-up flashlight for all the blackouts that happen every 20 - 30 years. A "survival" kit containing gum, candy and snacks all neatly packed in a sardine can. Light up pens. A Willy Whiskers key chain. Remember Willy Whiskers? A face with bits of metal that you drag with a magnet to make whiskers. Yeah. They had that. Cool. I was going to buy it all. Willy Whiskers beats the hell out of another Chap Stick, right?

I wanted these fun items. Monday and Tuesday were nasty and rainy and cold, so I stayed home. Sure, I wanted cool stuff, but was it worth getting sick over? But Wednesday dawned clear and warm. So, on a Wednesday in December, on a matinee day when the city is filled to capacity, I took the train from Brooklyn to Manhattan. I arrived at The Container Store, debit card at the ready for some serious stuffer purchasing. And did they have these stocking stuffers, two-and-a-half days later? No, they did not. "Oh, we sold out of the good stuff really fast!" exclaimed the perky Container Store Elf. Bah humbug to her, I say.

I left The Container Store. I didn't need containers. I needed candy in a small fish tin. I met up with my friend Gary and we walked over to the Farmer's Market and Kristmas Kiosks at Union Square. They were selling everything there. Remote controlled hover crafts, patchouli scented "sex candles," and a whole booth of things made of leaves from both Central Park and Union Square. I asked the guy selling the "Green Man made from Central Park Leaves" why it was necessary to make green men out of leaves from a particular place. He didn't have an answer. I asked him if he had any dog crap that looked like Jesus or Joe DiMaggio or something. He didn't so we moved along.

Lots of people had other Jesus stuff. One booth even had a Saint Simon pin cushion. Many booths had Jesus the Action Figure (pocketful of miracles sold separately!) but what I really wanted was Jesus and the Apostles finger puppets. Sure, there are more Apostles than you have fingers, but you can always improvise for the Last Supper scene: JESUS: Take this bread, all nine of you because James, Bartholomew and Phillip are still at The Olive Garden having all you can eat soup and salad, take this bread and eat it, for this is my body…"

After Jesus browsing we headed to Times Square because I wanted to go to the music stores to get a snare drum, hi-hat cymbals, and stands for my niece for Christmas. Okay, two huge red flags right there - first, actually going to Times Square, and second, purchasing heavy drums and stuff that then have to be carried through the crowds and down into the subway. Alas. But up to 42nd Street we went anyway. We came out of the subway at 40th and Broadway. It was fine for two blocks and then we hit the tourist wall. The tourist wall is the human barrier that is formed in places like Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Big Top All-Girl Review…places like that. The tourist wall cannot be penetrated, surmounted, skirted or summit-ed. The wall moves, but it moves v-e-r-y-s-l-o-w-l-y. I think the city of New York should remember lessons learned during the Republican Convention of 2004. When the Republicans were in town, the city made what I called "The Republican Corridors." Either the center lane or the extreme side lanes of every avenue from 3rd through 9th, and of major cross streets from 14th to 57th, was blocked off with cones. New Yorkers sat in traffic as Republicans whizzed by us in their specially marked Republican Corridors. Well, I think the city should make "New Yorker Alleys" on the sidewalks near tourist attractions. The majority of the sidewalk can be used for strolling and looking at the buildings and the bright lights and the fake Prada salesmen. But there would be one lane, marked off with cones, that was just for New Yorkers. We would walk very fast there. No one would be allowed to stop. If they did, they would either be trampled or knocked down and rolled out of the way. Exits and entrances would be at corners and subways. And God help the tourist who wandered in to the New Yorker Alley by mistake. No mercy would be shown. But of course, we are all tourists at one time or another, as I was reminded when a young man, exasperated when he couldn't get by a group of digital camera-wielding women, exclaimed "tourists!" in that oh-so-disdainful New York way. One of the women turned to him and said "Hey! Stay away from my beach this summer!" We are all tourists.

After visiting the music stores and buying 98 pounds of stuff, we headed to Port Authority so Gary could catch his bus back to New Hope. He runs a B & B there. I hate B & B's. But again, that will be for another time, in an essay entitled "I Hate B & B's." Anyway, Port Authority is one of those places where even New Yorkers feel alien. Nothing but florescent lighting and the air is filled with the smell of diesel fumes. And it shakes like there is an earthquake all day long. You can always spot a transplanted Californian at Port Authority. When the building shakes they do that turtle thing where they immediately try to pull their heads in to their shells, only we people don't have shells. Visible ones, anyway. Then they run for the door. New Yorkers, thinking the bus/train/taxi/pedi-cab is leaving, begin running too. New Yorkers will run for any reason, or no reason, as long as someone ahead of them is running. It's fun to watch. But the best fun in Port Authority is Leisure Time Bowling and Cocktails. You can have a martini and then put on someone else's smelly, multi-colored shoes and hurl an orb at objects carefully arranged at the end of a runway. Just like fashion week!

So all that to say…I will never shop in the City in December again!

Copyright (c) 2005 Leslie R Becker

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Crime Doesn't Pay

I don’t understand why there are still criminals of any kind in this day and age, a time when you really can’t get away with anything. But yet there are dim-witted people out there who wake up one day and think to themselves “I’m going to rob a bank! Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. Then all my money woes will be gone forever!” And so they shall be. But your “Uh-oh, I’m gonna be somebody’s bitch in prison” woes will just be starting.

There are closed circuit television cameras everywhere, people. Perhaps not as many as they have in England, where officials can peer into almost every aspect of your life, but unless you have been living in an ice fishing shack on Antarctica for the last 25 years, you know that at the very least, banks have cameras, for crying out loud. And guess what? Wearing that NY Jets ski mask to conceal your identity is pointless if you write the “Gimme all your money and no one gets hurt!” note on your own pre-printed-with-your-name deposit slip.

One of my favorites is when people get pulled over for speeding and the cop discovers 85 pounds of marijuana or a kilo of cocaine. I mean really. How incredibly clueless do you have to be? If I had as little as a single joint in my car there is no way I am going even one mile an hour over the limit. Stupid pot-heads. “Dude, go faster! Let’s see if we can go real fast and travel to the future and sell this pot for like, way more than it’s worth now! Whoa…what’s that light and noise behind us, dude? Is that the time tunnel sucking us back, or what?”

The other day I read about two very stupid criminals, one a shoplifter/petty thief, the other a car jacker. Brainless thief #1 decided to rob the same corner store in Brooklyn that he had been chased from earlier that day for trying to shoplift a 40-ounce bottle of Olde English 800 Malt Liquor. He must have been successful in stealing a bottle of the demon brew from one of the dozens of small stores all within a stone’s throw of each other that populate Brooklyn from one end to the other, because he grew a set of (drunken) balls and went back to the store from which he had been chased, and he accosted the owner for cash from the drawer. The owner handed him a few measly dollars and the thief stumbled outside and ran past a beat cop who happened to be right there. The cop chased the guy down the street, into a building, and up to an apartment. The cop knocked on the door and a different man answered. The cop mistook him for the drunken thief he was just chasing and arrested him. (Apparently stupidity is not confined to the “robber” side of “cops and robbers.”) But the real robber showed his true-but-dull colors because as the cop led the unfortunate look-alike away, the real thief shouted from his window to the cop, telling him how stupid he was for arresting the wrong guy. Guess what the cop did then? Yeah, he went back upstairs and arrested the mind-numbingly un-smart braggart. What a dumb ass.

And thief #2 has a story that is not as colorful but just as incredible on the idiot scale – it’s the story of a car thief who called cops repeatedly to brag about having gotten away with stealing a car. Except the brainiac was using his own cell phone, so the police were able to easily track him down and jail him. How dense can you really be? I mean, really? That's as bad as the kids who do stupid petty crimes, videotape themselves doing it, post it on YouTube, and then are surprised when they get arrested. But presumably we can blame their stupidity on raging hormones. A grown person has no excuse.

What’s the moral of the story? Don’t bother breaking the law. You won't get away with it anyway, and you will end up on the pages of “Stupid News, Stupid Criminals.”

Copyright (c) 2009 Leslie R Becker

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Stupid People

I belong to a service called “Theater Extras.” You pay a yearly membership fee of $95.00 and you are then eligible for two free event tickets. Well, there is a $4.00 processing fee, but almost free, especially considering how little you can buy with $4.00, so it’s as good as free. There is the occasional Broadway show (and attending one show essentially pays for the membership fee), quite a few Off Broadway shows, opera, concerts with famous and not-so-famous orchestras, a crap load of cabaret shows that I am just never, ever going to attend (I mean really, who wants to see yet another gay man sing the songs of Judy Garland?) and every once in a while a popular artist concert. I even went to a Martina McBride concert at Jones Beach last summer, and I have no idea whatsoever who Martina McBride is. But it was $4.00 and it was at a fabulous outdoor amphitheatre overlooking the Atlantic Ocean on gorgeous summer night. What the hell, right?

My friend Donna Coney Island (no, that is not her maiden or married name, but it is her name nevertheless) got me to join back in October of 2006 in an effort to secure tickets to Barbra Streisand’s appearance that year at Madison Square Garden. Apparently when Babs decided to take herself on tour again and set her prices in the stratosphere, she failed to consider that most people didn’t want to see her badly enough to pay $600 for a seat on the 17th floor in the way-back of a giant arena. Nor did she consider that most of the concert-ticket-buying public have no clue who she is. They were looking for Shakira or The Killers – not a sixty-something warbler from a bygone era. Sure enough, she failed to sell out The Garden, and Theater Extras had Barbra Streisand tickets. They were going to put them up at an appointed hour, and Donna figured that if both of us were members we would double our chances of getting tickets. And sure enough, we got’em! We were about three rows up on the first ring, only about halfway back in the arena. They were really amazing seats, and they were four dollars! But that’s not what this blog is about. I just wanted to give you a little history of my membership in Theater Extras.

Last week there was an offering for The Little Orchestra Society’s concert honoring the bicentennial of Abe Lincoln’s birth. They were playing, among other things, Aaron Copeland’s “A Lincoln Portrait,” and it was to be narrated by James Earl Jones, who could narrate an autopsy and make it sound good. This was one of their concerts for young people, so Jacki and I went in to it knowing that there would indeed be lots of children, and therefore a fairly high level of noise, probably more than usual. The concert was at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center.

Avery Fisher Hall was built specifically to become the home of the New York Philharmonic, who up until that time had played concerts at Carnegie Hall. Avery Fisher opened in 1962 (but it was not called Avery Fisher until a man named Avery Fisher gave them a giant lump of cash and they named it after him), but much to everyone’s dismay, it was an acoustical dud. Well, it is not acoustically great if you want to hear what’s being played on the stage, but I know first hand that if you are in the 7th row and you have gum, the whole damn place can hear you getting that gum out. I’ll explain further on…

Because Theater Extras tends to get some of the worst seats at the event, we have become accustomed to either being way off to the side behind a pillar, way up in the last row of the rear mezzanine, or in the case of a place like Avery Fisher, way down in the front where you can hear essentially nothing, get a stiff neck from craning upwards to see, and at that can only see the tops of musician’s heads. But hey, it’s $4.00…Anyway, we took our seats at this Lincoln Center concert for Lincoln and the music began. I don’t remember what the first piece was, but it was indeed lovely, and they had a slide show of Daguerreotypes and photos of Lincoln and the Civil War and slaves and other things iconic of that era. And bunting. There was lots of red, white and blue bunting because nothing says Olde Time Americana like bunting.

At the conclusion of the first piece the conductor turned to talk to the audience, because remember, this is a young people’s concert and they try to get the kids involved. Plus, kids today think everything is interactive anyway, so might as well flat out talk to them rather than expecting them to sit there quietly like we did in the days before “interactive.” No, wait – we had “interactive;” it was known as “go outside and play with your friends,” but I digress. The conductor said, “Who knows what year Lincoln was born?” Now remember – we are there for a bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth. Presumably every adult in there knew the answer, and knew enough to keep quiet and let the kids answer. But no. This guy in the 7th row shouted out “1809!” and the conductor looked at him oddly, as if to say “You’re an idiot, that question was not for you” but instead said “Yes, that’s right, 1809” and then he talked more about Lincoln’s early years. Then the conductor said, “President Obama is our 44th president – does anyone know what number Abe Lincoln was?” and sure enough, dick head shouted out “Sixteen!” The conductor, like those of us near him, were beginning to wonder if maybe this guy was developmentally disabled and had the mind of a child and that is why he is answering. No. He then high five'd his girlfriend, who was clearly impressed by this jackass’s intellectual prowess on the subject of Abraham Lincoln, and it was then that we all saw that he was just an annoying blowhard. Finally, the conductor said, “President Obama and President Lincoln were both from the same state when they were elected…anyone know what state that is?” And at this point the conductor leveled a look at Shit-For-Brains that clearly said “DO NOT ANSWER THIS” but sure enough, he shouted out “Illinois!” The conductor's shoulders dropped, he said nothing, turned to the orchestra and began the next piece, clearly defeated and deflated by this buffoon’s ruining of his lesson to the children. In the meantime, Genius’s girlfriend was so impressed that she felt the need to deep tongue kiss him for the next three full minutes.

The concert proceeded with no more shenanigans until there was a really quiet part. A guest violinist and composer was on the stage playing a solo medley of songs written during the Civil War, which was apparently a very prolific time period, song-wise (a fact our man did NOT know, thankfully). As the haunting strains of a sad melody from this lone instrument tried valiantly to make its way to the back of this acoustically imperfect hall, the Dynamic Duo in row 7 thought to themselves, “Hey, now would be the perfect time for minty fresh breath! Let’s push gum chiclets through this really noisy foil/plastic container, and let's do it over and over again.” So they did. Of course, they dropped the first piece, so that was a do-over. And I guess Mr. Know-It-All has a really big mouth, because he needed to chew three pieces simultaneously. So the gum wrapper noise lasted for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, a 9-year-old in the row in front of them turned around and shushed them. And when the child turned back around they did what any adult would do in a similar situation -- they had another piece of gum.

We really enjoyed the concert, but I doubt I will be going back to any young people concerts. And not because of the kids – no, they were perfect audience members. It’s the adults I am afraid of. Because we live in a world with no rules, especially for the two people in seats 16 and 18, Row G, Avery Fisher Hall, on February 28, 2009. Idiots.

Copyright (c) 2009 Leslie R Becker