Saturday, November 29, 2008

For relaxing times, make it Early Times ...

For the last eight years, I've gone north to my aunt and uncle's house for Thanksgiving to Newburyport, Massachusetts - a sleepy town on the Merrimac River. For the last four years, my brother has joined me in the trek since moving from California to Philadelphia. For the last two years, I've run in Newburyport's Annual Turkey Trot. This year, my brother decided to run it with me.
We woke up early Thanksgiving morning, laced up and headed out into the frosty morning to run 3.1 miles in Maudsley State Park. My brother, who hasn't exercised since 1999, was reasonably terrified. We stood at the back of the 1,500-plus pack of runners, with senior citizens in front of us, runners with small dogs on leashes and some eight-year-old doing military style push-ups before the race. For the first half of the race my brother and I were neck-and-neck, but at the halfway mark I lost him. We both finished at a mildly-respectful 38 minutes (me) and 40 minutes (him) - not bad for two people who rarely exercise, one of them not since the threat of Y2K loomed close.
The soreness set in almost instantly. Mine lifted by the time the turkey was placed on the table, but my brother's ... well, I'm not sure if it's gone yet.
My grammie came over around noon and began her typical questions on repeat: Do you like to cook? (my question to answer) How is school? (my brother's question) When are you going to shave your beard? (I'll let you decide whose question that was) What kind of drink would you like? (a question for both of us)
My grandmother is an expert when it comes to libations. She's been drinking Southern Comfort for years and years, "because it's sweet". Every time we see her she pushes for us to drink up Janis Joplin's cocktail of choice. For years, when my grandfather was alive, they'd have happy hour together and she's sip her liquid "dessert". My brother doesn't really drink much, and, with his body in disarray he decided, to ease his pains, skip the SoCo and to try a little bourbon - Early Times Bourbon.

This bourbon has been in my aunt's cupboard for at least 15 years. The bottle was covered in dust, and she only uses it when she makes Lobster Newburg. I took one sip and started coughing, and my brother took a sip and said, "[he] could see through time." On a roll to prove his athletic prowess, he made a sport of drinking that bourbon and was lightheaded within minutes. And even though I may have won the foot race, he was the true champion of the day.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Is Chivalry Dead?

The idea of chivalry stems from the Medieval Times. History (and a two-page Where's Waldo? spread I remember) tells us that prior to chivalry becoming widespread, manners were secondary, barbarians roamed the streets of London and women were treated less than kindly. After the savage time passed, men were to treat a woman with kindness and regard - up on a pedestal, without looking up her skirt.
I've heard since I was young that "chivalry is dead", but I refuse to believe this. After talking to a few friends, it’s clearer that it may not be dead, but it’s certainly on life support - it's a muscle that needs to be exercised.
One of my best friends said chivalry is definitely a tool for men to use in the ways of wooing a lady, but it's not without its rewards. Unfortunately, she says, and especially in larger cities, men think they can get the next hottie down the line without trying, "little do they know, with that behavior, they’ll also get herpes".
Another friend of mine agrees with the sentiment that chivalry tends to be exercised on a reward basis - it "communicates intentions". He says, "At the end of the day, you have a bunch of guys with drying flowers and good intentions asking themselves if it was worth it. Moreover, they’re watching the drunk guy with unwashed hair taking someone else home." Those feelings aside, he says he opens doors and acts chivalrous to every woman, no matter if they have boyfriends or not. He even humors me when we eat together and I ask him to order for me saying, "The lady will have ... "
Until recently, I’d never been on a real-life date. I’d always jumped from relationship to relationship, which promotes an instant comfort-level with me and my then-boyfriend. Without courting, there aren't many opportunities to open car doors, pay for meals or show up with flowers. And, my favorite rule of chivalry, placing your coat upon a puddle so my petticoat doesn't get damp, was difficult to execute as I came of age in Southern California.
But, even when I was in relationships you may be thinking that chivalry could have still existed. My first boyfriend was and is incredibly sweet. I was insistent that I didn't want a boyfriend in high school, so we got together a week after I graduated. He was a gentleman, affectionate and clear with his feelings. In fact, he even lit my pipe for me when I tried pot for the first time. He’s still one of my best friends, and I truly cherish our time together. I was off to a great start.
My second boyfriend, during freshman year of college, had never had a girlfriend, had never kissed a girl and had never gone on a date. Boy, oh boy. It’s too soon to talk about.
My third (and later, sequentially fifth and sixth) boyfriend actually thought holding a door open for a girl meant the man goes first and then holds it open behind him so it doesn't slam in the girl’s face.
Then, my fourth boyfriend also had something in common with two of the others: they came from a family with no sisters. I truly feel that if you come from a family with sisters, you’re automatically going to be kinder to women. I’m sure there are exceptions to this rule, but not in my relationship experience - so who cares if I’m wrong if it doesn't affect me, right?
My sister and I have had this conversation before as we think our brother is the sweetest boyfriend around (some may find this creepy that I’d say this, but I did give my brother mono after all, so there’s that)
For example, one of his high school girlfriends was a waitress, and we went to breakfast together at her restaurant and he left her a nice tip and flowers; he gave another girlfriend a subscription to US Weekly - the quickest way to a woman’s heart.
Another part of the family tree that should be held responsible is parents. My paternal grandfather and grandmother met a dance when they both worked at Pratt & Whitney on the night shift. My grandmother, an absolutely beautiful woman (pictured below), clearly had to be courted and wooed because her dance card was full. My grandfather, a high school basketball stud, worked hard to make her fall in love with him and on leave from World War II they were married and had my aunt and father years later.
My dad came of age during the feminist movement, which is sometimes blamed for the death of chivalry (bullshit). For my grandfather, chivalry was expected, like having to number 2 after eating Taco Bell. While for my father it may have been something he should have been taught.
My parents haven’t always been devoid of romance. I remember times when they would cook dinner together - just the two of them - and candles were mandatory (also mandatory: “For the Longest Time” HAD to be on the stereo. God, they love that song).
If I have sons, I’ll definitely make it a point to have them act with chivalry. Even if I have a daughter, I’ll teach her the same. I don’t think chivalry is dead, but I do think it’s morphed into a universal value: be polite and kind to people. Personally, I am a feminist striving for equality. I think every woman and man deserves to feel special and taken care of every once and awhile. I think it’s important for women to take men out on dates, too. It’s not just saved for Sadie Hawkins dances.
For years I've passed the door test, not just with men, but with women too. I was chivalrous towards my ex-boyfriends, towards my friends and my family. With today’s standards, treating people how you would like to be treated seems like the way to go - but for christsakes, somebody please put their coat on a puddle for me someday. Oh yeah, and buy me stuff. And, tell me I'm pretty. And that I smell good. And open my doors - the right way.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tears of a Clown

A few months ago, I was riding the subway home with a friend of mine when we saw a clown get on the train at Queensboro Plaza – the first stop in Queens on the N or W line. We didn’t think much of it. After all, I’ve been groped on the subway, fallen in love, met a new friend, been stared at by a really creepy girl – nothing really phases me.
Now, I’ve never been a big fan of clowns, and for the same reason as any other sane human being: Pennywise.
When the clown got on the train, at about 11:30 pm, he started doing various clown things in front of my friend and me. He raised his eyebrows, played peek-a-boo – he must have still been on the clock. We started talking to him and found out his name was Goofy Gary and he was just coming back from working a child’s birthday party in Manhattan. He handed us his business card if we ever needed his services.
I asked, “Do you do balloon animals?”
He said, “No.”
“Do you do magic tricks?”
“Do you ride a tiny tricycle?”
“No – geeze, you really know how to make a clown sad.”
I felt terrible, but what else is on a clown’s resume under special skills? And, if you visit his Web site, you’ll see he says he can do magic tricks and balloon animals – c’mon Gary. (And my favorite part of his site is under “What People Are Saying About Goofy Gary”. One fan says, “He's magic. He's goofy. Is his name really Goofy Gary?”)
Since that night, I’ve seen Gary on the train at least two more times in full make-up. I always avoid his eyes because I’m afraid he’ll remember the night some condescending clown judger was less than impressed with his repertoire.
But now, the MTA is planning on removing one of the subway lines that runs from my neighborhood to Brooklyn, so there’s an even stronger chance Gary and I will meet again. Maybe he has learned how to make balloon animals by now, or perhaps my penance will be to assist him on a singing telegram job.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Preserve, Cherish, Protect

One of my favorite sites is Passive Aggressive Notes. If you've ever lived in a dorm-like situation, a multi-sibling household or anywhere with a white board you've experienced a passive aggressive note.
My brother lives in a multi-floor, multi-resident, always smells like curry apartment building in the West Side of Philadelphia.
He came home after dropping a friend off at the airport to find about FIFTY of this little beauty posted all around his building:

Text, for the hard of seeing:
Hi Everyone:
Yesterday because of the rain I spread my wet umbrella in the hall of the third floor around 10PM. Unfortunately I forgot to bring it back at night. But this morning I found my umbrella missing.
Yes, I know that the stuffs placed in the hall are often free for everyone. But I think my umbrella is an exception because of the heavy rain and I spread it. So maybe someone has taken my umbrella away unintentionally.
I hope that the person who took my umbrella could return it to the same place. Our environment need all of us living in this building to preserve it, to cherish it, to protect it.
One resident.

Man, my heart goes out to this one resident, but I'm afraid they'll never get their umbrella back. But, the real winner in all of this is us: we've learned in order to have a robust life full of proper morals we need to preserve, cherish and protect.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I'm Turning Into The Fly

In the 1986 re-make of The Fly, Jeff Goldblum, turns into a creature after an experiment goes terribly, terribly wrong. Geena Davis is the first to notice these changes when she catches a glimpse of some very thick hairs growing on his back: Now, I've already talked about my rapidly-growing, single back hair. But recently, I've sprouted some Fly-esque hairs between my eyebrows.
I come from a proud tradition of the unibrow. My father has a unibrow, my grandfather had a unibrow and I'm sure his father's father felt the winds of the Atlantic tickle his unibrow on the boat to French Canada many, many years ago.
My sister and I have been waxing our eyebrows for years in hopes to discourage hair growth - it's worked to some extent. But, now, even the sweet lady who reshapes my brows frowns at the development. I get the frown, the "hmmmm" and the hope that maybe if she leaves the wax on longer that hair will wave the white flag.
I know stray hairs are something that happen as you age, but why does one have to sprout right between my eyeballs? Any suggestions besides looking forward to having 4,000 lenses in each eye?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

No Shot in Hell

Tonight, some co-workers in my department are challenging two other departments to a shot contest. Nothing says "Veteran's Day" like a night of shooting booze competitively. How do you determine who wins, you ask? I'm fuzzy on the official rules, but I believe that whoever is sick first is eliminated.
It's all going to happen at 1-2-3 Burger Shot Beer in Hell's Kitchen. This bar's gimmick is $1 burgers, $2 shots and $3 beers. I was asked to represent the team, but there is no way I can compete. I've had a long-running history of poor decisions and consequences once I've taken shots.
The first time I ever tried alcohol was by way of a shot. During a spring break in high school, I went down to Ensenada in Baja California, Mexico with a friend of mine and her parents. My friend's parents were the ones whose drinking motto was, "I don't care if you drink, as long as it's in my house (or with me in another country)." They also thought the best way to get drunk for the first time was to get there as quickly as possible.
We went to a bar, akin to Senor Frog's, and they ordered us a bucket of beer. I was so scared being in a (kinda) foreign country, about to have a drink. (to set the scene a little further: I was such a good kid growing up; I think I was still in Girl Scouts at the time, and there's a 95% chance that I was wearing khakis and a cardigan from the Gap when this happened) While waiting for our beer, a man wearing a black leather apron was walking around the bar with a whistle in his mouth. My friend's parents motioned him over, where, following their direction, the leather man grabbed my cheeks to open my mouth. He poured tequila down my gullet, put a napkin over my mouth and shook my head - all while blowing his whistle in my ear. That was it. It was over. Drunk. Drunk. Drunk.
This is where it all came off the rails. Within an hour, I rode a mechanical bull, took a picture with a donkey named "Bimbo" on the street and sliced my forehead open with a butterfly knife - because at that point, I didn't understand the mechanics of a switch blade.
There are more stories, even leading up to last weekend, but I think it will be best to avoid the contest tonight - for my safety, my career and my loved ones from the workplace.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

Can't Spell Drug Bust Without B-U-S

This weekend I went to Philadelphia to spend some time with my brother and sister. We didn't do much, but it was still good to be in the same room with both siblings.
On Sunday afternoon, my return trip to New York was relatively uneventful, until we exited off the New Jersey Turnpike an exit sooner than we should have. The bus slowed down and someone wearing a backpack jumped off in a very seedy looking part of Jersey City (note: Does Jersey City have any non-seedy parts?). A lot of people on the bus were confused by this, gaping out the window as the gentleman jogged away.
I wasn't as shocked as my traveling companions because this same thing happened on another bus I took a year ago. At the time, I was on a bus traveling towards Philadelphia to see my brother. The driver exited the New Jersey Turnpike and was taking a more rural route - a short-cut, I thought. Until, the bus slowed down to about 5 m.p.h. and a guy jumped out of the bus and ran off towards a gas station.
I honestly don't mind being an accessory to whatever crime there is for passengers wearing backpacks and running into the jungle of Dirty Jersey. I pay $10 for a ride that keeps me on my toes, I get to hear loads of new curse words in Chinese and get a little adrenal pumping. Plus, I've always felt prepared for a hard-knock bus ride. After all, in eighth grade, I owned the Dangerous Minds soundtrack on cassette (which my mom took away from me) and I watch The Wire (not very courageously as evidenced last night by me gasping so loudly at a shooting that my sister, in the other room, burst through my door to make sure I wasn't dying in my sleep).
I just wonder how I can get a little more involved in this operation; I think I'd be the least suspicious-looking drug mule around: Cardigans? Check. Loafers with tassels? Check. Mopey indie rock on iPod? Check. Where do I sign up?