Saturday, November 25, 2006

Hey David Blaine, any chance you're a middle child?

Know how when you turn a corner sometimes and there's a man suspended in a gyroscope three stories above the street? It pretty much solves your problem about what you'll be doing on Thanksgiving afternoon.

After what I'd like to call "Everyone in my life dropped the ball on me except David Blaine," I was alone for Thanksgiving. No turkey (nor tofurkey), no family, no nothing. I was stomping around the city, muttering to myself about my stupid friends who had family in the tri-state area, when who should appear before me like a vertigo-inducing mirage: The Harry Houdini of our generation. Apparently he was doing some stunt for Target where he spun for two days, then tried to escape so he could take 100 little Oliver Twists on a shopping spree.

I was hooked, mostly because I couldn't get down the street because of the crowd. It had it all: charity, my favorite store, my love of gyroscopes. Unfortunately, it did not have any suspense. I mean, he wasn't even holding his breath this go around. Also, they gave him a key to unlock himself, which I'm pretty sure takes the mystery out of it. Gob Bluth couldn't have messed it up at that point. Basically, he just unlocked himself then jumped down. People kept pushing past me; they couldn't leave fast enough. In the distance I think I heard a child cry, "You sir are no David Copperfield!"

So we'll consider this the second-greatest time I saw David Blaine, following the much-publicized "Blaine in an Underwater Bubble" experiment in May. There wasn't much to see that time until his skin began falling off. When you need an audience to see you so much that you're willing to waterlog your epidermis, people start to assume you weren't hugged enough as a kid.

I figure I'm averaging seeing him pop up randomly every six months. Sadly, I missed him in the block of ice in Times Square. But I'm looking forward to clearing my schedule for whatever's next for this attention-deprived man. Locked in a box of bees? Flying a kite in a lightning storm? Wresting a bear to the death on the Brooklyn Bridge? A door-to-door survival challenge through the South Bronx?

Whatever it is, David Blaine, know that New York cannot get enough of you and your need to create huge traffic jams while everyone gawks at you.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire!

Well, not my roof, but someone's. Someone precariously close to my apartment. I came out of the subway and stepped into a scene from "Backdraft." There were eight or nine firetrucks blocking off streets and professionals scrambling up ladders a few buildings away, trying to get on the roof.

I don't think the fire was all that serious, since the people in the building were amusedly watching the show from the windows. And at one nearby intersection, a woman meandered through the crosswalk as a fire truck tried to back up. Bitch, you're gonna get us all killed.

When she was finished, the driver asked me if it was safe to back up. Seriously? This is the method you're going with? I'm suddenly in charge of saving lives?

You should know about me that it's my greatest urban fear to have to use my fire escape for something other than drinking. (Safety first!) I was walking around a few weeks ago and there was a big puff of white smoke that emerged from the top of this building, like a magician had just finished a trick. I had the 9 and the first 1 dialed quicker than you could say, "Habemus Papam."

And I know that if there were a fire, I'd panic and try to save random stuff.

Laptop. Logical enough. My coat. Practical, no problem there. Photos. Aw, memories.

But I know the firemen (sorry, firepeople. Girls can be anything they want to be!) would find my charred self in the shower with my fingers still around the shower curtain rings, mid-unfastening. I love my shower curtain. It's periwinkle, which is a harder color to find than you might imagine. It brings joy and sunshine to my showers, even when the hot water decides to not make an appearance.

(Sidebar: The last time the hot water flew south, the super came up and all but scolded us for wasting his time. "What you want hot water for? It's not even winter yet.")

So, here are just a few of the things I would throw down to New York's Bravest while flames lapped at me:

Shower curtain. aforementioned great color.
Gray-blue canvas of silkscreened dandelion puff. Modern and simple. Makes my room complete.
Various favorite dresses and sweaters. I'm be damned if I'm wearing burned clothes to work.
Favorite books (including but not limited to: "America, the Book," "The Know-It-All" and "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again." I'll want to stay literate as I begin my new life on the mean streets. (And I have to say that I love the image of me not just trying to save random books, but frantically combing through my bookshelf amidst a housefire for specific ones.)
Marshmallows For roasting. I'll be the hero of the fire.
My TV. Out of spite, because I'll probably be angry and not handling it well.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Were you on Opie and Anthony yesterday morning?

No? It was just me then.

(That's also the tactic I go with to tell people it's my birthday.)

For people (hi mom!) who have never auditorily collided with Opie and Anthony, they were banned for a few years after broadcasting a couple having sex in a church. People found it to be a bit controversial. For some reason.

But now they're back! Awesome! And somehow my need for coffee collided with their need to entertain commuters with fart sounds.

I don't know how it happened, I don't know why it happened, I don't know what was said. All I know is that Jim Norton was doing part of the show outside my Starbucks. He's this guy:

There was a massive crowd gathered to listen to the little bald man's ruminations on life. I emerged with my coffee and he said something that I mercifully couldn't hear. About 40 people whipped their heads around to look at me. Jim nodded. I nodded/waved/scowled/smiled (harder than it sounds) and went about my day.

Seriously though, if you happened to be listening at about 9:15 Nov. 20th, please let me know what Jim Norton said about a girl in a green coat.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Monday Morning Dance Party Vol. 9: "A lesson for all of us" edition

Remember as you head off into the workforce today: Even if you're a backround dancer, you can steal the show.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Terror Alert: Red backpack

(This isn't him. If it's you I'll happily admit I stole the picture of a random guy and will take it down. Don't sue!)

I have a bruise on my side from a seatmate actively digging his elbow into me yesterday, a shy, fairly "normal" (as opposed to "homeless and shitting himself") looking guy my age.

As I shifted around trying to get him to stop touching my sideboob, he yelled at me, "You think you can take up more room?" Keep in mind that he was in a solid quarter of my seat and the train was packed. If he'd just moved his arm the problem would have been solved, but instead he applied force. It was as close as I've ever come to being in a fight. I pointed out that he was in fact in my seat, but he was having none of it, continuing without regard to logic, "What? Is it your seat? Did you pay for it?"

You know, as opposed to the non-MetroCard system he apparently uses.

More baffling wordplay was to follow. When I showed him how the MTA actually makes the seats different colors for handy differentiating, and showed him how far into the yellow he was, he decided to forgo the principles of physics and reiterate that I was in fact in his seat, and should find another seat if I didn't like it. (Editor's note: FOR THE LOVE OF GOD THERE WERE NOT ANY OTHER SEATS.)

Know how you lie awake at night and wonder how you might die? Yeah, I don't have that concern so much anymore. I will be knifed/shot/choked on the train for shouting things like, "I don't blame you for trying to cop a feel. You probably don't get close to girls very often."

I then stayed in the half seat for another two stops for good measure before moving directly opposite him. He kept staring at me openly for the next few stops, so I did the ol' switcheroo where I got off and hopped on another car so he thought I left.

Imagine my delight when I got off at my real stop and he got off too. Luckily, he didn't see me. Nor did the aw-fucking-some ever-vigilant MTA booth operator see him.

"Guy with a red backpack? He just walked past you?" I asked hopefully, trying to find out which way he went.

"Nope, I didn't see nufin."

Somehow I bet you didn't. Ever hear of the "See Something, Say Something" campaign? Are we seriously letting you be a line of defense in the war on terror?

So anyway, if I turn up dead, lobby for it to be made into a "Law & Order" episode. I'd like Kiera Knightly to play me.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Monday Morning Dance Party Vol. 8: "Shiny, happy people" edition

We're gonna make it big guys. We're gonna be stars. Just look at my attention to detail; I got stocking covers for my skates.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Leaving my mark, one M at a time

Like many fools, I send out Christmas cards every year.

I search for the right words that say "have a pleasant holiday of your choosing, or simply acknowledge that it's winter," and struggle to fill up the appropriate length so you don't just get a piece of paper that says "Happy Holidays! Kate."

Turns out, I've been wasting everyone's time. This year, you're all getting personalized M&Ms. Can you imagine boiling down a year's worth of sentiments into four lines of eight characters? I can.

Boy can I.

Although the rules prohibit name brands (So no, "Suck it, Red Sox!"), celebrity names ("I will find you, Macauly Culkin") or inappropriate language ("You look like shit today!") I'm pretty confident I can find ways around all those rules.

What could be more delicious than candy? Candy that speaks to your personal hopes and dreams (or fears and shortcomings). If you're on the list, consider this your Christmas card and feel free to reciprocate in kind.

(This is true: Before you buy, you have to swear "you are at least eighteen years of age (nineteen in Alabama and Nebraska; twenty-one in Mississippi." So don't get any crazy ideas, Mississippi teens. You can't be trusted to make your mark on an M until you're of legal drinking age.)

For Good Roommate, who's had a rough month.

For crazy Monica, my other roommate, who ain't all there.

For Mom, who worries.

For Dad, apparently an international man of mystery, who got Legionnaire's disease.

For my sister, Annie, who needs to start delivering nieces and nephews to me so I have an excuse to go to Baby Gap. I want to make her feel awkward and pressured as possible.

For her husband, Matt, in the army.

For my brother, Kevin, who doesn't read my blog or get regular haircuts. (Damn you, character limit!)

For "Wigurski," who doesn't really know what my job entails, but isn't afraid to make requests anyway.

And finally, for nobody in particular. Want to make that criticism/threat go down sweeter?:

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Hometown heroes

In honor of last night's elections, I bring to you a sampling of my former hometown newspaper's (predominantly) political letters to the editor. These have it all, ignorance, inflated senses of importance, often a failure to grasp grammar. I'm a little uneasy, because there's actually no comment I can add that makes these any funnier/sadder.

* I'm a caring mother of two and a grandmother. Let’s make (redacted) a place where my children, your children and our children's children will like. How about ice skating also? Yes! Disney on ice and much more. I love it. I really do.

Remember yesterday when I said I hate the elderly? I take it back. They're awesome with the non sequitirs and...hey peanut butter Magic Johnson!

* It now seems politically correct to educate Americans about the Islamic religion of Muslims.
Does the (redacted newspaper) plan to have feature stories, with one full-page and several column inches, for all local churches and their different beliefs? There is a cable news network that has the goal and theme of "fair and balanced" reporting of the news. I'm hoping to see balanced and equal coverage in the (newspaper) of the traditional religious beliefs of local folks who are Americans.

YES! Let's kick off the religious isolationism. It's all fair and balanced as long as I agree with it. No foreign ideas, no loud noises, no sudden movements. NO SUDDEN MOVEMENTS! KEEP YOUR HANDS WHERE I CAN SEE THEM! (Extra points if you know what network she's referring to. I hate when people talk in riddles.)

* Wherever in today's world the dominant religion is Islam there is religious persecution or limited exercise of another faith. That is in stark contrast to the blessing of religious freedom we enjoy in our land. People are free to believe and exercise whatever is their faith. They are even free to deny faith and religion. It is what people sought who came to these shores from a land where they suffered for their faith. In a few weeks we shall commemorate their sacrifice with Thanksgiving to the Lord who guided them and preserved their lives through their voyage aboard the Mayflower, which carried both believers and non-believers.

What sort on non-believers sneaked on to the Mayflower? Any why? A hankering to live on maize and mate with girls in pilgrim hats? And nevermind that whole Salem blip.

* This letter states facts about Col.(redacted), the Democratic congressional candidate from (state redacted) Second District.

What a thesis sentence. It's like that old adage: Tell them what you're going to say, say it, then tell them what you said. Sometimes you don't just want to leap in with the facts. Give people a second to adjust.

* Seems we don't always know the good in people, unless someone points it out, so I am. Thank you (redacted) for being the person you are.

Yep, can't argue with that point. You have my vote. This "being the person you are" is called damning with faint praise, lady. That's like seeing a newborn and just saying, "That's a baby all right."

* Farming is a seven-day-a-week job, every day of the year, no matter the weather. (Redacted) doesn't know what it means to "call in sick" because he realizes the importance of agriculture to (redacted) County. My dad wakes up every morning to make a diligent contribution to the agriculture industry.

I know the meaning of "call in sick." Sound it out. I don't know the meaning of throwing your dad in the mix, unless your dad is also the candidate. When your kids are doing the letter-writing campaign, time to bail.

* I would like to express my thoughts on what I thought was a tacky plea for votes. Monday night I attended my daughter's chili supper and band concert at her school. This was a fundraiser event to support the band and celebrate Halloween. While at the chili supper, I noticed about five or six candidates there. I didn't pay much attention to them because I assumed they came with family and friends and any support for the band is always welcome.
However, it wasn't very long until I noticed several of the candidates circling the tables and asking people for votes. They were passing out cards and magnets and I'm sure were making uncomfortable small talk with people. They were with me anyway. This, in my opinion, was tacky. I came to relax and enjoy the evening and support my daughter and the band. I didn't come to be bothered while I ate.

Tacky, people! Tacky! A man wants to eat a chili supper and see a band perform at a high school and you go and ruin his classy evening with your magnets and small talk. Well good day sir. I said good day.

* I have known (redacted) and her late husband, (redacted), for many years.

It's just another victory against verb tenses.

* (Redacted) will work hard for you. He is a man that lives by the motto “His word is his bond.” Thompson is the owner of Thompson's Trophy Center, and was previously in advertising with several local stations. He is a good listener and he will take action.

Bonus? Dreamy eyes.

* Our political system is out of control
Oh no! MSNBC predicted Friday morning that this election will wind up in the courts, just like it did six years ago.
We who cast our votes decided nothing. Our political system is out of control. The lust for power and money has driven us from a surplus to near bankruptcy in just six short years. If we can find anyone willing to serve out of patriotism, we need to find them fast.

Can you feel the vague yet intense sense of panic?

* Her motto has been, "Do what it takes" to make a difference in the lives of (redacted) County's children and youth.
I believe she has lived up to that motto and should be retained as judge.
Another motto that seems also to apply is, "If it's not broken, don't fix it." Our Family Court system is working well under the current leadership, let's don't try to fix it.

Yes, let's don't and say we didn't do.

* On Election Day, remember pre-pay gas
It has been several months since the city commission passed a law requiring gasoline purchasers to pay for their fuel before they can pump it.
I didn't like this practice when it was implemented, and I like it even less now. When you want to fill up, you have to stand in line to pay twice, once to pay your deposit or leave your license, and again when you go back and pay for it.
Every time I have to do this, I think of (redacted) and the other commissioners that started this practice. I would just like to remind all the voters of (city) that if you don't like this ordinance, now is the time to vote these commissioners out of office and bring in some new ones.
Out with the old and in with the new. Give him and his friends a message.

Gold-medal winner of misplaced rage.

I hate the elderly

A byproduct of tiny island + 8 million people is that in public areas, like cafes and Starbucks, you share your table with strangers. They ask, "Mind if I sit?" and you say no and you either chat for a minute or maintain silence. I've gotten job leads, shared matzo on Easter Sunday with two gay guys, commiserated about jury duty with a girl spending her per diem on meatloaf and gotten asked out on a date when I was sick by a guy who assured me, as suavely as possible, he had "a very strong immune system."

It's really one of the nicer ways to connect to people, eating at the Whole Foods cafeteria-style tables with strangers, feeling like we're on a commune with our overpriced squash soup.

This is not how it's supposed to happen:

The setting: Under Rockefeller Center
The time: Lunchtime yesterday
Characters: Yours truly and Crazy Old Lady

Me: Hi, do you mind if I sit?
Crazy Old Lady, sitting at a huge table by herself, surrounded by chairs: You can have a chair.
I stupidly assume this is an invitation to sit down, so I sit.
COL: (screeching): What are you doing?!?!?
Me (Bite of pretzel on way to mouth): sitting?
COL: I said you could take a chair.
Me: But there aren’t any tables.
COL: That's not my problem. You have to wait like I did.
Me (stomping off muttering): Oh your grandkids must love having you around for the holidays. You are not a national treasure.

And scene.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Monday Morning Dance Party Vol. 7: "Cam-bodacious" edition

Hey guys! Remember that great song "Walk like an Egyptian"? Let's all stand on that high wall and balance like a Cambodian!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Name: Kate. Hobbies: Drinking water, using toilet paper

One of the worst things about my apartment (besides mentally unstable Monica) is the 80-year-old faucets. Apparently in the Roaring 20s, people were unfamiliar with the concept of "pleasantly warm," "gradually heating up" or "temperatures under 756 degrees."

Every once in a while I'll see a news story about some kids having to get skin grafts because of their old pipes and I can feel their pain. (Not literally, because I'm smart enough to turn on the hot water and leap across the kitchen in one fell swoop. Stupid kids.)

But in a figurative sense, I'm right there with them in the hospital ward.

The pipes also have this thing where every other month or so they unleash a torrent of rust on an unsuspecting handwasher or showerer, so that it suddenly looks like you're showering in blood. You can use your powers of deductive reasoning to assume that the water at casa de Kate doesn't taste too good. I have to import all my beverages, which is quite a pain since I live five flights up and have those cartoon arms that swoop down when I make a muscle.

This is a good time to note that I also appear to be the designated den mom. Monica is in charge of leaving crazy notes; Good Roommate added the pet cat; and I rearrange the living room furniture, hang the Christmas lights, clean and buy supplies. And before you say I'm just picky or something, note that when I was barely around this summer, the toilet had a brown ring in the bowl at water level, the cat hair eliminated the need for hallway carpeting and the shower was so gross the landlord actually cleaned it one day when she popped in.

So, although I like to do me some good scrubbing, I'm not a neat freak. (Though I do have my peccadilloes. I only clean the toilet while naked, right before I shower to ensure I don't get toilet germs on my clothes. I realize this makes no sense, since my clothes come in close proximity to a toilet several times a day. I also just realized this is probably someone's very specific fetish and I'm about to get some weird Google hits.)

Cleaning gripes aside, I know it's not too much to expect of my roommates to buy toilet paper occasionally. "Just stop buying it and let them fend for themselves" you say. I've tried. I don't know what they do but I always crack before they do. Can I really be the roommate who starts keeping her toilet paper under her bed? That's one step from using a label maker for my food.

All this led up to a perfect storm of awkwardness tonight, which finds me at my local grocery store stocking up on big bottles of Pellegrino and economy size bundle of toilet paper.

The cashier and I made eye-contact (I'd previously been on a seven-year no eye-contact streak) and I made a face that conveyed, "Yep, that's my night. I'll be drinking insane amounts of water and sitting around waiting to pee."

Friday, November 03, 2006

Oh crap. I forgot to train for the marathon.

I know I meant to. I distinctly remember being really inspired last year around this time.

The runners wear their names on their shirts so they can find themselves in pictures, and my friends and I took full advantage, cheering for them by name. Inspirational sayings like "Pump those crazy legs, Susan!" and "C'mon Dave! Do it for your country!"

We also sipped coffee as we watched people in extreme exercise-induced pain, so all in all it was a nice morning. The highlight was a trio–parents who wore shirts saying, "I'm running for Bryan" flanking their son with Down syndrome and the son with an "I’m Bryan" shirt.

Tears. Actual tears.

Then, in a fit of sniffily, vaguely patronizing hubris, I thought, "Surely if they can get their acts together to train, I can too." And walking away that crisp autumn morning, I fully intended to.

Then the holidays rolled around, so you know how that goes. And, well, January and February are cold in the Northeast corridor, so that was out. By spring, I'd gone running a few times and felt back on track. (Pun alert!)

Someone pointed out that I wasn't wearing great shoes and that I might damage my feet. I'll show them, I thought. Do Kenyan runners have Nikes? No. They train barefoot in the mountains. (Editor's note: Turns out I’m very wrong, and also probably racist. Kenyans have top-of-the-line equipment.)

Then it was summer. And summer is hot. Also, long about June I found out you have to enter a lottery to get in. well what's the point of being able to run 26.2 miles if there's a chance nobody will see you do it? The glory? The pride? The sense of personal accomplishment? Screw that.

Still, in September the weather cooled down again and I laced up ("shoes that will damage (my) feet." Whatevs! I’ll be damned if I'm shelling out money for this endeavor) for some halfhearted jogs, convincing myself, “Well I walk a ton, so I’m pretty sure the marathon is as much mental as physical.” To that end, I bought flipped through a sports psychology book at Barnes & Noble.

The cool fall breezes called to me, but I didn't listen. I noticed a lot of people in the park huffing and puffing in Lycra and other fabrics not found in nature, and I tried to figure out why they were all zipping along.

Oh. Right.

So in the second of many, many years I'll say this: Next year I'm doing the marathon. It’s the only way I'll get to use my "Part Irish, part Kenyan" T-shirt in any sort of context that makes sense.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Everybody limbo!

Highlight of my day EASILY was I got a stack of maybe 20 papers—I must emphasize without a paperclip—to balance vertically on my desk. Pure joy. There is no second place. There was also no paperclip. Twenty loose papers. Come on.

It reminded me of this photographer I read about over the summer. I forget where he lives, so I'll just go out on the nuts-o limb of my crazy tree and say Williamsburg. He made a whole exhibit of taking pictures on the subway of people's faces as they realized they weren't going to catch the train. He had some quote like, "Sure, there are bigger tragedies in the world, but you can't beat that moment for one of pure disappointment."

And it's true, nothing will get your day off to a more pigeon-kicking start or make you want to take to your bed with the vapors at the end of a hard day more than realizing you've got to spend an extra 15 minutes in a special kind of poop-infested underground lair created by the City of New York. It's like limbo between earth and hell, where unbaptized commuters go. It's doubly bad if, like yesterday, you miss it by inches because you were trying to not shove your fellow man down the subway stairs. Sometimes I get the impression that people with crutches just aren't really trying. Are they using their disability as a...well, crutch I guess?

I've thought about what the opposite might be. It's not when you realize the train is coming, because that's a gradual joy. You can crane your neck out precariously and talk yourself into thinking you see lights and feel the rumble. For a moment of unadulterated, pony-under-the-Christmas-tree delight, I have to go with landing an apple core in the garbage can across the room. Because it's always a little surprising, and if people are there to witness it, I truly believe that's what winning a three-peat would be like.

My endorsed sneaker logo would be the apple core. And my motto would be "Nothing but wastepaper-basket."