Sunday, July 30, 2006

Jake the Snake!

This article is about a friend of mine from my hometown. When we were in high school there used to be a toy store we would drive to in Columbus, a magical toy store that was open either all night or just ridiculously late, where he would buy these. I remember one time when we went there were a ton of them in the sale bin, just piled on top of each other (rather appropriate really). His eyes lit up and he practically started shivering with the anticipation. I always had a soft spot for Mankind and we frequently imitated him.

It's nice to see the collection in all its glory ( in the background of the picture).

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Asbury Park is the place to go

Me, Jamie, Marc and Jim took a trip in June to Asbury Park, NJ to celebrate the birthdays of our friends Shawn and Chris. If you've never been, run to Asbury Park! It was so much fun. Definitely the best weekend trip I've taken.

The highlight was Asbury Lanes, a great old bowling alley with a low stage built over the center lanes for bands to play on. The finest alley I've ever been to. I believe it was 12 bucks, including shoe rental, a great ball selection (unlike Melody Lanes) nice bar and one of the best DJs I've ever heard. 50's and 60's girl groups, 60's and 70's obscure R & B and the occasional GBV. One of the bands playing was called BreakUpBreakdown and I thought they were really good. Especially considering they were playing with the crash of strikes and spares all around them.

One of the kickers of Asbury Lanes specifically is that the city of Asbury Park is actually trying to use eminent domain to give them the boot. I'm not sure if Asbury Park realizes it, but that bowling alley is without a doubt the coolest thing in that town. sigh.

So here are a few pictures:

An unfortunate shot taken while I was figuring out the shutter speed. Unfortunately hilarious.

You can kind of see the stage on the right:

Asbury Lanes:

Asbury Lanes, "Bowl Where you see the Magic Triangle":

The old movie theatre, abandoned like so much of AP:

Balgavy seemed to be having a good time too:

The Wonder Bar, where the all lesbian Led Zeppelin cover band, Lez Zeppelin, was playing:

The Convention Center:

HoJo's in Asbury Park, under renovations:

Do Not Bug

This past weekend I have gotten over a dozen phone calls from "Out of Area" with no number shown (we have Caller ID). Naturally I haven't answered these calls, although I was curious about what annoying telemarketer kept phoning, despite our registration on the Do Not Call list. So this afternoon I was washing dishes and the phone rang yet again. This time I decided to answer it, just to get them to stop calling. Unfortunately, in the process of getting to the phone, I stepped on Arlo and kicked the crap out of Ruthie. Sorry guys.

And who was on the phone? The Police Benevolent Association. And because they are a charity, they don't have to pay any attention to the Do Not Call list. Gggrrrrr. They called 2 different times last year and both times I told them to remove me from their list. I asked the guy today if they've been calling me all weekend and he said that, yes, they are calling people within my number range this weekend. I asked him if they will remove a person's number when asked to do so. He said absolutely. I informed him that I have twice requested that they stop calling me and I am requesting it again. And he immediately, wordlessly hung up on me.

I always get the icky feeling that I am going to be harrassed by the police or arrested for jaywalking (virtually impossible in NYC) because I don't want to support the PBA. In the midwest everyone has those stupid PBA stickers on their cars, totally believing it'll keep them from getting pulled over or that they'll be let off easy if they are pulled over. But just like those ridiculous (and fabulous!) Ziggy stickers you get in the mail courtesy of the March of Dimes (is that the one?), they mail you the PBA stickers unbidden. So what's to stop someone from just slapping the stickers on their car even though they don't donate any money?

Thank God I don't actually drive in this town. They probably have some big list somewhere with the names of people like me on it. Sassmouths who keep F*#k tha Police queued up at all times, just waiting for the PBA to call.

Just saw this. Looks like the myth of the PBA was just that.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Auntie Maim

So this week developed about as far off from my expectations as possible. Observe:

My 18 year old niece was flying in last Sunday night for a 2 week visit/graduation present. The back story of the niece is one that blows my mind a bit, but is not that unusual, given where I'm from. She's from small town Ohio, born and raised, and with the exception of a visit to my grandma's house in Tennessee when she was single digit age, she's never been out of central Ohio. Never flown, never seen a city larger than Columbus (barely a "city" that). Her parents never encouraged any involvement in activities, be it sports, music, uh reading. Nothing. As a result, she's never participated in anything, never developed a passion of any kind. She doesn't listen to music or read books. She doesn't even read magazines.

Her immediate family is something of an anomaly among the family as a whole. They are estranged from the rest of us, having openly and often referred to my other brother and I as "stuck up" and "fake". I was told by them that my belief that college as neccessary and valuable is basically high falutin' snob talk. Because they both work in physical labor and damn it, it's good enough for them. My sister-in-law's family is particularly stellar. One of her sisters has 4 kids, all different fathers, 2 of which are in jail. Her own 21 year old niece (who also has a baby whose father is in jail) was just shot when a drug deal went poorly. Her brother has 3 kids, all different mothers. My brother dropped out of high school, got kicked out of the military and has spent 3 years of his life behind bars. So as you can see, I always thought it was really important to try to be a good role model for my niece and I hoped to expand her world view in some small way. She seemed very excited about the trip and suggested that it be a 2 week long visit.

Before her arrival, I had asked her to think about things she wanted to see and do while here. That was one of the good things about the visit being so long; at least she'd really get a feel for it. So last Sunday evening, we picked her up at LaGuardia. We were anxious about any number of things. Did we buy the right type of groceries? What the hell do you do with an 18 year old? I had told her that I would teach her the subway system and get her a Metrocard and I expected her to explore some on her own before the end of the 2 weeks. She had always been an adventurous kid and seems that at 18, there's no better time to explore New York.

So as we see her walking through the airport, her cell phone connected to her ear, a slouchy, sullen teenaged vibe about her, we really should have run screaming. Instead we load her into the car and head home to Brooklyn to catch up and eat dinner.

Us: So, what are some of the things you'd like to do while you're here?
Her: I dunno.
Us: Well, is there anything particular you'd really like to see? Times Square? Statue of Liberty?
Her: I haven't really thought about it.

Well shit. She then proceeded to tell us about her cousin and her cousin's boyfriend getting shot (see above) . And shit again.

On to dinner. She is what's referred to by my mother and grandmother as a "good eater". In their world this means someone (esp. a young person) who eats vegetables and is not terribly picky and goes back for seconds. I was known as a good eater too. But even with this ringing endorsement of her gustatory prowess, I was concerned. A not-too-picky eater in small town Ohio, with parents who don't cook and meals that usually involve something from a box is not the same thing as a not-too-picky eater in NYC, especially in my house. So I tried to cook things for the first meal that were somewhat familiar, but without having to feel ashamed of myself. I mean really, I can only dumb it down so much. So we got some homemade sausages (pork and brocolli rabe and chicken apple) from Fairway, which were grilled. I made tabouli and I made potato salad with purple potatoes, jicama and whole grain mustard. To her credit, she tasted everything. And hated everything. So she made herself a sandwich. Thank God Jamie bought the deli meat, otherwise she would have starved.

After dinner we decided to walk her around the neighborhood, to help her get her bearings, show her where the subway is, bagel shop, bodega, etc. It was the night before trash pick-up, so bags were on the sidewalks. Here is a sampling of some of the things said:

What's that smell?
Is it safe to be walking out here? {it was 9:30pm}
Why is there garbage everywhere?
Why don't people use trash cans?
What's that smell?

The smell question was repeated about 4 more times. At one point she said she felt weird because in Delaware (our hometown), everyone knows her, but here nobody knew her. It was funny because I left Delaware when I was 18 years old and it was precisely because everyone knew who I was. On the plus side, it was the most she'd said all night and by far the longest sentence she'd uttered. She proceeded to talk to her boyfriend 3 times that night. At one point I heard her say "there's garbage everywhere".

So the next day, Monday, I had to work until 1:30, but I'd be home at 2. I gave her a TimeOut NY and asked her to think about what she wanted to do that afternoon/evening when I got home. I made many, many suggestions to help her come up with ideas. When I got home at 2, she was dozing on the couch watching MTV. I asked her if she ate breakfast and she said no. She didn't want to try granola because it looked too weird and she wouldn't eat the Cheerios or Mini-Wheats because she's never had soy milk and didn't want to try it. She didn't like the OJ because of the pulp. When asked what she did finally eat, I was told "a sandwich". So she'd been here for 2 meals and both consisted of a sandwich. Great. So I mustered up some excitement because, hey! now comes a fun part.....exploring NYC! What would you like to do?

Her: I dunno.

Are you kidding me?!?!?! What is it going to take to get this girl to make a decision?! So after much back and forth, I made the executive decision that we were going to Union Square. At least there she could visit a couple of big chain stores to make her feel at home, ie, Barnes and Noble and Forever21. But oh, yeah, she doesn't read. So we go. She asks a question about a man we saw in our neighborhood with a turban (are there a lot of people like that here?). The boyfriend calls twice while we're in Union Square. Another conversation:

Me: What do you like to do for fun?
Her: I dunno { I know this seems typical or cliche, but it really is what she says}
Me: Well, what do you and Scott do when you go out?
Her: Well, Scott really likes movies so he takes me to the movies.
Me: Okay. And what about you? What do you like?
Her: I dunno.

Repeat ad nauseum. My mother and husband will tell you that nothing can get me fired up faster than a woman who either has no opinion or won't ever voice it. Someone who meekly goes along with whatever a man decides. A woman with no personal goals, only hoping to make a man happy. Someone like my niece. Oh God, this is going to be rough. I said nothing though. It wouldn't do any good to preach. Teach by example.

So I asked her about college. Right now she lives with her boyfriend and his parents because she and her parents had a fight and in March they kicked her out. She said she wants to go, but right now she doesn't plan on going this fall. She's going to take some time off. Because she's a manager now at Burger King and she's looking for a full time job that will give her benefits. And because she and Scott are planning on getting their own apartment. Oh God.

So we come back to the apartment and she immediately asks if she can go for a walk, cell phone attached to her ear. When she comes back, she tells me that she's going back to Ohio early. How early, I ask? Tomorrow. Why?

It smells here.
There's garbage everywhere.
The food is weird.
The people are weird.
She misses her boyfriend.
She's worried about crime.

So basically, she lasted a day and a night. We (me, Jamie, NYC) broke her.

I've had a few days to process all of this and I'm feeling a little bit better. This despite the fact that I got scathing e-mails from her mother. She yelled at me for not being considerate or accomadating enough. She also yelled at me for pushing my niece too hard about college. The kicker of that particular part of the e-mail is that she spelled it "collage". I shit you not.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

What a week!

So a great big thank you to everyone who came out to Pioneer for my birthday on Monday! There was some pretty wild cornhole action that lasted late into the night. Apparently Balgavy looked into cornhole after the party and discovered that it's huge in the Midwest, Ohio in particular. I'll say! I typed "cornhole" into google and didn't get to anything remotely pornographic until I was 5 pages in. Shocking.

Then on Wednesday I went to The Hook in Red Hook for the 5th Anniversary Party of Tag Team Media. Congratulations Brendan and Julie! It was so much fun! They even provided transportation to and from the train, which was great. Pulled pork with the slaw already on, watermelon, hot dogs and beer. And to top it off, a show by Broken Social Scene! I really enjoyed the show, but every time they pulled out a horn, I felt all misty-eyed for Beulah. Please, oh please, can Miles put out that album already?

And Thursday evening was wiffleball in Fort Greene Park with my co-workers, followed by drinks at Moe's. I am not a wiffleball player. I am not an anything player that involves the humiliating prospect of swinging at a ball. I played the role of back-up catcher/catcher until the rain had me hustling under a tree.

I'm excited that tomorrow MaryLarry are hosting a bbq. The grilled meats and beautiful backyard will make for a perfect Sunday.

Considering how much I hate summer, so far this one is shaping up to be pretty good.