Sunday, November 26, 2017

Tooth and Fail

All I wanted was a tube of toothpaste.

A simple shopping trip went full-on fiasco this Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, as a I dragged my bloated self through the day in a tryptophan stupor.

I did actually accomplish a few things one day after a fabulous turkey dinner with my sister and auntie.

I got my printer back online after getting my computer’s operating system replaced, a relatively easy task that I had inflated to crisis-level proportions through the power of my nervous disposition.

And I made some (very) minor progress in cleaning up my computer room, though that job is a long way from done.

I finally got out of the house in the late afternoon to do some shopping and treat myself to a much-needed massage, but first I stopped off at a neighborhood thrift store for the aforementioned toothpaste. And that's when the owners’ kids decided to rub me the wrong way.

The lady who owns the place has two lovely daughters and a really cute little boy. The two girls were acting a bit rowdy upon my arrival and I suspect I amped them up a bit as I laughed while the oldest daughter danced and sang what sounded like a Chinese nursery rhyme

The little brother very slowly and deliberately chomped on a candy bar and would continue to do so throughout my visit.

I rummaged around the place until I found the toothpaste and walked up to the cash register whereupon the oldest girl squinted at me and dropped the bomb.

“Are you a boy?”

“What?” I shrieked.

“Are you a boy?” she repeated.

“Yes, of course, I am,” I sputtered. “Why would you ask me something like that?”

Return to Gender

I stood there clutching my tube of Crest and wishing I had stayed the hell in bed. My ego is fragile enough without getting the piƱata treatment from an 8-year-old.

“Why you wear that?” she said, indicating my earring.

Now I’ve had this stud in my left ear for nearly 20 years now and I barely think about anymore. Apparently, however, other people do.

“Boys can wear earrings,” I protested. “Maybe I’m a pirate!”

I should’ve clammed up right then and there, but, no, Joe Schmuck had to lift his ski cap and displayed his hairless pate.

“Here,” I said, as florescent beams bounced off my coconut. “Girls don’t do this!”

I know there are women who shave their heads, but I wanted to keep things simple for my audience. However, all I did was get the middle daughter riled up.

“How come you got no hair?” she asked.

“I shaved it all off!” I shouted.

“They ask a lot of questions,” their mother said with a trace of weariness.

They certainly do. I was waiting for the baby brother to give me the business, too, but he was far too busy munching on that candy bar and I suspect he would keep doing so even if Satan himself crashed up through the floor and started singing “Swanee River.”

I grabbed my package, got my change and got the hell out of there before those kids found something else about me to mock.

Now being a good Catholic boy I must confessed that I was only moderately flustered by their antics.

The truth is I loved every second of this adorable abuse and since this is the time of year for giving thanks, let me add this little episode to the list of things I’m thankful for this year.

But I think next time I’ll get my toothpaste somewhere else.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Long Time Passing

We were doing fine until we found that shoebox.

For the last few Saturdays, I’ve been going over to my auntie’s house in Manhattan to help her clean her apartment.

Last week we made some progress reducing the clutter in her walk-in closet and yesterday we renewed our attack, directing our efforts to the various boxes that sat on the shelves.

We discovered two boxes of shoes that she apparently hadn’t worn in a while and then I reached up for a third box expecting to find yet another pair of kicks.

But this time we struck gold.

This box was filled with dozens of old family photographs, a ton of jumbled memories, many without names or dates, all thrown together in a haphazard history.

The moment we pulled back the lid, my auntie and I both knew it was quitting time. I switched off the closet light, we pulled up some chairs, and went back in time.

Clicking through digital images doesn’t begin to compare with looking at these old pictures, where you can almost feel the years passing by.

There were photos of my nieces when they children (they’re both adults now), a number of people I didn’t know, and two old black and white images. The first shows a couple and their three children, while the other is picture of their four-year-old daughter sitting outside their house.

The man and woman were my grandparents. I never knew my grandfather, though I’m told he cried easily at sad movies, a weakness that passed from him, to my mother, and down to me. My grandmother was elderly when I was growing up and she died when I was in the fifth grade.

A Long Time Ago

Their oldest daughter in the photo was my Aunt Mary, who had come to America from Italy with my grandmother and died when she was 18 years old. Growing up I heard a lot about Mary, but it took a long time for me to fully understand her loss, and feel the pain of a life that ended far too soon.

The young boy is my Uncle Walter, who would grow up to be a bomber pilot in World War II.

And then there’s that little girl who appears in both photos.

“That’s your mother,” my aunt said.

I stared at the photograph in disbelief. That beautiful like child clutching a stuffed animal, seated near a little wagon, and looking at the camera with this slightly confused look on her face—that’s my mother?

Of course, she’s not my mother in that picture, not even close. She would have a long way to go before me and my siblings make our appearance.


I wanted so badly to speak to my mother, squeeze her hand, and tell her much love her and how badly I miss her. I took everything I had to keep from crying.

I remember once when we were kids and my mother got fed up with our fighting.

“Life is over in second,” she declared. “You may think it’s long, but it’s really just a second.”

And looking through those old photographs I see how right she was. One moment she’s a little girl and the next moment she’s a grandmother. And now she’s a memory.

I looked through the photos of my niece Kristin on her first Holy Communion and my youngest niece Victoria on vacation and appearing on stage in Kabuki make-up for a school production. I wish my mother could be here to see how they’ve grown.

I took some photos of the pictures, put everything back in the shoebox and then it was time to leave.

So, yeah, we didn’t get much accomplished in the way of cleaning yesterday, but my heart sure got a hell of a workout.



Sunday, November 12, 2017

One Lump or Two?

You see them in all corners of this great city of ours, just itching to spring into your life.

New York has a seemingly vast population of unique individuals that some crass folks might refer to as nuts, kooks, weirdos, or freaks.

But, hey, come on, without these characters this town would be nothing more than a plus-size Topeka.

These people are very helpful in the event you forget what city you’re in.

One look at their bizarre antics and you’ll shake your head and say, “Oh, yeah, that's right; I’m in New York.”

Take, for example, the gentleman I spied last week walking down Fourth Avenue here in beautiful Bay Ridge shortly before the start of the New York Marathon.

He was in his forties, wearing shorts and a straw hat and carrying a massive plastic fish slung over his neck like a Gibson guitar.

I’m not sure where he acquired this particular item, but I suspect one of the local seafood restaurants might be missing a sign.

And just to make sure we were all looking at him, this fellow was howling out an ear-splitting rendition of the old Sly and the Family Stone hit, “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” at the top of his lungs. I honestly don’t think anyone on this earth could stop this guy from being himself.

I would’ve taken his picture but I was concerned he might pummel me with his giant tuna.

Next we have the cheerfully psychotic fellow I unwillingly befriended on the crosstown bus the other night after a theater outing with my sister and auntie.

For some reason, the crosstown bus requires a ticket rather than a Metrocard. The bus driver doesn’t usually ask to see the ticket but you can get an $150 summons if you’re caught without one.

I don't know the logic behind this, but it's not a hardship by any means--at least not for most people.

So the three of us got our tickets, crowd into the bus, and I happen to be standing over this rather stocky chap with a shaved head and a bushy mustache. I thought he was chatting to the woman sitting next to him, but I soon realized he was addressing the world at large.

And then he made eye contact with me.

Lookin’ at the Devil, Grinnin’ at His Gun

Yes, sadly, when it comes to head cases, I’m a walking piece of flypaper. The loons spot me and streak in my direction like salmon surging upstream.

“You got that ticket, huh?” he asked me.

“Yes,” I said, praying the conversation would end there, but knowing it wouldn’t.

“They give you a $150 fine if you don’t got that ticket,” he said. “Man, someone tried to give me a summons I’d lump him up.”

“Yeah..?”

“Yeah,” he declared, “I don’t care if I go to jail. I’d lump him up.”

He seemed quite fond of that expression “lump him up” and said it repeatedly. I was hoping he wouldn’t turn his words into action.

“We don’t got them tickets in Queens,” he said. “You try that in Queens, we’d lump you up.”

It was getting awfully lumpy on this bus, like poorly stirred oatmeal. I kept looking out the window, hoping that our stop would come up soon.

“Let someone try and give me a summons,” my travel companion was saying. “I’d lump him up.”

Yes, sir, I fervently believe that you would lump this person up. Now can we change the subject?

“I’d go to jail,” he said, “I don’t care.”

A seat became available across the aisle, and I sent my keester in downward mode. As I made contact with the nice plastic chair, a woman sitting next to me promptly got up and walked away.

“Don’t worry, lady,” my friend called out to her, “he don’t bite.”

Somehow I don’t think this lady was concerned about me, but was rather attempting to avoid any contact with my buddy. I was going to point this out to him, but I didn't want him to lump me up.

We arrived at our destination, I bid Willy Lump-Lump good night, and bounded off the bus with all due haste. My sister and I had a good laugh about my encounter and I couldn’t wait to tell people about it.

I just hope my plastic fish won’t be jealous.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Run for Your Life

And I was actually starting to feel hopeful...

The New York City Marathon went off without a hitch today, just days after eight innocent people were slaughtered in Manhattan in the name of a psychotic delusion.

Once again, my home was the target of a fundamentalist murderer, 16 years after the September 11 attacks.

This latest scumbag told the police that he had planned his attack for Halloween because there were would be more people on the street.

His victims included five friends from Argentina celebrating their high school reunion and a young mother from Belgium. Yeah, I’ll better Allah is just tickled pink by all these dead infidels, you asshole.

I didn’t think things could get any worse, but then that Putin-loving fuckwad in the White House proved me wrong by tweeting a vile load of politically-motivated bullshit before the victims’ bodies were even cold.

What the hell is wrong with this scumbag Trump? And what the hell is wrong with his idiot supporters who still stand behind him after all the lies, screw-ups, bigotry and flat out corruption?

He didn’t make any political comments after the Las Vegas massacre; Republicans were too busy shrieking “too soon!” at the slightest mention of gun control.

I lived through the Bush years, when that imbecile stood upon the charred remains of the 9/11 victims and ordered that disaster in Iraq, which helped create Isis.

What's the Good News?

The scandal-wracked Trump Administration is in desperate need of something to get the Russia investigation off the front pages and starting a war is an all-time favorite among imperialists and two-bit dictators.

Impeach, impeach, impeach…

So that's why I was really looking forward to watching the marathon pass through my neighborhood. I do this every year, but today I was really in need of some good news.

And for a while it worked. The weather was crappy, but nobody seemed to mind. There were runners from all over the world, runners in wheelchairs and on crutches. Black, white, Asian, Hispanic, they were all racing through the streets of my city and charging the atmosphere with beautiful vibrations.

I was having a blast, high-fiving runners, taking photos, and shooting the breeze with fellow spectators. Watching all those athletes rolling down Fourth Avenue, I starting to feel some stirrings of optimism.


Yes, these fundamentalist mother fuckers are a curse upon the world. And, yes, I am afraid for myself and my loved ones because I don’t know how we stop these suicidal sons-of-bitches from striking again, and again, and again.

If someone decides to take his own life, all the pathetic macho man posturing in the world won’t do shit to stop him.

But look at all those runners out there, I thought. Look at all those good, decent people, who just want to enjoy their lives. They’re stronger than any terrorist on earth. And I know that Trump will fall and fall hard.

And then I read about Texas where a gunman invaded a small-town church, killing at least 26 people. The dead include the pastor's 14-year-old daughter.

Her father said she was "one very beautiful, special child."

We don’t have all the details yet, but what fucking difference does that make? Nothing will change, the killings will continue, and there will be no place to run.