March 30, 2005

You're Very Important ... Sorta

Is it just me or has anyone else realized just how much of a burden call waiting has become?

I hate to sound like an old fart, but since I’m headed more toward than away from that direction, I might as well practice. This sound-off stems from a phone call I received from my sister who lives in the city. It was about a week ago and since we don’t talk too frequently nowadays, I was happy to have this chance to catch up.

I don’t care for the telephone anymore. It almost seems intrusive. My cell phone, on the other hand, is a most welcomed device, always coming in handy while I’m on the road. I don’t use it for social visits because no matter how hard I’ve tried, I cannot seem to comprehend all the hidden charges, so I keep to my free calling and rarely, if ever, give out the number.

Before the days of my home computer, I was an avid telephone user on my days off from work. There always seemed to be someone I simply had to call - had to connect with for whatever reasons, and more often than not, much of my leisure time was spent with a receiver protruding from one ear or the other. Things are very different now as most of my connecting is done via keyboard. I like it better this way and feel less vulnerable to interruption.

Here is a brief sampling of the profound conversation that took place between my sister and myself last week:

She: “So what’s been going on there lately?”
Me: “Well, SJ’s doing well and making more money than I am, Ed’s doing fine and is enjoying his promotion…”
She: “SHIT. Wait a second. Call waiting.”
Me: (to thin air) “Oh. Okay”

Series of clicks …

She: “You there?”
Me: “Still here.”
She: “Good. I thought I lost you. That was the local clothing drive – they’re coming by next Tuesday and I … SHIT… hang on a second, this might be important.”
Me: (to thin air) “Yup”

Series of clicks …

She: “Ca?”
Me: “That’s me.”
She: “So anyway, what’s new in your life?”
Me: “Well, not a whole lot, as I was saying, we’re all doing well and waiting patiently for springt …hello?” (upon hearing annoying click in my ear again)
She: “Dammit, let me see if this is the call I’m waiting for.”
Me: (saying nothing now, just tapping foot in seriously aggravated fashion)

Series of frigging clicks…

She: “Good, that was my call. Now, I’ll have to cut you off in about 10 minutes to run an errand, but I’m so glad we had this chance to talk.”
Me: “You’re joking, right?”
She: “Oh hell, I have another call … do you want hang on a minute?”
Me: (with eyes up to God) “No, I’ll call you next week.”


Me: “Hello? Helllllllo?”

Dial tone.

I hung up and wondered what the hell that conversation was all about and returned to my computer where I could feel secure and cozy. I was SO glad I had heard from my sister.

Now, what slays me is this ~ we pay EXTRA for the call waiting. Why don’t they just call it by its proper name, “Annoying-Ass Call Intrusion?” Maybe then we’d think twice about having it installed at all!

I cannot recall the last time either myself, my fiancé, or my daughter was on the telephone, received a call waiting signal, and was at all happy about it. Seriously. Most often, I’ve witnessed people swearing at the confounded service and being pissed off at it for having the audacity to kick in. Come on, you’ve never heard anyone say “Damn” or “Tch” or “Crap” when they get that call waiting signal? We all do it!

Talking to someone then rushing off to call waiting sends out a pretty significant and clear message … “You’re important enough for me to talk to right now … kinda sorta.”

What ever happened to the world I used to live in when the busy signal was enough to prompt a second or third attempt? Is it really necessary to have to TELL people, “Oh, I’m on another call right now, call me in 20 minutes (or tomorrow, or never afuckinggain)?” Have people truly grown that stupid? The busy signal would upset them so much that they’d chalk you off their Christmas card list ~ or worse, out of their will?

I’m thinking if someone is going to go out and get a voodoo doll and stick pins in it for the sake of getting me back for issuing them a busy signal, they probably weren’t much of a pal in the first place. The old fashioned busy signal sends the message faster, easier and in a much less personal fashion. And if it’s really an emergency, the operator (remember them?) can interrupt. I know this. I used to be one.

Just think of all the telemarketers who would no longer have to take it personally because I’ve told them to eat shit and bark at the moon. What a beautiful world it would be.

I’ll have to talk to Ed about getting rid of call waiting. I’d call him now, while it’s fresh on my mind, but I’m afraid I’d get interrupted and become homicidal before the conversation was finished.

March 27, 2005

I Smell a Rat! Or Is That a Roast?

From time to time I just sit and enjoy asinine thoughts. Or, I watch the TV and just listen to asinine things, but today, I’ve done more of the former and figured I might as well get it into writing. Why waste a perfectly stupid topic?

While studying psychology many years ago, it was brought to my attention that as humans, most of us initially use our sense of sight as a primary data grabber. For example, if I see a Chevy and recognize the model, the first thing I might mention about this visual is that it’s a blue Nova. If I hung around with motor-heads in my youth, I might even add that it’s a ’68. I probably wouldn’t say that it needed a major tune-up (using my ears) or that the back seat was loaded up with empty Budweiser bottles (using my nose) unless I was asked for specifics. This theory usually works quite well with humans unless they are severely or completely sight-challenged. At first, we’re usually going to recall what we saw.

Now, the rest of the animal kingdom heavily relies on its sense of smell as a primary detector. Some animals have such a keen sniffer they can sense prey a mile or more away. This is so important a sense to many creatures that their very existence depends on it!

This brings me around to today’s thought topic: Why do dogs sniff each other’s asses? As a part of our study on the brain and perception, our deeply motivated class posed this question to our professor. He composed himself ~ pleased to see that at least we weren’t doodling Dilbert characters on our study sheets for once, and instead, our minds were hard at work.

He pointed out to us that the dog’s primary data grabber is its olfactory system; its schnozz. Through years of testing and research analysis, scientists have proven that a dog will rely so heavily on its sense of smell that sight becomes nothing more than an afterthought in its world.

To prove this point, a small group of dogs were placed in a room with some rubber toys. Some of the dogs remained indifferent to the toys, others were nosing them around the room or chewing on them and tossing them into the air. You know, just being dogs. The man then removed one of the balls and, behind a closed door, rubbed canned dog food on it. He then dried it off and replaced it into the room. The dogs went nuts! They tried to bite the ball, scratched at it feverishly and even started to fight one another for it. But wait, it’s not as simple as it sounds.

To a dog, his knee jerk reaction is one of “why the heck does this food look and feel like a ball?” He first believes the ball IS what it smells like. That is the sense he has come to initially trust. That is what he is going to believe.

Now, if you perform the same ball experiment with a group of humans, their first thought would always be “why the heck does this ball smell like dog food?” Sight is the first sense we tend to trust. We trust that it is, in fact, a rubber ball.

For this reason, it is my assessment that when you see a dog sniffing another dog’s ass, surely he must be thinking “now why in hell does this pile of dung have fur and a tail,” or, “why is this turd pile walking away from me?”
Confusion. We all know that dogs will eat litter box nuggets if afforded the opportunity. So there’s more to it than just simple ass sniffing. He's probably hoping for an afternoon snack.

We all know that when one dog or cat owner visits another, upon eliciting dry humps and leg sniffing from the family pet, the owner will usually say “Oh he knows you have an animal.” No, in fact, what he knows is that you ARE what he smells. He’s trying desperately to sort you out. Maybe even to couple with you!

It’s really an interesting concept when you think about it. Sharks are also rather nose-smart creatures. If you take it to this level, you might realize that the smell of blood in water elicits an olfactory response in sharks and not some deep-rooted hatred against all of mankind. They’re not out to get the girl in the bikini or the man who just cut his leg on his surfboard. They’re tracking potential prey in the form of an injured or disabled hunk of meat. They could care less if its toenails are painted or if it sports a mullet.

Men don’t go hunting with deer piss sprayed all over them just for shits and giggles. What some don’t realize is that in performing this incredibly mind-bending ritual (the piss bath, not the hunting) they’re not only trying to fool a deer into thinking they’re another deer, but they’re also covering up their own predatory (human) stench. Of course, in this case, what the deer is probably thinking is, “I’ve got your bottled deer piss right here bucko,” as he flees into the woods.

Asinine thoughts. Gotta love ‘em.

March 25, 2005

So Who's the Enemy Anyway? (Part III)

After three minutes of my first meeting with the both Peter and Tessimira, I realized the blood, sweat and tears I had put into this particular lesson plan were for nil. Tessi was a short lady with long blonde hair, quite pretty, and extremely shy. Peter told me it was more important to him for his wife to learn some basic English than to improve his own, so he gave me the go-ahead to concentrate all my efforts on her for this first meeting. Of course, it took about 20 minutes for me to fully understand that this was his wish, but finally, I got the gist. Nothing is easy when there’s a language barrier.

I asked Tessi some simple questions, none of which she understood or could respond to. When I took out a pen to make notes to myself, she pointed to it, said something in Bulgarian and smiled very proudly. It was then that I realized I truly had my work cut out for me. I smiled back and said “pen?” She sat there. I repeated myself and waited … nothing. This woman was clearly to afraid to even attempt a three-letter word in English. She couldn’t even say “hello” in English, and I thought to myself “Level One my ass, they need to add a Level Zero.”

For the rest of that hour, I worked on teaching Tessi how to say my name. Peter was helpful as an interpreter, but this wasn’t going to get us very far. He and I planned a second meeting and wrapped up the session. I headed straight into the LVA office with my head hanging down.

“I can’t do this,” I told my supervisor.
“Sure you can – think about it,” she answered.
“This woman doesn’t know word one!” I said firmly.
“Yeah, and you can imagine how desperate she must feel,” she said, “Look, think about finding yourself in a foreign country with no clue how to speak their language – plan your lessons for Tessi around things that you might need to say sooner than later – prioritize.”
“Okay but how can I teach a person, in English, when they don’t understand English?” I asked.
“Think of it as a game, a challenge, get creative, start with concepts, you’ll be fine,” she said.

Driving home and feeling quite defeated, I went over our conversation several times in my head and decided the first order of business was to try to communicate in a way she would feel comfortable. I detoured straight to a local bookstore and for $3.95 I purchased the answer to all my Tessi-problems. A small paperback called, “English/Bulgarian Dictionary.”

In the first part of this gem of a book, there is a chart containing all the characters of the Cyrillic Alphabet, with their English counterparts in parentheses. In all of my American ignorance, I hadn’t even realized they used an entirely different alphabet; talk about feeling completely defeated! So now I had to teach myself this most unusual alphabet and try to learn simple words so that I could relate them to my lesson plans. In other words, I had to formulate lessons in both Bulgarian and English if I was going to get through to this woman at all. Christ.

My lessons with Tessi were so basic they seemed borderline ridiculous to me. I used picture books that were written for young toddlers, just for the sake of pointing out colors, numbers and emotions. I created index flash cards written in both English and Bulgarian so that she could SEE the words while she was learning to speak them. I also picked up a second copy of the book so that she could practice at home with basic pronunciation. Her mind was like a sponge soaking up every set of words we studied.

“…plan your lessons for Tessi around things that you might need to say sooner than later – prioritize.” This was my driving force. I brought coins and dollars with me and we studied money. I used my own body as well as one of my daughter’s dolls to teach her words like finger, toe, arm, stomach, head, etc. Of course, my thinking here was “what if this woman has pain and can’t express it?”

Tessi worked very hard, learned quickly, and was always eager to meet again. In fact, we were now meeting three mornings a week for two full hours. The first hour was dedicated to Tessi and the second to Peter, though I believe Peter got just as much out of the first half as Tessi did!

Once Tessi had a better grasp on colors, common foods, numbers and money, we went on a field trip to a restaurant – then a grocery store – then a local petting zoo. Everywhere we went, there were lessons waiting to be learned.

In no time at all, we began meeting at Peter and Tessi’s apartment. There was much more visual stimulation there than could be found at the library. Lots of stuff to point to!

One concept that is quite universal is humor. True, what I found comical might not have been the same as what they found funny, but some things are just in-your-face obvious. Laughing together was something we all did quite often ~ sometimes at our own selves. I believe it was the humor that really drew us together as friends more than just tutor/client.

Tessi was frightened to death of the telephone. It’s one thing to try to decipher what someone is trying to say when you have a visual (facial expression) and another thing entirely when you’re just hearing a voice at the other end of the phone. I’d make her practice by calling her at designated times just to make her more comfortable with the telephone. She hated this type of lesson. One of the first things I had explained to her was the concept of “emergency” because let’s face it, anything can happen any time – at least in MY life this has been the case! She needed to know how to call for help and to be understood! We had gone over her address and telephone number and various types of emergency situations. She got quite good at this.

One of the funniest things that happened to us was earlier on when for the first few weeks, I kept repeating things to her over and over again until she seemed frustrated with me. I couldn’t comprehend her frustration because I would ask her if she understood something, and she’d always shake her head “no.” Finally, Peter explained to me that in Bulgaria, the side-to-side head motion means “yes” and the up-and-down means “no.” It took me awhile to wrap my brain around this concept, but once it finally soaked in, we were far better off. I too was learning.

Peter, through some struggle and strain, told me one day that he needed to have his eyes checked. He had purchased a pair of store-bought reading glasses in hopes of avoiding a doctor visit, but they weren’t cutting it for him. I made an appointment for him and off we went. While Peter was inside having his examination, Tessi and I stepped outside to enjoy the summer warmth. Standing near a rosebush, I felt a sting on my ankle and looked down just in time to see a hornet fly away. This bastard got me good!

I stood for a moment rubbing my sore ankle, but couldn’t keep my composure any longer; my leg was on fire! I moved around wildly shaking my foot outward in one direction then another, swearing loudly and gasping from the burn. Suddenly, I looked over and Tessi is mimicking me. She started swaying to and fro and snapping her fingers. I had NO idea what her problem was, but figured she may have been stung too. Luckily Peter walked out of the office and asked her what she was doing. Tessi thought I was dancing, and also thought it a bit weird of me do so in a parking lot, but figured this was the thing to do so she joined in. Glad I wasn’t scratching my ass.

After many months of home visits and field trips, both Peter and Tessi were improving greatly and were even beginning to hold short conversations together in English, without my prompting or assistance. They had worked very hard and had been through so much just to come to America to escape the (then) Communistic rule of Bulgaria, and as I learned more and more about their lives back home, I realized how much they appreciated living here and being free of all that crap and heartache.

We remained friendly for a long, long time, and I watched as Tessi finally got a job at the same casino where Peter worked (they both cleaned bathrooms making minimum wage plus tips), and also went on to take her driving test and get a license! Peter was finally able to make his appointments with INS in Hartford without me being there to interpret for him, and he eventually attained citizenship.

I only continued with LVA for a little over a year and a half, but was thrilled to get a bird’s eye view of what it’s like to struggle with a new language, new laws, and new lifestyle, in a situation that commands it.

At least now when I bitch about people not learning our language, I can appreciate that it’s a time consuming, painstaking process, and that even though many would take advantage of learning opportunities like LVA, it can be terribly scary and awkward for them.

Someone commented on my last entry by suggesting that learning the language should be mandatory for all immigrants. I agree. It’s a free service, after all, and available in every large city in the United States. BUT, the thing we need to keep in perspective is that without volunteers, the job isn’t going to get done. I wonder how many of us would be willing and eager to give up a couple of hours a week to the cause if it were made mandatory on our end? Just a thought.

March 23, 2005

Taking on the Enemy (?)

Ranting and complaining do a body good; at least you’d think so, the way we all go about spending countless hours of our lives pitching perfectly good bitches about everything from late trains to crowded highways to smokers to bosses to paychecks (or the lack thereof) to just about anything and everything else that pisses us off in our daily lives. If you really think about it, and aren’t too self-absorbed to realize it, bitching is a rather self-serving activity. I should know. I’ve spent much of my life bitching about one thing or another, and for the most part, have immensely enjoyed it. I must have! Why else would I dedicate so much time to it?

More to the point of this post, we seldom take a pro-active approach to complaining. It’s easier to be an armchair warrior than to go into the field to take on the “enemy.” In many cases, we’re just too ill-equipped to do so. But sometimes, we're just more comfy staying pissed.

One of my favorite peeves in the late 80s and early 90s was the language-lazy immigrant. Why this flustered me so is beyond me; it just did. While complaining one day in casual manner with a college professor of mine, I noticed an “I know what you mean” look on her face and for some reason I asked, “So what the hell can be done to change it?”

Her response was far more than I had bargained for. She not only told me about Literacy Volunteers of America, but also handed me a pamphlet (in both English and Spanish, mind you - GRRR) directing me to our local Chapter. I tossed the pamphlet into my bag and thought, “Yeah, that’ll happen.” I had no intention of pursuing it further.

It wasn’t until many days later when I actually sat and read the LVA pamphlet. “Hmm, I could do that,” I decided. What I liked about the program was that you could set your own time frame and work where and when you wanted to. Anyone who knows me well realizes this is right up my alley!

There were two separate areas of interest at LVA. One was a basic reading program which provided remedial reading to already-English-speaking clients. Sounds silly, but if you knew how many illiterate people there are out there, your head would spin and you’d spit pea soup. The second option for tutors is ESL (English as a Second Language). For this area, there were several levels to contend with.

If, for instance, a person had been living here for five years or so and could manage simple conversation but wanted to continue learning more involved English, they would be a Level Five. The person who couldn’t so much as say “hello” in English would be at Level One. In between was … well … in between.

Getting through the weeklong course I had to take to become certified (this consisted of testing to see what my best tutoring skill would be), I was now ready for assignment. I was going to tutor ESL.

Skipping through my first two students for the sake of hanging on to whatever readers I may have roped in, I will now introduce Peter.

I was forewarned that Peter would be a challenge. He was from Bulgaria and though he had been living and working in America for three years thus far, his English was extremely strained and almost indecipherable. He moved into a predominantly Bulgarian neighborhood in Chicago upon his arrival and had no need (until now) to master English. When he moved east, he got a menial job at a local casino and wanted to improve his chances of being promoted one day. Peter came to me as a Level Three.

The first thing I liked to do with clients was to find out a little bit about their background. I did this for selfish reasons (I like people’s stories), but also to allay any fears that I might be the Tutor From Hell. Simple conversation, even through a slight language barrier, can put a person at ease quite quickly. I found Peter to be very likeable and extremely determined.

After two weeks of lesson plans and hour-long meetings at the Public Library, I received a phone call from LVA asking me to take on one more client, as a favor to Peter. His wife, Tessimira was just in from Bulgaria and needed “a lot of help.” Assuming, like the knucklehead that I sometimes am, that Tessimira would be at Peter’s level, I agreed to take her on as well. After all, she could meet with me at the same time as Peter and I’d be killing two birds with one brick. How hard could this be?

P r e t t y f r i g g i n h a r d !

To be continued …

(I apologize for turning this into a three-part saga, but I realize now that the kind of detail I’d like to toss out in this entry cannot be squeezed into a non-yawn-length-post)

La Lengua de los Estados Unidos de América

Language has always intrigued me. Aside from the obvious - that it’s a primary method of communication - the fact that there are hundreds of different languages, all of which have been historically set in place to meet a common need, is almost more than my brain can grasp!

Admittedly, I’m one of those people who believe that one should speak the language set forth as a country’s primary. Without getting into a full history and/or geography lesson, it’s clear that English, although in rough form, has been the primary language of the United States for centuries now. It bugs me at times (often, actually) that people who decide to take up residency here fail to learn our language, and eke by for years and years without so much as attempting to learn it. What doesn’t help is the fact that our state governments have determined it necessary to placate the newcomer, aiding in their ignorance, by issuing brochures, pamphlets, varied official documents and forms, and hundreds of signs, in both English AND Spanish. Can you say taxpayer-expense?

Before you get yourself into a dither over this topic, hear me out.

“Ignorance,” as used in the above statement, is not meant in a derogatory manner. Ignorance is unknowing; it’s as simple as that. Being ignorant of the English language doesn’t mean a person is stupid, foolish even, or less important. No way, no how. For example, I am totally ignorant to languages such as French, German or Italian. I just don’t have a clue. I’ve never put myself into a position where I needed to learn these languages. However, if I were planning to pack my bags and make a permanent move to a foreign land, you could bet your gluteus maximus that I’d have my nose in the books long before my flight, so that I could at least make myself clear to those with whom I need to come in contact. Not everyone is as concerned about communication, apparently. This is where I get rather flustered.

The first leg of this two-part post may seem arrogant, impatient and a bit “I don’t give a shit-ish.” All I can hope is that you will read Part II with a clearer understanding about my position in this matter. It doesn’t take much to learn simple and basic English. By simple and basic, I mean to say that if you have just left the airport and were accosted by a group of thugs while waiting for a taxi, it would be helpful to be able to call 911 to get assistance without first having to go through a taxpayer-provided interpreter just to determine that you need help.

In closing Part I, I just want it to be understood that I generally don’t expect from anyone what I wouldn’t expect to do my own self. But when it comes to moving to a foreign country on a permanent basis, please folks, for the love of all that is as simple as A B C, pick up a book or some tapes and at least learn enough so that you will be understood. Please!

March 17, 2005

How Secure IS Security?

I often write about various jobs I’ve held over the years; it serves me well to recall the life lessons I’ve gleaned from each one. At several different time frames, I worked as a telephone operator at answering services in New York City, Southern New Jersey and Connecticut. This job never pays well but offers remarkable insight as to which doctors I wouldn't recommend (because they get pissed off when they get emergency calls), which lawyers I’d never retain (because they never get back to their clients), and which oil companies, dentists, repair services and tow truck companies provide the best overall services (because of repeat and satisfied customer calls). Great little job for a newly transplanted resident.

Back in the mid-seventies, I worked for an answering service on Staten Island which handled over 400 clients. The switchboard was constantly aglow with incoming calls of every type imaginable. There were no slow seasons, or even slow times of day. Dealing with important clients such as physicians and surgeons (the bulk of our business), there was very little room for error in taking detailed messages and giving accurate information. You just didn’t fuck up or you were out of there.

Perhaps if Dave Taylor hadn’t come in one night and put a gun to my head, I'd have lasted longer than the two years I spent on the job. The life lesson I learned on that night was a simple one ~ never trip up a hard-core criminal.

Taylor went terribly wrong sometime during his days at technical school where he was a hugely bright and capable student. He was an arrogant young man in his late twenties by the time he had his own business in home security systems.

This near-genius created the perfect scam within a three-year time frame and was well on his way to becoming wealthy and reputable within a community of doctors, lawyers and well … rich people who had a whole lot to lose. He would entice them with exotic security systems that would produce almost immediate results if their properties were tampered with.

As Taylor’s answering service, we were the first line of alert when such an incident occurred. The system would sound a silent alarm which rang at our base office. The order in which we handled alarms was clearly defined and customized by Taylor, to best suit the needs of his clientele. Most often, it went as follows:
· Alarm sounds at the answering service indicating the type of event that is in
progress (burglary, fire, robbery)
· First call 911 and issue data to the dispatcher
· Place a call to the residence or business (except in a robbery) and retrieve
a pass code if someone answers (in the event that the alarm was tripped in
· IMMEDIATELY summon Taylor on his mobile radio unit or by way of his
digital pager
· Page the home or business owner (except in a robbery) to alert them to
the alarm
· Watch for alarm to be reset from the scene (indicating all is now well)

Taylor devised an almost perfect scheme and implemented it by changing this operating procedure and instructing us to first call HIM - the moment certain alarms sounded. This gave him an edge to instruct us further – OR NOT. In other words, what he was actually doing was alerting his small band of accessories to gain entry into the very homes where he installed security systems, having us call him when the alarms tripped, and instructing us that there was no need to call 911 or the home owner. This offered them ample time to clean the place out, open safes (he had all their security codes), and generally rape the homeowner of his or her prized possessions, with little chance of getting nailed. Taylor always showed up to the house “just a minute too late” and he knew just when to call the authorities so that it would look like he was the hero; he would always come out of it smelling like roses … the bastard.

One night while several of us were on duty at the answering service, an alarm sounded and one of our new operators, thinking she was doing exactly the right thing, called 911 first. As fate would have it, it was one of the “special cases” that Taylor had drilled us about. “Never call 911 first, NEVER,” were his instructions for a number of his clients.

As it turned out, the police walked in on the burglary in progress (Taylor’s crew being the burglars), and arrested three of them on the spot. By the time Taylor was alerted to the alarm, it was too late and when he heard everything going down on the police scanner, he became livid with us - his answering service.

Roughly a half-hour passed since the alarm had sounded, when Taylor burst through the door of our office flailing his arms wildly and ranting nonsensically. We were quite accustomed to Taylor’s rants as he had always been a bit volatile and aggressive, but the newer operator was shaking in her shoes as she watched and listened to his angry display.

“David, we fucked up, we’re sorry, shouldn’t you be tending to your client?” I asked, half-ignoring his tantrum.
“You have no IDEA what you’ve done to me!” was his reply.
“We will make all due apologies to your client,” I said, “We’re insured for this type of incident and you know it.”
“That would be me and I don’t know who you think you’re dealing with but you will NOT carry this any further in this office,” I said, quite calmly.

This enraged Taylor. He was a take-charge type of man, quite small in stature and extremely sure of himself. In a heartbeat, he whipped out his licensed .45 and held it to my head. My mind spun briefly outside of reality. “Holy Christ,” I whispered.
Everyone in the office froze solid. Nobody spoke. They stared at him, at the gun and at me, all expecting the absolute worst.

None of us had any notion that Taylor was involved in criminal activity of any sort. We simply thought we made a mistake by calling 911 before calling Dave. We couldn’t comprehend why he was enraged to such an extent. Sure, he’d be pissed off, but to the point of threatening my life? To Taylor, however, we had blown his cover and he knew his buddies wouldn’t take the fall for this without dragging him down as well.

I could feel the nose of the gun rubbing against my scalp and though I was frightened to death, I remember trying to imagine how it would actually feel to die. I wasn’t hearing his rants anymore, wasn’t fully seeing the strained expressions on my colleagues faces, and surely wasn’t thinking there was any way out of this.

Suddenly the doors to the elevator (just beyond the glass wall to our office) opened and the gun was immediately lowered from my head. In walked two police officers, casually chatting together. This was the norm after an actual burglary or robbery took place. They would always show up at our office to document the exact time of the initial alarm. Taylor’s entire demeanor changed as they spoke to him in the far corner of the room near the alarm panels.

Not realizing that he would be arrested shortly thereafter, none of us spoke up at the time because we feared repercussion down the road. I don’t know that I ever fully believed Dave would pull the trigger. I did think about how it would feel to be shot, but wasn’t convinced it was actually going to happen then and there. Taylor and I had known one another for nearly two years by then and had shared quick jokes and laughs together at the office on several occasions. I just don’t think, in retrospect, that he would have killed me.

Taylor’s career did go down the tubes that night, but not because we called the authorities first. Apparently they already had their suspicions about him and had been watching him for some time, just hoping to capture the entire crew of them in the act. It was going to come down to him one way or another.

When the story came out in the newspapers two days later, none of us could believe as we read of all the prior incidents Taylor had a hand in. He had become quite the con man, allowing people to trust him implicitly with their personal secrets. The answering service job didn’t last a whole lot longer for me, even knowing that Taylor was safely incarcerated. I decided to move on and make some real money in Manhattan again instead.

Sometimes even now, I wonder what became of Dave Taylor. I don’t CARE what has become of him, I simply wonder.

March 13, 2005

A Personal Walk Through Time

My dad was born and raised on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the early 1920s. His family was low-to-middle class, mostly sitting toward the lower end of that scale. He and his two brothers shared a single bedroom from the day they were born until they each left the nest. None of them ever complained. His “home,” as a young boy was a tenement building near the Bowery.

Dad always had stories to tell and man, did he tell them well! Through him, I learned about the ice man delivering huge blocks by way of hoisting them up the side of the buildings right into the kitchen window. I learned about the corner butcher who would occasionally throw in an extra pork chop if you always paid your bill on time; people didn’t need to have cash upon every visit, he’d just run up a tab for them. Stick ball was played in the streets and you knew every single neighbor for two square blocks. In the city, that’s a lot of neighbors.

With no television or telephone in the house (his earlier years), families and neighbors did a lot of visiting in the evenings and on weekends. In his extended family, everyone could play at least one musical instrument, and they’d all gather in the living room to entertain one another with their talents. It didn’t matter if you were pitchy or scratchy, everyone sang along.

No matter what you did throughout the daytime ~ whether it was work, school, or just hanging around on the corner playing marbles or stick ball ~ at dinnertime, everyone converged in the kitchen and the family ate together. There was something almost sacred about this ritual. I have kept this up in my own household as well. I love it.

One of dad’s stories that is ever-present in my mind was the time he and his gang of friends, (gang had a whole different meaning back then), went off to the Central Park Zoo. Some of them had a few beers in them and started goofing around when they arrived - walking on the lawn where they weren’t supposed to and tossing peanuts to the monkeys (another no-no).

One of the guys scaled the waist-high fence that was put in place to keep people back from the old black bars of the Polar bear cage. The guy started to taunt the enormous bear to come closer and closer. As he stood with his back against the bars, suddenly his friends called out in horror as they saw the bear take one swipe and rip the boy’s entire arm from its socket. One swipe. A drunken (or sober) teenage boy is no match for a Polar bear. My dad said this happened within a split second. It stayed with him forever. It will stay with me forever.

Dad talked about his childhood quite a bit, and though he wasn’t an overtly emotional man, I could see a glint in his eye with each new story. He loved recalling his youth.

I chose this as my post topic today because I was surfing around earlier and located a website for the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. If I knew how to insert a link inside my posts, I’d share the URL but I haven’t advanced that far yet in my blogging career. Soon.

A couple of faithful readers have stated that they would love to visit NYC one day, and I can’t think of a finer and more detailed tourist attraction to recommend than this museum. After all, thousands upon thousands of immigrants started out in this area, in these buildings, in these crowded apartments, speaking their own languages and learning to speak an all new one (English) ~ which would be passed down to their families throughout many lifetimes. Jews got along with their German neighbors, and Italians lived quite happily among the Irishmen. Local merchants trusted people and nobody tried to outdo the Joneses; basically because in those times, you just couldn’t ~ and it just didn’t matter.

I was thrilled to tears to have had an opportunity to visit this Tenement Museum a couple of years ago while showing my fiancé around the city. It turned out, for me, to be quite a spiritual trip. Not in a religious sense, but in an “affecting the very soul of me” sense. We took the tour (which is laughably inexpensive), and were guided through two different tenement buildings which were preserved just as they had been abandoned some eighty years earlier. There were personal belonging inside: shoes, tablecloths and complete table settings, beds with blankets, overcoats hanging on hooks in the wall, mugs dangling over a crude stove and walls ~ oh the old, old walls ~ featuring paint chips that allowed you to count the various coats that had been painted over.

For effect, our tour guide was dressed in period clothing and proudly spoke in her genuine Ukranian accent. As she led us up the creaking stairs to one of the sample apartments, we passed a universal bathroom in the hallway. People shared everything back then, and without shame.

When we entered the dimly lit apartment, I swear to you I fully expected my grandmother to come in from the other room. Now, I never met my grandmother on dad’s side, because she had passed away long before I was born, but this place had such a familiarity about it ~ just based on all of dad’s stories ~ that it was easily imagined. I could “smell” her cooking ~ possibly bratwurst and sauerkraut. My mother had Grandma’s old recipe tin and would often try her hardest to replicate these fine German meals.

The most touching and personal part of my visit was revealed in a simple mug which had been left on a table. It was an exact copy of the very mugs my father would sip his tea from night after night following dinner each night of my own youth. No designs, no print, no color… just this ceramic off-white mug. There it sat on a small, kitchen table ~ and it was able to sweep me directly into my father’s youth. Imagine this? Great, great stuff.

Walking through the rooms I could sense what it must have been like for him to look out the front window and have his friends calling on him for a game of stick ball before dinner. I leaned out the kitchen window visualizing the ice man … and “hearing” the cowbell on the knife-sharpening truck as it crept past the building. Crude fixtures and sconces on the walls made me wish like hell that I had been born in that era.

I, too, like to reminisce about my youth, my teens, my life. For me it’s a means to recapture some of the magic of days past. Oh there’s magic in days present as well, but not to the extent that this walk through history provided.

(I will gladly provide the web address for the museum, though a Google search on “Lower East Side Tenement Museum” will get you there if you’re interested – they even provide a virtual tour)

March 12, 2005

A Case of Wrongly Protected Rights?

Sometimes truth is sick. Here is a take on yesterday's incredible news story out of Georgia.

Deputies sitting around having coffee ~ pre-trial: "Well now let's see, he's 6 ft 1 and 200 pounds, he's being held on charges of rape, let's let him change into civilian clothes and unshackle him so that none of his rights are compromised by a potentially biased jury. Oh yeah, and hey let's have him led into the courtroom by an armed, female deputy. That oughta do it."

Minutes later ...(brief and mismatched scuffle between the accused and his armed female escort)

Bang! Bang! Bang!
(Judge, court reporter and sheriff's deputy dead. No-longer-armed female deputy with head injury. Civilian woman traumatized by carjacking and civilian man traumatized by gun whipping to the head and carjacking)

Deputy 1: "Oops - bad call on that courtroom escort"
Deputy 2: "Well at least his rights weren't compromised"
Deputy 1: "Yeah ... Phew!"

Media to public: "... and the man is armed and dangerous. DO NOT approach him."
Me in my living room listening to media: "GEE, YA THINK?"

And the search is on ...

If and when this animal is found, he will probably have to be shot dead simply because of his armed/dangerous/murderer status. I'm hoping nothing worse comes of it, such as the opening of the ugly racial can of worms.

This is sick. It is truth.

March 09, 2005

Dirty Old Bloggers

Still quite new at this method of release (blogging), I am slowly learning my way around the various features and the lousy pitfalls.

In the early mornings, I enjoy peeking into several sites that I have found to be quite down-to-earth, entertaining, educational, humorous, artful, sarcastically brainy or perhaps, all of the above. Following this activity, I have now spent several days sitting for an hour or two just weaving myself through the
tangled web that is the "next blog" feature.

On rare occasion, the ever-elusive great blog presents itself and I can spend many minutes reading through much of the writings and feeling as though I've hit paydirt. I make a mental note of such blogs or bookmark them for return visits. But that's what we all do ... and that's not what this post is about.

I would just like to know, for the love of all that is green is springtime, what the hell goes through some people's minds as they sit down and dedicate precious moments of their lives to blogging? When I first started my own site, a wonderful friend advised me against the color scheme I chose. It was the black
background that you see now, but with red font. I guess I liked the contrast, and thought it looked pretty cool. My friend warned me however, that people don't need distraction while reading, they need "easy on the eyes." He suggested I use white or gray in my font, and thus my blog, as it is now, took shape.

Now that I've traveled on this particular road a bit, I can see that many others could use this fine advice. I was dragged to a site this morning which featured a red background with purple (not even dark, but light purple) font. I thought I was going to lose my breakfast. I'd rather watch my car rust than sit for too long a time staring at this mess. Needless to say, I didn't stay more than ten seconds. I couldn't tell you if this person had anything worth reading or not. It's a shame, really.

Another site I ended up at, featured little boxes all over it with chat screens and annoying icons in every corner. Right off the bat ... too busy ... moving on, thank you. Yet another site changed my cursor into a skull and yelled at me (in caps) to either leave a comment or go f*ck myself. "Okay," I thought, "If I must make a choice, I'd just as soon give the latter a go." And onward I traveled.

I do understand that people who blog have a right to do so in whatever style or fashion they desire. I almost always buy into the whole "to each his own" bit as well, but what genius came up with an option to have these god forsaken pop-up boxes that won't let you pass until you click to the next one, and the next one and the next one? I tried the other day to bypass one of these annoying sites and my server froze up leaving me no choice but to close down completely. What utter nonsense.

This could be, however a way to weed out the people who don't even deserve a blog. We could ban them forever from every blogdom on the Internet. Perhaps I should send a suggestion to the Blogger folks. Anyone who opts for this rude, pop-up form of self-expression should be likened to the dirty old man who stands in the shadows wearing only an overcoat ~ waiting for unsuspecting passersby to flaunt his fleshy package. They should be banned from any form of free speech for two years and should lose their right to blog forever.

Ugh. It's not always easy to be me between five and seven in the morning.

Paint by Letters

Well it has happened. I am now officially and fully initiated as a member of Blogger.

Upon completion of my post regarding a personal road rage adventure, I read my piece, spell checked and edited, gave the final draft the once over then proudly clicked “Publish Post.” Almost immediately, I was taken to a page that told me to sign in first. I was quite surprised as this had never happened before and I was fully expecting to wait out the usual fifteen seconds or so while watching my work get published. I suppose I had broken some unwritten rule about being idle for too long a time before publishing, and they were prompting me to sign in again; pissed me off, but fine. I signed in and to my horror was taken to a blank page. My post was nowhere!

Even my cats covered their ears as I let loose a string of both single- and multi-syllabic words that you don’t say to your boss or mother. While I feverishly clicked every key on my keyboard and every button on the blog site in hopes of reclaiming my creation, my heart began to sink. The post was gone forever.

My knee-jerk reaction would have been to shut down the computer and walk into greener pastures for a while to cool down. Greener pastures in this case would have been my living room ~ preferably clutching a gallon of ice cream in one hand and a bottle of valium in the other. Since the house was devoid of ice cream and I’m too much of a control freak to down pills, I opted to open my WP program, engage my memory and rewrite my post. It sucked and it just wasn't the same, but I got it done.

I’m thinking though, considering the fact that the second post ended up about five paragraphs shorter than the initial one and was only lacking some minor details, I should, from now on, purposefully erase everything I write the first time around and rewrite it ~ if only to save space.

Truly though, this pained me so. It’s not that I so highly value each word published on my blog, it’s more in knowing that I cannot reproduce the stuff once it’s gone forever. Joni Mitchell once prefaced a song by chuckling at her audience and explaining how much she enjoys their chanting out different song requests before a performance. She said the difference between the performing arts and painting, for example, is that a painter will do a painting and either it sits in some loft somewhere or somebody buys it ~ but nobody ever yelled out to Van Gogh “hey paint a Starry Night again, man!”

I find that writing is like painting. You start with a blank page (canvas) and with every keystroke (brush stroke) you create a work of art. Some might think it’s rich and lovely and others may find it ugly or offensive. But it cannot be repeated – not word for word. Not without some sort of outside technology which, yesterday, I had not employed.

But now I ramble … in this case, a product of frustration and angst. In any case, I suppose a lesson hard-learned always has a silver lining. I won’t be creating any more posts in the Blogger WP program. I just hope this is the end of my initiation and there are no other surprises in store.

March 07, 2005

A Driving Force?

Road rage is not a healthy activity. People handle roadway aggression in many different ways. Passing on the right is one method. Slamming on the brakes so that a tailgater practically kisses your rear bumper is another. There’s the ever effective and magical finger-bullet, and there’s swearing out the window. My personal favorite would be to take them off the line from a red light leaving a trail of dust. No matter which method you apply, unless you can come away from it with a sense of “Yes! I win!” it’s hardly worth it.

Unless you live in an extremely rural farming area, road rage can also be downright dangerous. Admittedly, there was a time when I was quite aggressive on the roadways. I rarely am anymore, though I’m not sure if this is simply due to aging 20 years since my city life or because I find it rather futile to flip off a cow in the road. In any case, my anger seems to have curbed itself.

While still living on Staten Island, I witnessed an incidence of road rage that went terribly wrong. Though I was merely a passenger in the vehicle, it left quite an impression on me.

My former husband EJ and I were driving along Seaside Boulevard one hot summer evening in an attempt to catch the cool ocean breeze while listening to some great tunes on the radio. Our mission was purely to chill out and enjoy an ice cream cone along the way. This road was never very crowded back then and it ran from the tip of South Beach clear to the end of Midland Beach. With the Verrazano Bridge as a backdrop and the lights of Coney Island far off in the distance, it was scenic and peaceful.

EJ was a former US Marine and pretty much unafraid of anything. He had a large stature and a deep voice, and could have been perceived as a threat just based on these features. The fact is, he was a mellow being who would sooner try to resolve than participate in violent activity.

Ed’s underpants must have been twisted that night, because as we approached a stop light and noticed a car full of vinnys* next to us, glances were exchanged and bad karma filled the air. The four boys were in their Chevy and we two in ours, and although neither was an impressive car with a worked motor, when EJ took off at the green light, I almost ended up in our back seat.

We were in the lead by about a full quarter panel when suddenly the vinnys pulled out ahead and swerved sharply sending us toward the curb. EJ taught me several colorful words while he righted our car from its fishtail motion and sped up to the tail end of the boys’ Chevy. They pulled over to the side and motioned for us to do the same. “Shit, here we go,” I thought to myself.

I got out of the car and stood by our hood listening to a loud exchange of adjectives between the guys. I was never concerned for EJ’s safety as, these kids were quite young, slightly built and barely over five feet five inches tall. Then I noticed one of them reaching into a pocket of his leather jacket. Before I could say a word, out it came. Pepper spray. Within seconds, he was emptying this canister directly into EJ’s eyes while the rest of them were hauling ass back into the car.

EJ was trying to reach out and grab at him, but to no avail; he was struggling just to stay on his feet. With all of them safely tucked inside, the car sped off and out of sight. I had to help EJ into our passenger seat as he nearly wretched several times. The skin on his face was raw and red and he was barely able to speak from the burning in his throat and eyes. This stuff does amazing things to the body.

I drove us to my parents’ house as it was fairly close by and back in those days, when anything went wrong, they could usually save the day. My mother spent about a half hour washing out EJ’s eyes as he sat there looking completely humiliated. I swear I think he would have preferred taking a bullet in the leg to being brought down by something as stupid as pepper spray.

Sure I got the license number from the vinny car, but what good would that have done? The simple fact is, the road rage went sour and now it was over. EJ had clearly lost.

I try hard now to keep this incident in mind when I see an opportunity to flip someone off or slam on my brakes, but oh baby, you don’t want to hear my thoughts. If thoughts could kill, I’d “win” every time!

*vinny(s) – a word used by Staten Islanders to describe anyone who came over from Brooklyn with slicked-back, darkly colored hair, a black leather jacket and a foul mouth and who makes a lot of noise as though they own the Island and everyone on it. The word is generally used in a derogatory manner, though not always.
Note careful use of a lower-case “v” to differentiate between the miscreants described above and anyone who happens to be named Vincent.

March 05, 2005

Too Many Me's

When I was a little girl I used to stand in front of the mirror at my tap dance studio and imagine myself on stage before hundreds of people ~ I was completely thrilled with myself! My dance instructor had been one of the Radio City Rockettes and though long since retired from the troupe, she had each and every one of us students aspiring to follow our in her footsteps.

After eight years of tap and three years of jazz-interpretive, I decided to back away from dance and pursue other dreams. It wasn't until my mid-20s when I took a real interest in acting. I took some stage-acting classes at a local school on the Island then broadened my interest to camera acting (television/movie acting) in Manhattan. For a brief time, I thought this was something I could really sink my teeth into.

Some years ago, I answered an ad to audition for an upcoming soap opera. At the time, it wasn't set-in-stone as a full production and they were screening people for various spots. The one I was vying for was the lead (but of course!). I spoke to three different people on the phone who were each rather encouraging and suggested that I come to audition since I was precisely "what they were looking for." Having discussed the profile and physical description for the role they were looking to fill, I was told to bring another resume and headshot if I decided to attend. These phone conversations convinced me that I actually stood half a chance.

Auditions are grueling. You have to show up to the assigned location by 5 a.m. in order to get a foot in the door; then handed a number. They are sometimes held at barely-heated warehouses in midtown with horrific acoustics and with far too few chairs in the waiting hall. You are handed a script moments before heading to the shoddy "stage" area after which you are told to either return to the wait area or to "have a nice day." Returning to the wait area usually meant you'd better have packed a lunch because you're there for the duration. Sometimes upward of 200 people show up to audition and they're not completely through until 4 or 5 p.m.

This was my first and last experience with a live audition. After an hour and a half commute including bus, ferry, subway and tired tootsies, I finally arrived at the warehouse only to be met by 149 women who all looked just like me! It seemed surreal. There was very little height and weight variation, mild differences in hair shade, and damned near clone-ism in bone structure, eye color and nose shape! Egad. I caught myself looking around for Rod Serling until I remembered he passed on (I sorely miss this amazing genius).

To keep this post down to a quiet roar (lengthwise), I'll spare many a detail and cut to the outcome.

I did get my foot in the door - I did sit for hours in the near frigid waiting hall - I did stand before four men and two women in a dank warehouse with crap acoustics - and I was told to return to the holding area. I got a second read, this time bouncing lines to and from the casting group. Just like the little kid admiring herself in the mirror many years earlier, I just thought I was simply marvelous! And maybe, just maybe, I was. But I didn't get a callback. Drat!

Unfortunately, one of the other nearly identical competitors landed that particular role. I read somewhere that choosing the perfect candidate can be a difficult process, and sometimes it all comes down to who had the nicest colored blouse or hairstyle. You know, kinda like the way many Americans apparently vote in our presidents every four years.

The experience for me, overall, was a positive, interesting and educational one. I had no idea there were so many me's out there. Kind of puts things into perspective just a bit. But as I've quoted before, my grandfather used to tell me if I got a bit too cocky, "there's always going to be someone bigger, better and badder than you are."

March 04, 2005

Dry Heat, Shmy Heat

Thanks to the Irish component of my mutt-like ancestry, the sun is hardly my best friend. I've always envied those who glisten and fry to a golden tan after basking for hours on end, year after year. Throughout my youth, my mother issued many warnings and lectures, but the one that stands out foremost in my mind is "don't stay out in the sun too long, you'll pay dearly." Still every summer, like some self-punishing ritual, I would do just that and end up burning and peeling like an over-baked crescent roll. I don't do this anymore; there's a very good reason why.

Back in 1980 after settling nicely into my new Las Vegas lifestyle, I decided it was time to get some color. One incentive to do so was showing up to work looking like a glass of milk next to every one of my colleagues. These people, for the most part, were hard-core Las Vegans and between my heavy New York accent and my near transparent skin tone, I was the brunt of many chuckles.

On a particularly bright and beastly hot afternoon, I ventured out to one of the three swimming pools at our apartment complex ~ towel, radio, and Stephen King novel in hand. Yes sir, I was going to enjoy this day off and work up a lovely tan.

Since I don't do science or numbers, I can't prove that the sun shines stronger in Las Vegas than it does in the east, but I can attest to the fact that 110 in the shade is fucking hot. As a side note, when I moved back east later on, I came pretty close to strangling people who would invariably say to me "oh yes, but it's a dry heat." Quoting a clever comedian from years back, I just looked at these special, ignorant people and said, "so is my oven but I don't want to sit in it all day."

I stretched out on one of the lounge chairs, set my radio up and started to read my book. Soon after, I was joined by a lovely girl who was one of my neighbors. The two of us chatted briefly, then she dipped her tanness into the pool and did a few laps ... I was surprised to see how quickly she returned from the water, grabbed her purse and headed back indoors. She was a native Las Vegan, one of the very few I would ever meet.

After a very short time, surely no more than an hour, I started to feel extremely uncomfortable. I couldn't put my finger on it but it was almost as though I'd over-eaten, over-drank and over-slept, all since I'd left my apartment! I decided to put off my "tan" to another day, gathered my things and headed back to my building. My first clue that something was terribly wrong was when my sandals hurt with each step I took. There was just a thin strap loosely strung over the top of my foot yet it felt as though they were three sizes too small.

When I first got indoors, my skin began to tingle slightly, but I attributed this to the drastic change in temperature as my air conditioner ran 24 and 7 out there. When I headed to the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror, I stared blankly at the stranger looking back at me. On that very day, I had single-handedly invented an all new shade of red. Suddenly every inch of me hurt. Since there's no really clever way to describe it, it was just as though I had been lit afire.

Shortly after, my companion at the time came home for lunch. He looked at me with a pathetic stare as I laid on the couch trying not to move my cheeks as tears rolled out of my eyes.
"You didn't!" he said quietly.
"I did," I whispered shamefully.

He suggested a trip to the emergency room and since I could barely move my mouth enough to speak, he got no resistance. I was in untold agony from the top of my head to my swollen feet. To get me to the hospital, he had to gingerly wrap a lightweight, cotton robe about me as I cried out each time I tried to move another limb. Once in the car, he raced to the nearest emergency room where they brought out a wheelchair for me. I felt so stupid, but not nearly as stupid as I felt sick and scared. It was as though my brain itself had fried.

After a short wait, I was checked out by a doctor who made way too many stupid sunburn jokes then lectured me about how pigmentation plays a role in the tanning process. Gee, ya think?

I was given a mild sedative to offset the uncontrollable shaking. They immediately started an IV drip to rehydrate me, issued a megadose of steroids and gave me something for pain. The people at the hospital were quite friendly and each of them explained they had seen this type of thing a thousand times before ... people trying to rush a process that has to be approached patiently and for several years before achieving that Midas-touched look. I remained under observation for several hours, then finally released with strict instructions.

For the next several days, I was an absolute waste of human-ness. I couldn't even get myself to the bathroom alone and was in no shape for work or play. To add insult to injury, I smelled like a salad for a week from all the vinegar baths (which helped tremendously, by the way). My skin peeled off in sheets for what seemed like two weeks, and I became so sun-paranoid that I wouldn't even look out a window unless I really, really had to. Sun poisoning is a bitch.

I have never enjoyed the sun since then. I avoid it like the plague. In fact, my favorite times of year are spring and fall when I can count on dismal, overcast days with a hint of warmth in the air.

I guess an hour of 118 degree sunshine was just a bit more than my Irish skin could handle.

*Though this has little to do with the sunburn post, I have to share one further incident involving Las Vegas sunshine. Growing up in New York City, you close your car windows and lock the doors at night. You just do. It slayed me when I first arrived in LV, to see all the open car windows all night long. I couldn't understand why people would leave them open. Until ...
I got in my car one day on my way to work, rolled down the windows while gasping for air, and simply leaned back in the driver's seat. I heard a slight, muffled sizzle and felt a sting. The spot where my bare right shoulder touched the baking vinyl of my seat sported a visible blister for several days. Anyone for dry heat?*

March 02, 2005

Oh What Things May Come ...

I've been reading many blog posts lately by way of random access, my own links or links from links from other links. Man, people certainly have a lot to say. In some cases I drop a comment and in other cases, I simply haven't the time or can't see the sense in adding my meager comment to the 237 already there. I usually like to let people know I've stopped in ~ as I enjoy reading the visitor's comments on my own blog.

Three topics were mentioned in recent readings which suddenly jolted me into one of those "holy cow I should write about that!" memory blasts. For whatever reasons, all three times I opted to continue reading and never created my own post. I'm taking a few minutes now to create a sort of nudge-list for myself so that the next time I'm staring into a blank "create" screen, I can refer back, choose a topic and get down to the business of writing.

There is no semblance of order here; neither chronologically nor by preference. These are simply topics I will cover in future posts. I started to list them on paper then realized it would soon disappear among the assorted piles of crap on my desk, so this seemed safer ~ besides, it's always more fun to share. As always, I'm open to feedback in the event that any particular topic strikes your fancy.

  1. Driving cross country in my Chevy, towing a Chrysler land-barge (1966 New Yorker)
  2. Arguing vehemently with a college professor over a discrepancy between the 99% he issued to me and the 100% I deserved
  3. a) Living with Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia and b) Getting a handle on Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia
  4. Earning wages in Las Vegas
  5. My three-year stint as a costumed character
  6. The day I met 150 clones of myself (nope, not kidding, wish I was)
  7. How road rage can go sour
  8. My quest to belong (not for the religiously squeamish)
  9. Our $37,000 vacation to the Cape that lasted just over an hour
  10. The heart attack I simply didn't have time for
  11. Having a gun pointed at my head by a raging lunatic while at my office job
  12. Sneaking on board a nuclear submarine (non-fiction)
  13. My very special sunburn
  14. How watching too many detective stories on TV can come in VERY handy
  15. New Jersey wasn't through with me yet (parts II and III to the Fingers and Blades incident)

I'll stop here for now.

It's important for me to mention that none of the stories I have to tell are untrue. I rarely use names, but I usually mention places and time frames. Some are based on happy and bright memories ~ others have created rather dark patches within me where cynicism, sarcasm and skepticism now abound.

I would be most interested to know if anyone stopping by this post has an interest to learn more about any one or even a few of the topics listed, so please use the comment option and let me know!

Thanks so much for reading!