Friday, April 25, 2008

Ne-PHEW!

So I’m back in New York this weekend for my newly birthed nephew’s christening. For those of you who haven’t yet accepted Jesus as your personal savior and all-around great guy, a christening is when you baptize the baby by pouring holy water over their head in an effort to “wash away” original sin. It’s kind of like a full-term Afterlife Insurance policy. So when they knock over a convenience store 20 years from now, all they have to do is confess their sins and all will be forgiven (whereas if they were still shackled to hell by original sin, God would be like, “Well, it says here you weren’t christened, sooo, not sure there’s much I can do for you. Would you like a mint?”)

Besides all that, this was the first time that I was meeting my nephew. I think it went well even though I was a little nervous coming in. I mean, we don’t have that much in common right now. I’m worrying about making rent and filing my taxes and he’s worrying about things like his skull hardening over and figuring out what his hands are for. I figured I would stick with topics we’re both sympathetic to, like change and transition, i.e. I just moved to Miami, so I’m dealing with a new apartment, new friends, etc., and he just moved out of his uterus, so he’s adapting to his own sort of change like not breathing amniotic fluid and meeting other humans.

Overall, I’d call it a decent first impression. I can’t really tell if he likes me, seeing as how he bawled when I held him the first time, but in all fairness to him he was wearing a diaper full of crap. I’d cry too. I’m also a little concerned about his sense of humor. He cries when he’s hungry, cries when he’s pees, cries when he’s tired . . . you know, it’s like Lighten up! He doesn’t even laugh when he farts! I laugh when I fart. I think it’s hilarious. The only time I’ve seen him smile is when Brooke set the dining room table. I didn’t get the joke. (Maybe he’s British?)

Anyway, sorry for the bland week here. But to make it up to you, here’s a series of pictures of Puppy enjoying his time here on Long Island.

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Enjoying a healthy breakfast! Mmmm!

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Catching some rays.

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Coming inside for a refreshing beverage.

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Sharing a cold one with his best buddy.

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Preparing for an envigorating walk!

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Afternoon playtime.

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Ready for a nap after a hard day of fun.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Miami Mondays: Homeless People!

If New York has the smartest homeless people in the country, then Miami has the friendliest. It makes sense: After all, bums in Miami have had the good fortune of being homeless in a tropical paradise. Just the other day when Brooke and I were at the beach, a homeless guy came walking down the shoreline, trudged onto the sand, plopped his house-bag down and just laid there in the sun. EXACTLY LIKE ME AND BROOKE. I mean, that’s what people come to Miami to do – lay on the beach. And when Brooke and I had to go home to do some work? The homeless guy got to stay! Because he had nothing else to do.

The only problem with this laid-back homeless mentality is that it’s not the best attitude for begging for money. In New York, homeless people will sing, tell you a story, make pretend to be crippled, put a cat in a baby stroller – anything to garner a sympathetic buck. They’re always thinking of entrepreneurial ways to get by, like collecting cans for recycling or robbing other bums while they sleep.

In Miami? Not so much. I was walking down the street the other day and passed a homeless guy in a wheelchair. As I approached, he made eye contact with me and said hello. I prepared my stock “I’m sorry, I don’t have any change” line, except that was all he did – just said hello. Didn’t ask for change, or say he was a WWII veteran or that he lost all his money to diabetes. Just hello. Now I’m not sure if he just forgot to beg, or if he was just a very poorly dressed economically stable elderly man, but either way it was both refreshing and a bit disconcerting – mostly for the New York homeless people. It seems like they’re working so hard to get by, and here in Miami it’s like a homeless vacation resort. And sure, all the New York homeless could just walk down here (what else have they got to do?), but then it would turn into a homeless convention, and everyone knows that once the bums get organized, they’ll take over the world.

And the whole reason that I’m writing this is because, as I type, there is a homeless woman sitting next to me at a table outside Starbucks. I was just sitting here, sipping my iced coffee and typing away, when out of the corner of my eye I saw a woman approaching. “Are you using this chair?” she asked, and without really looking up I replied, “No, it’s all yours.” But instead of taking it away to another table, she just sat down next to me. Not even across from me. Next to me. The thing is, she wasn’t obviously homeless. She was deceptively homeless. And the reality of the situation didn’t hit me until she offered me a potato chip with some onion dip out of a jar, and I looked up to say no thanks and got a good look at her: dirty hair, cropped men’s pants, two crazy eyes with one slightly crazier than the other. Then it hit me: the smell.

Homeless people have a distinct odor. I imagine it is the same smell that actors make pretend to be smelling when they walk into a grizzly crime scene on TV. And here it was, sitting next to me in the warm sun, offering me a potato chip.

So I finished typing this just to not be rude, and now I am going to leave, my nose quivering with stink. But let it be noted: Although she offended most every one of my five senses, she never asked for anything from me. That’s homeless . . . Miami-style.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Happy Boob Day Eve, New York!

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There was already a text message on my phone when I woke up this morning. It was from my friend John in New York:

“It’s not Boob Day yet. But with 72 degrees today and 77 degrees tomorrow, it’s definitely Boob Day Eve.”

I closed my phone and smiled one of those half-hearted smiles, like moms do in movies when their kid decides to move to the big city in order to chase their dream of becoming a fashion designer despite the odds stacked against them. Because when I opened the shade in my bedroom and let the abundant sunlight pour in, I realized something sad.

This will be the first time in my life that I will miss Boob Day.

Boob Day, of course, is the day in New York when the sun warms the Earth to a temperature so great that women may finally cast aside their jackets and sweaters and start wearing the clothes that show off their breasts.

All winter long they have been bundled up, keeping their fun bags in the toy chest. But suddenly, it starts to warm up. Usually there are a few false alarm Boob Days where it’s mild and sunny and all the hoochies jump the gun and hit the streets in tube tops. Don’t be fooled. Though these days are fun for their novelty, they aren’t the big event. No, the genuine Boob Day is always marked by a string of warm, sunny days, culminating in one unusually hot day. And on that hot day, it’s like the heavens open . . . and the heavens have great tits.

Boob Day is probably the most underappreciated holiday in the world. Take all the Salvation Army donations during Christmas, all the confetti on New Year’s Eve, and all the fireworks from the Fourth of July and you still couldn’t match the amount of good will inspired by the mind-blowing wave of low-cut tank tops, “business casual” halters, and one-size-too-small sundresses that floods the streets.

I know what you’re thinking: WTF, Dan? EVERY DAY in Miami is Boob Day! And you know what? You’re right. You can’t pick up a quarter on the street without getting hit in the face with a boob. (I’m serious. This happened to me on Tuesday.) But this constant stream of tata tartar is exactly what Boob Day isn’t about. It’s not your run-of-the-mill, day at the beach, “oh, whoops, I missed a spot while oiling up my bikini line, I’m gonna get a real bad burn there LOOK AT MY TECHNOLOGICALLY ENHANCED CLEAVAGE.” If I was a sociologist or a philanthropist or whoever it is that studies these sorts of cultural paradigms, maybe I would suggest that it has something to do with mating and pollen counts. But I’m not. Boob Day is organic. It’s inside of all of us. Boob Day is a spasm of mammographic glee, a representation of all that is good in woman’s shirts. And I will miss it.

And just in case the open wound didn’t have enough salt of the earth in it, this year promises to be a real blockbuster: Because the intensity of Boob Day is in direct proportion to the duration and suckiness of the winter season, from what people have told me about how this winter just dragged on and on and on, I imagine this Boob Day is going to be something special.

So everyone, celebrate in my absence. It’s your duty. Gawk, ogle, drool even. Whistle, woof, stare so hard that you walk right into a open man hole. Hell, take pictures. With a telephoto lens maybe. Email them to me. Whatever you feel is necessary. Just remember that it’s not degrading, it’s a celebration. And I wish you all the breast.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

My First Attempt To Turn Puppy Into A Beach Dog

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UNSUCCESSFUL.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

“Can You Clean?”

Everyone told us that the “language barrier” would be difficult in Miami. Brooke and I, always the clueless optimists, were positive that our high school Spanish would suffice. And it did for the most part [because we never had to use it], right up until Brooke had to call a housekeeper that some friends recommended to us. She sounded fantastic (when I heard that she changed the sheets and did laundry, I got horny), but she also came with a warning: No habla ingles.

No problem! How hard could it be, right? Right?
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Scene: Sitting in a Cuban restaurant finishing lunch. I am full of pork and ham. That sounds like a flowery metaphor, but alas it is literal.

Aaaaand action!

Brooke: “I want to make an appointment with that maid.”
Me: “The one that doesn’t speak English?”
Brooke: “Who do we know that speaks Spanish that can help us?”

[We contemplate our homogeneous whiteness.]

Brooke: “I’ll just call. It’ll be fine.”
Me: (laughing on the inside) “OK, that sounds good.”

[ring, ring]

Maid: “Hola.”
Brooke: (drawing an immediate blank on all Spanish words) “Um, hola.”

[awkward pause]

Brooke: “Me llamo Brooke. Yo tengo numero from Neila. Yo quiero una housekeeper.”

[awkward pause]

Brooke: “Puedas limpiar?”

The conversation proceeds like this for some time, with Brooke creating new, not-Spanish words. The basic message of cleaning is conveyed, and Brooke now needs to set up an appointment. Forgetting the word for “month,” she uses the word “mas.” I don’t know why.

Brooke: “Once a month? Um, unce de mas?” [Ed. Note: This is not a sentence – in any language.] “May. May 12th. Uh, Mayo de . . . un momento” (under her breath) “. . . uno, dos, tres, quatro, cinco, seis, siete, ocho, nueve, diez, once, DOCE. DOCE.”
Maid: (in Spanish) “What are you saying?”
Brooke: “Si, dos p.m.”

Finally, our waitress comes over and offers to help us translate. We hand her the phone, and I assume she proceeds to make fun of us to the maid, though I still left her a 40% tip. She confirms our appointment, hangs up, and hands us back the phone.

Me: “How did that go?”
Brooke: “She laughed a lot.”

Aaaaand scene!
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And now, just for fun, here is what the housekeeper heard on her end:

Brooke: “Um, hello. My name is Brooke, I have number from Neila. I want a housekeeper. Can you clean? Unce of more! Um, May. May of . . . one moment . . . one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, TWELVE. TWELVE."
Maid: “What are you saying?"
Brooke: “Yes, 2 pm’s."

Monday, April 14, 2008

Miami Mondays: Parking!

Parking is a way of life in New York. Either you have what it takes to find a parking spot, or you don’t – in which case your car lives in a garage that costs more than the average monthly rent for a small Miami apartment.

When I moved down here, I was stoked by the possibility that I might have a driveway or, even better (because of some invisible cool-factor) a designated parking spot in a condominium complex. With a valet named Roger. And I would call him Rog. And we would have this system where, when I was in a rush in the morning, Rog would have the car up front waiting for me as I came barging into the garage and, without missing a beat, toss me the keys as I ran for the car. We’d exchange pleasantries (“Morning, Rog!” “Stay cool, Dan!”) and that’s how I’d start my day.

Instead, Brooke and I eschewed high-rise living for a cute two-story building in a quiet part of town. It doesn’t have a garage or a driveway, much less a valet. But it comes with a residential parking pass, so that (theoretically) there is spot reserved for me on the street (somewhere) because I live here.

I can see how the idea seemed good at the time (again, theoretically). But either everyone in my neighborhood owns three cars, or someone in city hall did some bad math. Because when Brooke and I come home late at night (you know, nine, ten o’clock) there usually isn’t a spot to be had anywhere on our block. (Whoever had “1 DAY” in the “Amount of time before Dan turns into the guy who calls the city information hotline to turn in illegally parked cars on his block” pool, congratulations! You win!)

It’s still better than NY, though. In New York, you could spend an entire night looking for a parking spot.

EXAMPLE:
“So what’d you do this weekend?”
“Parked the car.”

One time, I literally spent hours looking for a parking spot on the Upper East side. I was employing all the tricks: Driving up fast behind someone who you know is also looking for a spot in order to make them nervous and hopefully miss one; keeping an eye out for the people who look like they are going to a car (they tend to walk diagonally across the street); driving extra slow when someone is trying to pull the driving-up-fast trick on you, right up until you hit a yellow traffic signal, at which point you gun it through the intersection so they are left behind and you can troll the next block at a leisurely pace. I tried everything. It lasted so long that I had to stop and get pizza. By the time I found a spot, I had spent in gas money what I had hoped to save in garage fees. (I called it a moral victory, but my friends said I didn’t really understand what the word “moral” meant.)

It’s never that bad in Miami. They even have a free parking lot two blocks away reserved just for people in the neighborhood in case there aren’t any spots on the street. Miami is gracious in their inhospitality. Like they really want you to be able to park your car. Honest. It’s just been so hard lately, you know, since the wife left? And I’m getting old and I lose track of things. I forget where I put my glasses sometimes. I hope the parking lot isn’t a big inconvenience . . .

Besides, the price you pay for parking illegally? $23.00. In most cases, that’s cheaper than having to valet your car. I haven’t gotten a parking ticket in New York in a long time, but the last I heard they were up to $850.00 (ballpark).

The only negative difference in Miami? The towing. In New York, you have to literally be parked in the middle of Broadway or on top of a hydrant in front of a three-alarm fire to get towed. One night, I walked past a car that had jumped the curb and slammed into a bus stop sign. The next morning, the car was still there, with a ticket on the window.

Here, though, they don’t fuck around with the towing. A lot of stores and banks in Miami Beach have small, designated parking lots with signs posted that parking for those lots is restricted SOLELY for those stores’ customers. Hence, when that store closes (say, 8 p.m.) if your car is there at 8:01, it gets towed. And the tow companies are on the friggin ball, often waiting there with the truck, watching the hands of the clock tick away. It’s nearly impossibly to drive around the beach in the evening without seeing a tow truck hauling a car. I imagine the towers as the tycoons of Miami, sitting in their mansions on the bay flipping through big-rig catalogues, watching the sun set. Their cats eat Fancy Feast, and every Tuesday Dale has a barbecue on his yacht. Everyone brings their dogs and it’s a hell of a good time. Then they all gather around and sing the tow truck driver anthem, “We are tow truck drivers, we reap what we tow; we eat caviar and drink Chateau Margeaux . . .” and they laugh and laugh and laugh.

As David Caruso would say: “That’s justice . . . Miami style.”

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Things I’ve Learned From The Construction Site Next Door

For the past few weeks, there has been a construction crew at the house adjacent to our building, close enough so that when we have the windows open, you can hear what is going on over there. And basically, all that is going on is whistling and hollering at women.

Let me say that I certainly don’t condone this type of behavior. But I understand it. I worked in construction for some formative teenage years. For years I thought that the way you asked a girl out on a date was by yelling, “Dinner for two . . . on my face!” at her. (I don’t even know who the second person would be in that scenario.) And while at first I was disgusted by the workers’ behavior (e.g. ordering a pastrami hero for lunch and then telling the girl behind that counter that if she wanted he’d “return the favor”), eventually I got sucked in.

In many ways, construction life is like prison life. There are a different set of rules. Maybe in your normal life, you only like brunettes. But spend nine torturous hours a day doing hard labor, surrounded by nothing but brutish guys, and your standards are taken down a notch or two. It’s a subtle change at first: You notice yourself finding the girl who works at the deli more and more attractive. Then is escalates. You wake up in the morning excited to go to the deli. Suddenly, guys are fighting to take the lunch order. The sexual tension infiltrates the crew. Men are irrationally upset over the use of mayonnaise instead of mustard on their sandwiches. Things reach a head when one day, at the height of the summer, everyone stops working – literally stop in their tracks whether hauling lumber or hammering roofing shingles – to stare at a woman who walks past the house in a tank top. She is middle-aged and not that pretty, but as she turns the corner out of sight, you feel a pit in your stomach as you honestly believe that your life’s one true love has just left you forever. For weeks afterwards, you refer to her lovingly as “tank top girl,” in pathetic sentences like, “I wonder if tank-top girl will walk by today.” It’s official: Your life has been reduced to the route a moderately unattractive girl takes home from the store.

Just thinking about it makes me sad.

So like I said, I understand. But in the same way that you can’t understand two otherwise heterosexual marines getting their names tattooed on each other’s asses if you’ve never spent six months at sea on the S.S. Lonesome Dove, so too does it become difficult to understand construction workers’ cat-calling logic when you have a hot girl sitting one desk over who, with a modicum of persuasion and the promise of taking the trash out, will let you touch her boob.

Not that it isn’t still fascinating. Puppy and I have made several walks over to the construction site and done extensive research (for Puppy, substitute “research” with “pooping”), and below are our conclusions. So in case you ever want to woo a girl from the safe distance of a half-renovated apartment building, here are the rules:

1) Bright colors are an apt substitute for beauty. For men whose job requires precision measurements and the operation of dangerous cutting tools, when it comes to women their eyesight gets pretty imprecise: bright colors = hot. Simple as that.

2) Noise begets noise. If one worker hears another worker whistle, he will whistle in response even if he can’t see who he is whistling at.

3) The levels of intensity of catcalls are as follows (in increasing order of hotness):

– Whistle

– Short, affirmative proclamation, such as “Whoa!” or “Yeah!”

– Dog barking (This is ironic. I would have thought that barking at a woman would be indicative of her looking like a dog. Maybe they mean it more like she looks like a cute puppy? Although they would be arrested if they ever did to a puppy what they want to do to a woman they bark at. So yeah, it remains a mystery.)

– Full sentence. I only once heard this happen, and I realized why it is so rare: because all the other guys will hear what you say. For example, I heard a guy scream at a rather attractive girl, “Hey, you should marry me!” And everyone looked at him like, “Really? I didn’t know you wanted to get married. That’s a big responsibility, bro. What if she wants kids right away? Do you even have a 401k? That’s just whack if you’re gonna get married without a retirement plan.”

4) Short shorts are an apt substitute for being a woman. I once saw a worker jump the gun and whistle at an effeminate man walking down the street in short shorts. As soon as he whistled, rule number two came into play, and three men ended up whistling at some dude in jogging shorts. Embarrassing.

5) The only thing more important than women is going home. Puppy and I happened to be walking by one day around 5:30 while they guys were loading up the truck to head home for the day. A genuinely attractive woman (in a short skirt, no less) walked right past on the other side of the street. I slowed down, waiting for the atomic explosion of harassment that was sure to ensue. But no – these guys were so intent on the fact that they were going home in ten minutes, that they couldn’t even take five seconds to bark at this woman. It was amazing. I looked over at her, and even she was amazed. Sadly, she probably went home and became bulimic. Again.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Miami Mondays: Weather!

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the weather down here is totally different than in New York. It’s like, a lot warmer; or as the old people down here call it, “Hot like those final moments of your seventh stroke where you think the warm hand of God may finally be taking you home.” (They’re flowery.)

When you meet someone in New York, the first two questions are always the same: Where are you from? and What do you do? Here, when you meet someone they start off with proclamations (not questions), and it’s always the same two things:

1. Leave town on Memorial Day weekend; and
2. You’re going to hate the summer.

The thing is, they all say it while kind of laughing. Like it’s a big inside joke about how hot it gets, and everyone who chooses to live here (them included) is at the butt of it. At its core, it’s nothing more than just another effed-up, southern love-hate relationship: In the summertime, Miami slaps you around with the backside of its humid hand. Then come winter, Miami apologizes and says it was just stressed because of a situation at the office, and it won’t happen again, and it loves you, let’s open a bottle of Rosé and let bygones be bygones. And you’re cool with it – until next summer.

Me? I’m not that worried. The way I see it, you’re getting double-dicked in NY. In the depths of winter, you can’t go buy a gallon of milk without a frosty breeze loosening a stream of snot down your face. Then, come summer, you get to hang out in the blistering subway stations, with 170% humidity. And not just regular humidity, but dirty, smelly humidity – like swimming in a pool with a bunch of strangers, except you KNOW that someone’s peed in it. And it’s the guy on the bench over there with one sneaker and a flag flying off his shopping cart. (Shout-out to homeless Asian guy at Grand Army Plaza station!)

But of course, every time I suggest this to a Miami resident (that I think I’ll be fine with the Miami summers) they laugh. And when they realize that I’m not joking, that laugh turns to anger. Like I’ve offended their righteous indignation; like I’m better than them somehow. One guy went so far as to tell me that people die in the summer. “It kills people,” he told me, with a wild look in his eye, talking about the heat as though it were imbued with a monstrous human soul: “The heat kills people.”

For now, though, the heat isn’t the problem. It’s the storms. Take last night for example. Around 3:00am, I awoke to a scream. I shot up in bed and yelled, “What?!” If I had had a bat, this is the point where I would have started swinging it wildly, but I had nothing, so instead I think I pawed my hands in the air a bit.

I looked over at Brooke. “Puppy scared me,” she said. “The big fraidy cat got scared from the thunder and jumped on my head.” I hadn’t noticed the thunder and lightening outside, but could tell it was rolling in quickly. I settled back down into bed, and just then there was another thunderous boom, and Brooke screamed again.

“Did Puppy jump on your head again?”
“Yes.”
“Wasn’t he already on your head?”
“Yes.”
“Is it really you that’s scared?”
“Maybe.”

Puppy had already moved to the foot of the bed, looking at Brooke like, “It’s a low-pressure system. Get over it.” But over the next half an hour, the thunder and lightening got worse and worse. Also, the windows of our apartment (and most apartments here) aren’t that thick. It’s not like they need double-insulated glass to keep out all the blustery winter winds. As a result, sounds come through a bit more clearly. Like, totally fucking in-your-face. Combine this with the lingering swaying feeling from having spent the entire previous day on a yacht out on the high seas (more on that below)*, and for about 10 minutes it felt as though we were in The Perfect Storm.

Finally, the storm passed and Brooke and I went back to sleep having made the resolution that we are out of here at the very first sign of a hurricane forming anywhere. We even resolved to leave for Japanese typhoons, just in case one were to get lost and make its way to Miami. But it’s like my father always said: There’s no shame in being scared – just don’t tell anyone you’re my son.

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* It was fucking awesome, and exactly like in “CSI: Miami.” So much so, that I was kind of worried all day long that a dead body would surface right next to us and ruin all our fun. Luckily, we dodged that bullet. (But if there had been a dead body, and Horatio Caine had been there, he would have said, “This guy. Clearly. Did not dodge the bullet.”)

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

“I Miss The 80’s” Trivia Bonanza

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Study Finds Having “Walk Like An Egyptian” Stuck In Your Head Better Than Actually Walking Like An Egyptian

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Ancient Egyptian #1: “Boy, it’s hot out here.”
Ancient Egyptian #2: “Tell me about it. What are you up to today?”
#1: “Building a pyramid. You?”
#2: “Same.”
#1: “Hey, did you go to Sami’s burial ceremony?”
#2: “No, I missed it. My son got bit by a rattlesnake again.”
#1: “Bummer. It was alright. But the sarcophagus turned out to be too small.”
#2: “What did you do?”
#1 “Hauled some more rocks, made it bigger."
#2: “Right.”
#1: “Say, that’s a nasty cut on your leg there.”
#2: “Yeah, got this falling off a sphinx.”
#1: “You don’t say. You wrapped some meat on it?”
#2: “Yup, got it all wrapped up in meat. Don’t want the Pharaoh thinking I’m slacking."
#1: “Gotcha. Well, I’ve got to go haul some more rocks. Will you be at the sacrifice tonight? I think it’s Rami this time.”
#2: “Yeah, I’ll be there. Poor guy.”
#1: “Hey, at least he invented math, right?”
#2: “True.”