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Monday, January 31, 2011

Robert DeNiro's Waiting

I just might regret titling this post after a Bananarama tune but it seemed so appropriate. Everybody's got their stereotypical image of a New Yorker and it's usually like any Robert DeNiro character in take-your-pick-mobster-movie - that rude, uncaring, pseudo-psychotic citizen. For the most part - they're right. But when disaster hits like 9/11 or the black outs or five major snow storms in four weeks, practically every bad-tempered New Yorker - who wouldn't put you out if you were on fire - turns into a Saint.

Getting around the streets of New York in snow is treacherous and I'm not exaggerating one bit. Most of the sidewalks are shoveled for a single person to get by. If you have a shopping cart or a fat ass that can't shimmy through, you better stay home - that's the New York state of mind. The conditions are so hazardous you'd imagine it would be like Death Race 2000.

But it's not.

Every time my two boys and I shuffled our way to school or the store, folks would step to the side and let us by. I know - it's hard to believe but I saw it with my own eyes! They literally jumped onto the mound of snow and gave us free passage.

To top it off, I would say "thank you" and they would smile and answer, "sure, no problem."

Each time that happened I pinched myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming.

Every kind act deserves one in return. So when the afternoon sun started to melt some of the snow around the corners and created something I call "Slush Lake," I appointed myself Senior Citizen monitor. Basically, all I did was stick out my hand and assist an elderly person across the snow to avoid Slush Lake and help them to the sidewalk.

One old lady was so surprised for the assistance that she had tears in her eyes. "Oh, thank you," she said, "are you Korean?"

Hmmm - I couldn't figure out what being Korean had to do with it - but I told her I was not.

"You're nice girl, anyway," she said.

"Uh, thanks?" Really, what else could I have said?

But the real Hurrah goes to our Post Man, Tony. The morning after Queens was dumped with seventeen inches of snow, Tony was pushing his mail cart, working his way around un-shoveled stoops and doorways to deliver our bills, catalogs and junk mail. God bless him and all his fellow Postal delivery workers. When they say through rain, sleet or snow, they really meant it.

Maybe in other cities, neighbors and strangers are always Good Samaritans; Postal workers always deliver the mail just as the garbage men always pick up the garbage - but not New York. That's why I'm a little taken back by the transformation - we have been converted, albeit as temporary as the snow.

Come Fourth of July, when all this snow finally melts, I'm sure we'll be back to our usual don't-wanna-know-you attitude. Then Robert De Niro can come home...as well as the Jets.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Emperor's New Skinny Jeans

The last time I found a pair of jeans that I liked, I think we were in the 20th century. Hip Huggers - as we old folks liked to call them - or Low Rise jeans as it's referred to these days - have taken over the racks. Sure, they look great...on women with flat bellies. If my belly didn't reveal just how much beer I drank, I would consider showing it off. It's the Plumber's Crack I have a problem with.

In my quest to find a perfect pair of jeans, I went to Aeropostal clothing store because I had some luck there with cargo pants. But it seemed every pair of jeans in the store were low rise. I asked the waif of a sales girl if they had any jeans that weren't. In her thin, malnourished voice she replied a flat "no."

It didn't bother me that they didn't have any regular jeans. What bothered me was her look of disdain at my question. They're not that outdated, you know - I should've told her. It's not as if I asked if she knew where they might still sell a Walkman.

So I relied on my old jeans to last me a little while longer. "Hang in there," I said, "I promise not to put you through the dryer for too long."

At the recommendation of my mother, my next shopping expedition was at Uniqlo. Ever hear of skinny jeans? Well, they have Super Skinny Jeans! And because I'm clueless, I thought the term "skinny jeans" meant that the jeans made you look  skinny. I had no idea that what they meant is you actually have to be anorexic to wear them.

The fool that I am, I actually tried on a pair. Yes, I'm a glutton for punishment and I just had to see how far I could get in them. Getting them on was a reality show in itself but the real joke was taking them off. It was more like...flaying.

After I had managed to peel them off, the jeans were stretched out in the thighs and butt beyond recognition. I felt a little embarrassed returning them to the rack that way but as I see it, it was their own damn fault for making jeans that could only fit Natalie Portman.

Once again, my old jeans would just have to last a little while longer. Then it happened. A small tear developed by the back pocket. It was only a matter of time and I knew what would happen if I put it off any further.

I once wore a pair of Levi's jeans past its lifespan. The fabric was thin by the knees and bottom but I thought, Hey, what's the worst that could happen? I took the kids to the park to play and did our usual playful activities - played tag, chased them around and up the jungle gym. Then a mommy friend came up to me and said, "So, you wear purple underpants?"

Apparently, I had been parading around the entire park all afternoon in a pair of jeans with a huge split in the back.


It's just my luck to be embarrassed so thoroughly. Open flys, visible bra straps, mismatched socks - that's for amateurs! No, my clothes have to come apart at the seam it seems and what better place than in public? So the little tear by the back pocket of my true blue was foreboding.

I managed to get to Old Navy. Though I came away with three pairs of pants, it was the most confusing shopping experience of my life.

The Sweetheart, the Dreamer, the Flirt - don't they sound like psychiatric terms to you? But they are actually the names of the different designs of jeans you can find at Old Navy. The Dreamer is low rise, Flirt is mid-rise, Sweetheart is classic-rise...then there's boot cut, straight leg and of course skinny jeans (though now I know better).

Is there going to be a quiz at the end - since when have dungarees become so complicated?

Although I'm happy that I've warded off the Emperor's New Suit nightmare, I'm sorry to say that Old Navy jeans fit horribly. They're baggy all over as opposed to the Super Skinny sausage casing of Uniqlo. All I can say is, they must've been designed by a man.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Lost And Found Regular

Thanks to my six-year old, I'm a regular at the lost and found. You know that saying, he'd forget his head if it weren't screwed on? Well, that's him. Every teacher of his has had the same complaint about him: he leaves his things all over the place.

Honestly, I don't know where he gets it from. Daddy, Mommy and both grandma's are fairly organized when it comes to personal property. By that, I mean we don't leave our crap everywhere and wonder where it is five minutes later. All of us have had our scatterbrained moments but for the most part - we're together.

From the very beginning, we taught him to put away his things. We'd given him his special coat hook to hang up his coat, book bag hook to hang up his school bag, socks and gloves drawer right by the door - so how come he can't put his stuff away? Why does he undress like he's exploded?

Sometimes, I wonder if I'm being a hard ass. I mean, he's only six-years old and he's a boy, right? But his friends come over for a play date and they hang up their coats and put away their shoes (we don't wear shoes in the house).

He even has this one friend who is so concerned about forgetting his stuff that he'd rather sweat in his hoodie than take it off and risk forgetting it there.

That's proof enough for me that being six-years old or being a boy is no excuse. My son's a natural stripper and he likes to give his clothes away, apparently. It's only January and already he's lost three pairs of gloves this winter. He got a new pair from Grammy for Christmas - he's worn them - as a pair - two out of six times. The first day he came back with just the right hand.

"Where's the other one?" I asked.

"Umm, at school."

"What's it doing at school?"

"Uh...it's hiding."

I deserved that answer.

It got to the point that I didn't even check his pockets or his school bag to make sure he had everything - I just went straight to the Lost and Found. But I learned that you never actually find what you've lost at the Lost and Found. No, the Lost and Found is a graveyard for unwanted clothes. And it was there that I learned that a lot of parents spend a lot of money on a fancy lunchbox for their kid and don't bother to put the kid's name on it.

I've considered sewing his clothes to his underwear and securing it to his body with "Sock Glue" but his teachers might think me a little extreme. So, I've succumbed to the idea that my kid doesn't have his own coat hook at school, he has a black hole. And until they fix this black hole, his wardrobe will consist of hand-me-downs, used clothing from thrift shops and Frankenpants.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Compulsive Recycler

It probably would sound more honorable if I said I recycle because I'm trying to help the planet stay green. But the deep, dark truth is redeeming bottles and cans in those automated vending machines reminds me of playing nickel slots. And the coolest part - you never lose your money.

Now I'm not a compulsive gambler, as a matter of fact, I hate it. But there's something addictive about watching the machine swallow your glass bottle and hearing it smash or taking your can and hearing it crunch. It's like all the fun and no pain.

No pain, if you don't mind waiting in line behind all those Redemption-as-a-career folks. They're always there with industrial garbage bags filled to the brim. They are courteous for the most part but some of the Lifers can be downright cut-throat. This old Chinese woman literally crashed her shopping cart into mine so she could get ahead of me. She had like a thousand bottles compared to my 40-some-odd empties but whatever. As they say, age before beauty (right, ha, ha, ha).

As Karma would have it - she couldn't even start because the janitor came to shut down the machine as the bin was too full. I could tell by the look on his face that he was going to take a nap before replacing the collection bin - so I went home and let the old Chinese lady wait there until her New Year. Booyakasha!

I'm not a Lifer but my Recyclable Redemption Habit started like this. We used to put our recyclables in the designated blue bin in front of our house as we went. The Redeemers-as-a-career folks would walk the streets, scrounge through our front patio and take what they wanted. They were always respectful of our privacy, so no harm done.

But then they started taking our recyclable bags and sometimes the garbage bag to haul their loot - leaving our trash on the floor or worst yet, mixed with the other trash so we'd be susceptible to fines. Not cool.

So we designated the recycle bin to go out only on Friday evening. And one day, a small group of Peruvian women with small children in tow, came up to our house asking if they can sort through our recyclables. My boys asked me what it was all about and I thought, enough is enough.

I decided to bring the empties to the redemption centers and get rid of them myself. After all, it's our garbage - it's our responsibility, right? Maybe our five cents here and there might have helped some folks but in the long run, you can't feed the world with garbage although McDonald's sure tries hard.

So, the first time, I bumped into one of the Peruvian grandmothers I once handed our empties to. She didn't say hello, she just gave me the "Evil Eye." I felt guilty but two-dollars and ten-cents later, I didn't feel so bad for what I'd done. And really, why should I?
It was our money. We paid the five-cent deposit in the first place! I mean, isn't that the point? Yes, it was pocket change but it felt like more because I did something good for the planet to boot.

Still, I told my mother what I did as if I were confessing a sin. I told my husband what I did as if I had robbed a bank. They both gave me one of those smiles that was half-shocked and amused. My mom phrased something in Japanese and asked if I knew what it meant.

Judging by the way she said it, I guessed. "Shameless?"

"No."

"Gumption."

"No."

She asked a friend to translate. "Frowned upon."

"Oh."

Guess it was best to keep this deed to myself. So I silently kept on and stashed the money in a jar. When I bitched to my husband about rinsing out the bottles and cans he snorted, "You and your recycling."

"Oh yeah?" I said, "Let's check the jar!"

Lo and behold! It's got thirty-dollars in it.

He stopped snorting. My mom stopped frowning. The old Peruvian grandma started smiling at me now - she sees me so often.

As for me...I'm just waiting for the day I get a complimentary drink while I'm redeeming nickel slots - uh, I mean cans.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Thing Two

The Second Child Syndrome. We all know about it - first hand, second hand, through the grapevine - you remember Jan Brady's meltdown, "Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!"

I am fascinated by the second child because it's been so prominent in my family. My father was the second son in his family, my sister was the second daughter in our family and now I have a second child of my own - Thing Two.

They say that while the first child is the CEO, the second child is the entrepreneur and I can see that. Thing Two has an agenda of his own. Somehow, he manages to get what he wants and makes you believe it was your idea.

My mother picked him up after Pre-K one morning in October and she asked him, "What do you want to do today?"

"Can you take me to Toys R Us? I promise not to beg for a toy if you take me to Dunkin' Donuts after for hash browns."

I guess she thought that sounded innocent enough. But she was suckered into buying him a Zhu Zhu pet - an awful, noisy rat-like hamster that travels on wheels.

"This hamster was nine-dollars! Do you realize how much money that is?" She lectured him when they left Toys R Us.

"Okay, then we don't have to go to Dunkin' Donuts because you don't have enough money," he said all proud of himself for being so considerate.

On the way home, he fell asleep in the stroller holding his toy snug in his arms. You might think that's cute, but it's about a mile and a half walk from Toys R Us that my poor mother had to make without a coffee break.

Lacking confidence under big brother's shadow? Don't make me laugh. That's one second child trait Thing Two does not harbor. I think he gets just as much attention as his big brother, maybe even more. I looked back at videos of Thing Two when he was a baby and all I hear is big brother in the background vying for attention. It makes me sad now because - being the eldest myself - I said I would never ignore the older child for the cute little baby...but I did.

That was the past, however, and I console myself by saying Thing Two could never complain that he was ignored or put second or throw a tantrum like Jan Brady. Big brother had two whole years to himself after all. There are no hard feelings because big brother clearly adores Thing Two. They really do get along even though they fight like Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots. No blood has been spilt...this night.

One significant trait of the second child I've noticed that's remarkable in Thing Two is the need to be secretive. When I thought about it, I remembered my father and my sister did the same thing. Experts say the second child is secretive because they don't want to be compared to their siblings but I disagree. I think it's that they've figured out - from watching big bro or big sis - that if you put yourself out on the line, you're going to get shot. So they'd rather let you hear what they've done after the fact.

That's why I can't get Thing Two to promise me anything, no matter how much I bribe him.

"If you're good at the doctor's office, I promise we'll get you a toy." I offered.

Nothing. No answer. Not even a nod of the head, just puppy eyes looking up at me with an upside down smile. He knows he can't commit to that.

But what does he say after he received his flu shot booster and managed not to kick the doctor in the nuts?

"You said you would get me a toy if I was good."

Thing Two and Big Brother

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Trash And The City

Multitasking. Apparently that's a new word for the New York Sanitation Department folks and they haven't figured out what it means yet. Oh no, wait - I'm sorry, that word doesn't even exist in their dictionary.

The Sanitation Department, yes the same one that employs people who can look through a recycle bag to spot a plastic Iron Man doll to issue me ticket for improper disposal, obviously doesn't have skill enough to plow the streets and pick up the garbage. Our garbage on 40th Street hasn't been picked up since December 22...of 2010.

That's nearly two weeks.

Okay, so that Saturday was a holiday...refresh my memory here - Christmas, was it? Then the blizzard hit on Sunday. And how could these guys have been expected to pick up the garbage on Wednesday because they only started plowing Queens on Wednesday - so that's a no-brainer.

But now, the streets are plowed. Have been plowed - if you call having to climb a wall of snow before reaching the sidewalk  "plowed" but what-everrr. So my question is...what is the Sanitation Department doing NOW?

Occasionally I see them driving down the streets with a giant snowplow dangling from the front of their truck and the driver looks bored. You know why? CUZ THERE AIN'T NO MORE SNOW TO PLOW.

Hey, you want something to do...how 'bout pickin' up the garbage? I'm going to have a nervous breakdown if I have to go another day pussyfooting between the dog shit and the trash on the streets! I imagine that I look like I'm doing the same jig a kid in Afghanistan would do across a mine field.

On the bright side - the trash did save someone's life. Suicidal loser notwithstanding. My husband told me a funny story he heard at work about a suicide that was foiled by the piling trash. This guy jumped out of a nine story building with the intention to kill himself and landed on a heap of garbage. He survived, yes - but do we need fools like this?

I wonder if the Sanitation Department handed him a ticket for "improper disposal"? Anyway, I'll bet this time next year we'll be hearing from this guy again. With lawyers.

You know, I wrote this...but deep down, I know our garbage men work hard. Hauling trash, working for the Mob...it can't be easy. Just imagine what their laundry smells like. And the department is just like any other government bureaucracy(gee, I spelled it correctly in two tries) - it's always someone else's fault. The Mayor, the budget cuts, the lay offs - yaddah, yaddah, yaddah. Okay, we get it but underneath all this snow and trash...we're still here. Helloooww?

New York City's trash troubles will never change. In elementary school they taught us that the word Litter and New York City were synonymous. But the best was what my mom used to tell tourists when she was a tour guide. She'd say that New York City is like a movie star - from far away the view is breath taking but up close...oi, vey!

Unintentional Wisdom Of Yoda-Mom

Waiting at the Pediatrician's office the other day, a woman was annoying me with her very being that I couldn't stop staring at her. She wasn't doing anything to deserve my displeasure and it was quite unfair of me to have felt the way that I did when she did nothing to me personally. The fact that I couldn't understand what I disliked about her, annoyed me even more.

Maybe what irked me was that her son, who looked to be about six or seven-years old, sat in a stroller. Perhaps it was minor OCD on my part that she never closed the door behind her when she went into the nurse's office. Or, it could have been the way she ate a banana in the waiting room while little toddlers watched with watering mouths. As annoying as those actions were, that wasn't what bothered me.

My disdain stemmed from the inability to figure out if she was an old mother or maybe she was a young grandmother. Because if she were the former, then perhaps someone, somewhere has wondered the same thing about me with my kids. If not now then maybe in the near future.


I thought this because one, every January I torment myself and two, because this woman - whom I shall dub "Yoda Mom" since "Leatherface" is just plain mean - was not too different from me. Clearly, she had made an attempt to keep up. She combed her hair at least. Maybe with a salad fork but it was combed. And her outfit, albeit boring enough for a Sears catalog, was undeniably coordinated.

And if you allow me to further indulge in this wrongful comparison, I looked at my own faded clothing with a giant oil stain (made less noticeable by the tomato stain above it) and I realized the race was close. The race not to look as though the sacrifice of "Me" time had eventually resulted in complete neglect.

But on the other hand...if she were a grandmother she was keeping up extremely well.


Either way, I am still obsessing over this stranger - Yoda Mom. It's because I know that payback is a bitch and I was a terrible teenager to my parents. They fought to be part of my life and I shunned them. I accused them of wanting to steal my youth because they were going through a mid-life crisis. It was bad insight on my part but insight nonetheless. Plus, my parents were still young enough to fit in with my friends and they often did.

But me? By the time I hit my crisis, my boys will still be thinking that girls are icky - and insane thanks to my menopausal tendencies. Worse yet, by the time they become "experimental," all they'd have to do is drop me off at White Castles, set me up with a "bottomless coffee" and a fish sandwich - then it's off to Mclovin.

And what could I do, really - throw my dentures at them?

The moral of this story, folks, is that you should never buy clothing from a catalog.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Welcome 2011

One New Year's, a long time ago, I had made a resolution not to get ticked off for an entire year. It's not that I have anger management issues, it's just that when you live in New York City, trying to get through an entire day without flipping someone off is like trying to drive in New Jersey without getting lost - it's impossible. So, that year I decided that no matter what happened, I'd accept it with a smile, move on and not harp on it.

It was the most irritating year of my life.

The problem with resolutions like that, just like dieting and abstaining from whatever habits your life entails, is that eventually, you revert back to your old ways. And when you do, it knows no boundaries because instinct automatically shields itself from deprivation. Once it's been starved, it begins to hoard. In trying to gain a little bit of control - you ultimately lose it completely. I'm finding little boys work like that, too but that's a story for another day.

My father always tried to teach me that discipline is better accomplished when you balance - not cancel. Instead of cutting something out, like pizza, why not take a long walk and work it off? Of course, when you top it with Buffalo chicken and help yourself to a couple of slices, you'll find yourself in New Jersey before you walk it off.

Fortunately, my resolution this year has nothing to do with dieting so I don't have to worry about winding up in The Soprano's territory. Hey, I'm a girl and girls just wanna have fun. That's what Cyndi Lauper says and if she can look that good in her late fifties, then I'm on her bandwagon.

This year, I'm not even coming up with a resolution. I'm going to get a word by a Random Word Generator and live my life for an entire month based on what that word is.

The word generated for January of 2011 was "Grant." According to Dictionary.com, "Grant" means to bestow, to agree or concede, which if you remember was the most irritating year of my life, but whatever. It's only for a short while and according to P90X, you can do anything for thirty seconds.

Being that 2011 is the Year of the Rabbit, I suppose having short term goals is a good idea. I'm just saying that because I know that rabbits don't live for very long. Another thing is, rabbits make lots of baby rabbits and since I'm done procreating, I'm dusting off my chastity belt and plan to wear it until the next Chinese New Year. I'm just kidding, honey (no, I'm not).

Maybe I should pick a word other than "Grant."
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