Saturday, March 29, 2008

Today's fresh fish

I’ve been mulling over an odd question for the last two days: what is an appropriate amount of time to mourn the loss of a pet fish before buying a new one?

I guess if I was religious, I could turn to a belief for an answer -- it’s good for stuff like that. Hindu? 13 days. Jewish? 1 week. Muslim? 3 days. Daytime Dramish? 2 minutes (5 if your fish is in a coma or believed lost at sea).

It’s been 10 days since I returned from FL to find that Wally the Fighting-for-His-Life Fish died while I was gone (so I’m not even sure about the date I’d begin counting from as part of a mourning period). Faced with an empty bowl on my bedroom wall and nothing to dictate my mourning period, I followed my gut (and aesthetic values) and headed to PETCO today.

I spent a ridiculous amount of time examining the 20+ fighting fish on display. Before his agonizing death, Wally had lived nearly 3 years (so this new fish could be staring at me night after night for years to come). I stared at each fish, gauged how I felt if they stared back and then gave a thumbs up or down.

Out of respect, I was also very cognizant of a need for one that didn’t look like Wally (despite the sane half of my brain saying, "get another red one and call it a day before I imagine a bus and throw myself in front of it"). But so many colors to choose from! Purple, light purple, blue, dark blue, greenish teal and multicolored, even! It was too much for someone who deliberated six months over a paint color for a 5’ x 9’ dining room wall.

Luckily, I’d stopped and shopped in Stop n’ Shop across the street before hitting PETCO so there were frozen goodies in the car to consider. I finally settled on a vibrant blue one because he did so well in the "fin off." (Similar to a "walk off" in modeling where two models strut to see who will make the show, I’d held a "fin off" by positioning top candidates next to each other to see whose fins would flare best and who had the most moxie. At that point, the sane half of my brain was hit by an imaginary bus and died.)

I’ve since named him "Fresh" (get it? as in "fresh fish") and am very happy with him so far. He’s fiesty and flashes the same "hateful humans, shutting your eyes for hours at a time!" look that Wally used to give me every morning. I don’t feel bad about getting him 10 days after flushing Wally so I guess I’m doing alright by my own religion.

"Fresh" in his spacious new digs, staring at the dinky contraption he'd spent God-knows-how-long in before I saved him from an anonymous death in it at PETCO.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Go Greyhound (and leave the disinfecting to Lysol)

After returning from a week in FL on Wednesday, I was off again on Friday -- this time to RI for Easter weekend. So, it was so nice to wake up in my own bed this morning (okay, afternoon) feeling refreshed and thoroughly disinfected after a scorching hot shower of Lysol last night. That's what happens when you "go Greyhound," I guess.

Yes, even though the past month has included luxurious stays in 5-star hotels such as the St. Regis in New York, the Taj in Boston and the Fairmont Turnberry Isle in Miami, I decided to take the bus to Providence. David McCullough's "1776" is partly to blame (seriously, I can't put the book down) as is Amtrak, that crap excuse for transportation. Where they get off charging $190 to ride trains that sit on the tracks for hours waiting to make a left turn is beyond me.

So, for $50 R/T, I headed to the Port Authority on 42nd Street to catch my 6:15 PM bus. For what it's worth, I wasn't *really* slumming it -- there is one level below Greyhound in NYC: the Fung Wah bus out of Chinatown to Providence for $25 R/T. They only recently banned chickens as carry-on baggage and I've heard horror stories about passengers being routed to Hartford and made to dine at unkempt Chinese restaurants affiliated with the busline (i.e. Chinese mafia). In light of this, Greyhound seemed like a safe bet.

But the sights and smells of Port Authority quickly had me re-thinking my choice to leave the driving to them. I mean, it's not often that I give change to a homeless guy while waiting to board a plane or train.

Immersed in a thick fog of bus exhaust and Budweiser breath inside the terminal, I began to hallucinate that a posse of flying rats was trapped in the long, narrow terminals and kept dive-bombing the line I was standing in. No, those were real pigeons. Then, I hallucinated an argument between a 20-ish black guy and a shrunken old white guy who were standing in line for Atlantic City. No, that was real, too:

"What? Don't tell me where to stand! I'll stand where I want to! Who the hell are you? You can't make me move!"

(mumbled response from black guy)

"I don't pay taxes anymore 'cause I'm 84 years old! I go to church every day and the good Lord takes care of me. Yes he does. The good Lord takes care of me!"

(mumbled response from black guy and curious looks from other passengers)

"That's right! I'm 84 years old and I drink a quart of milk every day. A QUART of milk! Want to see me punch a hole in this wall? C'mon, dare me! I'll punch a hole right through this wall!"

(mumbled response from black guy and nervous looks from other passengers that they were about to see an 84-yr-old with a broken arm)

"What, are you guys chicken?! I tell ya, I drink a QUART of milk every day! Dare me to punch a hole in this wall. Here, watch me do it!"

(84-yr-old moves 2 steps over to where the brick wall has a plastic-framed advertisement and softly punches it)

Soon after the excitement of standing in line a la Port Authority, I was finally on board my Greyhound when a horrible thought occurred to me: I can't pee for the next 4 hours. I mean, I could pee, but it would be in a rocking port-a-potty (and if the terminal's bathrooms were any indication, I'd be better off suffering kidney failure on the way to Providence). Suddenly, the urge to pee was all I could think about despite relieving myself only 20 minutes earlier.

Other thoughts came to mind, too:

The Port Authority should not allow beer to be sold or consumed prior to boarding a bus. Period. Otherwise, nose plugs and breath mints should be handed out like candy.

Not everyone on Greyhound is a beer-guzzling ex-con. In fact, some are beer-guzzling college students. I sat next to a girl from NYU with a large Chanel bag and nose ring who used her $2,000 laptop to play video games the entire way.

How is it that bus drivers don't hit the same traffic I do EVERY GODDAMN TIME I ATTEMPT THE SAME DRIVE UP 95? It was 6 o'clock on a Friday night before a holiday weekend and that guy didn't hit the brakes once. WTF?

Conversation is a lost art that only Greyhound passengers still practice. Behind me was a Dominicana from the Bronx and a Liberian guy from Pawtucket. Despite being complete strangers, they managed to chat like old friends the entire 4 hours (mostly about his desire to learn Spanish and the merits of chicharone).

Is it weird to be offended when your seatmate gets up the SECOND an empty row becomes available? Did I smell, too? Had the pent-up urine saturated my skin by the time we got to New London?

I survived the trip, had a nice time with the fam in RI for Easter and managed to put a huge dent in "1776" along the way. In fact, finishing that book is the reason it's taken me nearly two days to blog about my little social experiment. No, seriously, you've GOT to read this's well worth the kidney and can of Lysol it cost me.

(some cheap bitch happily disembarking from a Greyhound bus in Providence)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Speak now or forever kvetch about it

I just returned from a week in South FL. Now that I think about it, I'm in that cultural wasteland pretty often for one who claims to hate it so much. Oh, quick update: while I was gone, Wally the Fighting-For-His-Life Fish died. I can't help but feel like I wished death on him and guilty about the relief I now feel. He was flushed tonight at 11 PM and leaves behind one stinky bowl.

Anyway, I digress. If I learned one thing on this trip (besides that my skin is too white to ever live there again), it's that regret is a bitch. The good news: it only took me about 15 minutes to process this truth and act accordingly. Unfortantely, the bitches who gave me cause to regret were no longer available for smacking.

It all started when I boarded a 6 AM JetBlue flight to Ft. Lauderdale last Wednesday after working all day/night to meet a deadline. Partially delirious from sleep deprivation, I settled into my seat and eye shades with the hope of slipping into a 3-hour coma.

Suddenly, my New Jersey yenta radar went off as three middle-aged yakkers in track suits approached the row of seats directly behind me (after waiting tables in Boca Raton, my radar can spot a NJ yenta in Bloomies from a Loehman's two states over). I comforted myself, "no, they can't possibly gab the entire flight. People fly JetBlue to watch TV, right?"

Wrong. Not only are NJ yentas completely immune to 30 channels of Direct TV, they are also unaware that the seat housing said TV belongs to another person. After leaving the gate, the seat bumping began as the bitch-behind-me unloaded her goods into the flap. I fumed, "What tremendous load of crap could this woman possibly be putting into that little slit of a pocket?" In Touch? Oprah's latest book-of-the-month selection? Bladder control medication?

Whatever it was, she seemed to take each item out, remember that she was supposed to be rehashing the Hawaii vacation with her sister harpies and then put it back in. Couple this with the fact that she was about 100 pounds overweight with a knee that couldn't get enough of the tray table.

Somewhere over North Carolina, I lost my shit. I ripped off my eye shades, turned around and glared at her through the sliver of space between seats. I firmly demanded, "could you please stop banging the seat?!" A wide-eyed "who me" was the only response. "There," I thought, "that ought to do it." Sleep seemed assured now.

Instead, it became a source of hushed "did she just say something nasty to you?" and "these people" comments amongst the coven. I gave up on sleep somewhere off the coast of Georgia. I regreted not going completely apeshit but figured I was on vacation now and bound to get my zzzz's eventually.

Then something strange happened. As I was walking off the plane, I heard them whispering behind me like 3 teenage girls in a high school hallway. "She looks like one of those..." was all I managed to make out. What?! They're talking shit about ME?! I wheeled around and took my sunglasses off so they would know I'd heard. But for some reason, no sound came out of my mouth to match my evil glare.

What the hell was wrong with me? A fight with people clearly in the wrong and 110% deserving a verbal lashing?! I live for this shit! I felt impotent. Maybe the venom can only be unleashed after 8 hours of sleep, I wondered as I continued to walk. My humiliation grew as I sized up the trio: one gaunt blonde with a bad haircut; one completely forgettable brunette and then the bitch-behind-me (a matronly hippo wearing a fanny pack...a fugging FANNY PACK, for crying out loud!).

As we entered the bathroom, one whispered to the bitch-behind-me, "hee hee, keep your hands and feet to yourself in the bathroom stall." I turned around and glared at them again. But, again, no sound released from my mouth. I fumed in the bathroom, thinking of all the horrific things I would usually say (e.g. "you know, when I first turned around on the plane, I expected to see a 4-yr-old so you can imagine how surprised I was to see a ONE HUNDRED and 4-yr-old"). What the HELL was happening?

I continued fuming all the way to Hertz where my Mustang awaited (it's the only car I've rented since last June in New Mexico -- I even budget a speeding ticket into each trip). Pushing the bad thoughts from my mind for a minute, I explained to the woman behind the counter that I prefer Mustangs with leather interior and spoilers, if possible. She replied that my reserved Mustang was the only one available.

Oh well, I mused as I walked out to the car, still thinking about all the other deliciously vile things I should've said. Cursing myself for forgetting the "we don't regret the things we do, we regret the things we DON'T do" motto, I started to notice Mustangs in the Hertz lot.

By the time I reached my car, I'd seen at least 3 other Mustangs with spoilers and leather interiors. I was very disappointed to find that although mine was a brand new black one, it lacked both a spoiler and leather interior (and the Sirius satellite radio was installed outside of the dash! Ew!). In fact, it looked much like an '08 Honda Accord coupe (I drive an Accord coupe in NYC so why would I want to rent one?).

I started to put my luggage in the trunk but then thought, "why am I going to pay all this money for something I don't like? How angry will I be with myself if I drive out of here with this alleged Mustang?" The image of those yucky women loomed large in my mind. My morning of regret was over.

Despite no sleep and the annoyed looks I'd get back at the Hertz counter, I took the luggage out and marched back inside. I explained that there were other Mustangs available and insisted that I be put in one of them instead. 20 minutes later, I had the keys to a hot red and black Mustang with leather interior, a spoiler and "Mustang" written across the side (Sirius radio in the dash!).

Before peeling out into the scorching FL heat to find an A/C to sleep in, I managed to notice one small detail: the license plates on my Mustang were from New Jersey (but at least they didn't talk).

Me in da Mustang (no regrets, bitches!)

Even Gia (my man's dog) was down with the spoiler. See, she's checking it out in this photo.

Monday, March 10, 2008

My fighting (for his life) fish

So, I'm faced with a troubling situation about my fighting fish Wally (whose name is short for "Wallflower" 'cause he lives in a bowl nailed to the wall near my bed -- see photo). Here's the deal...

Before I left to spend Christmas with the fam, I wanted to be sure Wally was all set with fresh, clean water. I brought his bowl into the bathroom to do a quick water change per our usual. And that's where the crisis and my current predicament began.

Since I got Wally over 3 years ago, he's developed a knack for launching himself out of the net when I transfer him from the bowl to his holding tank (a small cup on the side of the sink). Trouble is, I don't have a parachute or a stunt double for him and he ends up landing on the bathroom floor.

It's happened like 3 times now out of the 40 times I've changed the water. Each time he does it, I shriek for 5 seconds while desperately trying to delicately pick him up and put him back in the holding tank (with him doing the quiver the entire time, of course). Within an hour, he shakes off the dust bunnies and shock as though nothing ever happened (he's got to keep his tough guy image as a fighting fish, ya know).

This last time before Christmas, however, was longer than 5 seconds. He'd wedged himself far in the dark corner behind the sink. It felt like 3 minutes (but was probably 15-20 seconds) before I finally got him back in the tank. I wished for Santa Claus to bring him new gills and left for the week, hoping I'd find him okay when I got back.

I thought it was good news to find him alive, if not still dazed, when I returned. I now realize that perhaps it was bad news. It's been over 3 months now and he hasn't sprung back; instead, his health has been on a slow decline ever since. I guess my wish should've been for Santa to flush him down the toilet?

And that's where the problem is: I can't flush a fish that's still alive down the toilet! I think Wally has a right to live and who am I to take that away? I like him, too. I looked forward to falling asleep while watching him swim angrily above my head, cursing me and my ability to close my eyes.

But, a big part of me also thinks the life Wally has now may not be worth living. His breathing is very labored and he hasn't eaten in over a month (I give him food pellets that dissolve in the bowl but I can't imagine it's been helpful). His latest thing is flipping completely over on his backside and laying on the bottom of the tank for hours...still breathing, still fighting.

Every night, I watch him intently for signs of improvement but then resign myself to the hard truth that he is dying. What. A. Slow. Death. Seriously, I don't think even I could hang on this long if I fell off a building and drowned for 20 seconds immediately after (the human equivalent of his accident).

So, I keep looking for a sign like Terri Schiavo's image in my toast. Nothing. I'm torn between the right to live and the right to die. What would Jesus do? What would YOU do?

On second thought, I shouldn't claim to be all that concerned about ethics. I mean, if I did, would I keep a fish imprisoned in a bowl nailed to the wall?

p.s. yes, I keep a kamikazi fish in the same bedroom that I keep the pet crickets (see previous "Jiminy Crickets!" blog). Speaking of which, here's the news from that side of the room...

The Cricket Update
I started with 10 (or was it 11? am I a bad pet owner?) and can now only verify that 3 are still in there. Not sure if the survivors ate the others or what. I give them food and refresh their "water pillow" once a week so maybe it was the low humidity? [shrug]

As for the 3 who have made it this far, two are female and one is male (he's either very happy about it or, if he is in fact a homosexual deaf mute, not too happy). The females, of course, are KICKIN' ASS! Their legs/antennae are approaching cockroach levels of grossness. In fact, my crickets are so big that I can almost see their wings! (As you may recall, a cricket's wings are the source of that wonderful noise I've been dying to hear all these years as I fall asleep.)

But, alas, to date: NOT A SINGLE CHIRP. Just the sound of my brain caught in an endless loop of "should I flush Wally?" "no, Wally is one of God's creatures!" like some goddamn right-to-life protest.

Friday, March 07, 2008

WTF in today's NYT

Not sure what to make of this story from today's NY Times: "A Man’s 6-Pack Can Serve as His Castle" (

Basically, this guy in Houston, TX (TX? shocking!) would wait on baited beer breath for the local grocery store to get its beer delivery. He would then stock up on 8-10 CASES of beer, drink them and then "decorate" his house with the cans...over 50,000 cans and tabs in all.

The house was just designated a folk art museum after a $400,000 restoration project that took 7 years (fumigation ain't easy, folks). I'm especially interested in the caption that appeared below the guy's photo:

"John Milkovisch, left, with his wife, Mary, spent 20 years at work on what is known as the Beer Can House."

Surely, the NY Times can do better! Here's one:
"John Milkovisch, left, with his wife, Mary, who spent 20 years huddled in a corner, hoping John would forget it was 'sex with deer' night."

So, whaddya think? Pioneer environmentalist? Unsolved Case #451 of Houston's shamed AA chapter? And what do you think the cause of death was? I'll bet it was lead poisoning (those old houses are death traps!).

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Will work for long commute

While I don't miss having to get up at ungodly hours (i.e. before 11) and then pretending to "work" all day, there is one thing I miss about having a full-time gig in the city -- besides a regular pay-check -- and that's riding the train to/from work every day.

And what a train ride it used to be! See, I live out in the "sticks." My neighborhood is 1/4 mile from the ocean in SE Brooklyn (in an area much like South Florida if you compare the number of seafood restaurants and New Yorkers here). It's a good 45 minutes door-to-door to midtown Manhattan, which means I pay LESS rent and get MORE time to people watch on the train. It's a win-win situation, as far as I'm concerned.

Anyone who knows NYC knows that people watching is the number one sport here. Forget what you've heard about baseball or football. No, it's checking out the crack head in a wedding dress who's dancing around the fountain down in Washington Square. Or, cheering the half-naked Indian on as he prances around a hookah pipe at the footsteps of the 72nd Street Circle in Central Park.

(seemingly-normal and VERY fit guy I photographed using the B train as his personal gym. His workout lasted from midtown all the way out to Prospect Park where he exited sweaty and with one less thing to do when he got home. Let's hear it for multi-tasking and creative use of space!)

I used to be so entertained by these random encounters that I bought a Moleskine journal to keep in my purse and record the most memorable ones. Take the entry from 3/29/07 as an example:

"An old scraggly homeless man, toothless & bearded just announced to the 1 train @ 72nd: 'I'm going out to have a cigarette...somebody hold the doors. I'll be right back. Anybody want any coffee? How many sugars?' And then he exited the train. Some smiled, some laughed. I went back to sleep."

And that's the one thing that really depresses me about freelancing. Unless I start inviting meth addicts and homeless women covered in their own feces into my home, chances to observe these people are severely limited.

So, I guess my job search should include the following criteria:
1) boss must less than 103 years old (unlike my last one);
2) boss must not be in desperate need of psychotropic meds (again, last boss);
3) office must be in Manhattan and far enough away to afford sufficient time for people watching.

Oh, and salary in the mid-80's would be nice. Let me know if you hear of anything along these lines. Thaaaaanks!