Sunday, May 31, 2009


People love free. It doesn’t matter what the free thing is. When presented with the concept of “free,” seemingly rational humans will turn into raving lunatics, crowding into fire hazards and acting like flailing 4 year olds for stuff they are not even sure they need.

It’s no better in New York where you need a home equity loan just to afford a decent martini. There are plenty of free things in this city, but there are 8 million people here trying to take advantage of them so the competition is intense and frankly, chaotic.

So you can imagine how surprised I was to find myself hustling across 13 blocks and 3 avenues to stand on line for 20 minutes to get half a free waffle.

Bear with me on this one.

I love waffles. They are in my top 3 favorite foods along with donuts and my mother's Chicken Parmigian. I have quite the discerning waffle pallet. I’ve made my own, I’ve eaten at Waffle Houses, and I’ve done waffle hopping in Belgium. I am a connoisseur.

So you can imagine my elation when I heard about a waffle truck that journeyed around Manhattan selling happiness to eager patrons. It is a simple concept; a beautiful yellow truck complete with a waffle making kitchen and chock a block with all the toppings you could hope for.

The truck makes stops in different areas, and rotates semi regularly. My first and so far only encounter was last summer when my boss and I emerged from a meeting on Park Avenue and happened upon the truck.

It was like a DHL truck filled with awesome. We pooled our cash to purchase some light and crispy quadranted happiness. Walking with a briefcase and a waffle covered in strawberries and Nutella turned out to be dangerous. And my boss had to save me from getting hit by a car twice as I couldn’t bring myself to concentrate on anything but this Midas touched breakfast treat.

The waffle truck and I had not seen each other again until last week. My sister knows of my obsession with the mighty waffle and sent me an email that said.

“Waffle truck giving away free waffles from 12 to 1pm at 45th and 6th.”

This was at 11 am.

Now remember I am the guy who shows up 20 minutes early for movies nobody wants to see. So you can imagine the instant anxiety I felt about a waffle giveaway.

My heart started pounding. How many people had heard about this phenomenal occurrence? Was it worth the trip up there?

When engaging in ridiculous activities you usually want somebody to accompany you so the two of you can laugh about how ridiculous it is.

But sometimes, an activity is so ridiculous that you want to engage in it by yourself so nobody will see just how incredibly excited you are.

I thought this activity was the former… as it turns out, it was the latter.

I called a couple friends that worked where the waffle truck was making its magical appearance but they were unable to attend. So, unable to attract a cohort, and with my pulse approaching record speed as the clock struck 11:36, I fled my office on a crusade for waffles.

I was so excited I actually ran out without my umbrella even though the forecast called for a 173% chance of rain.

No time for worries!

It struck me as I was practically jogging down the street that maybe my love of waffles and my quest for a life of frugality had led me to what an uneducated bystander might refer to as “desperate” or “pathetic.”

So as I speed walked 3 avenues to take a train one stop so I could walk 4 blocks to a giant yellow truck that sold waffles out the side… I thought to myself, am I going to be late? Will this place will be mobbed? Will people wait until 12 on the dot to get on line? What about the guy who bought one at 11:59? Was he going to be pissed off that if he had waited 38 more seconds he could have saved $4.50?

And was he terrified at the strangely large group of people that were just encircling the van like a bunch of breakfast hyenas? As though they would jump him as soon as he bought his waffle.

“He’s got the waffle…. LET’S GET EM!”

But I got my answer as soon as I arrived. The truck was parked near the corner and there was already a feeling of excitement in the air. Or maybe it was poverty. Either way, at 11:45 there were already 25 people on line. I was kind of surprised but I felt relieved. I would probably be guaranteed a waffle while still not appearing to be a super dork by being first in line.

I helped pass the time by talking to the “King of Belgium” who had flown in for the occasion.

By 12:02 there were 30 more people on line behind me. And as more people walked past me to get on the line my feeling of pride devolved into that of dork. I went from feeling like I was online for a free tasty treat to feeling like I was waiting for the pocket protector store to open.

I averted my eyes as everyone passed, and not having anyone with me, and unable to strike up a decent conversation with the people behind me I was forced to kind of look up at the sky with a constipated smile on my face while the line moved slowly along.

Eventually I got my waffle with blueberries and Nutella (because nothing says “healthy” like covering your fruit in spreadable heart attack) but it was only half a waffle. Pitifully sized at that. But I wasn’t totally upset. After all it was the only way they’d be able to serve such an excited crowd.

And besides the waffle was delicious, I passed on the knife and fork opting, small as it was, to eat it like a slice of pizza. I probably looked like I had just come back from the state fair eating a waffle covered in nonsense, but hey I was happy. Plus I got to meet the founder, the waffle king, and I got a story out of it.

So it was totally worth it. Kind of. Not entirely. But the good news is I learned a little something about waffles, and a little something about myself. But I know I’ll never do that again.

Unless of course somebody opens up a donut truck…

Sunday, May 24, 2009

I Quit the Gym

Several years ago I read a fantastic book called "Letters from a Nut." The premise was this gentlemen would send letters to establishments and services of all kinds stating he needed special accommodations for his "14th century sword" or his "giant butter costume."
The letters were hilarious. I decided to channel him while writing the official letter I needed to write to get out of my gym membership. I get tired of the same old communication so I decided to take some... creative license with the truth. The following letter will be mailed tomorrow.
Dear ***** Fitness,
I am writing to cancel my membership to your facility at ************* that expires on June 30, 2009. I believe I am supposed to reference this number ******, I am not sure what it means but I hope you do.
I am also not sure why I am supposed to send this letter to you by certified mail. Why can't I just quit the gym... AT the gym. Are they not competent enough to handle such transactions?
Or better yet why can't I quit over the phone? I can open and close credit cards, check my bank balance, and pay the mortgage on my APARTMENT all over the phone, so how come I can't just tell you I don't want to get fitness at your establishment via telephone? Frankly it seems a bit 19th century.
I must say that while I was happy with the gym when I first started there (those full length windows are great) I believe the quality of the facility has decreased dramatically over the last 6 months. I understand that tough times require cut backs and certain sacrifices must be made, but I felt some of those made at ***** were unwarranted and saddening.
My first complaint is the lack of Zen grass in the bathroom. All of the promotional pictures and advertisements for ***** show a delightful tuft of Zen grass next to the sink. I have been thinking about becoming a practicing 2nd Tier Zen Buddhist for some time now, and I was excited at the opportunity for a moment of Zen before and after my workout.
I never saw said grass. You have towel dispensers and toilet paper that must be constantly refilled. Why not a palate of Zen grass that you can leave and let flourish? I believe this is false advertising.
My second complaint is the removal of the Q-Tips. While I understand that you cannot provide your patrons with all the necessary toiletries, and the medical research on the effectiveness of cotton swabs is divided, I believe the Q-Tip to be the most important toiletry, and I was bemused as to why I wasn’t even given notice of its impending removal.
My third complaint is the “day” lockers. These are supposed to be for use only during your workout, yet there are very few that are ever available. There are dozens of lockers and yet I have been in the gym with a handful of other people and there was nary a free locker in sight. This means that you are not enforcing your own policy. I say shame to you!
I have a better chance of getting swine flu than I do of getting a locker in your gym. This makes me sad. I am in great need of a locker during my workout as I wear several supportive undergarments during my work day which I am really not comfortable discussing here.
My fourth complaint is your towels. As an aspiring practicing 2nd Tier Zen Buddhist I maintain a hygiene of the highest order, the robes I am supposed to wear would never be dirty or soiled. I would dry clean them weekly, and my home is the picture of immaculate cleanliness.
I recently acquired a rather unsightly rash after using one of your towels. I am positive it was due to the towel because the rash appeared immediately following use. Thankfully it was treatable and no permanent damage occurred to my lily white skin. But who is to know what other diseases have manifested themselves on your towels?
My fifth complaint is about the dress code. While you maintain a code of apparel for what people may wear while they work out, it seems some of your trainers decide to ignore this dress code. While I understand dungarees provide a comfortable style of panting, they have no place in a place of fitness.
And also this same trainer consistently changes the workout music to a station that nobody likes. I've even heard people in the gym say, "Hey, this is a station nobody likes!"
My sixth point is actually not a complaint. Your desk attendant George is a citizen of the highest moral fortitude. He is both kind and friendly, never anything but professional and I appreciate his contribution to the ***** brand. When I think ****, I think George.
For all my misgivings, my time at ***** has been worth it. I have been able to lose weight, gain muscle, and when I finally start wearing my robes, I know they will fit in a way that is appropriate and calming. I actually will probably need a smaller rope belt!
I do hope that you will make the necessary changes to provide the kind of excellent customer satisfaction that your promotional materials say you strive for. I hope one day to return to your gym and be pleasantly surprised (as well as possibly a 3rd tier Zen Buddhist).
Richard Boehmcke

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Coming Distractions

Since leaving college, going to the movies by myself is one of my favorite things to do. I get to see whatever I want and I can go at a moments notice. And instead of talking to the person in the seat next to me, I get to observe people engaging in the most curious behavior, behavior that they think no one sees. But they’re wrong.

I have paranoia about being late for things. More than anything I hate getting to a movie late and being forced to climb and stumble past a bunch of strangers, simultaneously falling forwards and backwards while thrusting my crotch and or ass into their face while they sit motionless and gnaw on a twizzler like the last piece of candy they ate was a skittle they found on the floor when they were 3.

So I try to get there as early as I can. And oftentimes I go early in the week to see a movie that’s been out for some time ensuring a smaller audience. My ultimate goal is to see a movie by myself but it hasn’t happened yet. The closest I came was me and 1 other guy.

But if you go the movies on different days, you will notice the differences in the type of people that attend the movies on those days.

Early in the week you tend to find couples who are comfortable with each other, people who just want to spend some time around each other and see a film. They don’t need trays of popcorn, candy, and nachos. They are comfortable just hanging out.

Them and creeps. They go early in the week too. No not me, OTHER creeps.

As for Friday Saturday nights? Those are the couples looking to make a statement, proud guys and flashy girls. Less than impressive girls with spray painted on jeans and aggressive hair holding hands with steroidal hulks wearing baby doll t-shirts that make their biceps look like aliens trying to hatch from pods while they carry 92 ounce cups of soda and enough nachos to feed Oaxaca.

“Hey date of mine; don’t my intergalactic arms and Mexican fiesta make you think more of me? No? What about the pool of Axe I bathed in before coming here?”

Large groups of loud teenagers complete with shoe gazing boys and peacocking girls, coming out to the universe while still combating the horrible and wonderful after effects of puberty appear as well. They to be loud and draw attention, combating their insecurities with extroverted behavior and loud jokes (I wouldn’t know anything about that.)

And as for the Sunday Matinee? Why, old people of course. It’s half priced movie time. They’ve been up since 5 in the morning, so going to a movie at 1 pm is practically a night out on the town. By the time they get out at 3:30 it’s just in time for a late night dinner and lights out by 5. It’s downright adorable to see them lined up around the block from the small independent movie theater in my town. It’s like watching a really excited group of people in super slow motion.

Aside from the obvious differences in the types of people, seeing a movie by yourself also helps you realize certain trends in behavior.

I have been in several movies where there is quite a lengthy pause between the announcements (no smoking, no cell phones, no Macarena-ing) and the first trailer. People on average have about 13 seconds of tolerance before they start verbalizing unhelpful condescension to the audience. Phrases like, “um hello?” or “I didn’t pay 12 dollars to NOT watch a movie” and other such witty banter.

And then somebody ultimately turns around and looks up at the projection booth.
What are they looking for?

Do they expect to see absolute mayhem as hundreds of feet of film come flying out of that tiny hole in the wall, the projectionist hanging from the ledge by a finger while some giddy baboon with a spear in one hand throws trash at the audience with the other?

No. There is nothing to see up there. I’m sure whatever is not happening on the screen is known to the little man in the booth up there. There really is probably only one instance when nobody is aware what has happened and that is if the projectionist dies and I bet that happens like once a year tops.

The behavior doesn’t get any better when you go to see the new Star Trek at 11 o’clock in the morning the week after it opens. That’s an interesting crew.

And of course for this particular performance there was another opportunity for hilarious improvised commentary. You know that light music that is playing when you walk into the theater before any sort of theatrical trailer starts? It is basically elevator music.

Well when halfway into the film at a crucial moment when the characters are hurtling through space without a parachute… the soundtrack died and a crappy country music song came on like the credits had just finished rolling and it was time to leave.

It was a bit incongruous. A giant drill of fire, characters fighting with swords and intergalactic guns all while some whiney chick complained about her sundress and her guitar.

It went on for like 5 minutes prompting commentary like, “I guess this qualifies as technical difficulties” and the less eloquent “HEYYYYYY!”

Even I thought about getting into the act with something like, “I don’t think anybody in Queens ever paid $11.50 to listen to country music.” But I was able to restrain myself.

All in all going to the movies by yourself is quite the character study. Especially when its Star Trek on a Sunday morning, because you know every other individual person in the theater is looking at every other individual in the theater and thinking the same thing;


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Drawing Affection

As another Mother’s Day comes and goes, I find myself feeling frustrated. It’s something I have noticed more with each passing year since saying goodbye to college. It isn’t the day itself that frustrates me; it is the fact that no matter how much thought I put into it, I am unable to come up with anything better than flowers to get my mother.

For all my thinking, one thing has become painfully clear to me; with everything my mom has done, and all she has given me, I will never be able to truly say thank you.

I don’t make nearly enough money to buy her something really impressive, like a trip to Paris or a BMW. But even based solely on gestures, I struggle to find a single act or otherwise that would come close to the feeling of gratitude and love I have for my mother. Nothing I could ever find would do that justice.

Even in my wildest fantasies where I am a man of boundless means, my mind keeps wandering backwards to a gesture from my childhood.

I couldn’t have been more than 5 at the time, back when I still felt considerably smaller than the world. Dad was working, my sister had already started school full time, and my mother hadn’t yet gone back to work. So it was just the two of us at home those days.

I’d run errands with my mother, “helping” her do the things she needed to do, grocery shopping or waiting with her while she got her allergy shot. We traveled around New Hyde Park, buckling and unbuckling me from the back seat of that big powder blue Pontiac.

My memory has held tightly to a trip to the dry cleaners, though the specifics are hazy. It was a place around the corner from our house, not more than 2 blocks away. One day we went to pick up some clothes. I remember standing just short of the counter and feeling the mood change.

Something bad had happened. They had screwed something up, ruining a coat perhaps. My memory tells me that my mom had brought a sharp cream colored blazer there and when she got it back there was some awful ink stain on it. Whether or not that was the case is really of no significance.

But I remember my usually friendly and smiling mother losing her temper and getting very upset with the dry cleaners. I know whatever concessions they offered were not enough because my mother left there fuming and possibly in tears.

I’m sure I knew what had happened, but I also didn’t know what to do about it. I may have asked questions but I probably knew that it was better not to. Something about the situation told me to be quiet. It wasn’t like when my mom got mad at me. The rules and roles for that were obvious. There was an uncomfortable difference here. My mom was very upset, it wasn’t my fault, and I had no idea what to do.

We went home and my mother went into the office in the back of our house. Maybe to cry, maybe to call my father and vent about what had happened.

Uncomfortable and confused I felt so useless in this situation. I was only 5 but I knew I wanted to make her happy again. I felt that I needed a gesture. I needed to do something. So I did.

I made the grandest gesture I knew how; I drew her a picture.

I took a white sheet of paper and my crayons and I just started drawing. I probably didn’t lay out any kind of outline, I just drew the things I knew how to. There was green grass, a blue house, a small flock of crudely drawn birds, and a rainbow. And written in blue in the sky was what I hoped would be the cure for what ailed her;

“I love you mommy.”

When you’re 5, your ability to influence is dependent on hugs, tears, and crayons. It seemed like the third one was the best option at this point.

So I finished my drawing and walked into the office where she was sitting, and still visibly upset.

I approached her, hesitant, possibly a little scared, proffering my drawing before me like a document needing to be signed by the king. She took it from me, looked at it, and gave me a hug and a kiss, and I think it made her happy to see my work. She even pinned it up on the bulletin board.

And all was well with the world.

There it stayed for the rest of the day, for the rest of that year.

In fact in all our years in that house, she never took it down. It hung there until we finally had to pack up the house when we sold it last year.

Honestly it was just a piece of paper covered in colored wax, nothing artistically brilliant or creatively courageous. It was just a house and a rainbow and some birds.

But it always stayed up on that wall, through a renovation of that room. Even though that space could have been used for something more important, some necessary calendar or tax document. It hung there, scrawled in my 5 year old affection, “I love you mommy.”

Granted I wasn’t trying to say thank you at the time. I wasn’t indebted for anything. Hell, I was only 5 and my universe was barely bigger than my own neighborhood. But I wanted my mom to know how I felt, and while I didn’t have much to give, I gave her all I had.

It seems fitting that my little hands could only create a gesture as big as a piece of paper, but I think it was far larger than anything I could craft today, anything I could buy, anything I could do.

Perhaps it is impractical to place so much importance on a drawing I did when I was a boy. Perhaps what worked then couldn’t possibly work now. Perhaps I have found my very own Rosebud and developed a fondness for a thing and a time that exists only in my memory.

But as I chase nostalgia even at this young age, I find myself holding that drawing up not just as a memory, but a symbol. A symbol of who I was and who I’m trying to be. A symbol of a time when my thoughts didn’t impair my judgment, when my imagination didn’t outpace my ability, and when I could tell my mother everything she meant to be with a little blue crayon.

I love you mommy.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

4 Worst Food Decisions

I made yet another poor life decision this week involving food. And it prompted some thinking about my history of poor food choices. So I started making a list of the 4 worst food purchase and food preparation decisions in the history of Rich Boehmcke. Here they are in descending order.

#4 Jelly Would Have Been Better - Sometime around 10th grade

This was a time in my life when I was probably feeling a surge of confidence. I was into sports to some degree so I was hanging around a lot of guys that were going to the weight room and eating ridiculous things.

This inspired a certain courageousness and whimsy in me that was probably misguided. I remember being in my kitchen on one particular day. There were fresh cold cuts in the fridge as usual so I took the roast beef and made myself a sandwhich. I was bored with the usual condiment selection. Then I remembered there was Skippy peanut butter in the cabinet.

I thought I was being clever, I thought I was being a guy, carefree and oblivious willing to eat anything. And to be honest, the first time I actually enjoyed my PB&Beef sandwich. Perhaps I was so enamored with my incredible creativity and whimsy (lots of whimsy back then) that my taste buds completely shut down.

That is the only possible solution I could come up with.

But the second time I made this my taste buds were not fooled, nor was my judgment. Here’s a tasty morsel for you. PB&Beef in addition to having an almost entirely unchewable texture also tastes awful.

#3 The Non Stick Non Bake Pan – Fall 2005

I was living in a studio apartment my last semester in college. My living space consisted of a mattress on the floor, a walk in closet, and an oven just slightly larger than a shoe box. Most of my home made meals consisted of chips and salsa and a cheese quesadilla. But with graduation impending, I felt the need to branch out and prepare something more grown up.

I had this large nonstick pan which I used to cook my quesadillas. I don’t remember what I was cooking on this particular day but it was something on the stove in that pan.

I realized I didn’t like the way it was cooking, not fast enough or not even enough. So I heated up the oven and put the pan into the oven thinking that would do the trick. Great idea Rich!

Not so much. About 15 minutes later I noticed a faint chemical smell. Like a tiny needle of sent had jabbed itself into my nostril and then disappeared before I could process it.

But then I was overcome by the incredible stench of ammonia. What the hell was that? Where was it coming from? I opened the oven and BAM. The wave was unbearable. I quickly opened the door fearing I was going to die of toxic gas inhalation.

I pulled the pan out and put it on my stove. What the hell did I do wrong? Was I not supposed to bake this pan? I thought all pans could go in the oven. Was this not true? Where was my pan instruction manual?

I paced around my room contemplating whether or not to eat whatever I had “made.” My better judgment prevailed and I decide to throw the whole pan out in the dumpster.

So with an oven mitt on I took the burning, stinking pan out into my apartment’s parking lot, looked around for any sign of witnesses and threw the pan full of chemical warfare casserole into the dumpster and ran back into my apartment.

I then spent the next hour peeping out my window because I was sure either
A. Someone had called the cops
B. The dumpster would burst into flames.

Neither happened, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t try to bake another thing until, well...

#2 The Potato Chip Incident - April 15, 2009

I bought some baby potatoes recently (Their so cute!) and decided to roast them with some olive oil and rosemary. Great idea right? So I sliced them up nice and thin, seasoned them, and laid them out on a pan to bake in the oven. Beautiful little white slices of potatoes dressed up and ready to party.

I put them in the oven on 400 degrees and promptly forgot about them until later on when I smelled them. Oh goody! You know your food is almost done when you can smell it.

Apparently, your food is also burnt to a cancerous crisp when you can smell it. I had a sheet full of black potato chips. And not chips in the tasty football game snack kind of chip. These were a pack of charcoal chips.

I was distraught. Had I wasted all of these potatoes? No, I wouldn’t let it be. So I started eating some of them. While they were crispy they were also terrible. Absolutely awful. After several I decided this was not a good idea. So I stopped and threw the rest out.

A half hour later I realized this had been a HORRIBLE idea. My chest was in pain. I felt like I had swallowed a handful of ninja stars or an Isuzu. I needed a Tums Cocktail or Zantac 836.

You know those x-rays you see of people who have a giant medical instrument that accidentally got left inside them when they were sown up after surgery? That’s how it felt. This awful pain in my chest just above my solar plexus, like one of those charcoal chips had torn a hole in my esophagus on the way down.

The pain lasted for 2 days. I no longer slice baby potatoes so thin.

#1 The Worst 36 Dollars I Ever Spent - Thursday April 30, 2009

Despite years of evidence to the contrary, I continue to think my skinny pale frame is capable of building and packing on muscle.

I attempt to do this by consuming ungodly amounts of protein in shake form throughout my day. This requires me to regularly purchase protein powder. And like all the things, if you buy it in bulk, it is considerably cheaper.

Protein powder usually comes in 2 pound containers in standard flavors like Chocolate, Vanilla, or sometimes banana or strawberry. The largest size is usually the 5 pound container. So I try new brands based on what is cheapest.

So last week I purchased 2 different 5 pound containers of protein powder from the Vitamin Warehouse. One was chocolate flavor, one was vanilla. Neither of which I had tasted from this brand before.

Eager to see if I made a good decision I brought them home and made a test vanilla shake to see if I had made a bad decision.
And in fact, I had made a bad decision.

It was horrible. No. Horrible falls short. There are things that taste off. There are things that taste bad. And there are things that taste wrong, like they go against nature. Wrong like a donkey wearing culottes kind of wrong. Against nature, inappropriate, unfathomable. This “vanilla” shake was such an abomination.

It tastes like grounded up aluminum siding. Even just thinking about the taste of that shit makes me never want to do another a second of physical activity in my life.

But unfortunately I must continue to work out and consume it because I have about 96 more aluminum siding shakes to drink.

Hey… I wonder how they’d taste with a PB&Beef?