Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Shave

Many of you may have heard that I am fascinated by becoming, what our society refers to as, a "man."

I love the manly arts. Rare books, leather club chairs, and those activities and rituals that have been gradually forgotten as time goes on. Things like going to the barber for a shave.

I got my first shave when I was about 17. While I don't really remember what the impetus was behind the shave, I do know it was back when i was still going to my GreekTalian barber.

Most likely it was before a prom. I decided I would put a couple of extra bucks into getting cleaned up. I went under the spinning barber pole for a traditional shave that I had never engaged in before. And I had high hopes.

This barber shop was probably unchanged since its opening. It probably didn't bode well for me that I was getting a shave in a chair next to a jar of fading 1 penny Chiclets that had most likely been there since Burt Chiclet dropped off his original batch.

I don't remember too much about the experience. But I know it was more painful than I expected it to be. In fact, it was probably such a not great experience that I waited almost 10 years before I got my next one.

So I went in there and it started out well enough. The hot towel on the face, fantastic. Hot shaving cream lather on the face, very nice.

Despite my burly, rugged exterior, I really do have baby soft skin, so a degree of care is needed when shaving my face. But that didn't seem to matter if you were 104 years old yielding a blade that was probably handed out to everyone who fought in the Great War.

The barber started running the blade over my face like he was scraping butter off of toast. I'm not sure if he could notice my wincing but I certainly felt every time he slipped. Now, you ladies may say something like;

Oh suck it up, we shave our legs every day.

And you are right. I am not jealous of you. But I would rather shave my legs every day. Because you what you don't have on your legs?

A face.

If you screw up shaving your legs, you get a cut, you get a scar, not a huge problem. You screw up shaving your face, you lose a lip!

I don't know how long it took, but when my shave was finally over I remember being quite surprised at the amount of tiny red slashes I had on my face. And the great things about an ancient barber is he repairs those little red slashes with an ointment that seemed to be made of liquid fire and battery acid.

When the barber was done I probably lied and told him it was great because I have no spine and apparently I would rather be polite than honest.

When someone asks you how an activity went, "bleedy" is never a word you should have to use. It honestly felt like the barber was shaving my face with the jagged edge of a hubcap or something he had found in a tomb.

So fast forward 10 years later and my sister, darling wonderful human that she is, bought me a gift certificate to a fancy men's spa for what they call the "Royal Shave." I felt like I needed a Shakespearean accent and an ability to roll my Rs just to pronounce it.

I was very excited to get my fancy shave since I knew this experience would be much better than the one of my teenage years. I'm not saying the barber of my youth didn't do his best, but I am OK with paying more than the price of a DVD for someone to rub knives against my face, which is essentially what is happening.

It amazes me the things I did when I was younger that didn't phase me at all. Yes the more I learn and the more experiences I have, the more a general paranoia of all things becomes apparent.

Like when I was a kid I used to eat candy almost every day. Nearly every week I blew my entire allowance on treats from the store around the corner. Now every time I eat candy I am thinking: Will I get a new cavity? Am I going to get diabetes? Will this make me addicted and obese?

But as I went in to redeem my gift certificate, I started to worry. Holy crap. I am about to lay down in the chair of a complete stranger who may or may not have already had a bad day and some kind of undiscovered twitch who is going to drag a Ginsu sharpened piece of steel across my fragile epidermis.

This was also not helped by the fact that once I laid down in his cushy chair with my eyes closed and the hot towel on my face, I started to doze off. I was worried that I was going to do that awful sleep twitch right before you lose consciousness where your whole body convulses and snap back into coherence. Because if I did do that, it would allow my Uzbekistani barber to slice my neck in half like an overcooked eggplant.

But as it turns out, this guy was a Zen master. Nothing could break his focus. His phone rang mid-shave. But he didn't just have a normal ring tone. No his phone rang so obnoxiously outrageously loud that I was positive there was an entire Uzbekistani dance party in his pants. I mean I was kind of surprised he didn't jump, but I was also I amazed I didn't either. This was really just an experiment in seeing how close I could come to cheating death.

The shave proceeded pretty much without incident. I managed to (barely) stay awake the entire time. Once the shaving was over he gave me a bit of a facial, painting something that felt like cold glue on my face and placing what appeared to be chilled plantains on my eyes.

That part was definitely my favorite, and something that was certainly missing from my first shave. Granted I now looked 10 years younger, but it was a handsomish 10 years younger.

And best of all when I left the shop, some European tourists who had been peeking in the window took note of me when I walked out. They tried not to be obvious as they stared at my super smooth face but I smiled at them and asked, "What do you think?"

They smiled in return and gave me thumbs up. Perhaps because they didn't know much english. But at least they didn't say "bleedy."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Losing It - Part 2

You know you are in a bad way when you walk into a library looking for a fight.

In addition to being frustrated with everybody lately, I have made an effort to save money. I have stopped purchasing books and instead started using the Library. The Library is great. It is quiet, it is free, and in the summer, it is cool as can be.

But I got myself into trouble with this place recently. Due to some very exhausting weeks at work, a bout of slow reading, and general laziness, I had a book that was becoming increasingly more overdue as each day passed.

By the time I was finally able to return the book, it was approximately a month overdue. Entirely my fault for sure. And the day I brought it back was just as busy as all the ones before it, so I was only able to carve out a handful of minutes to run over to the library.

So I hustled my butt over to the library. Being completely fed up with service people and knowing that the book was extremely overdue I tried to drop it in the night slot hoping that I could just pay the fine at a later date. I would rather have the money owed already on my account to than have to see the look of disappointment in the librarian's eye as I hand her my book that was due roughly 4 weeks earlier.

I must pause here to tell you a story about my childhood. I was a pretty good kid, didn't get in too much trouble, but in the eyes of the library I was pretty much a felon. I couldn't for the life of me, bring myself to get books back to the library on time. I was always getting those carbon paper overdue notices saying I owed something like $1.67. And my parents would make me go there by myself to fess up and pay my fine.

The librarians even knew who I was. They were an old decrepit bunch, adorned in clothes from another time, spectacled, and smelling of powders. I would walk, barely taller than the counter and tell them I had a fine to pay.

Ahh yes, Richid Bomkey.

It was always so embarrassing.

The pinnacle came though when I had an abundance of overdue books and the library sent the notice along that said how not returning books was against the law and in addition to fines, criminals would be sent to prison. PRISON!

I held it together long enough to get out of the house and get on my bike to the library but once gone I started bawling. I cried all the way to the library and then sat down on the lawn outside reread the notice, get to the part about prison, and then start bawling all over again. How could this happen? I was too young to go to prison! I think I cam close to dehydration that day.

So fast forward to the future and you can understand my issues with returning overdue books. I tried the overnight box, but it's locked. So I have to go into the library where there is usually at least 2 people at the desk, one doing returns and one signing out books.

But of course today there was only 1 person at the desk (what is this the post office?) and a line of 11 people waiting to take out and return books. Having been there before I recognized the lady behind the counter as one of those shining beacons of civility and kindness.

I am pretty sure this was also the same clerk who snapped at me the last time I had been there when I accidentally handed her my gym card instead of my library card.

That's not the right card!

Alright library lady, play it cool. That was just a simple mistake on my part. Tiny plastic cards look alike OK? I am not trying to pull a fast one here.

Might I also point out that these books are free. What conman scheme could I possibly be running here. I mean, sheesh lady. Chill!

So as soon as I noticed there was only 1 person behind the desk, I did that thing where I looked around fanatically for another person to help me. I looked at the snaking line of misery and just muttered to myself while spinning around in a circle like I was Mary Tyler Moore.

Realizing there were no other solutions, I walked up to the counter, already a little bit on edge, and asked the woman if I was just returning a book if I could just leave it on the counter.

Did you check the drop box?

"Yes I did." And then I walked over and tried it again and came back in, and it's locked! "Can't I just leave it on the desk?"


Can't be held responsible for that? What is that? That is a book! It is not like I walking in holding a radioactive baby Jesus. It's a frigging book! I can promise you it is not going to jump off the counter and run out the door.

But I guess I must be ridiculous. How could I expect you to control your own eyeballs and be aware of the shoebox sized orange book I place 1 foot from your face? And ya know what? Somebody is probably not going to steal it either because it's F#$%^& FREE! Everything in this place is free! It is a building dedicated to free. It shouldn't be called a library, it should be called the Freebrary. You don't even need to put locks on the doors!

After she snapped at me I stood there muttering rhetorical questions to no-one in particular. things like, "Well what am I supposed to do about this? Huh? Hrmm?"

And then I stormed out in a huff, holding my overdue book that was about to cost me 35 cents more.

So much for free.

Everyone was driving me crazy. The lifeless, unresponsive, barely coherent bodies behind desks whose only job is to scan a book or hand you a marble frosted. Are the only people who take these jobs those who have had their souls removed? I mean it must be miserable sitting in an air-conditioned building all day handing out donuts, stamps, and free books to people. Why are you so disgruntled?

I can only imagine the job posting these trolls replied to.

Hey there! Are you not proficient at anything? Do you have a bad attitude? Do you hate people? Have you never smiled in your whole damn life? Well have we got the job for you!

These feeling were all bubbling underneath the surface like lava, just waiting to explode. I was going to lose it big time, and this time it wouldn't just be muttering. I was going to do something that would get me into trouble that I would regret.

I was venting about these very things to a friend on my cell phone as I waited to cross the street in the city later that week. The light changed and I started to cross.

As I walked leisurely across the street talking into my phone, I must have looked like quite the a-hole. but ya know what? I was walking at a normal pace, and while I may have looked like I thought I was hot shit, I didn't actually. The little white man on the sign is walking, he is not sprinting, or pogo-sticking across the street. So I took was walking.

A guy waiting to make a turn obviously was not happy with my speed and shouted several derogatory things out his window at me. Without even thinking, and without turning my body I just reached back to give him the finger before I realized, wow Rich, this is not something you do.

So instead of giving him the finger, I just pointed him. Without looking. As if to say, "While I acknowledge your dooshbaggery, I choose not to respond to it."

I didn't stop walking. I didn't turn to see his reaction. I just kept on moving, praying the whole time that he wasn't chasing after me with a tire iron.

Maybe I need a vacation.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Losing It - Part 1

I am not an angry person. Most days I am quite the jovial bloke. I walk around town with a smile on my face and a song in my heart. But sometimes, the general mental incompetence of a select few pushes me to the edge of my sanity, causing me to lose my cool and have a small irrational meltdown.

I had mentioned before how some frustratingly detached vendors were making me angry. After a brief series of poor interactions with said vendors things got better. In fact, I had great interactions with many people. I thought my unfortunate collection of events had passed.

I, of course, was wrong.

It all started at the post office. Nothing especially memorable happened there, the place is just awful. No matter how hard I rack my brain I can think of few places on earth that are more awful than the post office. I mean at least the department of motor vehicles has seats! And there is the excitement in the air of teenagers thirsting for freedom has they get their license issued to them for the first time.

But the post office has absolutely no joy. None. Have you ever seen anyone completely beside himself to buy a stamp?


Everything about the post office says; "You will wait on lines, I will give you attitude, and you will leave here depressed, crying, and possibly broke."

Let me point out that I am not anti postal worker. I am very pro postal worker. In fact, mailmen and women are some of the friendliest people in town. They are super friendly. Heck, my grandpa used to be a letter carrier for many years and they just don't make them any better than my grandpa!

But the people who work in the post office... dude... I don't know what happened to them in their lives, but it certainly wasn't good.

I think one of the big issues with the post office is that nobody moves with any sort of purpose. It appears to be some sort of time vacuum. It is all slow motion and madness. The building doesn't even look like it is open to begin with. Everything looks worn and broken and the customers in there don't have the time to be there in the first place.

Plus it seems like to do anything you have to fill out 8 forms in triplicate. There is like 1 pen in the whole damn building and that piece of shit is hanging from the counter by a braided piece of tape and string that looks like it was tied there by a one armed monkey.

The post office is 90 times more difficult than it needs to be. The automated machine is the only good thing there. But of course there is only 1 of them and it has a purchase minimum. I try to use it for everything but it is just not possible. And god forbid I need to buy 1 stamp I have to actually go wait on that crazy snaking Disneyland line of misery and revulsion.

Even just standing on that line gives you a glimpse into a hell on earth you couldn't possibly know existed. You feel the hate of everybody in front of and behind you. People's heads swing around wildly, like they are searching for something. It is as thought they think that THEY will be the ones to figure out the mystery of the post office that has eluded man for thousands of years.

Everybody takes turns letting out exasperated sighs. Only like 2 out of the 9 stations are actually staffed and open and you constantly see postal workers walking around behind the counter looking like they just came out of a coma.

I left there feeling like my soul had been sucked out through my eyeballs. And when I'm feeling soulless I head to a place that can provide me with a quick pick-me-up. I turn to my addiction.


Now, I have a discerning donut palate. There are few places that live up to my standards. But when I'm jonesing I head over to a nationally famous donut chain for a cream filled creation of laughter and love.

But what I end up with is a decrepit relic that tastes like I am on an archaeological dig for the fossilized remains of what once upon a time, in a galaxy far far away, might possibly, on a rainy Tuesday, maybe known as cream.

In fact it is not only the donuts that have gone down hill at this establishment, the quality of the service has taken a flying leap into the pits of horribility.

It is not just the donuts that are hollow, I am almost sure the heads of the employees are as well.

It boggles my mind because I am not sure what job could be better than handing people donuts.

What's that you say? Oh you want a donut? Oh how awesome is that because I have a donut! I have lots of donuts!

Your job is to hand people donuts. DONUTS! The last time I was in there I told they guy I wanted 30 munchkins, but the look on his face mad it seem like I had asked him to find the derivative of the square root of the metric weight of Neptune.

He asked me to repeat my request again, but I wasn't exactly sure what he was saying because he wasn't making eye contact and I could barely hear the words coming out of this guy's mouth.

I can understand that you may not be some sort of highly evolved brain genius, but surely, SURELY, you must know that you must say your thoughts out loud for other people in the universe to hear you. Right?

He asked me to repeat my order 3 times, but because he was so poor at speaking and making his question clear, I had no idea what was going on and was just getting upset.

Just give me some F#*$&^% munchkins you moron!

I knew I had really lost it when donut holes are sending me to the verge of a brain hemorrhage. You know you are in a bad way when you walk into a donut shop looking for a fight.

While I've come to expect an awful time going to the post office or buying sweet treats, I definitely did not expect to get into a fight in the library.

But that is exactly what happened next.

To Be Continued...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Heat!

New York City is a fiesta for your senses. Be it your nose, your ears, or your eyes, there is always something potent to be aware of. It all varies by season, but summer is by far the most intense experience. The heat multiplies everything by a factor of 100, bringing about an attack on your senses so profound it is almost unbearable.

During June, July, and August the heat in New York City starts climbing, threatening people's mental health and changing them for the worse. On some days, the temperature and the humidity rise to heights previously thought impossible. And once subtle smells become unavoidable. It is on these days that the whole island seems to reek of rotting milk and hot pee. And no matter where you are or where you go, you cannot escape that scent.

These heat waves almost always peak on garbage day, when thousands of denizens throughout the city have taken their decomposing filth and trash from inside their home and deposited on the curb for pickup. Heat, Trash, Milk, and Pee, I mean, that's like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse right there. On these most magical of days I am almost hoping for the meteor to hit earth and put us all out of our misery.

The heat is nearly inescapable. Breezes don't exist and shade is a joke. And in effort to draw people into their establishments, many stores will leave their doors wide open using thousands of dollars of electricity to blast their air conditioning onto the street as if to say, "Not only are we cold inside, but we also hate the earth!"

But it works. It doesn't matter if it is a lingerie store or a fruit market, people like myself walk in without paying attention to the sign outside just because the arctic blast is so refreshing it is damn near impossible to think of anything else.

It reminds me of the time I was walking around St. Kilda in Australia. My bag with the good sun block had been stolen, so on this particular morning I had to buy a new one. Unfortunately I couldn't find the one I liked, and the one I purchased was apparently made from corn starch and paste.

Not only did it go on thick, but it completely clogged my pores. So when I began to sweat, and sweat profusely at that, my whole body took a whitish tint. And with not even a stitch of cloth to dry myself off, I very much resembled a lanky German geisha.

I sought refuge. Coolness, where art thou? This is summer in Australia; surely they must have "Air Con" everywhere, right? But there were no such places around. After much searching, this clothing store was the best I could do.

Under the guise of being a paying customer, I actually took a couple of shirts into the dressing room. But really, once I closed the door I just stripped, sat down, and hoped to cool off for a bit.

I probably was in there too long because after a bit I heard;

Is everything OK in there sir?

Uh... yea. Just um... checking the stitching on this shirt.

I actually did end up buying a shirt with no sleeves which I still own. Which makes sense for me and not just because I have huge biceps. I sweat a lot in all seasons. this probably isn't going to win me any female fans but it is a fact.

And even though I sweat, I still maintain a high standard of hygiene. Through the use of soap and modern deodorant, while I may sweat, I certainly don't stink.

This is not the case for some of the people in my city.

Scantily clad shower haters are all up in your business. Especially when you are on the train. I don't want to touch anybody else's skin to begin with . But your sweaty, smelly skin?

Oh my god gross.

And as a side note, I will never understand that if hot air rises, and cold air sinks, how come when I am 50+ feet underground in the subway, I feel like I am on a conveyor belt going through the oven at Quiznos?

The other day I was on a train that a couple of kids ran for. Lucky for them they made it. Unlucky for me they smelled like fart. A pair of farts. A pair of farts sitting next to me on the train.


Part of me thinks we, as a train car, should be allowed to vote people out of the car if we have a majority. But I think a power like that is kind of dangerous. And also, thinking back, I probably would have been kicked off that day I had to ride the train drenched and topless. (Story for another time.)

I know this is mean, but often when I am on the train and I see somebody running for it, I kind of hope they don't make it. I know it's not nice, but from experience, 9 times out of 10 the person running for the train isn't gorgeous, jolly, or smell like a peach cobbler. No, in my experience the person running for the train contributes one or all of the following.

1. Stink
2. Sweat
3. Frigging Crazy

Just please sit down, relax, cool off, have a mountain dew, and catch the next train.

When I lived in Arizona, the summer would get up to 115 degrees regularly. And I swear to god if you even say something dumb like "But it's a dry heat" I will karate your face right off of your head. Because you know what? Dry or wet, heat is heat. And when people die of exhaustion, nobody ever asks;

Well was it a wet or a dry heat exhaustion?

Dry heat. You want a dry heat? Put your head in your oven for a half hour and see how that feels.

But what made AZ tolerable was the fact that every building had air conditioning blasting at gale force levels. So on a day full of classes, I would walk outside where the temperature was 108 and then walk into a room where the temperature was like ... 8.

And despite how hot it got out there, sometimes I kind of miss Arizona. maybe it's the reliability of the AZ air conditioning. or it could be that even thought it got up to a million degrees out there... it never smelled like pee.

Yea, maybe that's it.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

It's Raining, Lesbians!

I had been trying to get together with a friend of mine for a couple of months with no success. Work and prior obligations prevented us from finding a date that worked for both of us. But a couple of weeks ago I got an email from her.

She told me that a friend of a friend of hers had a yacht. And every summer this fine individual rents out said yacht to a group of 50 people for a nighttime sail around the island of Manhattan. The price was 50 bucks for a spot on the boat, snacks, and all the beer and wine you could drink. It was first come first serve.

I was all aboard.

Normally I don't get too excited about boats (several different motion sickness experiences) but I was pretty pumped about this boat trip. I had hit a lull in my life lately. I hadn't done anything new or made any new friends in a while and I was hoping for something to bring some new energy to my existence. The boat held the promise of that.

Aside from my dear sweet friend who invited me, I would know almost nobody on the boat. Perfect! A bunch of strangers would be trapped at sea (or river) with no escape. They would have to become my friends. I would make them love me. Be my friend or walk the plank.

Now, I've done boat cruises around Manhattan before and they are nice enough. But be they after proms or other special events you often end up trapped on an abused, cramped, indoor, megaboat with a bunch of hideous Jaeger swilling folk from the suburbs.

I mean no offense because I used to be one of them... from the suburbs, not a Jaeger swiller.

So when the day of the yacht trip came I was excited to be on a small boat full of beers with a bunch of good people that had come pre-recommended by my friend. To get to the yacht though was actually quite involved.

I had to leave Manhattan, the island I was currently on, to get on a boat to go to New Jersey, where I would get off that boat and get on our yacht, to sail around the island I had been on in the first place.

When my friend and I arrived at the dock, she saw a large group of her friends had already gathered. The girl coordinating the whole trip had a mohawk. How could you not like that?

But as I was introduced to people and started shaking hands, I noticed something. There were a lot of girls. I mean that didn't really surprise me because no matter what I do, many women have chosen to do the same things. All of my jobs since college have been in departments of all women, the writing classes I take are largely female, heck, even my knitting circle is all women. I mean come on!

So I shook every woman's hand, all 20 of them. Very nice girls, smiling, laughing, holding hands, kissing.

Wait, what?

I think this is a good time to point out that my friend who invited me is a lesbian. So when she said I would be seeing a lot of her friends I figured I would be meeting some lesbians. I did not know that everyone would be a lesbian.

So myself and the lesbians all headed to New Jersey to meet up with some more friends who would be joining us on the yacht. We arrived and found them. More girls. Standing in pairs. Holding hands.

So we get on the boat and find some spots and get ready to set sail, but we can't leave because of the threat of lightning. Apparently lightning is bad for boats. I had already paid my 50 bucks so I wasn't going to go home at this point.

While sitting and waiting, myself and the lesbians quickly went through all of the beer that had been put out. We started discussing what the owners of this boat had meant by "all you can drink." I'm no redneck but I can drink more than 1 beer. I mean is that all they thought I could do? Just because I was on a boat full of women didn't mean anything. Let's not start judging others. OK boat people?

As I glanced around at my shipmates, some 30 lesbians, a trio of straight guys, and 1 straight girl, I started getting the feeling I was filming a spot for an alternative lifestyle cruise.

"Hey there, are you tired of being straight? Do you hate being around people of the opposite sex? Try hanging out with a boat full of lesbians! Set sail on the Lez-Boat! It will change your perspective."

This was becoming a recurring theme in my life.

I had come out to make some new friends and have a good night. I wasn't looking for anything more. Certainly I wasn't hoping for a boat or anything. But as I looked around the good ship estrogen, I noticed something else. There was only 1 other single, straight, male on the boat and I felt bad for him. Because while this boat was full of women, this was the worst place on earth to actually flirt with one.

You see every guy has had feelings for a girl in a relationship. Somewhere in our hearts we harbor (boat joke) some hope that these women will abandon their dooshy boyfriends and date us. That is always a possibility in our minds. Chances are slim, but they are still there.

But girls in relationships with other girls, even if they break up with those girls, they are only going to date another different girl. It doesn't matter if she is single or married, or a swinger, you my straight friend are not even part of the equation.

Thankfully another cooler of beers appeared which squashed my existential thoughts of dating. And we also left the dock at the same time. So I forgot my theorizing and threw back some beers as we sailed on the low seas.

Though muggy it was a beautiful night and we were starting to really enjoy the night.

Until of course, it started to pour.

I'm not sure if there is a speed limit on the Hudson River, but the speed that makes casually cruising around Manhattan on a summer night a delightful affair, is not nearly fast enough for avoiding a squall full of wet thundery lightning.

On the boat there was a flurry of activity as we grabbed our jackets and hoodies and ponchos and huddled around each other trying to stay dry. And the boat sped off into the night... at 4 miles an hour.


It was like being in a geriatric episode of Miami Vice. It was like if you were completely engulfed in flames and tried to put yourself out by walking leisurely around the park.

I came to terms with the fact that our boat was not going to break any sort of speed records and resigned myself to just getting drenched with the rest of my new lesbian friends. In fact by the time I got back to the dock I was soaked to the bone and completely gross.

But it didn't really matter because no woman would have found me attractive anyway.

I do love my life.