Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mad Men... Myself

I love living alone. I’ve had my own apartment for over 2 years now and it’s fabulous. It is quite possibly one of my favorite aspects of my life. It allows me a freedom and comfort I couldn’t have if I still had roommates.

The only thing challenging about living by myself is not having anybody to instantly coerce into helping with the half a dozen projects I am always thinking about doing. If I schedule it far enough in advance, I can gather some wonderful friends to help me.

But every once in a while I find myself dressed in a suit and tie climbing out my window holding a tri pod and a bottle of Jim Beam.

Allow me to explain.

I have been on a contest kick the last 6 months, video contests mostly. And that has led into other ventures like the viral videos that I did for my friend Sean's company Boom Boom Energy. Myself and my friend Brandi self shot 3 videos for him in my apartment using a tripod and my camera. You can see them all here.

But as I was moving stuff around my apartment to assemble a desk I just bought, I put the tripod in my room and forgot about it.

Until later that day when I came home, walked into my bedroom and saw a tripod... with a camera on it... facing my bed. I can only IMAGINE what somebody would have thought had they come over after work. Thank god nobody saw that one.

But aside from incriminating myself in my own apartment, I recently started watching Mad Men. Yes I know this is the 5th season and it’s amazing. But I don’t have a lot of time, and I don’t watch TV. But the amount of people who told me

Rich you would LOVE Mad Men. You HAVE to watch it.

Was starting to get annoying, and I was pretty interested in it anyway. So I bought it on iTunes and started watching it. I got so into it that I watched the first 2 seasons in about 3 weeks.

I noticed 2 immediate effects.

  1. I started drinking a lot more. I’d like to believe that it was the 95 degree weather but something felt positively sinful about not whetting my whistle while engaging in mid century misogyny and philandering.
  2. I really felt myself wanting to be a part of that lifestyle. And not because I want to get married, cheat on my wife, and then cheat on the woman I am cheating on my wife with. But because they were so damn stylish, I wanted a reason to look that good. I will admit I wanted to be Don Draper. 
Luckily around that same time, a friend of mine sent me this tasty little flyer from Banana Republic.

A chance to walk on to the set of Mad Men? Absolutely. I was in. Now I just needed a plan.

While I had previously sworn off public voting contests, this one was just too much fun to pass up. So I took a look at the site and was immediately disheartened.

The person with the most votes had many thousands of votes. Something I couldn’t possibly match.  I contemplated not doing it but then I decided I would and enlist the help of some friends.

Well the friends ended up being quite busy and or out of town at that time so I had no choice but to shoot it myself. I was at work on Friday afternoon when I realized I could take the picture on my roof. With the sun setting. Perfect!

So I rushed home after work.

Actually that’s not true. I walked fast to the train, but then I just sat on it, it doesn’t matter how much of a rush I am in, the train tends to go the same speed and or slower. So that sentence should have said:

So I went home at normal speed.

Better. I got home and climbed out my window onto my fire escape and up to my roof. I quickly realized that I didn’t have much time. The sun would be gone soon. So I climbed back into my apartment to shower, shave, get suited up and set up the shoot that I would be doing of myself.

The shower was quick and easy but shaving in a hurry is like, well, I mean it’s really its own metaphor. Any time we are talking knives and faces, there really should be as much time allowed as possible.

Thankfully, I didn’t cut my head off and was able to quickly get dressed and part glue my hair into a 1960s quaff.

I grabbed the camera and tripod as well as a bottle of Jim Beam which I was going to use as a prop for the shoot.

Now I was in one of my favorite suits which I wouldn’t exactly call “action wear.”

And climbing out of my window requires getting over an extremely high sill which I can barely do in basketball shorts, never mind tailored pants. And with nobody to hand me all of my stuff I had to simultaneously lift my leg 4 feet in the air and over a ledge to get it out the window while also holding a fully expanded tri-pod (for some reason I hadn’t thought to collapse it) and a 30 year old bottle of whiskey that hadn't been opened since the last time my parents had a "nautical party" in our old basement.

Right about the time I was straddling the window I thought to myself, what if somebody sees me? What would they think?

OH there he goes again. Always getting dressed up to drink whiskey on the roof!

Never mind the fact that once on my fire escape I have to walk past my neighbor’s living room on my way to the ladder to get to the roof. My neighbor, who recently bought an Ab Rocket and uses it for 30 minutes every morning so I hear a half hour of

Squeak Squeak Squeak Squeak

Well... at least I think that’s her Ab Rocket. Anyway, I'm just saying we both have our own stuff going on.

Mine is not the tallest building in my neighborhood, so I can only imagine if the people in the buildings across from me looked out to see me standing on my roof, in a suit, and sneakers, striking poses for a camera on a timer.

A couple of years ago this might have bothered me, or made me insecure. But I have embraced my ridiculousity and thus do not mind doing strange things that attract attention.

I mean it doesn’t always go so well, sometimes trying to take a picture of myself all I got was this.

Headless man on the roof.

But when it went well it was pretty cool. And I was happy with how most of the pictures came out, and after much debate I picked one that would be my entry into the contest that I had no chance to win.

Which picture did I choose? Well, you'll just have to wait and see now won't you?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

What the Beep?!

What makes you crazy? I’m not talking about disgruntled or upset. And I’m not talking about just a little bit crazy. I’m talking crazy crazy. So crazy that you want to physically express your crazy in a way that is not socially acceptable. I’m talking so crazy that you want to rip a manhole cover out of the street and chuck it through the display window of a GAP.

Is it something that people do to you?  Is it rudeness? People who are impolite? Maybe its poor manners or poor hygiene that makes you want to lose your shit so badly that you turn green and rip your purple pants.

Maybe it is a combination of things. There are dozens if not hundreds of things that annoy us as human beings, and I am no exception. I get pissed off over dumb stuff. I’ve mentioned many of them here, but most of them I’d rather not admit because, well, I like to pretend I’m a better person that I actually am. But there is one thing that I cannot deal with.

It is not an emotion, or a behavior, but a sound. It is a sound so detestable and awful that it makes my blood pressure spike. It makes me want to clothesline bikers as they ride past me and knock out crossing cards with my backpack. It’s not nails on a chalkboard, or breaks screeching, or a baby crying. No, the sound that makes me bat shit crazy is the sound of horns honking.

Now I haven’t had a car for several years now and it has been equally as long since I drove regularly. And as I have mentioned several times before, I really don’t mind not having a car. Looking for places to park, general maintenance, paying for gas; I don’t miss any of that. But I didn’t realize until recently is being a regular driver had given me a kind of immunity to horns and horn honking.

But being a pedestrian, a human not protected by the security of a 4 wheeled transportation device, has made me realize how much I hate horns.

I could be having the best day ever, crossing the street wearing an Armani suit while eating a free ice cream cone given to me by a Victoria’s Secret underwear model I met on a first class flight back from Bali.

But if in the course of eating that ice cream cone, some superturd leans on his horn for more than an 1/8 of a second, my immediate reaction is that I want to kick in his window and jam my ice cream cone (cone first) into his eyeball.

It brings forth an anger and intensity in me that should be reserved for chucking a keg over a 20 foot wall in a strong man competition or fighting off Orcs in Middle Earth.

It is like an “instant crazy” button I don’t know exists until it’s pushed and then all I can think is;


I think the large majority of the population has come to see the horn as a necessary part of driving, kind of like a hand gesticulation, as opposed to something that should be used sparingly.

I can understand that in the beginning of cars, there was not much technology so the horn could only do so much. But we have come so far over the year. I think its time we made some changes. I have a couple I would like to see put into play immediately.

1. Every car should come with a horn max limit. This limit would be certain time limit of horn honking a month. Let’s say 10 seconds. So every time you hit your horn, the amount of time you stay honking your horn is deducted from your monthly limit. If you don’t hit your monthly limit, you are fine, and perhaps the National Transportation Bureau mails you a little ribbon.

But if you however pass your 10 second horn limit… your car automatically explodes.

I think this would keep people to more honest horn honking. Right now there is wasteful horn honking. If you know you only have so much horn to honk, perhaps you would ration it better and not go honking willy nilly.

Also, the threat of imminent death helps.

Now I know that there are times when you don’t always want to honk. The sound of the horn, no matter how quickly it is pressed can be quite abrasive, and you might not want to use it if you are a kind and decent human being that doesn’t suck.

Sometimes you just need to give people a little nudge to wake up or pay attention.

That is where my second suggestion comes in.

2. I would implement a new button on the steering wheel. This button would be called the “Suggestion Beep.”

While the horn might be used for alerting civilians when you are about to crash into a bicycle with a basket full of golden retriever puppies, or if somebody is bearing down on you on a one way street, the Suggestion Beep would be used in situations of lesser danger.

Perhaps the light turns green and the person in front of you is not paying attention. Then you could push the Suggestion Beep and your car would see in a delightful British lilt;

Pardon me


Hello there

Something nice and light just give the car in front of you a heads up.

But I am aware that the Suggestion Beep could be abused as well. Kind of like somebody who says excuse me is nice, but somebody who stands next to you saying “Excusemeexcusemeexcusemeexcusemeexcuseme” is someone you’d like to slap.

That is why we must create a reward system for the Suggestion Beep as well.

Those people that have a positive ratio of Suggestion Beeps to regular horn peeps would receive a ribbon in the mail every month.

Those people that overuse the Suggestion Beep, well… their cars would explode too.

And forgive me for not knowing what the limit of Suggestion Beeps is yet, this is an imperfect system and we are working on a trial and error basis. I would just recommend you take it easy on the Beeps until we have ironed out all the kinks.

And oh yea if your car explodes and you happen to survive it, you have to ride a unicycle. With a flag on it. No exceptions.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

27 Stresses

I had a birthday last week. Very exciting yes, I know.

I’m not one of those people who hates his birthday. Quite the contrary. I love my birthday. I love the ritual of celebrating the life I’ve lead and the year I’ve had.

I like gathering with friends, getting as many people together as I can to eat, drink, and be merry. That’s what I love about birthdays. That is what makes me smile.

What doesn’t make me smile is the song, the birthday song.

I think the song is called “Happy Birthday” which in and of itself, seems like a dumb name. I mean it’s a very simple song, I get that, but that is just the problem.

Happy Birthday to you

Happy birthday to you? Happy birthday TO you? When in your life do you ever use that kind of phrasing?

Happy Anniversary to you
Good luck to you

It’s like one step away from wishing a happy birthday AT somebody.

Here take this happy birthday, we don’t want it. We have so many.

Like they are throwing Jell-o at a wall. What kind of speech is that? I mean it sounds like it was written in Victorian England.

Well, a most jubilant birthday to you Mr. Roquefort.
Ah yes, and to you as well Lord Brocklebank!

Further wikipediaing shows that the song was in fact written in 1893. Ah yes as I recall that was an awful year for songwriting considering the tune for this song was stolen from (as you all know) “Good Morning to All.”

But the lyrics are very curt. And if the song weren’t so damn slow it would feel abrupt. You aren’t even really expressing sentiment. I mean at least in “We wish you a merry Christmas” we understand your participation in the song as a singer.

Who wishes? Oh, YOU wishes. Oh OK, well, thank you very much for singing that to me.

And actually now that I think about it, why the hell are we singing in the first place? Whose idea was this? Whoever invented this song was probably just a big fan of Christmas and trying to impress somebody.

Well ya know, we sing then… and we are all so happy… can’t we sing on our birthdays too?

We don’t sing on Easter, Lincoln’s birthday, Flag Day or Thanksgiving. Why on earth are we singing on birthdays?

At least on Christmas there is some musical accompaniment to drown out the awfulocity of our voices. But on birthdays there is no music. Nobody ever says

Hey let me put on my birthday record!


Hey I have my sousaphone here, just let me warm up for a minute.

No. It just starts from some painfully awkward pause and the person who bought the cake finally says, “So um, should we sing?”

No! The answer is no. Now we shouldn’t sing. I’d rather give you a birthday hand jive. Something less than 30% (I’m guessing) of the people on this planet can sing.

Ya know a very small percentage of people can juggle butcher knives so why don’t we all do that too!

It’s probably more the song itself that kills me. It is the slowest most depressing tune. It sounds more like a Mongolian death march. Is that really the best we can do to sing to every single human being every single effen year to celebrate their arrival on the planet?

Ugh, and that moment in the middle where we have to pause and remember who the hell we are singing to is just awful.

The only thing worse than singing that musical massacre is being the one being sung to!

Standing there, while people just stare at you and sing. If there was some activity you could do instead of just grinning through gritted teeth it might not be so bad.

But standing there during that 15 seconds feels like spending a sweaty week in front of a Mexican firing squad.

And then the song finally ends, and we all clap because if we didn’t clap we would all just stand there as the pain of the song resonated and people stood there in silence until somebody finally said

Wow, that was really awful wasn’t it?

Rarely is singing Happy Birthday something to clap about. Happy Birthday as sung by Placido Domingo or Marilyn Monroe? OK yes, I will clap for that.

The only version of Happy Birthday that doesn’t make me want to kill myself is the one sung to me by my friend Marissa who sings it like this

Happy Birthday to you
Cha Cha Cha
Happy Birthday to you
Cha Cha Cha

It’s only a couple of words but man it really adds some flavor to it! And she sings it to me every year, and every year it is the best voicemail I get on my birthday.

So this is my recommendation to you citizens. Let us now and forever, change the way Happy Birthday is sung. Let us officially inject multiple “Chas” into the song to bring new life to an otherwise depleted and deficient shell of a song. Let us rejoice when people start to sing instead of cringing. Let us not dread the moment that the lights go out and the cake with the candles appears.

This will change our moods; it will improve birthdays, and elevate our quality of life. And that is all I have to say about that!

(Cha Cha Cha)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Does This Man Look Crazy?

I called 911 last week because I saw a crazy person.

I live in New York, no big whoop right?

OK well I didn’t call 911 exactly, but rather I was transferred to them. Here is how it happened.

I was leaving work on a summer Friday and was strolling along Central Park South, enjoying the sunshine, heat, and smell of horse manure from the handsome cabs lined up to squire tourists through the park.

I was walking amongst said tourists when I saw him heading my way. It was obvious he was very out of place.

He was a tall fellow, with long hair, a beard, and eyes that did not seem to be in agreement on which way to look. He was shuffling his feet and appeared to be extremely out of it.

What was most noticeable about him however was the fact that he appeared to be wearing 2 hospital gowns and he had a very recognizable hospital bracelet on his arm.

I couldn’t help but stare at him as he shuffled toward me. In passing I was able to absorb everything I just mentioned, while also at the same time taking an extra step or two away from him because the guy just looked crazy.

I passed him in a few seconds and looked over my shoulder to stare for a few seconds more. The hospital gown in and of itself could have just said homeless person to me, but the bracelet, that really through it over the edge.

And I started wondering if I should do something or call somebody.

Now, New York promotes safety and awareness by proliferating the phrase “If you see something, say something.” It is a great slogan, but this is a busy city. There is a LOT to see. So much so that it becomes hard to distinguish what you should actually say something about.

There are many things to see in New York. For instance, when I saw that man who was walking a dog who had a cat sitting on its back who had a mouse sitting on it’s back, I felt inclined to say something.

The time I was walking through Times Square and the black superman selling t-shirts pulled me in for an unexpected hug and I accidentally bit his head, I felt inclined to say something.

And recently, and perhaps most horrific, was the 300 pound woman I saw in Brighton Beach wearing a bikini. That was like 5 something’s, and I really wanted to say something.

But a man in a hospital gown with a hospital bracelet? Now that seemed like genuine cause for alarm. You don’t see that every day on Central Park South, or anywhere for that matter.

I had walked another 2 blocks before my paranoid conscience got the better of me. I figured it was best to do something as opposed to just wondering if the guy shuffling down the street was a violent criminal.

So I called 311.

For people living in New York, 311 is like the Google of questions and complaints. New York City promotes the number as pretty much a go to for anything and everything. Need the city to fix a pot hole? Call 311. Not sure when the buses are running? Call 311. The posters are everywhere.

So I figured I would call them.

After a fairly rigorous automated menu I finally got an operator. Seeing as this was my first time calling 311 I tried to keep a pretty level head. The conversation went something like this:

Operator: Hello 311 assistance how may I help you?
Rich: Hi, I was just walking on Central Park South and I saw a man in a hospital gown with a hospital bracelet and he looked pretty out of it shuffling along and I didn’t know if that was something I should tell you about.
Operator: You saw a man who looked like he escaped from a mental hospital? Yes absolutely.

So immediately I got a little nervous because the operator was kind of putting words in my mouth. I myself did not know if he had escaped per say, but rather, just maybe he was just not in the hospital where he should be currently residing.

Maybe he was one of those patients they let out for walks and he just got confused and walked out an open gate or something.

So the operator asked me some more questions before deciding that this was a police matter.

Operator: OK this is a police matter so I’m going to connect you to 911 and speak when they pick up and transfer it to you.

Whoa! 911? Really? Did we have to call them right away? That seems pretty serious. Couldn’t they just send over an intern or somebody in one of those 3 wheeled police cars to check things out?

I mean it’s not like the guy was running anywhere, he was just… shuffling.

So the operator connects to 911 and immediately starts off by giving them my phone number.

Now I’m really panicking. What if they can’t find this guy? What if they do a couple laps around the block and decide this was all a hoax and then track my phone number to my apartment? Then what? Am I going to be arrested for… I don’t even know what!

Fake seeing an escaped mental patient?

So the 911 operator comes on and now it’s my turn to speak. I give my spiel again and tell her it looked like this guy was out of it.

911 Operator: So you saw a man on drugs.

Whoa operator lady! Again, stop with the putting of the words in my mouth. I did not say he was on DRUGS, I just said he was out of it.

I mean there have been a couple of times I have walked around this city after a night on the town when people could have said I looked out of it. Maybe a little bleary eyed, limping a bit from dancing too much, and wearing a drink bracelet and some shirt that looks a lot cooler at 11 pm than 9 am.

Person: Yea I want to a file a report.
Operator: What did you see?
Person: Well I saw a fairly gangly German walking up 2nd avenue in what appeared to be a sparkly shirt carrying 2 umbrellas.
Operator: Yes that’s definitely something you want to report, tell me your location.

I know nothing about drugs. I don’t know my opium from my oolong. So now I’m stuttering.

Rich: Well I mean, I don’t know that he was on drugs, just, I mean, like, he just looked out of it, and I mean I just saw him in passing, but…

I started looking around me halfway thinking I was going to be the one they were looking for.

911 Operator: Alright we are going to see an EMT truck to that location and have them check it out.

At least I had been downgraded from a police officer to an EMT person. I was pretty sure an EMT couldn’t arrest me if the situation called for it.

Did they ever find that possibly crazy man? I’ll never know. But I can be proud that when I saw something, I said something.

And also that nobody has reported me to the police… yet.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

This Really Blows

I like to think I am an easygoing guy. I try not to get too excited about things in advance. I maintain a level head and a moderate level of excitement unless something is truly extraordinary.

And every once in a while I come across something that turns me into a fanatical evangelist who can’t shut up. I feel the need to tell every single person about it. People I know, people I don’t know, and anybody who happens to be having a conversation. It’s like a cake that I can’t eat enough of.

But several years ago I found something in a public restroom that changed my life. It made me so crazy excited that I didn’t know what to do with myself. And every time I see it, even if I’m in the crappiest of moods. It lifts my spirits.

Now normally a trip to a public restroom is an awful experience. I’ve heard from women that their bathrooms are disgusting but I still have to believe that men’s rooms are even worse.

And of those bathrooms, it seems like the ones at New York area airports are the worst. They smell like a depressed vacuum of souls, wrapped up in a hollow resonance of gross.

And they are barely hanging together. The products in these restrooms are never of the finest quality. The paper products and soap are industrial and for the barest minimum of functionality.

Specifically, I have never pulled off some toilet paper and thought to myself:

Wow this is going to be a wonderful experience!

No. It’s usually something more like:

Ya know what? I could use this to sand down those shelves in my apartment!

And that usually happens right when I walk into the bathroom because I have to take off a batch of toilet paper to wipe the pee off the seat.

There are no happy surprises in a public restroom. A happy surprise usually ends up meaning soap in the dispenser. I went to a movie theater in South Carolina that had 7 sinks and 6 of them…. SIX were out of order. I mean if you can’t even keep your sinks working I think its time you get your money back from the contractor, plumber, or monkey who built your bathroom.

But there is 1 surprise that exists in public restrooms. It is a device, no, a machine that does things that no other machine can do. It turns air into magic, and turns wet hands into dry ones.

I am speaking of course about the Xlerator hand dryer.

Now maybe you are one of the unfortunate few who have never laid eye on, or hands under, an Xlerator hand dryer. You might be sitting there thinking

It’s a hand dryer, what’s the big whoop?

Well I’ll tell you what the big whoop is! It kicks to life like a jet engine and blows the water, ALL the water, off your hands in less than 12 seconds! It's like a wall mounted leaf blower... for your hands.

This hand dryer is from the future. It is science fiction. It is a contraption of Orwellian significance. It is like getting the Internet in 1907 or finding skittles in a sarcophagus. It is so far ahead of the rest of the pack of hand dryers out there that is almost not fair. It makes those other hand dryers look like assholes.

And speaking of the other hand dryers, let’s break down the categories.

First you have the push button hand dryers, which are the worst in the world because that means that I have to use my hand, the hand I just washed with soap (if there was any) to push that button that was pushed by somebody before me who didn’t wash their hands. So now I have an extra germ on my hand.

Which is why I use my elbow to push that button, or my shoulder… or my foot. Yes I know that defeats my point but I wouldn’t have to use my foot if there wasn’t a button now would I?

And that’s fine if it’s at normal height, but if its lower, then I look like an extremely special individual with no idea how to work the machine. It’s a lot like my elevator experience.

And then there are the automatic sensor hand dryers, which I don’t have to touch, thank god. But they are so weak and pathetic I feel the need to put my hand on its shoulder and tell it:

Hey buddy, it’s going to be OK.

Its not even like it’s drying anything, it just feels more like I’m putting my hands in front of the face of a feverish mouth breather. So then I end up shaking my hands for 3 minutes after like I’m doing the neutron dance.

And I hate doing the neutron dance in the bathroom.

If I am just going to end up shaking my hands that much anyway I shouldn’t even bother washing them. I should just wipe them on my pants straight off like I did when I was 11. And even though I am in my late 20s I still find myself doing that more than I should.

And finally there are those hand dryers that don’t even make sense. It looks like a hand dryer but there is no discernable button, and running your hands under it does not make anything happen. It might not even be a hand dryer. It could just be a fuse box, or a time machine, or something.

That is why I am so grateful for the Xlerator hand dryer. It doesn’t just blow the water off my hands, it blows my worries away. And that is something I could not be more grateful for. One day I hope to be wealthy enough to install one in my home. I could think of no better status symbol.

I mean really the only thing that could make the Xlerator hand dryer even better would be is if they put one in the stall so I could blow the pee off the seat.

But let’s take this one step at a time. I can wait for that development.