Sunday, February 28, 2010

I'm Getting Not Smarter

I didn’t want this to happen. I mean, I don’t think anybody wants this to happen. I remember hearing that your IQ peaks somewhere around 6th grade, which I believe was also the last time I handed in my math homework on time.

But I had always thought that as I got older it would be an upward climb to a feeling of confidence, security, and wisdom.

Not so much.

I appear to be on the road to confusion, disarray, and… dumbness.

The more I strive for wisdom the closer I feel myself getting closer to the time when I was a kid and I got a bead stuck in my nose.


I don’t know if my own stupidity is rubbing off on other people, or if theirs has rubbed off on me. But the more I think about it, the more I worry about it, and the more likely I am to make stupid mistakes. As with most problems in my life, it started when I made fun of somebody else.

After I moved out of my parents’ house I had to change my address on all of my bank statements, credit cards, etc. Well shortly after I did so I received a letter in the mail from my bank. It said:

Dear Valued Customer,

The security of your personal information is very important to us. This letter confirms receipt of your recent address change.

We have updated our records with your new information. If you had not requested an address change, please contact our customer service department.

We value your relationship with us and look forward to being of service to you for many years to come.


Your Bank

This letter had to be forwarded to me at my new address because the bank sent it to my house.

The house I moved out of.

The house I told them I no longer lived in.

I can’t even wrap my brain around the logic that did not go into sending this letter. Shouldn’t they be organized? You are a BANK! I give you people my money because you are SUPPOSED to know what you are doing!

Looking back now I think that should have been my first clue that banks weren’t as on top of their stuff as they should have been, but that is neither here nor there.

As I was ranting against the bank I was thinking about how they should keep better track of the important information like I do.

Well, kind of.

I did my taxes recently. Well, I mean, I didn’t really do them I just did what Turbo Tax told me to do like I did last year. And after being fortunate enough to get money back AND not go to jail last year, I thought I would be more diligent this year to ensure I could get even more money back.

But when I went into my drawer of files I found out something.

I had not done that. In fact I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I completely took for granted that I would remember how to do my taxes. In my drawer of pay stubs, credit card statements, and 1098 forms I found… Magazine articles, script pages, and a takeout menu.

Not exactly tax material. Somehow my “Tax and Important Document” drawer had turned into my “Shove crap in this drawer because somebody is coming over and you don’t want to look like a slob” drawer.

And then I realized I wasn’t the only one who appeared to be disorganized.

I take the train at least 2 different times a day. And since the NY subway system is so old there is construction, all the time, always, ever. They will usually post the change for a particular train on an orange sign and hang it on the walls of that station. But some times, like this weekend, it gets out of hand.

Just because there is a giant orange F on the outside of the train does not make it an F train. It could be an E train, or a Volkswagen, or a rocket ship. Even though he sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher, you really have to pay attention to the announcement from the conductor on the train.

So one of those crazy construction weekends, a train pulled into the Herald square station with an F on the side of it and I asked the conductor, “Is this an F train?”

He looked at me as if I had asked him what kind of Camembert would go well with a ’97 Beaujolais. So I leveled with him and said “Hey man, I know it says F on the side but it wouldn’t be the first time the letter didn’t mean anything.”

The conductor laughed and bowed his head as if to acknowledge my point. He said, “That’s a good one man.” He even gave me a little wave as he pulled away on the train that was apparently exactly what it claimed to be.

I thought the same kind of logic would endear me to a city bus driver on a recent weekend.

Not so much.

He had parked his bus and was getting off and I was worried I had missed the bus I wanted, the bus that went to the train station. I wanted to ask him if this bus went to this train station, but in my haste I walked up to him and said, “Where does this bus stop?”

He looked at me without a trace of emotion pointed to the ground, said, “Right here.”

Damn it.

Perhaps if I just took the time to think out my questions, and maybe organize my life a little bit, I wouldn’t make myself look like such a goof.

After all, they say there are no stupid questions, only stupid people. So does that make ME a stupid people? And if a stupid person asks a stupid question, does that make it smart?

Never mind, my brain just exploded.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

26 Looking at 30

Whenever I tell people I have a sister they always ask me two questions. The first question is if she is like me. “No” I tell them, “we are very different.”

“Thank god” they say.

Then they ask if my sister and I are close. I always say yes but I’ve been thinking about that question a lot lately. At the time I am writing this my sister Dana is hours away from turning 30. An event so surreal I can hardly wrap my head around it. I have a 30 year old sister and we are close. What does that really mean?

Are we close in age? Not really. We are 3 and a half years apart. Our Junior High and High School were in the same building so we got to share a couple school years together.

Are we close in location? Well we both live in Queens though we are still 2 trains away from each other. We both work in Manhattan but she’s on west side and I am on the east.

Are we close in looks?

Well I think we look like brother and sister. We both have brown hair though hers is a little lighter and mine is a little thicker. And of course she was blessed with skin that actually tans while my skin color only comes in 2 options, white and red.

More than once people have thought we were boyfriend and girlfriend.

Nothing in this life will make you feel more cosmically uncomfortable than having somebody infer that you are dating your sister. Don’t get me wrong, I love my sister, but ya know… gross.

We both lead busy lives and she has a job that sends her around the world several times a year. So while we talk regularly we only see each other a couple times a month if we’re lucky.

So how are we close? What makes us close? If I had to stand before a court of law and proclaim that my sister and I were close and the judge said to me, “What proof do you have?” What evidence could I offer him?

Well as a child being close to my sister was very much a spatial thing. While we had our fights and frustrations with each other, I just liked being around her. She was older, and wiser, and just knew more things. I felt like she had a better knowledge of the world around us and I just wanted to be a part of it. I just wanted to be in her orbit.

Perhaps that is why I spent so much time sitting on the floor of her bedroom reading old issues of her Seventeen Magazine while she sat on her bed sketching dresses. We may not have been having a conversation, or learning every single word to every single Boyz II Men song at that point in time, but I didn’t need an activity. It just felt good to be around her.

The same thing goes for when we would watch TV together late on Friday or Saturday nights. Our parents having gone to bed we’d stay up watching Saturday Night Live or a crappy TV movie.

Sometimes I’d go to bed before she did, but often when she would say she was going to go to bed first, I no longer wanted to stay up either. Even though we were doing nothing on the couch, it didn’t feel like nothing until she wasn’t there any more.

Maybe what has made us close are our shared experiences.

There have been difficult ones, like our ill fated decision early in childhood to splatter paint the basement ceiling one afternoon before my mother came home from work. While history has blurred the fog of truth on whose idea it really was, by the end of that day it didn’t matter as we all ended up in tears on the floor of my bedroom with my mother swearing none of us would tell Dad.

But there have been great ones as well, like stumbling around Rome late one night after a huge dinner and copious drinks. We ran to catch a train to France while my sister insisted on stopping to take pictures of every single Roman ruin… without a flash.

Amazingly we did make that train.

But maybe there is more to that trip she made to Italy than just a funny story. I was in Italy studying abroad and she used up her vacation days and airline miles to spend a week with me bouncing between Rome, Florence, and the south of France on my spring break.

Perhaps it is that willingness and desire to be part of each other’s lives that has defined our relationship the most. A precedent that she has set and I have attempted to emulate in the 26 and a half years I have known her.

While we are very different people we also have very similar interests. Be it food and restaurants (though I will never forgive my sister for deciding to start liking ketchup. I can’t believe she abandoned me on that one) music, or just a unique activity, there are so many things that we both enjoy.

So many of our conversations with each other start out, "I found this awesome thing you'll love." And we both know that we’d rather have the other join us in doing something fun than not. Something I have always appreciated, especially in those first few months after I graduated college. I had arrived back home completely naked of confidence, security, or the knowledge of what was to come next.

I found myself mulling the aftertaste of a formerly exciting life from the confines of my childhood bedroom. But Dana would invite me out with her friends, helping me experience a sampling of a life I’d hopefully be able to create for myself soon enough.

So what is it that makes me sister and I so close? What proof do I really have?

I really don’t know. I just know that I love her. And if a couple of times a year I find myself watching TV at midnight and I can look over to my left and see my sister sitting on the same couch as me, well…

That is all the proof I’ll ever need.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Snow Problem At All

Just in case you’ve been in an isolation chamber for the last week, I would like to let you know that the world almost ended this week because of a snow storm.

Well, kind of.

Here is an observation for you: The amount of snow you can tolerate is directly proportional to how much physical space you have in a city. If you are in some place like the Italian Alps, bring on the snow. Gallons, tons, oodles of it!

If you are in a cramped place like New York City? Eight snow flakes fall and every grocery store turns into a Black Friday sale with people killing each other to get milk and bread into their wagon.


Why does 1 snow storm make people feel they need to go out and buy enough groceries to last them through the end of the next decade?

It snows every year in New York. But some winters are worse than others and when the hype surrounding a snow storm starts, people go bat guano crazy.

That is assuming of course, that the snow actually comes.

If, like last week, the blizzard actually comes, congress shuts down, crime stops, and there is nothing to report about except the snow. So you have these ridiculous news reporters out in the snow demonstrating to us just how snowy the snow storm is.

Reporting at its finest.

First of all they feel the need to take a ruler and put it in the snow to show you how much snow is out there.

As though we wouldn’t believe them otherwise. Like this idiot is going to get on camera and go;

Uh yea so far today we got about… umm…like… 200 feet of snow.

Then they do things like pick up the snow and have the cameraman zoom in as they mash it between their finger tips to show the texture.

They also get a shovel and shovel 1 scoop of snow and toss it into the street to show how heavy the snow is.

Thank you for that. I was just sitting here wondering what the procedure was for shoveling now but you went and showed me.

Meanwhile some poor shmo is standing off camera waiting to get his shovel back so he can continue cleaning off his sidewalk in peace like he was before the van full of Cronkites rolled up to give in-depth interviews with the snow.

Last week, not even exaggerating here, I saw a newscaster crawl through a snow igloo some 8 year old had made.

How does this help anybody?

I can imagine the conversation going on off camera that led to this Journalism school graduate to risk being crushed by 50 pounds of snow to demonstrate that… the snow is real?

As though there is some couple in New York watching TV as they get ready in the morning;

Wife: Hey hunny what does the weather forecast say? How bad is the snow?
Husband: Well, it’s enough to build an igloo that you can crawl through.
Wife: Enough to build an igloo?! Well then I should put on my “Enough snow to build an igloo boots” then.

Every newscast goes into crisis mode using the same huge news fonts and dramatic music they would use if there had been a terrorist attack.

Might I point out that what is falling from the sky is snow… not grenades.

I understand that bad things can happen with inclement weather, and it can adversely affect people but you do not need to bring me 24/7 coverage of the snowstorm 2010 as it happens. Here is how the news broadcast could actually happen.

We apologize for interrupting your regularly scheduled programming to bring you this late breaking story.

It is snowing. Bad. Stay home.

Now back to CSI Sheboygan.

Much like last year I was able to get a snow day off of work when the Snowpocalyptic Snowmaggedeon hit. Seeing as I was out of groceries (big surprise) I made the decision to go out and get a couple of slices of pizza from the place around the corner.

Well of course since I had stopped watching the idiots on TV I didn’t realize that this was probably the worst time to go. Just walking the 200 yards to the pizza place I felt like I was trying to return the one ring to rule them all to the depths of Mordor. The snow was blowing 100 miles an hour up into my nose. The walk isn’t shoveled. And I’m running, like an idiot, in snow boots because I’m starving and really want pizza.

And running through that much snow, in boots, there is really no way to not look like a complete idiot because you have to move every single part of your body just to generate enough momentum to keep going forward. Add a pizza box into the mix and people driving by must have though I escaped from a mental pizza institution.

By the time I got back in my apartment with my soaked pizza box I felt like I had just run a triathlon.

I was outside for 3 minutes tops and I was exhausted. It reminded me of when I still lived at home and had to shovel out my car.

Most snow is fun up until the point at which you have to relocate it.

I definitely do NOT miss that about living in the suburbs. Shoveling snow. Jesus. That is about the worst thing in the world. I used to really like going outside in the middle of the night to shovel the snow as it fell. It was beautiful. It was peaceful. And it’s easy when there is only 1 or 2 inches on the ground, its pitch black outside, and you are the only one around. It’s all very Zen.

But then the next morning there is 96 inches of snow, your cars have been sealed into the driveway by 3 different snow plows and you’re trying to move tons of frozen white shit with a 15 year old chipped piece of plastic attached to the end of the stick. You pull a muscle in your back, your sweating; so you take off a coat, and then your sweat is now freezing.

Yea, that I don’t miss.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Cold Hard Facts

I don’t want you to think that I hate winter. I really don’t. But February is about the point in the year in New York when dramatic frustration starts to set in. Here is why.

The cold is getting annoying.

I know I don’t live in some frigid place like Chicago, or Canada. You guys have it way worse. I get that. But it’s all relative, and as far as New York goes, the last 2 weeks in this city have been frigging freezing.

All this super bowl coverage of Miami isn’t helping either. I wake up and watch a special report from the pretty people pool at the Fufu Shishi hotel with all these tanned and glistening bodies in the sun.

 And then I go outside and the cold hits me in the face like a frozen punch of awful.

It’s been so cold in New York lately people won’t even walk down the streets. They are outside mind you, but they aren’t walking. They are running. But not just running, they are running down the streets screaming curse words at the top of their lungs.

Specifically the F word. That one is extremely popular.

So I’ve started doing it too. I first tested it out in Chicago over New Year’s. And let me tell you, it really does help. In fact while you are doing it, it feels kind of cathartic. It is the only thing that makes sense when it gets this cold outside.

Before I go any further I would like to tell you about a scale I have invented to determine how cold it is outside. The next time you go outside start counting. The amount of seconds it takes you to curse is equal to how awful it is outside.

If it takes 10 seconds it is pretty bad outside. If it only takes 4 seconds, it is really bad.

I went to a play last week with some friends and we had a dinner reservation at a restaurant about 5 blocks away.

Well I couldn’t even count how cold it was outside because before I even left the theater I was swearing up a storm. It was so $#&@%’n cold I thought about just lying down in the street and calling it quits because I didn’t think I could make it.

But I didn’t call it quits. I started sprinting and shouting. And in my sprint I passed other people doing the same. We were like a bunch of screaming fireworks passing each other the middle of the street.

But it’s not just the weather itself. Cold all the time always, ok, it’s awful. But it is the putting on of hats, gloves, dickeys, etc. that I find so exhausting.

Here is what you need before you leave the house in the summer.

Step 1. Get dressed.
Step 2. Leave the house.

I remember finding out that I had gotten a scholarship to Arizona State University. Tempe is known as the Valley of the Sun and temperatures regularly reach 115 in the summer and winters are extremely pleasant. I remember telling all of my friends that I was getting rid of all my pants. Arizona State University was going to pay me to not wear pants.


A couple winter weeks at home during break was easy. Plus it was Christmas, it was New Years, there were friends to catch up with. And just when the cold started to get annoying you were headed back to school for one of the 330 days of sunshine that Arizona provided every year.

But I am going on my 5th winter living in New York and it sucks. I mean waiting outside on the train platform is enough to make you go crazy. Now I understand why people carry flasks.

Here is what you need before you leave the house in the winter.

Step 1. Get dressed
Step 2. Select coat from your winter assortment.
Step 3. Put on scarf. Tie yourself some sort of Boy scout/sailor knot hybrid
Step 4. Button, zip, and cinch your coat
Step 5. Put on gloves
Step 6. Put on hat

Then you hustle outside, and get in a car or a train where you stay bundled until you get too warm so you take some of your accoutrements off. But then you arrive at your destination so you have to put them on again. So you rebundle and make your way to work where once inside, you unbundle.

I am not even including all the other ridiculous things you need to do like put on skin moisturizer, and lip balm, and special hand crème that smells like something used to lubricate jet engines because your cuticles are shot and its so frigging dry out you’ve got dandruff and your back hurts because you’re a decrepit 26 year old who tried to squat press his friends when he was 15…

Ahem. I digress.

So by 9 am you’ve gotten dressed and undressed like 4 times already.

God forbid you have to go out for lunch, or you need to run an errand. Any trip outside means bundling and unbundling again. And unless you plan on spending the night at work you have at least 1, possibly 2 bundle/unbundlings ahead of you.

By the time you get to the end of your day you’ve bundled and unbundled 12 times. And for what? Just so you don’t die? I’m honestly not sure it’s worth it. I mean that’s like 60 times a week for at least 3 months. That’s over 700 times a season. No wonder everyone is so frigging tired in the winter. I’m surprised more people don’t end up in the doctor’s office because they pulled their “coat muscle.”

And god forbid you have to wear those modern earn muffs they call 180s that wrap around the back of your head. Now admittedly they work, so I own a pair. But so do half the people on the street. They are an awesome invention. But something must be wrong when half the city is walking around looking like they got their head stuck in a clamp.

If I wasn’t so damn pale I would just move to one of those islands in the Caribbean where guys walk around in a bathing suit and no shirt and make a living unloading the shrimp boat.

Granted I’d probably get melanoma after about 40 minutes. So yea that’s out.

I guess I’ll just stay here. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go finish tying my scarf