Sunday, January 30, 2011

Nature vs. Boehmcke

Nature is trying to kill me.

Well not nature per say, but the animals from nature. The wild beasts that roam the urban jungle that is New York City. They may be tiny, and really dirty, but they are also deadly-ish. Just go with me on this one. I will prove to you, how these creatures are after me.

Incident #1: The Squirrel Assassin

My bedroom has 2 windows next to each other. In one window is my air conditioner, a big honking piece of metal that sits half in my room, and half outside. For the first 6 months that it was in there I had high blood pressure worrying that it would fall out and drop 7 stories to smash on the ground. But so far, so good. The window next to the one with the air conditioner is unobstructed except for a child safety gate bolted over the outside of the window.

I do not have a child, but it was there when I moved in. And since I am lazy, and sometimes get out of bed in my sleep, I thought it best to leave it there just in case.

If you look closely at it you can see it really is just like a small metal ladder.

I woke up recently to the sound of a tree scratching against my window. Since it had been quite windy recently I figured the tree was just swaying wildly and therefore bumping against my window. It kept rattling my window so I opened my eyes to see.

And do I see a tree? No. Not four feet from my bed, I see a squirrel on the safety gate, tiny appendages spread wide, with his feet on the bottom rung, and his paws on the top, SHAKING it.

I don't speak squirrel but I'm pretty sure he was also saying:

Open this thing you bastard. I'm here to kill you.

This tiny grey sonofabitch didn't even flinch when I walked over and tried to shoo him away. Perhaps it was the fact that I was trying to "shoo him away" like some kind of yenta. He just clung there, steely eyed and fearless.

Incident #2: The Bird Stakeout

Two days after I rid myself of my assassin. I woke up to a scratching sound.

Fully expecting to see the squirrel again I opened my eyes quickly but saw nothing. It was really quite sad at the relief I felt that it wasn’t another squirrel. The scratching I was hearing this time was probably actually a tree.

But after another 10 minutes of scratching I realized it didn’t have the rhythmic scratching that a tree branch blowing in the wind might. So I stood up and pulled open the shade over my air conditioner. And there I saw a brazen pigeon perched on the outside of my air conditioner.

I don’t speak pigeon but I’m pretty sure he was saying:

Hello Richard. Today, I kill you.

He had scratched a considerable amount of paint off the surface of my air conditioner and had created the beginnings of a nest right up against the window. That winged rat was building a bunker and trying to dig his way into my apartment Alcatraz style.

I banged on the window but the Jurassic germ carrier hung out. He and the squirrel had received the same training. I could intimidate neither of them.

Incident #3: Eau de Rat

At a job that I no longer work at, these ninja-like critters tried a different tactic. Calling upon a new enemy to take a new approach to ruining my life.
I was at said job, doing a really really extra good job (as usual) when I noticed a certain odor. As usual my mind thought it was somebody's foul lunch. But upon second appraisal this was not a scent of food.

Oh wait a minute... they are good. They were doing a sneak attack.

You see in this office we had a bit of a rodent problem, normally to be combated by sticky rat traps around the office. Well the rats got smart to this and started going through the heating and ventilation system. And this particular rat was no different.

The rat had been sneaking through the office, trying to sneak up on me when it got stuck in the heater and... well... baked.

I suggested that my coworkers pour some olive oil on the rat to help improve the smell.

They did not heed my suggestion.

The next day came, with another dead rat. These tiny bastards had discovered that the smell of their roasted rotting corpse was beyond awful, bordering on noxious.

Day 3 and a 3rd rat casserole.

Luckily I left that job before they could finish the job.

Incident #4: Leaping Squirrel

Not too long ago I was at the park getting a hamburger for lunch when I saw a squirrel climb to the top of a garbage can, and fall in.

I laughed my ass off. I couldn’t stop giggling about it. Serves him right, I thought.

I ran over to see what happened to the stupid little squirrel and when I had just about reached the trash can and was about to lean over to look in the thing leapt out of the trash like we was shot out of a circus cannon.

He popped up onto the ledge of the trashcan and scared me half to death. He perched on the edge and I’m pretty sure he said:

HaHA! I am winner!

And then he scurried away to go tell his friends what a sissy I am.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Interweb Confusion

Based on the kind of communication I’ve experienced I’ve come to the conclusion that the Internet is kind of like a bar. There are people from all different walks of life, it’s really too dark to see anybody’s face, and everybody is drunk.

There is no filter on the Internet, people can just say whatever they want. Add into the fact that there are tons of people spamming you; the confusion of tone in emails and typos, there is nothing but nonsense in store for you every single time you log on to the Internet. Sometimes it’s intentional, sometimes it’s not, but it’s almost always ridiculous.

I received one of my favorite spam emails recently. Not to brag but I regularly receive emails from women in other countries looking to start a relationship with me. I mean rumors of my charms have obviously spread far and wide over the web. Why else would I receive the following email?


My name is Anastasia.
I want to search my love. I want to search the man for long relations. I want to have serious relations and the real love. Therefore if you do not want it that you should not answer my message. Maybe learning more about each other we can have real relations. I shall write more about myself and send you my photo if you will interest on my letter.

You can answer me to my
Earlier I do not use dating service, therefore I want excuse for you if I have made it not good.

I hope to speak with you soon,

I had to laugh because even though Anastasia was probably a robot, she still knew that what men really want is “long relations” whatever that means. It made me think of an email I got back when I still worked at the magazine.

I was a part of a small department that was not hiring at the time. We received a job application directly to our department from a young woman who lived in Georgia… the country. Granted this young woman wasn’t applying for a particular position, she just sent us an email unsolicited. It was quite a, let’s say “unique” approach.

The email included a resume that was a hodge podge of very confusing schooling and experience. Not only because all of her experience was from Georgia, but also because her English was beyond awful. It was like trying to decipher an Eastern European puzzle.

Oh and she included 2 pictures of herself.  In a bathing suit. Which made me believe she either didn’t know what we did, or, the job application process was extremely different in Georgia.

We might have ruled it out as a simple spam had she not applied 2 more times. We didn’t respond because, well, what do you say to a woman in a bikini from another country that doesn’t speak English?

Sorry, you don’t have 1 single qualification.

But sometimes our communication gets skewed because we try and pass it through one too many filters. My favorite example of this is my experience with Google Voice.

For those of you who don’t know, Google Voice is a free service that translates your voicemails and sends it to you in an email and/or a text message.

I admire Google’s advances in all things Internet. But I must say that their advances in speech recognition are slightly behind. Instead of helping me to understand what the voicemail actually says, it just makes me laugh. Here are a few examples of voicemails (according to Google Voice) that I have received.

Office attacks you back. I think like 2 minutes.

I’ve had bad days at work, but my entire office has never attacked me before. And I had never attacked it. This was a false alarm.

Hey Ricketts

Hands down the worst mispronunciation of my first name. Ever.

R. E. T. V I totally with the big grid from 1,008 9 Y contact with the kind of highly disappointments. It's like read something your time now. We have a fact. So I don't know if you have. Maybe later. My name is HI. Thank you, such. Okay, good to everybody Obviously, the speed about your What your area. I'm concerned, since I read about it. I don't talk to you. I hope you are internet possibly happened. And hey. Seriously, hope you have a great birthday. Her, Cleo soon. If I see.

The only thing I managed to gather from this lengthy email was that it was my birthday. Even though I’m not sure I even got this on my birthday.

A lot of wonderful please and fabulous trip lots of putty in your future.

Lots of putty in my future? That sounds like a fortune cookie from a first grader’s birthday party.

8 minutes of ceiling.

Oh… OK.

I know if you're still gonna be crazy in that. So I totally get that Shannon who. If you are now have a free time. Anyway, call me, feel free. Otherwise, you can just chat when you look after 10. Now I'm going to so excited for you and I can't wait to read your baby. So Arthur, I'm if for some reason you could give me if I get from now. I read it on my 3 on a flight on Thursday and hit the meaning of her the changes. I'm sure I can get the gist of it. So think about it. Consider it. I'm pretty. I'd like to. Thanks.

My baby? I don’t have a baby. Nor would I want someone to “read” it. And I am glad you are pretty. This is key to friendship.

I feel like I've had like 22 batteries in South.

Don’t we all.

It seems the longer the voicemail the more absolutely incomprehensible it gets. Its almost like the machine just says, oh screw it, there’s no way I’m going to get all of this. But I still use it, because it makes me laugh.

I think a voicemail I actually left for my friend actually sums it up best.

Friday refuse. I meet you. I'm trying to teach english well. There's a feeling. Pretty good.

I’m not sure what that feeling is but as long as it is pretty good, well, I’ll have no need for those long relations.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Love Letter to Bread

Dear Bread,

This is long overdue. I know we have been together for some time now but it appears I have been taking you for granted. To be honest it isn’t until you go away (unexpectedly) that I become aware of how in love with you I am. You are never gone for long, but those moments are always tough for me. I would like you to know that I appreciate you in all forms. Sure some people may call you carbs or some other nonsensical terms, but I know it’s you. How do I love thee? Well, let me count the ways.

Let’s be honest, you are breakfast. Eggs and bacon are wonderful things but they are the flashy superstars of breakfast. If breakfast were a football team, you would be the offensive line. Going to battle every single morning in a thankless way. There would be no breakfast sandwich without you, there would be nothing to shovel our food together with. Bread, you are undervalued for all you do in the waffle, pancake, and muffin categories. It is you all along bread. You.

People laugh at me when I double up on an order of you for breakfast (Challah bread French Toast with a side of Rye Toast) but they don’t understand us and the way we work. They think that since you are both toast, you must be the same. I think not. Do they put syrup on rye toast? Do they put jelly on French Toast? Of course not. To call these 2 items the same would be like saying Bed Bath & Beyond is the same as Target.

And if I want to order pancakes and crepes with a side of German pancakes on the side, I will do so. Ya know why? Because those are all different kinds of you. You are so multi-faceted bread. How do you do it?

I know when my love affair started with you. It was in the kitchen of the Boehmcke household in the carb filled weekends of my youth; weekends that I thought were normal up until others called into question those most sacred family traditions.

It would start on a Friday night. As you remember, Friday nights in our house were Pizza night. Dad would bring home a pie from Umberto’s and Angoletto and what started as ½ of 1 slice, slowly evolved to a whole slice, and then 2, and sometimes 3. You worked so hard to keep that cheese and sauce on top of you. You did such a good job.  Every Friday night you made the weekend happen.

Saturday mornings Dad would again supply our home with bread – rolls from the local bakery. I would slather you with enough butter to grease a jet engine and consume you in 5 bites. You were light and fluffy and sometimes sprinkled with seeds.

Sometimes you would work double duty, serving as a lunch transportation vessel as well. Oh how well mustard would coat your airy interior. Hams, cheeses, vegetables, they all worked so well within you. How did you get so good at working with all foods? You are a master of teamwork bread. Damn your perfect social skills.

Sunday Mornings you arrived in a more robust form. Bagels. A dozen from the local favorite. Oh how varied and different you could appear. Covered in poppies, sesames, or infused with raisins, or dark as night in that rebel known as pumpernickel. HOW DO YOU DO IT?

Cream cheese, butter, peanut butter, you accepted all friends. You were so mother *#(@$@# tasty! I can toast you, though most times I opt not to as I am opposed to tanning and feel you should be the same. You don’t need to change for me bread. I have experimented with the many kinds of bagels you explore, except everything of course, but I don’t fault you for that will love you fresh, I will love you stale. I’m not sure what happens to you outside of the New York Area, but you don’t taste quite the same. Perhaps because you don’t feel like quite yourself.

Maybe that’s why I indulge so intensely in you here. Your bagelocity is brilliant.
One for breakfast, one for lunch and perhaps part of one to help with dinner where you had already arrived…

As pasta! Yes you remember Sunday night pasta nights in our house. Covered in marina sauce you worked your skinny, many faceted shape to the best of your ability. You really did the trick. You said, “Rich, this is home, this is love.” Or something like that.

And I know the whole time you were wondering to yourself bread, is this boy an athlete? Does he run marathons? Does he expend great amount of energy lifting heavy weights above his head for long periods of time?

Of course not bread, I just love you.

And it is from those weekends in my house to my life today that I embrace you so tightly. I would gladly lay down on a bed of sour dough and wrap myself in a warm tortilla before laying my head upon a fluffy soft biscuit. You have treated me better than any woman I have ever known. You have never made me feel guilty or wrong.

Sure a couple of times you have made me nauseous. And I will admit I have nobody to blame for that except myself. I tried to force too much of you in myself. It is not my fault, I have 3 stomachs. One for food, one for dessert, and one exclusively for you bread. You have your own place in my heart. Well, I mean, and stomach too.

Thank you for being a part of my past. And please know you always be a part of my future, regardless of what that $*(@)%!# Dr. Atkins says.

Love Always,


Sunday, January 9, 2011

How to Become Your Mother in 5 Easy Steps

I do many things that I am not aware of.  And many of these things aren’t normal things to do. They aren’t big things, in fact they are small things, almost inconsequential. And they are things that probably would otherwise go unnoticed were it not for the fact that people regularly point them out to me.

And when I try to consider why I do them, all I know is they have something to do with my mother.

I will be doing something that I do regularly when somebody will say, hey Rich, why are you doing that? And then I will freeze… because I don’t have an answer.

The answer is of course that my mom did this thing, and hence, now I do it. And god willing, one day my children will absorb the same thing through osmosis.

I now present you 5 ways in which I have become my mother. (And you can too if you’d like.)

5. Candles in my apartment.

Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that my mother had a smelly teenage boy in the house, or maybe it was just her affinity for the combination of wax and flame, but our home always had many candles. And we often burned several of those candles in our house at the same time.

It was kind of well known amongst friends that our house smelled so good. In fact I had one friend who used to ring my doorbell just so that she could stick her face in the door and smell my house when I answered.

Naturally I now posses candles. I have a candle for my living room, 2 for my bedroom, 1 for my bathroom, and a whole bag of votives. If you didn’t know any better you might think I was well set for a séance or an exorcism.

But usually I only light them all when I have people over for a party, which is kind of like an exorcism… of sobriety.

4. Wiping down the shower walls.

I am fortunate enough that I have many friends who let me stay at their apartment either because I am visiting them or I am too lazy to go home. But in all of those apartments that I have stayed, and all of their showers that I have used, I have never in my life, seen a shower squeegee.

The shower squeegee was a staple in my bathroom growing up. When you are done showering, you wipe down the walls. Its just what  you do. I have had people staying at my apartment hear me wiping down the walls and wonder aloud:

What are you doing in there?
I’m wiping down the walls.
Um, well, because my mom told me to when I was 7 and, and I just haven’t stopped.

I believe the appropriate answer is to prevent shower mold but this apparently was not of a concern to any of my friends’ families growing up. Was shower mold something that only affected the Boehmcke household? Can’t be… right?

3. The toilet paper roll.

Now this is the most trivial of items. This is so trivial that I feel almost embarrassed to mention it. Apparently when you replace an empty roll of toilet paper (and you do replace empty rolls when its your turn don’t you? You better… you shlub you.) with a new one. It is imperative that you replace it in a manner that makes the toilet paper come over the top of the roll, and not under it.

Why, you ask? Well the easy answer is:

I have no god damn idea.

But that is the way it was done in my house, and that is what my mother told me was right. So naturally, when somebody visits my apartment and replaces the toilet paper upside down, I am compelled to replace it correctly.

It is not because I am anal about the way my apartment is, or I am OCD. I am neither of those things. But something about an upside down roll of toilet paper just screams transgression to me and I cannot find peace (which is an important thing for me to be able to find in the bathroom of my own home) until that toilet paper violation has been rectified.

2. Jellies in the Fridge

So generally my fridge is pretty empty. Not because I don’t eat – I do, and quite regularly – but because I have no idea how to keep food in that fridge. As I have chronicled here, I have had issues grocery shopping and choosing food items to possess.

Growing up my mother always had no less than 3 different kinds of jellies in the fridge, often including the crazy party cousin of jellies, the marmalade.

Surely one jelly would have been enough, and would be enough for most people. Well not for my family. And it was something I regularly made fun of my mother for.

Well jump to today and my fridge will often be empty except for several different varieties of jelly hanging out on the door.

It’s not even that I am so in love with jelly, I mean I liked it growing up. But the amount of time I spend in the jelly aisle of the grocery store rivals the time most people spend purchasing their first home.

I have opened my fridge and felt disappointment, ACTUAL disappointment that I have only one jelly. I don’t know why I do it, all I can say is it just feels right.

1. Cleaning and then dimming the lights

It constantly confused me growing up, that when my parents were getting ready to entertain and have people over, we would have to spend the whole day cleaning the house, only to have them close the doors to our rooms and then dim the lights to the rest of the house before the guests arrived.

Well hell, if we were going to close the doors and dim the lights, why the hell did I spend 4 hours cleaning my room in the first place? I mean we could have just left things as they were and lit a couple candles and nobody would have known the difference.

And yet, when I had people over recently, I spent a day and a half cleaning my apartment only to dim the lights, replace the toilet paper roll, and light candles before my guests arrived.

But I have a feeling I am too deep into these routines to cease them. So it looks like I am bound to keep buying jellies 3 at a time and wiping down my shower walls. And even if I find out that does not prevent shower mold at all… good luck trying to stop me.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Signs of New Times

I am a person that believes that it is possible to convey a message with very few words. Granted this does not mean that I always am an economist of words. I understand I can be rather loquacious. But I think this qualifies me to recognize when more words are not needed, or when some words are possibly redundant.

Recently I have come across some instructions, signs, and messaging that could have, perhaps, used a bit of assistance in hitting their intended goal.

I was in a shoe store recently, one of those self serve kinds where you have to comb through the aisles amidst boxes and boxes of shoes that may or may not be in your size. I pulled a pair out in my size and noticed in the lower right hand corner a sentence that kind of threw me.

Average contents? I believe that when purchasing shoes, I shouldn’t have to be working with the law of averages. If I buy a pair of shoes, I don’t want there to be a “good chance” I’m going to get both of them.

And I know I am the worst person on the planet to be pulling apart math theories here, but as I understand it,  average means that (in this particular case) there are some shoe boxes that have 1 shoe, and some shoe boxes that have 3 shoes. And I’m not sure if you’ve ever seen a shoebox before, but they tend to only fit 2 shoes at a time. So that would mean that there would have to be 2 regular sized shoes and like… a Barbie shoe.

I have no use for Barbie shoes, nor am I in the habit of purchasing them. I would prefer that my shoe boxes contain 2 human shoes… definitely.

Something I don’t have an average need for is donuts. My need for donuts is something many people know about. I don’t believe I have a sweet tooth I just enjoy eat 3 or 4 donuts in a sitting. Does that mean I have a sweet tooth? I don’t personally think so.

But the signs that donut shops put up really crack me up, and not just because they seem to state ridiculous facts, but also because they are written with ridiculous grammar.

Like this one.
Not accepting over a 20 dollar bill seems like maybe it is not a great idea. I mean sure, if I go in and try to buy 5 munchkins with a Benjamin, yea, that doesn’t make sense. But what if I want to buy 5 HUNDRED munchkins. Am I really going to have to pay with 20s?

And the not selling the empty cup. I mean, you have to have some pretty stupid customers who are looking for a cup full of nothing. And if they are so stupid as to want to purchase an empty cup, well, I mean I think you should let them. When did we decide to be against accepting money from strangers?

Like the 99 cent store in my town. It is a store so jammed with junk that you could probably buy cotton swabs, electrical sockets, and a sled all on the same shelf.

On the nicer days, they display some of their crap outside of the store that you can purchase. It was on just such a day that I noticed they had some very inexpensive books for sale. But their pricing structure confused me.

First of all, a 99 cent store selling anything for more than a dollar seems like cause for a lawsuit, but I will let that slide for the moment. What I am most curious to is how they came up with their price. Does the $1.17 price have something to do with the 12 per customer limit? Are they somehow opposed to:

A. Selling all of their products?
B. Making more than $14.04 per customer?

Is there some crazy tax law at play here? This really doesn’t seem like the establishment to be capping their business. I don’t really see them expanding their empire anytime soon… Unless of course the smell of asbestos and claustrophobia make a huge comeback in popularity.

On the same day I frequented my 99 cent store, I also walked past a construction site that was nearing completion. Construction sites are usually a mess of safety cones, and signs, and warnings. I don’t pay too much attention to them, but on this recent day there was one that was for some reason on a golden sign that said:

The mystery and sheer ambiguity of this sign really peaked my interest. The number is important yes. Absolutely. But in case of necessity? I mean, why else would I call?

Hello this is the necessity hotline, is this a necessity?
What? Oh no no, I’m just calling to say hey.
Oh I’m sorry sir, this line is only for necessary phone calls. You’re going to have to hang up.
But wait, I really want to talk to you, and if I don’t call you it is not possible to do so. So in that regard this is kind of necessary.
Oh… well.. I never thought about it that way. Continue on then.

I can’t even wrap my brain around the need for this sign. That’s like putting “Please don’t prank call my phone” on your business card. It almost begs that people do so. I wanted to call that number on the sign just to find out what their definition of necessity was.

Perhaps if they put a limit on the average necessity I was allowed, that would have made it clearer.