Thursday, September 28, 2006

Duck Season…Rabbit Season….

Ask people to name their favorite season and you’ll get as many responses as there are times of year.

I used to like Indian Summer and January Thaw the best (yes, those ARE official seasons…). I liked them because they were unexpected flickers of warmth in the middle of times that are supposed to be chillier. But now I have a new favorite:

Apple season.

Of course you can’t grow up in this Valley without apple memories. You can’t hurl a fallen Winesap without hitting an orchard and a “pick your own” sign. The love affair begins early – fresh cider from the farmer’s market, the yearly expedition to the nearest orchard to climb trees and eat McIntoshes until your belly gets sore, the smell of Mom’s apple cake fresh from the oven, calling everyone to the table for dinner.

But apples were such a fact of life, a fact of Fall, that I always took them for granted.

This sea change occurred on a sparkly warm afternoon a couple weeks back when I was driving home from an appointment in Stone Ridge (an area with an especially high concentration of orchards). I was feeling especially in need of comfort.

And I looked to the side of the road and on one of these “pick your own” signs were the magic words.

“The Honeycrisps are in!”

I popped on my turn signal.

They were heavy, and smelled sweet, and after I filled my bag and paid, I asked the proprietress for a napkin because one of these beauties wasn’t going to survive the trip home.

The rest of them didn’t hang around too long, either.

Apparently, whatever weather conditions are supposed exist in order to make a fine crop existed. I’ve tried several varieties and haven’t had a bad one yet.

And don’t even get me started on the Macouns.

As some of you know, this is my favorite apple. Beyond the thin skin and their crispy sweet-tartness is the shortness of the season, which makes them all the sweeter. Ditto clementines and Vidalia onions. In this age of trucking produce all over the country and flying it across the planet via cold storage and pesticides and wax coatings, it’s hard to find any produce that has a limited availability and this is one of them.

Excuse me. I’m off to buy some more.

Monday, September 25, 2006

A Shot in the Dark

I’m back on my feet, and off my back, after having been punctured in many places with a local anesthetic then shot full of some kind of steroid-like substance, not just once, but three times. A row of three perfectly placed bandages along my lumbar spine.

According to the (altogether too brief) literature I was handed before my “procedure,” some people get relief right away but others could take a week to ten days before full results are reached.

I still feel the same. I guess I’m just one of those people.

At least the pain in my lower back is not any worse. But I’ve picked up some other things along the way. Namely a little blip in my hormone levels that’s having undesirable effects like disturbing my sleep and making me want to cry every other minute, then eat carbohydrates like mad. And I’m still shaking off the stiffness that results from three days spent mostly on my back.

The latter I would not try at home. Unless you have your walking parts encased in plaster or you have the flu or some other nasty malady. Each morning you wake up with a backache from hell, and the dread that you are only getting up in order to lie down again. Your legs get wobbly. And boredom? Do you want to talk about boredom?

No. It’s pretty boring. And baseball on the radio, to paraphrase a much loftier phrase, is only half a game. And the best part? This was only meant to be a diagnostic procedure. If it works, then I have to do it again in a few weeks.

But let’s leave the dark side for now and look toward the light.

It’s over.

The bandages are off.

I have the “green light” to resume all normal activities.

Now, what were they again?

I think I used to do something. There was a lot of walking involved. And stretching. And driving to and fro from medical appointments to pharmacies.

And yes!

There was writing. And hopefully, when the meat of this juice kicks in, there will be more writing.

Hopefully about something other than medical procedures.

But unfortunately now I have to write about this one.

I wanted to say it was a bit like an assembly line – the guy does from 11 to 18 “procedures” a day, I’m told – but reviewing the play with that black drape over my head, I’d liken it more to idling in line at the car wash. Someone comes to your window, finds out what you want, and he writes the code in soap on your windshield. When your turn comes, you put the car in neutral and you are hustled in, prepped, sprayed, sponged, rinsed, heat-blasted, then you pop out the other side, dripping from the fenders and feeling a bit disoriented.

Yeah, that’s more like it. And also according to this literature, I was supposed to be offered aromatherapy or soothing music if I so desired, to relax me for the procedure. But I was catalogued, marked, prepped, then surprised with the first of six rather deep jabs of local anesthetic, shot with steroids then back in recovery before I had the chance to say, “A little Anya if you have it might be nice.” Husband says I still have a bit of writing on my back. A bit of it came off with the first bandage: “RLS” in relief like a Silly Putty impression on the sticky part. (Is there a real term for this part of an adhesive bandage? Other than the “sticky part” and the pad?)

I think it stands for “Right Lumbar-Sacral” meaning that when I popped into the spray-and-wash cycle, I was meant to get a bunch of shots on the right side of my back from L1 to S1. I think. So I wouldn’t be mistaken for the other five people waiting to be relieved of their pain and get a shot in the shoulder or something. But to be written on then sent into the hopper disturbed me a bit. Considering also that the doctor is a Russian Jew. You’d think he’d be a little sensitive to having his patients tattooed like that.

Reducing them to a series of letters.

I hope it washes off soon.

Maybe it’s meant to be the measure of the effectiveness of the shots. When the tattoo comes off, you’re done.

I’m still waiting.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

"Back" in a Flash

I'll be out of commission for a few days, recovering from a minor procedure (A diagnostic right lumbar facet nerve block, for those of you who are into medical jargon).

Type at you soon.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

What You're Probably Not Watching

I was never much of a KISS fan. But if you appreciate a bit of comic irony kitsch, then you’ve got to check out “Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels.” No, I’m not talking about his, um, package. It’s a half-hour reality show about this KISS member’s current family and professional life. And it’s funny as hell.

It’s what the Osbournes wanted to be, except it’s funnier, more coherent, less pathetic, and there’s much less swearing. Gene Simmons may have taken off the makeup and platform boots, but he’s turned KISS into an industry. He’s smart, sober, focused and is always selling himself or the band’s mystique in some creative way. And apparently this has made him very, very rich. He’s been living in a swanky house in Pasadena with Playboy model Shannon Tweed for the past 23 years, and they have two children, Nick, 17 and Sophie, 13.

The best parts, I think, are his interactions with his family. The kids are smart and funny and don’t take their famous Dad seriously. Shannon and the kids are continually rolling their eyes behind Gene’s back or keeping him humble when he gets too full of himself.

The editing flips between Gene out in the world, some kind of scene at home, and the “couch” scenes, which are quick comic snaps a lot like those scenes in “Family Guy” where you look up and think, “did they just say...?” With a rinky-dink 50s TV soundtrack playing in the background (that you will never be able to get out of your head), some combination of family members are sitting on the couch dishing on Dad.

For instance, in one episode, Gene decides to produce an exercise video called “Sexercise,” in which hot, barely dressed women perform a Jane Fonda-esque aerobic routine which is more “Barbarella” than “On Golden Pond.” But first he has to audition the women. Coincidentally, Sophie is writing a paper for school about what one of her parents does at his or her job. Gene invites her to the auditions. Shannon doesn’t find out about this until Sophie tells him afterward, and she’s livid. But then enlists Sophie in a scheme to get Gene back. She is to ask Dad to give her the “birds and bees” lecture. And he freaks out. He can’t do it. Shannon calls him on his double-standard about his expectations for his daughter’s sex life versus his son’s. He’s so embarrassed that he calls Planned Parenthood and offers to film a public service announcement about safe sex. Interspersed with take after take of him trying to get it right are couch segments. One of which has the kids on the couch, and Nick says, “Having Dad do a PSA about safe sex is like having Barney selling beer to kids.”

In another, Gene has to put on his old KISS gear for some kind of heavy-metal tribute show. They go back and forth from his preparations to the family’s reaction. One couch moment has Shannon and Sophie sitting together. Sophie asks, “Mom, what did you think when you saw Dad in his makeup and costume for the first time?” One beat of silence. Then Shannon says, “I thought Paul was cuter.” The last scene has Gene, in full regalia, sitting on the couch next to Nick. They are totally deadpan for a good few seconds, and then Nick offers himself up to any nice family who would like to adoption him.

And each episode only gets funnier.

Check it out on A&E Monday nights at 10:00 EST. And I hear it will be coming out on DVD soon.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

A Short Musing on Men and Women

This is why Kurt Vonnegut is among my favorite writers. Here is a quote from “A Man Without A Country:”

“Freud said he didn’t know what women wanted. I know what women want: a whole lot of people to talk to. What do they want to talk about? They want to talk about everything. What do men want? They want lots of pals, and they wish people wouldn’t get so mad at them.”

I’ve taken a short poll (insert your own joke here; I’m tired) and found this to be generally true. This is probably why you’ll never find a male version of “The View” or “Oprah.” Yes, there’s Dr. Phil and that new guy who promises to be the young Dr. Phil, but who’s in the audience? Women. Who buys books about relationships? Women. Men just seem to want someone to figure it all out and then tell them what to do. Which is why women tend to be the ones who plan the bulk of the wedding. Which is why you don’t hear too many man say, “Honey, why don’t we try couples counseling?” Which, in my opinion, is all well and good. Everyone needs to have a role in life. We could go on and on about this Mars/Venus thing but when you get right down to the nuts and bolts of it, there is a reason why there are nuts and bolts. Men and women complement each other.

And our orbits are closer together than a lot of people think. For instance, who doesn’t want:

1. Someone to love.
2. Someone who will tell you when you have something stuck in your teeth.
3. Someone who will get all excited for you when you’ve done something good.
4. Someone who will still love you when you’ve done something bad.

OK, a dog can do a lot of these things (save for the stuff stuck in your teeth), but a dog won’t laugh at your jokes or buy you your favorite treat if they happen to be near the place that sells your favorite treats.

We all want love (even if we claim we don’t), we all want praise, we all want comfort, we want someone who will watch our backs.

And I think Freud didn’t know what women wanted because he was too full of himself to ask. If he asked, she’d probably say, “What I want is for you to stop talking about sex, you misogynistic old fart, and do the dishes once in a while. And another thing…”

And then he’d go out and find his pals and go to some place that doesn’t allow women so he won’t get yelled at anymore.

Friday, September 15, 2006

24 Fun Things To Do In An Elevator

It's one of those achy, cranky days and I'm having technical difficulties on all fronts, and also drafting two articles for publication. So I'm pseudo-blogging and passing these along courtesy of Comedy Central. Wish I could claim credit, as some of them are pretty amusing. Especially #2. I always thought this would be the worst possible torture device...

24 Fun Things To Do In An Elevator...

1. Grimace painfully while smacking your forehead and muttering: "Shut up, dammit, all of you just shut UP!"
2. Whistle the first seven notes of "It's a Small World" incessantly.
3. Crack open your briefcase or purse, and while peering inside ask: "Got enough air in there?"
4. Offer name tags to everyone getting on the elevator. Wear yours upside-down.
5. Stand silent and motionless in the corner, facing the wall, without getting off.
6. When arriving at your floor, grunt and strain to yank the doors open, then act embarrassed when they open by themselves.
7. Greet everyone getting on the elevator with a warm handshake and ask them to call you Admiral.
8. On the highest floor, hold the door open and demand that it stay open until you hear the penny you dropped down the shaft go "plink" at the bottom.
9. Stare, grinning, at another passenger for a while, and then announce: "I've got new socks on!"
10. When at least 8 people have boarded, moan from the back: "Oh, no, not now, damn motion sickness!"
11. Meow occasionally.
12. Holler "Chutes away!" whenever the elevator descends.
13. Walk on with a cooler that says "human head" on the side.
14. Stare at another passenger for a while, then announce "You're one of THEM!" and move to the far corner of the elevator.
15. Wear a puppet on your hand and talk to other passengers "through" it.
16. When the elevator is silent, look around and ask, "is that your beeper?"
17. Say "Ding!" at each floor.
18. Say "I wonder what all these do" and push the red buttons.
19. Listen to the elevator walls with a stethoscope.
20. Draw a little square on the floor with chalk and announce to the other passengers that this is your "personal space."
21. Announce in a demonic voice: "I must find a more suitable host body."
22. Make explosion noises when anyone presses a button.
23. Wear "X-Ray Specs" and leer suggestively at other passengers.
24. Stop at every floor, run off the elevator, then run back on.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

What The Photographer's Wife Saw

I wrote the first draft of this piece shortly after 9/11, based on a conversation I had with a photographer I knew. They lived in Albany, and while his wife was taking the kids to school, she had seen one of the planes that left from Logan Airport bound for the World Trade Center as it banked in Albany and headed south. The rest I made up. I'd intended it to be part of a series, cataloguing a number of different perspectives on the day, but never got around to completing it. Yesterday I needed to tell a different story, but I wanted to share this today.


For a moment, for a sliver of a moment, everything in Amy’s life was perfect. The kids were in the car, dressed (finally) for the first day of school, strapped and buckled and quiet, if only for that moment. She looked up at the unbroken dome of blue sky and took a deep breath of that last-of-summer air and realized that it had been a long time since she did that, just stopped. Stopped and noticed and appreciated what was around her. The dawning of a new day, three healthy children, a husband whose favorite part of his job was when the shoot was over and he could come home to his family. She was too busy finding lost binkies and matching up shoes and doing laundry and answering the millions of calls for “Mommy” that she got every day, even more so now that her husband the photographer was off on more and more shoots that lasted a full day, two days, three.

“We gotta take advantage of this weather,” he’d said. “And the money.” He just shrugged. And so did she. God knows they needed the money. With winter coming and the house growing smaller and the children growing bigger.

But Amy liked this house. When they moved in, just her and Bill and Teddy, with Becky on the way, it was perfect. In a perfect neighborhood close enough to the criss-crossing thoroughfares of Albany – eastward to Boston, southbound paralleling the Hudson River to Manhattan - so they could be on their way to wherever they needed but far enough away so the hum of traffic faded into a blur. Faded into the omnipresent melody of her day – whirs of electrical appliances, the bright, tinkly sounds of children’s television channels, the hum of the car engine, the cries of “Mommy,” weaving over and under, the leitmotiv of her life.


The sky was so beautiful…


Damn. “What, Becky?”

“Don’t want these shoes.”

Becky hated shoes.

Amy sighed. “We’ve been through this, Miss Rebecca. Remember? Big girls who go to school keep their shoes on all day.”

“Don’t wanna go to school.”

God, why couldn’t Bill be here for this? Their only daughter starting kindergarten and he should have been home to see her off. Also, Becky adored her daddy and would do anything he said. Bill just had that way about him. But they needed the money. He couldn’t miss the shoot. “But honey, just yesterday you told Daddy how much you really wanted to go to school.”

Becky’s face was turning red. Oh, God. “No school! No school!”

Now she’d gotten the other kids started chanting it, too. Teddy, who was starting first grade, and even baby Max, who could barely gum the syllables and wasn’t going anywhere except back home with her.

She mustered together all of her patience. Kept her voice quiet. Everybody always told her it was more effective than yelling. “We’re going to school. Teddy, Becky, no more of this now. We. Are. Going. To. School.”

Silence. My God. It worked. Three little faces just stared at her. With a triumphant smile, Amy slipped behind the wheel and started the engine.

“But I’m taking them off when I come home,” Becky said.

“That’s fine.”

She peeked at the gas gauge and rolled her eyes. Damn. The needle was floating just a smidge above empty. That’s what she was supposed to do yesterday. Fill the tank. Now she had to stop, fill up, hope the kids didn’t start in again. Why, why, couldn’t Bill have been here this morning?

Driving to the station, she realized that his being home couldn’t have done anything about gas magically getting into the tank, but at least she’d feel more at ease.

“Kindergarten baby,” Teddy said to Becky.

“Am not!”

Oh, no. It had taken her twenty minutes yesterday to stop this same skirmish.

“Are too!”


“Well, she is.”

“Did you like it when the big kids called you that last year?”

He let out his breath. “No.”

“Then don’t do it to your sister.”

The gas station loomed ahead of her. She put on her signal.

In the rear view mirror she saw Teddy start to sidle toward his sister. “You even say it, young man, and no TV tonight.”

Teddy grumbled himself into silence.

A knot of dread formed in Amy’s stomach as she pulled into the station. Was this how it was going to be every September? Last year was easy. Teddy was excited and proud to start kindergarten, and Becky adored nursery school, mostly because they had snack time and the teacher let her take off her shoes. Now it would be two of them, acting up because during the summer they’d let normal routines go to hell, and in a few years, Max, too – stop this, she warned herself. Your little girl is starting kindergarten. Just try to live for today.

She got out of the car and swiped her little pass over the electronic eye. Whoever invented these things must have had mothers in mind. And once she felt the surge of the gas pouring into her tank, again she took a moment to appreciate the perfect blue of the sky.

Then she saw the plane.

She saw a lot of planes, it was no big deal, as they lived close to the Albany airport and were on the flight paths of anything coming west from Boston or north from the New York airports to see them crossing all the time.

But there was something about this one. Something wrong. The banking was strange. It was sharp, and low, as it swung from westbound to south. God, was it going to crash? Right in front of her children? She’d had nightmares of planes crashing, but she’d read in some women’s magazine that that was a common dream for mothers, symbolizing fears that something horrible would happen. She remembered that awful plane crash from a few years back, the one in the Everglades, where the plane went down nose first and plunged into the muck and vanished. All she could think about was the people. She prayed that they’d all passed out before contact. Still, it gave her the shivers for weeks.

The plane continued to bank. It wobbled a moment, then righted itself, and continued south toward New York, straight and smooth. Amy let out her breath.


Amy was still watching the perfect blue sk , marred only by the vapor trail of the disappearing plane.

“Mommy, Max dropped his binkie.”

She watched until the plane dissolved out of view. “Well, get it for him.”

“But I’m all buckled!”

Damn, that was right. Everybody strapped in safe. “Just a minute,” she said. Amy took her receipt and screwed the gas cap back in place, then checked on the children. Max was asleep, happily drooling against his car seat.

“He’s sleeping, honey,” Amy said. “Let’s wait until we get to school, OK?”

“But it’ll get dirty!” Becky said.

“I’ll wash it when we get home. Don’t worry, it’ll be OK.”

And she got back in the car, and started the engine, and took her children to school, and didn’t think about the plane again.

Until she got home and turned on the television.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Day The World Stopped

On that clear, perfectly blue September morning I had agreed (or, more accurately, my boss had asked me to agree) to meet Doug, our Facilities Manager, in the front parking lot at 8:45. We were to drive to our other factory in Garfield, New Jersey, where the better part of a run of a new linear lighting fixture had been set up in the showroom, just waiting for me to art direct and shoot. Doug would assemble and reassemble as needed, and Ron, an engineer who worked in Garfield, had been volunteered to be our hand model. The final images would be used in a “how to install” guide we were to develop but contractors would probably never use because contractors hardly ever use installation instructions. Regardless, we were taking Doug’s minivan because he had room for the 8’ fixture samples we were going to need to complete the run…and my little rusted out Toyota could neither fit an 8’ fixture sample nor Doug, who is not exactly petite.

He is not exactly chatty, nor am I. We’d taken several trips to Garfield together, and after a few obligatory exchanges about what Husband was up to or how his kids were doing in college, we’d sink into collegial silence and listen to the radio.

I’d come in early that morning to gather up the notes from the pre-shoot meeting, the spec sheets we’d already developed for the product, and various other files I thought we would need. I was just about to go downstairs and meet Doug but at about 8:40, I started getting this odd, almost queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach and hunted about for some Rolaids. This made me a couple of minutes late, and Doug was idling by the front door, loading the last of the samples into the back of his van.

“Well, at least the trip down should be entertaining,” he said, grinning (sometimes hard to discern through his full red beard and mustache). “I just heard on the radio that some yahoo crashed his plane into the Trade Center. They’ll be talking about it all morning.”

“Great,” I said, having images of one of those prop jobs gone awry.

It wasn’t until we got on the road that we heard what really happened. Only one tower had been struck so far. We skipped our normal obligatory exchanges and went right to the silence, riveted to the radio.

It wasn’t bad enough yet to consider turning back.

And then it got worse.

He worried about his daughter, whom he’d just driven to Pratt the weekend before. I worried about my younger brother, who was working in Manhattan.

We couldn’t reach either of them by cell phone. We couldn’t reach either factory, or my boss, who was working from home that day. We couldn’t reach anyone.

We were nearly to the Woodbury exit on the Thruway when the second tower fell.

“I’m turning back,” Doug said. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel like working today.”

I agreed, the tiny queasiness in my stomach growing into full-on carsickness. I opened the window. We were also hearing speculations of roads and bridges closing all around the tri-state area.

We returned to the Highland factory to find cars streaming out of the parking lot, shocked looks on faces.

And our usual receptionist wasn’t at the front desk. Instead, Cathy, the Human Resources Manager, was filling in. She told us what was happening. Icy cool as always, under any condition, she’d just announced a few minutes earlier that anyone who felt they needed to leave – particularly people who had to cross bridges or drive long distances or wanted to pick up their children from school – could go.

I went upstairs to find my boss’s assistant, Janice, in a full-on panic. “We’re under attack!” she yelled, throwing things into her purse. “Oh my God, we’re under attack!!”

Janice had been in the military.

“I might never get home! I have to cross the bridge! Oh, my God! We’re at war!!”

And then Janice was gone.

Meanwhile, I stayed. I called Husband. I called my whole family. I tried my brother again. I asked Husband to keep trying his number. And finally, finally, word came, via my mother. Who’d gotten a call somehow, someway, that just said, “I’m OK.”

Breathing a little easier, I started calmly gathering my own things. I didn’t have to cross a bridge or travel a long distance or pick up kids out of school. I just wanted to be home, with my husband.

Work wasn’t that important.

Then my boss called. She needed me to draft a press release. Something to go out to all of our reps that we’re all fine, and our NYC reps are fine (crap, I hadn’t even thought about them, with their offices almost in the shadow of the towers) and that we were closing for the day.

I took her dictation, then directions as she walked me through the process of sending a batch e-mail to all of our representatives.

And then I went home. One of the last to leave.

Husband and I were riveted to the television. Those images, over and over and over.
In the following days (Do you remember those, when everyone was nice to everyone else? When no one cut you off in traffic and everyone said please and thank you?) I was almost bursting with the urge to help. I didn’t have much money. I wasn’t physically capable of volunteering to go sift through debris, as some of my neighbors were. So I did what I could. I threw cash at anyone out shaking a can. I donated to the firemen’s fund. And I was determined to give blood. I waited on line for an hour only to be told that I couldn’t be a candidate because of a recent virus. I almost cried.

And the images kept coming. And coming. And then psychologists came on the news and told people not to watch the images so much. And what to tell your children.

And the skies were quiet.

I tried to be normal. I tried to write, but the project I was working on was a comic novel and it felt too irreverent to work on that at the time. How could I feel funny when two hours south of me, thousands of people had lost their lives? I tried to do my job. But the biggest project on my plate was, with the help of a freelancer called in to do the research, to craft articles for our web site about some of our nicer installations. And most them were in the Towers. After the freelancer bailed (“None of the phone numbers were answering, so I didn’t see the point”), I opened JPEG after JPEG. Goldman Sachs. Bear Stearns. Gone. All gone. I couldn’t even let myself think about the people who didn’t work there any more.

The people. I didn’t lose anyone I knew, directly. I knew people who knew people. The mayor of Poughkeepsie lost her husband, who’d gone down that day for a breakfast meeting at Windows on the World.

The stories of survival amazed me. The people who, by some fluke or mix-up or simply because it had been such a beautiful September day, didn’t make it to work on time.
And we’d been in Manhattan a couple of days earlier to see the Blue Man group. We were in Grand Central, we took the subway downtown, the city was mobbed. What if it had happened then?

And the question nobody dared to ask and the one we’re still asking, five years later:

Will it happen again?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

What Really Scares Me

Let’s leave the poignant remembrances and lessons learned from 9/11 until tomorrow. Ditto the fears of terrorists shoe-bombing my next flight or sprinkling anthrax over my little burg. Today, let’s just have fun.

This is what really scares me:

1. Hillary Clinton in the West Wing and Bill doing interns in the Lincoln Bedroom when he gets bored with picking new china patterns.

2. That some left-wing nut really will assassinate Bush and we’ll be left with Dick Cheney as president.

3. Running out of toilet paper.

4. That Pauly Shore and Vanilla Ice will surface as “C” list celebrities in a new reality show, revealing that Vanilla Ice has undergone so much plastic surgery that he now looks like Michael Jackson used to.

5. That really weird overgrown bush in our back field that in the mist looks like a giant, rearing grizzly bear.

6. That without the Palladinos at the helm, the Gilmore Girls will suck, have their time slot changed, try a desperate attempt to gain viewership with stunt casting, then fade into oblivion.

7. That Joan Rivers died from a plastic surgery gone wrong, and for the last few years, an animatronic version of her has been appearing with Melissa to dish on the red carpet before award shows.

8. That Callard and Bowser will stop making ginger Altoids.

9. That the “Very Brady Wedding” won’t take and we’ll have to endure an entire season of the “Very Brady Divorce,” which will involve extended scenes of the Christopher Knight begging Adrianne to take him back, crying, going to therapy and getting drunk off his ass with Bobby and Cindy.

10. That people will continue to write “As Laurence Sanders” in the “Archibald MacNally” series. Please. Let Archie be shot by a jealous husband or drug smuggler, or be killed by cirrhosis of the liver or from driving his little red Miata a tad too fast through the Everglades or from some other consequence of his playboy detective lifestyle. Let it GO already.

11. The Jon Benet Ramsey story will never, ever go away. Every few months or so, some other attention-starved pedophile will admit to the deed, and we’ll have to see that tragic baby beauty-queen photo over and over and over…

12. OJ will find God and admit that he killed Nicole. He’ll go into conference with Jesse Jackson, then spin the story as another attempt by the white man to reinforce black stereotypes. Or he’ll say he was off his meds at the time. No one will care except Oprah and the major publishers, who will fall all over themselves to offer him a budget-busting advance to write his memoir. It will be vetted and found full of “untruths,” then remaindered in a month. OJ will bunk in with Michael Jackson in his villa in Qatar and never be heard from again. Meanwhile, publishers will have no money left to spend on new novelists.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Strange Building Codes

I am remiss in commenting on Superfiancee’s quite thorough answer to my blog about public restroom building codes. I was going to say that I was astounded that the codes did exist and were so elaborate (and impressed at her knowledge), but then I remembered the years I spent in the lighting industry (huh, must have blocked it out there for a…few months or so) and the bizarre codes our builders had to deal with. To wit (trivia buffs and those who bore easily with technical details take heed):

Blame this one on Mrs. O’Leary’s cow. In the Windy City, there is a construction code that requires that all recessed lighting be constructed to satisfy “Chicago Plenum” restrictions.

The “plenum” is the space between the ceiling and the floor above it (or roof, if it’s a single-floor structure) The “guts” of the lighting (along with the house wiring, the plumbing and air conditioning and heating ducts, etc.) are installed into the plenum space.

If you’ve never seen the guts of a recessed lighting fixture before, which is what goes on above the cone where the bulb gets screwed into (I’m so wanting right now to throw in a few of the eight million or so light bulb jokes I know, but I’ll save that for another day) is (on most light fixtures) an open, galvanized metal framework with a yoke to which is attached the cone (often called the reflector) and the actual light socket. A ballast or transformer (if you’re using metal halide or fluorescent lighting) is attached to this yoke or to the metal frame, basically wherever it fits or wherever UL regulations tell you it should be placed. If it’s an incandescent bulb (like the ones used in most houses), you don’t need a transformer or ballast. The wiring from the fixture just attaches to the household wiring (and I’m so damned impressed with myself that I know which wire connects to which other wire) then you stick the whole thing in the ceiling in such a way that hopefully it won’t fall and conk someone on the head who will sue you.

Anyway, if you are constructing a light fixture that will be installed in a building in Chicago (I’ve only dealt with commercial buildings; not sure if this is a residential requirement as well), the whole metal dealie above the ceiling must be fully enclosed in a metal box (except for the tiny holes allowed for proper ventilation) to reduce fire hazard. The main problem lies in the plenum space that putting a box big enough to enclose the fixture takes up. The way construction of a new building often works is that everything else gets built, and usually the ceilings, too, and the lighting goes in last. This is often because of the availability of contractors and union rules and whatever. Electricians are expensive so contractors don’t, say, put in the main wiring, hang around drinking coffee and eating donuts until the construction guys are done with ceilings, etc., then put in the light fixtures. So often contractors don’t know how much plenum space they’ll be dealing with until the building is almost finished. And if the lighting designer or architect has his or her eye on a fixture that’s got a height of 7” and you’ve only got 6” of plenum space, then you have a problem. The other problem is that certain types of fixtures can’t be enclosed per UL regulations, because they give off too much heat. (UL regulations trump all, at least in the US. There are another set of regs in Canada, and Europe, as far as I’ve seen, doesn’t seem to have any restrictions at all) So a good lighting designer should know the codes and know that you can’t use fixtures like these in Chicago. But sometimes building owners decide to go on the cheap and do their own lighting design, and if they pick the wrong fixtures from someone who either doesn’t know they’re for Chicago or doesn’t know the codes, they could be screwed. And in turn, they might try to sue whoever sold them the fixtures.

Another strange thing about Chicago is that to enter the downtown area, you have to drive through an underpass that is not tall enough to accommodate 16-wheelers. So if you’re shipping a bunch of light fixtures (or any construction supplies) for a building that is being constructed downtown, you have to plan to get them there in a smaller vehicle, which could be more expensive and definitely a pain in the neck.

And that’s just Chicago. New York City is a whole other annoying story. And it’s mostly because of the unions. (what else?) This regulation applies to lighting that hangs from the ceiling. Maybe you don’t see the wiring in some of these fixtures: that’s because it’s snaked through the pendant stem. The wires are bundled and covered by a plastic sleeve and together the whole thing is called the cable. You could have from four, up to I think seven wires in the plastic sleeve; four are the absolute minimum to connect to the “house” wiring, and extra wires are used if you want things like dimming capability, if you want to make it an emergency fixture (e.g. it will stay on, powered by its own independent ballast) if the power goes out), or whatever. In New York City, you have to have at least five wires in your cable (and a special ballast) even if you’re installing an average, middle of the run fixture.

Nobody really knows why this is necessary, other than it’s a Union Thing.

The last code (yes, I’m stopping here, since you’ve either glazed over or have gone on to search YouTube for clips from Gilligan’s Island or whatever by now) is in Earthquake Zones. This is the only one that makes logical sense to me. Any suspended light fixture being installed in California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii or Alaska (that’s just the Earthquake Zone areas identified in the US) must have pendants that swivel (special adaptors on either end of the pendant stem make this possible. This reduces the risk of a tremor causing the light fixture to fall and conk someone on the head who will sue you.

And everything in the construction business comes down to not wanting to be sued, doesn’t it?

Friday, September 08, 2006

Tell Me When It's Over

Oh, it’s so hard not to be cynical about politicians. Especially local politicians. The teeny little corner of my heart that can’t get Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” out of my head wants to believe that there’s good in everyone. That the people we elect to represent us are motivated solely by the desire to serve their constituents, and not just in the game for the goodies. You know. The power. The glory. The free postage stamps. But when news like this smacks me in the face, I just can’t help myself.

Two local Republicans, Marc Molinaro and Patrick Manning, are squaring off in primary election for the 103rd district state assembly seat. I normally lean libertarian, but as far as Republicans go, and as far as I’d heard them speak and heard of them, these guys seemed like the best of the bunch. Molinaro, a Dutchess county legislator, is also the mayor of Tivoli, a small town near Bard College (and was the youngest mayor in the United States when he was elected at 19) and always seemed like an earnest and well-intentioned guy. Pat Manning has been a fixture in our district (and from my home town) for years, a 5-term State Assemblyman, always the go-to guy for charity events, and was even allowed to speak on (gasp) WAMC, our local NPR affiliate.

But Pat Manning’s karma has been going from bad to worse.

First, he’d announced that he was going to challenge Elliot Spitzer in the governor’s race. I know Spitzer has done some good things, and he’s probably going to win, because New York is the Bluest of Blue States. But as Attorney General he went after my friend’s husband and his business partner (who’d done no wrong), made it look like they’d lost, through poor investments, the life savings of a bunch of elderly people, and Spitzer basically ruined these two mens’ lives (and got my friend fired). So I have a personal reason not to want Spitzer in that seat. And I liked what I’d heard from Manning, so I was psyched to see him throw his hat into the ring, so to speak.

Then it was leaked that Manning, who’d been in the process of divorcing his wife, was seeing another woman, and he withdrew from the race. Probably the decision had more to do with the fact that he didn’t stand a chance of winning rather than the “scandal” of the extramarital affair that wasn’t, but whatever. He was out.

Now, running for his sixth term, he finds himself in a tough primary battle against Molinaro. And earlier this week, another scandal was in the making: the Molinaro camp had accused Manning of impersonating one of Molinaro’s political consultants in an attempt to discover if Molinaro had been conducting push-polls against Manning’s campaign. Manning admitted the impersonation, because he believed that Molinaro had been push-polling. This is where pollsters ask leading questions to try to spread rumors about the opposition.

Manning claimed that the complaints against him had no legal ground. "I don't know what is the big issue," Manning said to a reporter from the Poughkeepsie Journal. "I've already told the press that I did this."

I’ve seen no comment from Molinaro’s camp except outrage about the impersonation, but I think Manning knows he’s in big trouble. Suddenly, he announces today (with Newsday scooping our local papers, yet) that he’s having surgery later on September 19th to donate blood marrow to a 50-year-old man with leukemia. And then will be leading a drive for other people to become marrow donors. Supposedly, he’s been on the national donor list for the past nine years.

The primary is on Tuesday.

Well, like Bette Davis said in “All About Eve,” “Fasten your seatbelts. I think it’s going to be a bumpy night.”

Fiction Friday

Back from summer vacation...tanned, rested and with its face looking mysteriously's Fiction Friday! Hopefully this will inspire me to keep writing. This is from "The Role Model."

Here's some background: Mostly because he'd been unfaithful, Ted is separated from his wife, Diana. He's living with his friend and co-worker, Mike, who is currently on vacation with his girlfriend. Diana has become the national spokesperson for a major weight-loss program and off on a PR tour. Ted wants to try to get back together with her and have a baby (she'd miscarried their first attempt and they stopped trying) but Diana won't return his calls. Nursing a broken foot from a car accident, alone and feeling sorry for himself, Ted drives to his younger brother's house. He has mixed feelings about his brother (whom he'd helped raise since their father was absent most of their childhood), but has nowhere else to go.


When Ted pulls into the driveway, he sees Billy watering some sparse-looking foundation plantings with the garden hose. He waves out the open window, and his brother bursts into a smile.

“Dude, man. Check you out, back in the saddle again.”

“Yeah.” Ted extracts himself from the car. “It sucked not being able to drive.”

Billy gestures with the dribbling hose. “How’s the foot taking it?”

Ted forces a smile. It still hurts sometimes, especially when he has to shift or brake suddenly. “Great, just great. Doc says after PT I’ll be good as new.”

“Excellent. Good to hear.” Billy is still standing there holding his hose, grinning. Maybe coming here had been a mistake. “Though I gotta tell you, man, I was surprised when you called. But happy. That you wanted to come by. We don’t see enough of you.”

Ted shrugs. “You know how it is. Lifestyles of the rich and famous.”

Billy nods, kind of glazing over. Then seems to snap to attention as if he’d remembered something. “Hey, man. Come inside. We got video. Of the ultrasound. You can see both of them.”


Louise is getting huge, and has to be helped in and out of chairs. And with two future Bliskos pressing on her bladder, she has to get in and out of chairs a lot.

Guided back into her chair by Billy, she lands, letting out a huge breath. “All that stuff about pregnant women glowing, I want to know who started that. It was probably a man.”

“But it’s true!” Billy says. “You’re beautiful.”

“You are such a liar.” She turns to Ted. “Your brother is such a liar.”

But he hadn’t been lying. Louise looked good. She’d always been a pale, waifish sort of girl. Now her face had filled out, there was color in her cheeks, and her chest...well, Ted had been trying not to stare. She was huge. And her eyes. There was a slow-lidded, dreamy quality to them. He remembers when Diana was pregnant, those first few weeks, how she’d sit with her hand on her belly and that faraway look on her face, her eyes just like Louise’s. And he’d just feel humbled by it all. Looking at Diana he’d fill with this deep, profound sense that he was exactly where he needed to be in his life. That he’d chosen the right partner, that everything would finally be perfect. He’d have his own family and he’d do things differently. He’d give his children everything he never had. Starting with a father.

“Lunch will be ready soon,” Billy says. “You like lentils?”

“Let me—“ Louise tries to get up, but Billy stops her.

“Don’t you move. Ted and me, we’ll take care of everything.”


Their kitchen is half the size of the one in Mike’s condo. A cracked and mildewing wooden dish drainer sits to the right of the sink. In it are several poorly-washed and chipped pieces of what Ted recognizes as his old dishes, the “bachelor china” (as Diana called it) that he had before Jack and Iris gave them a new set as a wedding gift. It makes Ted shiver thinking of the drainer filled with almost-clean bottles and tiny dishes and spoons. The guy has no clue. His dopey, hapless, grinning little brother who Ted had diapered and bathed and fed and put to sleep has no idea how his life is about to change. It’s one thing to live like this when it’s just the two of them, but if Billy thinks he and Louise can continue to survive on love and hope and whatever’s on special at the food coop when the twins make their appearance, then he’s in for a cruel awakening.
“I’m buying you a dishwasher.”

“Man, you don’t have to do that.”

“Yes,” Ted says. “I do. You’re going to have enough to deal with.”

Billy smiles as dreamily as his wife as he gathers up a set of almost-matching and slightly bent silverware. “Yeah. I can hardly believe it sometimes. Twins.”

Ted sucks in a breath. “Bill.” It was always “Bill” when Ted was serious. Having copped to this by now, Billy arranges his face into an appropriately serious expression. “All kidding aside, how are you guys planning to get by?”

Billy examines one particularly bent fork, flicking off a particle of dried food. “We’ll be good, man. I can pick up extra hours whenever I need to. And Louise’s folks will help out.”

Sure, they’d help out if the ultimate outcome meant getting Louise and her future children away from Billy. “Look. If you ever need money...”

Billy’s gaze drops to the floor. “Yeah. Yeah. OK. Thanks.” He looks up at Ted. “I’ll pay you back. Every penny. I swear.”

Ted nods. Even though doesn’t expect to see the debt repaid, at least this brother offers.


After lunch Billy pops in the video. The screen is too dark to see a thing, and all Ted can hear is this rhythmic whooshing sound. Something is poking Ted’s left buttock, and he realizes that it’s a spring from their Salvation Army sofa. Christ. He doesn’t even want to think about his niece and nephew crawling around on this piece of junk. Maybe he should buy them some furniture, too. Something that pulls out into a bed. Maybe when he goes to Charleston he’ll give Billy the one from his office. It reminded him too much of Diana, anyway. And Lucy.
“There’s Sky!” Louise says.

Ted frowns. “Sky?” He’s almost afraid to ask. “Is that the boy or the girl?”

“The boy,” Louise tells Ted. “He’s the little crescent shaped blob on the left. You have to turn your head and squint a little to see.”

Ted turns his head and squints, not just to humor her, but can’t make out exactly which crescent-shaped blob is baby and which crescent-shaped blob is merely a crescent-shaped blob. Sky. What happened to real names, like Robert or Steve or Jim? Jim isn’t bad. James. Jimmy. Jimmy Blisko, it had a nice sound. It was the name he’d picked for his own son. “You’re naming my nephew Sky. What, like the gangster from Guys and Dolls? The one Sinatra played in the movie? Or was that the other guy?”

“No, man. Like, Sky, like,” Billy makes an overhead dome with his fingers. “You know, the sky.”

“It’s where he was conceived.” Louise reaches out to squeeze Billy’s shoulder. “Where both of them were conceived.”

“If my niece is named 747 or Freefall, I don’t want to know about how it happened.”

Louise’s dreamy-eyed look deepens. “Meadow,” she says.

“We were hiking,” Billy says.

“We taped it,” Louise says.

Ted shifts on the sofa cushion. “You taped it.”

“So we’ll always remember the moment,” Louise says. “You want to watch it? Billy, honey, it’s right there, next to Bowling for Columbine.”

Billy has his finger on the tape’s spine.

“No!” Ted says. “Jesus, why would I...?”

“You don’t really see anything, man. We were in a sleeping bag.”

Ted holds out his hands. “Really. That’s OK. I’ll take your word for it. It was a beautiful thing. Let’s just leave a little mystery to the process, all right?”

“Whatever, you don’t have to freak about it.”

“Oh, look!” Louise squeals. “You can see them both now!”

Grateful not being forced to watch his baby brother procreate, Ted turns his head. And squints. And he can see them. Two distinct shapes, nesting together. Two heads. Two mouths sucking two thumbs. Two sets of legs. Something clutches at his chest. This is his niece, his nephew. His family.

But not really his. Feeling the pressure build behind his eyes, the tightening of his throat, he looks away. Maybe another one of those headaches coming on. Christ, like he didn’t have enough to deal with. Now he’d been getting migraines.

Billy is riveted to the screen. “Wow. This is so totally amazing.”

“It’s like I have a porthole!” Louise says. “Billy, maybe I could borrow one of little monitors and we could make home movies!”

“Dude. You gotta be seeing this. There’s Sky’s little unit. Look. Hey. Hey, man, you OK?”

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A Piece of History

I’m not one of those die-hards.

Although I’m probably the only female in possession of a Tom Seaver bobblehead, I don’t paint my face for games. I don’t bleed orange and blue (sadly, being an expansion team, by 1962 all of the tasteful color combinations were taken) or hang the team flag outside next to the stars and stripes, like some of my neighbors do.

I don’t have season tickets. Although if I lived closer to the stadium, I might consider it.

I’m just a fan. And not a very good fan, either. If the boys are embarrassing themselves, I’ll grab the remote and see what else is on.

I don’t know how exactly I came to be a Met fan, since I was raised in a Yankee house (and not the North/South sort of Yankee, or the bean). My older brother couldn’t care less about sports, but my father and younger brother were glued to the set when the pinstripes took the field.

While I was in my room, watching “that other team” on my tiny black and white TV.

My first…no, make that my second…or maybe my third rebellion.

It happened some Saturday afternoon in the very early ‘70s, but I don’t know the moment when I discovered that there was another team playing on Channel 9 instead of the hallowed Channel 11, or why I found the Mets more appealing. Sure, the Mets had won a World Series, but the Yankees had done that so many times before. Had decades of winning seasons before the “Amazin’s” were even a twinkle in Casey Stengal’s eye.

They seemed to play with so much more heart than the Yankees. More verve. Like they were happy just to be there. And of course I was madly in love with outfielder Rusty Staub.

My parents even took me to the stadium. Once. And I think it came with some kind of speech from my father, that I should consider myself lucky to get him to go see “that” team. (Oh, how it must have rankled the season the Yankees were having their stadium renovated and they had to play their home games at Shea.)

And I went a second time, as an adult, with Husband before he was my husband, and a few of his friends, and sat in the nosebleed section through an entire double-header on the hottest day of the summer. It hit a hundred that afternoon, I’m sure, and we were stripped down to the legal minimum, bandanas soaked with water around our heads and necks.

And I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

But a new stadium is on the horizon. Closer than that, in fact. The earth movers have already broken ground just beyond the outfield fence. And Shea is going to become a parking lot. Just like Joni Mitchell predicted.

And I don’t know how it’s going to happen, but I want a piece of history. Probably at some point there will be an auction for charity. And I’m already hearing about some 800 number or web site where you can pre-order your commemorative souvenir – a certificate of authenticity framed together with, say, a chunk of the outfield or a piece of someone’s locker. Home plate and that stupid giant home run apple should rightly go to Cooperstown. (If anyone gets any ideas about keeping the stupid giant home run apple (it’s an ugly-looking papier-mache-type apple that pops up out of a giant top hat whenever a Met hits a dinger), they should be taken out and shot). Probably everything else will wind up on e-Bay or in various bigwig’s attics.

I’d love to have one of those orange seats. Or a blue one. I’m not that picky. It will probably be damned near impossible, or I’ll have to mortgage a body part to get one, but maybe I’ll investigate.

But everyone’s going to want a seat.

Maybe it would be fun to have a piece of the dugout, or, maybe the last ball used at Shea. A tile from one of the shower stalls.

No. This is what I want. John Franco (a local guy, raised in Brooklyn, and for many years the heart and soul of the team) planted a tomato garden just behind the outfield fence. Along with giving up his beloved number 31 as a gesture of good faith when Mike Piazza came on board and wanted to keep his existing number, this was just another example of his goodwill and what being a member of a team and caring about your neighborhood (even if it was Shea Stadium) was about. Kind of reaffirms my faith that although professional ballplayers get the reputation of being overpaid and overpampered prima donnas, that underneath the Under Armor, they’re still human.

I’d like a handful of dirt from the garden. Or maybe a few tomato seeds.

I know, it’s not very glamorous. It’s not a seat or a base or a panel from the outfield fence that somebody might have crashed into to save some important game.

But it’s a piece of the spirit of Shea Stadium. The human story.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Sanitized For Your Protection

I've been getting out a little more lately (yippee for me!), and I drink a lot of water, can do the math on that one (and I bet you're as tired as I am of that cliché). The product of which is that I've had quite a thorough tour of the local public restrooms.

And sad to say, most of them aren’t up to snuff. I don't mean the cleanliness - while I wouldn't want to perform open-heart surgery on the floor of them, I don't feel like I'm going to pick up any unpronounceable diseases.

I'm talking about ergonomics. And since this was supposed to be my Labor Day column, I was looking (some might say reaching) for a way to link the two together.

Now, I'm not "disabled”, (although I'm still having my challenges now and again) in the standard sense of the word, like with the sticker on the car and getting the good parking spaces and everything, and I don't go around demanding that all workplaces and public facilities have "equal access for the physically challenged" or whatever it is they're calling it this week.

I'd just like to see little common sense put into the design of public rest rooms.

For instance, the bathroom shared by my physical therapist's clinic and the health club it's attached to - now I don't know who the hell this created this nightmare but I want to meet him in a dark alley with a stun gun and tattoo “I love W” on his forehead. For one, there is a grab bar to the right and behind the toilet (and WHY if there is a grab bar at the toilet is it always on the RIGHT side when statistics show that most injuries occur among left-handed people? And what's the deal with grab bar over the back of the tank? Who can reach that? For two, the double-barrel TP container is placed so far from the toilet and so low to the floor that when you are seated and either not very tall, or can’t lean forward too far (like most people who need to be in a physical therapy clinic), it is not reachable. So you’d better make sure you grab your expected quantity before you sit down or you're going to be screwed.

Restaurant rest rooms are my next favorite bugaboo. Since I live in a colonial city (surrounded by other colonial cities) the restrooms are often retrofitted basically wherever they will fit in to the nooks and crannies of the older buildings. This often means ascending a steep flight of stairs, navigating down narrow and sometimes dark corridors, or wedged myself between the vacuum cleaner closet and the kitchen, hoping no one is going to suddenly swing out with a tray full of sizzling fajitas. And the room itself is often so small that if you are sitting on the john, you can reach both arms and both feet out and touch the walls. And for some reason, the toilet seats are extremely low. I don't quite clear 5'4", and they're too low for me, so I can't even imagine how much tougher they might be for a really tall person, or a pregnant one. The toilet paper holder is placed wherever it will fit or wherever someone could find a stud to anchor it into, ditto the soap and paper towel containers. Does anyone field-check these things? Isn't there some kind of construction manual that spells out the accepted building specifications for placement of items in public toilets? Once, at the lighting company, we underwent an expensive lobby renovation that included wicked spiffy rest rooms complete with Italian marble tile floors and counters, flattering lighting, and basically the best of everything. Two of the guys from the factory put it together. And the three booths were so shallow that the taller female employees couldn't sit down without bruising their knees against the stall doors.

I say let's have some standardization, here.

I'm not asking for the world. I'm not asking for changing tables in every ladies' room or nixing the hot-air blowers (even though I hate the damned things) or making all faucets and soap dispensers and flushers automatic (now, those are a bit disconcerting).

I just want some common sense. Design it so I don't have to practically bend 45 degrees to reach the water faucets or throw out my back to check my makeup in the mirrors. Give me enough room to take off my coat for Christ’s sake. And give me a toilet tall enough so that sitting and getting up isn't a physical therapy exercise, and a paper dispenser that won't require a chiropractic adjustment every time I use it.

Is that too much to ask?

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Big Wind

Watching the progress of now Tropical Depression Ernesto as it marches up the East Coast and directly into my sinus cavities and muscles (and believe me, I’m already feeling it) made me recall hurricanes past. Although I’ve never suffered through the likes of Katrina, Agnes or even any of the smaller ones that devastated southern coastal areas, I was living in Boston when Hurricane Gloria blew ashore.

At the immortal age of 24, I was young enough (and hell, I was only a renter with nothing of value, who cared if parts of the roof blew off?) to get into the hurricane party mode. I was more worried about the date I was supposed to go on that night (Was it still on? What if his phone was out? What if the restaurant where we’d agreed to meet didn’t have power?) than any potential damage from eighty-plus mph winds. Rock stations had been playing “Gloria” for days. (Remember that one from the eighties? “G-l-o-r-i-a…” Points for anyone who remembers the band. I don't and can't find it on Google) Anyhow, the eye was set to stare down the city (and pretty much right over my neighborhood) early afternoon on a Friday, so the subways stopped running at noon. But we young intrepid advertising types went to work in our yellow slickers regardless, ate donuts and drank coffee with the rest of the skeleton crew, and generally did nothing until we were sent home with an extra hazard bonus in our paychecks. Once home, my new housemates and I (I’d only moved in a month earlier, newly sprung from the clutches of a horrible relationship) bonded over masking tape and what I was going to wear that night as we drew giant X’s over all of our windows (something my mother, who grew up in Florida, said that we should do), then hunkered down for the storm, playing board games while one housemate’s visiting sister cooked up an Indian feast and regaled us with tales from her last few weeks spent living with the Hare Krishnas because her father kicked her out for being gay.

We were the only house on the block that didn’t lose power. Or cable. Or anything.

The storm was still storming at around four in the afternoon when one of my housemates, Simeon, a camera buff like me, suggested it might be fun to slicker up and go out and take some hurricane pictures. It was foolhardy, I know, but remember, I was only 24. On top of the world, newly given my freedom. And it did sound like fun. And I was getting bored with playing Trivial Pursuit and listening to Hare Krishna tales.

We got some good shots of the wind whipping at the trees. Of the house, a giant Victorian, all taped up like a moving box, lights on and the other housemates waving from the windows. A few dramatic ones of trees that had toppled over and crushed some cars (not owning a car at the time, this seemed more funny than tragic to me).

But I was getting nervous about my date. Can you date during a hurricane? Was it safe? A moot point, because by evening, the winds had died down and only a light rain was falling. Gloria had blustered herself somewhere up into the Merrimack Valley, and she was their problem now. I called his apartment and got through, and his building was also was one of the few on the block with power.

For the life of me I can’t remember now where we had decided to meet, but apparently it went well because there was a second date and then a few more after that. We tried to make it work, but we were in different places in our lives and it simply blustered out, the eye of the storm dissipating as it hit land.

Maybe having a first date during a hurricane isn’t such a great idea.

But at least, if we’d stayed together, you’d have a great story to tell the kids about the day you met. Better than having dal with a lesbian Hare Krishna while playing Trivial Pursuit after an afternoon taking pictures of crushed cars.