Tomato Soup of Chowder?

Mary’s knee was bothering her, so I went to do the grocery shopping.
Without Mary, I realized I’m the crazy guy in the supermarket that talks to himself:
“…… should I get the tomato soup or the Manhattan clam chowder? Well, the tomato soup is on sale, but it’s full of salt, but, then, so is the chowder, but at least it has clams. Ok, I think I’ll get the clam chowder….”

Sue me. I find that I get my head around things better if I allocute them, similar to how you remember things better if you write them down.

It drives people nuts; I remember in school teachers used to say,”Don’t repeat the question!”

I think it is because on some level, it is rude to have a conversation that the present company are not part of, or at least aware of the other side. And if you are having a conversation with yourself (your mind) people can only hear the physical you, not the mental you, and feel shut out of the conversation. Humans are social beings.

When Mary is there, she is a sounding board and influences the shopping list. People can hear the other side of the conversation (not that they care) but they don’t feel shut out. She’s the consequence to the antecedent.

So, I guess it is somewhat annoying and crazy. But it is exponentially less crazy than me saying, out loud to whoever is in earshot,” Hey, guys? Should I get the tomato soup or the chowder?”

I don’t think I’d like the audience participation and I’d probably find my shopping interrupted by the men in the white coats ready to take me to the padded wagon outside!


Poking Around in the Money of old People…

Dreamed I got a phone call from a crusty old guy from the accounts department of Tiaa Cref, who accused me of raiding all their retirement accounts twenty years ago:
“What kind of asshole would go poking around in the money of old people?”

I tried to tell him I didn’t, but he wouldn’t listen. Then I started wondering if I actually did, and if I did, where was the money?

But then I woke up before I found out what happened.

Fifteen Seconds off your Life!

Recent conversation with colleague:

COLLEAGUE: These truffled fries are so good

ROB: Yeah they are. Terrible for you, though

COLLEAGUE: I bet they are

ROB: In fact, I bet each one of those takes fifteen seconds off your life.


ROB: Absolutely worth it.

*Eats some more*

ROB: There went a couple of minutes!

the Not So Bucket List

The List of Things I Have Not Yet Done and Would Not Feel Unfulfilled if I Died Never Having Done Them:

I have never:
1) Ridden a horse.
I divide animals into two categories; Capable of Killing You, and Not Capable of Killing You. Horses fit squarely into the first category. Couple that with my luck, and I would likely be bucked from the horse, trampled and pooped on, probably in that order.

2) Drank Kool Aid.
And I’m not referring to cult propaganda, Jim Jones or anything of that nature either. I have drunk other powdered, artificially flavored, nutritionally bereft beverages, perhaps even the store brand “knock-off” of Kool Aid, and even Crystal Light, with and without alcohol. My mother was very conscientious with our nutrition, so Kool Aid (or any thing comparable) was not part of my childhood. And as an adult pushing forty, with pretty much full control over what I ingest, I simply have no desire or inclination to drink colored, artificially flavored sugar water, when the payoff is simply not there in taste, nutrition or intoxication.

3) Eaten a Twinkie.
As with Kool Aid, this is not to say I have not had other processed, mass produced, mediocre snack cakes, including Ring dings, Ho Hoes and Devil Dogs (sorry, Mom). I simply have never had a real, honest to God, genuine Twinkie. With all the delicious desert foods available (e.g. creme brulee, bread pudding, etc), all with caloric contents, at age thirty-nine, I simply have no desire to waste my available calories with something so mediocre, with so little of a payoff.

4) Watched an Entire Football Game.
With apologies to the fact that tomorrow is Superbowl Sunday, and that the Superbowl is in New York (technically New Jersey) this year, I am going to let you in on a little secret: I have zero interest in any sport that involves a ball. That runs the gamut from kickball to ping pong, with all ball sizes in between. Pretty much the only team sport I care for is ice hockey, which involves six players on each team and a puck.
Because I care so little about the outcome of the football game, to put two hours into watching a game into which I have so little emotional capital invested is torturous. I might be able to stomach it if the game ran through, with minimal stopping of the clock (like ice hockey). But football is dragged out. It would be like having your toenails pulled out, and the torturer taking a bathroom break every two minutes!
I have suffered through a baseball game (the popcorn and beer was good)
I have suffered being on the field as a soccer player when I was in elementary school (and was undeniably the worst soccer player in the history of soccer)
For the record, the fact that the Superbowl is in New York leaves me bone dry.
PS: I have hosted a Superbowl party (in 2011, and it was a great party!). A good host knows that he’ll be paying attention to his guests and not the game.

5) Owned a dog.
I like other people’s dogs. I have walked a dog, once. If my friends or family have a dog, I’ll make a friend for the day, and enjoy petting their dog (sorry, Cat!) But knowing my luck, if I ended up with a dog, I’d get a dog that needed to be walked six times a day, was a veritable poop-machine and furniture shredder all in one, add a bark the decibel level of a 747, and teeth like a diamond tipped saw, and that hated me with a passion. Couple that with my categorization of animals in item 1), and perhaps I’d be dead.
I always had a cat growing up and I have a cat now. Cats are manageable and containable. They poop in the litter box (at least the ones I have had do), they are happy never to be walked, and the worst they’ll do is meow too loud or scratch sometimes. And it my cat decides I must be destroyed, well, he’s only about a foot and a half high, which places him in the second category of item 1.

6) Eaten banana flavored anything.
I do not like bananas. I do not like the taste, the smell, the texture, or their appearance.

PERSON A: Oh, but they’re so good for you. Chock full of potassium.

ROB: I will have to get my potassium another way. Even if the only other source of potassium was ground up earwigs.

PERSON B: Oh, you’d like my banana bread, banana pudding, banana smoothie……etc.

ROB: Does it taste like bananas?

PERSON B: Well, yes, of course.

ROB: I wouldn’t like it.

I do not like bananas. I do not like essence of banana. I do not like banana nectar, banana paste, banana liqueur, banana gravy etc… And if I do not like things with REAL banana, there is no reason I would like things designed to replicate the taste of banana. And at age thirty nine, with some degree of control over my diet, bananas and banana flavored things are something I choose not to eat!

7) Been to Disney World.
This is no offense to Disney Fans. I respect the work of Walt Disney, and have enjoyed many of Disney’s creations. When I was a kid with my parents, I went to DisneyLAND in Anaheim, CA (NOT the same thing), where, because it was in August, I got heat exhaustion. I still enjoyed it. I enjoyed it because I was a kid.
I still like theme parks. If I can stomach them I will go on rides designed to make your body think you are going to die. My son, whom I accompany on the rides, seemingly does not fear death.
Disney World is too much. Too much Disney and too much theme park.

I like to say, “For the next two hours I will watch this Disney movie”.
After the two hours are done, I will say,”Boy, that movie was good. I really enjoyed that” OR “Boy that movie sucked, I would have preferred two hours of football while sitting on a chair of razor blades”

I like to say, “Hey Zack! Today, we are going to Vomit Comet Amusement Park. We’ll ride the roller coasters till your old man comes within an inch of having a stroke, and we’ll ride whatever death-convincing contraptions are there til our brains forget which way is up. And you can have all the fried crap you want to eat (sorry, Zack’s mom)”
And at the end of the day, I’ll say,”Boy, Zack, that was fun. I’m sorry you have a stomach ache, but it was well worth it, wasn’t it. You look like you rolled in the cotton candy machine, so get in the tub”
And I’ll have a couple of drinks before check my credit card and see how much the day set us back. And then we move on.

I will not say,”Hey Zack! For the next week we are going to Disney World. We are going to live with the Mouse! We are going to hob nob with Snow White, Goofy, Pluto and The Mouse Himself! We are going to eat, sleep ands breathe Disney for seven days! We are going to ride the flying Dumbo ninety times. The Lion King will haunt our dreams. I won’t be able to get Hi Ho, Hi Ho out of my head! And it has only required me to max out every one of my credit cards, hock my watch, and sell us all into indentured servitude for the next seven years! But it’ll be worth it!”

Too much disney. Too much Park.
If Zack had a burning desire to go to Disney World, I’d make it happen. But that desire has yet to be voiced.

The Bathrobe Girl

Years ago, when I was attending college, I had a job in one of the dining halls.

One of my duties was to serve the Saturday morning breakfast. Generally speaking, it consisted of hung-over students shuffling in, and it was anybody’s guess how they could manage to stomach eggs, bacon, French toast etc while hung-over. It was a long, messy, sweaty shift, and at the end of it I would be greasy, sweaty and sticky from fake maple syrup. It paid minimum wage, and was about four hours. In 1995, I would walk out with the princely sum of about $18 from that shift.

Because the college was close to the Canadian border, and the winters were harsh, many of the buildings were connected. Some were connected through underground walkways, some buildings simply abutted others and connected through a doorway.

This particular dining hall was part of a residence hall. the students who lived in that residence hall could simply go from their rooms to the dining hall without ever having to go outside. Even though it was breakfast, and a lot of the students were tired or hung-over, they would show up in their regular street clothes.

Except this one girl. She would show up in her bathrobe and slippers, with her hair wild from sleeping. She was not pleasant, either. She was clumsy, pushy and rude. She would come blustering up the stairs in her bathrobe. After snatching a tray from the pile, she would muscle her way to the front of serving line, and woe be it to anyone or anything in her path. She would have mowed you down like a steamroller.

Once in front of the food she would wield her finger like a weapon, jabbing it into the sneeze guard at the foods she wanted: “I’ll take that, and that, and that, and that, and that!” Then she’d snatch her plate and bluster her way back to her table, spilling juice and knocking over chairs on her way.

Since she was the only one who didn’t see fit to wear her regular clothes, we would wait for her, every weekend. We would consider the shift to be over the hump when The Bathrobe Girl left. We’d hear her thumping up the stairs: “Uh oh, here comes The Bathrobe Girl!”

I usually was tasked with serving the scrambled eggs, and once when she huffed out her litany of demands: “That, and that and that and that”, and her plate weighed ten pounds, I jabbed my finger at the one thing she had not selected and asked, “What about THAT?” I incurred a huffy growl and a bleary glare, as she snatched her plate and shoved her way back out of the line, spilling juice on the head of a wheelchair bound student.

The Bathrobe Girl wore her bathrobe and slippers to the dining hall for breakfast for two years; I guess until she graduated/flunked out/moved off campus. Nobody saw fit to suggest that perhaps it may be more appropriate to wear regular clothes, even if she lived in the adjoining residence hall, which did not require her to go outside to get to breakfast.

She did not wear her bathrobe and slippers to breakfast for the sake of convenience, necessity, or simple sloth or forgetfulness. She wore it to make a statement. The statement was “I can damn well wear what I want, where I want it.” And she was so utterly unpleasant, that nobody, not even management, wanted to challenge that statement. They chose to pick their battles.

What The Bathrobe Girl didn’t realize at the time was that she was a trendsetter, if not a positive one. Today, we see people walking around in pajamas in places where one would have never seen pajamas before. In the lobbies and breakfast areas of hotels, on early morning flights, even walking down the street in nice weather. Kids will show up to school, even college classes in pajama pants. When Mary and I were at the airport a couple of months ago, to board a flight out of JFK after 11PM, an entire family changed into their jammies before boarding the plane! In casual restaurants, I have seen a family with both the children (not infants, not toddlers…..children!) dressed in their PJs! There are people who think nothing these days, of dressing their kids in their pajamas in places where they would have never been considered appropriate twenty years ago.

One of the reasons that nobody was too thrilled about the antics of The Bathrobe Girl, was that she viewed herself an island unto herself. That regardless of societies guidelines of what is appropriate and what is not, she chose to do what she wanted for the sake of doing what she wanted. This was not limited to the expectation that one show up the the dining hall properly dressed; she also included in her statement the resistance, of waiting in line, moving carefully and courteously about crowds, and having a reasonably polite demeanor with the people around her. She simply didn’t care. The only thing she cared about was showing the rest of the world how little she cared about them. What a joy she must have been to her classmates and professors.

There is a trend, and it extends well beyond pajamas, of not caring about the people around us. Not caring about how our actions affect them, and not caring about how our presentation diminishes someone elses experience. It manifests itself in many ways, including, but not limited to the assertion of the self entitlement to wear pajamas in public.

We are not here for other people’s amusement. Within the scope of the expectation that we share our surroundings gracefully with our fellow humans, we should be free to present ourselves in the way that best accentuates who we are. Within the scope.

I have a thing about sleepwear, loungewear, housewear, etc. I believe that unless you are around the people who would be comfortable with you in that attire (e.g. your spouse, family etc), unless you are in a location (e.g. your own home) and situation where you could, realistically go to bed at anytime, unless your day, for all intents and purposes has ended, or is yet to start, sleepwear is not appropriate. When you are wearing sleepwear, it show you are not prepared to give the people (short of those in your intimate sphere), your full attention, and it shows to them that you feel they are not worth it.

I do not own a bathrobe, nor do I own a pair of slippers. I am either dressed or not. And the only place where I would not be fully dressed is either at home, or where a bed or shower was in a few steps. The few times I have been hospitalized, I couldn’t wait to get out of my hospital gown and into, at least, sweatpants. If I have been sleeping in, and the UPS guy shows up, I’ll make sure I am wearing something that could approximate street clothes (if without shoes), before I answer the door.

Nobody was asking that anybody show up to that breakfast in the dining hall in smart attire. Students are often tired, have tight schedules and limited sleep. Fifty years ago, people would wear a suit to board an airplane, and nobody is asked to do that anymore, nor should they be. However, we should all present ourselves in a manner that says we care about the other human beings around us.

That does not end at clothes. It extends to giving attention to the people around us, answering questions graciously, apologizing for the accidental bump, offering help when able, refraining from getting offensive tattoos, and refraining from aggressive or hostile body language (sneering, swaggering, shoving, glaring)

We are not here for the amusement of others. And in this age of photoshopping, image crafting, objectifying etc it is easy to lose sight of that. But lets not get too far in the reaction and resistance of that to forget that how we present ourselves is a big part of who we are!

PS Pajamas aren’t clothes. Wear your clothes in public.

Trust Sleepy’s…

A while ago, on the bus:

RANDOM KID ABOUT 8 YEARS OLD (in falsetto): Trust Sleepy’s……….!

ROB (also in falsetto): For the rest of your life!

kid looks around the bus. Rob keeps poker face.

KID (in falsetto): Trust Sleepy’s………..

ROB (also in falsetto): For the rest of your life!

Kid looks around the bus again, Rob keeps poker face.

KID (again in falsetto): Trust Sleepy’s…..!

Rob stays silent

KID (falsetto): Trust Sleepy’s…….!

Rob stays silent again

KID (fasettto): Trust Sleepy’s…..!

MARY: Rob, you have created a monster.

Things that Boston has that New York Should Have:

Now, I have long been a huge proponent of a city and their its own identity. Don’t look for NYC in Los Angeles and don’t look for San Francisco in Philly. If you want Chicago, go to Chicago.

New York is New York and Boston is Boston. And they have some similarities; they each have an Ivy League School, they each have a top notch baseball team. But there a few things Boston has going for it that could well be in New York, too, and SHOULD be in New York, dammit!

1) A Planetarium that Doesn’t Suck.
Don’t get me wrong, the planetarium at New York’s American Museum of Natural History LOOKS impressive. The Rose Air & Space Center is a huge glass box, and the planetarium itself is a huge metal ball inside. There are “boarding” bridges, so one entering the planetarium feels as though they are boarding a spacecraft. But that’s where the coolness ends. $25 gets you a 22 minute show. Inside the aquarium, in an effort to increase capacity the seats don’t tip all the way back like a real planetarium. So you’re not looking up, you’re looking forward. Novel idea, but I think they already have that: It’s called a movie theatre. And they have them all over the place. And for this privilege you pay more than a dollar a minute.

Now Boston, on the other hand:
Has a traditional planetarium, complete with “half dome” shape, where the viewers are actually looking at the ceiling on raked back seats (which is the purpose of the exercise). To wit: Boston has a real planetarium. For $10, you get a show that’s around 45 minutes in length. And on Friday evenings they show the Pink Floyd Laser Show. I haven’t gone to that show, but I am totally doing that the next time I am in Boston!

2) An Aquarium that Doesn’t Suck.
The first problem with New York’s Aquarium is locational. Instead of being in Manhattan, it is all the way out in Coney Island, which is a 40 minute subway ride from Manhattan. New York is a harbor city, so ideally New York’s aquarium should be on the harbor. Real estate is tight there, but the beauty of an aquarium is that it can extend into the harbor. Put it right down there by the South Street Seaport and it would generate huge revenue from tourists. As it stands now, New York’s aquarium sucks. Even before it was decimated by Hurricane Sandy, it was small, dingy and unimpressive. A few tanks, a show pool, and it’s ALL THE WAY THE HELL OUT IN CONEY ISLAND!!!

Now Boston, on the other hand:
Has an aquarium on the harbor. It’s easy to get to, has umpteen exhibits, and a huge tank that has sharks, where you can walk around in a spiral to the top. There is also a colony of very horny penguins. And if you get hungry, there is a restaurant which serves fish, so even the slow learners can be put to good use!

(PS: Even landlocked Chicago has a better aquarium than NYC)

3) Trolley Cars.
New York has a great subway system. It’s old, kind of beat up, and downright scary is some places, but it is indestructible and will get you pretty much anywhere in the city very quickly. That’s the cool thing about having your own right of way under the ground. However, there are some places where the subway doesn’t go (crosstown), and you are at the mercy of the bus. If New York City’s subway is great, NYC’s buses are terrible. You wait outside for them. Boarding is slow and tedious, and you are at the mercy of the traffic, which which the bus has to share the street. Generally, it is faster to walk than take a bus. This is where trolleys would come into play. Own right of way. Trolleys are good for places with tight turns not easily negotiated by subways, or where digging tunnels would not be possible/practical. How about replacing the crosstown buses with crosstown trolley cars. Run them down 42nd Street.

Now Boston, on the other hand:
Has the Green Line. You can transfer directly to/from the subway service without having to go outside. They have their own right of way (usually). they’re not constantly stopping and starting at the behest of the traffic conditions. Boarding is simple. And they’re cool.

4) Cheeseboy.
New York does not lack for restaurants. You can’t walk forty feet in one direction without walking into a restaurant. New York has lots of rats because it has lots of food. But what New York does not have is a place dedicated to grilled cheese sandwiches. “Grilled cheese? So what?” you say. There are so many things you can do with grilled cheese, it should be it’s own food group; it deserves it’s own place.

Now Boston, on the other hand:
Has Cheeseboy. Cheeseboy is pretty much a grilled cheese stand, with umpteen varieties and incarnations of grilled cheese. I saw a franchise for it in South Station. There is another one at Copley Center. They have several Cheesboys throughout Boston and environs. Now Cheeseboy does have a franchise in Jersey City. But Jersey City is not New York. Would it kill Cheeseboy to set up shop in New York? Geez, it’s grilled cheese! People would be lined up around the block.

None of these things that New Your could have would encroach on Boston’s identity, they would only enhance New York’s.

Pizza Warts

At a pizza place recently, overheard:
A mom and two kid were sitting down for pizza.

KID: I don’t want that piece

MOM: Why, what’s the matter with it?

KID: It has pizza warts

MOM: What’s a pizza wart?

kid points to where the dough bubbled up through the cheese

KID: This piece is too warty

MOM: Eat your damn pizza.

If their mothers let them break the rules………

My mother once kicked a whole bunch of kids out of the Jacuzzi at the Lake Placid Hilton.

Let me explain:
In 1983 in the dead of winter, my dad had a conference to go to in Lake Placid. It was at the Hilton (which is now the Crown Plaza). My parents thought that Lake Placid would be a neat place to take the fam, mixing business with pleasure, being that the Winter Olympics had been there three years before and all that. Plus, I got to miss a couple of days of second grade.

Well, my dad went off to the conference, two days, and my mom realized she had to entertain three kids, aged 3-11 (I was the middle kid, age 7). In Lake Placid, NY, a town of 2,500. In the dead of winter. With a foot of snow on the ground.

The unused Olympic ski jump can only hold the interest of three kids for so long, so eventually we found ourselves at the indoor pool at the hotel. It was freezing. And by freezing I mean that I was amazed the water was still actually in liquid form

The pool was supposed to be heated, but I think it was only heated through convection, in that the building it was in was heated. Technically. There had to be a heater somewhere in the building. I think.

The pool was freezing, but the hot tub was not. My mother sent the kids (us) off to play in the freezing pool, then relaxed in the hot tub with a couple of other similarly fated mothers. Well, it wasn’t too long until we got smart to the hot tub and joined my mom there, as did a bunch of other kids.

MOM: Hey! This is the grown up’s pool. The kids pool is over there (points to the freezing pool)

ROB: That’s not a rule!

MOM: Yes it is!

ROB: Well, then, what are those other kids doing in here?

MOM: Well, if their mothers want to let their kids break the rules……. (giving the other moms a look)

And that cleared the kids out of the hot tub

Classical Conditioning

Zack’s new habit:
Plugging his ears pre-emptively when he knows I’m going to yell at him for something.
Example: Zack slams the door.

Zack plugs his ears

ROB: Zack, don’t slam the door! You know better! And stop plugging your ears when you know I’m going to yell at you!