Patsy Porco

Archive for January, 2011|Monthly archive page

Manhattanites Are Different From You and Me

In Humor on January 24, 2011 at 1:29 pm

I have nothing against odd people, but on the Weird Spectrum,  Manhattan residents are at the highest end. I lived in Manhattan for a number of years so I’m not just speculating; I’m talking from experience. Living in such close quarters with so many other people isn’t the way humans are supposed to live, and it takes its toll.

Apparently even the people who run New York City have gone over the edge of sanity. They’ve constructed a pop-up park in a building where you can have a picnic in the winter. The park features a photo mural of trees, some real trees, fake grass, rocks, piped-in birdsong, an unconvincing pond, and space to play lawn games.  http://shine.yahoo.com/event/green/new-yorkers-take-shelter-from-winter-in-a-downtown-pop-up-park-2440345/

Why do you need to have a picnic in the winter? If you can have a picnic in the winter, then where’s the fun in having one in the summer? But this is typical of New Yorkers: they have to have what they want when they want it. People actually go to this indoor ersatz park and bring picnic baskets and spread their blankets on the fake grass which covers the hard cement floor. 

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Manhattanites have always been obsessive about their love of parks. They make their daily or weekly pilgrimages to Central Park and then make sure to mention their visits to the park to anyone who will listen, as if they had just visited Lourdes. Central Park is indeed a place of worship to many Manhattan residents, but it’s very urbane and top-notch—not some run-of-the-mill holy place. There are lots of other parks in the city, and many are being made bigger and better to compete with Central Park, but they’ll never attain the same global cachet. The parks by the Hudson and East rivers are standing-room-only on spring and summer days, but visiting Hudson River Park, East River Park, Riverside Park,  or Carl Schurz Park won’t win you the same points that a trip to Central Park will.

Which brings me back to the park-in-a-box. What is the allure? I just don’t get it. Which is probably why I no longer live in Manhattan and have moved to the suburbs, where I can picnic in real parks in the spring and summer when it’s sensible. I’m sure my Manhattan friends are thinking that I’m not sophisticated enough to understand their superior sensibilities, but in my defense, if I want to eat on the floor, I’ll stay home.

 

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Running is Bad for Your Health

In Humor on January 15, 2011 at 2:09 pm

I promise myself every year that I will start running in March. March is when I begin my New Year’s resolutions. For hundreds of years, January and February didn’t exist, so I’m going with that calendar. I don’t like to rush into things. I always try to start a new job on Wednesday, in order to ease myself into the position. But back to running. Despite my annual resolutions, I never did start running. The major reason was laziness but I always blamed it on a story of disputable truth that I heard years ago about a woman who was running and her uterus fell out. That sounded like a good reason to not run. Now that my childbearing years are behind me and I don’t have any need for that particular organ, I can’t use that excuse. Fortunately, I have found another: Running causes saggy skin on your legs http://www.thirdage.com/skin-deep/6-ways-avoid-saggy-skin#ixzz1AvWZEwdG. At this point in my life, having saggy knees is far more horrifying than a missing uterus.

If I put my mind to it, I’ll bet I could find reasons to not do anything. For instance: If you clean your oven naked, and use oven cleaner, you can burn sensitive areas and they laugh at you at Poison Control when you tell them what happened.

I’m going to need help with this project. Please send me proof of horrible outcomes related to an activity. I’ll post them as I get them, unless I can come up with a reason not to.

 

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New Year, Same Old Crazy People

In Crazy People, Humor on January 8, 2011 at 2:03 pm

It’s a brand-new year. Gyms have been gearing up for the onslaught of out-of-shape, overweight people who are committed to shaping up this year. Bars are ordering less inventory to accommodate the missing patrons who have vowed to drink less or stop drinking altogether. Churches are cleaning up after the Christmas season to greet those who promised themselves that they would attend regularly. Chefs are concocting even more healthful meals for those who have vowed to avoid anything that tastes good.  Everyone wants to discuss their resolutions or their avoidance of resolutions, and since I’m like everyone else, I’m going to talk about … crazy people. I considered talking about resolutions, but what is there to say? You either keep yours or you don’t. The subject is old by February, but crazy people are entertaining all year long.

Within the first week of this new year, I ran into two crazy people. That’s a pretty high number of lunatics in one week. If this keeps up throughout the year, I will have met 104 nutcases by the end of 2011.

By crazy people, I don’t mean certifiably crazy people. I mean the kind of people who look normal from the outside but have short circuits sparking dangerously in their brains. Eventually, smoke will be visible emanating from their eyes or ears, but right now, they can fool you into thinking they’re rational human beings if you pass them quickly on the street … and if they’re not talking. Talking gives them away. So do their eyeballs. My sister told me that if you think someone is “off,” look at his or her eyes. If you can see the white part of the eye all the way around the iris, then that person is definitely crazy. She was taught this in art class, so it must be true.

My first foray into Nut Town happened at my friend Linda’s wake. My friend died young, leaving her husband and three young children. Everyone at the wake was visibly sad, myself included, I imagine. I stopped to say hello to my friend’s father-in-law. He had just lost his wife a few months before, and he was devastated by this new loss.

He was standing with his daughter-in-law. Without thinking, I said, “You must be Linda’s moth—, I mean sister-in-law.” Of course I didn’t think she was Linda’s mother. I knew Linda’s mother. But the damage was done. And it turned out to be irreparable damage. When my son was a baby, I was occasionally mistaken for his grandmother (mostly by older Indian men, oddly enough), so I know that feeling of being kicked in the stomach. I tried to make up for my mistake, but I only made the situation worse.

Later, during the wake, I sought the woman out, apologized, and told her that I misspoke and of course she didn’t look old enough to be Linda’s mother. She gave me the evil eye and walked away. I turned to speak to my friend’s real mother and the sister-in-law ran up to us and said, “She thought that I was you.” The real mother was speechless. I offered my condolences and moved on, but the sister-in-law kept reappearing to announce to whomever I was talking to that I had mistaken her for my friend’s mother. There was no way I could fix this, so I left.

A few days later, I found myself with a few spare hours in the early afternoon, so I thought I would treat myself to a late breakfast at a local diner. I ordered my meal and took out a book to read. The sun streamed through the window, and the after-lunch crowd was small and quiet. I opened my book and enjoyed my solitude.

Then I heard a loud voice talking. I looked around and saw the diner’s owner talking to someone in a booth. I couldn’t see the person in the booth, but I assumed that there was someone in there. Whoever it was never uttered a word. But the owner uttered enough words for both of them (assuming there was another person).

“Maria said that I should write a book because of all the pearls, or gold, that come out of my mouth,” he began. “For example, I told her that a person you don’t trust can’t steal from you, but you gotta look out for the person you can trust.” The person in the booth must have offered some kind of encouragement, because the owner continued. “If you don’t trust someone, let’s say you think a certain person is a thief. You’re not gonna leave your wallet on the table with that person when you get up to go to the bathroom, are you? No, you’re not. But, let’s say you trust somebody. Then you are going to leave your wallet on the table when you go to the bathroom. So, the person you trust is the person you shouldn’t trust, because you just left your wallet with him, so he can steal from you. Am I right?” The booth person must have nodded in agreement, because the owner went on.

“Of course I’m right. And Maria is right. I do have gold coming out of my mouth, or pearls. I should write a book. Which makes sense, because I’m Greek. Like Plato and Socrates. They were Greek. So, of course, since I’m Greek, I’m a thinker, like them. Okay, maybe they were wise men and I’m a wiseguy, but I still have pearls, or gold. I should write a book.” The owner walked away, pleased with himself.

I had lost my place in my book during his soliloquy and my meal, which had been delivered during this time, had gotten cold.  I had really been looking forward to eating and reading and this nutjob had ruined my meal. I went back to my breakfast and book anyway, determined to salvage what was left of my time alone. Then the voice started up again.

“I just talked to Maria,” the owner said to the booth. “She agreed that the person you can’t trust is the person you do trust. Like if you don’t trust a person, you won’t leave your wallet on the table with him when you go to the bathroom. But, if you do trust someone, …” I signaled my waiter, paid the check and was out of there. There was no way I was going to listen to him repeat his pearls, or gold.

On my way out, I was tempted to sneak a peek into the booth with the silent customer, but I resisted for fear that there just might be a mute person in there, which would still make the owner nuts, but would also make me rude.

If the rest of my year continues to be anything like the first week, I’ll be spending most of it leaving places in a hurry.

 

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Butt Seriously

In Big Butts, Humor on January 5, 2011 at 7:06 pm

Back when I was a kid—way before computers were a reality—I read that, in the future, humans would rely on their brains far more than on their bodies. Because we’d be sitting and thinking all day (as well as working on mysterious-sounding computers while robots cleaned our homes and made our dinners), our heads would become huge to accommodate our big brains and our bodies would shrink and shrivel up due to inactivity. Drawings of massive heads attached to stick bodies always accompanied the futuristic stories. Nobody ever explained how our little bodies would be able to hold up our gargantuan heads. 

As it turned out, our heads haven’t grown noticeably, but our bodies have expanded because we sit so much (and eat so much). Rear end size has hit an all-time high, and instead of addressing the problem, society has decided to embrace it and make big derrières fashionable, at least for women. (Fat-bottomed men aren’t yet considered desirable; but then Queen didn’t write a song about them.)

You have to marvel at human resiliency. “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” is a sensible approach. As long as the rest of your body isn’t an unhealthy weight, there really isn’t any reason to reject your big bottom. Body shapes go in and out of fashion, just like clothing styles. If you can’t attain a large posterior on your own—some women will have to struggle harder than others— you can now get implants. Butt implants and breast implants are very popular at this point in our evolution. The female form in profile is beginning to look like a cartoonist’s exaggerated rendering. Which isn’t a bad thing. It just takes some getting used to.

I only hope men don’t decide to jump on the butt implant bandwagon. That could really take some getting used to.

 

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Two Hundred and Thirty Eight Dollars

In Humor, Rodents on January 3, 2011 at 3:05 pm

It all started in the middle of the night. A bag of bread that was left on our kitchen table when we went to bed was relocated to a kitchen chair and half-eaten when we awoke the next morning. Being the brave rodent hunters that we are, we immediately summoned an exterminator. The guy showed up, said, “You’ve got mice,” put out some bait and said, “That will be $238. You have a four-month guarantee.” Then he told me to plug up areas under the sink with steel wool and ended with, “Call us in a month if you see any more activity.” “Two-hundred and thirty eight dollars for bait?” my husband and I asked each other … after the guy left, of course. We didn’t want to look cheap. “We could have bought bait for a lot less than that,” my husband noted. What made the deal worse was that we were really only getting a three-month guarantee since we had to observe “activity” for a month before calling in reinforcements.

Of course we saw activity during the exterminator’s grace period. I was greeted every morning by black rice-sized excrement that I had to sweep up before I served my son his breakfast (after washing my hands, of course).  One morning, I had to sweep up a dead field mouse. The problem seemed to be over at that point and we all forgot about it. Then, one morning, my husband found a gnawed banana on a dining room chair. The fruit bowl was on the dining room table, so something had dragged it down onto the chair before eating it. Once again, we called the exterminator. A different guy showed up this time—their “wildlife expert”—and he told us that we still had mice, and that he had seen “activity” in the basement. So, he re-baited the traps. He then pointed out additional gaps that I had to fill.  He told me that steel wool wasn’t good enough and that I had to buy foam insulation that turned hard once it was sprayed into crevices, and that I had to fill every hole with it. I told my husband what he said and my husband asked why we had to do the work when we were paying the exterminating company. I told him that the exterminator obviously had his limits as to what he would do for the paltry sum of $238. Then I headed out to buy the foam insulation. The next day, despite the insulation, the invader had taken an apple from the fruit bowl in the dining room and had carried it into the kitchen, where it nibbled on it under the kitchen cabinets. When my husband asked why in the world I had left anything edible out, I told him we were trapping an animal, and this particular animal liked fruit, so of course I would leave fruit out.  He just shook his head and threw out the fruit that was still left in the fruit bowl.

Later that day, on a walk with our dog, I spotted a cache of acorns at the base of an oak tree. I scooped up about thirty or forty and put them in a bag for my friend who likes acorns. When I got home, I put the bag on the dining room table. The next morning, the acorns were gone. The bag was still there, ripped to shreds, but the nuts were nowhere to be found. My husband and son claimed that they knew nothing about the acorns and even insinuated that the acorns were never there in the first place. If it weren’t for the ripped-up bag, I might have believed them. Later that night, the dog started sniffing around the base of the stove. I peered under the stove and saw an acorn. I knew that whatever happened next wasn’t going to be good. My husband had the good fortune to be at work, so my son and I pulled out the stove. What we saw was horrifying: a real-live rat’s nest. A huge collection of insulation, steel wool, and piles of acorns, dog food, and excrement. And a measuring cup, a stick of gum, and a Frisbee. It was like the Borrowers had moved in. As we stared in horror at the mess—while holding the stove in mid-air—the mess moved. Slowly, a very large, very black rat emerged from the piles. We almost dropped the stove. Then the rat ambled over to a hole behind the stove and disappeared. The rest happened in a blur. We pulled the stove all the way out and started cleaning up the nest. After a large trash bag was filled with the detritus, we had to clean up the hole, which was crammed with acorns and steel wool, which made us wonder how the rat had gotten through the hole in the first place. Then the scouring and disinfecting began. It was a truly horrendous experience.

The next day, the head exterminator came and pulled out all the stops. He apologized for his team’s botching of the job and told us that he wouldn’t charge us the rat extermination fee. Apparently the $238 only covered putting out mice bait and making us do all the grunt work. He put out spring traps that could catch a horse and told us to call him after the weekend was over. We were supposed to, once again, observe “activity,” and if necessary, “finish the rat off” with a hammer if he got caught in a trap and didn’t die. The hell with that. We put the dog in the kennel, packed bags, and moved into a hotel. The rat won. He could have the house.

On Monday morning, after dropping our son off at school, we called the head exterminator and told him that we’d meet him at our home. We all crept into the kitchen, not knowing what we would encounter. Thankfully, the rat had met his maker, down in the basement. The exterminator offered to show us the dead object of our terror. I declined, but my husband reasoned that it couldn’t bother us now, so he looked. He later told me that the rat was bigger than his foot. After disposing of the rat (he refused to nail the dead rat to a post to discourage other rats from venturing inside our house), the exterminator returned and re-set traps. We were also told that we needed to have a “cement guy” reinforce our foundation so that nothing else could venture inside.

Wouldn’t you think that we would have done that immediately? Nah, spring seems soon enough. We still have a few months left on our four-month guarantee. We want to get our 238 dollars’ worth.

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