Thanksgiving was eight days ago, so you might wonder if I really have any leftovers—unless you know that I made a complete Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday (five days ago). We spent the real Thanksgiving at our cousins’ house in Larchmont. They hosted a lovely dinner in their gracious home and I enjoyed every minute of it, especially the many minutes that I didn’t have to cook for 20 people. However, turkeys were cheap that week, and I do like having leftovers—read stuffing—so, on Sunday, I cooked a 19-pound turkey for our family of three. Therefore, I do actually still have leftovers.
That being said, this blog post is not about food at all. It’s going to be composed of a little of this, and a little of that—i.e., story ideas that I have been warehousing in my brain for future posts. Because none of the stories have enough material for an entire post, I’m tossing them all into a post-Thanksgiving word casserole in order to empty my brain of all of the bits and pieces, much like one does with leftovers in the fridge.
In the beginning of November, we took in some Hurricane Sandy refugees, so our house was a little more full than usual. Before you submit my name for a Good Samaritan award, I should point out that the refugees were all related to us. I don’t think it counts when you take in family members who have had the ocean meet the bay right in their living rooms. During a middle-of-the-night discussion on their first day in our house, my refugee brother suggested that I try cobbling my blog posts into a book, like Jenny Lawson did in Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir). He said that, while he hadn’t yet read her book, he had heard that it was very funny. And like me, Jenny had started out blogging (http://thebloggess.com/). He then decided to order the book for me. According to my refugee sister, he announced his intention right in front of me. Middle-of-the-night discussions accompanied by middle-of-the-night beverages can often leave memory blanks, which could explain why I had no idea who had sent me the book once it arrived. On the other hand, my refugee sister could be wrong about his telling me. It really doesn’t matter because my refugee brother won’t answer my questions about this. Maybe he wants to stop the argument, or perhaps he likes being mysterious.
Either way, I am so glad he bought it for me. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened is hilarious. The other night, my husband asked me to get up at 4:30 a.m. and take him to the train station since his car was being repaired. Instead of rising early, I stayed up all night and read Jenny Lawson’s book. When he got up at 4 a.m., he found me laughing my head off, and snorting. He asked me to please keep it down because the neighbors were sleeping. I asked him how our neighbors could hear me through closed windows, and he said that my laughter was THAT loud.
I’m free with my laughter, but very little makes me snort. Once in a while, though, I’ll be thinking of something that happened and I will find myself laughing through my nose. The thing that I’m remembering doesn’t necessarily need to have been funny at the time. Oftentimes, what happened was actually quite disturbing or frightening while it happened, but over the course of time, the fear has been removed from my recollection, leaving only the absurd.
For instance, this past summer, my cousin, Joe*, and his wife, Mary*, took a trip from their Philadelphia suburb to Manhattan with their daughter, Celery*, to celebrate Celery’s 16th birthday. Joe and Mary asked me to come into the city and meet them on their last day there. Joe told me that he’d be at the corner of Spring and Broadway in SoHo. When I got to that corner, he and his family were nowhere to be found—and yes, I checked all four corners. I called his cell phone and he swore that he was on the southwest corner. I looked, and he was definitely not there, unless he had taken to wearing a turban since I had last seen him. He said that he was wearing a baseball cap. I asked him to check the street signs, and he said (rather impatiently, I might add) that he was on the southwest corner of Spring and West Broadway, just like he had said before. I imagine that I rolled my eyes at this out-of-towner’s naiveté. “Joe,” I said in a superior voice, “West Broadway runs parallel to Broadway. You are four or five blocks west of Broadway.” “That doesn’t make any sense,” Joe responded. This time, I know I rolled my eyes. “Stay where you are. I’ll be right there,” I said. After about five minutes, I met up with him and his family. “Where do you want to go?” I asked Mary and Celery. They named a bunch of stores on Broadway. So we all headed back to where I started out.
Joe had no interest in shopping, so I suggested that he and I visit the MLB Fan Cave which was a few blocks north of where his wife and daughter were shopping. Usually the Fan Cave doesn’t let people in. It’s a place for contestants to watch sports, hang out, and tweet to their followers. Tourists are able to watch the contestants through plate-glass windows. That day, however, tours were being given, so we walked through the sports-themed cave and watched the contestants watch television. Every MLB team had a fan who was competing in the MLB Fan Cave contest. (I never was able to figure out what kind of contest it was.) Joe sought out the Phillies fan and chatted him up. At the end of the tour, we were taken to the front door, next to which was a display of dirt from every Major League baseball field. As the tour guide spoke, Joe told me to take some dirt from the Phillies’ field. I asked if that was allowed and he said that he had just seen another guy do it, so he was sure it was fine. Thinking back, I should have realized that it was not fine because there were no containers to put the dirt in. We had to use his baseball hat. Then the security guard approached me, shaking his head. He put his hand out for the hat. Shooting daggers at Joe, I gave the guard the hat so that he could pour the dirt back into the display. The guard said that dirt was only given out to corporate sponsors or at special promotions. I looked over to see Joe looking away from me, and laughing through his nose.
After we got out of there, we met up with Mary and Celery, who were dying to see Chinatown, where they had heard that you could get really convincing knockoff designer bags. I told them that designers do not like having their bags duplicated and have been urging people not to buy counterfeit merchandise. (In my opinion, designers should instead be leaning on the police—who absolutely have to know about the counterfeiters’ operations.) Because of the pressure from designers, the counterfeiters have become cagey. I told Mary and Celery that the only way they were going to get to see the really convincing knockoffs was if an Asian woman approached them on the street and said, “You want bags?”
Mary, who really wanted to make her daughter’s birthday special, or spend a night in jail, said, “Let’s go!” So, we made our way to Chinatown. We looked into all of the kiosks and saw unbranded handbags, hats, watches, and novelties. Within moments, an Asian woman approached Mary and said, “Want to see some bags?” Mary looked at me to determine if this code was legitimate. I nodded yes, and off we went. Well, off Mary went. The woman and Mary tore down streets and alleyways at the speed of light. Celery, Joe, and I tried to keep up. Eventually we caught up with Mary who was standing in an open kiosk. The guide motioned toward the back of the shop. Mary didn’t hesitate to follow her. Celery and I held back. As Mary proceeded through an invisible door, I told Celery that we shouldn’t let her go in alone. Celery agreed, so we headed toward the door. Joe said he’d wait outside. One of the employees said that Joe had to accompany us, or leave. Joe left to get ice cream. So Celery and I went through the door behind Mary. The guide followed us in and shut the door. Then she got on a walkie-talkie and gave instructions to someone on the other side to lock the door. We heard a loud click.
“Mary, we’re locked in a soundproof room!” I cried. “We could be murdered, and nobody would ever know.”
“I have my cell. I’ll call for help if we need to,” she replied.
“I wouldn’t count on getting a signal in a soundproof room,” I said.
She didn’t answer because she was busy checking out the hundreds of “designer” bags hanging from hooks. They were the same bags that were on display to the public out front, but these bags had designer labels affixed to them. By this point, I was in a panic about spending my last days in a tiny room surrounded by knockoffs. I felt really badly for Celery, too. Not so much for Mary, who had gotten us into this situation. I knew that this was my punishment for ignoring the designers’ warnings about buying fake bags. Then the door opened, and I breathed a sigh of relief. A few more customers were ushered in. Then our guide got back on her walkie-talkie and had the door locked again. We had missed our chance to escape. It reminded me of the scene in The Twilight Saga: New Moon when unsuspecting tourists were lured into the Volturi’s castle with a promise of a tour, only to become the Volturi’s lunch. Celery and I shot alarmed looks at each other. Mary, who obviously had never read or seen New Moon, was thoroughly enjoying herself and was not at all concerned with our fate.
Then the door opened again. This time, Celery and I were determined to drag Mary outside to safety with us. But we didn’t get the chance because the very angry store owner came up to me and told me that we had to leave because my husband was waiting for us outside their seemingly empty store, which would attract attention from the police. I told the woman that my husband was at home watching the Yankees. Then I realized that it was Joe who was causing the problem. Mary looked at me and said, “Go out and tell him to leave.” So that was how she was going to play it: Joe was now my husband and if anyone had to leave, it was me, not her. I should have felt relief at the chance to leave, but I couldn’t, in good conscience, leave Celery and Mary in there. (Well, maybe Mary.) At this point, Celery pulled out her cell phone to call her father, proving my theory that you cannot get a signal in a soundproof room.
That was the final straw. Celery and I told Mary that it was time to go. She agreed, but didn’t hurry. She held up a few bags and asked Celery if she wanted any of them. Celery, who wanted nothing except to get out of there, said no. The angry proprietor whipped out her walkie-talkie and gave instructions to someone on the other side of the door. As soon as we heard the door unlock, she opened it and shoved us out. The other shoppers who were still inside the hidden room looked at us with pity. Personally, I pitied them. They’re probably still there.
We, on the other hand, enjoyed a delicious pizza at an outdoor café in Little Italy, where we were waited on by a wannabe mobster. He was obviously just playing a part; his gun definitely looked fake.
*Names changed except for Celery’s