Thursday, March 31, 2011

Horseshoes, hand grenades, and bathroom door stalls

As I said yesterday, the Bronx Zoo cobra’s escape through a faulty door took me down a long memory lane of "Failed Moments in New York City Building Contractor History."

On a recent trip to NYC, I snapped the following photo of a women’s restroom stall at LaGuardia. Over the years, I’ve never ceased to be amazed by this airport, which is essentially a third-world outfit. I think the rats from the Greenwich Village KFC-Taco Bell must be in charge of maintenance. It’s usually filthy and totally disorganized, and about one in ten of the water fountains and toilets actually has running water.
ABOVE: Proof that close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades,
and bathroom doors at LaGuardia.
It may be hard to tell from the photo, but the door to this particular stall is an inch or so WIDER than the door frame. As a result, it’s impossible to close and latch the door.  In other words, when the contractors were installing the doors to the various stalls, they decided to "keep it real" by not "measuring" (like an old fart!) before putting up the door frames. The bathroom seemed to have been somewhat recently renovated – newish tile, mostly un-graffitti-ed doors, at least one working sink... Which is all very nice, but what you really want from a restroom is a door that you don’t have to hold shut with one hand while you pee.
But then again, I’m a “princess.” Or, so said one of my former Manhattan landlords, a short, stubby man named Frank who spoke with a thick Brooklyn accent. The reason for my being a “royal pain in the ass” was a) I had no oven and b) he refused to turn on the heat before it sank to at least 42 degrees (true story), and c) my apartment had more mice than the aforementioned  KFC/Taco Bell.
“Yes, you do have an oven.” Frank responded to my complaint, rolling his eyes as if talking to a very young, very idiotic child.

And he was not wrong. An oven was physically present in the kitchen/bathroom/pantry area, and the stovetop worked fine. Conveniently, you could even cook an egg while sitting on the toilet. But the oven itself was hors de service. You see, when they “renovated” several decades earlier, someone had installed the pipes to the sink DIRECTLY IN FRONT of the oven door.

They could’ve just as easily installed the pipes to the side, or put the oven somewhere else. Or worked out any of a hundred possible solutions to this problem. But, like whoever installed the snake-proof door at the Reptile House at the Bronx Zoo, the contractor wanted to get to the OTB to watch a horse race, so he just said… "fuck it!"

And called it a day.
When I first met Paul, he lived in what was touted as a “newly renov8d loft!!” in Brooklyn. I will say that the place looked pretty nice, and the recently-gutted bathroom included a new tub and plumbing. All was going well until one day, early in the morning, Paul and his roommate heard a pounding on the door. It was the mentally deranged downstairs neighbor, saying that water was “flooding in through the ceiling.” At first, they just assumed that this guy was on some sort of hallucinogen. Which he probably was.

In the way that paranoid people sometimes really are being followed, his ceiling had, in fact, turned into Niagra Falls.
Water was indeed gushing through the ceiling (hey, at least it wasn’t TIGER URINE).  Crazy Neighbor was ranting, red in the face as he accused Paul and his roommate of letting water splash over the side of the bathtub. Still, this didn’t wash (no pun…), as we’re talking hundreds of gallons of water.
To his great annoyance, the contractor was called back in. After a very casual week-long investigation in which the bathtub couldn'b be used, he discovered ... (wait for it) ... the pipe that connects the bath water to the outgoing water pipe was never connected. That’s right. They installed a bathtub, but never bothered to connect one pipe to another. He acted as if this was just a tiny little oversight.
The contractor, who hailed from an unspecified former Soviet country, didn’t see what everyone was so worked up about.
“In my country, we do not need the fancy Capitalist ‘pipe connections’,” his expression seemed to say.
Now, I don’t want to generalize about Eastern European building contractors. I’m sure that at least 12% of them are actually very hard-working and see every job to completion (a higher percentage than most American contractors). But in this particular contractor also installed a light in the hallway that was always on, because he’d forgotten to put in a light switch.
“Where I come from, you pay extra for light switch,” he said. Like a humorless Yakov Smirnoff routine (or is that redundant?).  
Mabye this was the guy they hired to “fix the snake door” at the Bronx Zoo Reptile House? Right now, the Eastern European contractor is rolling his eyes, annoyed that they’re so annoyed by such a teensy-tiny little detail.
“In my country, we do not need fancy latch for snake door.” He will roll his eyes, mystified by how the Capitalist system has made us all soft, lazy, and unnecessarily afraid of snakes.

Missing Bronx Zoo Cobra: Enjoying the City's Bottomless Rat Buffet?

You’ve probably heard about the Egyptian Cobra who, earlier this week, escaped from the Reptile House at the Bronx Zoo. At the time of this writing, the snake remains at large.
Ah, how this brought back a flood of memories of my once and future city! My first thought, oddly enough, wasn’t off the many and varied wild animals that roam the streets, and occasionally take over fast food establishments. Instead, it reminded me of of how New York City truly has the shoddiest building contractors in the world. But more on that later.
It seems like people are going a bit crazy about one little cobra on the lam. Maybe it’s because it’s an Egyptian cobra, and hence probably Muslim and/or a member of Al Quaida?
Come on. This is the city where dangerous animals run around with more impunity than a Caucasian heiress with an Hermes duffle bag full of cocaine.
Remember Antoine Yates, the guy who kept a 500 pound Bengal Tiger AND a 280 pound alligator in his one-bedroom Harlem apartment? The tiger was discovered after his upstairs neighbor complained that a large quantity of urine was seeping through the ceiling. Yes, TIGER URINE was seeping through her ceiling. (Hope she clicked the “Tiger Urine Damage” box on her renter’s insurance!) However, for the previous two years, the presence of the Bengal tiger had gone largely unnoticed. As long as she kept the music down, anyway.
Mr. Yates received a five-year probation, which stipulated that during that time he was “not allowed to own or take care of any wild animal.” But that was in 2004, so by now he’s finally free to get that baby giraffe! Or maybe an elephant? Then, eventually, when his girlfriend confronts him about “the elephant in the room,” she’ll be referring to an ACTUAL ELEPHANT, which would just be awesome.
If the missing cobra needs a safe house to just chill and clear his head for a few days, he may want to ping Antoine. Or, better yet, the snake should slither on down to the nearest KFC-Taco Bell for an all-u-can-eat Rat Buffet.
All New Yorkers will remember the time, a few years ago, when passerbys noticed “hordes” of “agile, plump rats” in a closed KFC in the West Village. It was late at night, and the rats were noted to be “leaping and bounding from table to table.” To their credit, they were just rehearsing for Rats: The Musical, which is heavy on the Bob Fosse-style dance numbers.

One employee resigned over the situation, succinctly stating, “I quit because it was nasty.”
Nasty indeed. And you know what would’ve scared those rats away? A cobra.
So there.
(TOMORROW: Tales of New York City’s Lazy-Ass Contractors – stay tuned!)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Honey Badger: Font Agnostic

After a few years of non-blogging, I think I missed an important memo about how to make blog fonts non-wonky. Oh, well. At least Honey Badger don't give a shit ...

Call of Duty: Operation Mayonaise Run

I know I’m a bit late to this party, but I still can’t get over this…
To commemorate the release of the Call of Duty: Black Ops video game, a Chrysler is offering the 2011 Jeep Wrangler - Call of Duty® : Black Ops™ Edition, which vaguely resembles the military Jeep featured in the popular “first-person shooter” game. 
ABOVE: Lara Croft will be TOTALLY impressed
when you go to pick her up for your big date!
Yes, that’s right. A car based on a video game.

Am I the only one who thinks that the video game world and the human world are two twains that should never meet?  What’s next, a Grand Theft Auto® Special Edition Glock™? Lara Croft® Silicon Breast Implants™? World of Warcraft® Chastity Belts™? (Or would that be redundant?)

The tagline of the Jeep is “The only vehicle tough enough to play in this world.”  I seriously hurt my head trying to figure out what this means.
By “this world,” I’m not sure if they mean the video game, or, like, “reality.”  Either way, it makes about as much sense (none). The only car tough enough to play in a video game?? You mean, I can’t drive my actual car into a video game war zone, because it wouldn’t cut the mustard?? Or do they mean it’s the only vehicle tough enough to “play” in reality? Because there are, in fact, many stronger vehicles available for cruising down the mean streets of, say, Shaker Heights, Ohio.
But logic clearly isn’t supposed to come into this. Introducing logic to this scenario is as disturbing as when the actors in A Very Special Episode of 80s sitcoms would break the Fourth Wall, and Nancy Reagan would come out to underscore whatever Very Valuable Lesson we all just learned.  
In the alternate reality of the Jeep ads, the hands-free cell phone feature simulates the experience of talking to Mission Command -- like in the actual game. In real life, this will no doubt help you to complete your “mission” of picking up a flat of mayonnaise at Costco on your way home from work.

According to Brad Jakeman, Chief Marketing Officer, Activision Publishing, Inc., "This is a dynamic and fully integrated partnership that brings together two iconic brands across a full array of consumer touch-points."
Which is fortunate, because someone whose automotive purchases are informed by a video game are probably not gonna be getting many “touch points” anywhere else.

It’s one thing to spend $50 on a video game. And if you really need some merch to re-affirm your identification with a fictional, violent universe – a t-shirt, coffee cup, mousepad – all of these seem like reasonable accoutrements. But to spend $34,000 on an overpriced Jeep just to “complete the experience” ? Seems like taking your soft addiction just a little too far.
I’m curious as to who actually buys these cars? You have to assume that the target audience is a) male, b) single and c) celibate.
When my husband, Paul, saw the commercial for this Jeep, his eyes perked up. “Wow. That looks cool.”
I gave him the universal “it’s never gonna happen” look, familiar to all men who’ve ever been in a relationship for longer than, say, twelve hours.
“I was being ironic, duh?” He retorts.
(He wasn’t.)

On the graphics-heavy website, a glistening black Jeep is parked in the midst of an undisclosed tropical location in what appears to be Southeast Asia (the video game narrative takes place during the Cold War/Vietnam era). In the background, firebombs light up the palm trees. The hum of a military chopper is woven into the boom-boom of the explosions ...

I guess the sounds of soldiers dying and children screaming for their dead parents didn’t make the cut for the “atmospheric background noises” for the ad. Still, Vietnam vets with PTSD should probably avoid the site. Unless they love awesome cars with rad stero systems!!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Does this blog make my butt look big?

My closet is proof that women will buy anything. If by “women,” you mean, “me.” 

Not long ago, I succumbed to marketing targeted at gullible women in the 24-55 age group, and bought a pair of Sketchers Shape-Ups™. You know, the shoes that promise to somehow, passively, shape and tone your ass and abs? 

The problem is, even if they do make your ass looks better, the rest of you is rendered hideous because you’re wearing shoes that look like something from a medical supply catalog. My husband, Paul, succinctly describes the Shape-Ups as, “where hard-ons go to die.”
The Erection Graveyard
I think they’re working, but it may be psychological.  After all, the feeling of your butt firming up is almost the same as the feeling of not wanting to have wasted a hundred bucks on a seriously fugly pair of shoes. 
My butt, "before."
My butt, after only two wearings! The shoes also gave me a tan...
The details of how the Shape-ups work are a bit sketchy (no pun…). Supposedly, the curvature of the shoe somehow simulates “walking on a beach.” Or whatever. And I have to admit, it DOES feel like you’re in a douche commercial from the 80s.

The shoes are part of the growing trend of clothes that promise to make you more fit, without any inconvenient “exertion” or “exercise.” For instance, in the “As Seen on TV” aisle at your local Walgreens, you’ll find The Belly Burner weight loss belt, which claims to turn your body into “a fat-burning machine.” Kind of like a George Foreman Grill. Now, I’m no scientist, but …. hell, neither was whoever thought this up, I’m pretty sure.

Which brings me to my Future “As Seen On TV” Products of the Day… (hello Venture Capitalists!).

For when you reach that point in life when you neither aspire nor expect to have sex, ever again…. a line of very comfortable, ultra-hideous shoes called Fuck-Its™. Tagline: Just Give Up.©™  I’m envisioning a line of coordinating “TV-watching suits.”  Which are basically jogging suits, only roomier and more realistic about their raison d’etre.  (After all, how many people in Boca Raton are wearing their track suits to run around a track?) The front of the jacket will feature several large and extremely unflattering remote-control sized pockets. The seat will feature extra padding and a battery-operated butt warmer.  This could be the next Slanket, y’all.  And you read it here first!

Or, a pair of fat-burning pants called Slack-offs™ : “Slacks that let you slack off.”  Made of a polyurethane/petroleum/lead/nylon blend, Slack-offs™ burn calories while you sit and watch TV!!  Straight from the catwalks of Tashkent, “the Milan of Uzbekistan,” you’ll feel the burn in these sexy slacks. The low, steady dose of lead will contribute to ultra-fat-burning “blood poisoning,” which melts the pounds like magic. WARNING: Do not wear within 100 feet of open flame. Mental insanity and slicing off your own ear and sending it a gift-wrapped box to a barista may occur.

For unsightly foot fat, you’ll want to grab a pair of new Sock-its™! These socks are made from a weapons-grade nylon blend that melts away the  ankle fat while you sit! This product uses AnkleMetric© technology, originally developed by Soviet scientists for use in Gulag prisons, now available in the west!  Wearing these socks, you’ll feel just like you’re walking on sand. That is, assuming you happen to be on a beach at the time…

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Cat Apps: Not Just for your iPhone Any More!

Per my post yesterday, Americans seem to be shocked and scratching their heads over the feline obesity epidemic. As the owner of both a Fat Cat and a Mega-Fat Cat, I feel their pain. But this pheomenon is hardly a mystery.

Why?  These days, cats don’t just have “dinners.” They also have
APPETIZERS. Fancy Feast now offers apps to round out your cat's dining experience, with selections such as “Seabass and Shrimp Appetizer in a Delicate Broth.” 

Mmmm. It’s the next best thing to actually taking your cat to The Cheesecake Factory for some Jalapeno mouse shooters!! And just in time, because the stupid ACLU wouldn’t back you in the discrimination case when the restaurant kicked out your “date,” Roger, because of his “African-Asian heritage” (Abyssinian-Siamese mix).     
ABOVE: Roger, Feeling Marginalized After Cheesecake Factory Incident
On the website, pet owners are encouraged to serve the apps as “a complement to regular meals,” because, “you don’t need a special occasion to celebrate.”  Assuming your idea of celebrating involves chicken anuses and/or cow scrotums (or whatever crap goes into cat food).

Let’s face it – nothing gets a party started faster than popping open a Fancy Feast “White Meat Chicken and Shredded Beef Appetizer.”  It’s like a cheaper, smellier version of an eight-ball of cocaine.

But the Fancy Feast Appetizer website offers a lot more than information on how to get a party cranking. The cat food website also offers--and I am NOT shitting you--links to five MUSIC CHANNELS (?!), presumably for women who enjoy feeding their cats appetizers and/or enjoy visiting the corporate websites of cat food companies.

The music channels are each touted with a photos of women alone with the fluffy Fancy Feast™ Cat™: sitting by a romantic fire, reading a book, lounging in bed. Listening to Cat Appetizer-Friendly music channels such as “Evening Rhythms” and “Midday Jams.” (Conspicuously lacking: the "Quiet Desperation" or "Drowning Out Crying" channels.)

I have nothing against crazy cat ladies (CCLs). After all, I'm blogging about cat food. But do the CCLs really need their own music channels? And what do they play? Cat Stevens? The Pussycat Dolls? Phil Collins?

Up until now, I only overfed my cat on special occasions, like Cat Appreciation Day, or St. Catrick’s Day (get it? St. "Cat"-rick, instead of Patrick?!). But now, I feel empowered to overfeed/”celebrate” any day of the week.  Finally, something I can feel good about! 

I'm gonna go get this party started, yo! It's Saturday night, and I don't need a special occasion ot celebrate. Poppin’ open a can of Cat Apps and cranking up some Fancy Feast™ “Evening Jams.”

Yeah, baby. It’s gonna be like in a rap video once that music gets hoppin'. Can I get invited to that party?

I am SO MUCH cooler than those people (said the person blogging about fucking cat food).

Friday, March 25, 2011

Feline Pilates: The Montage

Not long ago, my husband, Paul, got a letter from his Aunt Lorraine, which contained a clipping from the Wall Street Journal. The headline read, "Speak Now? What to Do When You Disapprove." An article about what to do when you don't like the significant other of a friend, or, say, a beloved nephew.
Subtle, I’m thinking. Aunt Lorraine hates me. Why did she wait until our six-year anniversary to break the news to Paul?

Then, we turned the clipping over to find another headline, “When Man’s Best Friend is Obese," about the growing scourge of Pet Obesity. (In America, of all places! Can you imagine? ) Personally, I would’ve gone with the title, “When Your Cat is a Giant Fat-Ass.” (Which may be why I ‘m writing this in a blog with a name that’s a play on an awful Jimmy Buffet song, rather than  Wall Street Journal. Ahem.)

This clipping was yet another in a long slew of not-so-subtle hints from friends, loved ones, and random UPS delivery people, suggesting that our cat, Seymour, “be needin’ some serious Jenny Craig.”
Seymour, after a bender.
You see, Seymour weighs in at just over 25 pounds. In human terms, that’s roughly “Drug-Addicted Fat Comedian About to Die in a Pool of His Own Vomit” fat. He’s like Jared before the Subway diet.  Or Al Roker before … oh, hell. You get the picture.

Every time we take Seymour to the vet, she gives us That Look. As if we were using a funnel to pour food down his mouth, like some French farmers do to engorge the livers of ducks destined to become fois gras. I’ve explained that we really don’t feed him that much. Honestly. I’m pretty sure Seymour’s liver would not be nearly so delicious on a cracker.
Apparently, cutting back on the cat chow isn’t enough. Some experts say that you should help your cat “work out” as much as an hour a day. What these so-called “experts” (with an M.S. in Feline Pilates from Full Sail University) don’t seem to understand about cats is that … THEY ARE CATS. 

Cats don’t do anything they don’t want to do. Ever. A dog will chase a Frisbee, or fetch a stick just to make you happy. You may even be able to coax your dog onto the $971 (+ shipping & handling) dog treadmill you bought from the SkyMall catalog that time you got drunk on a cross-country flight and realized, “hey, this plane has WiFi! Woo-hoo!” Your Cocker Spaniel will take pity on you and your fiscal irresponsibility. Your cat will turn up its nose and silently quote Milton Friedman before using the Pet Treadmill as a thousand-dollar litter box.

You see, cats just don’t give a crap. Don’t get me wrong—I’m a cat person; a card-carrying member of Future Crazy Cat Ladies of America. As such, I know that cats never, EVER do anything they’re not 100% psyched about doing. And only when they 100% feel like it. It’s like living in a house with a French civil servant.

Cutting back on the Fancy Feast is one thing, but expecting cats to exercise?  This is just another example of our society’s bad habit of creating expectations that aren’t even vaguely aligned with reality.

In the parallel universe where cats are willing to exercise, plucky senior citizens in South Florida really do go speed-walking in track suits like in Metamucil commercials, instead of driving their Rascals twenty feet to the mailbox. Housecats can be persuaded to exercise in that world where abstinence is a fail-safe form of birth control among teenagers; where “novelty tobacco pipes” have never, ever been used for smoking weed; where everyone’s thinking only of the person they’re having sex with during sex.

And yet, experts still insist putting your fat cat on a “fitness regimen.” Even if said regimen would pretty much require quitting your job to become a personal trainer for your cat. As much as that would be a fun resignation letter to write, it may not be practical for ALL pet owners.

Still, I wonder what that would look like, in the entirely fictional version of the world where such a thing were possible? Hmmm….

Cue the theme song from “Rocky.”  Ripple to a suburban house:

Enter RESPONSIBLE PET OWNER (RPO), in a track suit, dangling a feather on a string in front of OBESE CAT. Cat looks at RPO, thinking, “This dude be crazy!” An hour passes. RPO’s blood pressure mounts.  Cat saunters over to food bowl. Meows. RPO continues to run around the house with a feather on a string. Cat licks butt. RPO dies of a heart attack. Cat eats RPO’s face.

Alas. In this universe, Seymour will live to be fat another day. Hopefully, he won’t have to eat our faces any time soon.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Blogging like it's 2003...

Remember how, in the mid-2000s, everybody had a blog? And then, all of a sudden, nobody had a blog anymore?  Kind of like those stupid trucker hats the hipsters used to wear? Then one day, nobody wore them any more?
I blame Facebook. (Of course, I blame Facebook for most things, including the recent tsunami that shifted the earth several inches off its axis.) Why write in a blog, when, instead, you can just go on Facebook and post a link to a break-dancing aardvark?
Other than the highly topical blogs, e.g., about knitting and/or conspiracy theories, the only blogs to have survived the Darwinism of online platforms seem to the “institutional blogs.” These are basically essay-length advertisements for every business from Halliburton to your local coffee shop. Some of these are surprisingly delightful and informative. For instance, my friend Sheri’s cheese shop blog is a great source of “cheese porn” (fortunately, no 70’s mustaches or gold chains involved), featuring explicit pics of fried, bacon-wrapped wheels of brie.
The corporate blogs, which only rarely feature fried cheese and bacon, are more of a mystery. I’ve always wondered who the hell reads these. For instance, the Alice Company blog, where we talk about our company, our industry, and why you should buy toilet paper online.”
I am NOT (no pun...) shitting you. Not that anything’s wrong with their company, or online TP delivery. I’m all for toilet paper; big fan. But who really needs regular (no pun..) updates on the matter?  Is that web cam that films grass growing just too much of an emotional roller coaster?
Recently, I saw an ad on Craigslist for a “toner and printer supply company” looking to hire a blogger. They were – with no trace of irony -- looking for “an offbeat, funny David Sedaris type” with “a strong humor portfolio”; preferably a “published writer.”  To make rollicking, pithy revelations about TONER CARTRIDGES.
After all, when you think of comedy writing, you think: The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, and Dave’s Printing Supplies Blog.  Not necessarily in that order.
Maybe David Sedaris himself is available? Or Steve Martin? Or the late Dorothy Parker, channeled from the dead via a medium to make hilarious observations about recycled copy paper?
Don’t get me wrong. I love the crap out of toner (who doesn’t??). Ditto for photocopiers.  And let’s face it: ass photocopying is a timeless source of inter-office humor and/or evidence in sexual harassment lawsuits. But I have no idea what kind of genius or madman could parlay this into an endless comedy gold mine.
So, I started thinking. What if David Sedaris did write the blog for Dave’s Printing Supplies?
Ripple to dream sequence….
March 21
Earlier today, I was walking over to the quick and efficient new Xerox 666 photocopier from Dave’s Printing Supplies. As I approached the copier, I thought of the time my mother loaded us all into the car to see her Aunt Ruth, who had a bizarre collection of rugs made out of puffin pelts and live giraffes. [STORY CONTINUES]. … To this day, every time we see a giraffe, my sisters and break into hives. But we never spoke of it again.
March 22
Not long ago. I realized that my printer needed more toner fluid. Which reminded me of the time I was driving across the country with a trucker who was drinking moonshine made out of his own urine….[STORY CONTINUES] Then, I called the friendly and efficient folks at Dave’s Printing Supplies, who delivered toner at unbeatable prices. Prices, like the space between time and memory, that will never come again.