27 January 2011

Hello, My Deer

Whenever I catch a flurry of movement, a flash of fur out of the corner of my eye, I have a mini-heart attack.  Even after six years, the thought of roaming wildlife still freaks me out a bit. When I let Vito out early in the morning or late at night, I still stand at the front door with a hockey stick ready to chase off on any renegade coyotes looking to snack on my little pork chop. The vigilance has not waned. Get off my lawn! For the past two seasons, we've had a family of six deer traversing the woods and brook behind our house and they're so much fun to watch.  Yesterday morning, I caught this curious little one out of the corner of my eye.  Instead of having a panic attack, I calmly reached for my camera.  I think I've had a break through.

25 January 2011

Mista Steamy

So this is what happens after a year's worth of inertia.  I ripped up my forearm in a senior citizen yoga class last week and am back in the land of limited motion. I can't even ball up my left fist in blind rage. Exercise-wise, I've been taking baby steps so as not to pop an implant, so this pathetic injury is all about being woefully out of shape.  These days, I get winded playing Wii and almost pass out after vacuuming a small room.  So I'm on the yogi DL for the week.  

In the meantime, I figured it was high time to venture back into the steam room. The steam room and I go way back.  Back in the day, I would slip unnoticed into the steam room at the Boston Harbor Hotel during lunch hour.  Today, in the post 9/11 world, you can't even breach an office food court without getting tazed.  Several years ago, I'd go for weekly steams at the local spa where you got your own private bath and unlimited (+free!) use of the spa products.  I'd steam it out, then moisturize myself to within an inch of my life with their $400 body cream -- Kanebo Sensai Premier.  

We became Y members a couple of years ago so we go there now. It's a beautiful facility and while the community steam room is no frills, it's clean. Mostly.  But I knew it would be different  from my past experiences when I spotted a woman eating a tuna sandwich in the neighboring sauna. 

Still, the Y steam room was especially dear to me over the past two years when I was going through treatment. It was a perfect place for visualization exercises.  I'd set up shop on my soggy towel and would envision myself sweating out cancer cells.  The only downside was feeling self conscious when other people were in there with me.  There's no need to make idle chit chat when you're sweating out toxic waste.  But it's even worse when you're bald and disfigured and just want to be invisible, an apparition in the fog.

An advantage of working from home though, is that I can avoid the throngs at the Y and sometimes even get the steam room all to myself.  Most days, I  find myself steaming among the elderly and Moms with jacked-up Madonna arms, taking advantage of the free babysitting.  That's all well and good.  However, I also have a nemesis. 

One of my neighbors is kind of a middle-aged version of "The Situation." He's one of these guys who finds it physically impossible to keep his shirt on. He mows the lawn shirtless, even if it's 50 degrees.  In the summer, he shuns his backyard and deck, props himself up on one of those rubberized chaise lounges from the 70s and sunbathes close to the street.  We see him all over town and he's a pleasant enough guy, just a little creepy. I once saw him leering at a table of young women at Uno's.  Leering at Uno's.  Really?  

And as much as he can't keep his shirt on, he can't stay out of the Y either.  He is always there. Always. And he frequents the steam room.  We'll call him Mr. Steamy.

Aside:  Not to be confused with Mr. Steamy dryer balls, which I have an unhealthy obsession with and will discuss on another post.

The last time we had an encounter in the steam room, my hair was in nascent stages of regrowth and I was bird-skinny.  I looked like Gollum wearing a furry bathing cap.  There were several people in the steam room that day and I sat on the far end, just wanting to close my eyes and do my visualization

Then I heard him:
"Hey, is that Kate over there?" 


"How you doin? You look good. You feelin good? 

Then he proceeded to move over closer to me and ask if i had any recipes for stuffed mushrooms.  

It happened a few more times, but now I make sure his car is in his driveway before I venture over to the Y.  

Earlier this week, I suited up and headed to the steam room.  Sure enough, rounding the corner in full peacock strut -- Mr. Steamy, mindlessly fumbling his dryer balls. 

I did a mini cannon ball into the jacuzzi, splashing an older gent who muttered "Jesus" under his breath. Sorry.:)   

Mr. Steamy was heading in for a steam so I waited it out in the jacuzzi for a bit. When it was safe, I opened the door and walked in on a what felt like a scene from a mature porn film.

There were two older ladies exfoliating each other with sea salt from a Ziploc bag.  Another older man "Lou" was dropping some fragrant essential oils around the floors.  Then, lo and behold, Mr. Steamy comes back in with a vial of clear liquid that looked like some kind of lubricant. 

"Heyyyyy! Kate!  How you doin? Long time, no see. (slaps my back).  You look good.  You feel good?"

One of the women held out the Ziploc bag and asked me if I wanted some sea salt. She was gracious, but I just can't participate in public exfoliation.  

Mr. Steamy walks over to the place where Lou was dropping his oils.  "Ladies,Lou, try this..it's really strong eucalyptus.  A little different."   Mr. Steamy adds his concoction to the already overwhelming sinus-clearing cocktail that Lou had thrown down.   

"Oh, that's delicious," said one of the ladies, still rubbing herself silly with sea salt.

 Delicious. No..no..no.. it was like homemade tear gas! 

I was getting dizzy and anxious.  The exact opposite of my intent. 

It was time to blow out of this new age whore house.

Does anyone know how much it costs to install a steam shower or infrared sauna in the house?  The kids don't need to go to college, do they?

14 January 2011

Random Quizzilla

It felt like a Quizzilla Friday today.  It's high time -- the last RQ was Oct 2008. Let's do this thing.   

1.  Do you hoard anything?
Free perfume samples. It's the French whore in me. 

2. Name five things that annoy you:  Platitudes, guitar solos lasting more than 6 minutes, Eeyore-esque FB statuses about aches and pains, xenophobes, the Olive Garden.

3. What is the last song you had stuck in your head? 
For the better part of a year, I (and several pals) have broken out into the theme song from “What Up With That” from SNL, not unlike Kenan Thompson does in the skit. Watch this clip and try NOT to sing it the rest of the day.

4.  When was the last time you slept on the floor? 
At Dreama's apartment in Manhattan last year.  

5.  What is your one of your favorite Urban Dictionary words?  

**If you clicked on the link, you've just been Rick-Rolled.

13 January 2011

Overheard in the Kitchen

JAMES:  Paulie, next weekend is a long weekend.

PAUL:  I know.  It's Martin Luther King weekend.

JAMES:  Do you know who Martin Luther King was?

PAUL: (disdainfully)  Of course I do, Dad.

JAMES:  Who was he?

PAUL:  A pirate!

The "duh" was palpable in Paulie's response. After being corrected, however, he realized he was thinking about Christopher Columbus -- also technically not a pirate, but more understandable with all the ship imagery and pillaging and such. It's a good thing they are learning about MLK in school this week, because this moment, in a different place, could rival the time Caroline told the cashier at Whole Foods that she had yellow teeth.

06 January 2011

"Ooh Hoo Makin' Money!"

The attendant at my regular parking garage looks like Pat Morita and I’m a bit obsessed with him.

I see him twice a week or so, whenever I have meetings in town.  Without fail, he approaches my car, a burning cigarette in one hand and a wad of cash in the other.  He hands me my parking stub and cat calls: “Ooh hoo! Makin’ money! Makin’ money!”


Does he think I’m some pantsuit prostitute?  After a few times, I realized this was his trademark greeting, a pep talk of sorts to all us morose corporate souls, dragging our wheelie laptop bags behind us like balls and chains.

Today, a young man reeking of high finance (and failing to look hip in a fedora) looked affright as he grabbed his stub and quickened his pace to the stairwell.  Rookie.

“How long ya stayin, lady? Pat Morita says, as always.

I lie and say 30 minutes because I don’t want to leave my keys and get blocked in by the phalanx of cars and SUVs that will end up packed into every last inch of this garage by midday.  I made that mistake once and will never do it again.

“Ok, see ya latah,” he says

Pat waddles back to his tiny office, no bigger than an outhouse.  It has a small microwave with a piece of charred bubble wrap hanging over it.  A Healthy Ones frozen lunch sits on top of the bubble wrap next to a frozen 12-ounce Mountain Dew.

This garage is insane.  It operates like a nightclub – one out, one in -- with a “bouncer” standing by the ticket gates, waving in cars when spaces open up.  I use the word “spaces” somewhat tenuously. Spaces are irrelevant here. Cars are packed end-to-end, almost all the way to the exit for most of the day.  A line starts forming outside early and usually doesn’t subside. I’m sure they’re violating all kinds of codes, but I don’t care. Nobody cares.  It’s the cheapest garage downtown.  To get a rate this low, you’d have to park in the Seaport and then cringe in that icy head wind (hag face) over the Fort Point Channel.

If you get blocked in, though, you need a crash helmet and nerves of steel when it’s time to leave. When you return for your car, Pat Morita dispatches his posse of attendants who look like A Tribe Called Quest.  They fan out with pockets full of car keys and snap into action, moving the other cars around to dig yours out.  This is no small feat. These guys must be masters of sliding block puzzles.  They’re doing 18-point turns, swearing at each other, screeching in chaotic unison, like bumper cars trying NOT to bump each other.  Sometimes alarms are set off, and I’m sure there have been accidents.  But most of the time they get it right.  Even though it's terrifying to behold. 

The garage has been here as long as I can remember and the city has really morphed all around it.  I’m surprised it hasn’t been replaced by luxury condos or a Chipotle. They must doing something right. Still, it looks as out of place as I feel these days wandering around town.  

When I worked here, it was a giant construction site with a lot of jackhammering, dust and detours.  Now, it’s almost serene, walking down pretty, tree-lined streets that don’t dead end into glory holes (and having work days that don’t end with me drinking cheap wine out of a shoe at Weggie's Pub.)

Still, I'm happy to be back in here and makin' a little money (Ooh hoo!) from time to time.   Even Pat Morita is happy -- almost jolly -- in his work, even in his little outhouse office.  

At the end of the day, I retrieve my car and Pat’s still there.

“Hi, lady!  You make money today.”

“I did.”

“Good, good! Ya gotta make money! See ya latah!"

I climb into my unblocked car and maneuver my way down the ramp, trying not to sideswipe any cars illegally squeezed onto the median.

Then it hit me. “Makin' money” is not about Pat’s customers at all. It’s about him! It’s like his own personal ka-ching.  Every time he hands out a parking stub and crams in another car, he’s raking the cash in hand over fist.  Makin’ money!  Likely a lot more than most of us. Good for you, Pat.

As I caught sight of Pat in my rearview mirror, I swear he rolled up a dollar bill and began to smoke it.  

03 January 2011

7 Minutes in Hell (aka First Night)

I've always found New Year’s Eve to be a collection of common disasters and I tend to avoid crowds whenever possible.  But my kind neighbor gave me 10 First Night Buttons and some VIP passes and it was 50 degrees outside. So, in a moment of holiday cheer (or weakness), I indulged my delusions of family magic in the city. I pictured us drinking hot cocoa and watching fireworks. I thought the kids would just love walking in the Grand Procession alongside some of those crazy large-headed puppets shooting laser beams into the sky.  The plan was drama free:  Caroline, Paulie and I would meet KT and her three kids on the BPL steps at 3 p.m. see some ice sculptures, perhaps get some faces painted, watch the freak parade, and be home by 6 p.m.
Visions of face painting danced in their heads. But it was not to be.
Within moments of meeting, however,  KT and I realized we should've just gone to the W for drinks, instead of wandering into this Copley Square clusterfuck with five young kids.

It was madness. It appeared that all of New England had converged on Boylston Street to take advantage of the balmy weather.  It was nearly impossible to keep the kids herded into our own personal space.  Worse, my kiddos aren't city savvy yet.   Without hypervigilance, they would wander into intersections, or stop short on a crowded street, sending disgruntled revelers veering into filthy snowbanks to avoid tripping over them.  This year, the sidewalks were narrowed further, partially roped off with yellow "caution" tape because of the ever-present threat of getting impaled by one of the death icicles dangling perilously from the buildings' underhangs. Every now and then, one would smash to the ground and it was like a window had fallen out of the John Hancock tower.  Mad crowds, hypervigilance, death icicles.  Happy New Year!  What the hell were we thinking?

I think Paulie knows the day is going to suck.  
What the hell were we thinking, part 2:  We purchased vuvuzelas for the kids.  

The First Night vendors are the creepiest lot, likely part of some prison work release program. And probably pedophiles. Another charming thought: Pedophiles selling light-up butterfly wands and disco ball scepters to legions of young children in crowded, chaotic places.     

First Night was not a great place for young kids, and certainly not for my generalized anxiety disorder.  

We walked up to the Hynes Convention Center in search of face painting.  Instead, we were accosted by a salesman who asked us if our basements were waterproofed.  We then learned that the line for face painting snaked around the entire convention hall. We decided to get the hell out of there.  "Hey guys! Wanna go see if the ice sculptures melted?"  

It was a 30 minute, two-block pilgrimage back to Copley Square.  It was a challenge not to lose the kids in the throngs.  The whole way, we were barking at them for their lack of spatial awareness. "Use the buddy system!" "Don’t space out on the escalators!" "Look out for that mailbox!"  "Watch the light pole!"  "Don’t blow the vuvuzelas in Starbucks!" I was starting to believe that people who leash their kids aren’t insane.  Finally, I just held onto their hoods.
Hold on to your hoods! Let's get some street meat!

And we thought the afternoon was bad so far? It hadn't even begun to suck!
Everyone was starving, so we got some fried dough and street meat and gawked at the sweating ice sculptures for a bit.  A couple of police officers asked if the kids wanted to sit on their motorcycles.  Paulie stood beside me eating a basket of chicken fingers, while the girls climbed into the seats.  

This was the final photo of the day for reasons that will become clear.
I snapped a photo of the girls, then went to grab Paulie’s hood and he was gone.  GONE!  I looked left, looked right, I spun around.  He was nowhere to be found.  We all started spreading out, calling his name.  I told Caroline to stay with KT, and I ran up and down the sidewalk with my hair on fire, peeking in between the throngs of people.  All I could think was: This is how it happens.  In a split second.  Someone took him.  He couldn’t have gotten out of sight in two seconds by himself in this huge crowd. With every frantic second that passed, it became more real.  I was shaking and running amok, screaming his name in a voice I’ve never heard before.  He was not anywhere in the immediate area.  I started running back to the police officers but was mobbed by Samaritans wanting to help: What does your son look like? What was he wearing?  How old is he? By now, I was hyperventilating, trying to get the words out:  Patriots sweatshirt. Brown hair.  He’s 6.

 Thankfully 10 –year-old DT (smart ) said “He was eating chicken nuggets!”  

One of the Samaritans yelled out: “I just saw a little boy in a Patriots sweatshirt with chicken nuggets.  I think he was up by the bus stop, just past Clarendon Street!”   This was a block and a half away.  We all took off – KT, the kids, the Samaritans. I was still convinced somebody had him.  I was in a full-on panic – an epic fail in the cool head department.  

Then beautiful words from DT :  “I see him! I see him!”  Then we all saw him at once. He was standing with a man, a woman and their two young sons, still holding his basket of chicken fingers. I screamed his name and he spotted me and ran to me crying.  The Samaritans and the young family that was watching him all broke into cheers.  I broke into convulsing sobs and just hugged Paulie for about five minutes.  Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.  

I’ve always told the kids if they get separated from us to find a policeman or a woman with children. But this woman found him first. She spotted him walking down Boylston Street, looking scared and totally lost.  She had the presence of mind to just stand with him there and not move,  "We are going to stay with you right here until your mom finds you.  She is definitely looking for you."  She also shared a simple but brilliant tip.  She writes her cellphone number on her kids’ arms so they can have someone call if they get lost. Paulie knows my cell phone but couldn’t recall it in the panic.  

How it happened:  Apparently, he spaced out and started following a woman who had a similar coat to mine.  I just can’t believe how far away he got in so little time.  This whole ordeal went down in about 7 minutes, but took about 7 years off my life.  
The single worst moment I’ve ever experienced. I don't even know what we would've done if KT and the sunshine band weren't with us.  Thank you, my friends.

Caroline, who was also shaken, piped up: “Quick! Let’s get out of here before someone else gets lost.”  Best idea we'd heard all day.  

When we got home, James tried to talk me down, saying it probably happened to about 100 people that day.  And that at least it happened in 2010.  True.  Best NYE ever: At home, everyone safe, watching Taio Cruz sing “Dynamite” in Times Square with Caroline and Paul in a bear hug on my lap.  And a gigantic goblet of red wine on the coffee table.