Monday, February 8, 2016

Shocking study by the Wall Street Journal on the perils posed by older drivers:

In Japan, drivers 65 and older accounted for about a quarter of traffic deaths in 2014, compared with about 15% in the U.S.

Random, totally unrelated facts:

Population ages 65 and above (% of total)

Country name 2011 2012 2013 2014
Japan 24 24 25 26
United States 13 14 14 14

Friday, February 5, 2016

I just got a cat. Pretty much a rescue cat, since his previous owner moved away and abandoned him. He's big and gray and very sweet, but he's also twelve years old, which means I'll have him about as long as an American Apparel t-shirt.

Before the cat, I always wondered why people got offended when you referred to their pets by the wrong sex. Say there's a man walking a Pekingese outside your apartment building. You want to share your admiration as well as reinforce someone's poochy pride. "That's a great little dog!" you chirp. "She's a gorgeous little thing."

Instantly the man turns defensive. His face hardens. It's the expression Mark Wahlberg makes when he goes to the bathroom after eating cheese. "It's a he. A HE."

You apologize, but you walk away mystified. I mean, who really cares? Masculinity doesn't feature very prominently in Hairy Pawter's life. He wasn't going to the strip club with his buddies after a hard day at the quarry. No, he was going to find a sunbeam and warm his tummy. He was going to yap at a butterfly for eight hours before chewing up a rubber donut.

Besides, what's the option? I wanted to hear these pet owners verbalize their thoughts. "I know you can't tell the sex of my pet with zero outward evidence, but it's offensive to the both of us when you guess wrong. In the future, please lift Mary Puppins and visually inspect for either a penis or a vagina before addressing us."

I stopped talking to people about their pets, but it never stopped bothering me. I mean, if misidentification is such a horrible crime, why don't pet owners do like human parents and give us a clue? Human parents determinedly avoid misunderstandings: it would mark the end of life as they know it if they're pushing little Briantha in her carriage and somebody comes up and says, "My, that's a handsome lad!" They were on their way to Connecticut Muffin, but now they run to Babies R Us. Dad snaps a tiara on little Briantha's head and pokes two chandelier earrings through her earlobes. Now he swaggers while pushing the stroller, all but daring bystanders: "Now say she looks like a dude, motherfuckers!"

Still, the first time somebody misidentifies my cat I get it. I'm irritated. It's a personal insult, and it's demeaning. It says, "I don't care enough about either of you to use the correct pronouns. Does that bother you and your, um, thing?"

I smile, but inwardly I scream at them. "He is not a she. He is a he. You think a male cat can't be fluffy? A male cat can't be soft? I'll thank you to keep your tired gender stereotypes to yourself. This is 2016, and my cat is free to be whoever he wants to be. If he wants to go into fashion, he can go into fashion. (I'm pretty sure he can't, since he's a complete fuckup on a sewing machine.) If he wants to be a race-car driver, he can be a race car driver. (I'm pretty sure he can't, since he dives under the bed when he hears a bird chirp.) If he wants to be a giant pudding-shaped paperweight that only stays awake long enough to bite me, then it's fine with me! (I didn't just pull that out of thin air; I'm the kind of person who only tells the truth when he's mad.) But you will not cow us. You will not intimidate us. You will not bully Chairman Meow!"

Of course, I don't say any of this. I don't even correct them. I understand my anger, and discount it. I just got the cat, and in a month or two I'll calm down. It's exactly what happened with my third husband. On one of our first dates he says, "I'd like to go dancing," so we go to dancing. "I'd like to have Thai food," he says, so we have Thai food.

A month later we're on my couch reading newspapers. "I'd like a foot rub," he says.

I flip to the next page of my paper and don't even look up. "You like a lot of stuff," I say.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

I didn't have parents, which I guess is what people mean when they say they were raised by wolves. I'm not particularly angry about it -- it taught me to be independent, and it got pretty exciting at times -- but some unpleasant side effects are still hanging around through adulthood.

First, I can't buy presents. I don't get the whole idea. You have shoes. You have a sturdy coat. What's the problem? The first few times I gave out gifts I went with useful. Steel-toed boots. Pepper spray. Bolt cutters. Waterproof matches, a flashlight that doubles as a club, a duffel bag. I'd be happy to get any of these, but for some reason the rest of the world saw them as weird. Though I had the best intentions I always got dirty looks, or even worse if they were opened at the wedding.

Second, nobody taught me how to make friends. On my first day at grade school, all the other kids were introducing themselves and chatting and bonding. "Hi, my name is Roman," I should have said. "That's an attractive shirt. Shall we meet at recess for a juice-box?" Whenever anybody approached me, though, the wolf came running out. "Do you have food?" I'd ask. "I have two dollars. Do you know if it's safe to travel north?"

The most obvious side effect, though, is my cheapness. I'd think twice about paying $12 to get my hair cut, and the going rate in New York is $45. Forty-five dollars. I wouldn't pay that for a dozen condoms, and nobody wants to touch my hair.

Which is how I found myself in the chair of a yet another trainee hairstylist yesterday afternoon. They're easy to find online: the hard part is making sure they've picked up scissors before. Unfortunately, Craigslist doesn't filter out people who wake up one morning and think, "Hey, I want to randomly cut somebody's hair at least once in my life." Take my word for it: they exist.

I didn't get the best vibes from this woman. She had a pierced nose and pink streaks in her hair that screamed "Short Attention Span." I pictured her making two or three snips before texting a friend, "I'm bored again. Why don't we screenprint t-shirts and pierce our labias tonight?"

"When did you last get your hair cut?" she asked as she ran her fingers through my straggly brown locks.

"Just last month," I said. I told her about my last free cut, at a hipster barbershop. It was decorated like a gold rush saloon, and the stylists wore vests with watch fobs and their mustaches were twirled up at the ends. I watched from the waiting room and the cuts were uniformly dreadful. They were all clippered short on the sides and longer on top, which leaves every third customer looking like he's got a giant lightbulb atop his neck. I tried to sneak out before the stylist got to me, but he beat me to the door.

"I knew it was going to be terrible," I said. "I told him to leave it long so if it was really bad I could have it fixed."

"Yeah, it's not great," she said. "What kind of cut do you want?"

I looked at her. She looked at me. "Maybe leave it long," I said.

Monday, January 25, 2016

A sincere thank you to everyone who emailed me with their hopes and prayers regarding the storm that walloped New York this past weekend. Like most New Yorkers I usually pretend to be cold and unfeeling, but I have to say that I was really touched by everyone's concern. I'm happy to say that I got through the snowpocalypse unscathed. In fact, to be just slightly less than humble, I'm thinking the opinions of some less-than-devoted blog readers might be changed by the vast reserve of inner strength I showed in the face of impending doom.

The first I heard of the impending onslaught was an email from my sister asking whether I had candles and blankets in case of a power outage. Unfortunately the storm had already started at this point, and I was quickly initiated into the world of hardship and deprivation when I ran to the 24-hour market downstairs to stock up on emergency supplies. I ran down the milk and bread aisles, both totally empty, but then I realized they always are because of lactose and carbs. I stared in shock at the prices: $24 for a flashlight, and $6 for a AA-battery? What kind of money-grubbing, price-gouging opportunists are they? I wondered, before realizing this too was an everyday thing. I phoned the artisanal candle store down the street and discovered they'd already sold out of lemon verbena. I stared in shock at the phone. How much worse could this get than being forced to smell geranium?

When I read my sister's mention of blankets a shiver ran down my spine. I tried to mentally tally exactly how many blankets I had, but when the figure stopped at two I nearly toppled over from shock. How could I have been so clueless, flying head-first into this toxic tempest so ill-prepared? Then I realized that duvets, afghans, throws and coverlets should probably be included and I steadied myself as my mental count surpassed sixty-five.

The storm walloped us exactly as predicted. While an alleged 28 inches of snow fell, at intersections where plows had pushed it all onto the sidewalks it reached nearly eight feet high. At least that's what the deliveryman said when he dropped off my squash-blossom tacos. I was like, Ohmigod, this really is a once-in-a-lifetime event we're living through here. I felt kind of bad because he was nearly blue and seriously shaking but I only tipped him a dollar. First, it's not like the storm wasn't bothering me, making all kinds of noise against my window and nearly drowning out Spotify at times, but also Lavanderia Express was coming later to drop off my laundry and I only had four singles to take care of them.

Thankfully, too, the residents of my apartment house were up to the challenge. Instead of freaking out, we all banded together in the face of adversity. I had a six-pack of ginger beer in my fridge but four ounces max of dark rum, and it turned out my neighbor had a whole bottle of rum, and another had just made a batch of tarragon bitters! I can't think of anything worse than going through the Storm Of The Century without a signature cocktail.

So, thanks to everyone for your concern. It turned out to be well-warranted: the storm was the second-largest in New York history. I'm proud to say I lived through it, though in these days of increased climate change I'm not sure if I will even again feel entirely secure. Ironically, though, that's not a complete disaster. Because when it comes down to it, there's nothing like the innate bond you feel with other people who've also had to put on a heavy jacket before venturing out to the roof deck. And because, as I've personally discovered, tough times bring out the toughest in people. At least I think that's the phrase: I've already had two Brooklyn Snow Ballers™ and if FreshDirect doesn't get their butts here quick there isn't going to be a third.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Is there something a little unscientific about the American Family Association's presidential poll? No, I don't think so:

Me, I voted for Other #2.

"I'm not so sure about that," says That Hoe Over There.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

How To Spot A Douchebag

From The Watch Man: Timely Advice From Horlological Expert Michael Clerizo in The Wall Street Journal, Saturday/Sunday, January 16-17, 2016:

When it comes to rule-breaking, Gianni Agnelli -- the late Italian industrialist and style icon -- adopted an interesting approach. While he conformed to convention by wearing a dress watch with what's considered appropriate attire, he strapped it over his shirt cuff -- reportedly to avoid wasting time shooting his cuff to check the hour. You might consider following his example if you're particularly eager to show off that new Patek.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Typical Scene From First Half-Hour Of Straight Outta Compton

POLICEMAN: What the fuck are you doing in this part of town?

ICE CUBE: Nothing. I'm just heading hone.

POLICEMAN: Get your ass on the ground. Now!

ICE CUBE: Officer, can you explain exactly what I did wrong?

POLICEMAN: I don't have to explain shit.

Typical Scene From Last Twelve Hours Of Straight Outta Compton

ICE CUBE: Ha! And then somebody thinks dog poop is mud, and a Mexican pukes on a drug lord, and a pit bull eats a pot brownie and goes, "Oh shit! Now I'm hungry for Snausages!"

ANONYMOUS GIRLFRIEND: Baby, what are you doing that's so funny?

ICE CUBE: I'm writing a movie called Friday.