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.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016


The question stops me in my tracks. It's one of those mistake-on-top-of-mistake things that Stan has all but patented. One mistake is easily dealt with: it quickly registers that he got something wrong, and without a word you correct it in your head. With two mistakes, though, your brain grinds and whirs, generating a list of all the possible permutations of his words that make a modicum of sense, while some small section of gray matter wonders if it'd be slightly easier to date a monkey.

We've worked up an appetite from some rather vigorous bedroom activities, and now I'm in the kitchen thinking about what I can make for lunch. Stan is propped up by pillows and texting someone. He stops typing and grimaces and I know exactly what's coming. It happens every minute or so when he's texting. I silently damn the program that inserts wavy red lines under words it doesn't recognize. "How do you spell 'fictitional'?" Stan finally asks.

As usual, there is no easy answer, and I'm not sure if Stan even expects one at this point. We've been dating for three months, which has been long enough for me to spell out my frustration with his queries. Now all my answers come with baggage attached. In this case I say, "You mean if 'fictitional' was a word? Or do you just want me to pretend it's a word and tell you how it would be spelled?"

He's taken aback. "'Fictitional' isn't a word?" he asks, as if he's just discovered there's actually no sea mammal called a "whale."

I don't know why I'm so irritated by stupidity when I'm not thrilled with intelligence either. There aren't a lot of positives to intelligence -- I have yet to meet someone who wants to converse in Latin -- yet there's one serious negative: you get extra pissed off by idiots. And when, as they say, 50% of the world has a lower IQ than the average, that's a long time spent pissed off.

I've always been judgmental, too. When I was five, I was pulled out of grade school to take an intelligence test. The teacher showed me a drawing of a tree with the sun high above in the sky. Oddly, though, the tree's shadow fell on the wrong side.

"Do you see anything wrong with this picture?" the teacher asked.

"Nope," I said.

His eyebrows raised. "Really?"

I gave it another quick glance. "Looks fine to me," I confirmed. "Though whoever drew it was clearly an idiot."

I take a deep breath and look at Stan. I'm the parent helping the high-schooler with homework who doesn't just want to parcel out answers. We want to prompt them to think, though in this case the word "futility" might come to mind because the student is a hunky, forty-year-old Greek man who manages the produce section at Piggly Wiggly. "Tell me this," I say. "What's the difference between 'fictitional' and 'fictional'?"

This does its job: it gets Stan to thinking. He resumes typing and I pull a frozen pizza out the near-empty fridge and throw it in the oven. "Maybe in my next life I'll be smart like you," he calls over, though I'm not sure if it's reassurance or an accusation. "Maybe we should date after I'm reincarcerated."

Once again I'm knee-deep. "Reincarcerated"? Is that what happens when Buddhists have babies in jail? Now there's yet another layer of questioning thrown atop the chaos: is any of this even worth thinking about? Or should I ignore everything Stan says and stare blankly at him full-time? I'm not sure that would work: I can't picture us standing at the altar and when the priest says, "Do you take this man?" I'd suddenly snap out of it and say, "Wait a second ... what's going on?"

I'm waiting for the pizza to finish, watching the "425" temperature readout on the digital display, when Stan comes up behind me and puts his arms around me. Instantly I melt. I'm the real idiot here, I realize. Because what really matters? It's not what's in somebody's brain, but what's in their heart. I'm about to turn around and hug him and kiss him and tell him that I'm the moron in this relationship when he glances up at the stove and freezes.

"HOLY SHIT!" he yells. "I HAVE TO BE AT WORK AT 4!" He runs back to the bed, grabs his floor-strewn clothes, and throws them at his naked body seemingly at once. They're not even remotely secured around him when he rushes out the door, a blur of bare stomach zipping past.

I keep smiling and staring at the digital display, not a thought in my head. After four minutes it goes "beep beep beep" and the pizza is done. I take it out of the oven as the display returns to the correct time, which is 12:19.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Modern Romance (Take Two)

My heart stopped when I saw you
outside the roller rink.
You had a Spuds McKenzie dog,
and you made my mood ring pink.

My Trapper Keeper held your picture,
a Pee-Chee held my thoughts.
I wrote your name in my Filofax
in yellow Marks-A-Lot.

I searched for you on Friendster
and asked you to be mine.
You wrote me on MySpace and said
"That would be just fine."

I sent you a fax in which
I asked if you'd be true.
You left a message on my pager:
"Beep beep means 'I love you.'"

It's sad that after all these years
we have to say goodbye.
But I texted you five minutes ago

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Thanks, New York Times!