This Is Not a Drill

Today is Friday. It’s been almost a week and one day since my last day of work, on Thursday, March 12th. I’d say that means I’ve been in isolation since then, but I did got grocery shopping at the Park Slope Food Co-op on Friday, so I technically have to date my isolation to then. Plus I have left the house to go for walks, checked mail, etc, so I have touched doors and mailboxes and packages and so on, but I always sanitize and wash my hands afterwards, so hopefully that doesn’t count. Oh, and I bought bananas on Tuesday, but with all of us (mostly) being six feet away, and the person behind the counter wearing a mask, and me sanitizing and washing hands again after coming back from buying the bananas, let’s say that that doesn’t count either. So I’ve been isolated since Friday. That’s almost a week. Which means about another week until I’m out of the incubation period. But if I go grocery shopping again, which I will probably have to do before the week is out — because even though I stocked up like a motherfucker to the extent that I could in a one-bedroom with limited closet space, and we now have frozen vegetables and dried fruit, I am saving those for the real emergency that we hope never comes and we will need fruits and vegetables, which I also happen to actually like — does that set me back to day one? I hope not. We all hope not.

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The Things You See In Big Box Stores When You Have To Spend Way Too Much Time In Them

These past few of weeks, I’ve been working on a lot of commercials. I actually like working on commercials, at least when compared with what it’s like to work on television shows. The food is better. The pay is better. The days are generally shorter and more sane. And as for the content? Well, I used to say that the commercials I worked on were generally better written and had higher production values than the TV shows, but that was before TV entered its current golden age, and TV commercial budgets started getting reduced to make way for social media content. Now, most of the TV shows I work on are at least pretty good, some of the commercials are still funny, and the social media content is …well, let’s just say it’s not directed at me (Why Instagram Stories? Why???). But generally, let’s face it: I’m shilling for corporate America, there’s just no way to make that better. 

One thing that really drives that home is spending a lot of time in that epicenters of consumerism, the big box store. Here are a few things I saw wandering out in these mundane-to-the-point-of-creepy settings that I found strange, disturbing, or just “Huh?”

What is the right occasion for these? Is it when you’re actually drinking alone (in which case, cocktail napkins?), or is it when you want to invite your friends over to laugh at you because you’re a cat lady who drinks alone? Or should the packaging just say, “A Fun Cry For Help”?

 

“What happened to the first six Odor Busters?” is a thing you might ask if you were trying to stay awake at 3:40 in the morning and you couldn’t tell that that was a Z. And because why are little deodorant grenades a product that you want to jazz up with a Z, like Starz, or cheez? 

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How I Learned That My Sanity Is Worth More Than $230

Several months ago, I got two parking tickets. Only in reality, I didn’t get them. I just went out to get in my car, only to discover that it wasn’t where I thought I’d left on the corner across from my apartment building. This in and of itself isn’t that strange, because a) Your average New Yorker doesn’t drive every day and therefore might only visit their car once a week when street cleaning regulations force them to do so; b) Your average person who works in film production is used to finding themselves parking their car after a 12+ hour day topped off with an hour of searching for a parking spot at 3:30 am, the details of which they might not recall in full; c) your average 50-something-year-old entering menopause has a brain under attack by hormones that make it much more spongey than it used to be, and d) I am, yes, all three of these things. But because I’d been unusually coherent when I’d parked it after grocery shopping a few days earlier, and because I was also fairly sure that I’d seen a truck from my electricity supplier, Consolidated Edison, on that corner the day before, I felt pretty confident that my car had not, in fact, been kidnapped by aliens (which, considering the shape it’s in, with the front bumper now out of joint from having recently been knocked off and reattached with a couple of well-placed screws, seemed more likely than its having been stolen).

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Autumn in New York

Things I like about fall in New York City:

1) It stops smelling so “New Yorky.”
(aka like urine)

2) Less sweating.
Summer in New York is just one long odyssey of walking walking walking between air conditioned spaces and un-air-conditioned hell holes packed full of people and sweat, much of it mine. I’ve always been quick to overheat from any physical exertion, but that wasn’t a huge issue until I moved to a city where it was humid and I was always in a hurry. But soon after I moved here in 1990, I found the perfect tool for dealing with that: iced coffee. Walking around with an iced coffee in my hand was basically how I controlled my body temperature, because I really didn’t seem able to do it any other way. To my mind, there are no other iced beverages. Iced tea, either sweetened or not, is gross, and soft drinks aren’t my thing. I do love lemonade, but can’t drink that now because of my acid reflux — which is why I had to give up the coffee. 

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I steal pens.

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I steal pens.

I’m not entirely sure when I started doing it, but I’m pretty sure it happened at a hotel. Of course, the pens in hotels are kind of meant to be taken, so it’s not really “stealing,” they’re free advertising because they have the name of the hotel on them. Plus, they’re never very good pens to begin with, they are always your most basic ballpoint, plus they obviously come from some place that uses the cheapest plastic and smallest inkwells, because, again, they’re not so much meant to be writing implements as tiny, disposable billboards. So I have never really felt that bad about taking them home and using them as long as they last, which, considering how seldom I need to hand-write anything these days, can be quite a while. But this is why, if you ever meet me, and you ask to borrow a pen, there’s an excellent chance you’ll get one from a Hampton Inn.

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The Four (Thousand, New) Questions

When I was growing up, I didn’t really have to think too much about what it meant to be a Jewish American. A large part of that was living in New Jersey, where being a member of the tribe isn’t exactly an anomaly. In Newark, pretty much all of my friends were Jewish or Black, until I spent 2nd grade in Catholic School. You’d think that might make it weird, but even then, it wasn’t. All my new friends just had Irish and Italian names, and I got to sit in the back during mass and read, which is the dream of every second grader. And when we moved to the suburbs, things became, if anything, more Jewy. We joined Temple Israel and actually tried going to services every once in a while, and I went to Hebrew school on Saturdays. At my suburban public grade school, I learned the term “Jappy” something my friends and I called other girls that we considered spoiled, regardless of whether or not they were Jewish, and in junior high, the school bus that came from the most wealthy, Jewish neighborhood in town was sometimes referred to as “The Jew Canoe.” Who did we learn these terms from? Other Jews. We were the ones trading in the laughable stereotypes, because that’s American Jewish culture all over: we joke because we can. It’s never been in doubt in my lifetime that we belong here, to the degree that we are comfortable poking fun at ourselves, enough that while we are very aware that we aren’t and will never be the majority — and if you forget that, you always have the 30 to 60 days of Christmas to remind you — we are perfectly okay with that; and enough to feel safe in the knowledge that the past is the past, because in the Tri-State Area in the 1970s and 80s, anti-Semitism was about as real to me as Star Wars: something that existed long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away. The same thing with Nazis. Nazis were the movie villains nobody got upset about. Nobody ever said, “Why do the Nazis always have to be the bad guys?” Why? Because they were the bad guys.

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1.8 Insults a Day

On inauguration day in 2017, which was also, sadly, my birthday, Damon and I were feeling shitty about the world, and so one way we decided to resist was by creating a Twitter bot called About a Bully, with the handle @insultingdonald. For those of you who don’t know what a Twitter bot is, it’s a Twitter account that you digitally alter to run automatically. Most bots tweet on a regular schedule or in response to certain stimuli, like people tweeting at it who want to see what it will come up with when it answers them. You can make it generate its own material if you know enough about AI (although if you think you know about AI and you don’t you can end up creating something like this, so it’s best not to fuck around), or you can create a bunch of material that it can mix up according to formulae you give it and send out at random. The material we chose for About a Bully was Trump’s insults, but rewritten so that they are directed at him. So if you follow @insultingdonald, about three times a day you will see it tweet out things like “Trump is a liar!”, or “Sleazebag President Donald Trump,” or “Never in the history of our Country has the ‘president’ been more dishonest than he is today.” If you’re familiar with our current president, you will recognize a lot of these tweets for who they are typically directed at. For instance, from time to time you’ll see something like “Donald Trump, who I call Pocahontas,” which refers to Elizabeth Warren, or something about “FAKE TRUMP,” which fills in for his many tweets railing at the media, and of course lots of “Crooked Donald”s — which you’d have to be living under a rock to not know was in its original form “Crooked Hilary,” something that also comes up at lot because he’s still regularly tweeting about her this way, two and half years after the 2016 election, especially when he’s feeling defensive about the Mueller probe, which is basically always. Continue reading “1.8 Insults a Day”

Ten Things I Did This Week That Prove I Have Learned Nothing in 50 Years

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1. Forgot to move my car and got a street cleaning ticket.

I know, those of you who don’t live in New York may not know what this is or why it’s embarrassing, but here we have something called alternate side of the street parking, and it’s how car owners organize their lives. You know that you’ll have to move your car once or twice a week, depending where you park it, and so you must plan for this every time you take your car out – or don’t. Because there have been times I chose not to drive somewhere because I knew I’d have a hell of a time parking when I got home from work at midnight on a Monday — Monday night being the worst in my neighborhood of Tuesday, Wednesday, Tuesday-Thursday, and Monday-Thursday spots — so I decided, instead, to take the subway, even thought it added an hour to my commute (I know I’m lucky to have a decent public transportation option when a lot of people don’t, and I do try to use it whenever possible. It’s just that when getting to Greenpoint at 5 am can be either a 20 minute car ride or a 1.5-hour odyssey on the train if everything goes according to plan, and these days it rarely does, one does tend to opt for using the fossil fuels. I’m sorry). You also become obsessed with spots. Even when you’re walking around like a normal New Yorker, you’ll just notice a really juicy one and think, “Ooh, that’s a good spot!” After all those nights of driving in circles and scanning the streets while having to keep your eyes propped open because you’ve already been awake for 16 hours, is it any wonder that your mind becomes trained in this way?

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Critical Thinking is Hard

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I’m lucky: I grew up in a family where thinking was encouraged. My parents treated me and my brother like we were brilliant, which makes you want to be brilliant, and come up with your own ideas. They liked to talk about stuff, and, while they definitely treated us like kids, they also didn’t really shelter us too much. My mother was always ruining TV shows for me by pointing out the sexist moments in television, from reruns of The Brady Bunch and Star Trek, to Charlie’s Angels, Three’s Company and, well, it was the 70s and 80s, so pretty much all TV shows. But they still let us watch them, as well as R-rated movies which may not have been age-appropriate, and while they told us not to smoke pot, when we found out that they smoked pot, they gave us reasons for why it was okay for them and not us (since they “weren’t going to have any more children,” which seemed to make sense at the time). Another thing they did was encourage us to take responsibility for our own decisions from a fairly young age, which meant that you could stay up until 10 or 11 pm on a school night if you really wanted to, but it’d be your fault when you felt like shit all the next day. One can debate the pros and cons of this method of child-rearing (pro: de-mystifying drug use and other taboo behaviors to the degree that they actually start to seem uncool; encouraging kids to develop strong ethical compass and think through their actions; con: kids are even more weird compared to their peers, and precociously develop anxiety and guilt about their own actions). Nevertheless, it did start me on the road to learning the value of thinking for myself.

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The Next Thing We Don’t Get To Talk About

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Adolescence was kind of a mystery when I was a tween. Actually, we didn’t call tweens “tweens” in the late 70s/early 80s, sort of the Iron Age of coming up with clever, merged names for stuff, and there were lots of other things of whose names we did not speak. My mother was a full-fledged feminist at that point, but a large part of her era’s brand of feminism was about minimizing the differences between men and women. Maybe this is why I didn’t know anything about getting my period — heck, I don’t think I even knew it was going to happen — until I read Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret. In fact, there’s a fair amount I wouldn’t know about the world if it weren’t for Judy Blume. Not that I enjoyed her books, which also included vivid details about wet dreams (Then Again, Maybe I Won’t) and teenaged sex (Forever, a book of which I think I may only have read the “good” pages — the ones my friends dog-eared so they could share them, or maybe read them over again alone in their rooms, which was something that never occurred to me to do since masturbation was another thing nobody ever told me about). I didn’t like them, partly because even at that age I could tell that “literary” was not a primary value considered by the dog-ear-and-share teen set, but mainly because those books scared the shit out of me. I was an immature kid, a year younger than most of the girls in my grade, and I’d been very happy in the dark, thank you. I didn’t want to know about any of this stuff, which seemed entirely gross and overwhelming. Trying to figure out why girls wore skirts when they could wear infinitely more comfortable shorts or overalls was way too complicated for me, I certainly couldn’t imagine celebrating when I started bleeding out of my vagina. In fact, I don’t know anyone who did, in spite of what Judy wrote. And while my mom was helpful about it when I finally had it (late. I was 14 or 15, which seemed eons after everyone else), she didn’t use tampons, so I still had to figure all of that out by myself. But to me, being a teenager was basically about feeling stupid nearly all the time, so to have this one additional thing I was utterly clueless about just seemed normal.

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