Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Other Things To Sleep With.

The scenario: Right side of queen-size bed, now vacated by spouse.
bed/storage space
Recently discovered storage space.

Replacements for breathing human being:
  • All blankets/sheets not currently employed
  • 900 page hardcover book I've lost interest in
  • Empty ice cream bowl
  • Laundry, not yet sorted/put away
  • Hammer, still unhung wall picture/clothes peg
  • DVD too lazy to put in player
  • Unread mail/flyers/brochures
  • Glasses, keys, cellphone, wallet, loose change, gum wrappers, other contents of pants pockets
  • Unrealistic To Do list for tomorrow (excerpt: Find new career)
  • Dog...forget it, pal. GET DOWN! Down! Down!
  • Pillows in various shapes and sizes
  • TV remote control to knock off bed while asleep, sending batteries flying

Saturday, August 24, 2013

My Dog Gazes Not Upon The Moon.

My dog gazes not upon the moon
For Blanca...
My dog gazes not upon the moon,
Nor remembers when you left in June.
He pull-pull-pulls and sniffs and pees,
Lifting bandied leg for a merry wee.

Yet we walk as two, we do,
Seeking the trees, thinking of thee.
Abroad, likewise with no thought,
Of Gaia's light, tranquil summer night.

Hi ho! Goes us, Coco and me,
Anointing trash cans, scratching fleas.
Turn up noses to all the roses,
Feeling queer after all our beer.

Damn you, moon! I snap the chain,
Canine tarry, dreams of Spain.
Merely foolish glow, no telepathic spark,
Linking father's gaze, or little dog bark.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

10 Reasons Why I Cannot Renovate A Basement Apartment.

Home repairsMy house in the Bronx currently hosts a ruined basement apartment. The basic plumbing and heat are functional, but everything else--and I mean everything--needs to be ripped out and replaced. Antiquated wiring, cracked plaster walls and ceilings, ancient water damage, mold, along with a total lack of insulation...all beg for a complete tear down. Looked in the Penny Saver, called a contractor...figured I'd start with the bathroom. No problem, said he: $7,000.  Can complete the job in two weeks. I don't make seven grand in two weeks, tell you that...

I have tools...how complicated could it be to do it myself? What if I studiously watch a few This Old House videos and dive in, hands first? My propensity to screw things up is enormous, though. A project typically starts well, until a huge tear appears in the space time continuum; everything subsequently goes straight to hell. All labor and materials get sucked into the great black hole that encompasses my basic incompetence, lack of motor coordination, and paucity of common sense.

Harking back on my Mr. Fix It alter ego throughout the years, I painstakingly quantified each and every blunder. The results are staggering:

1. Bent nails, stripped nuts/bolts/screws: 2,391
I blame my dad. He bought all his rusting, misshapen tools at tag sales. Since he was always working, I was left to my own devices when faced with an implacable quandary--like a flat tire on my bicycle. The quarter inch locking nut has always been my nemesis...axle nut on my bike, oil pan guardian on my beloved Toyota Corona...I prefer to strip them with adjustable pliers, then fall back on a fail-safe combo: locking pliers and a lead pipe for leverage--instantly guaranteeing destruction of any hexagonally-sexed object.

2. Pounds of superfluous/spilled cement: 1,875. Sacks of cement left out in rain: 14
A good friend clued me in to the mystical properties of cement. He spoke in hushed terms of  "the throw"--a carefully selected dollop of wet cement tossed from a trowel into a waiting crevice. Performed with proper aplomb, the cement sticks, fills and spreads, without further manipulation. 20 years later, I'm still waiting for a successful 'throw.' My typical diaspora:
throw/miss
throw/near miss
throw/hit! slowly ooze out again
throw/miss
Repeat.

3. Snapped jigsaw/hacksaw blades, ruined/broken drillbits: 136
drill bit mishap
Misfired bazooka, or drill hole? You decide...
I call this the never-learned lesson of the Smoking Drillbit. While attempting to hang the wife's newly acquired painting that you secretly hate, you randomly drill into the wall, and hit something hard. What the hell could that be? No worries...switch to the masonry bit, dial up the drill speed to maximum...the macho 'hammer' setting. Still not penetrating? Lean on that sucker, put some weight behind it, you little girly-man...Whammo! You bust through whatever interference was present, puncturing a hole in the wall the size of a cannonball. Congratulations, Hercules...

4. Crooked cuts and mismeasures, circular saw/jigsaw: 96
A good carpenter measures twice..correctly. And riddle me this--why own a proper workbench, when you can use the top of your washing machine in the basement? A further admission: I own electric saws; they scare the hell out of me. The rpms and roar from a circular saw rival a Ferrari, while jigsaws possess that strangely frantic, to and fro motion--similar to a dog humping your leg. No thanks...

5. Articles of clothing ruined while performing manual labor: 63
Yes, I own work clothes and shoes, specifically for wear on dirty jobs. They lie catatonically in my bottom dresser drawer, patiently awaiting paint splatter and spackle. Unfortunately, I'm never wearing them when I arrive home from work, to discover the screen door/toilet/dishwasher magically broken, sans culprit. Well, gosh darn it, that can't wait another minute. Lemme grab my toolbox... 
Juiced
I'm smokin'...

6. Broken/busted wooden handles and grips on axes, trowels, screwdrivers, etc: 45
Muddled mottos, #17: "Any tool can be used as a hammer, especially when you can't find one."

7. Blown/tripped fuses, near-electrocutions: 33
Yup...today's the day I replace the old outlets with three-prongs. But wait...The kids are playing video games/watching tv/microwaving popcorn, I can't possibly turn off the juice...I'll just be careful. Sure. Nothing like 120 volts coursing through your body to make you feel alive. I've been shocked so many times, light bulbs glow before I touch them. Let's not forget the thrill of crossing live wires, hearing that loud POP! and being temporarily blinded--think flash powder, Abe Lincoln era photo. Now both my lights and the house lights are out. Sorry, kiddies...

8. Kicked over/spilled gallons of paint, thinner, other extremely corrosive liquids: 16
I really make a point of being neat. The trick is to follow a carefully executed series of steps:
--Lay down drop cloth (usually an old fitted sheet)
--Place paint tray on stepladder shelf
--Climb ladder
--Paint with roller until arm's length reached
--Climb down ladder
--Move ladder, catching leg on fitted sheet
--Tip over paint tray, spill semi gloss everywhere.

9. Burnt out battery packs/tool chargers: 8
That new DeWalt/Mikita tool is on sale for only $50, what a deal...when you forget to unplug it six months later, the $42 replacement battery will be on sale --when shop vacs can fly.

10. Injuries suffered while employing tools, requiring emergency room visits: 6
I've chainsawed my hand, bonked myself on the head with steel pipes, hacked into my thumb with a meat cleaver, blowtorched my fingers, fallen off ladders and roofs, sawz-alled my leg...you can read more about my injury-prone life here.

So who do I write this check out to?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Saran Wrap Lobster

Could he breathe in there?
When I'm out galavanting, trying to make money--namely, doing field work--one of my can't-miss procrastination techniques is to stop at the supermarket.

With the sudden realization that a terrorist attack/natural disaster can occur at any time, there is simply no alternative to an emergency stop to purchase bare necessities like peaches, hand soap, English muffins and more canned tuna. Yesterday I was on Bruckner Boulevard; a huge discount supermarket resides on the service road. A penned off area in front of the store prevents shopping cart theft, with a security guard booth manned 24/7 as well. Sort of a paradox, since paying the security guards is probably more expensive than replacing a  few nicked shopping carts, but who am I to say...

The premium quality canned tuna was not on sale, but the store had live, 'wild caught' lobster at five bucks a pound. I love lobster--better stated, I adore lobster. Not only were they cheap, they were a fairly good size--close to a pound and a half on average. After getting the attention of a fish monger, I picked out an especially large, lively specimen busily clamoring over other more lethargic compatriots.

I used to be a fish monger myself, working in the supermarket near my university. The workers in the deli section teased me, claiming they ate free cold cuts while I labored with smelly fish guts. I never said a word in reply, and for good reason: I ate like a king there. My department had a walk in freezer; it was one of the few areas out of sight of the store manager. There was also a professional steamer and a toaster oven, for some unknown reason. I never stole anything from the store, but felt that whatever I could eat while on duty was fair game. Large sea scallops and breaded oysters were a favorite out of the toaster oven; two pound lobsters were summarily tossed into the steamer. 10 minutes later I'd retire to the freezer to wolf down my prize. Customers would be calling from the counter; I'd emerge with mouth still full, butter dripping down my chin.  Should've just opened a mini restaurant on the spot...

Coming to a theater near you: Killer Trout.
Women would request freshly butchered trout from the large fish tank, then retire to another part of the store while I did the evil deed. I'd knock them out with a large mallet, chop their heads off and clean them. Sometimes they'd still be quivering while I wrapped them up. One night I dreamt that our shower at home filled up with water, and was soon teeming with live trouts that had teeth like piranha, nipping at my legs.

I used to place the live lobsters in paper bags, but yesterday this employee folded the tail under the chest cavity, laid the beast on a styrofoam tray, and ran him under a stretch-wrap machine, slapping the UPC label on top. Now the lobster couldn't budge an inch, or get any air.

The carnivore's hypocritical conundrum had raised i'ts ugly head: I had every intention of boiling this creature alive, then literally ripping him lip from limb for my greedy consumption...yet I was concerned he might be suffering in this styrofoam wrapper. What had I done?

There were still a few stops to make for my work assignment, but I kept thinking about the severely constrained crustacea in my trunk. Was it possible for a lobster to get a charlie horse? As a fellow long-legged creature who had flown coach his entire life, I knew the agony of prolonged constricture.

I arrived home and anxiously freed the lobster from his mummified plastic enclosure. Small bubbles were gurgling from his mouth; a few legs tentatively flexed. I grabbed a butcher knife and plunged it into the gap between carapice and head, killing the creature instantly.

While Mr. Lobster sat steaming on my stove, I melted some butter and lemon, reflecting on my cold, depraved existence. I had taken another small step forward towards my inevitable Karmic undoing, staring into the murderous, bloody abyss of my own carnal cravings.

I retrieved the now pink lobster from its pot, placed it on a large plate, and cracked open the larger of the two claws. Taking that first sumptuous bite, I arrived at a comforting, overly-simplistic conclusion: something that tastes so heavenly cannot possibly send me to the depths of hell. Bon Apetit!


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

No Reply...

HTML Goddess:

Don’t feed the bear…you’ll only encourage him. 

Sometimes I’m confused/amazed when women who obviously have a gift or talent for the written word, deign not to reply…many times the idea of a date is secondary to me (although my testosterone would beg to differ). It’s simply nice to make a connection.

Perhaps to satisfy my straining ego…was she entertained? Confused? Did she think I was clever? Sophomoric? Eccentric or crazy?

online dating I once wrote several hundred words to a woman who mentioned three different times in her profile that she was allergic to garlic. I described a potential first date at a restaurant, whereby I continually ordered clove-heavy plates like shrimp scampi and broccoli rabe, meanwhile adding asides and trivialities, like staining my polo shirt with pistachio spumoni…I closed by asking if she would have an osmotic reaction to the garlic I consumed if we were to kiss later on. It was intentionally ludicrous and over the top; she never replied. I had no real interest in her, but would’ve loved to be the proverbial fly on the wall when she read it…is that obtuse/insulting/insensitive of me?
It just begged for some sort of commentary.

Sacred geometry?
Alas (alack) I paid you not one compliment, which a proper gentleman would do. I could’ve commented on your full mouth and comely smile, or your raven hair (cliché alert), framing such a beautiful face. Perhaps mention the baubles (pearls?) which grace your neck in silverprint #8. I could’ve established more commonality—e.g., an aversion to the cold and Cleveland—or shared my interest concerning the energetic, pyramidal force of canned goods on Arthur Avenue.

I learned this lesson recently, when I wrote to a beautiful painter. I feigned shock, demanding to know why she chose to live in my Godless borough (painters usually live in Brooklyn), asking facetiously if she had a strange obsession with 99 cent stores and habichuelas. There was no reply…I revisited the tone and intent of my letter and wrote for a second time--something I’d never done before. Specifically, I apologized for my unbecoming familiarity, my curtness. I commented on her beauty and considerable talent (I did like the paintings she posted). Within an hour she replied, with some humorous comments and questions of her own. Funny, that…

Apart from my wife, I am not entirely divorced from other realities. Reasons to be Ian Dury/ignored:

--An aesthetic preference is to be expected; some women (perhaps many) wouldn’t find me attractive. I get that…
--For all the wherewithal and mental, allegorical or transcendental gymnastics, I am still lawfully married--bound to another, harking back to those fervent vows, oh so long ago…
--I am 50 fucking years old. I still have trouble accepting it--yet the number won’t back down or blink, no matter how much I threaten to beat the piss out of it. 50 remains there, staring at me with a bored, cold detachment. 50 possesses no overt malice—it simply adds lines to my weathered face at will, taking its pound of flesh literally and figuratively, resolutely plucking words, ideas and hair from a once nimble mind/scalp--much like drawing thin straws out of a flimsy cardboard box. I still leap and caper with spryness in my dreams, but the corporal reality lags further and further behind. Don’t get old, sez me mum…
--I have offspring/children/fledglings. They require attention/time, diligence, money and innumerable sacrifices.
graffiti--I live in the uncoolest borough, perhaps the unkindest cut of all.

However, I still ask you (rhetorically and on this single occasion—no need for a creep alert): are sparing words a distraction from your literary endeavor, so precious they cannot be spared or tossed before swine?

On another note/tangent/wafer-thin sphere of existence: why (oh, why) can I write streams of prose about the vagaries of life, love, aging and existence to a complete stranger, but when I turn my attention/antenna to gathering/collecting thoughts concerning a particular vein/theme, there are none to be found?

Although…what I’ve jotted/typed here is not totally without merit…perhaps Lucifer’s seal has been broken, the blockage has been cleared, the doors have reopened to the public (Hurry! These prices won’t last), the miasma/mental goop has melted away, and I can, indeed, write again. We shall see (said he, muttering and patting his pockets, for some unknown reason).

And there (here?) it is (‘tis?): Another ‘thing’ written and oddly finished, spit (spat?) into the cyber-wind, clinging/adhering/sticking to the digital underbelly of another's OKC epidermis--to be scraped, scrubbed and excised into the nether-hells of dubious anonymity.

Cheers, my dear Goddess…

Chuck Steak