Tag Archives: humor

A post from December 2015 I never published because I was less cranky then. Or. Christmas in July.

24 Jul

I spend my days torn.

I am not a patient man and tourists drive me batty, clogging up sidewalks with their ineptitude, their photography, their fear. But when I am working for a group of tourists, New Yorkers and their snarling comments anger me and I find myself jumping in to defend. “They don’t know, cut them a break,” I’ve screamed. “You can walk around them, too, you know.” I once ran after a businesswoman with that brief lecture. She rolled her eyes at me. I must have looked insane.

Today, we were walking out of Central Park and a woman on tour with me from South Carolina asked, “Which buildin’ is the Beresford?”

I was surprised she knew the name, only because it is not as legendary as The Dakota or, say, The San Remo in the same neighborhood.

I pointed it out to her and she drawled, nonchalantly, bored even, “We spent Thanksgivin’ there watchin’ the parade.”

I was speechless for a moment. She could have told me instead she was actually a walrus or a Rockette and I would have been less surprised, she in her dungarees, sensible shoes, and hand-made but still ubiquitous blanket-stitched appliquéd snowman sweater.

I’ve only been in the Beresford once, some twenty-three years ago, to cater-waiter at a party for a surgeon who lived in a sprawling 14-room apartment from whose windows hung copper woven drapes. So finely spun I could see my hand through them, they were weighty and surprisingly so, like lead. This is what naughty angels must wear I remember thinking to myself as I stole a plate of petit-fours.

That this woman had a warm, luxurious front row seat to the parade, in that building in particular, delighted me to no end. A good backstory lay ahead.

I normally only ask questions to which the answer is yes. I like to keep things upbeat on these tours. After grilling her about the particulars, how it was her son’s in-laws who owned the place and how this woman and her husband were invited for the long weekend, it seemed the backstory was, alas, fairly ordinary. So to put a period on our conversation, I tacked on the obvious, “They sound nice, yes?”

I was met with silence.

My hearing is for the birds so I blamed myself and repeated, “I’m sorry,  said, ‘MY, they sound very nice!'”

After another pause she said, “Eh. A little too high-falootin’.”

High. Falootin’.

My sympathy knew no pause and flew immediately to the in-laws. To the New Yorkers. Imagine having this drudge to your home on Central Park West and have her turn up her nose at you because you use the letter ‘g’ at the ends of your words. Imagine being talked about in the shadow of your own building after a four-day invitation where this cow got to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade next door to Jerry Seinfeld and Diana Ross. Imagine your daughter having to spend Christmas in a backyard in the middle of fucking nowhere while they deep-fry a turkey, set the vinyl on the garage on fire, then shoot one another’s tooth out.

Today was my last tour of the year. And I’ve never been so glad to be a New Yorker. Go home, everyone.

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Sunday in the park.

9 Sep

Had I ever been the go-to guy in a medical emergency, I might very well have been a doctor. I am not that guy. When things on the inside end up on the outside? I tend to vomit in kind. Like the time I was atop the lifeguard stand the summer of my junior year in college and this guy body surfing hit some shards of glass and came towards me for help, his chest and stomach in tatters, looking for something like love while I tossed my lunch to the sunny sands below.

I thought that was my least shiny hour. Until one hour ago.

How this has never happened before or never even occurred to me given my clientele for fifteen years seems nearly impossible now. Now that I know it can happen, I’m not sure I will ever expect it not to happen within minutes each time I begin a tour. It unfolded in tableaux. And I can see each frame in my mind like the Zapruder film.

His wife had a look of horror on her face and I was concerned she was having a stroke. She was the color of a Komodo dragon. Next a shock wave belted me and I thought we’d hit a truck. Of corpses. My eyes teared up like Japanese commuters fleeing subway platforms when that Ricin bomb went off. Cries of “We need to stop!” came from all around me. We pulled off to the side of the road right in front of the American Museum of Natural History when the eighty-year old man seated mid-way down the aisle ran off the bus and into Central Park. A bear may shit in the woods, but not this fella. It was far too late and dark and deep.

Lady Macbeth’s line ran through my head. “Who would have thought the old man to have had so much…” as I saw an endless trail mark his path right up to the Naturalists’ Gate where he’d disappeared into a hedge. My god, good heavens, my good god in heaven, this gentleman must not have used the bathroom since our boys were in Korea.

Only one woman rose to the occasion. And of course it was a woman. We men are such pussies. I had sprung pigtails and was gagging, useless, quivering in the gutter in front of the disapproving bust of Humboldt. She gathered towels, found him in a foreign park, triaged him as best she could, I dunno, fashioned a diaper out of twigs and moss, returned to me and ordered me to call him a car. She was stunning. She deserves the Congressional Medal of Honor.

The Dial 7 car arrived and the poor dear mortified man thanked me profusely for my kindness. I hadn’t done a goddam thing except manage not to pass out. I sent him on his way with his shell-shocked wife to their hotel and he shoved a twenty-dollar bill into the breast pocket of my blazer. I loved that blazer. It kills me that the twenty will burn along with it…

The radiant gesture.

30 Jun

When she walked into the office I knew she was a pistol. I was there to have a CT scan of my jaw because it’s been aching. A CT scan with contrast is an annoying affair as they pump you full of iodine and it burns. So I was happy to have her as a diversion.

I knew she was old. She was bent over at the waist with crispy bones and her hands were spotted with time. But she was in full hair and make-up and I give her points for dressing for the radiologist when all of us are specifically told to wear gym clothes.

She sat down next to me and puzzled over her paperwork.

“Could you do this for me? I can’t see a goddam thing.”

I laughed and said, “Certainly.”

Her name was Lillian and she was born in 1923. On December 25th, she reported, then added, “The other Jew born on Christmas.”

I was thrilled I got to go through her entire medical history.

“Do you smoke, Lillian?”

“Of course not.”

“Did you ever smoke?”

“Of course. Until they raised the price to fifty cents a pack in 1947.”

Her body must be a road map of scars, the list of surgeries continued on to the back of the page. Just as we finished, I was called in and got up to follow the technician. Lillian stopped me.

“You’re cute. You wanna grab my breast? I’ll be giving it away for free in there.”

These are a few of my favorite things.

28 Jun

E-mail from my favorite kid last week, who knew enough to compare, the little genius…

I just wanted to say thanks so much for everything. Our tour guide in DC sucked. We all kept saying we missed you. I miss you like crazy. We’ll see each other again one day!

     *****

The parents from Texas: Les Misérables was totally inappropriate for our kids.

Me: Why? Because it’s about social injustice?

Later.

The kids: We LOVED the show.

     *****

E-mail from my favorite kid this week:

S: I miss u so much. Our tour guide in DC is not near as good as you. And DC is not near as good as NYC.

Me: Tell me something you learned in DC.

S: John F. Kennedy’s family had bad luck.

     ***** 

My favorite kid tonight:

After S and K, two graduating seniors who are a couple and also share a birthday today kissed at dinner, B turned to me and whispered, “The best thing about our town is when you break up with someone, you still get to see them at the family reunion.”

      *****

My least favorite kid today:

Her: You’ve never been four-wheelin’? That’s so weird.

Me: You’ve never been to The Metropolitan Museum of Art? Freak.

     *****

My favorite kid today:

At Rock Center, “Is this where Holden Caulfield goes ice skating?”

I gave the most unlikely kid to know his CATCHER that I have ever met, a 16-year old from a shitstorm of a miserable little dusty drought-riddled little stain of a town in the middle of a forgotten slice of Kansas so boring that Dick and Perry bypassed it to get to Holcombe to butcher the Clutters, a solid 20 points for shattering my preconceptions.

     *****

Kid: Are you ever glad to see a group lea–

Me: (interrupting) YES.

     *****

My favorite exchange today:

Me: Dova! What a beautiful name! I dov-a in da water!

Dova: It’s Jewish for small girl bear.

Me: It’s also Italian for a head-first jump.

Dova: You’re just making fun of me because I’m Jewish.

Me: So clearly you have absolutely no idea what city you’re in.

     *****

How to shut an Eighth-grader up.

As is well documented by my relentless moaning among friends, I had a basal cell thing removed near my eyebrow six months ago.

Him: Why do you have a scar on your —

Me (interrupting): CANCER.

     *****

My favorite kid today:

Her: Did anyone ever tell you you look like Gerard Butler?

Me: Did anyone ever tell you you are the last unicorn?

 

 

*

Context.

27 Jun

Shia LaBeouf was taken into custody last night for smoking, drinking, slurring his words, creating a ruckus and wearing a torn shirt.

Alan Cumming was not.

My Facebook posts designed to make you feel better about yourself.

26 Jun

My apartment is in dire need of a paint job. Since 1998.

     *****

I got out of bed today. To get a soda.

     *****

I had to return shoes I couldn’t afford to Zappos. When they received my return, they wrote:

“We wanted to let you know that your return is back safe and sound in our warehouse. That trip over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house went smoothly.”

I wrote back:

“Really? I write copy. Are you looking? Because this…”

They wrote back:

“Yes! We’re always looking! Go to this link!”

I did:

“No job postings.”

     *****

My plants are all dying. They are my pets. Ergo, my pets are all dying.

          *****

I can’t stop eating cookies. Before I eat each one, I murmur, “So what.”

     *****

That thing on my neck has all the ABCs of melanoma.

     *****

I think my air conditioner has toxic black mold.

     *****

I didn’t get into any of the colleges I wanted to go to. And so I occasionally end a sentence poorly, like that last one.

     *****

My longest relationship is with my student loan officer.

     *****

My newest relationship is with the bricklayer on the scaffolding outside my 10th-floor window. I hate him.

     ******

This was the year that people stopped asking me where my parents live and started asking me if my parents are still alive.

     *****

I can’t afford a smart phone. I have a dumb phone. The screen is too small to crack. So, in your face there, I guess…

     *****

There are now automobiles that weigh less than my television set.

     *****

I spent my Spring on the islands. Ellis and Liberty.

Going down.

25 Jun

One of the elevators is out of service in my building, leaving only the other one. This has turned my otherwise ordinary and composed neighbors into lunatics. On my last ride down, I thought to myself, “This is how movements are born. Flags will be sewn tonight.”

People rarely speak on the elevators here. It is a keep-to-yourself kind of apartment house. The dog lovers interact with each others’ dogs, true, but rarely with the other end of the leash. Some people jockey for position to be first off (especially Julie who is like a rubber band about to snap 24/7) while others like me skulk to the back corners to observe body language and couched glances. All in all, it is a quiet, boring affair.

All day today however, my neighbors became positively mutinous. Scowling, loud protestations about mismanagement and soaring rents and crises magnified by furious waits. Cramped and crowded, the conversation continually elevated itself to outbidding gripes over gripes.

“I have a hiatal hernia!”

“I have two! I have a hiatal hernia and an inguinal hernia!”

I was taking notes. Each ride has become some kind of delicious master class for a hypochondriac.

I heard two doormen from different shifts assaulted with inquiries. “The elevator won’t be fixed until tomorrow? You know this for a fact?” “Nothing can be done tonight? Isn’t this an emergency situation?” “What about the man who had a heart attack climbing the stairs during the blackout of 2003?” said the weirdo who carries a bird around, a prosecutor with a parrot on his shoulders who had to reach back a decade for a precedent. Jesús, the older doorman of the two, by a good sixty years, reverted to his native tongue, feigned lost in translation and shrugged his not-my-problem shoulders. Jorge, who takes his job so seriously I believe he believes he has a military commission, had crafted a careful, informative statement by the time I ran across him. His White House Press Secretary response: The first elevator has suffered a severe malfunction and we are waiting for a part to be couriered as soon as possible. We are told it will be sometime tomorrow and early. He emphasized “early” to great effect. It meant “we care” and “no further questions.” Statesmanlike, I thought, as I hit the door, visions of parts being couriered dancing in my head.

It is interesting how a shared experience has brought my neighbors together. It is interesting to hear us talking with each other. But it is far more interesting to learn we are all a bunch of cranks who would rather sink one another with complaints going down than lift each others’ spirits on the way up.

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