Saturday, February 23, 2013

Coffee Shop Manifesto

Last month, I watched A Poet On The Lower East Side, a very low-budget documentary featuring Allen Ginsberg in the 90s and his Hungarian poet friend. The reviews on Netflix complain of the sub par production. Obviously those reviewers don't get IT. (If you don't know what IT is, then you need to read On The Road). I'm currently reading Big Sur. All this Beat energy sent me to Grey Art Gallery at NYU to see Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg. To make the title hold more weight, my mom came with since she has real memories of the times and all I have is false nostalgia. When I see the photos, they remind me of the photos I saw as an undergrad and ever since. When she sees the photos, she remembers real times.

The weather treated us okay: no rain or snow, but lots of freezing blustery air. Between buildings were wind tunnels. My face ached. That did not mean it was too cold for pictures. This must be where I get it from: my mom passed a pizzeria and was like, Take my picture with him!

When we got into the gallery, the windows were fogged floor to ceiling. The heat was on full blast and so I stood over it as if it were a fire in a can. Ahhhhh.

The exhibit included snapshots and then some of the same photos blown up and captioned in Ginsberg's inky script, some of which was difficult to read.  My mom said that some of them should be postcards.  Knowing, I was like, The naked ones?  She laughed and walked away.  The captions were helpful in figuring out who's who in Kerouac's books as Ginsberg explained in which literary tales they appeared and their code names.

I loved the letters.  There were hand-written letters between writers.  There were typed letters between writers a la a typewriter.  I was surprised to read a quick letter from Carl Solomon to some rich woman apologizing for Ginsberg's "Howl."  Hmm, didn't know he wasn't a fan.

One of my favorite photos was of Neal Cassady and a car salesman on the car lot.  It's so telling of everything that's to come for him and the rest of them.

I was not allowed to take pictures.  No cameras, food, drink, smoking, and I think maybe one more thing that I can't remember but was listed on the door.  And so, I had to break some sort of rule in honor of the Beats:

Then to honor the era and all the artists of downtown, we took a stroll through Washington Square Park and finished our excursion at the Waverly.

My mom said, "Take a picture!  Get the Empire State Building in it!"  I did.

We switched places exactly.  Where is the top of the arch?

There goes my plan.

At the Waverly, we walked past a woman who had her prescription pill bottle opened and standing at the center of her table and a large cup of coffee.  By the end of our meal, she had put the pills away, had another large cup of coffee steaming next to her, and was scribbling viciously along the edge of an already-filled paper in the middle of a white legal pad that seemed to have the same sort of scribbling on all the previous pages.  The muse is alive and well in New York still.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Chocolate Coma

How anyone could eat a full-on meal with apps, entrees, desserts, and drinks both alcoholic and non is beyond me. Max Brenner has its own chocolate revolution going on, but I'm not sure why the whole revolution is necessary since people like chocolate and no one is trying to take that away from them. Getting to Max Brenner's in subzero temperatures could have been awful, but the train and subways were full of live entertainment: everything from coughing, sneezing children that gave me a panic attack since I don't want to get sick on my break to violin players to jazz bands. We found this group around Union Square:

Eddie and I had a mission: get him lava cake on his day off. We chose Max Brenner's because of their self-proclaimed revolution in the confection. I even made a reservation which proved to be a good idea since the place packed up right after we got there. The hostess, obviously miserable in her job, handed us off to someone with menus and then we got to sit at a table that was small even by my standards. It took a good ten minutes for anyone on the wait staff to come over to us, but that proved to be a plus in our column. We went through the very very long menu and decided Dessert First, lunch for snack later.

The waitress was very good--apologized for no one coming over to us, very peppy, happy in her job unlike the hostess--and she took our order of water and a soda right away. Water and soda are apparently very difficult to make because that took another ten minutes. They were short-staffed for the holiday. How does that happen in a place of business? Don't you get more staff for a holiday? Anyway, when she brought our drinks, we ordered: lava cake for Eddie, though through the revolution, they do not call it a lava cake and call it something with a lot of words in it; strawberry hazelnut chocolate crepe for me, which could have been an entree or a dessert--some stuff on their menu seems to be both, the same way IHOP calls stuffed French toast breakfast instead of a heart attack in the making.

Not getting actual food was the best idea Eddie had because getting the two small items--cake and crepe--took a very very very long time. Maybe the crepe was being flown in from France! Ahhhh, gay Par-eeeeee.

Then suddenly, it was there. Eddie's cake came on a pedestal (or as some of my students would call it, a pedal stool. don't ask). The waitress presented it to him by pointing out his shaker of chocolate sauce and small sides of ice cream and a mini-cup of something with lots of whipped cream. Neither of us heard what it was because we were giggling over the pedestal. Then they put a large plate in front of me. The place was almost as big as the table. On it was a large crepe with strawberries. The waitress also pointed out a tiny beaker on my plate filled with my chocolate sauce. Another reason not getting lunch was a good idea: the food was colossal.

Bite by tiny bite, we devoured it all. We pondered, why do we need this extra chocolate sauce? He poured some on his cake. He poured some on his ice cream. I poured some on my crepe. We did not need this extra sauce and stopped pouring it on things. He dipped his cake in the whipped cream. I sipped from the whipped cream cup and informed him there was more than just cream in it (when the waitress came by to clear away the dishes, I asked her what it was: a small scoop of chocolate ice cream). He finished his cake, claiming it was larger than it looked. I almost finished my crepe. I could have finished the whole thing, but to make myself feel healthier, I stopped eating the folds of empty crepe and ate just the crepe with the strawberries. That means about three thin strips of crepe were left on my plate, which means it's healthy. Because I'd left something on my plate, I got to have some of his ice cream and mini drink.

Had it been warmer out, we would've walked back to Penn Station. Actually, we would've waddled. Eddie could have probably rolled me. But it was this cold:

So instead of walking, we quickly checked out the public art and headed back into the subway.

We are now part of the new chocolate culture taking over the world. One scoop, one crepe, one shot of whip at a time.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Hey! Ho! Woooooooooo!

I've joined a cult. Keeping within the theme of "I make bad decisions," during my most recent class at Jazzercise, I realized that everyone knows everyone else, outsiders (me) don't get to infiltrate easily (or maybe I'm just socially awkward), and there's a secret shouting method that I have yet to catch onto.

The instructor bounded up in front of us and as we stretched out our necks like turtles, she offered us announcements about special classes that were happening this weekend with one of the women in the class; she's from the West Coast and is teaching here and it's gonna be great! This instructor is the one from the previous class I did, the uber fit one who likes to speak some of the music lyrics, especially the ones to "That's Not My Name" and the song that goes My name is Keri, and I'm so very... something about her derriere.

We did front kicks. The instructor called out Hey! with the right kick and Ho! with the left kick. Then every kick afterwards EVERYONE was shouting HEY! HO! louder and louder. I couldn't hold back and I stopped my exercise snob breathing for some Hey Ho Ing. Since Jazzercise has been around since the 80s, I'm pretty sure the Lumineers owe the Jazzercise people for this:

After the Hey Ho kicks, things got a little less formal and a lot more sudden. If we changed moves from side movement to up and down, a few women would shout WOOOOOOOO! Then if we started punching, some other women would yell WOOOO WOOOOOO!!!! Low lunges called for more WOOO! I wasn't sure if these were random Woooos or if certain women were assigned to Wooo for certain movements.

With all of my successful hey-ho-ing, I was sure that I had become part of this cult. Sealing the deal was the woman in front of me. I'd been giving her back the stink-eye because she was really in shape and did all the moves with groove and soul, the same way I do, and she was already in the cult, so she was clearly trying to one-up me and was clearly my arch-nemesis of Jazzercize. After the first song, she turned around, looking right at me. In a third of a second, I felt very badly for hating her since she was not the young-California-chic woman I'd figured she was; she was actually in her late 40s or early 50s (or, you know, the general 39 I assign everyone since I can't tell people's ages), and I should have been praising her obvious abilities at such a late time in her life (I am awful).

So in the second third of that second, I was exhilarated. Someone from the cult other than the woman at the counter scanning my keychain was going to speak to me directly. In the third third of that second, she said, Can you see all right? It's all I was thinking about the whole time.

You know. Because I'm miniature.

Knowing that this is what we call karma, I did the whole awkward waving my hands back and forth and guaranteed over and over that it was fine it was fine I could see no worries. The instructor is on a stage that's about a foot off the ground. Also, I was at the almost end of the room, so I was at an angle. I could also watch the woman who had asked me because she was very good. So yes, I could see. I could also hear. Shortness does not equate to deafness, so I could hear the steps that she was calling out. So, I wasn't in the cult and I was also short and being punished for hating someone who was worried about being in my way. (Again, I am awful).

The class went onto some high impact fast-paced cardio dancing that caused some super-frenetic WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOing and I found myself almost breathless and in the sweat zone until the toning part happened. The room emptied out a little bit as I've found is the case with these classes; some of the women don't do the abs and weights. There was no shouting during this portion. Once the final stretch happened, the entire class erupted in loud claps and whoops. I clapped. I did not whoop. Whooping is for members only.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Another One In The Win Column

I won a book on Goodreads

As part of the winning, I agree to read and review it.  Not a problem.  That's why I entered the contest in the first place.

It's really too bad Charlie Sheen did all this:

He totally stole my motto. Plus, I'm actually winning stuff, not theoretically winning at life (though, I suppose, I'm doing that, too).

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Not Jazz Hands But Jazz Everything

It was the Thursday before the big blizzard.  I'd stayed at work an extra few hours, grading papers and getting baked--no, not smoking up but actually baking in my over-87-degree office.  It wasn't so bad, though, because I'd changed into my very precious, most prized workout pants that I got for free from Summer Solstice and a sports bra and tank top to match.

When I finally made my way down Hempstead Turnpike after chugging along behind a school bus for what seemed like 100 miles, I found a parking spot and found the back entrance.  I was doing it.  I was going to Jazzercise. 

Or not going.  As I turned off the engine, I saw two little old ladies get out of their over-sized old lady car with two large mats and head inside. Oh, no.  This was old lady Jazzercise.  I was going to be the youngest person in the room by at least 500 years.  I texted everyone I knew in a panic: Old ladies were at Jazzercise. Old ladies were at Jazzercise.  I almost turned the car back on and headed home.

Two things: (1) I love me a free deal, and (2) another woman got out of a minivan with a mat and headed inside and she was not over a century old, so this Jazzercise thing was apparently for all ages, or not just for very old people. 

When I got to the counter that was almost over my head (seriously, why are counters above 4 feet?), I explained to the two women that I'd won a free month and even though the certificate said Jersey, Kathy the owner had emailed with me that she'd accept it.  They agreed that the regional manager on the certificate was not theirs, but since I knew Kathy's name, it was going to be okay.  They signed me up quickly, gave me a keychain tag of membership, and a receipt for zero dollars with the woman saying, I don't know why I'm giving you this, but here you go.  I loved this place already.  I was part of something!

I chose a spot in the back and started stretching.  The other women, quite a few, were milling around the front of the room, chitchatting with their winter coats and gloves still on. The room was cold.  The two women at the very high counter were also in coats, which I could understand since they were standing in one place, but if you're about to work out, shouldn't you stretch out and warm yourself up?  I did.  Which maybe made me seem like a workout snob.  Maybe I am.

By the by, upon a closer look, the old ladies were not centuries old.  They were older than everyone else, though.  One of them was in a very expensive Athleta workout outfit.  I know it was expensive because occasionally I pine after their clothing on the Athleta website and think to myself, why am I going to spend $70 on pants that I sweat in?  It's a good deterrent.

The room filled up and by 4:46, the class had begun.  I was standing on the end in the back row next to a girl who looked to be in her twenties.  Next to her was a woman whose age I couldn't tell because she looked to be out of her 20s but either in her 30s or 40s.  The rest of the room were typical middle aged Long Island women whose ages could have ranged from 40 to 60, but some were probably younger than that.  The teacher, I think, said she was 30, but since I'm bad with guessing ages, we'll say everyone was 39.

The teacher got us right to stepping.  She noted that several new faces were in the room.  As soon as we started, I didn't feel like I was new.  I felt like I'd been doing this for ages.  I was happy I was next to youngest girl and ageless woman because as the teacher, a slightly plump woman, taught the moves with low impact, the two next to me were bouncing around, jumping, and really truly jazzing.  I followed them.  I was born to do this.  Really, I've always dreamed of taking a workout class and since I don't see the point of joining a gym since I have room to work out at home, I never have.  Thank goodness for contests.

During the workout, the teacher called on women in the room, asking them about going to Stop and Shop to buy food before the storm. She kept indicating that every time she asked a question, no one would answer.  I laughed because that's my entire job: asking questions and receiving awkward stares.  It's good to know I'm not alone. The main difference is that loud music is playing and everyone in the room is slightly breathless.  My students don't have those excuses though they probably wish they did.

The teacher also began a huge conversation about being married.  All this was  happening between, Two steps to the right!  Sashay to the left! Dig down deep and push those arms!  Thrust that pelvis! Yeah!  Turns out, the old women have been married for an average of 50 years.  That is not an exaggeration.  See?  I told you they were old.  Also, the old women were hard core, keeping up with the class and doing the moves full out except for the jumping but they are in the age range for osteo so they shouldn't be jumping all that much anyway.  The one wearing the Athleta gear was ripped.  When we got to the weight portion, she was using five pounders.  For those of you who have never used weights for a fast-paced workout, it's like lifting 15 pounds slowly.  Basically, I wouldn't want to meet her in a dark alley.

Between the leg lifts and skipping to the front and back, the teacher then got on the subject of birthdays.  The girl next to me was going to be 23 soon.  Ahhh, if only I'd been Jazzercising at 23.  I wonder how different life would be.  Maybe I'd own all of the Jazzercises in the land by now.  Oh, the possibilities.

Then the mic went out.  Suddenly, we couldn't hear any of the chit chat or any of the instructions for jazzing it up.  Apparently, this was the third mic to go on her.  The counter woman ran outside and came back in with a new mic pack.  I want a mic of my own.  I'd rock at this.  Also rocking at this was Ageless Woman next to me.  I heard her say that she knows the moves to the music so she does some of the moves automatically.  Hmmm, does she also teach Jazzercise?  Does everyone teach it but me?

After about 45 minutes of jumping and jiving and catching on to everything (I'm not bragging; I'm just that good), we did weights and floor work for abs and legs.  Well, not "we" exactly.  I hadn't brought my mat or weights.  I stretched instead.  One of the counter women rushed over with a mat halfway through, but I waved her off with a thanks but not today.  I was good stretching. 

Class ended with a final tally of who was going to Stop and Shop.  I don't have a Stop and Shop near me, so I fell on the No side.

Fast forward to a few days after the storm.  Once again, I get stuck behind a bus on the entire way to the class from work.  This time, I'm armed with a mat and 3-pound weights because I'm not as buff as Athleta Lady.  The class is full of all different aged women.  The only one I recognize is Ageless Woman.  I scanned in this time with my keychain membership and the counter woman remembered my last name and pronounced it correctly.  I belong!

This teacher was less chatty, more ripped, and only occasionally spoke the lyrics of the music.  The music, by the way, is amazingly awesome.  I want to pump it in my car with the windows down. She started class by saying, No one new is here, right? Good.  Since I didn't want to burst her goodness bubble and since technically I wasn't new since I'd taken one class before even if it wasn't with her, I didn't shout out, Hey over here me I'm new!  Instead, I stayed in place and started moving my head in and out like a turtle.  That's the move.  I did it.  One does not question Jazzercise choreo.  This class was a little bit more high impact overall.  The teacher was jumping on her little stage.  I was huffing and puffing a little bit more.  I was doing the athlete-exhale, the one where you purse your lips and make that obnoxious hey-I'm-working-out sound.  

After 45 minutes of cardio, it was back to weights and mat work. The weights were pretty simple as were the abs and legs.  I kept up with it, but this time, it was a bit more tiring.  But that's the point. Jazzercise is for making you tired from being so happy.  I do believe that during both classes, I was smiling like a lunatic and I'm pretty sure they are scared for me to come back, which is too bad considering I'm going to work the hell out of my free membership.  Plus, I'm now obsessed.  I won't be able to stay away and when my membership ends, I'll be devastated. Or I'll have to sign up for more classes.  There's always that.

Monday, February 4, 2013

No Joke

Maybe you've seen this commercial recently:

It's probably one of the most entertaining things on television today. Every time Eddie and I are watching tv, we laugh. Every time we are fast forwarding through a DVR, we stop, back up, watch, and laugh some more.

The best birthday present I thought to get him was the WaxVac. It had to be done. It was a gag gift, mostly, but if it worked, all the better. Plus, it was buy one get one. This was a great decision. This is why I'm not allowed to make decisions.

Neither of us will answer the phone if we don't know who it is. When the Caller ID comes up with a weird 800 number, we let the machine pick it up. For about two weeks, every day, and sometimes twice a day, a weird 800 number kept coming up. It wouldn't leave a message. Once I tried to call it back and it was busy.

About 9 PM on a Tuesday, the 800 number came up yet again. Feeling adventurous, Eddie picked it up and used his "I'm a person you don't want to talk to" voice to ward off any possible threat of someone trying to sell us something. The voice is a bit like Kermit The Frog's crossed with Barry White. He put it on speaker. This is the conversation that transpired:

Barry The Frog: Hello?

Person: Hello, is this Christina?

Barry The Frog: No, who's this?

Person: Hello, I'm calling for Christina.

Barry The Frog: She's not here. Who is this?

Person: I'm calling because Christina placed an order for a WaxVac. Is she there?

Eddie, no longer sounding like Barry The Frog because he'd just answered this question: She's not here; can I help you?

[meanwhile, he's mouthing to me, Did you buy a WaxVac? and I'm mouthing back, It was a gag gift for your birthday way to ruin the surprise stupid WaxVac people]

WaxVac Surprise-Ruiner: Well who is this?

Eddie: This is her husband; how can I help you?

WaxVac Surprise-Ruiner: We just wanted to let you know, Mr. Raw, that the shipment is on its way and should arrive within the week. Also, as a thank you for ordering with us, we will give you $100 to spend on gas. We'll be sending that out to you when you pay only $1.

Eddie: We don't want that. We want only what she ordered.

WaxVac: It's $100 for gas for you to keep.

Eddie: No thank you.

WaxVac: Okay I'm patching you through to...

[at this point, I don't know what she did because she just gave us to another operator who....]

2nd WaxVac Person: Hello, Christina?

Eddie: No, this is her husband.

2nd Wax Vac Person: Okay, hello, Mr. Raw, I'm letting you know that we're sending out a packet for you to use and with only $1

Eddie: Hold on, please. I just told the other woman I don't want it.

2nd WaxVac: It's $100 in gas money.

Eddie: No thank you.

2nd Wax Vac: Okay we'll get that out to you and you have a good night.


Okay, a few things:

1. The operators at WaxVac clearly do not use their own product because they didn't hear when Eddie said, NO!!!!

2. Who the hell is Mr. Raw?

3. What was the purpose in transferring to a second operator?

4. What does gas have to do with cleaning out your ears?

We discussed the absurdity of the phone call and wondered why the woman hung up on him. Then to show him what was happening when I'd been calling back, I dialed the number. This time, instead of a busy signal, someone answered: Hello, Christina!

That freaked me the fuck out so I immediately hung up and hid the phone under the couch cushion.

So you got me a WaxVac? Eddie asked.

They ruined the fun! I wailed.

Fast forward to a week later. I have two WaxVacs in my possession.

Fast forward a few days later. The phone has been ringing with an odd 800 number. No one is leaving messages. They are calling when we aren't home. The phone rings when I am home finally and I answer and no one is there and it clicks off to a disconnected line.

I'm pissed so I call the number back. Hello, Christina!

What the fuck???

I answer, Hi, someone just called from this number and hung up on me. Who's this?

I get the response, The phone is on an auto-dialer so the auto-dialer hung up. Is this Christina?

Me: Yes, who is this?

Person: Hi, I'm calling to thank you for ordering WaxVac, and I just wanted to let you know that your order is on its way.

Me: Let me stop you for a moment; I already received my order.

WaxVac: I'm so happy to hear that! Our call system is backed up.

Me: No, people have been calling. Someone spoke to my husband.

WaxVac: Okay, great. So we're going to send you $100 to spend on gas and you pay a dollar and...

Me: Let me stop you again. My husband told two people already that we are not interested and not to send it.

WaxVac: But it's $100 for gas.

Me: No.

WaxVac: Okay so you enjoy your Wax Vac.

1. How do you "enjoy" a WaxVac? It's purpose is to suck water out of your ears. Enjoy?

2. What is it with the gas money????

3. Why is Wax Vac stalking me????????????????

FYI: The WaxVac does not work. Surprise.