It’s a small world, after all

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‘It took me nearly as long to get to Roosevelt Island as it did to get to the Amazon River’

I didn’t get his name, but I’m betting it was ‘Tony’. He was the guy manning the gate that lets you into the waiting area to ride the tram back from Roosevelt Island.

One of my besties (hi, Laurie!) and I had spent a most marvelous time strolling around the Island, checking out the new monument to Mr. Roosevelt, the old Smallpox Hospital (where they used to quarantine the poor sufferers, bless their hearts), and even the new Cornell Labs (where they let us in, but only so far in; they have very nice light fixtures in their cafeteria).

Monument to Mr. R. One of my other bestie’s sons really really wants to skateboard here

You can’t go in because it is ‘unstable’ (not that I’d want to), but here is the Smallpox Hospital in all its tumbledown glory

Anyway, Tony and I got to chatting, as is my wont when dawdling with friendly strangers, and found that he used to work for a film editing studio where I would occasionally be involved in a TV commercial edit. Ah, the Six Degrees of City Separation!

But back to Roosevelt Island, figuratively if not literally. I hate to admit it, but it was my very first trip there. Which is pretty amazing, since I’ve lived in New York like a zillion years, and R. Island is really close by: it’s just one subway stop away, and the tram is about 8 blocks from me — and those are the short blocks, not the long crosstown ones.

In all my years of New Yorker-ness (more than 30; less than 50), I had also never been to the New York Botanical Garden. About a month ago another pal (howdy, Ms. Smith!) coaxed me up there to see the Chihuly exhibit, which had Chihuly’s clever glass sculptures dispersed amongst the flora. (That Chihuly-adorned ‘fauna’ at the top of this post is me, posed artfully in front of one of his works.)

Chihuly-meets-bottle-brush-meets-the-conservatory

What the heck, here’s another one. Cool, huh?

This garden is also really close by. It’s called the New York Botanical Garden, after all. But it was (and is) in the Bronx, which means, to me and many of my fellow Manhattanites, that it might as well be on the moon. I have, however, been to Staten Island. Twice. Once to get to the beginning of the New York City Marathon, which yes, I did in fact run — more than one time, even. And once to get to a lovely graduation party thrown by the parents of one of The Child’s Stuy High buds. But I have yet to ride the Staten Island Ferry, which is how you get to the Statue of Liberty. Which — nope — I have not been to yet either.

Even my Favorite Sister, who doesn’t even live here, has been on the Staten Island Ferry. AND visited the Statue of Liberty (visible in the mists in the background)

Even The Dude has been to Brooklyn more recently than I have. He went there with The Child to check out an electric motorcycle. Which he liked, and bought. (No, it doesn’t have ‘a really long cord’.) The Child told me later that she had to keep hushing him. He tended to exclaim out loud in wonder at the hipsters. (‘What is that guy thinking with that neck beard!’ Etc. etc.)

The Child hushing her Dad deep in the heart of Hipster Williamsburg (as opposed to Colonial Williamsburg)

And Queens, the remaining of the Five Boroughs? Queens, we go to nearly every week, that is if you count zooming (er, crawling) through on the Long Island Expressway. But we have been to the U.S. Open (tennis, not golf) which is held in Flushing Meadows, which counts as Queens.

But what’s that about the Amazon River, you may be asking? Well. If things worked out, technology-wise, you are reading this because I successfully ‘timed’ this piece to publish all by itself this week. Because The Dude and I have wrenched ourselves away from Manhattan and are smack-dab in the middle of the Amazon Jungle. On a boat on a river, tracking down elusive and exotic birds. Yup, birds. And hoping not to get eaten by fish. (Yup, there are piranha in the Amazon. For real.)

Very ‘African Queen’, eh? Our home away from home for two weeks. Photo copyright Bret Whitney

See you next week. I hope!

New York City (virtually, anyway). November 2017

The Pick-up Artist

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‘The ole Creep-O-Meter gets a workout on the streets of New York’

I bet I still have his business card stashed away in a drawer somewhere. Yup. I was in my twenties, fresh off the ‘boat’, as it were, when I was approached by James Toback, former sort-of-famous writer/director and now much-more-famous sexual predator.

I’m not going to show you a photo of this extremely creepy guy, partly because you might be eating your lunch or something (he’s pretty gross-looking now, and he didn’t ‘present’ much better thirty-odd years ago either, trust me) and partly because I can’t find a public-domain picture of him. If you haven’t seen the news, you can read about his ‘technique’ in the full L.A. Times story by clicking here (Warning; there is a photo of him). 

Here’s an excerpt:

‘His opening line had a few variations. One went: “My name’s James Toback. I’m a movie director. Have you ever seen ‘Black and White’ or ‘Two Girls and a Guy’?”

Probably not. So he’d start to drop names. He had an Oscar nomination for writing the Warren Beatty movie “Bugsy.” He directed Robert Downey Jr., in three movies. The actor, Toback claimed, was a close friend; he had “invented him.” If you didn’t believe him, he would pull out a business card or an article that had been written about him to prove he had some juice in Hollywood. That he could make you a star.’

Well, in my case, like I say, I was fresh to The City — this was back in the 80s — so he couldn’t have used exactly that line. (He hadn’t ‘invented’ Robert Downey Jr. yet.) As I recall, I was walking home from my newly-secured, extremely fun Ad Job at Ogilvy via Madison Avenue. (I have to say, if you are a young reasonably-attractive woman* in New York City, walking on Madison Avenue is livelier than any singles bar; that’s how I met Steve Martin. Who was not a creep, BTW.)

*See photo at top of post for example. That’s me — not James Toback — complete with Very Bad Perm, at about the time this story takes place

So I’m strolling along when this fat sloppy guy stopped me. I seem to recall him actually tapping me on the shoulder. At any rate, I paused, politely, thinking he might want spare change. Or maybe directions. (I get that a lot. See ‘The Accidental Tourist’ for some wacky examples.) Anyway, he tells me he’s a movie director. (Yeah, and I’m Meryl Streep, I’m thinking.)

I must have looked as dubious as I felt, because then he whips out a business card and starts telling me his ‘credits’: like he’d directed a movie with Jim Brown called ‘Fingers’. (Gosh. I just checked Toback’s Wikipedia page, and found out he went to Harvard. Yikes! Thank the Campus Gods and Goddesses that there was no possible way that he could have been there at the same time as The Child.)

Then he gets to the point. He wants to ‘audition’ me for his next movie. I’m supposed to call him (the number is on the business card) and he’ll see if I’m ‘right’ for the ‘role’.

Well. I wish I could say that it was my impeccable judgment and street smarts that kept me from taking him up on his offer. But you among my faithful readers know that this wouldn’t have been the first time I’d been picked up on the street. (There was that infamous guy-who-was-in-The-Jerk episode, after all.)

My trusty Creep-O-Meter was, to be sure, going off like gangbusters. But I have to admit the main reason I didn’t ‘bite’ was that I knew I was terrible, wooden, and hopelessly awful at acting. I had humiliated myself once when I tried out for a play in front of my whole class at school, and I certainly wasn’t going to do it again, even if only one other person would be in the room.

Me (the one in back with long hair) looking wooden and uncomfortable in a still photo — much less in an audition

So yup, I dodged that bullet. And lived to fight another day. No, I never ‘worked with’ Harvey Weinstein (whew). But, like many of you #MeToo’ers out there, I had my share of Unwanted Attention in The Workplace. Check out ‘The Boss Who Got Banished to Belgium’ or the classic Weinstein-esque ‘The Naked Boss and the Pussycat Lounge’ for witty takes on male abuses of power.

The semi-autobiographical movie Toback eventually made without me in it. Look! It’s Robert Downey Jr!

Thank you for reading. It felt good to get that off my not-very-starlet-like chest. Now I have to go take a shower.

New York City. October 2017

So help me God

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‘The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth: jury duty in New York City’

Excuses, excuses. This week I’m late because I have to keep chasing a darned turkey out of my yard. Sorry if some of you out there like turkeys in your yards; not me. They leave too many ‘gifts’, if you get my drift.

Anyway. On to this week’s story. Which is about jury duty in New York. Now before you start yawning, let me assure you that it can be pretty darned fascinating. For one thing, they changed the rules a few years ago so that nobody — and I do mean nobody — gets out of serving. So it’s quite possible that you can find yourself killing time doing the crossword in a big ole waiting room with the likes of Madonna or Sir Paul or maybe even The Donald back when he lived in New York (But wait; He still does live in New York. But I don’t think he does the crossword.)

Used to be that you could get out of serving if you had a little kid at home, were a doctor, or owned your own business. (Check all three boxes for The Dude; now that those exceptions have been eliminated, he has to serve and it drives him nuts. He thinks up all kinds of “you may be excused” answers to their questions, like “Yes” to “Do you believe that everyone who is tried in this court is implicitly guilty?” and it just makes the lawyers love him all the more. He almost always gets picked.) Continue reading

“Come as you are.” Or, um, maybe not

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‘Decoding the dress code on party invitations’

Who doesn’t love getting invited to parties? Well, maybe The Dude, actually. He’d much rather relax in his jammies in the comfort of his own home than head out to a party after a long work week. But the last two Fridays in a row have found us helping two Birthday Boys celebrate very Big Birthdays at a couple of very Big (and very nice) Parties.

One of the nice things (aside from the free-flowing champagne and hors d’oeuvres) that we appreciated about these two parties in particular was that there was no dress code. At least, not a dress code that was spelled out on the invitation. I guess the hosts (or hostesses, in these cases) figured that guests old enough to go to a birthday party without holding someone’s hand would be able to figure out how to dress.

Now, me, I love parties. And I look forward to getting party invitations of almost any kind. Including the ones with the little notes on the bottom of the invitation that tell you what to wear.

Should I wrap myself in cellophane like a bouquet from the corner deli?

Or should I make like a rosebush?

Being a dyed-in-the-wool-New-Yorker-of-40-years-and-counting, I’ll probably just don my wear-to-pretty-much-every-party basic black. Maybe I’ll carry a nosegay. Or wear rose-colored lipstick. Continue reading

Just because it fits doesn’t mean you should wear it

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‘When everything in your closet is “vintage”‘

It’s getting to be Spring here (finally), so the other day I was participating in a seasonal ritual particular to New Yorkers (at least New Yorkers in apartments with small closets) — The Switching of The Clothes.

Which is when you dig your Spring/Summer stuff out of storage and switch it with the Fall/Winter stuff. In my case, “storage” is the second closet in The Child’s room. She has never realized that she has two closets; she grew up thinking it perfectly normal that Mommy’s out-of-season clothes lived in her room.

BTW, Switching The Clothes in Spring absolutely guarantees a cold snap. Today, the 9th of May, it is 48 degrees out, and where are my sweaters? Stowed away in The Child’s second closet. Sigh.

But back to the topic at hand, which, I suppose, is Age Comes Out of The Closet. See, in years gone by, The Switching was a pretty easy chore. I’d just grab everything — and switch. I wouldn’t even try things on to make sure they still fit; I’ve been basically the same size my entire Adult Life. Not because of anything I’ve done; I follow no annoyingly virtuous regimen or routine. It’s because I’m (mostly) a Swede. And it’s a well-known fact that Swedes don’t get fat. We shrivel. As we age, we sort of turn into the human equivalent of beef jerky. Continue reading

Signs of Spring (Fever)

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‘An it’s-too-nice-out-to-be-chained-to-a-computer story featuring funny signs, though not necessarily about Spring’

Okay okay. I have a zillion ideas for stories that should amuse the bejeepers out of you. I’ve got trip stories, like the one about when we went to Rome right after Chernobyl and nobody was there. Or the one where we left The Child by the side of the road next to a pueblo.

I’ve got ad-biz stories, like the one where we went to South Africa for a diaper shoot and the baby wrangler would only eat foods that started with ‘C’. Or the one where I got lost finding my office in the new Ogilvy digs at Worldwide Plaza and wound up in a British documentary.

And of course I still have plenty of fuel left in the family-story tank — plus major holdings indeed in the growing-up-in-a-small-town memory bank.

But. It is Spring. And Spring is distracting. I’ve been so distracted that the photo at the top of this post was mistakenly snapped by my iPhone-clutching hand while strolling along checking out Spring in New York City. (Actually, I was in a rush to deliver some crutches to The Child, who had just sprained her ankle badly in a fall from a climbing wall — but that’s, ahem, another story.)

Photo taken while wandering lonely as a cloud. If one can ‘wander’ while on a bike

And then this weekend, while on a bike ride out in Amagansett, hoping to clear my head and focus — focus, already — on a story, I found signs of Spring springing out at me from every which way. Continue reading

“You looked so nice I almost didn’t recognize you.”

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‘Appearances can be deceiving. Or something like that.’

So. Today is February 14. And yes, I did get something red and shiny for Valentine’s Day: my nose. Maybe by next week — when it’s (fingers crossed) only a miserable memory — I’ll find this cold amusing enough to write about. We’ll (sniff) see. In the meantime, I’m going with what I originally planned.

Which is a riff on Being Compared to Someone Else.

You know. Like when someone comes up to you at a family reunion and says something along the lines of “You remind me so much of your Aunt Net”. (A real Aunt of Mine whose name was Annette. She wore a hairnet, which is how she got that nickname. Or so we kids thought.) Continue reading