Posts Tagged ‘New York Life’

Old Jews Eating Bagels

January 25, 2018



“They say marriage is an institution. Marriage is being in an institution.”

“Wives want to be catered to. They want to be a princess.”

“They have their habits. I have mine.”

“My wife likes the diner so we went. I picked the table. She made a face. What’s the problem, I said? You’re my problem, she said.”


“There was gonna be terrible trouble when Jackie and Mindy got married. There were children here…there were children there…”

“They owed too much money together.”

“You can’t keep separate books. They tried. He did not pay for the kitchen. When they give money to the children, it’s gotta be the same. That’s my children, that’s your children. You wanna give your son ten dollars and we should give my son five?”

“That’s nuts.”

“The first thing Jackie said about Mindy? I’m gonna change her!”


“My mother treated her bad.”

“Your mother treated who bad?”

“My wife.”

“My parents treated my wife good. The problem was I didn’t get along with either of my parents.”

“How did you get that cup? It’s not like my cup.”

“You know Richard Gere? He always went out with beautiful women.

“Why not?”


“What’s the weather?”


“I’ll wear my bathing suit.”

“You should climb Mt. Everest.”

“I did. I fell off.”

“Have you ever had filet of Yak?”

“They didn’t have that in ‘Nam. Filet of Yock.

“Not Yock. Yak!”

“First time I skied, I went down like I was shot outta a cannon. It was after the war.”

“When, 1812?”

“Did you see the two kids that won that science award?

“Yeah, Chinese.

“They’re very conceptual.”

“Very smart. Violins, math.”


“Did you see that guy that bit into a battery?”


“It exploded! You can watch it on YouTube.”

“Let me see your phone a minute.” (holds it up) “Stan got an iPhone.”

“Why is it so dirty?”

“It’s fingerprints!”

“Is that the Cloud?”

“Chrome. This is Chrome.”

“You gotta lotta apps to pick from, Stan. I’ll help you. Slacker Radio – you don’t want that. Hell, no.”

“They got a Dunkin’ Donuts app? I need that.”

“Okay, I got one for you. Who’s the better drummer, Buddy Rich or Gene Krupa?”

“Buddy Rich!”

“Gene Krupa!”

“How do you know? Did you see them playing next to each other?”

“They are both self-taught.”

“My parents could sit down and play anything on the piano. Never took a lesson. Their kids are musicians. They don’t play. They set up equipment for bands.”

“That’s called A.V.”

Checking out

October 27, 2017


I was standing on line at the Duane Reade/Walgreens on 57th St. and 6th Avenue during lunchtime. An expensive Business Suit reeking of finance was ready to check out his purchases with the cashier, a 60-something Asian male with a bowl haircut.

“Hey,” said the Suit to the cashier, brandishing a Visa card. “Someone left their credit card! Look! She’s leaving the store. Go stop her and give her the card!”

As the cashier took off, the Suit remained immobile, reveling in save-the-day mode, and overseeing as the poor cashier abandoned his post and sprinted to the front door, frantically semaphore-ing the plastic card and pleading, “Excuse me! Excuse me!”

The woman stopped abruptly (for the record, she resembled Susie Essman from Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiam), her face a frozen rictus of Who the hell and why are you chasing after me, you maniac? One of her feet was already planted on the sidewalk.

“You forget your card? You forget your card?” the desperate cashier called out.

A mere glance at the neon-blue color of the small plastic rectangle revealed the answer. “No!” she rasped. “That’s not my card!” She stormed out.

The cashier trotted dutifully back to his post.

The Suit would not be dissuaded from his humanitarian mission. “Who was your last customer?” he demanded.

“Someone else,” said the cashier.



This Bird Has Flown

July 19, 2013

A Brief Homage to the Hummingbird

If you saw my post on Monday about the farewell luncheon I was invited to for my coworker, the Hummingbird, on Tuesday…this is what she ordered:

Two very large Blood Orange Martinis. Not a morsel of food.

8 coworkers showed up for the blowout luncheon. It took place at a diner-cum-Italian restaurant on 6th. The event was booked by the Bowerbird (but chosen in advance by the Hummingbird). Without a glance at the bar menu or missing a beat, she ordered the two martinis.

The Bowerbird acted as if he were paying for the whole thing, which he wasn’t. Administration funded the luncheon, in keeping with their practice of enabling their worst employees’ bad behavior, particularly those that spew venom and swear out loud like a hip hopper in the middle of a workday.

The ersatz salmon panini I was served (salmon salad minus the mayo, pretty much, between some sort of bun etched with parallel charred lines on top) was recommended to me by the Hummingbird.

Suddenly, the Hummingbird, sloshed by now, began pontificating about the meaning of life and the importance of loving what you do and giving back and following your bliss — which was the reason she was going to open a yoga studio.

Her stream of conscious cliche fest was interrupted by the Bowerbird, who shouted: “Pass the fries.”

Sadly, he was referring to the communal paper cone stuffed with soggy fries, which he ordered for all of us to share as an appetizer. Big spender. And it’s not even his money. His own “meal” was left untouched. He said he didn’t like it. It looked disgusting. I couldn’t even guess what it was.

I admit, I thought this day would never come. But today was really the Hummingbird’s final day on the job.

As always, she showed up at the office dressed for the part. Wearing shorts!

Gracing us with her presence for 3 hours, she and her shorts abruptly leapt out of her office chair at noon. In a dramatic display of weepiness, she rapidly rounded the corner toward the exit calling out a breezy: “I don’t do goodbyes” — and she was gone.

For good. I can hardly believe it. I should be happy. But I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. We still have the Bowerbird.

The Hummingbird’s gallery of personalized post-it notes pinned to her cubicle wall of self-love she abandoned without a second glance.

She even left this final post-it note behind, which was tacked up only yesterday:


Who knows…maybe she wrote all those post-it notes herself — to herself. Hey, if you don’t love yourself, nobody else will.

Pass the fries!

The Streets Where I Lived – Part 1

January 9, 2010

The former St. Peter’s Hospital in Brooklyn, NY (aka Cobble Hill Nursing Home)

The real reason behind our convoluted drive to Trader Joe’s in Rego Park, Queens the other day was, first, to do a little sightseeing in Brooklyn — but also to visit my place of birth and the apartments in which I spent my first six-plus years of life.

Since relocating here from L.A., memories of my old NY haunts have been continually tugging at my emotions.

I think it’s because the experience of NY feels different to me now. With my father gone almost ten years (he was alive when I moved to L.A.) and my mother — still here, physically, but far from 100% mentally, and living in PA — it’s as if the ship of my past has pulled up anchor and been set adrift out to sea.

My maternal grandparents died when my mother was in her 40s — shockingly, each, one day after the other. First, my grandfather, 87, in surgery; then, my grandmother, 80, in her sleep. I recall my mother’s dazed expression upon hearing the news of her mother’s death. She said: “I’m an orphan.” My good friend Barbara uttered the exact same thing not long ago in response to the passing of her mom.

It just goes to show that you’re never too old to feel like a child again. I suppose I’ve never truly understood the heft of the words “I am an orphan” until now. Although my mom is still alive, she is most assuredly losing touch with so much of her former self as time goes by. And the day will come when she will forget me — and herself — completely. I just don’t know when that will be. Most likely, it will happen before she physically dies.

Visiting these Brooklyn locations and reliving the memories attached to them — many were shared with me over the years by my parents or aunts and uncles; others I remember directly — reinforces for me the feeling, as my 87 year old Uncle Vinny aptly put it in a Christmas card recently, of being “back in my homeland.”

With such rememberances fresh in mind, the first stop on my Brooklyn sojourn was St. Peter’s Hospital on Henry St. in Cobble Hill (or, in its new incarnation since 1993, the Cobble Hill Nursing Home). Built in 1889 and run by the Sisters of St. Francis, St. Peter’s had only 126 beds. My mom and I occupied one of those beds for ten whole days ( ! ) after my birth.

Back then, hospitals were not the assembly lines they are today. Everything wasn’t about the bottom line. New mothers were given the chance to get acquainted with their new role and received valuable training on how to care for their infant.

That’s the good news about the days of yore. The bad news — it was a decrepit hospital. Newly born, I had somehow contracted trench mouth (yech – how that could’ve happened in a hospital I don’t even want to know). According to my mom, they painted my mouth with some purplish antiseptic solution and kept us around for a while for observation.

Which gave my mom a chance to get to know some of the nuns. Upon learning that she planned to name me Susan Madeline, one of the nuns said, “Why don’t you name her Mary Madeline?”

In her usual no-nonsense way, my mother told her, “I hate the name Mary.”

The next stop on the mini-tour was Bainbridge St., in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. That was where I lived after St. Peter’s. The photo above shows the corner of Ralph and Bainbridge. My maternal grandparents lived in a cold-water flat on Ralph Ave. We’re talking about Ralph Cramden territory here (remember The Honeymooners?) Ralph Ave., Chauncey St., Herkimer St…

A coal stove in the kitchen (which also contained the bathtub) heated their railroad style apartment. The further you got from the kitchen, the more frigid the apartment would become. At the very end was the “front room” and it was as cold as a refrigerator. Bundled up in blankets, I’ve got fond memories of my grandfather and me watching the Saturday Night prize fights on his tiny b/w T.V. in that room.

The tank to their toilet was mounted high overhead on the wall in their chilly bathroom. To flush it, you had to tug on a long chain. I was terrified of that tank. I’d always pull the chain and run, scared it would come crashing down on my head.

A few blocks from Ralph Ave. down Bainbridge St. was where I lived with my parents. Because I couldn’t remember the exact house number (how could I possibly, I was an infant), I emailed my cousin Moe to ask if she knew. She would dig out her parent’s wedding album, she said, thinking the address might have been recorded in there.

Moe’s parents– my Aunt Claire and Uncle Artie — lived in the same two-family house (or maybe it was three-?) on Bainbridge St. as my parents (a house my mother called “Mouse Manor” – guess why). Mouse Manor was where their lifelong friendship began.

You see, we’re not blood-related cousins, but we’ve always felt as if we were. Because that’s how long we’ve known each other and that’s how close we have always been. Spending many Thanksgivings together as kids, we’d lie sprawled out on the living room carpet watching “The March of the Wooden Soldiers” or “The Crawling Eye” on Million Dollar Movie while dinner simmered on the stove.

To make a long story short, when I happened to mention my unsuccessful quest for the correct address on Bainbridge St. to my brother, Frank, he responded in his usual nonchalant manner by saying,”I have the address.”

It seems that my paternal grandmother had taken out a life insurance policy on my dad when he was a boy. Years later, my dad, coincidentally, had filed a change of address with the same life insurance company where my brother works today. Frank had come across the policy in a random perusal of the company’s data base.

The address was 334 Bainbridge St.

Or was it?

Stay tuned for Part 2…


October 19, 2009


I apologize for taking so long to resume my blog posts. We’ve been unpacking boxes, moving stuff around, handling all the paperwork that a move entails — so much to do. You know how it is.

To friends who have been keeping up with the blog and emailing me asking: Where are you? — please forgive the following, rather abridged, version of events that transpired after we left New Jersey:

We arrived in New York on 10/8, called a couple of real estate agencies and set up an appointment for 10/9 with a broker and found an apartment the very same day! The first good omen.

At first, he tried talking us into renting in Astoria, but we didn’t want to live in a three-family house. We preferred to be in a building.

Sunnyside Gardens had lots of appeal — leafy streets, peace and quiet, and with its very own “mews” — but, in comparison, we both fell hard for the vibrancy and animated street life of Jackson Heights.

It just so happened that our arrival date had coincided with Jackson Heights’ celebration of Diwali — an Indian holiday known as the “Festival of Light” — which takes place every year to honor the victory of good over the evil that occurs within each person.

Auspicious beginnings — and, another good omen.

diwali-lo resThat’s me, soaking up some sunshine right before we boarded the subway into Manhattan and spent the afternoon with good friends in Central Park. It felt great to be back.

CentralPark1-lo res

The very next day, on Monday — one day before the big move — we rented a cargo van and made a preliminary run out to Long Island to see where the POD had been dropped off.

There it sat, in a large parking lot, with many other POD replicas (just like in Invasion of the Body Snatchers). We loaded the van with furniture odds and ends, such as my desk and our dining room chairs. What had seemed, at first, a simple endeavor had turned into an exhausting day.

VanShot-loresA view of our street from inside the van….

On Tuesday, we returned to PODS Central with a truck and three able-bodied friends to whom we’ll be eternally grateful for the help and laughs they provided all day long.The truck was loaded within an inch of its capacity.

Later that night, we celebrated with drinks and a meal at our new favorite neighborhood restaurant: Mehjil (which, appropriately, means “gathering” in either Hindi or Urdu — not sure which).

Since we’d sold mostly all of our furniture, book and cd cases, we’ve been fantasizing about buying some comfortable chairs, maybe a sofa, and shelving that doesn’t come from Ikea…

…that is, W.W.G.J. (When We Get Jobs).

In the meantime, here’s a mini tour of the neighborhood:

Primos-loresOur go-to place for curtain rods, kitchen and hardware odds-and-ends. The secret to staying in business in Jackson Heights?

Sell everything!

Buster-loresIn keeping with that philosophy, at Casa de Buster Brown Shoes, you can buy big butt jeans direct from Colombia (a hot item here in the Heights), put in a call the Motherland, pick up a few t-shirts — and, by the way, they also sell shoes.

BabyPizza-loresSo much tastier than Gerbers…and the perfect companion to your lottery ticket purchase…

HoFlorist-loresLike I said, these stores sell everything.

One Splotch at a Time

September 1, 2009


Last week, I initiated a ritual of walking three miles a day. You could say I’m bringing my legs up to speed — helping them catch up with my “already-there” brain cells — so that my whole body will be ready to embrace the ambulatory life awaiting me in New York City.

I love walking, rather than driving (just as I love driving, rather than flying — and I hate flying, but I love driving — because you can make stops and look around). Still, walking beats all.

Had I been in a car, I would have missed seeing the snail — a creature cuter and more cartoon-like than its ickier, lower echelon gastropod cousin, the slug — a slimy animal with a rudimentary, if at all, shell.

It was my first time ever snail sighting, outside of its shell. Bivouacked on a shingle of a house or adhered to the side of a flowerpot, body furled deeply within, was how I’d always seen — not seen — them before.

Can you imagine, though, going through life at a snail’s pace? Impossible to conceive. On the other hand, how convenient it would be to carry your home on your back. No baggage, no bubble wrap, no POD to rent in which to stow your too many boxes of too much stuff whenever you move.

The downside is that the snail cannot escape its destiny as a camper. Camping is one outdoor activity I’ve successfully avoided throughout most of my life. Particularly so, here in California, where signs warning of bears, coyotes, mountain lions and rattlesnakes are posted at every trailhead.

A deterrent, absolutely. Still, a life unburdened by stuff, especially for me, these days — with all the packing and selling and throwing out I’ve been doing — seems awfully appealing.

If only I didn’t worry so much. About my stuff inside the POD (which has not even been delivered or packed yet) —

AboutUs_08-1— whether my stuff will be jostled around, broken, wrecked. If my scrupulously wrapped paintings will be dented or ruined. Or misdelivered. Or struck by lightning while in transit.

My excessive worry makes the life of a snail seem all the more attractive. Inching your way forward, one splotch at a time, languishing in your torpidity, never giving a second thought to the possibility of being squashed under a boot or shriveling up. Bliss.

So it isn’t any wonder that I’ve been jolted awake by free-floating angst one too many times in the middle of the night (picture those old Warner Bros. cartoons where the insomniac‘s eyelids snap open like window shades).

These nocturnal panic attacks are directly related to my impending move to New York — and the concern about how I can possibly cram all my stuff — along with JC’s — in a one-bedroom apartment.

Admittedly, I am a mass of contradictions.

For example, over the past few weeks, I’ve totally lost touch with the contents of the cardboard boxes that have been piling up in my living room — boxes that hold my books, cds and scores of other personal items to which, only a month ago, I’d felt so attached.


What happened? It’s as if the old me has been archived inside those boxes and would be better served as a resident of a storage facility than occupant of an apartment in New York.

As poet Robert Bly has written in his insightful The Little Book of the Human Shadow: “We all have more than we can possibly use.”

And therein lies the conflict. My inner polemicist — the devil’s advocate side of me — will rue, at some future date, each and every action I have taken to rid myself of a given possession.

At some point down the line, guaranteed, I will set out in search of said possession…only to realize I’d sold it or thrown it out.

And right after that, I will kick myself for it.

So on my next three-mile walk, it might be more helpful if, rather than a snail, I would cross paths with a creature a little closer to my own personality, like a Bowerbird.

Grey in L.A.

August 21, 2009

For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been awakening to uncharacteristically grey skies. This is supposed to happen in June (on the nightly news, “June Gloom” is what they call it), not August.

Los Angeles has been in a drought condition for three years straight. Short of wringing the name of the local T.V. weatherman, Dallas Raines, the prospect producing a little precipitation for L.A. is looking pretty grim — in spite of the grey skies.

We just go from sunny to sunnier — yet, people insist on using the weather as a conversation opener. Hot today, isn’t it?, they’ll say, as if that’s something new. On the rare occasion when it’s overcast past noontime? This weather is so depressing!

But I’ve lived here long enough to know that cloudy skies are just a tease. A spurious disguise for what lurks behind — the merciless, pulsating sun. Although the day may start out as cloudy, before the clock strikes noon, not one wisp of cloud will be remaining in the hazy, blinding glare above.

I love an overcast sky.

One of the main things I miss about New York is the change of seasons. Would Vivaldi would have written such a masterpiece without having experienced winter, spring, summer, and fall, in the extreme? I don’t think so.

Inclement weather unites the heavens with the earth. Rain, snow, hail, lightening, thunder…when it pours or flurries or strikes, it’s like being touched by the sky.

Only this morning, I read an article in The New York Times, about a violent summer rainstorm in Central Park on Tuesday night. And I read it with such envy.

So, it’s with feeling of consolation that I thank my friend Todd in CT for bringing to my attention this Loudon Wainwright song that, somehow, I didn’t know about, and which perfectly describes my L.A. state of mind:

Also, thank you to JC for furnishing me with the lyrics so that all of us can enjoy a little singalong:

When it’s grey in L.A. I sure like it that way
Cause there’s way too much sunshine round here
I don’t know about you I get so sick of blue skies
Whenever they always appear

And I sure love the sound of the rain pouring down
On my carport roof made out of tin
If there’s a flood then there’s gonna be mudslides
We all have to pay for our sin

And I suppose that they’ll close canyon roads
And the freeways will all start to clog
And the waters will rise and you won’t be surprised
When your whole house smells like your wet dog

When it’s grey in L.A. it’s much better that way
It reminds you that this town’s so cruel
Yeah it might feel like fun when you’re sportin’ sunglasses
But really you’re one more fool

And I’m just a chump
And this whole town’s a dump
We came out here to dump all our dreams
Of making it big but we’re stuck in a sig alert nightmare
That’s just how it seems

And I suppose Laurie David sure knows
All those cars we drive heat up our earth
And sea temperatures rise and those constant blue skies
And brush fires can sure curb your mirth

Brad Grey’s in L.A. yeah OK I should stay here
There’s no place that’s better I know
For a wannabe star stuck in a car
On a freeway with nowhere to go.

Most of all, I’d like to thank Loudon Wainwright for writing the song. It’s sure nice to know there’s one kindred soul in the midst.

No Good Earthly Reason NOT to Move

July 9, 2009


Beautiful Central Park

Beautiful Central Park

During a recent trip to my favorite place on earth, New York City — I’m verklempt already from clicking on this link — a good friend of mine had asked what I would miss the most about leaving L.A. 

With no ready answer, I was stumped. I had to think about it for a minute.

The best I could come up with? “The vegetable soup at the Good Earth restaurant.”


Which is true. I love that soup. And, of course, the friends I’ve made while living here. But there’s a lot to be said about living in the place that’s right for you, a comfortable place, a stimulating place, a beautiful place where you feel you belong. I’ve never felt that here in L.A.

Many non-native New Yorkers experience the Big Apple as “a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.”

But not all non-natives feel that way. Lucky for me that I’m married to one of them.

Off the top of my head, I could probably rattle off dozens of reasons for moving back to New York City. Currently, at the top of my list is: The High Line.

But it’s also the everydayness of the city that I miss and love so much. Each time I emerge from the subway and step onto the sidewalks of Manhattan, my energy level soars.

ilovenyI DO!

Here in L.A., I sometimes quell my New York cravings by watching Woody Allen’s movies. Most of them have a character cast in the role of a tortured writer, too — which means that I get to feed two of my fantasies at one time!

These are my favorite Woody Allen films (skipping over the superb Manhattan — since you’ve already clicked (I hope) on the link at the beginning of this post):

1. For the most satisfying gorgeous apartments/loft space/architecture/ art gallery/boutiques/walking through the park porn — plus a scene shot inside one of my former stomping grounds, the old Tower Records store near Lincoln Center: Hannah and Her Sisters.

2. For a view of New Yorkers, street traffic, a Jewish wedding, Central Park, Fifth Ave. and Tavern on the Green!!: Crimes and Misdemeanors.

3. For a healthy dose of N.Y. intellectual types, writers, stage actors, shots of the Village, and the ability to feed yet another fantasy, that of being able to afford a Manhattan rental studio of your very own in which to write your new book: Another Woman

4. For a vicarious, yet, intense escape from tony  Manhattan to the tony Hamptons: Interiors.

5. For everything romantic and fabulous and wonderful about the city (plus an interesting juxtaposition of life in N.Y.C. vs. life in L.A.): Annie Hall.

6. Haven’t seen this film yet, but I want to! The trailer features a full-frontal Statue of Liberty, street cafés and some great local color — including a shot of a Lower East Side knish bakery!!!: Whatever Works.


I particularly enjoy stories that are set in New York, too, or where New York is one of the characters. What are some of your favorites? What have I missed?

Here are some of mine, which are set in Manhattan (I’ve also included a few links to good film adaptations — for your enjoyment): Rosemary’s Baby (Levin), Portrait of Jennie (Nathan), Days of Awe (Nissenson), Professor Sea Gull (Mitchell), Slaves of New York (Janowitz), The Metropolitan Diary (Monday’s section in The N.Y. Times), The Catcher in the Rye (Salinger), When Kafka Was the Rage (Broyard), Tepper Isn’t Going Out (Trillin), Reunion (Cheever), Diary of a Mad Housewife (Kaufman), Reunion (Ford), The Bonfire of the Vanities (Wolfe), All Mixed Up (Orlean), The Gilgul of Park Avenue (Englander), How to Date a Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl, or Halfie (Diaz), 84, Charing Cross Road (Hanff) — and The Fountainhead (Rand) — which I first read at the age of nineteen and then re-read twenty years later. I’m sorry to say, for me, it didn’t age so well (Rand was pretty strange, though — check out The Passion of Ayn Rand).

Part 15: The Ides of Marching Forward

July 6, 2009
The Postcard

The Postcard Version

…open up those golden gates, California here I come.

My move to the west coast was now official. I gave notice at my job, started packing my belongings, sold most of my furniture — basically stripped myself down to a more simple state — while trying to figure out a way to bring along my Justy.

But, I encountered an insolvable problem. The Justy’s tires were too small to fit on the standard-size trailer that I’d banked on hitching to the back of the rental truck. This new development meant one thing, only:  our on-again, off-again relationship of almost eight years was coming to an end.

Boo-hoo! But, there was no getting around the fact that I had to sell it. The next day, I posted a sign on the bulletin board at work.

A secretary at the law firm —  a sullen, goth/earth-mother unfashionista type — offered to buy it. But I wasn’t sure that my little car was sturdy enough to constrain her centrifugal force. I was afraid her dark intensity would blow off the doors.

Was I being dramatic? Over-protective? Or just plain sensible? Let’s face it.

Would this person fit better…

goth girl

small hearse

inside this car

justywhite Vsm

or this one?

Even so, I was afraid not to sell her my car.  So, I quoted her the book value of $600, cash — and she immediately said, “I’ll take it.”

But I really did not want her to have it.

The Kidnapping


Before any money could change hands, something bizarre happened. Call it “divine intervention.”

It was a Monday. I had taken the day off to run errands. I’d left my apartment and walked to 34th Avenue and looked around for the Justy. It wasn’t where I’d parked it.

Stapled to the trees and telephone poles, though, was a paper storm of official-looking warnings — which I’d not noticed (or possibly ignored) the day before. This is a character flaw of mine, my perverse tendency toward up-closeness — at the expense of not seeing the so-called forest for the telephone poles.

As a result, I’d missed the city’s announcement about road construction scheduled for that day and the necessity of moving my car.

A police officer was patrolling the vicinity. I approached him and explained that I’d parked my car on that street the night before, but now it was gone. Had it been moved?

He looked me in the eye. “Do you owe any parking tickets?”

Yes and no, I told him. I’d paid all the tickets, but not the penalties they had incurred — which I regarded as unjust and Fascist.

“Then you gotta go to the impound lot, sweetheart,” he said.

The impound lot is a place you don’t want to go — for anything:

The ransom they were asking for my Justy would have cost more than the car was worth. So, I took a pass. The Justy would have to be put on the auction block.

That night, I didn’t sleep well. I fretted over breaking the news to the goth/earth-mother. I fretted over the sad fate of my little car. And I fretted over what I might have left behind in the glove box.

Getting out of town town was starting to look good to me.

What I was reading: A Drinking Life (Hamill),The Unquiet Mind (Jamison), My Other Life (Theroux), How Stella Got Her Groove Back (McMillan), Angela’s Ashes (McCourt), Waist-High in the World (Mairs), Icefields (Wharton), Independence Day (Ford), The Sportswriter (Ford), Babel Tower (Byatt), My Dark Places (Ellroy), Rain (Gunn), Under the Tuscan Sun (Mayes), Drown (Diaz), Killer Spy (Maas), Understand This (Tervalon), Where or When (Shreve), Strange Fits of Passion (Shreve), Wounds of Passion (Hooks), Brideshead Revisted (Waugh).

Part 11: My Trans Am Wannabe

June 8, 2009

My (soon to be) new ride…

At the conclusion of my last post, I was sitting at my desk in the dialysis unit, my ear pressed to the telephone receiver…

On the other end of the line was my homegirl-for-life (moonlighting as a head-hunter), MEC. The company she worked for was looking to hire a sales professional, she said — was I interested?

Take me! I'm yours!

Take me! I'm yours!

I began drafting my letter of resignation as soon as I hung up that phone. 

At 5:00 p.m., the Colt and I burned rubber out of the ‘hood and headed for Macy’s. I needed to find a business suit for a meeting MEC had set up with Mr. T, the regional sales manager of her company.

Before even looking at suits, I snatched up an eye-catching floppy bow-tie:

2704013666148080_1For women in the business world back then, this was considered a power accessory. Seriously.

Shoulder pads were popular, too, which presented a challenge, because who wanted to look…

like this...

like this...

...or this!!!

...or this!!!

Luckily, I was able to find a suit that did not make me look like a linebacker. 

For our power meeting, Mr. T and I were to convene at his venue of choice: the lobby of the Waldorf Astoria.

My adrenalin was pumping. I was both excited — and nervous. Everything in the 80s was about power dressing — power ties, power jackets, power hair (i.e., big), power skirts (always below the knee) — and the most powerful female ensemble of them all:

The Polyester Pants Suit


Just thinking about all that power dressing exhausted me — which was probably why they invented the power nap.

I’d cued Mr. T beforehand to look out for a brunette in a blue suit. As soon as he saw me, he rushed forward, extending his hand and exclaiming in a delightedly un-sleazy way: “You’re so attractive!

I’ll admit that, at first, I was flattered by his enthusiastic introduction. But I soon came back to earth. He was, after all, a salesman.

To make this long story shorter, I got the job. I got the job!

And my life changed practically overnight. An all-expenses-paid, fully loaded, pre-registered, pre-insured brand new Pontiac 6000 (the closest I would ever come to the decidedly hotter Trans Am) was delivered right to my driveway.

I was also issued an expense account — the greatest perk on God’s green earth — so I could wine and dine my clients, and pay for my gas, meals and hotel rooms as I sold medical supplies throughout  NY and NJ. 

Our national sales meeting took place one month after I was hired …






…on a cruise ship to the Bahamas. I can still hear those steel drums…

It was all pretty amazing. But, sales was super competitive. Other reps from other companies were always out to steal your business or trip you up. And I’d became a compulsive telephoner. Every time I passed a bank of pay phones in an airport or a hospital, on vacation or not, I was seized by an urge to dial.

To burn off all the stress, I did aerobics. A lot!

That’s how I survived the demise of the crazy 80s– and did well for myself and the company — until, alas, I burned out.


What I Was Reading: Presumed Innocent (Turow), Misery (King), Bonfire of the Vanities (Wolfe), White Noise (Delillo), Stones for Ibarra (Doerr), Foreign Affairs (Lurie), The Myth of Freedom (Trungpa), Slouching Toward Bethlehem (Didion), The White Album (Didion), The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Kundera).