Archive for February, 2011

THE JADED BOULEVARDIER – Taliban Fashion in Starbucks…The NEW Insurgency?

| February 28, 2011 | Comments (1)


As a fan of “Grey Gardens” and the  Edies,  Big Edie and Little Edie Bouvier Beale, I was especially smitten by Edie the Younger’s wacky, brilliant fashion innovations – travesties might be more appropriate – and ever since seeing the documentary and the musical detailing their eccentric lives, I have looked in vain for her creations to appear on the street. I suppose it could never happen since such figments are not “designed” and sold to the masses; they are one-off fantasies created by  an individual due to madness and economic necessity.

For those of you who don’t recall or never saw either of these productions, the Bouviers – Mother and Daughter – were cousins of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.  Affluent East Coast aristocrats, they were the Long Island branch of the Bouvier family and lived on an estate called Grey Gardens. Young Edie Bouvier  Beale was being raised as the debutante who would marry Joseph Kennedy, Jr. whom Kennedy Pere was grooming for the White House. Tragically his fighter aircraft was shot down over Germany during the Battle of Britain. The rest is  familiar history.

Young Edie rotted on the vine, so to speak. Her needy, divorced Mother, Big Edie, shamed her daughter back from New York City where she had begun  what promised to be a  bright career as an off-beat performer.  As the years passed, her All-American beauty morphed into camp glam, accentuated by mad, wonderful fashion improvisations where a shirt would become a skirt and underpants would find themselves being worn as a  cloche chapeau.

This past Saturday found me in Starbucks recovering from a jaunt in Central Park. My day-dreaming over a latte was interrupted by the arrival of a young female customer.  She was one of those rare creatures who possessed not only stunning physical beauty but that indescribable aura that one can only call star power. In my life I can count on one hand the number of star power-endowed people whom I have personally encountered.

Stuck between a latte and a hard place, I found myself incapable of averting my gaze and, much as I tried not to, was compelled to stare at her, to gawk.  Being an inveterate people watcher, I have developed foolproof techniques for staring that allow me to train my eyes on somebody without their realizing they are getting the laser treatment. My staring methods include what I call  the  “Javanese  Averted Glance” – head pointed in one direction while at another angle eyes are  beamed at the target – or the “It’s a Sunny Day Ruse” with  hands shading my eyes in a reading the newspaper posture while I am actually perusing the object of my interest. I should open a School for Sneaks and Stalkers.

In her  mid-twenties and of average height and build, when she pealed off her parka, she revealed a diaphanous , black jumper with plunging decolletage; her two hands carried a total of not less than 20 rings and her footwear was combat. Boots that appeared as though they had actually been to Afghanistan, scuffed and more than slightly shredded.  “Edgy” and “hippy” begin to describe but do not suffice to complete the description of what I was viewing.   Words  are not enough… is all I can say.

But  the piece de resistance was what she was wearing from the waist down. Without realizing it, this charming insurgent did me the favor of standing and walking to the cashier, allowing me to view in full what had appeared to be a flowing, loose-fitting, but artfully folded dhoti-sarong arrangement. Pea-green in color, I suddenly realized what I was looking at was an XXX Large men’s sweat shirt being worn UPSIDE DOWN  in place of pants. The sleeves served as trouser legs and the waist band was still a waist band but in the other direction….you DO see what I mean !?! All held up by a “tribal” belt that could have belonged to a warlord!

My trip to Afghanistan was suddenly interrupted by a regiment of Anne Taylor-clad Upper East Side matrons –  we were on East 86th Street, after all – who arrived in a chattering phalanx not unlike the confused NATO forces milling about that benighted country we are presently fighting in. My edgy insurgent went back to her laptop and earphones. Her porcelain, swanlike throat a thing of rare beauty. Was she emailing Osama Bin Laden ?

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Quotidian Meanderings

| February 25, 2011 | Comments (0)


Today, Dear Readers, I have nothing significant to report, pronounce or announce.

So I will take you off to the gym for a brisk work-out.

But first, a digression while I hold forth on what transpired during a short elevator ride that was to take me on a banking errand. I entered the lift slightly out of breath, having ascended the  mild incline on East 43rd Street that leads to the revolving door of my Credit Union. Being winded and breathing heavily, I imagine  I might have presented a wanton and desperate image to anyone seeing me – wild-eyed, lips  parted,  the hiss of hyper-ventilation swirling about me. As I lunged through the  elevator’s closing doors, I brushed arms with the conveyance’s other passenger, a lone female. She gave me a  wary side glance and moved to  the safe haven of the lift’s far corner standing nervously in front of –  and blocking – the panel of floor buttons.

When I reached toward her face, my arm stretched out with zombie rigidity, to select my destination on the panel, she emitted a shriek and moaned something that sounded like  “stop”  or “cop”. Was she a plain clothes policewoman or was she threatening to call a cop? A potentially explosive situation was defused when the lift door opened and six other passengers entered, squashing frightened lady into silence against the wall of the lift. I exited the car, and with trembling hands deposited my cash and left the building making sure I  entered a lift generously peopled with other passengers.

Lesson learned:  if you are out of breath and look like a rapist, never enter a lift with a lone woman passenger. Which brings me to my friend Rose and her story of the 1960s. She has lots of stories, Rose does, but this one is spot-on when it comes to easily frightened females and how they can lose their fear…. of men.

Rose came of age in the 60s and started her adult life as a faithful wife and model teacher. Then one Saturday night  husband Tony proposed  they go to a “special” kind of party at a rich man’s place in Manhattan. It turned out to be a swingers’ club. Rose was shocked that her husband had brought her to what amounted to an orgy. No “amounting” about it,  it WAS an orgy and there were drugs too. But being the flexible, submissive spouse that she was in those days, Rose went with the flow and got into the mood and soon found herself greatly enjoying the multiple couplings that were occurring  before her eyes. By the time Rose and Tony said goodnight to their host,  Rose had had sex with at least 12 different guys…and several girls. And it was great!

Swinging became a regular part of their lives, so much so that Tony and Rose began to host their own swingers’ parties.  But like all good things, Rose’s swinging life came to an end some years later when she divorced Tony and moved to Asia where she continued her teaching …and a bit of swinging. When I asked her how she felt about the whole concept of swinging and was it moral and all that, Rose said she loved her swinging days and didn’t regret for one minute her participation. Furthermore, she said, swinging had great redeeming social and emotional value. Before her swinging days she had never  socialized with  people of non-white racial backgrounds; her liberal-minded swinger host had invited beautiful people from all over the world thereby exposing her, so to speak, to great diversity. More important, Rose said, by swinging she lost her fear of rape which she felt was deeply ingrained in the female psyche contributing to female passivity which was detrimental to gender advancement and equality. Needless to say, Rose today is a strong woman who also holds a black belt in martial arts.  How can I diplomatically convey to fearful females in elevators that they should participate in orgies? Better leave that mission to Rose.

Our trip to the gym seems to have got side-tracked. Well, it wasn’t worth talking about in any case. After my traumatic elevator ride – I wonder if that woman realized she scared me more than I frightened her- I didn’t feel like working out so I just went in for a shower and a sauna and to watch Kenneth the Sour-Puss comb his hair. Kenneth is a gym character   who has about twenty strands of brightly died hair;  velvet champagne is the name of the color, I believe. He is always in the locker room combing his locks before the mirror; usually takes half an hour at least. You see what we do in the gym?

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If I Shuffle Too Much, Just Needle Me !

| February 22, 2011 | Comments (2)


I’m going on 72 and I’ve started to shuffle.  Not the jazzy musical shuffle as in  “shuffle off  to Buffalo”, but  a real senior shuffle. I noticed it the other day walking in mid-town Manhattan. Passing a glass high-rise I saw my reflection in the  shiney window. At first I didn’t recognize the old silhouette, moving along ever so slowly, feet not lifting with each step, shoes just rubbing the sidewalk, sliding along like an ancient Michael Jackson Moonwalker.

I kept watching my shadow as I passed more glass windows. The first building wasn’t wrong. It wasn’t fooling me. There  he was again ! That senior shuffling  along, being passed by  other pedestrians – highly pregnant women, ladies in 5 -inch heels, delivery boys with heavy loads AND other seniors ! And he was stooped over, head pointed forward, slightly down, definitely pre-wombic!

 Not trusting an inanimate  pane of glass to tell me what I looked like , I asked my friend Rose, who always tells it like it is and doesn’t sugar-coat: Do I walk like an old person?  She and the skyscraper were one; yes, I do shuffle and stoop over when I walk.

Rose sends me to her acupuncturist saying he will set things right. Dr. Woo is a triple threat. Not only is he an acupuncturist. He is also a western MD, an opera singer (Mozart not Beijing) and a martial-arts master. I enter his chambers  and his charming assistant, whom I will nickname the Lady from Shanghai, or Shanghai Lil for short, motions me into a private treatment room. Shanghai Lil invites me to recline and offers me earphones; Puccini gushes from the styrofoam and I assume a horizontal attitude, relax, listen and look at the ceiling.

Sometime later – who knows? ten minutes, half-an-hour? When Joan Sutherland has penetrated your inner ear, time is immaterial and un-countable –  a gentleman I presume to be the good doctor, enters and with hand  movements, indicates that I should get up and walk for him. I execute my cat walk trying to be spry but not too bouncey. Still not speaking, he motions me back to the table where I resume my prone position, face down, and receive numerous needles in various posterior locations.

More Joan Sutherland and the passage of time.The wall clock tells me another hour has gone by.  Dr. Woo re-appears, removes my headphones, looks me squarely in the eye and chants staccato-like, “Sit like Buddha, stand like tree, walk like soldier!” Motioning to the door he dismisses me with a definitive, “Thank you!”

Dr. Woo’s treatment – and may I also mention the kind ministrations of  charming Shanghai Lil – has transformed me. Not only do I sit like Buddha and stand like a tree, I now shuffle … like a soldier ! Was it General MacArthur who said,”Old soldiers never die, they just shuffle away?”

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PONCHO’S GOT A JOB !…In the World’s Oldest Profession

| February 20, 2011 | Comments (0)


I saw my young friend and neighbor, Poncho,  on the street yesterday. He was chillin’ on the corner in front of the local bodega. I never patronize that store because the owners are short change artists.  Their techniques for trickery know no bounds. Who could blame them, I guess.  Half  the customers are easy prey – either drugged-out, dashing for the bus or lost in an Iphone world of  soundtracks – too distracted to count their change or  incapable of doing so.

 My own experience with these scheisters  includes paying for something  with a ten dollar bill and getting change for a fiver or being the victim of the pregnant pause. Buying something that costs 95 cents, paying with a ten dollar bill, getting back immediately  five cents change on  the one dollar and nothing more: when I ask for  the remaining $9, I get a blank stare from behind the counter and   a “You gave me a $1, right? ” After a long pause,  I threaten to call the cops and the correct change is  forthcoming. I prefer to go to the honest Dominican tienda up the block.

But back to Poncho. He’s having a smoke and looks like he doesn’t have a care in the world.  A remarkable mindset for somebody who’s just been booted out of his apartment – and that includes his girl and their three kids – with no prospect for housing other than going to a homeless shelter. Having known Poncho for several years now – since he was 20 – and having heard most of his hard luck stories in what appears to be a downward spiral  to ruin, I never cease to be amazed at his constant good humor and cheerful state of mind.

I’ve come to believe this seemingly cock-eyed optimism  is an emotional survival mechanism common to many people on chronic welfare. Without  making a genuine effort  to better their lives by actually attempting to find gainful employment, they live in a dream world  believing  that one day they will win the New York Lotto – “Hey, Ya Never Know!” the lottery ad tells them – or that they might  be hit by a car or a falling brick from a building cornice or maltreated by an incompetent doctor and then sue for big bucks. It happens all the time, if we can  believe the tabloid press and TV, so why shouldn’t my neighbors hope for a bit of the action ?

Poncho tells me he spends $25 a week on Lotto tickets and scratch cards. That’s $100 a month. Add to this, his two-pack a day cigarette habit,  and with a pack of Marlboros costing $10,  I do the math and tell him he is spending $700 a month on dangerous and foolish nonesense.  He coughs, then expectorates on the sidewalk to signal his disapproval of my hectoring and draws close to me. I realize I am about to be privy to some confidential information.

I am not disappointed. In a display of intimacy I didn’t realize we had achieved, Poncho tells me he has posted his profile – with pictures – on a website. When I press him for details he tells me to go to and I can see for myself.   I go home, open my computer. I read his “profile”  consisting  of information about his physical  endowments and abilities, accompanied  by photos of a graphic nature. He charges $200 an hour; same as my lawyer.

This morning when I see Poncho again I ask him if he has had any clients yet and he says,  “A few.” I take a deep breath, warning  him about STDs and using protection. He assures me  he is “cool” with that, but immediately destroys my confidence in his judgement by saying he can always tell if a person is “clean” or not by looking at them. If they “look right” he says he knows they are healthy.

I roll my eyes and start to walk away, but Poncho catches me by the arm and asks me for $15. Says he has to take a cab up to the North Bronx  to see his Mother. When I tell him he should take a bus or the subway, he says he prefers cabs. Quicker and nicer, he instructs me, throwing out a sideways glance that indicates I am a retard. I lie saying I am broke, pat him on the shoulder and walk away…to the subway.

I have no moral problem with the world’s oldest profession and I wish Poncho good luck in his new career. After all,  many people famous in history have climbed the rungs to fame and fortune using their “charms.” One of my favorite people is the late American Ambassador to Paris, Pamela Digby Churchill Heyward Harriman. The French loved their American Ambassador and nicknamed  Her Excellency ” La Grande Horizontale.” Oh those French !

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ALEVE, Urban Intensity and Anger

| February 18, 2011 | Comments (2)


Yesterday was not a good day.  I awoke creaky and aching. My decision to go on the wagon with Aleve, the pain-killer anti-inflamatory medication,  was taking its toll. I could hardly walk.

Everything in life is a trade-off, isn’t it? Take massive doses of Aleve and lose the pain in your  joints; then your kidneys and liver suffer. Choices, choices.

Hobbling to the subway, I meet my neighbor, Pedro, a kindly, 80-ish Puerto Rican who loves animals and decorates his  front yard evergreen shrubs with plastic apples and oranges.  He is downcast too.  His wife, Maria, has just been flown to a medical facility in Virginia for stroke rehab. The flight in a small plane with a medical attendant accompanying her,  cost $4,000. Now their grandson, who was supposed to be taking care of her down there, is saying she is senile and that they should sell all their property and put the proceeds in his name. I had just seen Maria a couple of days ago as she was leaving for the airport and she is a senile as a wily fox. I am relieved when Pedro agrees with my observation that she should be brought back home immediately. We part, Pedro his shaking his head, repeating over and over, “Another $4,000….”

Settling into a seat on the subway, I am relieved that, crowded as the car is, there are none of the usual annoyances to push my irritation buttons – no agressive,  flea-infested panhandlers, an absence of screaming teens spouting obscenities; it was going to be an uneventful 15-minute ride to Grand Central Station.

Not in the mood to read, I settle into my favorite passtime of subway-watching, scanning the faces of the passengers in what I hope is  a subtle, non-intrusive manner. It is a technique I had picked up in Java, in Indonesia, where you point your face one way, then beam your eyes in the opposite direction  gazing at the targetted object of interest. If you get caught, if the person you are staring at locks eyes with you and “catches” you at your game,  you  appear cross-eyed and deranged, so no offense is incurred; you are simply written off as another subway weirdo kook.

 The train hits 86th Street and my black – latino car is suddenly invaded by a rush of Brooks Brothers suits and sharp-edged leather briefcases borne by Wall Street Journal-toting pale faces. How starkly different New York City is from subway stop to subway stop. In the South Bronx, my Anglo-Saxon visage is almost as rare as the extinct Dodo Bird, but minutes away on the East Side of Manhattan, my face is as common as a kitchen cockroach.

A 20-ish hedge fund type positions himself in front of me, buff enough so he doesn’t need to hold on to anything for balance and support. This dude must be hot stuff on the slopes at Aspen.  He opens his newspaper and its fold grazes the bridge of my nose. Bronx-style I slap the paper with the back of my hand telling him to give me my space. He looks at me and backs off without saying anything. This ride is turning out to be more ennervating that I had expected. My bones and joints cry out in pain.

At 77th Street a single passenger enters the car and I smell trouble from the get-go. An elderly prune-faced white women, her dress is  expensive and under-stated.  She eyes the narrow slice of space between me and a young latino, probably a busboy on his way to work, and with an imperious sweep of her hand, commands him to move over. Taken aback, he jumps up and gives her his seat. You can tell Miss Marple has  a hefty chunk of change in her Schwab account that she dangles to keep everybody  in her family  tap-dancing and under control: ” Am I in the will?”  This old biddy is used to calling the shots. Now she has business-class seating, but she’s not content. Turning a jaundiced jowl towards me she barks, “And you, move over too!” I am positioned at the end of the seat next to a metal barrier. What am I to do? Defy the laws of physics and melt into the steel bars next to me to accede to her command? 

Suddenly I snap and snarl at her, “You’re taking over the whole car, aren’t you? Are you bossy or what? ” A stream of expletives burst from her finishing school mouth, then she settles into a broken 45-RPM staccato of  “You’re really stupid!” She repeats and repeats it. Machine Gun Mama.

I think of choice ripostes for this harridan, but I bite my tongue and mutter  to myself:  WHY did you open your mouth?

Smart people tell us  scientific tests show when too many happy little fish are put into one tank the over-crowding causes them to turn into ruthless killers.

I can think of more threatening subway scenarios than this mano a mano with Miss Blue Hair, but I’ve got some major decisions to make: either go back to being an Aleve junkie or stay home and watch TV. Otherwise, mouthing-off,  I might “make somebody’s day” !

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