Friday, December 31, 2004

Happy surprise

After leaving work and going to the gym (I managed to leave the locker room unscathed) I wound up becoming thoroughly crankified by people on the street and in the subway stations. Not tourists, either, from what I could tell, just regular idiots. It's crowded out there, of course, it's New Year's Eve, but that doesn't excuse the woman who stopped immediately upon reaching the bottom of the stairs in Grand Central, set her rolly bag down at my feet, and then began to look at her map. Lady, you've made it as far as the subway platform, so I assume you know which train your taking; do you really need to figure out the next step right now? When I stopped short, kicking her bag, the man behind me of course bumped into me, knocking me forward into Clueless Tourist Woman, who had the nerve to turn around and glare at me like it was my fault. The streets just reek with people tonight whose sole purpose seems to be to piss me off. Don't even get me started on the woman -- young, and by all appearances not a tourist at all -- who stopped short on the way into a building and simultaneously moved her cigarette away from her body so that my healthy distance was not only abruptly shortened, but I nearly caught fire as well.

Aaaaanyway, I came home to find a package waiting for me. No, not the new Palm. Last week I dropped and then stepped on my headphones, breaking one of the little ear thingies (they were the kind without a head or neck band that hook over your ears) and rendering them useless. I switched to a backup pair and went to Amazon to reorder then old ones. Free shipping was no longer an option on the ones I'd had for some reason, which sort of negates the Amazon discount, so I started clicking around to look at other options. I found these, which are very similar to my old ones but promised a "tangle-free cord with slider." Since my old headphones were always getting hopelessly tangled, this was a bonus and I bought them.

What I didn't know until they arrived, is that the "1.5 meter cord" is actually optional. This doesn't sound like a big deal but it's actually fabulous. The wire attached to the earpieces themselves is very short, with a straight plug, similar to the standard iPod ear buds. In other words, I can use them with my iPod remote without needing my Container Store cord bubble or risking serious injury from a snag. And I can carry the extension cord in my gym bag for when I need a little extra reach to plug into the TVs on the cardio machines. The cord casings have a weird texture to them, which I guess is how they're tangle-free, but it's fun even if it serves no practical purpose.

I know this is incredibly dull and mundane, but sometimes it really is just the littlest things that excite me and improve my mood.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Continuing Adventures in Web Design

Three posts in one day? What's going on??

This is just a quick one to note that I'm continuing to tinker with the new design of the JC, and I think I'm just about done as far as my tastes are concerned. In response to complaints about contrast and legibility, I made the font a bit bigger, lightened the blue and green a shade or two each, and changed the post text from grey (which, for the record, was the only default color from the Blogger template (besides the black) I didn't change initially) to white. I've added some spaces between sections of the lists in the sidebar to un-cramp things as well. Personally, I think it all looks rather spiffy, and I thank everyone who gave me feedback on it. Please continue to do so, especially if something other than my prose is giving you a headache!

New York Sports Complaints

Not to get all Bridget Jones here, but this is just not the time of year to be trying to keep weight off. There are too many holiday parties and functions to go to and it's just not practical. So I've been eschewing any kind of formal diet in favor of a more traditional version of "healthy" (when, that is, I'm not at parties or in Boy's mom's House of Carbs). Trail mix instead of a cookie when my energy flags in the afternoon; salads, wraps or sushi for lunch most days; Lean Cuisine or soup (and, okay, the occasional bacon burger) for dinner. And since I've been fighting a cold -- remarkably succesfully -- for weeks, lots of vitamin- (and calorie- and sugar-) laden fruit juice (Tropicana "Immunity Defense" and Odwala "Mo' Beta" are especially tasty).

This week has been bad, but I've also been taking advantage of that new gym membership a lot. Which is awesome, and has given me a chance to explore different branches and get into a routine. But, being who I am, it's also given me a chance to begin my list of grievances.

The locker rooms at New York Sports Clubs are apparently designed for tiny people with few personal posessions. Boy thinks I'm silly for complaining about this, but at my old slightly ghetto YMCA, the lockers were full height, and had a shelf near the top and copious hooks. At NYSC, the lockers are half height (which I hated in middle school and I still hate now), and have no shelf. There's still a hook or two, but in winter especially if you hang your coat on it it bunches up at the bottom of the locker. And then where do you put your bag? What about shoes? I don't like working out with my glasses on and my eyes aren't so bad that I can't handle that, but without a shelf do they just go on the bottom of the locker? I don't want to crush them with my sneakers when I go shower. Nor do I want to put my sneakers on top of my clean clothes. In a tall locker, all the clothes can hang, shoes and bags can go on the floor, and small items live on the shelf. I guess it does sound a little silly, and I realize they have to squeeze as many people as possible into their locker rooms, but there's really a lot of stuff to juggle, to say nothing of the traffic nightmare that happens if you're unfortunate enough to wind up changing at the same time as the person above or below you! I bought a second lock and have started taking two lockers on top of each other. This seems like a horrible breach of gym etiquette, although I have yet to see it crowded enough for me to really feel quilty about it. Still, I'm waiting for some corporate prick on steroids to yell at me about it.

Elsewhere in Munchkin Land, the towels at NYSC are child-sized. There's no limit on how many you can take, so it's not a problem getting dry, but I don't think I will ever lose enough weight to be able to fit one of these things around my waist. I'm not terribly comfortable being completely naked in public, let alone walking around that way, and while I realize this is perfectly acceptible in a locker room, I'd really like it if I could cover up just a teensy bit more. Sometimes I think I've managed to secure it long enough to, say, lock my locker and make it to the showers, only to have it pop open and fall at my feet -- almost certainly while I'm bending over to pick up my shoes or something equally embarrassing.

I'm just neurotic enough that this may keep me from the gym, and that is clearly not the right solution!

Wasps' Nest

I'm not all that Jewish, really. I mean, not like I'd somehow manage to fool the Reich, and my ethnicity and New-York-ness run pretty high, but I go to synagogue once or twice a year, if that, I was practically weaned on bacon, and I'm woefully ignorant about much of my people's history. Even so, I had never really experienced Christmas before. Schedules and over-crowded houses have kept me from spending the holiday with Boy's family in the past (last year I traded places with his sister's boyfriend and arrived on the 26th), but this year I got the Full Gentile.

Like my family, Boy's is not especially religous. There was some church on Christmas Eve, but I didn't go. I was sort of curious to go, actually, but the group who went to the earlier service was far too rushed to leave the house, and primarily motivated by the fact that Boy's four-year-old niece had recently asked Mommy why she never goes to church, and by the time the other half of the family left for the midnight service I was far too drunk and full to go anywhere but bed.

Yes, Boy's rituals revolve almost entirely around food, booze, and gifts, and that's exactly how I like my holidays! Christmas Eve dinner consists (always, I'm told) of steak and lobster tail. The irony of eating trayf (though like I said, I always have) as part of a Christmas celebration was not lost on me! There was plenty of wine, cookies, and chocolate for days, and a small child (the aforementioned niece) who I can actually tolerate (she's precocious enough that I can relate to her like a real person, but not so precocious that I want to smack her -- and, as her uncle shaves his head she refers to me as "The Adam With Hair," which I find endlessly amusing).

Dinner on the 25th was a more traditional affair of turkey and trimmings, but before that there was a mountain of presents to get through. I'm not sure now why Boy was so taken aback by Chanukah with my mom, since everyone seemed to make out quite well at his house as well. The presents spilled out from under the tree all over the living room, and more arrived "from Santa" after Niece had gone to bed. Boy calls it the Temple of Greed (happily, not judgmentally), but one must factor in how many people there were there. In addition to my first real Christmas, I was also getting a dose of suburban life on a scale I'd never experienced before, as well as being more or less officially part of a relatively large family. My gift list has grown exponentially from when I was a single, only child with a single mother. Now there's Boy's parents, his moms' boyfriend, two sisters, brother-in-law, and niece. Brother-in-Law's mom was there too.

So many people! So much loot! Boy's family is big into board games (I guess that's easier when there are so many of you -- I enjoy them too but rarely have anyone to play with!) and they got me the TV edition of Scene It!, that trivia game where some of the questions are on DVD like a Video Daily Double. Good good stuff. Also in the family pile were the new Pop Culture Edition of Trivial Pursuit, which also has a DVD component and goes much faster than a traditional game (wedge questions are on the DVD and after a certain point are up for grabs by anyone if the person who's turn it is hasn't answered correctly), and Cranium, which just might be the best game ever (high point: I had to get my team to say "karate" by using my boyfriend as a charades puppet, and I made wax-on/wax-off and paint-fence motions to do it; low point: being so shocked at Boy's younger sister's blatant cheating that I called her out on it...when she was on my team).

All of Boy's big gifts were household items that I'll get to use too, so that worked out well for me (the same thing happened at Chanukah, when Mom gave me Bed, Bath and Beyond and Container Store gift certificates that we'll use together). Our kitchen now has one of those rabbit corkscrews, a George Foreman Next Grilleration (which, despite the retarded name makes me very happy because the grill plates now come off for cleaning, unlike Boy's old one which was a pain to de-grease and kinda skeeved me out), and a Melitta One:One coffee maker, which might just be the coolest kitchen appliance I've ever seen. I'm not a big coffee drinker, but I may have to become one now that we have this baby.

Boy got me Alias season 2 on DVD, and both of his sisters (separately) got me Eats, Shoots and Leaves: A Zero-Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, which surely says something more about me and how well they know me than just the fact that it was on my 300-item Amazon Wish List.

And then we ate some more. And then some more. But that's a topic for another post.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

No goodwill toward UPS in the New Year!

Okay, people, just for the record, tomorrow is NOT a holiday! At least not during business hours. Banks are open, the mail is being delivered, it's a holiday eve.

Unless, of course, you work for UPS and you have my shiny new Chrismukah present to myself T3 Palm Pilot on your truck because you failed to deliver it today (my bulding has like 90 units in it, would it have been so hard to find a trustworthy-looking neighbor?) and you won't try again to deliver it tomorrow and I can't go pick it up because there are no deliveries and the station is closed even though tomorrow is not, in fact, an actual fucking holiday!

Waah.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Something Good

I'll get back to complaining about my own petty problems shortly, but first I wanted to share with everyone that the good people at Amazon have made it incredibly easy to donate to the Red Cross for the relief effort in Southeast Asia by clicking here.


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Monday, December 27, 2004

When it's time to change...

...you've got to rearrange who you are into what you're gonna be.

I was hoping to get a real post up today, but since I didn't I decided to unveil Judgment Call's new look for the new year a few days early.

I was messing around with Blogger's newer templates to find the code for an automatic Recent Posts list, and I realized I was bored with my old look and quite taken with one of the new ones. A bit of tinkering to figure out how some of the new code works and make it my own, and -- click! -- Extreme Makeover: Blog Edition.

As always, feedback is most welcome, especially if you have constructive ideas for improvements, or if you're having trouble with a particular screen size or browser.

I've gotten a bit backed up on proper posting with work and the holidays, but I plan to be back in full swing later this week!

Friday, December 24, 2004

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Mucous of the Night

Okay, I'm short on time but two quick things about the Phantom of the Opera movie. First of all, if you're not casting name movie stars anyway, why not cast people who can act and sing? Some of the acting is pretty good, and so is some of the singing -- and in one (and only one) shocking case both are good in a single performer -- but shouldn't Christine be more expressive than the Phantom's creepy mannequin of her and not the other way around? I mean, if they'd cast Antonio Banderas as the Phantom (which was discussed) and Madonna as Christine (which, god willing, was not, though now that I think about it she'd make a fabulously meta Carlotta), I wouldn't complain because, hey, that's Hollywood and you have to sell tickets. But why cast a Phantom who no one's ever heard of who also can't sing and waves his arms around like a high school Romeo?

And speaking of the Phantom, here's thing number two: When his mask is removed on stage, his face is really fucked up. Like, you can see parts of his skull. Even with the mask on it's clear that one side of his mouth is all weird and the idea of Christine having to kiss him is revolting. This is especially impressive when you consider that the makeup has to be applied and removed eight times a week, he has to sing through it, and the design is over 15 years old. On film, with all the money, CGI, and lip-syncing at their disposal, the Phantom's disfigurement is... not so terrible. In fact, it's barely noticeable. Get yourself some moisturizer and a new hair product and get over your issues, dude!

There was actually a great deal about the movie that I liked, and I don't even really like the show. I just think I might have liked it better with Antonio Banderas and Madonna.

The holiday inappropriateness continues

Thanks to Faustus for sending me this link. Because nothing says Christmas like terrifying children.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Satan Claus

As promised, here are pictures of the Creepiest Santa Ever.

He and his demon-spawn live outside a Latino restaurant around the corner from my apartment building. Here they are (click the pics for larger/clearer versions):


Let's look at some detail, shall we?

At best, Santa is a little drunk. At worst, that gleam in his eye is a little more sinister. I especially like how his eyes aren't quite pointing in the same direction, and the left one seems to be sneaking a peek at the little boy. Naughty, indeed!


Though the children don't look so sweet and innocent. On the street, I was sure they were screaming their poor little heads off, but in the photo the girl looks a little like Linda Blair in The Exorcist, doesn't she? The boy does look a little frightened, maybe because Santa is pressing both children firmly against his crotch.


And people get upset about a tree??

Monday, December 20, 2004

Gifts that keep on giving

I knew it would happen eventually, despite all my humbuggery. I've finally caught the holiday spirit like a virus. Though really, this is the week to catch it, not October. My conversion has nothing to do with the sudden cold snap and dusting of snow here in New York. No, my friends, it's all about The OC. last week's Chrismukah episode was the first one of the season that's fully lived up to everything that made me fall in love with the show last season. It was a perfect blend of comedy, schmaltz, and absurd soap opera twists and turns. In a thoroughly mediocre TV season (more on that in a post to come soon) it was a brightly shining star.

Okay, it isn't all about The OC. While I watched (on Saturday), I wrapped presents, and I think it was the combination that put me over the edge. Saturday was my mom's 65th birthday, and since we hadn't had time to actually egt together during any of the eight days Chanukah, there was a whole lot of gift-giving going on.

Adding to the fun, it was Boy's first Chanukah experience. (Of course, since the holiday was actually over we didn't light candles or engage in any religous ritual whatsoever, but that seems appropriate given last week's rant.) When I was a kid, my family's tradition was to give one gift on each night of Chanukah. Now that I no longer live at home we do everything on one night, but we still always exchange eight gifts. Mom even numbers them and insists that I open them in a particular order, as if they were still being portioned out over a week (typically, the biggest item is first, and they get smaller and smaller from there).

Anyway, Boy and Mom have exchanged holiday and birthday gifts before, but this was the first time he came over to the house for the whole ritual. It never even crossed either of our minds that Mom would have eight packages for him too, but there they were! I think this means he's officially part of the extended family now. Afterwards he kept saying, "I made out like a bandit!" "Welcome to Chanukah, my goyish friend," I replied.

In a weird way (due largely to the way the Jewish calendar landed this year) Boy and I have been having a perfect Chrismukah (as Seth says, "8 nights of presents followed by one night of lots of presents"). We exchanged gifts on the first night of Chanukah, then did some more this weekend, squarely in between the two holidays, and we'll be with his mom for Christmas itself where there will be even more, plus his mom and niece and sisetrs. We're both on a budget this year, but spreading it all out makes it more exciting and so far we've both been really pleased with everything we've gotten.

It's been really nice to be reminded of the true meaning of the season. Presents.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Wait, Christmas is a religous holiday?

Bill O'Reilly has taken it upon himself to "save Christmas." How nice.

Look, everybody needs to chill the fuck out. And I do mean everybody. Church and state are meant to be separate in this country. That means (among many other far more important things) no overtly religious imagery on government property. So no Baby Jesus in school or at City Hall. But hey, you know what? That Christmas tree is pretty. And pagan. It's not like Jim Caviezel is nailed to it, suffering. Let it go. I'd rather see a tasteful nativity than the scary-ass child-molesting Santa outside the deli down the block (I'll take pictures over the weekend and post).

I went to a secular private high school that was probably about 70% Jewish, maybe more. We had a holiday assembly every year in which the chorus sang 6 or 7 Christmas songs and 1 or 2 Chanukah songs, and nobody blinked. We did Secret Santas, and nobody ever demanded a change to Hiding Chanukah Harry. We were celebrating a secular winter-holiday-mishmosh, and what could be more American than that? There are many more good Christmas songs than good Chanukah songs (or bad ones for that matter), and while we did avoid anything too Jesusy, ultimately it was about listening to pretty music. I'd rather hear "Silent Night" than "I Have A Little Dreidl" any day. There's no good Chanukah music because Chanukah isn't traditionally an "important" holiday. Pretty much every religion in the world has a holiday that acts as an excuse to light lights during the darkest part of the year. Christians chose to make this their holiest day, but the idea of Chanukah as "the Jewish Christmas" is purely an accident of the calendar and the secularization of both holidays. Traditionally, gift-giving is small or nonexistent. Of course I love my eight nights of presents, but that's not really what it's about. Nor should that be what Christmas is about.

I support Macy's decision to instruct its clerks to say "Happy Holidays," not because I'm offended by Christmas (hello, the entire Herald Square store is draped in garlands and lights and wreaths) but because I think it's a lovely gesture of the season to be as inclusive as possible, and hoping that people have happy holidays -- whichever holiday or holidays it is that they celebrate -- does just that. But if someone wishes me a "Merry Christmas," I'm not going to turn around and say "Fuck you, I'm Jewish stop oppressing me!" I'm going to thank them, because I do hope to have a merry Christmas. And a merry New Year's. And a merry Groundhog Day. Hell, Merry Arbor Day to everyone! I don't think wishing someone well should ever be frowned upon.

O'Reilly and his band seem to be defending the trappings of Christmas more than anything else. What's more important, a high school production of Dickens, or going to church to reflect on the birth of your supposed Lord? Jerry Falwell goes after the "radical secularists and school board do-gooders determined to 'bring about their own Godless version of this nation,'" but hasn't that already happened? I think it's safe to say that for most of us, religion is all but gone from Chrismahanukwanzakah (perhaps the speed with which this word from a cell phone commercial, and "Chrismukah" from The OC have caught on is evidence enough), replaced by trips to...Macy's. Using religion for political gain is certainly nothing new, but O'Reilly and Co. are making a mountain out of a molehill and I find the hypocrisy of this particular battle revolting.

Nobody I know wants to ban Christmas or Christianity. I don't want a nativity on government property, or children in public school being forced to sing "O Little Town of Bethlehem," but is anybody really complaining about trees and lights and pretty things wishing goodwill towards men? I think both sides need to get over it and remember the true spirit of the season.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Is it Friday yet?

You would think that labeling, stuffing, sealing, and posting 2,000 company Christmas cards would make the day go faster.

You'd be so very very wrong.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Blogministrative notes

MAK and I were both bored at work yesterday and we were instant messaging, and he mentioned that he was putting drop-down menus into his sidebar because it was too long. My sidebar is too long as well, so I decided to copy him You'll now find pull-downs for the old archive and links lists. If anyone knows how to make them open new windows the way the links used to (preferably without a javascript pop-up that will be blocked by many browsers), please let me (and MAK) know!

I've also given up on the BlogWave Studio/.Mac version of Judgment Call, since no one was visiting it, and now that I'm temping it's much easier to use Blogger than to have to be at my own computer to post. Oh well, it was a fun experiment. Blogger powers that be, if you're reading this, how about giving us categories, huh?

Shockingly easy!

My gym fears proved unfounded. My typical image of the scary sales guy is schlubby, chubby, and a little bit greasy. But at a gym I expect them to be buff, tank topped and spandexed, and totally intimidating. So I was actually put at ease by a gym sales guy who was schlubby, chubby, and a little bit greasy. I started off trying to get the discount for Actors' Equity, which inspired him to tell me that he was a theater major in college and ran an off-off-Broadway company for a few years in the 90s, and he totally appreciated how underppreciated stage managers are. Great, so how about a better rate? The joke didn't get me a deal, but dropping my boyfriend's name did. While I'm not sure how I feel about the practice of simply taking my word for it that someone is my friend and looking him up in the computer and telling me exactly what he pays, since it got me a fabulous deal I'm not going to quibble. I was out in ten minutes.

I figured it would be easier to do all this on lunch than after work when I assume the place will be more crowded, and I was so pleased with myself, and displeased with the weather on my way back to the office, that I treated myself to a Holiday Turkey Sandwich from Cosi. This is a delightful sandwich with turkey, cranberry sauce, and stuffing. In other words, it is bread with bread on it.

Good thing I got that gym membership!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Working out working out

Okay, so the diet hasn't been going so well. Wait, let me rephrase that in a way that doesn't imply that it's the diet's fault: I have not been sticking to my diet. At all. Not even trying. There, who says honesty's not the best policy? I've also decided it's time to suck it up and join a real gym. Not that my old gym, the Long Island City YMCA in Queens, wasn't "real" per se -- I actually prefer much of their equipment to the chains I've visited, and they have good classes and a nice big pool, but the lack of towels and nice-smelling products in the showers (one brought one's own), along with the prevalence of children and surly teenagers in the basketball league definitely reminds you you're at a Y.

But that's not really a problem. The thing is, I've stopped going. The Y was in walking distance to my old apartment -- a long-ish walk, but hey, the point is to exercise, right? -- and while my new neighborhood is only five minutes by train from the old one, I've found I'm far less likely to get on the subway just to go to the gym. Of course, this doesn't make joining a gym in Manhattan any more sensible, except that it looks like I'm going to be in the city 5 or 6 days a week at least through January, and I have a lead on a good job that would start in February, so I'll be here anyway. Because when I've been on the train in rush hour, the other thing I really don't want to do is get off six stops from home and then have to get back on again all sweaty. On top of all that, my much-beloved yoga teacher (who I hadn't seen in months anyway) skipped town, so there's no sentimental connection anymore either.

So I figure if I join a chain I can go on the way home from work, or between work and rehearsal or maybe at lunch if I'm feeling particularly corporate, and find some new classes that I like.

The most obvious problem with this plan is that it will probably cost me at least twice what I pay now, and there's no guarantee I'll go with any more frequency. The bigger issue is that I hate salespeople even more than "Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time." (Okay, now that I've foolishly gotten that "song" stuck in my head, I realize that may not be entirely true.) I don't mean sales clerks or service personnell in general; I have no problem asking for help in a store or bitching out a bad waiter. I'm talking about real salespeople. Hucksters, hawkers, pitchmen, bell-ringers, cheap jacks, dealers, medicine men, outcriers, peddlers, pushers, spielers (thank you thesaurus.com). Since I know what I want when I buy electronics, and I don't expect to need a car or a really good suit any time soon, I can generally avoid situations where people are actively trying to convince me to buy something I don't want or need, or, worse yet, where I have to haggle.

And gyms, as far as I can tell, are the worst. They're notorious for giving you free passes to get you to join, and that's fine, but if I'm on the first day of a 30-day pass, I really don't want to have to have a 20 minute conversation in a sales office before I've even worked out! This actually happened to me, and when I explained that I might want to have this conversation again at the end of my trial period, since the whole point was for me to try the place (and its other branches) out, the salesperson appeared completely baffled. She tried to entice me by showing me how to use the club's website which, while very nice, is hardly rocket science.

Also, it's just plain shady how they don't publish their rates, tell you there's a promotion but won't tell you what it is, and insist that you go and meet with someone in person to get any information. I asked three friends today what they pay for NYSC, and got three different answers, with a spread of $30 per month. That's insane!

It's enough to give me a really good excuse to not work out, so wish me luck. Maybe I'll bring the Roomba with me and threaten to sic it on them if they push me too hard.

At last, a solution for everyone!

Can't we all just get along? Here's a rather brilliant solution for the "Do They Know It's Christmas" haters: Band Aid Dilemma.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Eeeeeevilllll

Speaking of being awakened by the phone, when did telemarketers become so evil? I mean, I thought they couldn't get any more evil years ago, and when I wasn't looking they totally did it.

I've just had my cell phone for over a year, and before that my land line number was in the Do Not Call Registry, so it's been a while since I've had to deal with the filthy little beasts. Now we have a new number, and it takes three months for the DNCR to kick in, so our defenses are down, briefly.

All of the messages on the machine, and the handful of calls I've actually picked up, have been from recordings. And not just any recordings, smart recordings that can somehow tell the difference between a human answering and a machine answering and wait for the beep.

If there's any silver lining around the dark cloud of telemarketers, it's the deep satisfaction that comes from yelling at and/or hanging up on them. These machines have taken away my joy!! But seriously, it also means I can't put a stop to them by saying I'm in the DNCR and asking them not to call again. We got called twice yesterday by a local music school inviting us to a free introductory lesson for our child. I'd love to be able to tell them (maybe even politely) that we don't have a child (I don't think Radish would do too well at the piano, what with his lack of attention span and opposable thumbs), but the lady in the recording (who still manages to trip over her words) just can't be reasoned with.

Aw, screw reason! Fucking robots are calling me now! What if they're in cahoots with the Roomba??

It's always refreshing to find someone more pissed off than I

And here she is. (Thanks to MCM for the link.)

Monday, December 06, 2004

Do They Know It's A Moral Quandry?

Despite my recent rant against holiday music, there's one song I'm a complete sucker for, "Do They Know It's Christmas?" That's because my affection for 80s cheese outweighs my disdain for holiday cheese (though not enough for me to ever like the Waitresses' or Paul McCartney's entries into the genre). And because DTKIC was historic. It was, as far as I know, the first all-star charity single of its kind, and it set the stage for Live Aid, Farm Aid, "We Are The World," Hands Across America, and the ill-fated 90s version of "Give Peace A Chance." I also happen to think it's a decent song (though I can't argue with anyone who disagrees with me), and it features some of my favorite artists, a surprising number of which (U2, Duran Duran, Boy George, George Michael, Sting, et. al.) have had enduring careers.

So when I heard Bob Geldof had created Band Aid 20 to address the fact that Africa still needs our help, and rerecord a modern version of the song, I got all excited. I didn't realize it had been released yet until I read this article about a flap that sprung up over downloading the single in the UK. Music download services were marking up the track because it was for charity, and Apple refused, citing its policy of never pricing iTunes tracks over 79p. When accused of being miserly, Apple decided to sell the track for 79p and simply donate money to Band Aid for each download, thus making themselves look like angels and undercutting the competition. Anyway, I got all excited that it was out and opened my own copy of iTunes to get it. One small problem: It's not available in the US.

So I downloaded it on LimeWire.

Now, generally, I don't do the illegal music download thing, finding the ease and security of iTunes worth 99 cents. But I also don't think a song here and there is a big threat to the fabric of our society or the behemoth music industry. But this song is for charity. So while I'm not taking 99 cents out of the pockets of Dido, I am taking it out of the pockets of Ethiopian children! Well, if they had pockets. Metaphorical pockets. Anyway, I went to Band Aid's website, but there doesn't seem to be a way to contribute in US Dollars. It's all a little bit upsetting.

The song's not half bad though! The synthesized "clanging chimes of doom" accompaniment of the original has been replaced by a very tasteful piano/bass arrangement. The voices I recognize (as with the original, there are many Brits who aren't known here) are all people I like, if I'm not exactly a fan (Chris Martin, Dido, Robbie Williams). The one odd casting choice is having Bono (and only Bono) reprise his line from the original. It's always been a troublesome lyric -- "Well tonight, thank god it's them instead of you" -- and the fact that Bono sounds like absolute shite this time around doesn't help matters at all. Also questionable is the dreadful guitar solo/duel that seems to have taken the place of the endless chorus of "Feed the world" from the original.

It's a good cover over all, which makes me feel all the more guilty that I didn't pay for it! Apparently Bob Geldof thinks that only Brits are interested in feeding the world and letting them know it's Christmastime again!

Friday, December 03, 2004

It has landed

My mom, god bless her, has given us a Roomba as a housewarming present.

Now that it's in actually in the house, Boy and I have completely reversed our positions on the little monster.

"The way the charging light is blinking," Boy said, "it looks like it's thinking."

"...About ways to kill us," I said.

"About ways to clean," said Pollyanna.

"Ways to clean up our bodies."

Maybe it's the unmitigated disaster of the LitterMaid that has me worried, but seeing it live and in person is so different from the commercials...it's so big...and red.

Well, if you don't hear from me again, you'll know what happened. At least the apartment will be clean.

I may have to kill myself...

...if I hear another goddamn Christmas song before December 24th. Contrary to my crumudgeonly facade, I really do like the holidays. Hello, there are presents involved! People give me shit for no real reason! Who wouldn't love that? And I'm ready. I wasn't before, but I am now. It's cold (possibly flurries tomorrow!), Chanukah starts in a week, parties abound, decorations are pretty and make me smile, and on a purely technical level, it's December.

But enough is enough. New York has terrible FM radio (which has always surprised me, 'cause it's, you know, New York, and we're supposed to have good everything except manners and air) and I hardly ever listen to it. When I do, it's often around other people (at work, say, when there's no other means to entertain ourselves), so I tend to gravitate toward the bland and inoffensive adult-skewing Top 40 station (more Sheryl Crow, less Jessica Simpson, and a reasonably entertaining and almost intelligent morning show), or the bland and inoffensive "light" station (hits of the 70s, 80s, 90s and today!). (Other options include the younger-skewing Top 40 station that plays bands with names like Hoobastank that make me feel very old indeed, a dance station that's bad enough in the background at the gym, an R&B station whose DJs do things to the English Language that I wouldn't wish on Osama Bin Laden, and a "classic rock" station that apparently only owns four albums.)

Both of these stations -- not one, but both -- switched to an all-Christmas format on Thanksgiving. Is that really necessary? TWO radio stations in a single broadcast area playing 24/7 Christmas music? Who on earth thought that was a good idea? People seem to forget several key points here. One, that most holiday music is bad. Sure, we all have our favorites (of the modern ones, "Do They Know It's Christmas" is mine, and the U2 version of "...Baby, Please Come Home"), but even a classic carol can be ruined by a bad arrangement or Mandy Moore. Second, there just aren't enough holiday songs to fill a month. Sure, there are multiple recordings of the same songs, but those wear thin. And especially since in our travels we hear holiday music in many different sources, we tend to hear the same handful of the most popular numbers endlessly. Third, who wants to listen to one and only one style of music (and an awfully specific one, at that!) for an entire month?

The radio, at least, can be turned off or tuned out. It's shopping that kills me. And not just in the obvious Christmasy places like Macy's (not that I would ever set foot in Macy's this time of year), it's drug stores and supermarkets and Staples. There's no escape at all.

It was bad enough "Jingle Bell Rock" (perhaps the most hateful modern holiday song this side of "Christmas Shoes") was playing in Bath and Body Works, but one of the sales clerks had the chutzpah to actually jingle some bells at me. I nearly hit her. Lest I be accused of complete Scroogery, one of the items in my basket (and actually, the best bludgeoning weapon there) was a pine scented candle. I've got the fucking holiday spirit, dammit!

I didn't even notice until I got back to the office that my shopping bag says "I'm a Santa" on the side of it. No, actually, I am not a Santa. Leaving aside that I'm Jewish, I did not, in fact, buy a single gift at Bath and Body Works. I bought three items for myself. I am only a little bit chubby, am most certainly not jolly, and will freely admit that little people creep me out a little bit. How dare you label me, Bath and Body Works?

Give me my presents and stop singing already. I can't take another 23 days of this.

So this is what it's like to work a 5-day 9-5 workweek...

grmph hrm mrphn shmrpn

Monday, November 29, 2004

As long as he doesn't answer...

On Wednesday night, as I shoved boxes into some kind of logical order to make the apartment presentable for some houseguests, the man from downstairs with the sensitive hearing came up and rang my bell. He complained about noise again, and I apologized and promised to stop moving stuff around right now. Then he said I'd been moving furniture at 2:00 the previous morning, and I told him that actually I'd been in bed...but I did hear him yelling at around that time. He asked me if I'd received a copy of the House Rules when I moved in, because they clearly state that "you can't make noise after 6:00" and that I had to have "everything covered." I told him I did have the rules, that there was nothing in them about 6:00, and that in fact we had to have 80% of the floor area covered. We do not yet have that many rugs (and there's no way we're getting wall-to-wall), and I asked him to be patient with us while we settle in. I also pointed out that somewhere under the boxes I'd been moving was a rug, but I wouldn't be able to put it down now because he'd just asked me to stop moving things around!

I refused to turn this into an argument I calmly pointed out that the apartment had been empty for six months, and covered in shag before that, so he'd have to adjust to some new sounds. I pointed out that we could hear our upstairs neighbors, our next door neighbors, the subway, and occasionally even him yelling at his wife or kids (attractive!). He missed the point, and said "I don't care about your problems with upstairs, that's not my business!" Me, calmly, "No, the point is, that it's not actually a problem." (Though I have to say, the more time we spend in the apartment, the more aware I am of how loud the people upstairs are simply walking around.) I reminded him that he had accused us of making noise before we actually moved in, and that he had banged on the ceiling twice when we really weren't making any noise, so it was both hard to take him seriously, and to discern what behavior is problematic. I promised, again, to be more cautious about moving things at night, and asked him to cut us some slack in exchange, and understand the difference between moving a sofa and pulling out a chair. I told him I hardly ever wear shoes in the house, but that I may, on occasion, drop something, and that's life.

He brought his daughters with him, which was odd. Was it like, "Look at the poor children you're keeping awake?" If so, the tactic failed miserably. The older girl, maybe 11, was clearly mortified. Whenever I tried to get a word in and her dad wouldn't let me, she would tug on his sleeve and roll her eyes. When I said something sensible, she'd look at me and nod and quietly go, "Dad, listen!" She was clearly on my side. The younger girl, Ashley (an odd name for a Latina child!) was just embarrassed and didn't know what was going on, but she clearly didn't want to be there. Radish made a brief appearance and charmed them all. It was exactly the confrontation I'd wanted, actually, and in the end I think we understood each other. We'll see how the next few weeks go.

But later on something he said struck me: "Every night at around this time, you're moving things around and making noise." Well, I'm not, and Boy's not, but... Radish does get frisky around the same time every night. He's perfectly cable of being sneaky and quiet, but when he wants to play he tends to jump off of things very heavily, skid across the hardwood floors, and occasionally knock things over. Could it be that Mr. Crazy isn't quite so crazy after all and he's hearing the cat?

When we first got the kitten we did some reading about training cats out of their nocturnal instincts so he'd be more on our schedule. We should have done it then, but sleeping kittens are so damn cute... and anyway back then he slept like 20 hours a day, so it wasn't a problem.

The "expert" advice Boy found online is pretty simple: If you want your cat to sleep through the night, don't let him sleep during the day! Yeah, very simple if anyone's home to wake him up and play with him. Not simple at all when Boy and I are both working six days a week.

So I'm calling him. The cat. I am calling my own phone to wake the cat up every half hour. Of course, he doesn't answer, so we have no way of knowing if this tactic is working. The article said it could take two weeks for their internal clocks to reset (ie, no matter how sleepy Radish is, he will naturally want to play at one am), so we may not even see results at night to tell us if he's being awakened by the phone during the day. We need a nanny-cam or something.

Chances are the cat is sleeping right through it but we're annoying the hell out of the people downstairs.

Get Out Of My Way

Last night in the Times Square subway station, I observed a group of tourists blocking a considerable amount of the large entryway because they were completely baffled by the MetroCard vending machines. I lingered a little bit, curious to know if they spoke English before judging them too harshly. They sounded like they were from the UK, so judge harshly I did. Those machines really couldn't be any simpler. Giant buttons on a touch screen with plain instructions. Get out of my way.


This morning I was a little late leaving the house, so I decided to try a different route to work -- a longer walk to the station, but a faster train once I get there. I was prepared for the insane crush of people on the much-too-narrow-for-a-station-this-busy platform (which is why I generally avoid it when I can) but wasn't prepared for the line of people at the "token" booth so long it actually blocked the doors into the station. Folks, maybe you shouldn't wait until Monday at 8:30 AM to buy your weekly MetroCard. Get out of my way.


When I finally made it down to the train, it was unsurprisingly crowded. What was a little surprising, was the woman with the double-stroller, containing two children, one of whom was clearly old enough to walk. I totally appreciate that raising kids in the city isn't easy, and you need to get around somehow, but lady, a double stroller on the subway at the height of rush hour? Come on! Get out of my way.


I was the last person to force my way on to the train, which meant I had to step off of it so as not to block the door so people could get off at the next stop. No big deal. Except the people who'd been waiting there didn't want to wait anymore, and Stroller Bitch was getting off. I had to physically restrain an old lady behind me to keep her from pushing me, or pushing past me onto the train...which she wouldn't have been able to get on anyway until Stroller Bitch stopped blocking the door with her brats on wheels. But I am a good subway rider. I let passengers off before shoving my way on. And dammit I already had a rightful spot in that car and no way was this old cunt getting on there before me. Then Stroller Bitch ran over my foot. Get out of my way, and OW!


I couldn't cope with all the people on the escalator at 53rd Street, so I walked, deciding it made up for not going to the gym all last week. I emerged, on schedule, into the beautiful day and took a deep breath. I walked a block and a half, and two foreign businessmen stepped halfway out onto the narrow sidewalk, and stopped right in the middle, apparently trying to get their bearings. One of them had a rolly suitcase sticking out behind him. I saw them in plenty of time, but gave the suitcase a good kick and made an exaggerated tripping motion anyway just to make a point. And that point would be (say it with me now): Get the fuck out of my way!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Holidays That Don't Exist

In honor of the holiday, a repeat post from last year...

Okay, kids, let's review...

Acceptable:
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
Macy's Thanksgiving Parade
Thanksgiving Day Parade
Thanksgiving Parade
(if you must) Macy's Parade

Unacceptable:
Macy's Day Parade


Thank you for your time.

Hot Man-On-Eunuch Action

Thanks to the lovely Jenn scoring some tickets to a screening of Alexander last night, we have a first here at Judgment Call: I get to a review a movie before it comes out! Well, I guess it came out today, but close enough. WARNING: Many spoilers lie ahead. Not like the movie's not predictable, but just in case.

To give you a sense of what an easy target Alexander is, here are some of the other titles for this post I came up with:
The Gayest Story Ever Told (as long as no one kisses)
Lions and Elephants and Colin Farrell's Ass, Oh My!
(that one's sure to get me some Google hits)
Alexander may be great, but check out the rack on Rosario Dawson!
Maybe Jared Leto's born with it...Maybe it's Maybelline
Alexander: Pee First
I've hidden me Lucky Charms in Maced O'Nia!
Have the eunuchs stopped screaming, Alexander?
"It was said that Alexander was never defeated, except by Hephastion's thighs."


Thank you, I'll be here all week! Try the veal!

That last one is an actual line from the film, and it's pretty indicative of how -- not bad, really, but weird this movie is.

Alexander is a big sprawling mess, as epics like this tend to be. Also typically, it's visually stunning (at least, I think it was -- we got stuck in the 2nd row, and I have to wonder why they even design theaters with seats so close to the screen!), but the script is confusing at best, lugubrious at worst. At times the text, particularly the lengthy (but essential for coherence, I suppose) narration by Anthony Hopkins, reads like a history lesson, but I was still confused. I'm really not up on my ancient history and geography, so as dull and over-long as some of this stuff was, I kind of wanted more. I guess in a nod to the classic epics, there's a mosaic map, with a growing dotted line of tile charting Alexander's course, and as laughable as the graphic is, I wanted it to be on screen longer so I could get my bearings. A caption tells us we're in Macedonia, but the dialogue that follows implies we're in Greece, which has just been conquered by Macedonia. It's a subtle distinction, I suppose, but it doesn't help with clarity if you don't really understand the difference between the two.

Of course, the first caption of the film reads, "Macedonia, June 323 B.C." Not "Summer," "June." Yeah, Oliver? Mr. Historical Accuracy with the real elephants? The Roman calendar didn't exist yet, at least not in Macedonia. Most of the Entertainment Weekly reading audience tittered, and I knew we were at least in for a fun evening.

For all that I'd read about cuts being made to the gay content of the film, I have to say it's pretty damn gay! In some respects I feel like if some of the same scenes had come out in the 50s, it wouldn't be gay at all, but our 21st Century sensibilities read all those cues differently. I'll have to rent Spartacus and compare. Given that they barely touch, the actors (Farrell and Leto) are doing most of the work to gay the place up. But it really is way more than subtext. It's made very clear (and not just from campy lines like the one about his thighs) that Hephastion is the one true love of Alexander's life, that he's also messing around with his eunuch servant, who is in turn incredibly jealous of Hephastion (if you see the movie, look for the eunuch somewhere in every single scene after the one in which he's introduced. It's like shirtless Where's Waldo.). Curiously, men do kiss on the lips in this movie (they are ancient Greeks after all...Macedonians, whatever), but never Alexander and Hephastion. Though the only straight sex we see is an aborted rape of Alexander's mother by his father (issues!), and his scene with Rosario Dawson, which is amazingly unsexy and may just be one of the weirdest scenes in cinema history. The implications and allusions and open shirts of Alexander and Hephastion are hotter than anything else in the movie, and in a way a refreshing throwback to when people actually didn't do it on screen.

Would I have liked to see a proper love scene between Colin and Jared? Duh! But actually I'm more interested in who Hephastion was besides the Prettiest Boy In The Ancient World (a title that apparently comes with a lifetime supply of eyeliner). He's Alexander's most trusted friend and advisor, and we're meant to believe that he's the smartest and most level-headed person in the room most times. But in scenes with Alexander and his generals, Hephastion almost never opens his mouth. Do his love for and blind devotion to Alexander keep him from questioning him as others do? Frankly, Hephastion, with Leto in the lead, would have made a more interesting movie.

That's really my biggest problem with Alexander: It seems unsure of what it wants to be. At times it wants to be a love story, but of course no film this big and expensive can really be that kind of love story, and anyway it's really about war and pillaging and conquering, and sometimes that seems to get in the way of the romance and keep us away from the prettyboy sex scene we all so long for. But mostly the prettyboys just drag down what is, at its heart, an action movie. If it weren't, wouldn't there be more than a passing reference or two to Alexander's cultural accomplishments amid all the stomping and schlepping and fighting? Wouldn't the plot be slightly easier to follow, as if it, um, mattered? I found it very difficult to keep track of who was who, especially as the campaign dragged on and everyone got more facial hair. There was Guy With Scar, Guy Who Grows Up To Be Anthony Hopkins, Guy From Velvet Goldmine, Snarly Guy, Greek With Long Hair Who Looks Just Like Arab Prince From The Last Scene.... And in the battles, forget about knowing who's who. At one point I was positive a major character got trampled by an elephant, only to have him show up unharmed in the next scene.

None of which would matter if Alexander himself weren't kind of a schmuck. As charming as Colin Farrell is, it becomes really really hard to like this man who led so many of his people to death for no reason beyond working out his daddy issues. When Jonathan Rhys-Myers, who always manages to look pretty evil (or pretty, evil) even when the character he's playing isn't, screams "Alexander, be reasonable!" I found it hard to argue.

Near film's end, Alexander launched into a monologue about his plans for the next great conquest (which basically came out sounding like "blah blah blah me blah me me blah blah") while the one great love of his life lay dying, and I could practically hear the entire audience's eyes roll. When he shed a tear near the end of it, we all giggled. When he finally turned around and realized the man he was talking to had died, we guffawed. He seemed more upset than anything that Hephastion had died mid-speech.

That said, I actually really liked it. I mean, I had fun. It's not like we go to these things for high art, we go for spectacle, for pretty costumes and pretty sets and lots and lots of blood. The battles (as far as I could tell from the second row) are amazing and intense. In typical Oliver Stone fashion, they are a confusing jumble of jump cuts, shaky cameras, blurry effects and surround sound. It doesn't help with the plot, but it does give the sequences a sense of terrifying immediacy, with what I can only imagine is the realistic confusion of being in the middle of a massive ancient battle. And there are macabre fun touches too. Watch for the soldier using another man's severed head as a weapon.

I also never felt like I was watching a special effect (except for the ultra-obvious tracking shots of an eagle soaring over the battlefield, but that was only because it would be impossible to film, not because it's a bad effect). Stone has a fondness for making things a little grainy, and the old-fashioned look helps mask that too-perfect look that CGI can get as in, for example, the new Star Wars movies. I assume Babylon was CG, but for all I know it might have been a matte painting, or a miniature, or even an actual set. There were enough real elephants that if they ever switched to fake ones, I couldn't tell. Of course this may also have been another side effect of sitting so close.

The acting is mostly superb. Angelina Jolie is the film's Heather Locklear, vamping around with snakes and a miscellaneous foreign accent. She manages to make the ridiculous lines sound sensible (or at least in character), handles her share of the lengthy exposition with grace, and is the only one who consistently seems to be having fun (of course, she's also the only one who's consistently indoors, pretty, and not covered with sand, mud, or blood). She's entirely the wrong age and entirely non-period, and it simply doesn't matter.

If anything makes the lack of age make-up on Jolie work, it's Farrell, who I completely bought as aging 10 years over the course of the film. Some of this they do with changing facial hair and wigs, of course, but mostly it's the sparkle in his wide eyes as the 18-year-old prince. His facial expression matures, his emotion deepens, and it's all internal. It's lovely to watch.

Val Kilmer chews up the scenery deliciously, though it's a little sad to see how old and pudgy he's become (to be fair, of course, a lot of that's makeup). Rosario Dawson doesn't have much to do except look angry and flash her ample bosom ("like aircraft carriers!" said one patron as we walked out). As I said, the other men all kind of blended together, but there's not a bad actor in the bunch as far as I could tell. I ripped on Hopkins earlier but it's not his fault, and he handles his speechifying gracefully. Leto fares best, I think, but sadly will be the most overlooked. Because they're afraid to market any of the gay content in the film (he's absent from the posters and trailers), I doubt they'll do an Oscar campaign for him or anything. Not that he deserves an Oscar, but you can be sure they'll do one for Farrell.

Oh, and I mentioned the film was weird, right? Okay, so one of my big pet peeves is the film and theatre convention of having people speak English with a foreign accent when in fact they're not really speaking English at all. Unless the character's otherness is relevant, accents drive me nuts. Don't speak with an Italian accent, trust the audience to understand that if we're in Venice, you're actually speaking unaccented Italian, and we're all playing pretend. There's a sense that no one should be American in historical epics, which I don't agree with but I understand it -- the relative newness of America can make our accent jarring. Hal Prince favors something he calls a "Mid-Atlantic" accent, basically how Americans talk on the island of Pretentia.

Anyway, why do I bring this up? Because the Greeks/Macedonians in Alexander are all (wait for it) Irish. Yup. Farrell's Irish, so they're all Irish. I mean, really, why tax the lead with having to learn an accent when we can just have the entire rest of the cast learn one? It was one of the more ridiculous touches that completely endeared me to the movie.

All the press I've read said that Stone has tried to make this movie all his life. It's hard not to wonder how many permutations the screenplay went through in that time, and if that accounts for the mess it wound up being. But when all is said and done, I really enjoyed myself. It's waaaay too long. A half hour less would have been nice. And I think it could have been achieved without missing out on anything besides Stone's tendency towards over-indulgence. The film could be much shorter without cutting a word of dialogue or even any real action. It's mostly engaging enough, but by the last ten minutes (and third false ending -- what is this, A.I.?) I could feel the entire audience getting restless. Yet for all the snark filling the room, everyone seemed walking out around me seemed to feel the same way I did too, generally smiling and happy, even if it was sometimes at the movie's expense. There are far worse ways to spend three hours.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Ummmmm

A lot of bloggers post things that people have Googled to find them (something our Sitemeters tell us), but mine have never been terribly interesting.

Until now.

Someone apparently came here through a Yahoo! search for "its was the first time the 15 years old boy fucked a middle aged woman"

The search engine pulled the terms from all over The J.C., so it's not like I'm disturbed by my own content, but there are just so many things wrong with that search.

I mean, the grammar alone...

Monday, November 22, 2004

Gripe of the Week

Blogger's Note: Due to some computer problems at work, and general busy-ness at home, I had a bunch of things written or partially written but wasn't able to actually post them. I've spent most of the day at my blissfully quiet new job doing blog maintenance and I'm all caught up, so if you're the type who checks in every day (and if you are then I adore you), make sure you scroll down to get all the backdated stuff. Thanks for reading!



Oh good. It's been a few weeks since anything has really pissed me off, I was starting to worry.

Let's talk a little bit about umbrellas. No, let's go back even further than that, to a more basic level, and talk about arms.

People of New York, must you swing your arms wildly when you walk, like some sort of deranged tin soldier from the Island of Even More Misfit Toys? Because, you know, when you do this in crowded spaces, like the tunnel between 7th and 8th Avenues in the Times Square subway station, you hit people. I know this is partly a reflex, that the human body is made so that the arms swing in opposition to the legs, but I don't know, even at my most relaxed and my most insane rush hour speed-walking, my hands just don't get more than a few inches away from my torso. More to the point, it's an awfully easy thing to control. Just put a half a second of thought into it and you can easily stop. Put your hands in your pockets or grab the strap of your purse if it's a real problem. I promise you won't fall over from lack of balance.

Which brings us to umbrellas. I won't even get into how inappropriate a large umbrella is in New York City. There's just not enough room for eight million people to open umbrellas more than three times the diameters of their bodies. But I can almost overlook that because I understand the impulse to not get wet. However, it's overcast today but not actually raining, and for some reason each of those people with a big Mary Poppins umbrella feels the need to carry it at his side, horizontally. While swinging his arms. I'd just like to thank you all for waving a long pointy object so thoughtlessly near my crotch. This behavior is not limited to the street. Oh, no. They do it on stairs and escalators too, putting the sharp end of their sticks right in the faces of the hapless people behind them. And when I gently put a hand on the umbrella and push the tip towards the ground, they give me attitude?

As long as I'm on this rant, I've also noticed that the same manic arm-swingers are also all smokers? It's bad enough I have to breathe your smoke, could you at least please remember that the object in your hand is on fire and be a little fucking careful how you carry it??

Thank you.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

I only hate a few people now

A follow-up to this post and a few others...

As instructed, I called my old building's management office again on Thursday at 10 am. Then again an hour later. Then again at 4:30. I never spoke to the phantom "Eric," but by the end of the day I was kindly told that there had been a miscommunication of some kind, and that I could expect my check by December 1st. I was so tired of the whole thing I didn't point out that I had been told November 1 on October 15, November 15 on November 1, and now I was being told December 1 on November 18. There's clearly a pattern here. We'll see what happens. It's almost a shame I'm working full time during normal people hours again, or I'd plan on schlepping out to their office on the 1st and camping out until I get my money.

On the bright side, I made all these calls from our land-line, which is working just fine. And in an odd twist of fate, I called a friend who lives in the neighborhood later that day, and it turns out we have her old number! She never took it out of her cell phone so I came up on her caller ID as "Home" and freaked her out pretty thoroughly. Fun!


In other home news, I made what I hope to be my last trip to Ikea this morning. You all know how I love the Ikea, but I'm over it. They didn't have the blinds we wanted for our bedroom last time I went, but since it's the bedroom and those windows really need to be covered, we got something cheap and temporary. It looked pretty assy, so I've been checking the stock availability online and went back today for what we really wanted, plus some more hooks on which to hang kitchen things. I figured I'd attempt to return the old ones too, even though I didn't have the packaging and left some of the hardware on my walls to save time installing the new ones, and to my great surprise they gave me a full refund (on my card, not even store credit!). Of course, the store was a madhouse and I think I may have killed a slow-moving woman and her screaming baby, so I'm staying away for a while.


Then there are the crazy downstairs neighbors. We still haven't met our poltergeist, and we hadn't heard from the whackos downstairs since we moved in. Until last night, when someone banged on our floor while I wasn't making any noise. I was sitting on the kitchen floor cleaning our metal baker's rack, and I ran the sponge across it in a way that made the metal sort of ring. But it was a soft sound, sort of nice in my opinion, like something from a Mickey Hart album. And I'm sure it reverberated down through the floor, but it was like a second, before 8 pm on a Saturday night, in a room where I assume no one was sleeping. And they banged on the ceiling? For the rest of the night every time I bumped something I paused, actually hoping they'd come to the door or bang again so I could go down and say, "Hi, I dropped a feather duster and I'm barefoot and the TV is off so you need to chill the fuck out." Earlier this week Boy ran into our upstairs neighbor in the elevator and he said, "I've been meaning to come down and apologize... I have 2 little girls and sometimes I can't stop them from running around." We'd noticed of course, and it was very sweet of him to say something, but if it's not moving huge oak furniture at 2 am or blasting the stereo at ear-bleeding volume, a little noise is just a part of apartment living. We hear the footsteps from above, and the TV from next door, and sometimes voices from the building across the way, and even the subway when the wind is right. Get over it.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Temping, Temporarily

My big problem with temping -- rather, my big problem with getting temp work -- is that I can't not put that I'm a freelance stage manager on my resume. If I did, I'd have the saddest resume in the world, full of holes and temporary filler jobs. But with it on there (and not just on there but dominating the page and dropping famous names), it of course comes up in conversation when I meet with new agencies (or, as I did last week, with new people at old agencies), and they ask me how often I get SM jobs, and I always tell myself I'm going to lie but then in the moment it just seems like such a big huge massive inconceivable lie to say, "Oh, I've given that up. What I really want to do now is temp!" So they shy away from putting me on long term assignments, or even month-long assignments (though I'm mostly past the point in my career where I get work on 2 days' notice), and since the poor economy has companies cutting down on short term assignments, prefering to leave a desk empty for a week than to pay a temp, I wind up jobless.

Which is why I'm so thrilled to be sitting at this desk right now, despite my general disdain for temping as a rule.

After my crazy summer and fall, I decided to give myself a break and not worry about work until we closed on the apartment. I worked a couple of days a week at Box Office, and subbed a bit on a Broadway show, and made very good use of all the free time to catch up on sleep, play with the kitten, and work on the apartment. I sent out stage manager resumes, but didn't do a thing about finding a survival job. It was all very nice, and I willed myself to enjoy it and not worry about money. Then we closed, and time was up. My plan had been to go find a new agency (and lie to them) since I hadn't temped in so long and didn't have a particularly good time with my agencies in the past. But I was lazy and that seemed like a silly thing to do with the holiday coming up, so first I went through old emails and sent resumes to everyone I had ever been in touch with at any agency in the past. Since turnover is high in HR, I was surprised at how few of them got bounced back, and several even got favorable responses. One of these led to a torturous meeting with a new "relationship manager" at an agency I had registered with but never actually gone on a job for. I wanted to kill myself. No, I wanted to kill the little twit who was interviewing me so badly and who clearly had no idea what to make of me or my resume. It was not encouraging.

Then yesterday I got a call from another agency I had registered with years ago, and done maybe one day of work for. The manager went on and on about how great it had been to hear from me, and how much she liked me and I wondered if she thought I was someone else but certainly didn't complain. Then she offered me a job, replacing an administrative assistant who's leaving until they can find someone permanent, "through the end of the year and possibly longer." In other words, exactly what I need. A chance to get back in the loop and make a good impression with the agency, the possibility of work in January if I need it, but I'm only actually committed for six weeks so I won't burn any bridges if I leave at the end of that time. Perfection!

And as it turns out, this gig is going to be cushy. I'm at the New York office of a foreign law firm. I guess they're huge at home, but their presense here is small -- only two full-time attorneys here, plus a couple who are in and out a bunch. And me. The woman I'm replacing is still around for a few days, training me, and she's leaving because this is her career and she wants something more challenging. Fair enough, but I want something as unchallenging as possible. There's a big event tonight so she's actually busy, which means she has little time to spend with me and, like a kid visiting mom's office, the first thing she did was put me in front of a computer and give me her password. I asked if it was okay to go online, and she said, "Oh please, sometimes I spend my entire day on the Internet." She's a little bitter. I like her. In the free moments she's had she's shown me the phones and filled me in on all the dirt about who drives her nuts from the home office, who to talk to (and who to avoid) if I need computer help from IT, and reminded me again and again that being busy is actually an anomoly. The lawyers seem remarkably self-sufficient, and so far treat both me and my predecessor with the utmost kindness and respect. I attribute this to the fact that they're not American. And did I mention I don't really have to do anything?

I think I'm going to like it here!

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Social Issues

Tonight Boy and I sent out invitations to our housewarming party using Evite.com. I have a love-hate relationship with Evite. On the one hand, it's incredibly easy to use, and makes keeping track of party stuff a snap. In case anyone's not familiar: you design your invitation (using one of their templates or making your own), input your guests' email addresses, and they all get a message with a link to view your invitation online. If you want, you can survey the invitees to choose the best date for everyone, assign things for them to bring, link to MapQuest, and send them all email updates and reminders. Guests click the link, select Yes, No, or Maybe, can write a message, and, unless the host chooses not to let them, can see the entire guest list and email other guests.

As a host, you can track people's responses, and even see if (and when) they've viewed the invitation if they haven't yet entered an RSVP.

In other words, you can become completely neurotic and obsessive with the greatest of ease. This is where the hate part comes in.

The first people to respond are of course usually people who know right off the bat that they can't come. But I don't want to look like a loser, so I check the Evite constantly and delete these people from the guest list altogether. If the Nos ever outnumber the Yeses, I panic. It's like being in 5th grade and sitting there with a cake and a pointy hat while no one shows up for your birthday party and even your mom is embarrassed for you. Not that that ever happened to me, I swear, but it's like that, only now you know in advance what a loser you are and so do your guests, which can be a vicious cycle. I used to hide the guest list until it was acceptable to me, but I had friends -- good friends, friends who were almost surely coming -- who refused to RSVP until they could see who else was invited.

Then there are all those "Not yet responded" people. Remember, I can see when they viewed the Evite. So why haven't they responded? Is there that much to debate? Either you're coming or you're not! Hell, there's even a "Maybe" option, so why not make me feel good with a little hope? We made a point of sending out the invitation pretty early, so that gives me all kinds of extra time to check and recheck and obsess over it, even if it also makes it perfectly reasonable that people have not responded right away.

There seem to be lots of people who don't understand how to use Evite too. I suspect many of the non-responders are these people. They look at the information but don't realize they're supposed to respond. Some people have replied to the email with an RSVP, rather than doing it on the website. Some post notes with their reply that they clearly don't realize can be seen by everyone. Thank god you can edit guest responses!

Thank god, too, that I have friends who understand my Evite neuroses, because my boyfriend does not. He actually invited people he knew wouldn't be able to come! Why why why would he do such a thing? Why voluntarily increase the number of Nos?? He also invited people with multiple email addresses multiple times, thereby increasing the Not Yet Replieds. It's a good thing I love him. Hmmm...probably a better thing that he loves me and can tolerate my mild insanity.

I'm sure the party will be a huge success, I just may have a nervous breakdown over the invitation before it happens.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Uh-Oh

So I went to weigh myself this morning, the first time since the day I unpacked the scale and since going back on Atkins on Monday (a fairly futile exercise since I will of course break massively for Thanksgiving, and probably for lunch with my mom when we go to the theater on Sunday, and I still haven't managed to get to the gym), and it's broken. Wouldn't turn on at all.

Do you think it's trying to tell me something?

Stupid is as Stupid Does

It's apparently the Week of the Moronic Patron here at Box Office.

We have a membership-based system that's kinda like what most theaters call a subscription, but different. Instead of signing up for, say, a series of Saturdays, or buying a book of passes that you then use to buy tickets later on, you buy tickets to a certain number of shows in the season, all at once, and get an discount on those tickets, and a bunch of other perks. It's pretty straightforward. There is a limit to how many tickets you can get at the discount, and that's pretty straightforward too.

So yesterday I was filling an Internet order, and the patron wanted four tickets to a show next week, which we didn't have. The rest of it was easy, and she got enough shows to make her a member even if we couldn't make the first one work out, so I filled the rest of it and then called and left a message asking her to call us about the problem. I moved on to the next order, and noticed a few things: This patron's last name was the same as the middle name on the previous order (actually not on the order, but on the old account that was already in the computer for her); they had the same address; they had the same email address; while the second order had fewer shows than the first, all the dates and times matched the corresponding events on the first order; and the number of tickets Patron #2 ordered was enough to put them over their limit for the discount. I called my boss to confirm that we allowed one membership per family, not per person. She corrected my wording to "household," but yes. I waited for Patron #1 to call back.

The thing is, they could have easily gotten away with it. If the orders had been split between two different operators, or if I had just been less observant. Truthfully, it was the email address that caught my eye, 'cause it had an odd domain name. And they made a point of using different credit cards, so it was particularly dumb of them to use the same email twice.

Patron #1 called back before too long, and a coworker picked it up. He knew the situation so he explained to her that part of the problem was with the double order. "My husband and I are separated," she told him. He pointed out that both orders had the same address on them, and she said, "I'll just change mine to my office then." At this point, he called me (I was working out of a different office that day).

"I'm not touching that," I said, "give it to Manager." She'd need the paperwork, and I wanted to hear how she handled this one, so I ran upstairs. When I got there, Manager was on a different call, and she told us she had to finish it and it would be a while. I took a deep breath and picked up the phone.

"Hi, ma'am, so we've got a couple of problems here. First of all, we've got two orders for your household and the total -- "

"Nevermind about that! What about my tickets for next week?"

"Um, okay... We don't have four seats together, let alone eight, if I were to combine the two orders." (Clearly I wasn't going to let that go.)

"Well what do you have?"

"We have single seats and some that have obstructed views."

"That's fine."

"Ummm...how many?"

"Eight."

Oy. As it turned out, we didn't have eight singles even, and some of the partial views are decent and arranged in a way that often leaves the good single seats next to them unsold. So, genius that I am, I suggested that she take a couple of pairs where one seat was full view and one was obstructed. Since the partial view seats cost less at full price than her discount, it gave her the right number of full price vs. discounted.

So that problem solved, I gingerly said, "So, the rest of your dates are fine, but now that we've put all of those seats on your order there aren't enough shows on the second one to qualify for a membership anyway." (Let's see how many ways I can explain to her that she can't get away with scamming us.) "Shall I just combine the two orders?"

"Oh yeah, yeah, just combine them. I just did it that way because we'd waited so long to do this this year, and I didn't think we'd be able to get that many tickets."

Wait, did she just admit she'd been lying?? Yep, she totally did. About the dissolution of her marriage, no less! The things people will do to save $18! (Seriously, that's all it would have been!)


So then today a young woman/girl (late teens, early 20s?) came to the box office window, bought a ticket, and gave me a credit card. It wasn't signed, so I asked for ID, and I offered to loan her a pen so she could sign the card.

"Oh, no, if you don't sign it then they have to ask you for ID, so it's safer that way."

"Ummmm... Yeah, unless someone, y'know, steals it and signs it himself."

"Oh? Really? Oh yeah. I guess so. Okay."

She signed the card, but in the end I wish I hadn't given her the pen. I kinda wish I'd taken down her card number and gone on a spree on Amazon.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

There's a reason they call it Flushing

I went to "Unemployment Camp," as my friend K calls it, this morning. EARLY this morning. For those of you who don't know, in New York State, if you claim unemployment benefits, you're required to go to an "Orientation" at the Department of Labor. Fine. The government is giving me free money, and the ultimate goal is for me to get a job and stop living off them, so I have no problem with this in theory. In practice, though, it's supremely irritating and vaguely offensive. For starters, I'm working part time right now, and some weeks I work few enough hours and make little enough money that I'm still entitled to partial benefits. In fact, since opening this claim last month, I have not had a single week where I've claimed my full amount. But here's the thing: I had to miss work to attend the unemployment orientation. Ironic, no? DOL's answer to this is that if I've "returned to work," I don't need to attend. But in their terms, I haven't "returned to work," because I'm still claiming benefits. And if I don't attend, I lose those benefits (which last a year). And there's no way to reschedule.

As long as I'm bitching, let me digress to an annoyance that isn't really the system's fault: They recently moved the Queens office from just over the bridge to Manhattan, to all the way at the eastern end of my subway line. I guess I should be grateful it's still on my home line, but it used to be 10 minutes away in a direction I would likely be traveling anyway (or at least near the gym), and now it's 40 minutes away in Flushing, from whence it then took me an hour to get to work. Now, Queens is a pretty gigantic county, and in geographical terms I suppose the new location is more central, but apparently someone who works for the state has forgotten that it's all about ME.

The orientation has actually improved since the last time I did it in early 2002. Back then it mostly consisted of "advice" on how to get a job. Here are some of the helpful bullet points for job-seekers:
  • Check job listings such as the New York Times
  • Send out resumes
  • Call friends and family to see if anyone knows of a job opening
  • Follow up with contacts


    So the assumption was basically that we didn't have jobs because we're all too stupid to even look for them. I was incensed. Especially in 2002, with the city's economy in the state that it was in.

    This time it was better, less insulting but no less irritating. In a room filled with classroom desks far too much like high school, we got a very bare-bones PowerPoint presentation (see, I'm criticizing the PowerPoint presentation -- I'm skilled, dammit!) which started by telling us how to claim our weekly benefits. Never mind that the orientations don't happen for weeks after you open your claim, so presumably we've all been doing this for some time already.

    After this came the real meat of the orientation, a dry and lengthy list of all the resources available to us at the Department of Labor Office, and on various city and state websites. Also various support groups offered by the DOL for people who've lost their jobs. Okay, useful probably to lots of people in the room, but couldn't they have mailed this to us? Or put it on the website that we use to claim benefits every week? Because I really wasn't interested.

    Now, I understand that I'm in the minority here. I know that I was probably the only freelancer in the room (almost certainly the only theater professional) for whom none of this was helpful at all. It's not that I don't want a job, and I'm certainly looking, but these people can't help me. I didn't lose my job in the traditional sense, my show closed, and that's totally normal in my world. But I accept that it's weird at the Department of Labor. But in this market, I have to wonder how many of the people in that room this stuff is useful for at all. I mean, no offense intended to anyone, but I have a feeling that the types of jobs coming into this run-down state office are not the types of jobs that are being lost by the score right now. To assume that the majority of us need instruction on how to use the Internet, or a resume-writing program for which "you only need to know how to use the mouse" (really? I'd expect the keyboard would be useful there too) is just condescending and a waste of time that could be better spent looking for a job. Or, in my case, being at one.

    The thing of it is, most of the system is automated. When you call to open your claim, 9 times out of 10 they already have your entire work history in the computer (linked to the IRS, I assume). You submit for your weekly checks (telling them if you worked the previous week, and if so how much, determining the size of your payment) either online or through an automated phone system. So how hard would it be to design a filter that identifies people who are frequently on and off benefits or have multiple employers (indicating freelancers or temps), or that shows a history of partial claims (indicating part time workers), or (probably harder) people working in certain industries, and exclude those people from the orientation? Or at least make better use of our time?

    Oh well. I guess if the government understood that the world revolves around me, we'd have a different president come January, so I shouldn't waste even more time ranting about petty state beurocrats.
  • Monday, November 15, 2004

    I hate everybody (again)

    Maybe real estate management companies are just inherently evil (or stupid, but I'm gonna go with evil). It's been six weeks since I moved out of my old place...a little more, technically, but six weeks since my lease ended. I still don't have my security deposit back. This is not an inconsiderable amount of money, and, being unemployed, I really kinda need it. The first time I called I was told I should have it in two weeks. When it didn't come I called again and was told that the manager had been on vacation and I should have it by the 15th. Which I don't. So I called again and was again told that the manager is on vacation. "For six weeks?" I said. The woman on the other end sounded genuinely stunned, and since these people never give their names I can't honestly be sure if I've ever spoken to her or not. But I went off on her anyway, yelling that every time I call I'm given an excuse, the blame always falling on this phantom manager whom I've never spoken to or met before. She told me there was nothing she could do about it until "Eric" returned from vacation, and I should call her back on Thursday. At least she gave me her name and extension. I just don't understand what the problem is. If they think there's a reason why I shouldn't get the check, they should have communicated it to me by now, and if not they're just being lazy or cheap. I just can't stand being lied to. Get your shit together, people, and get fucking Eric back from vacation.

    Oh, and our phone was turned on today...only it's not our phone. It's attached to an entirely different number, which someone else is using. I spoke to her. I think I freaked her out. Why is nothing ever simple?

    A new home for me, a new home for my blog?

    I've always believed .Mac to be a very elegant and overpriced marketing ploy. I pay for my ISP, which gives me email, and I have a forwarding service from my college so I don't have to give out a new address if I change ISPs. I've got more storage space for free on Gmail (or, for that matter, on a CD). My blog is hosted beautifully on Blogger, again for free. There are a billion sites with free photo hosting. .Mac just didn't seem worth $99.95 a year.

    But in the wake of the iBook Repair Debacle, I realized that $99.95 a year comes out to only $8.33 per month, and I signed right up. Suddenly the simplicity of the backup synchronization, and the ability to access my home address book and web bookmarks from any browser seems completely worth paying for. I only wish I'd had it before my logic board bit the dust.

    Anyway, I bring all this up because I figure as long as I'm paying for it, I should use it as much as possible. So I've been toying around with an application called Blogwave Studio, and I'm considering moving Judgment Call here.

    Blogwave is a cute little app, which integrates nicely with OS X, letting me post photos directly from iPhoto, and even MP3s from iTunes and file sharing from my .Mac iDisk. It's also got the one feature I've longed for with Blogger: Categories. My blog tends to be a little scattered, and I like that I can break up the archives by topic instead of by date. On the downside, I'm having trouble working out a couple of design kinks, and I will only be able to post from my computer, not online. Blogger's integration with Google would be missed, too, since a lot of my hits still come from random searches.

    So this is an experiment. I've been posting on both sites all month, and have transferred enough of the archives to get a good feel for the new site. I'll continue to maintain both for a while while we decide. I'd love your input if you have any kind of preference at all. Whichever site gets the most electoral votes from the readers wins.

    Saturday, November 13, 2004

    I think they've missed the point

    There's a big poster in the window of my neighborhood Burger King announcing that they'll be open on Thanksgiving. That's depressing enough on its own, but the sign includes an illustration of several turkeys sitting around a dining table. They appear to be serving ham, which I suppose is better than the cannibalistic alternative, but I still find it intensely weird and disturbing. If I go to Burger King on Thanksgiving, would I have to share the space with a bunch of anthropomorphized birds? And would they not be serving Whoppers?

    Thursday, November 11, 2004

    Carry That Weight

    So the scale has been packed for six weeks.

    Now it's not.

    Let's just say you'll get to hear me complain about my diet again real soon.

    Wednesday, November 10, 2004

    Adventures in Home-Owning: Home-Owning!

    It's official! We finally own our apartment! Well, technically, we own shares in a cooperative corporation, and those shares are represented by our apartment. And actually, the bank owns those until 2034. But why quibble? We're homeowners!

    So I promised that when we closed I'd tell the whole story. I already told a good chunk of it, but I skipped some of the legal details before. I'll be brief, but it's kind of interesting, especially if you're going through this process too.

    So back in May we saw this perfect apartment and made an offer. The broker we'd been working with was also the broker for the seller, so we were actually the first and only people to see it, 'cause we'd had several appointments fall through at the last minute, and seen some real crap, and Broker felt she owed us and is good at looking out for us like that. Broker also looked out for us in the negotiating process. We of course gave her a number slightly below what we were actually willing to pay, expecting a negotiation to follow. Broker had us sign an offering form for that, as well as another one even lower; that way, we could start low just to see what would happen, and she could counter-offer immediately without having to consult us or wait for us to sign another form. So, our low-ball offer went in, Seller countered with something perfectly reasonable, Broker counter-countered with our "real" offer (which was right in between the two), and Seller accepted it. Woohoo!

    Then Boy left town for three weeks.

    A few days later, I got a call from Broker. We'd seen the apartment before any renovations had been done. Seller had been planning to redo the kitchen, and we made it a condition of our offer just to be safe. Seller didn't expect to have a buyer so soon, so she figured since she did she might as well get our input on the changes. Well that was awfully nice! So I went to Home Depot and picked out some really cool dark grey tile. I really have no idea what these things cost, so I picked out second, third, and fourth choices too, in case I'd overstepped Seller's budget. I gave several options for simple cabinet door and drawer designs too.

    Weeks passed. Three or four of them. We still hadn't received a contract from Seller, but since Boy was out of town and couldn't sign it, and the kitchen thing had seemed like a sign of good faith, we didn't worry.

    Then we got a call from Broker. She was very upset (yay, professionalism!). It seemed the super (whom I had met, and who knew that we were buying the apartment and had been very nice to me) had been showing the apartment in the weeks we were without a contract, and someone else had made an offer that matched Seller's original counter offer. She was willing to honor her verbal agreement with us, but at this higher price. Now, this price was a) still fair (and actually probably still a deal), b) not much money in the grand scheme of things, with a negligible effect on our mortgage payments, and c) what we'd been willing to pay in the first place. If Seller had been a better negotiator, or Broker a worse one, she'd have had this price with no fuss. I say all this with hindsight and logic, but at the time we were super pissed off on principle!

    Broker told us that the kitchen was done, and insisted that we go look at it (and the rest of the apartment) before even considering the new deal. So the next morning we went and looked. The place looked fabulous, and the kitchen was...not at all what I had asked for! Now, I've posted pictures here, so you know that the kitchen is beautiful. You also know that the floor is not dark grey. Seller had actually purchased the style of tile I'd asked for, but in a vastly different color. And countertops that leave quite a bit to be desired.

    Seller had us (and Broker too, since if the place went to a buyer that Broker didn't find Broker loses her fee) over a barrel. We certainly didn't want to start the whole process over again, and the fact is that we were still madly in love with the apartment, and the new price, like I said, wasn't really a big deal. So, clearly, we agreed to the new deal. But it was the principle of the thing. We were very unhappy about the way we'd been taken advantage of. Most importantly, any semblance of trust was gone for both Seller and Super. We got the contract pretty quickly after that, but of course it had to go back and forth from lawyer to lawyer with revisions and riders, and we were terrified and on Seller's ass for six weeks until that thing was fully executed.

    Meanwhile, the appliances hadn't been purchased yet. One of Seller's excuses for raising the price had been that the kitchen renovation cost more than she expected it to. Considering that buying and reselling apartments is pretty much what Seller does with her money, and that she agreed to the kitchen stuff when she accepted our offer, this is pretty much bullshit. But okay, if that was her logic, we wanted some pretty spiffy appliances! So I asked Broker to find out what she was planning to get. She emailed back and told me she was getting a standard 30 inch stove and a 14 cubic inch fridge, both in "almond," from Kenmore, for $X00.00. I, of course, immediately went to Sears.com and saw that you can get a 30 inch stove and a 16 cubic inch fridge in white for $X00.00. Maybe the stove had fewer bells and whistles. Maybe white is cheaper than almond. I don't know. All I know is that a 14-inch fridge is small, and Boy and I both like to eat (and I like to organize). So I email Broker back, complete with links, and tell her what we want.

    The next morning Broker calls and tells me that Seller is over it, and she's just going to give us a $X00 credit and we can go and buy whatever we want ourselves. So we splurged a bit, combining her money with our own and went for the 18-incher, and a stove with a window in the door and a light inside, and we're very happy with the way that turned out.

    As soon as we moved our stuff in, we changed the locks on the apartment to allay our fears about the dishonest super.

    Then came the nonsense with the management company, and the even more nonsensical nonsense with the board.

    And here, finally, we are. I've since gotten to know the super pretty well, and he has earned my trust again. One day while he was fixing the sink, he told me, unprompted, how lucky we were to have this apartment because there'd been a lot of demand for it. He told me someone else in the building had his eye on it, and someone else had told a friend or relative about it. This friend or relative had access to the building through the resident who'd told him about it, and apparently kept harassing Super about it, demanding to see it, and eventually was put in touch with Seller, at which point he made his higher offer. So it's not like Seller and Super were actively seeking out another buyer. I suspect the truth is somewhere in the middle of the two versions.

    Now that everything is finished, and I doubt anyone will Google this anyway, I have to mention that the super's name is Dionisio. As in the Greek god of drama.

    At the closing this morning, we met Seller. She looked exactly liked I imagined she would, minus the snakes where her hair should be. She arrived an hour late, in stained jeans and a sweater, with a baseball cap on her head. Okay, so I imagined she'd be a little better dressed. But the disorganized sheaf of papers, including a checkbook that looked like it had had a fight with a wet dog, was just right. She was pleasant enough, but barely looked us in the eye, never officially introduced herself or showed any particular interest in who we are, even as I handed her a check for five figures.

    Of course it couldn't go completely smoothly. At the last minute, after everything was signed and everyone's checks had been passed around, there was an issue. The tenant who had been renting the apartment from Seller before had some kind of senior citizen's discount on her maintenance. There was some uncertainty over whether or not the City had paid this credit to the management company (or the board, or whatever), and if they hadn't it would mean that Seller owed them money in back maintenance. Yeah, I'm confused too. None of this really ought to have affected us, but without all her accounts in order, Seller couldn't unload her shares. No one understood why this was coming up now, and why the paperwork from the City (that Seller miraculously pulled out of her bizarre file) didn't settle the matter. Of course, if Seller had been on time, we would have been done and gone before this came up.

    It got taken care of, of course, or this would be a very different post, but the whole thing took three hours.

    Now, in hindsight, a lot of this has turned out very well. As annoying as the six month wait has been, if we were bidding on this apartment today, we'd almost certainly be paying quite a bit more. We couldn't lock in our mortgage rate too early, and it's actually gone down since we did our pre-approval. Having all this time to work and set stuff up without living there was kind of a luxury, especially when we discovered a leak in the bathroom (just normal old building stuff and covered by the building, since it's in the walls) that involved messy plastering and stuff that would have been a huge pain in the ass if we'd been living there. We were supposed to pay the maintenance in exchange for our access to the place in September and October, but when we made that deal with Seller she'd assumed the board would let us live there, and when that turned into drama she graciously waived the whole thing, so while our stuff has been stored here and we've been painting and stuff, we haven't paid a dime. We were alerted to the problems with management before moving in, and the board is well aware of them as well. As a result, the board seemed to take pity on us (not that we plan to take advantage of that, but you never know when it might come in handy later).

    And while we had our share of problems, we had hardly any typical problems that befall co-op buyers (anyone thinking about this process must click that link and buy that book). No insane negotiations, no big bidding war (a little one, I guess), no groveling before the board as they go over our financial information with a fine-toothed comb and try to understand why my having seven jobs in one year is a good thing, no tragic delays of the closing.

    And y'know what? As I sit here on my couch on the Internet wirelessly, reunited with my big TV, watching the kitten explore the apartment that we own, I find I don't really care much about any of what came before. My boyfriend and I own gorgeous apartment! It's ours! We're done!

    Needless to say, I don't plan on ever moving again.

    (I'll post photos in a few days as we get more settled in.)