1984

To the untrained eye, the photo above depicts five humans of indeterminate gender. But, ladies and gentlemen, the faces you are looking at actually belong to the first men I ever loved: Simon Le Bon, John Taylor, Roger Taylor, Andy Taylor and Nick Rhodes, b.k.a. Duran Duran. (Please note, their official web site is ALSO powered by WordPress!) And tonight, I spent two divine hours with them in Central Park.

Thanks to Kiki, who called in a favor and secured tickets for us, she and my sister and I had the privilege of attending the first of two Duran Duran concerts in the park. Since I first fell in love with the band nearly a quarter of a century ago, I’ve seen them or some combination of them perform at least six times, but I’ve never been physically closer to or better able to see them than tonight. And I have to say that – despite their freakish appearance in this 1981 photo – Simon (turning 50 in October) and John (turning 48 on June 20) are still absolutely the hottest men I have ever encountered.

Furthermore, they happen to sound as amazing as they did in their heyday . I know. I know what you’re thinking. They’re talentless (vicious lie). Their lyrics are non-sensical and/or idiotic (not as vicious a lie). They’re just pretty boys (I don’t know what to tell ya. They’re pretty. Sue ‘em.). They’re like a spoof of a cheezola 80s band. That’s valid. The stage was adorned with two Ds covered in light bulbs. They themselves were adorned with black leather pants, black blazers, black button-downs and black skinny ties. With black and white bandanas around their arms for some reason. And make-up.

But honestly, I think they know what they are.  I don’t think they were trying to pose as serious musicians, and I don’t think they were trying to be young whippersnappers. I really got the sense that they were having fun making their overgrown teenybopper fans happy. That they liked giving the audience what we wanted – an escape, an hour or two of 1984. Not at all to my dismay, I had a perfect view of John for the bulk of the concert. And I use as evidence the natural, playful way he interacted with the lucky bastards (all whores) in the first few rows.  Of course, it’s also  possible he was high, but let’s assume the best.  

The concert included several highlights, including moving renditions of “Ordinary World” and “Save a Prayer,” during which Simon asked that we open and hold up our cell phones instead of the traditional cigarette lighters, even though it would annoy Al Gore. Much responsibility for singing was placed on us, and it is with great pride that I say our versions of “Girls on Film” and “Hungry Like the Wolf” should win Grammy Awards.

But the evening’s real joy was in its real joy. It will come as no surprise to you that nary a soul would use the words “sunny disposition” to describe me. Kiki and my sister both told me they couldn’t recall another time I’d gone so long without complaining, expressing a hypochondriacal concern, making a snide comment or experiencing some sign of panic. I just screamed and sang and danced like the tone-deaf, palsied dork that I am. I’m not sure exactly why I was able to behave in such a carefree, unbecoming manner. But for a little while, with Duran Duran in front of me, all was truly good in the world. Perhaps the intensity of my 12-year-old passion for these silly rock stars was so strong it still allows me to be transported back in time. Before cell phones and laptops and iPods and the internet. Before flat-irons and Brazilian bikini waxes and $150-jeans.  Before marriage and divorce and global warming and September 11th. Before complete and utter failure. Perhaps, in that fleeting state of mind, I am able to forget that it isn’t 1984 and that my whole life isn’t ahead of me.  

When the loves of my life left the stage at the end of the show, a group of Brazilians behind us began to chant, “DRIO! DRIO! DRIO!” A few minutes later,  the band reappeared, singing about a famous woman who dances on the sand. Rather poetically, John was now sporting a Barack Obama t-shirt that read “PROGRESS” at the bottom.   

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1984

Shell-Shocked

After

My parents — b.k.a. Jan and Lew — are not the most adventurous eaters. It’s not that their palates aren’t sophisticated. Jan is an excellent, flavorful chef and inspired my own love of cooking. They enjoy fine dining, would never be caught dead at some of the trailer trash venues I love, and in fact eat many items that I personally can’t tolerate. It’s just that they do have a culinary comfort zone, occupied largely by Italian food. 

So I was surprised last Friday when I made plans to partake of the evening meal with them and Jan suggested we patronize Totoya, the sushi restaurant up the block from their abode. I couldn’t imagine what Jan would eat at such an establishment, since I’m well aware of her strict policy against the ingestion of raw fish, but she assured me that Totoya’s chicken teriyaki and assorted dumplings were quite tasty. Lew, I am proud to report, has recently developed an appreciation for things like toro and yellowtail thanks to a sushi-eating colleague.

Fabulous! I really wasn’t in the mood for chicken piccata or garlic breath that lasted three days.

After a solid 10 minutes of debate about how many appetizers to order, a decision was reached. Jan and Lew selected some shumai and gyoza, and I requested edamame (pictured above). Seeing as how they were being so generous with their dumplings, I offered them some of my delicious green soybeans.

Jan brutally rejected me. Lew said that he didn’t really like edamame, citing its chewy texture and lack of taste, but that he might try some anyway.

That’s odd, I thought. I like edamame because it’s NOT chewy. Oh well. I guess one man’s chewy is another man’s … not chewy.

A few minutes went by. I was pleased to see Jan enjoying her shrimp shumai and Lew reaching for an edamame. How cute were they?!

A few more minutes went by and I noticed that Lew was still chewing the original edamame.

Wait a minute. Why was it taking him so long to chew that edamame? Why wasn’t he spitting out the shell? Where’s the pod? SHOW ME THE POD!

It dawned on me that whomever tutored Lew about sushi had failed to teach him an important lesson.  

Lew! Oh no! Lew! You know you have to spit the shell out, right?”

In a nanosecond, and a most sit-com like manner, Lew reached for a napkin. I surmised from this gesture that he had not, in fact, known.

“What happens if you eat the shell?” asked Lew in a mildly concerned tone.

At last, I could return the favor for the man who spends 65 percent of his day reassuring me that I won’t barf and telling me that I probably don’t have a 24-hour case of typhoid.

“Nothing happens Lew! Don’t worry! It just doesn’t taste good.”

I also felt it was important to note that perhaps he would actually like edamame if he’d eaten it properly. Edamame in the shell = chewy and tasteless. Edamame outside of the shell = dee-LICIOUS!  

Shell-Shocked

PurpleKumquat

When I first moved into the city an alarming number of moons ago, it was still fairly easy to find a TCBY. I don’t know exactly when the country demoted it to SECOND best yogurt, but at some point in the mid-90s, the stores seemed to become extinct. For the next 10 years, unless they were at the airport with access to a Columbo machine, Manhattanites seeking low-fat frozen desserts were forced to settle for a local chain called Tasti D-Lite.

Tasti D-Lite was the inspiration for a famous episode of Seinfeld, in which Elaine’s beloved “non-fat yogurt” turns out to be full o’lard.  You can read the episode’s script here, should you need a refresher. In reality, Tasti D-Lite is not any kind of yogurt.  It is not any kind of ice cream. It is not ice milk. It is not custard. I cannot tell you what it IS. I can only tell you that it feels cold on your tongue and is vaguely creamy. It comes in dozens of flavors, from German Chocolate Cake and White Russian to Latte Fudge and Pecan Praline. Except that all of them taste exactly the same: like air. I gave Tasti D-Lite several opportunities to prove itself. It failed to do so, and I was forced to begin referring to it as Tasteless D-Lite.

Frankly, ingestion of low-fat faux ice cream was a sham for a junkie like me. None of it had the same kind of impact. None of it made me forget about Brownies a la Mode at Haagen Dazs or the soupy Chocolate Marshmallow I enjoyed at Buxton’s in my New Jersey girlhood.  No ice cream-like concoction was ever going to take the place of actual ice cream for me. 

But I have to tell you. It takes a strong woman to eat real ice cream in broad daylight in a city like New York. Sure, digging in to a pint in the privacy of your own apartment is one thing (and one thing I do often). But it’s just not feminine — it’s not lady-like — to publicly indulge in full-fledged ice cream if you’re not visibly knocked up and/or accompanied by a preppy gentleman with whom you’re on a pukishly cute, wholesome date.

Just this afternoon, a riotously funny co-worker and I took a post-lunch stroll to the Mr. Softee truck at 23rd and 6th. We both ordered milkshakes, and I got a cone for the VP of Marketing, who then chided me for accidentally going with rainbow instead of chocolate sprinkles. I cannot tell you how self-conscious I felt walking that block back to the office, milkshake in one hand, wilting cone in the other. I could practically hear the thoughts of those who saw me: She’s obviously bulimic; Poor thing has been eating heavily since the divorce; Wow, if she keeps that up, they’ll have to bury her in a midget’s piano.

This lack of social acceptability almost certainly stems from a ridonculous belief held by many a female: that if no one sees you eating fattening food, you can’t actually get fat. Case in point: there’s a restaurant on Amsterdam Avenue called Josie’s. There’s also one in a neighborhood called Murray Hill, and FYI, both are owned by the actor Rob Morrow. Josie’s fare is organic, free-range, grass-fed, locally-grown, hormone-free, antibiotic-free and largely TASTE-free. But it’s allegedly healthy, so the body-dysmorphic love it.  

Behold an ACTUAL conversation I heard two girls having one night when I was forced to dine at Josie’s and  fantasizing about the frozen pizza I would have when I got home. [Insert Long Island version of the Valley Girl accent.]

Girl 1: “Uh. Muh. Gud. Jen. This. Is. Like. Amazing. It’s AMAZING.”

Girl 2: “Uh. Muh. Gud. Rully? I’m. Like. Suh. Hap-pay. Fuh. Yuh. Wha. Is. It?”

Me (but not really): “Uh. Muh. Gud. Do yuh. Morons. Have. Like. Rully. Hot. Food. In. Your. Mouths? Why the FRICK are you talking like that?”

Girl 1: “Uh. Muh. Gud. It is just. Plain. Brown. Rice. Buh. It. Is. AMAZING.”

Girl 2: “Rully? Wow. I shu. Like totally. Get some for Alana. She like. LOVES. Brown. Rice.”

Me (but not really): “Uh. Muh. Gud. Alana wuh. TOTALLY heart you if. You like. Brought. Her. Brown. Rice.”

You see what I’m dealing with. For years, this internal battle between conformity and amour de creme raged on, torturing me. Then, at long last, it seemed there might be an answer: Pinkberry. Billed as a new take on the world-renowned tart-n-creamy frozen yogurt at Bloomingdale’s, it had a great deal of potential. It wasn’t trying to replace ice cream; it was merely another option that required freezer storage. Kiki treated me to my first Pinkberry. And it sucked. It tasted like Lemon Tasteless D-Lite, and it pissed me off.  What kind of name was Pinkberry, anyway? Where do pinkberries naturally occur? Screw you, Pinkberry.

So the battle raged on. And then, about two weeks ago, I noticed a shiny new sign above a storefront in Chelsea: Red Mango. I was annoyed at first: again with the stupid made-up fruit name? What was next? Another yogurtorium called TealNectarine? PurpleKumquat?

But then curiosity got the best of me. I ordered a small, original with strawberries, tiny little chocolate chips and … brace yourself … GRAHAM CRACKER CRUMBS. The strawberries were real and fresh, the chocolate not even remotely waxy and the GCCs reminiscent of S’mores. The yogurt itself — a mere 90 calories! — actually tasted like yogurt, but better. In a word: dee-LICIOUS! Thanks, Red Mango! You earn my highest endorsement.  

PurpleKumquat

Extra Sensory Perceptions

Kiki departed yesterday for a 12-day trip to Europe, where she’ll visit Prague, Berlin, Amsterdam and Paris. This will be her first time abroad, and understandably, she’s a smidge anxious. So, to bid her a fond and comforting farewell, rozlouceni, abschied, afschied and, of course, adieu, I met her for an all-American dinner the other night at our favorite Upper West Side diner, Viand.

After we reviewed the wearable items Kiki had packed, the stomach woe remedies she’d carry with her on the plane, the movies she’d downloaded to her iPod, and whether or not we had time to pop into Loehmann’s, I decided to visit the ladies’ room (which, at Viand, is actually a tiny, unisex and Lysol-fragranced recess in the wall with a door).

Having good hygiene, I like to wash my hands post-pee even though I am not required by law to do so. I just think it’s a nice gesture. Plus, who knows what kind of porcelain-borne illness might be lurking on the toilette seat? But I digress. Suffice it to say, it came time to dry my cleansed hands and I attempted to cue the sensor-activated paper towel dispenser.

But apparently, I have defective hands that are unable to emit the “cough up paper towel NOW” signal. For a minute, I stood there waving normally at the wall.

Hi Paper Towel Dispenser. Aloha! That’s right. I’m saying hi in the hopes you’ll dispense some paper towels. It’s great to see ya! Hello! Hiya! Hola! Bonjer! Top of the morning! Please give me some paper towels.

Zilch. Perhaps I needed to infuse the wave with a dash of more Queen Elizabeth?

Nope.

I moved on to a sort of wax-on/wax-off gesture. Still nothing.

I changed direction – surely if none of the obvious horizontal techniques above had worked, the implementation of up/down movement would. Alas, it did not.

Next up was a hand-jive, followed by half of the ΑΕ∏ secret handshake, a sign language Q, a left-hand turn signal, the first step in a game of Cat’s Cradle and finally, the thumb-centric dance Elaine made famous on “Seinfeld.”

M’ER F’ER! How could I not triumph over this commonplace BATHROOM installation?

All the while, my cell phone had been in my pocket. I felt it vibrate: Kiki, concerned over my extended trip to the loo, had sent me a text message to inquire about my well-being.

With now damp fingers, I typed back: Handswe 3tca ntget ptwl out.

I couldn’t take it anymore.

F.U., fancy paper towel dispenser. I rescind my earlier greetings. You stink.

I gave up — I THREW IN THE TOWEL. I wiped my hands on my jeans and, using my sleeve for protection, opened the door. It was at that moment, of course, when I espied a hefty stack of pristine paper towels in a lovely woven basket atop the toilet tank.

 

Extra Sensory Perceptions

PS – What the Hell IS Grimace?

I’ve always been a fan of Grimace, pictured above my last post.  I can trace my appreciation for the big purple lug back to the days I was eligible to receive a free McDonald’s coloring book with my meal.  He is, by far, the most endearing of the slightly freakish cast of McDonald’s characters. Of course, the others set the bar pretty low. Hamburglar and Captain Crook? Ex-cons. Probably beyond rehabilitation. It starts with burgers and fish sandwiches. Next thing you know, they’re holding up convenience stores. Ronald McDonald? Child molester.  The Frie Guys? Greasy manorexics. Mayor McCheese? Totally corrupt. Grimace’s worst crime is being a little slow on the uptake and, of course, being of indeterminate genus.  Which brings me to my point: for the love of GOD, what IS Grimace? Dave, I know you still have the signed portrait of him I made for you circa 2005. Please study it and send me your thoughts pronto. All are welcome to comment as well!

PS – What the Hell IS Grimace?

Mc T McSucks

I am hereby rescinding my endorsement of McDonald’s sweet tea. Does a ginormous paper cup filled with lukewarm sugar water sound good to you? No? Then stay away from this beverage. And it certainly isn’t worth the trouble.

H and I recently attended a meet-n-greet with his friends’ newborn son, Baby D. The gathering was quite nice and featured delicious but thirst-inducing smoked salmon (known in these parts as “lox”). The day was balmy, so we decided to walk the 60 blocks home from Washington Heights. It seemed like the perfect occasion to pop into McDonald’s and try the refreshing new sweet tea I’d seen advertised all over the city.

Finding a McDonald’s was not a problem in that ‘hood. We chose one and got on line, where we discussed the various sets of twins who had also gathered, with their parents, to celebrate Baby D’s arrival.

“Did you happen to notice the brute force Twin 3 used when she grabbed the naked plastic doll out of Twin 7’s paw?” I asked H.

Before he could answer, a random woman on the line to our right chimed in at the top of her lungs.

“OH MY GOD YOU SAW THAT TOO I SAW THAT MOTHER FUCKER I SAW THAT THAT WAS TOTALLY AWESOME TOTALLY RAD I FREAKING LOVE THAT SHOW!”

H and I didn’t realize we’d been having a conversation with her, because as far as we knew, she hadn’t been at the gathering and was shouting about something completely unrelated. But it became clear when we didn’t respond within a nanosecond that she was having a conversation with us.

HEY! I LOVE THAT SHOW CANNOT FUCKING BELIEVE THAT SHOW OH MAN. NICE CAMERA!”

Politely, H accepted the compliment.

“SO CAN I TALK TO YOU FOR A MINUTE SEE MY BOYFRIEND WE’RE ENGAGED HE HAS A CAMERA LIKE THAT I’M TRYING TO BE A MODEL BUT YOU KNOW I LOST ALL MY MONEY SO WE DON’T HAVE A TV EXCEPT ONE TIME WE WATCHED IT AT HIS MOM’S BUT HE’S A GREAT PHOTOGRAPHER SO WHAT KIND OF CAMERA IS THAT LIKE IS IT WORTH A LOT WOW THAT IS TOTALLY RAD ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME? HEY ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME?”

I couldn’t imagine what exactly this woman might model successfully, except maybe track marks. She had roughly the same complexion and skin tone as Grampa Munster, and was sporting pleather pants with a cropped black t-shirt. Her nails, lips and hair were jet black as well, although I wouldn’t go so far as to call her a Goth. Regardless, she was freakish and I began to hear the local newscasters relaying the tragic details of our untimely and violent deaths … in a McDonald’s.

“Good evening. A Manhattan woman who just celebrated the 11th anniversary of her 25th birthday and her boyfriend, an Emmy-winning writer, were brutally stabbed to death while they waited on line at a McDonald’s for a sweet tea.”

Cut to the crime scene, where police are standing around doing nothing, and then, as the voiceover begins, to a hideous photo of me from college, before the flat-iron was invented, without make-up on, and wearing white leather Keds with a ridiculously oversized periwinkle Champion sweatshirt.

“Chuck — wait a minute. McDonald’s sells sweet tea now?”

“That’s right, Sue. Witnesses said the couple was attacked by a fellow customer, a mentally unstable woman who had just ordered a Filet-o-Fish and a McFlurry…”

Grampa Munster continued to chat us up with her excellent social skills and I prayed that she’d wait to stab us until after I’d tasted the sweet tea. When I finally accepted the beverage from the McDonald’s cashier, it was physically difficult to grasp it. I’d ordered a “small,” but this was clearly meant for someone who’d just walked off the surface of the sun. And, it tasted VILE.

FABULOUS. We were going to die because of my quest for a super-sized PUKE-TASTING drink worth $1.

We began to traverse the McDonald’s, headed for the door. Grampa Munster followed us, shouting along the way.

“YO I JUST WANT TO TALK TO YOU FOR A MINUTE WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THAT WHY CAN’T I JUST ASK YOU A FEW QUESTIONS MOTHER FUCKERS I JUST WANT TO TOUCH THE CAMERA MAN.”

We kept walking, and she kept shouting. She didn’t seem like the type of person who’d respond well to reason, but I considered trying.

Look, I understand you’d like to chat with us. I get that. The thing is, we’d prefer not to chat with YOU. Now, I also understand there’s a chance you’re going to kill us because of that. I respect your position. But can I just ask that if you ARE going to stab or shoot us, you wait until we’re a few blocks away from McDonald’s and thus, cannot be identified posthumously as patrons of this venue? Thanks.

Mc T McSucks

My Texan Present

Addendum: Due to my dad’s strenuous objection to the way I spelled “turds” originally, I have replaced the “e” in that word with a “u.”

Before I met Dave and Rob, I had my own, Flintstonian method for labeling random household and personal items. It involved breaking off tiny pieces of that mesh-like First Aid tape and then writing on them with fine-point Sharpies. Given that Sharpie ink isn’t waterproof, this wasn’t always the best approach to identifying things like cosmetic products, which were oft used in the presence of a sink. Still, smeared Sharpie ink had never become enough of a problem for me to investigate other labeling options.

But over the course of my life with Dave and Rob, I learned many valuable lessons. I learned about Taco Bueno, Whataburger, Shiner Bock and the Lu Ann Platter (sold at Luby’s). I learned the subtle difference between Benjamin Moore’s Valley Forge (beige) and Behr’s Delaware River Crossing (beige) premium paints. I learned that candle wax could be removed from a carpet very easily with an iron and a brown paper bag. I learned that Wheaten terriers fear the sound of coins in empty soda cans. But by far one of the most important things they introduced me to was … the electronic label maker.

Dave spoke often and fondly of his electronic label maker — usually over our nightly glass of Orvieto — regaling me with tales of his and his sister’s obsession with this technological breakthrough. He told me that, at the height of their addiction, he saw in her house labels reading “DANDRUFF” (on the pillows); “BOOGERS” (tissue boxes); “ASSES” (seat cushions); and my favorite, “TURDS” (on the toilet seat cover).

I found any mention of the word “turd” riotously funny, of course, but still wasn’t convinced that this label maker thing was all that necessary. Then one night, it occurred to me that the colors of my 20+ eye shadows from MAC and Benefit would appear much more pure on my lids if I put each one on with its own brush. Why mix “Shroom” with “Jest” or “Mylar” with “Ricepaper” when a simple trip to the drugstore would afford each hue a personal applicator?

A quick jaunt to the slightly sketchy Walgreen’s on the corner of J.F.K. and 17th yielded a 24-pack of those Q-Tip-esque sponge tip thingies, and I was all set. Back in the apartment, I grabbed my First Aid tape and attempted to create a poor man’s label for each of my shades. Much to my dismay, I was too palsied to write out the names of the colors — or even a one-letter abbreviation — in a “font” small enough to fit on the applicators’ puny handles.

Crappy McCrapperstein! How would I keep track of which applicator went with which pot o’shadow? I voiced my frustration to Dave, who knew immediately what needed to be done.

Suspiciously, I accepted the famous label maker, which looked like a giant scientific calculator circa 1979. I typed in “Rose Quartz,” then hit the print button. Out slid a perfect label in a graceful, incredibly satisfying manner. I typed in “Vynyl,” “Heathen” and then “My Date’s My Brother.” Each time, the result was a flawless, consistently lettered label.

In a matter of minutes, I had developed an alarming addiction: I could not stop making labels. I craved the feel of the keys under my fingers. I yearned to read one and two words of text off a thin rectangular piece of adhesive-backed paper.

“Go easy on that — the paper’s really expensive,” Dave warned me.

I typed, printed out and then held up the words “I NEED HELP.”

Dave confiscated the label maker, but every time I purchased a new beauty product or transferred a moisturizer into a travel-sized bottle, I found it and indulged. It was a sickness. I could not believe how callously I had dismissed the issue at first. Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.

When I left Philadelphia, I missed the label maker almost as much as I missed Dave, Rob and the dogs. I often thought of buying my own, but it seemed disrespectful, somehow. The label maker I used had to come from Dave and Rob.

As I’m sure you can guess, I received a box from Dallas yesterday, in honor of the 11th anniversary of my 25th birthday. Inside was a brand spankin’ new, Dymo 150 Label Manager kit — the CADILLAC of electronic label makers. Not since Dave presented me with the Betty Crocker Bake ‘n’ Fill for Christmas has a gift so quickly brought tears of joy to my eyes. And don’t think I didn’t type out a copy of this post on a single label.

My Texan Present