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.

 

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Extra Sensory Perceptions

Sweet and Sour

 

Pretty Photo, Ugly Flavors

Please note: The photo above appears here courtesy of Cybele (candyblog.net). Thanks, Cybele!

Among the many emergency supplies I carry around with me in my pocketbook is a pack of LifeSavers.  I keep it in a ziplock bag along with no fewer than three flavors of sugarless gum (two mint varieties and one fruit flavor) and a Triple Threat Power Bar.  Yes, it’s a little sad and spinster old lady-ish, but halitosis is a very real issue, and you never know when the next bout of hypoglycemia will kick in. I like to be prepared, and LifeSavers are a portable way to avoid passing out on the subway. You may scoff, but I’ll never forget the episode of “Happy Days” in which Joanie and Howard Cunningham were locked inside the hardware store and Joanie saved Howard from resorting to cannibalism by feeding him the melted candy bar she had in her pocket.  

As it happens, this afternoon I was returning to the Upper West Side after a jaunt to Bloomingdale’s when a particularly virulent bout of low blood sugar overcame me.  I reached in to my Mary Poppins-sized faux patent bag — procured in Dallas with Dave — and dug out my trusty (unopened) roll of “5 Flavors.”  Traditionally, I opt for the all-cherry pack, but I’d been unable to find it and gone with this one in its stead.  It had thus been some time since I’d had any flavor other than cherry, and was happy to see that the first ring in this pack was of the green variety. Mmm … lime … dee-licious! [INSERT COOKIE MONSTER VOICE]

A more fitting thought would have been, “FRICK ON A PLASTIC-TASTING, LIME-IMPERSONATING STICK!” 

Green, it seemed, was no longer the color of lime but rather, of WATERMELON. And I like watermelon as much as the next guy, but not in LifeSaver form and certainly not in place of LIME.  I winced and bit down on the offending piece, eager to be rid of it and move on to the next.

But there would be no comfort in the next, yellow LifeSaver. That one, which I’d always known to be lemon, was now PINEAPPLE.  And after that, it was a bruise-colored RASPBERRY.  In the immortal words of my friend Loren’s husband, “Da fuck, man?!” How could any confection company take away a classic flavor like LEMON and replace it with PINEAPPLE?!

I reviewed the fine print on the striped wrapper, thinking perhaps someone at the LifeSaver factory had put a “5 Flavors” wrapper on an “Exotic Fruits” roll by accident. But the mistake was mine. I read the list of enclosed flavors: Watermelon [tiny LifeSaver-shaped bullet] Pineapple [tiny LifeSaver-shaped bullet] Cherry [tiny LifeSaver-shaped bullet] Raspberry [tiny LifeSaver-shaped bullet] Orange.  The simple, elegant candy I had known and loved since the very early 70s — the candy I often chose (over Fruit Stripes gum) at the Parsonage Diner in Edison — was gone forever.  

I fully understand why new products come along, but I do not understand why they have to piggyback off the good name of long-standing favorites. Go ahead and sell pineapple and raspberry LifeSavers. But for the love of god, put ’em in a TROPICAL or MIXED BERRY pack. Leave lemon alone! What did lemon every do to you?!

Another example of this is the Three Musketeers bar, now available in MINT. Ew! A Three Musketeers bar is, by definition, taupe nougat surrounded by chocolate. It is not supposed to contain pale GREEN nougat. Invent a new candy bar — call it the Three Stooges or the Three Minty Wisemen! But why add a whole new connotation — and a rather unappealing one, at that — to a staple of Halloween buckets everywhere?

Hershey’s? CHEAP, GOOD MILK CHOCOLATE FROM THE MIDDLE OF PENNSYLVANIA. Don’t put it in a fancy label, don’t use the word “caςao” to describe it and don’t try to sell it as a fine Brazilian import.  It was PERFECT the way it was.

Snickers Almond? It’s called a Mars bar. Junior Caramels? They’re called ROLOS. What’s next? PEANUT JOY? REESE’S JELLY CUPS?

Recall, if you will, the M&M jingle of yore — “…the milk chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hands.” MILK chocolate, people. MILK. Not dark. MILK.

Dr. Pepper is a flavor unto itself. Don’t add vanilla. Don’t add cherry. If you want cherry-vanilla soda, INVENT A NEW ONE.

Dunkin’ Donuts, as the name implies, should sell DONUTS, not PIZZA. PIZZA Hut, similarly, should sell PIZZA, not pasta. It’s not Dunkin’ Pizza and it’s not Pasta Hut. I shudder to think about the consequences of a mix-up at either venue. Boston Kreme Pizza? Deep-dish rigatoni?

And THEN, I come to Word Press, seeking refuge, and the entire dashboard is different. I see burnt siena bars where none were before. The buttons are in different places. This is just mean! Is nothing sacred? It’s a sad, sad world. What would Willy Wonka say?

Sweet and Sour

Tales From the Tundra: Another Nail In the Coffin

In my pre-tundra New York days, visiting one of the city’s bazillion manicure and pedicure providers was a long-standing weekend tradition for my friends and me.  First, we’d meet at the diner on Saturday or Sunday. Then, we’d head to Zen or Pinky or Cindy’s or Trevi or Lincoln Nails, choose from a rainbow array of sheer pink nail polishes with asinine names, make snide comments about the other girls there, and enjoy some hand grooming.  

Please note: regular ‘curing may sound extravagant to those in more remote parts, but in New York, there are nail salons on every corner, and the average manicure costs less than $10.  As it happens, I have extremely dry skin and cuticles, so I view manicuring as a health-related expense. But mostly, it’s a nice way to spend time with my friends and engage in some catty commentary.  

In Michigan, there were no diners and my only friends were Sloth (ex-husband) and Ollie (dognapped Wheaten terrier — see “Meet Ollie” page), neither of whom could be counted on for manicure companionship.  Furthermore, nail care providers in Michigan were much fewer and farther between, more expensive, not as clean, poorer quality, and overall just sucky.  I had to take matters into my own unmanicured hands. 

Unfortunately, the aforementioned unmanicured hands are less than steady, and eventually I had to give up on polished fingernails.  Toes were do-able providing no one looked too closely, but the colors I had with me on the tundra weren’t really foot-appropriate.  There happened to be a respectable-looking beauty supply store in the Colonnade, the “ultra-posh” strip mall across the street from our apartment in the equally “ultra-posh” Briar Cove complex.  Desperate for something to do, I made nail polish selection my official Wednesday errand and looked forward to this important task.

When I hit the beauty supply store, I spent half an hour poring over various shades and brands of wine-colored nail polish before settling on a delightful, deep burgundy hue called “Berry Hard.”

Eagerly, I headed to the cashier and waited for at least 10 minutes while a mohawked hairdresser paid, in pennies, for approximately 40 bottles of shampoo. Just as the transaction seemed to be wrapping up, the hairdresser noticed a mysterious ingredient in the shampoo he was purchasing: placenta. This fascinated him.  He launched into a series of questions about the origins, purpose and effect of “play-say-nta,” as if his upscale clientele in YPSILANTI really gave a shit.

At last it was my turn to pay, and I placed the bottle of “Berry Hard” on the counter with the pride and anticipation of a child who had saved all her life for one toy. 

“Cane I see your lay-cense?,” asked the stylish cashier who had obviously bought her outfit at Forever 21 but told herself she was clad in Prada.
 
“My license? You need my driver’s license for a $3-bottle of nail polish?”
 
“No,” replied the cashier. “Don’t you hay-ve your byew-uh-tician lay-cense?”
 
It was hard to refrain from uttering my Michigan mantra — ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? — but I have to admit, I also felt like a dejected moron. I felt like the whole state had broken me.

 “No ma’am, no I do not. I am not a licensed beautician.” I could barely speak above a whisper. My shame was evident.

“Well then Aim sorry, you cane not shapp in this store. It’s just for the industry.”

Miserable, I walked home and went online to see if there were any other places I might be able to purchase one little bottle of nail polish.  (Keep in mind that while I did have access to a decent CVS, said store did not carry products by Essie, the company that made “Berry Hard.”) It turned out there was another beauty supply store just a short drive away, and they sold “Berry Hard.” Again I found the bottle, caressed it longingly and waited on line to pay. Again I received the news that only lay-censed byew-uh-ticians could dispense cash there. To make matters worse, a lard-ass manicurist at the register next to me was buying several bottles of THE VERY SAME SHADE. It was a cruel trick of the pedicure gods.

There was one more option: a place on the other side of town. 

This time, I didn’t get my hopes up.  Before heading down Nail Polish Row and checking to see if “Berry Hard” was an option, I asked if one had to be a licensed beautician to shop there. It was a question I never in a million years imagined I’d have to utter.

A kindly salesperson replied that the store was open to shoppers of all professions.

“Even out-of-work publicity writers?!”

“Even out-of-work publicity writers.”

 She was like Glynda the Good Witch.  I wanted to hug her. 

At last, “Berry Hard” would be mine.  If only that store SOLD “Berry Hard.”

That night, I relayed the story to Sloth. I hoped he’d be so upset about my trauma that he’d offer to quit his job the next day and move back to civilization pronto.  But he found it rioutously funny.

He was still chuckling a few hours later when I came out of the bathroom sporting two coats of “God Save the Queen’s Nails.”

Tales From the Tundra: Another Nail In the Coffin