Sunday, November 13, 2011

Rain on your wedding day

We all know it's not ironic, but neither need it be a catastrophe.

One of my besties got married a couple of years ago; an outdoor wedding in Cape Cod in June. While the locale was beautiful, the forecast predicted rain and she debated whether to order a special tent for the ceremony.  It was, like anything surrounding a wedding, a bit spendy, and how tragically annoying it would be to rent the tent and not use it, right?  Being a wise and thoughtful hostess (more brides need to think along these lines), she realized that her guests comfort was paramount to a successful day and that sometimes you have to bite the bullet, so she rented the tent.  And it rained. And none of the guests minded a bit and the wedding was a blast.

Bite the bullet.  That's what I should have done when I caught cold last week. Instead of buying the luxurious name-brand "facial" tissues, I made the mistake of cheaping out and buying some off-brand packet and I'm paying the price for it now. The lower third of my face is red and chapped and the skin under my nose is flaked such that I appear to have boogers hanging out.  FYI: I don't. To top it off, I wound up needing to buy more tissues (Kleenex, with lotion, thank you very much) and Mentholatum to sooth my poor visage. Arrgh!  If only I'd have spent when spending was needed.

Tip For You:  It's true what they say, a penny wise is a pound foolish.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Walk it off

When you walk, you see the neatest things.

The last few months that I lived in New York I walked a lot.  A lot.  I'd been a walker in the past and would often walk to or home from work in the spring and summer, but this year I reached a whole new level.  Inspired in part by my disgust for the MTA I would regularly walk to and from work, a round trip of 8 miles that saved me about five spiteful dollars a day.  Since I was no longer purchasing a unlimited monthly transit pass, I became VERY tightfisted about paying for trains or buses.  If it would take me an hour or less, I'd walk instead of ride. If I wasn't carrying a cumbersome load: walk.  Not raining? Walk.  Raining but not pouring? Put on my wellies and walk.  One day I walked 12 miles, round trip, to the dentist.  I was committed.

I learned a few neat things on my walks.  For example, Williamsburg was much closer to my apartment that I'd thought, and almost as fast to reach on foot as it is via the train.  Also, the Williamsburg Bridge is Pepto-Bismal pink.  And I'm no good at distance walking while carrying a coffee.  And my fingers puff up like hot links when I walk for more than an hour.  

The neatest thing by far that I learned was that the city seemed to shrink when I walked.  As areas once new to me became known to me, my sense of neighborhood expanded.  Places once a hassle to get to now seemed to be "just over there." Also, when you walk, you get none of that disorienting "where the hell am ?" feeling that often arises when you pop up out of the subway (usually in an outer borough).  When you walk, you  know where you are because you saw where you were going and how you got there.

In the midst of all my walking fervor, I moved half way across the country to Minneapolis, a city I know, but not terribly well. And I don't have a job.  So I walk. Not like Forrest Gump (that a shitty movie), but for two to two and a half hours three or four days a week.  And it's been awesome!  I saw a great blue heron, realized Minnehaha Creek isn't far from me, stumbled upon the local Dairy Queen, learned that rabbits are almost as ubiquitous as squirrels here (which are like rats in NY, which is to say: disgusting), have found streets where I would LOVE to own a home and streets where you couldn't pay me to rent an apartment.  

All this is to say that in walking, I'm getting to know my neighborhood. And my neighbors.  Yesterday while walking I ran into a fellow I'd seen walking a dog two days earlier and he asked me if I'd gone to a local high school, as I was apparently wearing the school's colors.  No, I replied, and he proceeded to tell me that he'd graduated from there in 1988, had three brothers, was walking the dog for a friend of his who had terminal cancer and that he himself had gender identity issues, had inherited his house from an aunt so it was paid for and he knew someone who'd had gender reassignment surgery in Thailand and was now so happy and asked if I was happy being a woman.  "Yeah, it's working out pretty well for me," was my truthful response.

So, Tip For You:  Get out there and go for a walk!  It's healthy and you'd be amazed at the things you can learn.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The last-minute traveler's bitter enemy and BFF

1.  A couple of years ago my Grandma fell ill and we thought she was going to pass away (which she did, but that's not the point o f this post).  At the time, she lived in Minnesota and I lived in Brooklyn, New York.   There are many, many flights between the three New York City area airports and MSP, but as I was flying at the last minute, I knew that the fares would be spendy, so I called a couple of airlines and asked about their bereavement fares.  

Almost without fail, the "Bereavement Fares" were as high, or higher, than the most expensive fares that I found when conducting my own ticket search.  WTF?  Now, I loved Grandma and the was no way I was not going to her funeral so I knew I would spend whatever I had to spend to get there, but COME ON!  I wasn't jetting to Cabo for a sex romp!  I was flying to Minnesota in the dead of WINTER to bury a loved one, so why in the world was the quoted bereavement fare so much more expensive than other last minute fares (which were, in and of themselves, quite pricey)?  When I asked this question of the ticketing agent I was told that tickets purchased under a bereavement code could be changed without penalty, which I thought was both evil and moronic, as I've not heard of many funerals being rescheduled, thus requiring attendees to change their travel plans.  I told him so, and bought a cheaper, non-bereavement ticket.

2. A couple of months ago I was scouring Craig's List for apartments in Minneapolis, where I was planning to move.  After seeing a lot of potentially awesome apartments on line, I decided that I needed to fly out and see some so that I could make a decision and start working on the move.  I hopped on, my go-to airline ticket aggregator, and, as expected, prices for last minute (leaving in 2 days) tickets were astronomical.  I was fretting over the wisdom of making this expensive trip when my pal Jim suggested I check out a site called Last Minute (, which specializes in last minute tickets, to see what I could find.

A few minutes of poking about on Last Minute and it became clear that this was the solution to my problems.  Quoted prices were significantly cheaper than anything I was able to find online, either through other ticket aggregators or directly through airlines. 

But wait! There's more!

In a bizarro twist of norms and up-ending of all travel advice I had ever been given, I found that my trip would be even cheaper if I purchased two one-way tickets instead of one round-trip ticket. So

Tip For You:  The next time you need (or shoot, even just want) to book a last minute flight, check out and consider a one-way ticket. And remember, bereavement fares are for suckers.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Keeping in on the Q.T.

We all hold confidences and we have all, at one point or another, spilled confidences.  Sometimes we share information we've been expressly asked not to share, but sometimes we divulge information about people that we know, or should know*, they would prefer not be made public.  We do these things for a variety of reasons, some fairly innocent, others possibly malevolent.  I'm not judging, for as I said, we've all done it, and sometimes it's fun.  But here's the thing: once you've shared information with me, and told me that it's supposed to be private/a secret/under wraps, you must assume that I will do as you ask.  You might worry that I'll shoot my mouth off (I won't), and feel compelled to do whatever you can to ensure that I'll remain tight lipped, so let me offer this

Tip For You:  Under no circumstances should you remind me that the secret is supposed to be secret, or even exists, immediately before I meet or see the person about whom the information is shared.  Capice?

What I mean is, if you've told me Gary wears a piece, when Gary shows up at your party, do not remind me not to tell him that I know he wears a piece, because now it is at the forefront of my mind and I'm apt to start a conversation about rugs or merkins or plugs or balding or Brazilians or some other awkward and related subject.  Because here's the thing: Gary's toupee might be an AMAZING toupee (unlikely), and I may well have forgotten all about it had I not been reminded of it's existence.  And if we are, in fact, at a party and I've been cocktailing, what's potentially forgotten should remain forgotten, ya dig?  As the saying goes, let sleeping dogs lie. As it were.

Also, I have no friends named Gary, nor do I have any friends who wear rugs.  That I know of . . .

*My lawyerly training creeping up here, but come on!  Sometimes you don't KNOW, but you know.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Could I interest you in a scone? Some strata?

I really enjoy entertaining people in my home, and in particular, I like making food for them.  As my cooking skills are only passable, I often pass on dinner, opting instead to invite people for brunch, where my adept baking skills (practice, practice, practice!) can take center stage. An egg dish, a salad, some meat, if appropriate, some scones and coffee cake: what's not to love?  Brunch is informal, child and booze friendly, and has no defined stopping point (I've had brunches that ran until 7 pm). 

The only problem with brunch is, well, let me be blunt: brunch happens around the time of day when many people take care of some personal business.  You know what I mean.

Some folks are more inhibited or self-conscious about these things than others are.  It's natural, yes, but it's not something most of us want to share with a crowd.  I don't want you to know when I do it, you don't want me to know when you do it, and none of us wants to know when someone else is doing it.*  Because it is the primary duty of a hostess to make her guests feel as relaxed and comfortable as possible, I offer this

Tip For You:  About 15 minutes before your guests are scheduled to arrive, light a candle (scented or unscented, your choice) in the bathroom.  They are effective odor eliminators, enabling people to go about their business while the rest of your party remains delightfully unawares.  Matches are a distant second to candles in this capacity, largely because they require the guest to take affirmative action, fumbling about with wet, or worse, unwashed, hands, but also because they sort of scream "I just lit a match!"  Remember: ease, subtlety and comfort are what you're striving for.

I have nothing to say about those nasty aerosol room "deodorizers" except that they should never, ever be found in your home.  Ever. 

*To be clear, I'm talking about BMs, not self-love.  It's never OK to make love to yourself during someone's brunch party.  Making love with another person could, if done quickly and discretely, be excused, but engaging in self-love displays, at best, a bizarre lack of self-control.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Observations without judgments

You want to get a seat on a crowded subway car in New York City?  You can do it if you, like the TSA, are willing to engage in a little profiling, often of the racial variety.  Here we go.

Downtown/Brooklyn bound F: During the morning rush, this train is jammed as it heads into Manhattan from Queens, but clears out around 47th-50th/Rockefeller Center and 42nd Street, so find anyone who looks like they work in an office and stand in front of them.  Other times, if you're riding into Brooklyn, find a hiply and expensively dressed person under 40 and plant yourself in front of them; they're exiting the train at 2nd Avenue.

Uptown/Manhattan bound F:  The F train (via the N/R) connects New York's two Chinatowns, and serves as a shuttle between them, so if you're in the BK and you see either older (over 50) or younger (under 10, with their parents) Chinese (not Chinese American) people on your train, chances are they're getting off  at East Broadway, at which point you can move in on the seat.  Note: this tip should be, but is not, as reliable when the F is heading towards Brooklyn.  I don't know why.

Downtown/Brooklyn bound 4/5/6:  If it's morning rush, suck it up; you're not getting a seat until the train thins out at Fulton or Wall, or in the case of the 6, terminates at Brooklyn Bridge.  This train is never terribly crowded during the evening rush, so you just have to be alert and use your senses to get a seat.  That woman fishing out her bookmark?  She's getting up at the next stop, so sidle cooly over and wait for her to make her move. 

Uptown/Bronx bound 4/5/6: During the evening rush, stand in front of a Caucasian man wearing a nice suit and Hermes tie; he's getting off between 59th and 96th streets and then the seat's all yours. Other good bets are Caucasian women between the ages of 23 and 35 carrying Vera Bradley bags; they're apt to get off as early as Murray Hill (Shake Shack, anyone?), and there's no chance they're riding north of 96th.  Don't waste time stalking the seat of a person of color as they're likely riding further north than you are (this also applies to the 2/3).

Downtown/Brooklyn bound A/C: In the morning, these lines are a mixed bag, difficult to predict. So I won't.  The evening rush is a different story altogether.  This line carries a lot of black folks (myself included), and many of them are riding it deeeeep into Brooklyn, so your best bet for getting a seat is to stand in front of someone, anyone else.  Chances are they'll get of at 59th,  West 4th (if they're under 23 years old) or Jay Street/MetroTech (where they'll transfer to the F train that will take them to Park Slope or Windsor Terrace).  Really well dressed Caucasians get off at High Street/Brooklyn Bridge, but only 6 or so per train (not per car, per train), so they're a bad gamble.  Gentrification in Clinton Hill and BedStuy can throw you for a loop, meaning there may be some white folks on a C train until the Bedford/Nostrand stop, but the numbers are so negligible as to hardly warrant a mention.

NB: NEVER wait on the seat of someone with a suitcase.  They're going to JFK and you're not, so forget it.

Uptown/Manhattan bound A/C:  People virtually pour out of this train at two stations: Hoyt/Schermerhorn in Brooklyn, and Fulton Street in Manhattan.  It's like the running of the bulls in Pamplona, so be prepared to duck, dodge, dip, dive and dodge, but you can get a seat if you're nimble.
The 1 (either direction): Painfully thin girl with a bun? She's getting off at Lincoln Center, where she'll be jetteing and plieing for hours.  On second thought, scratch that; I've never seen a dancer actually sitting on the train, so there's no seat to give up. However, that guy with the upright bass? His stop is 66th Street fo sho.

The 2/3:  Almost always crowded, unless you're riding deeper into Brooklyn than Atlantic Terminal, so the only tip I have is covered under Downtown/Brooklyn bound 4/5/6 above.

The G:  This line runs from Brooklyn to Queens and has no discernible pattern at all.  Black, white, Hispanic, Asian, native and foreign born, brownstone-bound and  project-bound all ride the G, in increasing numbers in both directions.  I have no tricks for scoring a seat.

The N/R:  I don't even understand these trains or the difference between them.  I just know "Never" to take the "N" unless I want to bypass my workplace and end up at the Atlantic Terminal.

All trains, weekend evenings between 9 and 11 pm:  Drunk girls of all races, ethnicities and national origins showing an unfortunate amount of skin are getting off at either West 4th or 14th Street to p-a-r-t-y.  If they were going someplace better, they'd be in a cab.

So, Tip For You: If you want to get a seat on the subway, you need only know a little about the people around you and where they're likely going.  It's called profiling; they do it all the time on Criminal Minds, and so should you.  However, when the profiling blows up on you (and it will), leaving you standing for an additional 5 stops, it may be infuriating, but it's also a good reminder that people aren't always what we think they are, and that's exciting.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

They're called "privates" for a reason

A few weeks ago I was with some of my knitting friends, as well as some previously unknown by me friends-of-friends when the topic of conversation turned from Mad Men to child self-exploration.  An overly excitable, lacking a filter woman, whom I shall call "Clod-ia" suddenly piped up that she didn't know what to do because she'd seen her three year old daughter touching herself "down there."  "I mean," she exclaimed, "what should I do?!  Is that normal?  I mean, I don't know!"

Whoa, Nelly!

I don't have children, but I have spent time around them, and I'm not a moron. I've seen young children  literally playing with themselves, and friends tell me that their young sons have realized it fun to play with their own peens sometimes before they're even toddlers, so I was kind of shocked that this was just now hitting Clod-ia's radar.  Clearly she hadn't read any of the "What to Expect When . . ." books on pregnancy and child rearing.

"Well," I started, "you don't want your daughter to be ashamed of her body and have a lot of hang-ups, so you should be careful not to make her feel badly, but she needs to understand that there are some things that are done in public, and other things that are done in private."  It's not that the act is bad, but diddling oneself in the middle of Macy's is inappropriate, for children as well as adults, am I right?

One of the mothers in the group (and there were several), chimed in and said that Clod-ia might want to suggest places where her daughter could feel free to engage in such activities, starting with places an adult might engage in such behavior, "like her bedroom or the bathroom," she said.  "Really?  I mean, people masturbate in the bathroom?"  Apparently she'd never seen Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Having determined Clod-ia needed more help than I was willing to give, I shut my mouth and let the conversation peter out, but the matter has stayed with me for some time now, so let me just say this

Tips for you: Unless you want to raise a little Jeffrey Dahmer, Eileen Wournos or John Wayne Gacey, don't make your children feel badly about their sexuality.  Those parts?  They're special and deserving of attention, but in the right place and at the right time

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Inagural post

A few minutes ago I was talking with my friend, Beth.  She's married with twin toddlers.  Out of the blue (we had been talking about my birthday) I told her that my friend Sarah, her husband and their toddler had just taken a vacation in Montreal.  Instead of flying, they took the train.  The ride was 12 hours, but it was comfortable and roomy with lots to entertain their sun.  It was also 1/5 as expensive as flying would have been.  Interesting, right?  People forget about the train as a travel option, and I thought "This is something Beth should know."  I told her "I don't have kids or anything, but I think this might be a nice idea for you, you know just a tip," to which she replied "Tips for you!"

So, tip for you: consider the train.