Living in New York is different than living anywhere else in the U.S.  I don’t mean on a cultural level, of course there is that, but in an everyday sense.  Everyone living stacked on top of each other and an extensive public transit system makes owning a car pointless, most of the time.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing.  You save money on car payments and insurance (though, like everything else, it’s probably made up for in the cost of rent), you don’t have to worry about sobering up for the drive home from the bar, and you have a smug sense of self-satisfaction for being “eco-friendly.”  But sometimes, it really sucks.  You can’t jump in to your car and cruise over to a Wall-Mart or Target to pick a few things up.  You have to plan out what you want to buy, go to the different stores, and carry all that back to your apartment—and, if you’re like me (living in a walkup), up four flights of stairs.

So whenever they can, New Yorkers try to make things easier on themselves.  The city’s Chinese restaurants and pizza places employ an army of deliverymen that bring takeout to your door; any business that sells merchandise that can’t be easily carried out offer a complimentary delivery service; and one of the most popular grocery stores in the city is just a Web site.  If you’ve never heard of Fresh Direct, the concept is simple: order your groceries through their site and they bring them to your apartment. Yesterday, my roommate off handedly mentioned that it was how he would get his groceries from now on.  I had used the service years ago, but don’t anymore.  “What’s a good amount to tip the delivery guy?” He asked me.  “Do you think $5 is enough?”  I paused for moment to consider the question.  “Actually, I don’t think I think I ever tipped them,” I said. My roommate was shocked.  “Dude,” he said, “you have to tip.”

For the rest of the day, all I could think about was the act of tipping.  I kept replaying Steve Buscemi’s rant in Reservoir Dogs about throwing in a gratuity for your dinner.  In the film, Buscemi’s character, “Mr. Pink,” regales a table of career criminals just after breakfast on the morning of a heist on the inequality of tipping guidelines.  He points out that it’s good manners to tip a waitress, yet no one gives anything to someone working the register at McDonald’s. “I don’t tip because society says I have to,” he explains. “All right, if someone deserves a tip, if they really put forth an effort, I’ll give them something a little something extra. But this tipping automatically, it’s for the birds. As far as I’m concerned, they’re just doing their job.”

Okay, I don’t know what it’s like to be Fresh Direct driver.  Maybe it sucks.  Maybe they pay next to nothing and you need tips to get by.  But in all honesty: the job doesn’t seem all that different from Fed-Ex or UPS and we don’t tip them.  Is it because they’re delivering food?   What if you’re a diabetic and UPS guy brings you a package with your insulin that keeps you alive in it, do you tip him then?

A friend once told me that you tip to ensure good service for NEXT TIME.  And I get that for certain situations—try tipping a dollar or too more the next time you order from your favorite pizza place and you soon get a reputation among the delivery guys and they’ll get your order to you way quicker….and probably won’t spit in your food. But it still bugs me that there is this odd dichotomy about tipping, like slipping your barber five buck but leaving the dental hygienist hanging.  The only remedy I can think of is to not tip anyone (people will think you’re a cheapskate) or tip everyone (they’ll think you’re an obnoxious big shot).  In closing: tipping is weird.

[Pic via]

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A couple days ago, I was having a rough day at work.  Without going into too much boring detail about what it is I specifically do to keep a roof over my head, I was filling in for a sick co-worker and had to deal all the other office drones (something I loathe).  To vent my frustration, I quickly jumped on Facebook and let loose via my status message.   It was short. It was succinct.  I referred to my co-workers as “mutants.”  I felt so much better afterwards.  Did you just shutter?  Do you think you know where this going?  Want to know what happened next? Nothing. Why? Cause I’m not a moron.

It seems that when the first adopters of Facebook, college kids, brought the social networking site with them to the workforce, older co-workers, bosses, and supervisors joined as well and a new era in office politics was born.  The internet is strewn with tales of Facebook causing workplace conflict, some even resulting in people losing their jobs, as in this rather infamous status update of one young lady with a reply from her boss:

So it’s understandable that people are apprehensive with commenting about their work on Facebook and whenever I post a rant about work I receive several comments that I should watch what I say about my employer.  One friend even suggested that it may cost me possible future positions elsewhere. A sentiment my mother also made a while back when I was being considered for a position with a rather prominent publishing company and she called to remind me to “clear off your Facebook anything offensive.” It made me imagine how that would play out in an interview:

Potential Employer: Well, we think you’re perfect for the job. It’s just that I’m a little concerned about something you wrote on your Facebook status a while back.
Me: Oh, was it the one from college where I said I was going to get so drunk that I was going to “take advantage of myself”?
Potential Employer: No.
Me: The one where I admit to also sleeping with Tiger Woods?
Potential Employer: Er, No…
Me: I know. It was when I called John Meyer “His Royal Doucheness, the King of Douchetania, land of the douche bags.” Wasn’t it?
Potential employer:

As hokey as it sounds, Facebook is supposed to be an outlet and I shouldn’t have to censure myself.  Everything I post on there is exactly what I say to my family and friends.  Yes, maybe I would never say it to the people I work for, but that’s why I’m not friends with them and keep my profile private (I’m only connected with two people I work with and they would never rat me out to management, mainly because they say the same things on their profiles).  The day I watch what I write on Facebook is the day I quit.

I hate current pop music.  This isn’t exactly a unique or groundbreaking sentiment; I’m sure many people agree with me.  It’s just that when you operate under the belief that quality popular music (with some exceptions) died in 1980, you don’t exactly keep up with what’s hip.  I tend to stick with stuff on my iPod and tune to NPR whenever I’m around a radio.  My girlfriend on the other hand likes current pop music and owns a clock radio.  So every time I sleep over, I’m blasted awake by obnoxious morning DJ’s and the latest hit songs.  Usually I just brush off these the chance encounters with the current music scene and go about my day.  But recently my brain has become infected with a particularly nauseating bit of modern musical horror that I’ve heard every time I sleep over and when I looked up the lyrics I found that they were bizarrely and comically nonsensical. So I decided to use my two English degrees to analyze it.

Before I begin, I want to be clear that just because a song is catchy (which this definitely is) doesn’t mean that it’s good (which it most surely is not).  The two are not mutually exclusive (something a lot of current songwriters seem to not be aware of); “Hotel California” by the Eagles, for example, is a good song that’s catchy, while Pearl Jam’s “Yellow Ledbetter”  is not catchy yet still a great song.

The tune in question, “Tik Tok”, sucks.  The, um, “artist” is “Ke$ha”.  How you do pronounce that? Key-dollar-sign-ah?  Is that Dutch? As soon as I saw this young lady’s title spelling and grammar, I knew things did not bode well.  Though, oddly enough, while I was trying to clear my head of this song’s insipidness, sites like Gawker and The Awl pronounced her the new pop princess and “Tik Tok” to be her inaugural hit.  If you haven’t had a chance to listen to the song, consider yourself lucky.  But if you want to know what I’m talking about, here:

Ke$ha’s autotune-tastic song is a first person rhyming dictionary heavy narrative of her day.  I’ve gone ahead and mixed my comments in with her lyrics.  Mostly they’re just notes on how I was feeling while listening to it.  Let’s begin.

Wake up in the morning feeling like P Diddy
[P Diddy speaking] Hey, what up girl?

Wait….is P. Diddy there? Is she waking up with him?  And what does it mean to say that you feel like him? You feel like a media whoring past his prime music producer who rode the coattails of his talented friend that was murdered?  I’m confused.

Grab my glasses, I’m out the door, I’m gonna hit this city
Before I leave, brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack
‘Cause when I leave for the night, I ain’t coming back

What? Leaving for the night?  She just said she was waking up in morning.  And shouldn’t the line about brushing her teeth come BEFORE the one about heading out the door?  Also, I’m pretty sure most dentists don’t recommend using Jack Daniels as tooth paste…bourbon has too much sugar.  Use Vodka, it’s the breakfast booze.

I’m talking pedicure on our toes, toes
Trying on all our clothes, clothes
Boys blowing up our phones, phones
Drop-topping, playing our favorite CDs
Pulling up to the parties
Trying to get a little bit tipsy

Whew, I love it when musicians blatantly explain what they’re “talking” about.  It saves me the trouble of having to try and understand the subtleties of suggestion or symbolism.  From this passage, we learn that Ke$ha (God, I think my IQ dropped just typing that name) is singing yet another party girl anthem (I’m sure that’s just what humanity needs right now), in which the priorities are partying, music, boys, drinking, and getting pedicures “on our toes” (as apposed to pedicures anywhere else?).  Thankfully we’re now onto the chorus.

Don’t stop, make it pop
DJ, blow my speakers up
Tonight, I’mma fight
‘Til we see the sunlight
Tick tock on the clock
But the party don’t stop, no [Yodel]

When did music digress to just singing orders?  Here’s she’s telling everyone to keep partying, the DJ to keep playing music, and proclaims that she’ll continue the struggle of whatever the hell her idea of partying is.  Did she take the room hostage? Is she holding a gun on everyone?  I’m sorry but this doesn’t make me want to have a good time.  Jesus, this chick makes getting drunk and dancing seem like working on a chain gang.  A sense that’s doubled by the fact that she immediately repeats the chorus.

Ain’t got a care in world, but got plenty of beer
Ain’t got no money in my pocket, but I’m already here
And now, the dudes are lining up cause they hear we got swagger
But we kick em to the curb unless they look like Mick Jagger

Wouldn’t having plenty of beer be the reason you don’t have a care in the world? Also guys don’t line up because they hear a girl has swagger (lets be honest, that’s a weird word choice), usually it’s because she’s easy and won’t reject them for not looking like Mick Jagger (which I’m going to assume means when Jagger was in his prime in the 1960’s and not now…that would be an old man.)

I’m talking about everybody getting crunk, crunk
Boys tryin’ to touch my junk, junk
Gonna smack him if he getting too drunk, drunk

The only type of person I’ve heard use the phrase “junk” are frat guys talking about their genitals.  It sounds like she’s admitting to being what the Internet is claiming about Lady Gaga.

Now, now, we go until they kick us out, out
Or the police shut us down, down
Police shut us down, down
Po-po shut us…

Goddamnit.  Now I’m just confused.  I thought we were going until dawn, now it’s until the cops shut us down.  What kind of party is this?  A meth party?

[Chorus] x2

DJ, you build me up
You break me down
My heart, it pounds
Yeah, you got me

Why the fuck….


With my hands up
You got me now
You got that sound
Yeah, you got me

Am I listening…

DJ, you build me up
You break me down
My heart, it pounds
Yeah, you got me

To this song?

With my hands up
Put your hands up
Put your hands up

Now, the party doesn’t start ’til I walk in

Oh, shut up!

[Chorus] x2

Thankfully, the end.

Last Weekend:

The reports came across the airwave like the warning of an encroaching invading army.  Snow was coming (more specifically, a blizzard).   It is moving surely without haste– an armada of clouds sailing across thousands of Doppler screens to cover the entire Eastern seaboard in their flakes of cold white death. It…is…coming .

“It’s going to be a big one,” the weathermen said, his large bright teeth gleamed an unnatural whiteness on the television screen, foreshadowing the coming snowfall.  I sprung up from my perch on the couch, legs evenly apart, arms held up to block or strike a blow—I was in the “ready” position I learned from my six months of Judo when I was a kid.  A glance over to my girlfriend confirmed that she too had jumped into the posture from the other end of the sofa. The “women’s interests” magazine she’d been perusing tossed into the corner.   “I’ll get previsions, you secure and ready the perimeter,” she said in a flat even tone that had a tint of hurry to it.  “Copy,” I responded.

While she headed out to the grocery store, I made sure the windows were locked with no draft making it past the weather stripping, mad sure the gas heaters were working, dug out the electric space heater in case the building boiler crapping out, and a hatchet to break apart furniture for firewood if the electricity went out.   I then gathered as many weapons to defend my home for when society crumbed under the cold weight of snow.  A hammer, extra sharp steak knives, and a crossbow (yeah, I own a crossbow).  Just as I was finishing filling up as many spare containers I could find with water for when the pipes froze, my girlfriend burst in with bags of groceries, mainly canned and dried food so it wouldn’t go bad.  We then settled in, ready for the coming winter dystopia to come.

And you know what? NOTHING HAPPENED!  It snowed a lot, stopped, I did my laundry and then went to work the next day.   Despite all the warnings and everyone’s fear, it was not bid deal.   It never is. The few times that I’ve experienced being snowed it, it went something like this: I looked out and said, “It’s really coming down out there.”   Then I watched TV and about an hour later looked back outside and discovered that the roads had been rendered impassable and my family’s car was buried.  “Oh, I guess, we’re snowed in,” I said turning back to the TV. THAT’S IT!  Unless you live in some desolate rural area of America, being snowed just means you don’t go out until it stops snowing.

This is modern America damnit!  It’s not the mid 19th century on the prairies. The majority of our population has regulated itself to the suburbs, areas with paved street and governing bureaucracies, and thus have snowplows!  Seriously, it’s not that big a deal people.   So next time a big snowstorm is coming, please remain calm…or I’ll be forced to use my crossbow.

Pic via

[Okay, I admit it: I’m copping out with a cheap “listicle” for this post. Give me a break, it’s Monday and I had a rough weekend. So, enjoy…]

I’m a man of many talents. I can pontificate on the symbolism found in 80’s action movies, hold my own in drinking a surprising large amount of whiskey in one sitting, and make a fairly decent omelet. But alas, there are some skills which I simply do not possess though wish I did. With the New Year coming up soon, it could be my chance to finally pick these seemingly effortless abilities. Unfortunately, I suspect they will remain gaping holes in my repertoire. Without further ado:

  • Carrying an umbrella
    I don’t know what the hell I’m doing wrong here, but I can’t properly carry an umbrella. I’m either getting soaked down my back or its getting caught in the wind and turning inside out. Then, I’m sure to pass to some suave impeccably dressed ass holding his umbrella perfectly balanced over his well entrenched area of dry space. And he’s always sure to give me a pitying look. Motherfucker.
  • Closing roller window shades
    I recently got a new apartment. And the windows to my new bedroom feature those rather inexpensive vinyl shades, I immediately wanted to move again. Here’s how these things work: you pull them down to cover the window and block out light (or hide your hideously pale nude body from your neighbors when changing) then have to tug them to activate some apparatus that rolls the shades back up. For some reason, I can’t do this and it takes more than a dozen attempts to get the thing to retract EVERY SINGLE TIME. But there’s the rub, those who can get the damn thing to pull up in one try cannot comprehend not being able to use such a simple mechanism and thus are unable to describe how to do it. It’s like one of those test that kung fu monks give children they suspect of being the reincarnated soul of their master—they either intuitively know how to do it or they don’t.
  • Remember to brush my teeth
    This one isn’t entirely my fault. I think my parents should share part of the blame. For some reason, they used to let me slide on going to bed without brushing my teeth and then totally left to my own devices in regards to my oral hygiene. So I never got into the habit of doing it twice a day, everyday. But I’m sure as hell going to make my kids do it. And when I’m pointing a shotgun at them from the bathroom doorway and they’re shaking with fear as they squeeze Crest onto their toothbrushes, I’ll say, “You’ll thank me when you’re in your twenties.”
  • Fly a kite It’s ironic that in describing the first skill on my list I admitted that whenever I’m holding an umbrella it gets caught in the wind, because I can’t do that with a kite.  Flying a kite looks like one of the most satisfying and fulfilling experiences one can have in this world. But when I try, it simply crashes to the ground and lays there… much like my soul.

Let me begin by explaining how I “sort of” have a dog.  He’s not technically my dog, but rather my girlfriend’s. You see, Kate (my girlfriend) adopted Marshall a bichon/poodle/maltese mix (that’s him in the picture to the left), the same month that we started dating and he’s been a heavy presence throughout our relationship.  Whenever we make plans, we have to consider how it will fit in with giving the dog his evening walk.  When I come over, the dog flips out and demands attention from me as soon as I walk in the door.  During naps on the couch, he’ll wiggle his way between my legs and fall asleep.  So for all intents and purposes, I consider Marshall my dog too.

So when I found this picture of a little dog wearing a miniature scuba suit (see below), I know there was only one thing to do: get one for Marshall.  First off, let’s step back and think about this for a second. A dog in a scuba suit. Two things that you’d think would never combine in anyway, but do—like some sort of mythical beast.  I don’t know why that pairing works so well together, just like I don’t know why chocolate and peanut butter taste better mixed than separate—I just know that it’s awesome.   And as soon as I saw that picture, I knew what I was going to do it.   “I’m going to get this for my dog,” I said out loud to myself.

Now, here’s where I think I should explain a little bit about Marshall.  The dog had a rough life before Kate got him.  He was abused for years.  He’s missing several teeth and a chunk of his tongue (I suspect from being kicked repeatedly).  He also walks with a limp due to a broken leg that didn’t heal properly.  And despite an annoyance with other dogs that try to sniff him (especially bigger breeds), he’s very young at heart for his age of about nine (closer to ten) human years, which makes him a cantankerous fifty-something in dog years.  He’s a badass for a dog and I have the best way to explain his personality to people is to analogize him to Sean Connery.

I can already see him walking along by my side with his goggles pushed to the top of his head and his flippers smacking against the pavement, maybe a tiny speargun or diving knife holstered to his front paw.  Thus, I’m adding it to my list of life goals (AKA “a Bucket List”).  Right there, below “publish a novel,” “learn to surf,” and “solve a murder,” is “walk down the street with my dog while he’s dressed in a scuba suit.”  It’s going to be awesome.

smokingLast weekend was an important anniversary for me.  On Saturday, it was exactly one year since I’d bummed a cigarette from an acquaintance, put it to my lips, lit it, and smoked the whole thing.  On Sunday, I’d gone a whole year without smoking an entire cigarette.  I’ll be honest—in that time, I’ve had a drag here and there.  The last time was when I got drunk at a friend’s wedding in August and walked around the reception plucking lit Marlboros, Camels, and Newports (Yeah, I was pretty hammered) inhaling a puff or two before returning them to their owners.  I’ve quit before, only to break down and take it up again.  But this time is different; this time I’m not going to start smoking again…but that doesn’t mean that I don’t miss it.

I love smoking.  God, I love it.  I love how it feels, how it taste, and how it makes me look (like a badass, in case you were wondering).  I tried it for the first time when I was eighteen and it was torrid seven-year romance.  I started with camel lights, then switched to Marlboro Lights, over to Marlboro Reds, back to Marlboro Lights, and finally to rolling my own with papers and loose tobacco.  My love was so strong that I learned a new skill set to surviving as smoker in New York (it’s about $8 a pack up here—if you didn’t know).  I became a professional at bumming spare cigarettes from people on the street and an expert at sniffing out spare change in various caches around my apartment to dump in handfuls on store counters for payment.

At the end of the day, what motivates me to keep from smoking is that I know it can control me.  It can send me out into the middle of night to an all night bodega or drug store.  It can make me beg and plead from someone at a bar to let me have one…just one cigarette.   Then, at the end, it’ll kill me.   And I don’t want to be controlled by anything (or anyone) other than me.  That’s why I know that I won’t start smoking again…but damn it, I still really want a cigarette.