Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Sweet Stick Kitty

My cat Snuffy had to get an ultrasound at the vet yesterday, to try to find the root of his drastic weight loss. Comprehensive blood tests, physicals and constant monitoring have revealed no reason for it, so this was the next step.

I know that I'm going to sound like a hysterical cat lady, and I don't give a crap - I've been sick to my stomach with worry. He's been consistently losing weight over the past year, despite a ravenous appetite and our pampering him with all of the treats and people food he could beg for, and now he is underweight by quite a noticable amount.

This little guy has been with me for 13 years, from the day he walked up to me as a ferral kitten and fell asleep in my lap, through the death of both of my parents, as well as plenty of other dark times and disappointments, and I don't know what I'll do when the time comes that he won't be around any more. He was my first "real" pet, after a hamster that did nothing but try to escape, and some mice that did nothing but breed, and he is like a child to me.

No matter how nice the vet and his staff are, there always seems to be some miscommunication, and they lived up to my expectations yet again. First, the vet told me that if he needed an ultrasound, Snuff would be able to eat the night before. This is a rather big deal when you have more than one cat, because I would have to take up the crunchy bowl from both cats all night so that Snuffy wouldn't get any. Then, of course, I would have two pissed off cats in the morning, and Snuffy most of all, considering his constant state of hunger.

It's a good thing the vet mentioned that to me, because the message on my answering machine confirming the date of the appointment said no food the night before. Well, I fed the little buggers, relying on the vet's word over the staff person's word, and my instincts were correct. When I asked him why they would say that on the machine, he said that they don't know the precautions for all of the tests, so they sometimes err on the side of caution and just say no food before most of the procedures! Geez. I mean, I'd rather they be overcautious with my pets than the alternative, but I'd much rather they be precise.

Anyway, the other bit of miscommunication was a bad game of telephone, literally. I gave the vet my cell phone number, so they could let me know when to pick up Snuffy, so they could reach me no matter where I might be. I most likely would be at work all day, and they have that number too, but I wanted to be reachable at lunchtime and while running work errands, etc. "Call my cell phone", I asked. That's not too hard to remember, right?

Well, it's quickly approaching 4:00, the time the vet told me would be the latest to come pick him up, and still no call. So, I checked with them, and one of the staff said, "Oh, you're at work? 'Cause they left a message on your answering machine at home."

It's 4:00 in the afternoon. How many of their clients are home by 4:00 in the afternoon? You know what, after a bit of consideration, that number might be quite high, given the larger than average degree of stay home moms that live in the area, not to mention the rich ladies that lunch, the self-employed, the people who work from home, and the retired. Damn, I'm doing something wrong here. I should be home at 4:00 p.m.! Why am I at work at 4:00 p.m.? What a schmuck.

Um, I digressed there. My point actually was that of all three phone numbers they have for me, they chose the one at which I was least likely to be reached. Which wouldn't be a big deal, except I specifically TOLD them where to get me. So, what, would they have kept Snuffy overnight if I didn't finally call them myself before they left for the evening? Or would one of the geniuses decide to perhaps open a manila folder and find my other CLEARLY MARKED phone numbers? Hmmm?

Aw hell, I just get pissed off at the reliability of their incompetence. Don't get me started on the overall level of imcompetence and surliness of the customer service people in the New York metro area. Really, it's not pretty once I get going on that rant. (Note to self: Future post actually should be about general shittiness of customer service in this area.)

Well, after racing over to rescue Snuffy from a nightmarish sleep-over at the vets, listening to the whining of DOGS! DOGS! HORRIBLE DOGS!! (Snuffy's opinion, not mine), I found out that there is nothing wrong with Snuffy except old age. (Commence emotional equivalent of dancing a jig. Oh, okay, stop that, it looks very silly.)

I had no idea exactly how worried I was about the results, until after I got home with my poor stick kitty, and stuffed him full of KFC. This overwhelming wave of exhaustion hit me, and as I was drifting off into a coma on the couch with my trusted furry companion, I knew just how much stress I was under until I heard the good news. It took everything out of me to try not to think about him all day, and then to try not to break into sobs of relief when I heard that it wasn't something terrible.

And to think, this is how I felt when everything was fine.
I just pity whoever is around me some fateful day when the vet gives me bad news about my Snuffy. That will be the day I loose my shit, big time.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Because I Can't Leave Well Enough Alone

I was getting sick of the grey, depressing template I had chosen originally, and have replaced it with this soothing green. Imagine my disappointment when I realized that the upshot of my aesthetic change was that all comments would be lost in the mists.

To those who have in the past deemed this blog worthy of comment, I humbly apologize for losing your pearls of wisdom (and snarky comments - you know who you are). I can only hope that the more pleasing and peaceful backdrop will keep my more morose postings from driving you to the window ledge, and you will once again visit and comment and make merry.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

We Was Rockin', Part II: The Little Steven's Underground Garage festival on Randall's Island.

If you wanted to read a review of the concert, the list of superlatives that I might string together would surely sound like just so much hyperbole. Therefore, this is not about to be a concert review as such, which I frankly stink at writing. Go read this post at Blogcritic, which pretty much says the same things I was thinking about the concert, and you can read this review in Billboard too, even though I would disagree on several points with the author, including his poor assessment of Mooney Suzuki and D4, and his grand assessment of the Strokes' performance.

This is a collection of impressions and recollections of a fine, damp evening under the haze of an August New York sky, wherein Little Steven was nominated to sit amongst the Gods in the Pantheon of Rock and Roll, as if he wasn't there already.

There was quite a trek from the parking area (read: field) to the concert area (read: field), and it occurred to me on the walk in that I might be unhappy with the walk back, after standing for 8 or 9 hours. We got there about 2 in the afternoon, even though the gate opened at 10 a.m., because we just didn't want to stand around through that many hours of fun. After 10 hours or so, "fun" tends to turn into "forced march", when you are no longer a teenager.

First thing, J. and I went around and hit up every stand that had free giveaways (I will not shill for the sponsors by listing them by name), but this meant we each got a free cup of soda, a small iced latte, a guitar-shaped car air-freshener, and some goofy temporary tattoos. Hey, free stuff is free stuff!

The stage was huge, and had these video monitors in the back, that went back and forth between old B Horror movies and shots of the stage act, which I thought added just the right touch. There were go-go dancers on a platform in front of the video screens and on either side of the stage, which was also a fun addition. The only unfortunate point to the stage setup was a set of lights positioned right behind the acts and facing toward the audience, so as the day went on, you were pretty certain that your retinas were going to be extra crispy. We took refuge on the dark side of the sound mixing tower, which was good for deflecting some of the sun in the overcast sky, and was a good spot to get the best sound mix.

We got down to the field after the revolving stage had apparently already broken, so all day long, we listened to increasingly inane chatter during the setting up of equipment. When the announcers ran out of things to say, they went to the go-go dancers for what I suppose they thought would be amusing and crowd- pleasing comments, but these girls had less than nothing to say. Some of the announcers, Kim Fowley and Martin Lewis, seemed to think that encouraging the girls to simply yell into the microphone would get the crowd going. Um, no. After enough of that "entertainment", a burly fellow to our left started to bellow, "Shut the Fuck Up!" repeatedly. Everyone around him laughed and nodded in agreement, and some joined in. It was pretty amusing.

I'm not trying to be bitchy about the dancers, either. Their look was my hippy mod 60's dress up fantasy when I was a child. They were very cute, and they were very entertaining to watch as they gyrated in their white vinyl go-go boots, hot pants, colored stockings and sequined belly shirts, some wearing neon pageboy wigs. Oh man, I would have killed for those clothes when I was young. My Barbie dolls dressed like that, and I thought that was the coolest look ever, and the stage was loaded with them. Dancing cool Barbies! But, having said all that in praise of the dancers, I now feel free to say that judging from their stage patter, they were dumb as rocks.

Speaking of rock, the day was a completely amazing mix of old garage and new, as well as an insane demographic mix of old rockers and new in the audience. I wouldn't be surprised if there were several generations of a family at this event, finally proving that rock and roll is not just the property of the young. It is not a generational dividing line any more. At least not if your parents are cool.

It was another great day for people watching, and this crowd outdid the Joan Jett crowd (previous post) in terms of Most Unnatural Hair Colors, and certainly in terms of playing Spot The Coolest Looking -Yet Obviously Most Painful To Stand In All Day Long- Shoes. There was a good portion of the audience that looked as if they were in bands themselves, or at least they dressed the part.

It was well worth spending the day standing in a field, praying that the impending hurricane would hold off until after the Stooges. I really, really, really wanted to see the New York Dolls and the Stooges most of all, as I had totally missed their heyday, and they were all I could have hoped for. The Strokes' lead singer is just a whining poseur, and I found them annoying and boring. As J. said, Lou Reed already immortalized the Totally Bored With It All pose, and this pain in the ass was just jealous that most of us were looking at the Strokes as an opening band to suffer through to get to the meat - Iggy Pop!

Others have already said it, but it is just amazing the amount of chaos this guy brings to a performance, and at nearly 57 years old. He made me tired just watching him. Jumping up on the stacks, pulling crowd members up on stage to freak out with during one song, jumping on the camera, much to the obvious dismay of the technical people, and humping the lens. Good Lord, this guy is a freak. And I mean that in a good way.

The whole day was great rock and roll spectacle, and we had a great time. I had to throw on my very attractive (NOT) rain poncho at the very end, due to the combination of the beginning of a determined drizzle and my freshly won wellness after a long bout with bronchitis, but the weather held out just long enough for the show to be completed. I'd had visions of epic Woodstockian battles with mud, and I was quite relieved.

Little Steven is just the coolest guy ever for bringing this festival together. Everyone bow down and do the Wayne's World "We're Not Worthy!" salute to this man. He is trying to keep rock and roll going in a time when we are subjected to American Idol winners and The New Mickey Mouse Club Alumni, while the Lollapalooza ticket sales were so pitiful that the tour was canceled. Little Steven is a God.

Monday, August 16, 2004

We Was Rockin'

J. and I had quite the rocking weekend. First of all, we went to see a free Joan Jett concert at Rye Playland on Thursday night. I'd never actually bought a Joan Jett album or CD, but I knew a lot of her songs from the radio and MTV, and I was eager to see her rock her ass off. She did not disappoint!

There were so many small moments of wonderful, and their sum total was a great night. Here, in no particular order, are some of the highlights:

Luckily, the weather held out, and it was a beautiful summer evening, despite all kinds of threats of rain. Since the free concerts are rain or shine, and the very limited seating is first come, first serve, you most definitely hope for good weather.

I really like the park itself, which is full of greasy boardwalk style food, small rides and amusements (skeeball!), all of which bring me back to my childhood summer vacations at the Jersey shore. The roller coaster next to the concert area has the most excellent giant dragon on its side, whose eyes periodically light up into a glowing red fire, and who snorts white smoke into the air through his giant nostrils. So cool! The stage itself is a black box, but there are two screens on either side where the stacks of amps are hidden, so you get a better view of the act. The stage area backs up to a tall, narrow building, which is topped off by a beautiful art nouveau tower that lights up after dark.

After a hastily gobbled down dinner of chicken fingers, fries and soda, J. and I took up residence against a railing near the stage. Except for a small fracas, where the Westchester County Park Police got to show off how quickly they could take down a skinny 15 year old kid for saying, "I'll fucking move when I WANT to fucking move," it was a well behaved and fun crowd, which was not what you might have expected, given the looks of most of our neighbors.
It was quite a night for people watching, and I indulged in one of my favorite pastimes, See How Many Unnatural Hair Colors You Can Spot. (This is not done in any sort of mean-spirited way, especially since I have in recent years sported several unnatural hair colors myself.) There are spin-offs of this game, including Spot the Most Frightening Tattoo, Spot the Most Painful Place to be Tattooed (that one might spot in public), Count the Mohawks in Attendance, and of course, Oh Jesus, Ow, Lookit Where That Kid Got a Piercing! You can really entertain yourself with these games in any public venue, but man oh man, gotta love the Joan Jett crowd, there were nearly too many to count, in each and every category, with the exception of the mohawks, which belonged solely to her guitarist, Joey (?) Needles.

Joan played all of the songs that I was hoping to hear, all the hits that I loved from the radio, and a few songs I'd never heard before that I really thought were great, like "Fetish". From the lyrics I could make out, it was talking about a lot of things that this nice girl from the suburbs doesn't know much about except what she sees on cable tv, but the music was great, and Joan has great stage presence, no matter what she's singing. What self-confidence this woman exudes! No wonder all of the leather and lipstick lesbians were climbing over each other to get closer to her.

Now I'm embarrassed to admit this, but, dear reader, I must admit that I was mesmerized by more than her stage presence and the hard-driving rock 'n' roll. I couldn't help it, I was spending a good deal of the time staring at a most distracting part of the stage show, (aside from the fact that her producer/friend/keyboard player Kenny Laguna looks much more like he is really Sid the Accountant than a rock 'n' roller. Kenny - lose the gold chains over the black t-shirt, it's NOT working for you. Sorry, dude.) I was staring at her chest, trying to wrap my mind around the idea that the audience was able to see her nipples through her shirt.
Part of my mind was saying, "She can't possibly have worn that shirt, knowing that the lights would make it see-through." Another part of my brain said, "Please, this is Joan Jett, she's been playing in front of bright lights all her adult life. She posed topless for the cover of her CD, "Naked". Of course she knows her shirt is see-through!" And a third part of my brain was cringing, "Both nipples are pierced?? How could you stand the pain? And WHY? Why oh why would you want to impale those very, very sensitive little bits with sharp metal, and leave it there, to jut out of clothing and to shine through sheer fabric under the lights? Ow, ow, OW!" God, I am so provincial. I was scandalized.

After the concert, we scooted around the back of the tower to see if Joan would come out and sign autographs. We were wondering where she might come out, and made the mistake of going to the wrong side, so when she did eventually come outside, we got on a long and pushy crowd/line to get CDs signed. Joan was so gracious, signing anything anyone handed her, and putting up with the hugs and cheek kisses from the sweaty masses without complaint. I was very impressed with her professionalism all around.

J. and I patiently pushed forward with the rest of the barn animals, and I got to see her get mauled by a very sweaty and drunken middle-aged man, every lesbian's favorite part of the day, I'm sure. We finally got right up to the front, and luckily, she was still patiently greeting fans and signing things. J. was thrilled to get some face-time with one of his favorite rockers, and he was beaming over his signed CD.

I stood no further from her than you are to your computer screen right now, and she looks fantastic, and she was really very nice as she signed a CD for me, too. J. suggested that I take one of his CDs and have her sign it to me (such a nice boy), and she made small talk with me while doing so. How on earth she kept her makeup looking that good after sweating her ass off onstage is just a miracle, but she must have that down to a science by now.

We waded our way out of the sea of young lesbians, and went off to play arcade games, our ears ringing and my pocketbook full of our freshly inked rock 'n' roll memorabilia. It was a great, great night.

Next post:
We Was Rockin', Part II: The Little Steven's Underground Garage festival on Randall's Island.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Beware the Cinnamon

Taking inspiration from QueSeraSera, I am reminded of a story that was quite similar to hers.

My friend George and I were hanging around in the Village one late spring night, and it was one of those evenings when you can't decide whether you want something hot or cold to drink - sort of like the type of climate I imagine surrounds the scene when you watch a television show filmed in California, and in the same scene you could see someone in a tank top and shorts, and the person they are talking to is in long pants and a sweater. Not too hot, not too cold, just right, Goldilocks.

We came across a chain ice cream store, one who's name escapes me after all these years, so I don't wish to guess. George decided he was in the mood for ice cream, and I saw that they also had cappuccino, so we were both satisfied. The cappuccino craze was fairly new at that point, and Starbucks had yet to be invented, so you got your cappucino wherever you could find it.

We sat down with our treats, and I stirred my beautifully aromatic cinammon topped cappuccino, letting it cool down a bit, while George tucked into his ice cream. We were gossiping and chatting about this and that, and I brought my cup to my lips. Just before I took a sip, I glanced into the cup and noticed that the stirring had brought all of the cinnamon together into the center, and made a great big lump of cinnamon, ripe to get stuck in the back of my throat if I drank it down that way. Anyone who's done this will testify to the unpleasant gagging that follows.

I put the cup down to stir out the lump, and then, on closer inspection, noticed that the lump had wings. Oh my God! You couldn't know how happy I was that I hadn't had any to drink yet! Whatever kind of flying creature was nesting in the center of my cappuccino didn't matter to me, except that this was something that I was NOT about to injest. You think the cinnamon lump makes you gag! There was no way I wanted anything to do with cinnamon, cappuccino, coffee or milk products of any type after this revelation, and especially not from that place. I was skeeved.

George noticed my look of horror and disgust, and wanted to know what was wrong. Rather calmly, considering how completely disgusted I was, I told him that the cinnamon lump had wings. You know how those cheap '70's paintings of little kids with the gigantic shiny black eyes look? That pretty much sums up the look on George's face at that moment. He asked me what I was going to do, and I scooped the creature onto the lid of my coffee cup, and said that I was going to quietly show them the problem, and get my money back.

I put the lid on top of the coffee, and held it in between my fingertips by the rim, and low to my side, a posture I figured would look rather nonchalant. I waited for a small line to dissipate. I figured that I wasn't going to march up in front of all of those people with Mothra in my drink, and gross them all out, too. Rather, I'd be cool about it, and not embarrass the staff.
After the line was gone, I very quietly whispered to the next clerk, "There was a bug in my cappuccino", and then raised my hand off of the lid enough for them to see the evidence, but discretely, so no one else could see. I figured, hey, I'm being cool about this, they will see the obvious problem, and I'll get my refund in a snap.

There would be no story if that is the way it transpired.

The clerk rather dully looked at me with a question mark for a face. Hoping to make the obvious even more obvious, I pressed on. "Of course, I don't want this drink anymore." "Oh, uh, okay." was his attempt at a reply, and he took the cup away from me. I was slightly reluctant to relinquish my evidence to him, since he didn't seem to grasp the situation at hand very well. And I will admit to you that I was also kind of expecting someone to say thank you for not chasing away every customer in the place by screaming, "BUG!!", because truthfully, that was my very first (stifled) impulse.

I watched the dull clerk walk over to another clerk, and tried to keep the trail of evidence in my view. I figured that he might be new, and had to ask a more senior clerk what the procedure was for giving a refund in these cases.

In the meantime, more customers had filed into the store, and a few were lined up in front of where Dull Clerk and more Senior Clerk were having their conference. However, while I had been cool and calm when I brought the BUG to their attention, they were anything but. I heard the following snippets of conversation from my position further down the counter:

Senior Clerk: (Loudly) "What's her problem?"

Dull Clerk: (A little softer) "There's a fly. In her drink."

Third Budinksi Clerk: (Loudly, from the far side of the counter) "What's the matter?"

Dull Clerk and Senior Clerk: (Louder still) "A fly!"

Third: "Oh, a fly in her cappuccino?"

Senior: "Yeah!"

Fourth Idiot: "A fly in the cappuccino machine?"

To my amazement, they were YELLING at each other about the infestation of my treat, in front of their line of customers, the very thing I had tried not to do myself. And to my further amazement, no one left the line.

I wasn't sure what they had all decided to do at this point, but I patiently stood there at the counter, still shaking my head at how stupid they all must be, when I became aware of a noise. A loud buzzing noise. The cappuccino machine! They were making another cappuccino!

How could anyone standing on that line order a cappuccino when they'd all just been treated to a conversation about vermin in the cappuccino, and maybe they even saw the offending drink with their own eyes, thanks to the oh-so-subtle workers, mere seconds ago? But then I noticed that the line of people had dispelled, and the machine noise raged on.

Oh no...(my mind caught on in the slow-motion way that the Six Million Dollar man used to run)... they don't possibly think that I wanted a replacement infesticcino! From the same machine? Who could be that insensitive?

This horrible thought no sooner crystallized in my mind, when Dull Clerk waddled over with, yes, a replacement infesticcino.

"No, no way, I didn't want another one. I want my money back." I sputtered.

"We don't give refunds." Mr. Dull told me.

"What? Let me talk to the manager." I was beside myself, while the clerks exchanged rolled eyes amongst themselves, and Dull Clerk waddled back to confer with the manager.

The Manager strode over, and asked what the problem was (which was aggravating, since I just SAW Dull Clerk explain it all to him.) I explained about the bug, and repeated the request for a refund. His answer? "We don't give refunds."

The usual timid me completely backed out of the way when the incensed Schlitz Malt Liquor Bull side of me took over the conversation.

"WHAT?? Listen, your guy here just served me a drink with a BUG in it. I very calmly returned the drink, and they tried to made me take a new drink. There is NO WAY I am drinking a cappuccino out of that dirty machine, or having anything else here for that matter, after that disgusting episode. Cappuccino time is done for tonite. Done! I tried to be nice about this, and be quiet in front of the customers, but your employees here were yelling about the bug in my drink, so I see no more reason to be quiet about this. I don't give a damn about your ridiculous policy. I want my money back, and I want it NOW."

(The second after unloading on this guy, I felt a nauseating mixture of guilt and fear with a little pride mixed in. Hey, I stood up for myself! But Oh dear God, what if he yells back at me? Whimper.) On my surface, I remained steadfast.

After considering my tirade for a silent moment, the Manager must've seen that the bull had been unleashed and was more powerful than the mouse inside for the moment, and he wisely conceded defeat. He wordlessly handed me the refund. I thanked him politely, and went back to George.

I've had many more cappuccinos since that episode years ago, but I must admit that I still have a healthy distrust of lumpy cinnamon.

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