Monthly Archives: May 2003

Bugs, like rain

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When I finally got elder daughter tucked in to her ballet class and got off the phone with my press office for my daily beating, I was able to get in a quick ride on the preserve bike path, and was going to be happy with a fast average speed even if I didn’t get to go far. But about 1000 feet past the boat launch, I started hitting the swarms of gnats. Swarms. Listen, I’ve been around rivers most of my life, and I have never seen a hatch like this. Riding through it was like being pelted by hail — since it was dark and gloomy, I didn’t have my wrap-around shades on, so they got in behind my glasses and into my eyes, in my ears, into my hair through the helmet. This went on for three miles out, and three miles back, with periodic stops so that I could see again. Never anything like it. Mercifully, a downpour began, which felt much better, knocked the bugs out of the sky, and let me look up a little as I sailed along. When I got back to pick up my daughter, I was covered in bugs and mud. Very pleasant. So, all in all, not the best bike ride ever. Today, it’s beautiful and I’m stuck in here. Tomorrow and Sunday? Rain. Of course. Hannah runs in the Freihofer’s tomorrow — very exciting, but I’m hoping she won’t have to wear a raincoat.

Huge jones to see “The Wonder Boys” again — tried to rent it last weekend, and the store I use didn’t even have a copy. Well, they had a VHS, but I’m not watching worn-out pan-and-scan when I know damn well I’ve rented it from them before. Their DVD library is very shallow, since the new business model seems to be to get 200 copies of every crappy movie that comes out, and then sell off all the copies as soon as possible, leaving them with no old movies to rent. So, I’m hoping the library has it.

— Mr. Johnson has had his bug protein for the weekend, thank you very much.

Glorious day in Gotham

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(Just a quick plug for intergalactic shuffle mode, currently bringing me the Bloodhound Gang’s “Lift your Head Up High (and blow your brains out)”, with a great line that always tickles me: “life is short but hard like a body-building elf”)

Anyway, turned out to be just beautiful in NYC, warm and sunny and delightful. Walked crosstown to the 6 in the morning, but when the meeting was over I traipsed across the park in the upper 90s, along the bridle path and just north of the reservoir, where I’ve never walked before. Just beautiful. And the drinking fountains work! Only in New York, kids.. (sorry, had to say it)

Been reading Richard Ford’s A Multitude of Sins. No one better captures the utter ordinariness of making wrong, hurtful decisions – how easy, how non-malicious it can be. His characters make wrong moves in weak relationships, and generally the consequences are ordinary, too. Though, in “Abyss,” there is tragedy, the remaining character chooses to face his fate with resignation and perhaps relief. His men make their mistakes (usually involving a woman) and accept them, his women are strong and know what they want and what they don’t want. And most of them seem to be in real estate.

— Mr. Johnson knows nothing about real estate.

The Barber Wants A Pez

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On the train. Since I brought my umbrella and couldn’t find my good sunglasses (in my Camelbak, I realized too late), of course it’s brilliant out. Can’t trust the weather, I guess. Listening to a little worldbeat group I hadn’t heard in a long time (oh, the iPod!), discovered years back on a Cole Porter tribute. Next up? Yma Sumac! No idea what they’re singing, except perhaps “the barber wants a Pez,” a perfectly reasonable request, I believe. If I recall correctly, “The Barber Wants A Pez” was the somewhat less successful followup to the Broadway smash “The Turban Is Not For Sale,” less successful because it was precisely the same musical, seen from the point of view of Giuseppe, the west side barber with a dockside view of the antics of Fleet Week.

That reverie was thoroughiy disturbed by a mom two seats back on the train who had to call home and make sure the kids were up for their field day. Didn’t need the cell phone, they heard her without it.

Now I DO know what they’re singing–“easy girls and fresh food.” Now there’s a happy combination. Yum.

There used to be a place called Yum’s in Syracuse. I think its business plan was to serve huge portions of hot, delicious food to drunken college students in the middle of the night. They had a way-cool mural by a local drunken artist, too. At the time, they were singing my song, but the market for massive omelets at 4 a.m. must not have been what they anticipated, and I don’t think it lasted more than a year. (The space is currently a Starbucks.) But man could they make an omelet.

There were too other food places back then that produced food like nothing else I’ve ever tasted. One was a little Greek
sandwich shop that also catered to the closing-time crowd (closing time in Onondaga County was a seemingly Puritan 2 a.m.). They baked their sandwiches in the pizza oven, producing an incredible flavor. The other was The Taco Lady, a place I avoided for years as my introduction to tacos, at the unlamented Jack in the Box in Schenectady, had put me off Mexican food for some time. I finally reopened my mind, and it turned out The Taco Lady made the most perfect burritos I’ve ever tasted. But she couldn’t take the Syracuse winters and went back to the Southwest. Places like those are virtually lost now because no one cares if all their food comes from the same Sysco can. Every time I visit Montreal I lament how little we settle for in food here in the states. Their grocery stores have better croissants than most of us will ever taste. They care what their food tastes like; all we seem to care about is whether we can supersize it. Jayzus.

Enough ranting! Manhattan calls!

Mr. Johnson has no idea whether his Metrocard works anymore, but could actually call the top lawyer at MTA to find out.

Up early, goin’ to New York

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I know from talking to other people that I’m somewhat unusual in not turning on all the bedroom lights (or, in my case, any bedroom lights) and waking the whole house when I have to get up and dressed at some ridiculous hour to catch a morning train or plane. I feel like I should get some props for that, but on the other hand, I don’t get where I have the right to ruin someone else’s sleep just because I can’t tell what color my socks are. But for the record, I’m told that most husbands turn on the lights. Quick down and back, and I’m getting way too old for this up-at-5:30-to-catch-a-train shit. It used to be fun/thrilling/cute. Now it’s just a colossal pain in the ass. And it’s supposed to be raining in the Big Apple, and I’m tight for time, so it’s not like I’ll get to take in coffee in Bryant Park.

Didn’t get out early last night, but snuck in a bike ride anyway. Out for an hour, did 14.8 miles including some rainy ones; nice practice in case it DOES rain during the Tour de Cure. I haven’t ridden in the rain in years, and it wasn’t as bad or as slippery as I’d expected, and these newfangled brakes work really well. (Not discs, but much better than old brakes.) My thighs ballooned from lack of use in the past week and a half, I had to lug them into the house separately. Got some confidence back, since my mind was telling me earlier in the day that there was just no way I was going to make 50 miles, that I’d be lucky to do 5. Just felt that way when I left in the morning, apprehensive because it’s close and I haven’t trained enough. Maybe I’ll get back early enough to sneak in another 15 or 20 tonight. If it isn’t raining. Which it will be. NOTHING but rain in the forecast. Suckiest spring ever.

A little sick of rain

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I’m a little sick of rain, which is too bad for me, because that’s what’s on the menu for the foreseeable future. May is gone and I’ve hardly been outside. It’s like living in Syracuse again. Intellicast is predicting rain through Saturday, probably followed by periods of wetness falling from the sky. Hey! I’ve got some training to do here! Guess I’m gonna have to get my bike wet.

My body is rebelling at what I’ve been putting it through, and telling me to cut it out. But I know better . . . never listen to your body. It wants you to eat cheeseburgers. Not even good ones.

— Has Mr. Johnson mentioned he’s sick of the rain?

20 yards of stuff

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Spent the weekend throwing nearly 20 yards of junk out of my house — doors, windows, desks, major spider habitat — things that should have been thrown out, in many cases, before we ever moved in. A “work bench” in the basement nailed together from old doors and barn wood, which never served any purpose other than to cut me off from using about 15% of my basement. A giant metal desk that seemed like a good idea at the time. Scrap wood. Screens for windows that no longer exist. Two, count ’em, two old water heaters (bastids are heavy, and our town doesn’t have a bulky pickup). (With one of them, I was able to solve the shuttle disaster puzzle — the foam was WET. The insulating foam on this thing had become saturated by the leak in the tank, and weighed about six times what it normally would weigh. Had to completely dismantle the heater to even move it.) As a result, I should have about 20 yards more room in my small house, and in fact, I probably do. The garage is practically empty (though I immediately filled it with wood for the next project), and there’s finally room in the basement for me to set up my fabulously expensive and virtually unused table saw where I can actually use it!

Even embarked on the completely ridiculous and overwhelming task of replacing the basement windows, something that has truly needed to be done since the day we moved in, and the condition of which hit critical when one of the water heaters, on the way out the window, took a chunk of window with it. No surprise. The surprise was that THIS time, when I went to the Home Depot, I was able to find a space on the shelf where a nearly correct-sized window was supposed to be. Scouted another HD not far away, and found precisely the windows I needed. Patched some masonry issues in one of them during a break in the rain on Sunday (a very short break, followed by a continuous downpour), framed the window and popped it in last night with a minimum of issues, and voila! — it looks amazing. The stunning newness of the white vinyl window is so overwhelming that you hardly even notice the crumbling masonry! And, the masonry is next on the list. Going to ring the house with belgian pavers to cut down the water infiltration to the basement, and apply some sand mix to reface the block, and things should be like new, or at least like less than 74 years old.

No athletic activity of any kind all weekend, owing to the rain. Hannah had wanted to scout the Freihofer’s course, but we didn’t get to to do that. She’ll be fine. Maybe we can do that at the packet pickup on Friday. I trained for my bike ride in no way whatsoever, unless lifting things beyond my physical capacity can be considered training.

— Mr. Johnson is bone-tired

Survived, but just barely

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Nice night for the Corporate Challenge, breezy and fairly cool and no sun whatsoever. There were way too many runners (around 3000), and squeezing all those people onto Madison Avenue meant that for a while I was running on the sidewalk and leaping over tulips. The race wasn’t well-supported with cheering throngs, which meant that mostly it was oddly quiet, with a lot of huffing and puffing and the beating of feet, but not much else. The highlight of the race was near the beginning, when a couple of old drunks stepped out of the Bottoms Up tavern, cigarettes and beer bottles in hand, and called out, “Y’all gonna kill yaselves!” Well, that may be true, but better I do it myself than pay Philip Morris (excuse me, Altria) to do it for me. Anyway, hit my first split half a minute behind my pace, which surprised me because I thought I was kicking ass. The distance between the first and second mile markers was, by my body’s count, 3 miles. I kept an even pace on the hills instead of backing off, and that worked for a while, but then I started to hit the Heave Fault Line, and I knew that if I pressed any harder, I would hurl. So I’d back off, feel okay, speed up, feel like hurling, back off, feel okay, rinse, repeat. If I had known for sure that hurling would have let me go faster, I’d have just crossed the line and gotten it over with, but I haven’t had this happen before, so I didn’t know. My second mile was just under 18 (17:50) and I thought if I could keep pace I’d at least end with a decent time, but I really had to back off in the last mile and a half and people started passing me. Bastids! So I ended up with 29:13, not the worst time in the world but nine minutes behind our leading racer. Still, a couple of more athletic types finished behind me, so I felt okay. Several times during the race I decided that this was my last race, that there was no reason on this earth that I had to run in races. When I was done, I was figuring out how to improve my time next time. Perhaps I should accept that my asthmatic lungs have limited capacity.

Mr. Johnson says, “Yeah, that’ll happen.

Anya? They had to kill off Anya?

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I will always give Joss Whedon credit for not going where you expect he’s going to go, and even though you know that, you can’t predict it. The “Connor in a happy home” ending to Angel was completely out of nowhere. The finale of Buffy, for which we had no indications (other than that all of a sudden old, spritely Buffy was back) whether the good guys would win or lose, was a nice, not-over-the-top, these-kids-are-some-wicked-cool-demon-slayers killfest. We thought Dawn would turn out to be the key to it all; she wasn’t. Angel shows up, and then goes away — they always tell us he has a role to play in the apocalypse, but they never say which apocalypse. He’s played in a few already. Andrew, the wormboy that you keep expecting to turn out to be an evil mole planted amidst the slayers in training, turns out to be nothing more dangerous than . . . well, than Andrew. And Anya, whom I had certainly hoped to see in a spin-off along the lines of Anyanka, Demon Housewife, is the only one who dies. Which means that Xander, who never had anything to go on but guts and faith in Buffy, lost more than anyone else in all this. (Oh,yeah, well, Spike died, but maybe not, since he’s supposed to be on Angel next season.) Excellent ending to The Best TV Show Ever.

Mr. Johnson notes that when “Buffy” kills someone, it doesn’t take an hour of malingering and heavy looks. He’s still bitter about “Dawson’s”

Disappointing Dead End Kids

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I know, you can hardly imagine such a thing, eh? If you pick up a DVD from the bargain cart at the Wal-Mart, and it features some incarnation of the Dead End Kids / East End Kids / Bowery Boys — in other words, at the least, Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall — and if said DVD is in fact a boxin’ pitcher, and the boxin’ pitcher’s box promises “Additional Dialogue by Morey Amsterdam,” you’ve gotta figure you’re in for a treat. Even if Leo Gorcey doesn’t sing (sorry, that one was obscure). But, in fact, I can report that “Kid Dynamite” is less than the finest in DEK/EEK/BB entertainment, and midway through the pitcher it devolves into a recruiting poster. Oh, the Morey Amsterdam dialogue is there, all right — give Huntz a squeeze and he’ll throw out a line. There are one or two gems, but this lacked the cleverness of “Dead End” or “They Made Me A Criminal,” two of the finest in the pantheon.

Mr. Johnson actually doubts they show Dead End Kids movies in the Pantheon. Or the Parthenon.