Not Hand Sanitizer

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        The scene:
        I’m at a cafe or restaurant, sitting with a group or a girlfriend.  I peruse the menu (as if I didn’t know what I’d be ordering before I’d set foot in the place), place my order, and start sucking down the first of what will probably be four or five or six diet cokes (socializing makes me thirsty, especially with people I don’t feel I have a handle on yet).  Then, before the food comes, I rummage through my purse sitting on my lap and locate a mini bottle of hand sanitizer.  Without pausing the conversation I’m having with the person across from me, I pour a little sanitizer on my hands and rub them together to spread it around…

       And then, invariably, I freeze, and sneak a furtive glance at what I just poured onto my hands:  

Click to enlarge.  One is hand sanitizer.  One is…not.

        This has happened to me three times now.  Once just this afternoon

        I think–surely I can’t be the only one this has happened to!  Surely there are others–many others!–who have made the same innocent mistake.   After all, without ocular inspection–if you just go by feel–the bottles are practically indistinguishable. 

        It’s not just me, is it….?  Please, somebody tell me it’s not just me.

        P.S.  It’s not as if I usually carry bottles of the not-sanitizer around in my handbag.  There are several bottles of both in my nightstand.  Sometimes I just grab the wrong one.

       P.P.S.  What kind of name is “Swiss Navy” for any kind of product?  Why the hell would Switzerland have a navy?  It’s landlocked. 

Meeting No. 29 (Part II): I am the Frederick Taylor of Pain and Suffering

            I leaned against the desk and leafed through the folder.  “So, I have a lot of information about you here, David.  I think we’ll have to talk about it.  I have some concerns.”  I kept my voice friendly, but when I looked up at him, I saw that his smile suddenly looked fake and his eyes were wider.  That was good.
           I took a sharpie marker off the desk and held it open over the top of the folder.  “I still need to assign you a number, David.”  I tried to write on the folder.  The marker wouldn’t write.  I sighed and shook it and tried to write again.  No ink. 
        “This sharpie doesn’t work!” I announced.  I made it sound like I was irritated.  “Go get me a new one.” 
          “What..?”  he stood there and blinked, confused and startled, like a mole thrust suddenly into sunlight.
          “Go get me a sharpie.  I need a new sharpie.”  I waved the pen in front of him.  “Like this one!” 
           After a pause, he asked, “Where…?” as if I’d asked him to fetch me something totally bizarre and arcane, like an autographed photo of Vladimir Putin.  I could practically see his brain emptying out in panic and confusion, which was exactly what I wanted.  
          “Well, Mr. Engineering Degree, this is Manhattan, so there is a Duane Reade every other city block.  I’m sure you’ll be able to figure something out.” 
          He paused and for a moment I thought that I was going to have to bark at him, but finally he turned to go.  When he opened the door, I called his name and he looked back at me over his shoulder.  I removed a silver-plated pocket watch from my front trousers and opened it in front of him.  The face was big and there were two chronographs on the dial. It made a faint clicking noise, although I doubted that he could hear it from where he stood.  I’d discovered that if I held it in my hand in a perfectly still room, I could feel it vibrate in my hand, as if it was a living creature. 
           I set the watch and pressed the button.  “I’m timing you, David.”
           His mouth dropped open and then he ran out the door.  I shouted at him not to kill himself on the stairs. I heard him running quickly down two flights of stairs, and then it was silent again.

Couldn’t Have Said it Better Myself

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Click to enlarge:  “This Budgerigar…is reacting to its toy as if it were a mate.”

         I cut this out of a parrot book and have had it hanging on my office wall for about two years now. The first time I came across it, I thought it was hilarious, in a black sort of way.  I identified with that poor stupid budgie immediately.  Imagine how lonesome and deprived it must be to willingly delude itself and bond with a fake plastic bird.  That budgie can love the fake bird with all its might for the rest of its life, but no matter what it does, the fake bird can never, ever love it back.  Hapless budgie.


         Like a crusty, resigned old Bolshevik in 1937, I went to bed last night wearing socks and positioning my shoes and prepare-to-be-a-nomad “Go-Bag” by the front door, warily expecting my sleep to be interrupted by the knock of fate…

       I’m exaggerating, of course, but fact is that I slept like a rock.  No whistling winds or the crash of trashcans blowing down the street and striking parked cards, no sirens, el zilcho.  The most irritating thing was the faint thudding bass of my neighbors’ techno (or whatever they call it these days) music, which I could only perceive from the living room after I turned lights out (prudently, they had decided to throw a hurricane party).  I slept in really late because I assumed I’d be house-bound, but right now it’s just overcast with some light wind.  Not even raining outside.

       No complaints from me!  Here’s to hoping it stays this way!  Maybe I can reschedule my afternoon appointments.

Blogging before Hurricane “Armageddon” Irene

   Update Sat 27th  8:51 pm   This time of night, this time of the year, the sidewalks and streets would be packed with pedestrians and people warming up to hit the night life.  Right now, it’s crickets and tumbleweeds out there–or at least as close to crickets and tumbleweeds as you’re going to get in this part of Manhattan.  Light showers, off and on, and the wind is picking up.

       I just finished (re)watching The Fog of War while lifting weights in the living room.  It’s one of my favorite films.  I’ve probably seen it seven, eight times.  I see something new in it each time.  I find Robert McNamara fascinating.  I read one of his books for a seminar and watched old videos of him I could find in the archives and online.  I relate to him a little bit, to how cerebral his personality is, his energy.  Of course, he was also about ten times more intelligent that I am, and sort of sociopathic.  Something I’ve noticed in the movie–from the very first viewing–is that if you discount the words coming out of his mouth and just tune in as much as possible on his emotions (not his intellectual intensity, but his emotions)–the only times he gets really sad and touched and tears up is when he’s talking about something that has to do with him personally.  Tokyo burning this, Cuban Missile Crisis that, lives lost, moralizing moralizing blah blah…his mind’s on fire, but he’s actually cool as a cucumber.  Guy was definitely fucked up. 
       Anyway, more about the storm later, if and when there is anything worth recording.

                      *                *              *                *        
          The local press has been going completely batshit about the hurricane that’s supposed to hit–to a greater or lesser degree–Saturday night/Sunday morning.  Bloomberg has given about about a hundred televised media conferences and and every local periodical is transmitting public service announcements with editorializing, the tones of which vary from wary to hysterical.  I was trying to observe the behaviors of city managers, the coordination of various municipal services/agencies (fire, EMS, etc), and the mechanisms of policy implementation from a detached, scholarly viewpoint, but I had to give up for the evening.  I’ve reached maximum saturation for today (bad pun, ha ha).

     Some of it contained real comedy, like the City of Hoboken sending out a tweet two days ago, before the panic began had begun to register: “Residents advised to prepare to vacate city if possible.”  That was like something out of Monty Python.  I would like very much to trace the origin of that tweet and be a fly on the wall of the office where that particular tweet was conceived and approved for public distribution. 

     The PSAs do contain some seriously scary shit, though–basically, “Put your passport and important papers in a plastic baggie and water and granola bars and your medications into your prepare-to-be-a-nomad backpack and KEEP IT READY TO GO!  And write your SSN on your body in permanent marker.”  (I am only kidding about the last part).

     The weather nerd blogs I’ve looked at claim that the press and the government are overreacting–and I certainly hope they are correct–but after Katrina, no public official wants to look like they were caught flat-footed if the worst occurs. 

      I might add that  I live literally at the border of potential Evacuation Area C (as the evac map reads now).  The landlord boarded up the lobby door windows.

      I stocked up on candles and changed the aquarium water just in case the electricity fails.  A lot of people I know in the neighborhood are moving to stay in other areas of the city.  I’ve got a hotel room reserved farther inland if it comes to that, but I don’t think it will.  And I’ve invited a few people who live closer to the water to come to my place if they need to evacuate. 

     The Surgeon is going nuts–I guess some of his properties are under mandatory evacuation and he’s gotta make sure the power is turned off in his McMansions and their hydroponic orchid greenhouses and swimming pools and porpoise tanks or whatever ridiculous stuff he has (“But what about the BOAT…?!”  I heard him wailing into his Blackberry while I was in the shower).  But he is highly strung in the best of circumstances and he’s not exactly…skeptical of media reports. I have never met someone with his intellect capable of such irrationality; I don’t understand how he got through med school. You should’ve seen the way he acted during the SARS scare and Bird Flu.  Killer bees, swine flu, you name it–the guy falls for every single one of them.  Personally, I don’t think he’s ever been the same since the stock market crashed in 2008–I think the stress of that caused him to have irreversible brain damage.  And people tell ME I’m too intense! He still found the time to drop by briefly and (among other things) bite the shit out of my back (I’m serious–I’d post pictures of the jaws-like injuries, but I’m worried that they could possibly be traced and matched to his dental records.  Ah, paranoia, the spice of life).  I’d like to think that it helped to relieve his stress, if only momentarily.  He did take a 10-minute nap afterward, which is truly exceptional behavior on his part. 

     Public transit stops tomorrow at noon.  There are cops and firemen everywhere around here posting and  warning businesses and private residences of what to do in the worst possible eventuality.

      In the event of a hurricane and a blackout, I’d love to shack up with an acquaintance–maybe Heinrich or an excellent masochist, and a few bottles of red wine–and maximize the storm’s potential for uber-dramatic recreational pursuits, but alas, it is not to be.

      Though I will be blogging live if anything truly heavy hits.  And if the power doesn’t go out.   

You Know You’re an Athiest When…

       So, I was sitting on the subway (re)reading this book.  It’s a pretty shitty book from a literary perspective–somewhat more sophisticated than faddish-business Lit like Who Moved My Cheese?–but I have to read the book, so I do.  

       The car was fairly crowded; lots of other passengers were reading.  I like to sneak glances at others’ reading material and make value judgements about their taste wonder about their lives.  Wall Street Journal over here, Harry Potter over there, an Asian girl with Spongebob Squarepants pajama bottoms reading some sort of comic book by the door. 

      For some reason, I looked down the book I was holding and saw it with fresh eyes.  I furrowed my brow a little, puzzled.  
      Why does it look like a Bible…?  I thought to myself.  After a moment, the answer was self-evident: because that way a person can read it anywhere in public. 

      I suddenly sat up straight and looked around the car, wide-eyed, as if I’d heard a fire alarm or the conductor calling my name over the intercom.  Other people might think I was reading the Bible!  How embarrassing!  I’d rather be caught reading just about anything else (including what I was actually reading, by far).  Danielle Steele.  Thomas Friedman.  The National ReviewMein Kampf.  A NAMBLA publication.  

Sensitive Parrot

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This is how Parrot looked today when I tried to give her a treat.  Usually she eats from my hand eagerly.

I am working on a sexier blog post (at least, sexy to me), but since I had such a crappy day, I wrote this one instead.

Also, in the bottom is Rooster’s new home.  I got tired of the substrate (that’s code for: I couldn’t deal with the algae anymore.  Too much sunlight around my desk).  

Operation Barbarossa on Curtain Rods

            I started the day with a to-do list.  The first thing I wanted to get done was to install a curtain rod support above one of my windows.  There are two windows, side by side.  One already had a curtain rod I’d installed on it months ago.  Recently, I’d found a matching curtain rod at the store, so that the two windows would have identical rods.  I just wanted the curtain rods to match, that’s all.  Following me so far? 
            I expected the project to take about forty minutes.  The windows are tall, I’d have to be climbing up and down on a step, I was doing it by myself, blah blah blah. 
           Well, it didn’t take forty minutes.  Or an hour. 
            Why?  you ask, honestly perplexed, good gentle reader. 
             Because when I said “I just wanted the curtain rods to match,” I meant itLiterally.  I had no intention of this when I started the project—I just wanted the same curtain rod set on both windows.  That’s all.  No biggie! 
            So I took measurements, installed it, and then looked at them from across the room.  The new curtain rod was slightly closer to the window and off to the left than the first curtain rod.  The difference was nominal, really (and come on, it’s not as if a photographer from Home and Garden is coming over to do a pictorial on Chez Margo).  But I suddenly decided that I didn’t like it.  I didn’t like it at all.  I wanted the curtain rods and the curtains to be perfectly symmetrical, and this unevenness just wouldn’t do.  There is no excuse for shoddy workmanship!  I would have to re-install the rod, adjust it.  Then things would look right.  Then they would look as they should
             That this neurotic, OCD Monk-esque thought popped into my head in the first place was not great.  The fact that I picked it up and ran with it was much worse.  Complicating this matter was the fact that for some reason, there was a metal plate behind the drywall of the second window where I needed to put the screws in order to make the rods “even.”  The metal plate was thwarting my endeavor; I could not make a hole big enough to accommodate an anchor and screw. 
             Did I let the fact that I would have to somehow penetrate through metal of unknown thickness and composition in order to hang a curtain rod discourage me? 
           Fuck no!  I’ll show that metal who’s boss!  I thought, breaking out my power drill and bit set. 

          Four hours, two broken drill bits, and three trips to the hardware store later (the Pakistani clerk, though silent, was looking increasingly concerned about my appearance), and I had made a half-dozen holes in my landlord’s wall and the curtain rod still was not even.  My arms hurt from lifting the tools and my legs were bent in a stress positions for minutes at a time. It was hot and I was sweating profusely and because I was doing all of this in front of the window, I thought that people on the street were probably looking at me and thinking I was totally unhinged. 

   Which I was.  I had a half-dozen other chores I’d meant to do that day, and I’d wasted hours of time on a  curtain rod that any moron should be able to install and it still was not straight. 
           (Please let me put this in a little perspective for you, good reader.  I am a very patient personality.  I can work at things like sewing or aquascaping or whatever for a long time; I’m detail-oriented, I’m not one of those people who gets frustrated after ten minutes and stops doing it.  When I see criminals on TV, the ones I think I understand the best are the bomb-makers.  The long nights in their basements or kitchen tables, curtains drawn, teaching themselves what to do and how to do it, stealthily acquiring the supplies, slowly—ever so slowly—constructing the device. The device is their baby, the thing they have poured their heart and soul into, but it is dangerous. One wrong move and they blow themselves into a fine red mist.  The constant worry of being discovered by family, co-workers, the mailman—ah, paranoia, the spice of life.  Oh yeah, I understand the way those sick cats think very well.)
            So, the condition I was in this afternoon over the FUCKING CURTAIN RODS was atypical and overwhelming to me on several different levels—I was frustrated, irritated, humiliated at my incompetency (why I expected myself to know how to do home repair is a mystery in and of itself), angry that I’d broken my drill bits, angry that I was even angry over something so inconsequential.  But by God, I was going to conquer that curtain rod!  I was the Germans launching Operation Barbarossa or Caesar going for the Helvetti. 
            And I suddenly wanted Riesling.  A bottle of Riesling.  Chilled, perfect for summertime work.  I pictured it, condensation on the glass bottle.  Dry, a dry wine.  Delicious.  Just perfect.  It would be my ally in the war against THE METAL BEHIND THE DRYWALL THAT WAS THWARTING MY WILL. 
            My rational brain said: Yes: wine and power drills and clumsy furious girl who does not know what she is doing.  GREAT LOGIC THERE, ARISTOTLE!
            I cannot drink at this time in my life.  So no Riesling for little Margo. 
            I eventually acknowledged that I was not being rational (I felt personally insulted by the curtain rod and was determined to force it, which is nuts) and that what I was doing was not working.  I had to stop.  I contacted other homo sapiens.  I left my apartment for the first time that day to meet with other homo sapiens.  It made me feel better, but I was still very tense when I came home a few hours later.  I couldn’t calm down enough. I mentally flipped through options that could help me relax. Options? I’d gone to the gym late last night and was very sore.  I couldn’t concentrate enough to read (which is very unusual for me).  I kept thinking: I want to turn off my brain by drinking a bottle of champagne and watch TV.  To check out, to just check out.  But, checking out was not an option. 
             I was restless so I decided at least I could do something productive.  I donned rubber gloves and scrubbed the bathtub maniacally with bleach and Comet and a very stiff brush (I am not a super clean freak; this violent cleaning urge was atypical of me). The grout, the tile–why couldn’t I get it a uniform color?  I was sweating.  My arm hurts now; my elbow, I have bruises on my knees from kneeling on the tile floor.  I could not get it clean enough, it had to be just right.  My Saturday night, folks.  Every time I thought it was perfect, I saw something else that needed to be cleaned (I gotta run this one by my psychologist—I suspect Sigmund. Freud would say that I was trying to scour something other than my bathtub).  Then it also occurred to me: You are doing just what your mother does.
            That gave me a case of the flaming heebie-jeebies and I ceased immediately, shucking my gloves and throwing the brush down as if it had turned into a rattlesnake in my hand . I decided to clean my aquarium instead.  It usually feels nice and soothing to work on it, and I like to know that it keeps my pets healthy. The fish are pretty and it is relaxing to watch them swim to and fro. Well, I cleaned their fucking tank so well that now the algae-eater fish literally have nothing to eat today.  Every rock was scrubbed and bleached, the gravel vacced, the plants brushed.  You could probably have preformed open-heart surgery in that tank once I was done with it, it was so sterile.  I had to add zucchini tonight so that they’d have some food till some algae grows back. Frankly, I’m surprised that I didn’t kill any of my fish, careful as I was to rinse the ornaments of cleanser after scrubbing.  Thank God I didn’t touch the filter media. 
              Then I changed the paper in my birds’ cages and gave them fresh food and water.  It makes me feel good to take care of them.  I even made a fresh veggie and nut treat for my new big parrot, the Senegal.  And get this: because birds are very sensitive, and she’d been around me and watching me all day, she was very wary of me.  I held out her treat to her for her to eat, and she sat in the corner of her cage and wouldn’t take it.  I know in her mind she was thinking: “Uhh, thanks but no thanks!  Not much of an appetite tonight!  I will stay in my corner for the rest of the day, you crazy person.”
              Broke my heart.  I had a sudden flash of empathy.  It was like if you were a little kid and your passive-aggressive mom was really tense and pissed off, and you didn’t know why,  and it made you fearful and uncomfortable, and she baked you cookies and handed one to you and said, “Here’s a cookie I made for you!  What, you don’t like it?  It’s not good enough for you?  Why won’t you eat it?” 
             I made Parrot afraid of me.  She sat in her corner and didn’t want to look at me all night.  I was not even angry with her or had done anything mean to her, but she didn’t understand why I was acting so crazily.  It never occurred to me how I must have looked to her. 
               I think that is the way it is with parents and children, and parents don’t realize it sometimes.  It’s really important to protect your kids from your shitty moods and destructive emotions, whether or not the kids have anything to do with them (your moods).  I don’t know if I’ll ever have kids—I highly doubt it—but if I did, I would try to remember this.   Like my Parrot, they lack the boundaries and perspective to protect themselves from the emotions of the adults around them.  And like my Parrot, children cannot escape.  They are essentially held hostage.  My bird could not, say, go out for the proverbial pack of cigarettes and hang out in the park for the rest of the day. 

            ……Finally, when I accepted that the curtain rods did not have to be perfectly symmetrical, I was able to install the set in less than 20 minutes.  It is two inches higher than the other window curtain rod.  Probably nobody will ever notice and even if they do, nobody will give a damn. And now I have to seal the other holes with wood filler and paint them over.  Riiiiiight. 
            I hope I learned a few lessons from this.  Important lessons.

           Update: the Parrot came out of her cage this morning and let me scratch her head.  If she forgives me, I should learn to forgive myself. 

Like an Arrow, I Was Only Passing Through

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  I’m too tired to write now (what an old lady I’m becoming!), but my 4 readers enjoy pictures, so here are a few.   
  I was at Lackawanna Station in Hoboken today and took a few photos.  I love trains and train stations.  The appeal is very deep; it must be something psychological.  I also like bridges, clock towers, and light towers.

                      Hoboken has a beautiful station:


        Being there reminded me of Jeff, the Mechanist, quite a bit.  I think about him too often than I should.  I wonder why (seriously).  Was listening to Smog on the ipod (spare me, please; if I was popular in my youth you’d never be reading this blog. All  half-dozen of you.  Which is actually pretty funny now that I think about it), and I think he had me pinned:
We can continually sink into each other
Just deep enough to rip out a bit more flesh
When we move away
A scarf of skin trailing out behind

Like an arrow
I was only passing through
A blood red bird
A blood red bird

On a more upbeat note, I got a brand new pair of absurd, totally impractical, sexually provocative high heels.  And hell no, I did not buy them—I’m got “issues,” as they say, but I’m not silly like that.

      I’m halfway through something much more substantial, but tonight I’m just wiped out.  God, am I shallow for posting pictures of my SHOES on the internet?  I’m a bit squeamish about it.  On the other hand, I did quote from The New York Review of Books, a publication surely not popular amongst bimbos.  Not that I want to sounds snobby–most of the contributing authors there probably have 80 IQ points on me.

      Better post next time.

Aching for Sky

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Why’s everybody looking at me
Like there’s something fundamentally wrong
Like I’m a southern bird
That stayed north too long

Winter exposes the nest–
Then I’m gone
(lyrics to Palimpsest by Smog)

I am not a Southerner, but I am not from here.
Sometimes I miss the skies of the place I was born more than anything else.  I cannot describe how beautiful they are.  The various combinations of clouds, all changing like a kaleidoscope, and the vivid, dramatic colors of the sunsets.  The sky could be so blue.