A Helluva Town


I have seen many, many odd things in New York city, but camels in the middle of the metropolis on a cruel 35 degree winter’s day has got to be at the top of my list. These camels were on a break from acting in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. I had to think if it’s that strange for me, it must be insanely bizarre for the camels. From fun in the desert with Bedouin babes to gray concrete and IATSE stagehands. Imagine the trauma of these poor little humped ones at rehearsal.

DIRECTOR (To the camels): I’m telling you, you come in after the sheep and before the donkey…the donkey. The one that looks like a horse but isn’t! (Turning to his assistant) Amateurs, bloody amateurs. I’ve worked with entire petting zoos that have more natural stage abilities then these no-talent sand schleppers.

A camel spits at the director. The goat, perpetually hungry, takes a bite out of the temporarily blinded, spit-soaked director’s cable knit sweater. This in turn makes the sheep extremely happy because she’s convinced the director’s sweater was her cousin from New Zealand, and now at least she’s vindicated.

Finally the Rockettes appear, ready to kick-line. But someone forgot the poop scoop, and swish…there go the Rockettes. One after the other, a domino row of sequins and satin going down.

The director wipes his brow and storms out. The Rockettes undergo treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and another holiday tradition is under way in Manhattan.

Early one morning, when I still lived on the Upper West Side, I was walking along Columbus Avenue when I noticed cluster of pigeons on the sidewalk. Still barely awake I didn’t think much of it and walked straight on, thinking they’d get out of the way. And they did: as if responding to an inaudible signal, all the pigeons starting flapping their wings and rising from the sidewalk. It didn’t occur to me that walking through a phalanx of pigeons was in any way a dangerous activity. But then whack! The wing of one of those flying, disease ridden, urban blights hit me on the side of my head! And it HURT. A LOT

That night my parents were in town and we went out for dinner. The waiter was taking our order when I realized he was flirting with me. Overtly. In front of MY PARENTS. It was so bizarre. What made it doubly strange, was that I rarely, if ever, notice this type of thing. Oh, he was cute, and had the whole French accent thing going on, but it just messed me up. What was I suppose to do? I couldn’t exactly get all girlie and flirt back, my parents were right there! I ended up by blushing (Christ) and making him repeat the specials at least four times. Don’t think my parents didn’t know what was going on; they were thoroughly enjoying the spectacle. In fact, my father began speaking with him in French, as if to say “please continue, my wife and I think you’re charming.”

These could be seen as two unrelated incidents that simply occurred on the same day, but I believe they are uniquely joined. I believe these were early warning signs that my move to Brooklyn was imminent.  Manhattan was a far too dangerous and confusing place for me. Or maybe it was a just wake up call, and perhaps there were men out there who had been flirting with me and I’d never noticed because my head was completely stable.  Too late to turn back now.


Earlier this week I was on the bus, going crosstown through Central Park to the West Side. Normally I feel a great sense of relief on this ride, as I know I’m leaving the East Side. I always feel like a tourist when I’m on the Upper East Side. Sure it’s the grid system so I know my way around, but the atmosphere is less than welcoming and I don’t have the uniform. A face devastated by surgeons and injections, ballet flats complemented by Lilly Pulitizer skirts revealing orange-tinted legs, a tiny dog in Chanel bags yipping for another sip of mineral water – it’s a Rod Serling meets Sartre universe where I don’t belong. But alas, that’s where all the good doctors are, so every so often I get my passport renewed and hop on the 6 train and travel to this distant land.

The M79 was full, but certainly not unpleasant, just a quiet, civilized murmur. As bus turned right into the park, a voice, not shrill, but certainly not soothing – if a platypus could talk, this would be its voice – cut above the crowd.

I’m on the crosstown bus right now, I”ll be there in 3 minutes. Can the doctor see me……The BUS I’m on the BUS, to Central Park West…. My last name is Batson…B-A-T-S-O-N…..BATSON, like Batman, but Batson…Batman…you know…the superhero. BATMAN.”

And then she breaks out into the theme song of the Batman series starring Adam West.

” Da na na na na na  Da na na na na na na Batman!…..Yes, Batman, but it’s Batson. LIke Batman, but not Man, Son…….BATSON…”

And we arrived at Central Park West where she and I both exited. All I heard as she walked away was “Oh, taking the bus is so awful.” Really? Really? It was fine until you got on!

I guess I’m just grateful her last name wasn’t Wagner, otherwise I’d never be able to listen to The Ride of the Valkyries again.

At the Park Slope Food Coop, where I once belonged,  there are no customers only “members.” We do stocking, checkout, receiving, all the jobs that staff usually do. Which means are prices are wholesale and we control our food suppliers.

We also all have access to the paging system.
“Is there any Parmesan cheese coming up from receving.”
“It’ll be up in 10 mintes.”
“Where are the ice cream cones”
“On top of the ice cream freezer”
“Receivers please come to the conveyer belt we have 4 cases of kale that needs to be put out.”
“Um. Does anyone know if we carry enemas?”
All reasonable grocery store pages.  And then this exchange happened:
“Would the member who owns the dog that bit the shopper please pick up line 1.

“Ha!” I said out loud. No one else thought it funny.  And then, not five minutes later
“The bathrooms on the shopping floor are both out of order. Ladies,please do not flush tampsons down the toilet it wreaks havoc with the plumbing.”  That’s when I guffawed very loudly. Again, I was alone in finding it funny. Guess everyone had their period.

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