Saturday, July 31, 2010

Troll Book Club -or- Finding Bunnicula

When I was in elementary and middle school I would sit at my desk, fidgeting, restlessly waiting for my Troll Book Club (now part of the larger Scholastic Books family) order form to arrive.  This thin, cheaply produced brochure offered me the chance to visit old friends in their continuing stories and to find new friends in the pages of amazing "young adult" books.

Of course, I always (with my mother's permission... and check) got a copy of the newest Garfield book and maybe a sheet of stickers.   I loved these Garfield books.  They were simply reprints of the comic strip but, being under 10, I rarely read the comics in the paper except for the Sunday full-color edition which I would grab as soon as my parents brought the huge paper roll in.

But it wasn't just Garfield... I discovered a collection of stories about a terribly unobservant family, their sleuthy dog, paranoid(?) cat and a mysterious new rabbit that may just be a vegetable-vampire.  (We'll talk about Count Duckula and his humorous take on this subject later.)

Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery kept me glued.  The story, as told by the dog Harold, begins when his family brings home a young rabbit that was mysteriously left at the movie theatre one night.  The bunny has fangs, a black mark on his back which resembles a cape and, seeing as how the family was watching Dracula at the theatre where he was found, is named Bunnicula.  But the family cast, Chester, suspects that the bunny may actually be using his fangs to suck the life out of vegetables.  You'll have to read for yourself to find out what happens but be prepared... these stories (originally by both Deborah and James Howe and later by James alone after Deborah's passing) continue on.

I couldn't wait to get to the next books.  Howliday Inn and The Celery Stalks at Midnight.  The adventures of Bunnicula, Harold and Chester marched onward with me through the 80s.

But it wasn't until two weeks ago that I found out that James Howe had continued beyond these three beloved books!

In 1988 James Howe published Nighty Nightmare, followed by Return to Howliday Inn in 1993, Bunnicula Strikes Again in 1999 and finally Bunnicula Meets Edgar Allan Crow in 2006.

I wouldn't consider anything written here to be a review... after all, it has been over 20 years since I've read the first three books.  But a visit to the Strand might have to happen today.  If, by some magical means, all six books are there, they might have just found a new owner.  Finger's crossed that I can revert to a 7th grader before the weekend is over.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Too Darned Hot or A Tropical Heatwave!

When Cole Porter wrote these words in 1948 did he know that he would be cursing us to one of the most miserably hot summers we've seen since 1999 (yeah, not as impressive as "not since the summer of aught nine" but still).

"Too Darned Hot" performed by the 2002 UK cast of Kiss Me, Kate.

Between the melting asphalt and the reflective glass walls of the city's skyscrapers it can feel well above 100 degrees out.  I think Miss Piggy says it best (sorry Mr. Porter).

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tommy, Carol, Carol, Tommy

Tonight I met my idol. From the first time I saw her on The Love Boat (alongside Ethel Merman, Della Reese and Ann Miller) back in the early 80s to the time when I was 10 and saw her as the White Queen in Alice in Wonderland I have adored Carol Channing.

As I grew up I came to love her as Muzzy Van Hossmere in Thoroughly Modern Millie and as a guest host on The Muppet Show singing "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend"as a duet with Miss Piggy.

I threw myself into her career, digesting cast recordings of Hello, Dolly and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. I couldn't get enough.

Ever since I've been cuckoo for Carol. Any of my friends will tell you so.

So when I was invited by my friend David to join him on a VIP trip to the Barnes & Nobles at Lincoln Center I about fell out of my own skin. She would be talking about her new CD, For Heaven's Sake, whose proceeds are going to support arts in education.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

RuPaul's Drag U introduces us to Douglas Hodge Look-a-Like

Separated at Birth? Paya Larenta... meet Douglas Hodge
Broadway's "La Cage Aux Folles".
So, let's first make it clear that I love just about any makeover show... but add RuPaul and the queens from RuPaul's Drag Race to the mix and you've sold me for years.  RuPaul's Drag U is a hit... based solely on the entertaining premiere last night on LogoTV.

The show is pretty hilarious but also gives three women the opportunity to find their inner diva and use the power of their lost femininity to express themselves fully in their male-dominated world.

The three women were clearly in need of some serious dragulation (thanks for coining the new term Ru).   Each had a troubled life, feared what it was to be a woman (for their own very personal reasons) and had come to Drag U to see if there was any salvation for their lost womanhood.

With Professors Raven, Ongina and Jujubee on hand each woman was transformed into a dazzling diva of drag complete with rhinestones, glitter and hair.

In the end Celine Dijon won and her husband and children rushed the stage to hug their newly fabulous wife and mother.

But my win would have been Miss Paya Larenta who went from MAJOR tom boy to Broadway star in less than 60 minutes of television.  But watching her performance I couldn't help but think that I'd seen her somewhere before.  But where?!

THEN IT HIT ME!  She is the discount derivative of Douglas Hodge's Albin from La Cage Aux Folles!  (See image above.)  Seriously!?  You go Paya Larenta!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Birthday Week Bonanzas!

Me and Denyse.
Photo by Patty Allen
For my birthday a group of friends took me to Arriba Arriba for dinner and drinks and while watching the couple behind us make out was enjoyable the most fun was had with the mondo-sized margaritas (although we being the delicate few we are chose to go with the El Papá (12oz.) as opposed to the La Mama (27oz.).

But getting there was the bigger adventure. The temperature in midtown his 103 on Wednesday (thanks for the heatwave birthday gods) and the thought of a) walking the fifteen blocks or b) climbing underground to the even hotter hell-of-a-subway was horrifying. So we decided to grab a cab.

Easier said than done at 6pm in Midtown Manhattan.

After about eight minutes the birthday gods shined on us and a taxi-van pulled up to the curb. (Did I mention it was 103 degrees outside and we were standing on black asphalt between buildings made of brick and glass?)

Patty ducked her head in the cab, "51st and 9th?" ;The driver shook his head, mumbled unintelligibly something about four people versus five and shooed us away. Damn. We'd been smote.

Another ten minutes or so another tax-van rolled up... FIVE SEATS! Woohoo!

After a disastrous ride up town (the driver managed to pass the restaurant, cross the street and block traffic) we sat down at the restaurant and began to dish and dine, sharing in the kind of gossip that only friends can. In the end it was a fantastic night out and, even though I managed to sweat off my buzz before getting home, it was a good way to welcome the big 3-5.

Cut to today which was slightly less scalding and slightly more drizzly (little pockets of rain have teased the city all day long) but just as much of a good time. Mike took me out for post-birthday lunch and catch-up. We dropped into Burgers and Cupcakes on 9th for and enjoyed both items from the diner's name. It was insanely noisy inside but we managed to catch up on what each other have been up to since his return from tour.

P.S. If you don't read Mike's blog you should start now! It's hilarious and I don't mean that in the cliched, hyperbolic sense. It really is. Go, now... I'll wait.

Yay birthday!!

Monday, July 05, 2010

Pharmacy Tech Fail!

Image courtesy of Google Maps.
After a run along the Hudson today I popped into the Duane Reade at 42nd Street to grab some odds and ends... in particular I was in need of Claritin-D as it has been over a week and I can feel the spring air swarming my sinuses in the same was I imagine Sherman stormed Atlanta.  The pollen on the front lines marches on while the ragweed hangs back, high on its smog horse.  Somewhere a trumpet blares and CHARGE!

I digress... so I stop into Duane Reade and head downstairs to the pharmacy.  The pharmacist is busy filling someone's prescription so I wait a few minutes until a small lady in her official "DR" polo wanders over.  "You need something?" she asks.

"Yes, Claritin-D, 12 hour in the 20 pack box."  Unlike regular Claritin, you have to ask the pharmacy tech for Claritin-D because they need to decide for themselves whether you'll turn it into meth or crack or whatever idiotic thing drug addicts decide to do with it.

The tech looks behind her, directly facing the Claritin collection, and then just as I think she's spied the box (which I can clearly see from an additional 8 feet away) she slides past it and wanders into the Sudafed section (also a "we need to see your face" product).

"This?" she says, pointing at the Sudafed.

"No no, the Claritin-D, right there," I reply, pointing at the blue box with the tranquil field (see below).

"This?" She says, pointing to the 24-hour version.

"No, please, the 12-hour." Note that my finger has not veered from pointing directly at the box I need.

"Oh this," she says, grabbing the right package.  Finally!  "You need to sign for this?"  I confirm for her that, yes, I do need to sign her book to verify that I am who I am but even still, she wanders over to the pharmacist who is busy counting Viagra pills.  "He signs?"  The doctor confirms what I've already told her.  She comes back, grabs the wrong signature book.  "Not that one.  That one's for prescriptions.  Other one!"  He is only half watching her while he counts out the little blue pills for some other male client.

After a few minutes of this game of get-the-right-box-get-the-right-book she finally comes back and starts to scan.  BEEP!  The register rings in $22 and change.  BEEP!  Another $22+??  WHAT??

"Ma'am," I stop her, "you rang that up twice."

"Oh.... oh no.  I cannot void."  Hold up... what??

"Sorry," I'm baffled.  It's like I've been secreted into a Beckett play and will now suffer in Duane Reade Limbo for all eternity.

"I cannot void.  You buy two?" She's obviously pleading.  Maybe this is her first day.  Maybe she's been yelled at for repeat offenses.  Maybe I don't care because I'm hot, tired and ready to go home.

"No.  I only need one box," besides I'm pretty sure it would red flag me in their system if I asked for two boxes.  

"Ok, please wait," she says as she picks up the phone, "Manager to pharmacy please."  Click.  "Just one minute please.  Manager will come help."  

Ok, let me save you the angst of the 15 minute wait that I went through while she awkwardly talked to herself about how she should have rung up one box and "oh no, they will be angry".  Here I was, trapped in the Duane Reade pharmacy with Gollum worried about what the Hobbittses will think of her failure as a pharmacy tech.  "Oh no, my precious has keyed in wrong SKU and now has angered the Hobbittses."  HURRY UP LADY!

Finally someone in a white, short sleeve button-up shirt (that's how you know he's in charge) comes along, doesn't question her, turns a key on the register and voids out one box of Claritin.   He walks away, "Ok, now is better.  You run card."

I scan my debit card, pay for my meds and wait for the receipt to print.  "You want bag?"  

"No no, I will put them in my backpack."

"Ok, here is bag."  HELLO?  What is wrong with this woman?!

I take the bag, feeling like I've made my one attempt to save Mother Earth today only to be thwarted by the Sméagol of Duane Reade.

Whatever happened to service with a smile... hell, whatever happened to service?!?

Happy Fourth... after multiple fails.

It has been a long weekend.  Literally!  The Fourth of July means a long weekend away from work and the opportunity to find the most crowded mass of body odor and lawn chairs ever to grace 11th Avenue.

Our journey starts at 39th Street where we found a police blockade ushering the hordes north to 42nd Street.  You could peek down the side streets toward the Hudson and see people down there... but how had they managed to get through?

We pushed on, momentarily trapped between lawn chairs and children (holding popsicles, popcorn and every other possible snack item that their sticky fingers could manage) and finally pushed on through settling on the eastern side of 11th Avenue between 45th and 46th Streets.  It was 2 minutes to show time and we were ready... cameras in hand, enthusiasm abounding!

And then... BOOM!  "What the hell?" Patty spun in place, looking into the sky.  Another boom!  And another.  Soon the sky was shaking with booms, whistles, fizzes and pops.  We were only one block from the river and yet the two-story warehouse that stood between us and the pyrotechnic extravaganza was exactly the right height to shield us from enjoying the majesty of the Macy's fireworks display.  "Let's move!"  The three of us picked up and marched on, heading toward the corner at 46th thinking maybe we could catch something and not have wasted our time.

Even from the corner we could barely see a thing.  The best I could do was a raise-your-hands-in-the-air-and-snap-it-like-you-just-don't-care shot (see to the side).  The "walky man" symbol was brighter and more exciting than what I was able to catch with my point and click.

FAIL again... see Image A below.  But then, after deciding "Let's get outta here before the crowds start to move" we heading east on 46th Street and, suddenly, we had tons of room and a great view.  In hindsight this might have been the "duh" moment of the night.  But for us it was a sudden burst of genius!  So we enjoyed the show from our newfound haven and then headed home satisfied that we'd had the fun we had sought out.
Image A: View Fail                                                      Image B: View Success

Footage from our good point-of-view on 46th Street!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Addie Brownlee is a Rockin' Artist

I have the amazing benefit of being dearest friends with one of the most amazing artists in the music industry. She's smooth and sultry and yet hilarious and witty. I couldn't have been gifted a better or more talented person in my life if I tried. Take a listen to some of Addie Brownlee's music below and if you like her, which you will, visit her website to buy her CD and check out her page on Reverbnation to find out where she'll be performing next. I promise... you will laugh, cry and fall in love.

Why Hazmat Suits Should Be Worn on the Subway

Taken at the NY Transit Museum
My morning commute was interrupted by two instance of absolute repulsion. Granted, it is not shocking that a ride on the subway included moments of uncomfortability (foul aromas, howling babies, etc.) but today I was attacked by an entirely new level of WTH! In all my little subway adventures I've never been quite as appauled as I was by the behavior of the two riders who you'll meet below. Prepare yourself. And if you have a weak gag reflex... well, proceed at your own risk.

Let me first explain, for anyone unfamiliar with the subway, that there are two varieties of the A train.

  1. The Long Blue Bench: Seating consists of one long bench that stretches down the length of the train. There are no raised divisions (keeping butts in place) and you sometimes slide from side-to-side as the train lurches.
  2. The Howard Johnson: Seating on the HJ is made up of yellow and orange (hence the moniker I've assigned it). These seats have raised edges (again, keeping butts in seats). The most significant difference is that the HJ has L-shaped seating areas... a bench with 3 seats rests along the length of the wall and then a bench of 2 seats juts out. Add a table and you could sit down with four close friends for a breakfast of pancakes and OJ.
So, I'm on the HJ this morning, in the 3rd seat of the 3-seat bench and to my right is the 2-seat bench.

To my left, on seat 2 of the 3-seater, is a woman, covered in sweat, layered in tissues, coughing as though she had just swallowed a meatloaf whole. Why didn't I move? Because I was wedged in like one of 64 colors in a Crayola box and there was no hope of escape until the train thinned out some.

To my right, on the aisle seat of the 2-seater L shaped bench, was a sharply dressed woman with her Bloomingdale's bag tucked between her feet. She was elegantly put together so I felt a little better that maybe the universe was balancing out my plight of sitting next to Typhoid Mary by pairing her with this Lady Who Lunches.

Sadly, the elegance faded quickly.

Out of the corner of my eye I spy the LWL, fiddling with her hands. There was a sense of nervousness coming from her and, for a moment, I assumed she was afraid of getting tuberculosis from TM on my left. But as she continued fiddling it began to make me nervous and so I looked over to better see what the situation was. This was not a simple case of thumb twiddling. The LWL was peeling away dead pieces of skin from her hands and flicking those remnants directly onto my slacks.

(Insert immediate anxiety attack here.)

I bolted up out of my seat and apologetically pushed my way through the sardine crowd pressing myself against the door in the agonizing hope that the metal passage would split and let me escape the horror of the LWL with the zombie-like skin disorder.

Now I probably have typhoid, tuberculosis and some strain of flesh-eating bacteria. It's a nightmare. Someone send me a hazmat suit stat!