Thursday, May 31, 2012


Last weekend, I was out to dinner with three friends. Since it was a cool, spring evening, we went for a stroll after dinner through one of Chicago’s trendier neighborhoods. By “trendy”, I mean that we came across a boutique that specialized in sex toys and sundry forms of adult naughtiness. 

So, of course, we went in for a laugh. Soon, a friend of mine spotted a rather alarming device that instantly reminded me of an amorous Shetland pony I had as a child. “That thing’s three inches in diameter!” he exclaimed. “How many inches is that in circumference?” 

“Multiply the diameter by pi,” I replied, drolly. “About nine and a half.”

They were impressed. 

(I then had to explain to him what ‘pi’ was. I’m glad we weren’t dating. The magic would have been over at that point). 

I got to thinking about the times in geometry and algebra classes when a student would complain, “When are we ever going to use this stuff?”

I now want to be a geometry substitute teacher. The next time a 15 year-old kid whines, “When are we ever going to use this?” I’d be able to say, “Trust me. Someday, you’ll be in a sex shop with your friends, encounter a huge, nasty sex toy and your friends will query about its circumference. You’ll be able to impress them by being able to easily factor it on the spot.”

Needless to say, I was a good geometry student.

Modern Family

One of my all-time favorite TV programs has got to be ABC’s Modern Family. For those of you who also watch it, the big news at the end of this season was Gloria’s announcement that she was pregnant. 

My prediction is that she’ll have a boy and Mitch and Cam will adopt it. If that occurs, here’s how the baby boy will be related to the rest of the characters. 

I did the math: 

Gloria will be his mother and grandmother
Jay will be his father and grandfather
Mitch will be his half-brother and father
Cam will be his brother-in-law and father
Claire will be his half-sister and aunt
Phil will be his brother-in-law and uncle
Manny will be his brother and uncle
Lily will be his niece and sister
Haley will be his niece and cousin
Alex will be his niece and cousin
Luke will be his nephew and cousin

There you go! A modern family.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Food Fads

Food fads are amazing things. Basically, advertising conglomerates figure out ways to get us to buy things and then inundate us at every turn with the latest trendy preoccupation.

Remember the oat bran craze of the late Eighties? Advertisers alerted us to this new, horrible, dreadful substance called “cholesterol” and, suddenly, we couldn’t get enough oat bran into our systems. Oat bran appeared in every food product imaginable and, boy, did we snatch it up. Quaker Oats published an oat bran cookbook and it went flying off the shelves. 

I’m surprised that during the nineties, we weren’t told to consume a pound of lard every day in order to decrease the dangerous levels of oat bran we had all built up. 

These days, it’s anti-oxidants. We must have anti-oxidants – and lots of them! Was anyone ever aware that an "oxidant" was a bad thing? Did our mothers ever shout at us: “Don’t eat that! It’s loaded with oxidants!”

Pomegranates seem to be the oat bran of today. Pomegranates are the new miracle food, for they’re teeming with anti-oxidants. Everything is pomegranate-flavored these days, including vodka. Imagine that – the clever marketing people at Smirnoff have convinced us that even ethyl alcohol is good for us. They put a pomegranate in it and we shell it out and suck it down. 

Green tea is another anti-oxidant-laden product. We drink gallons of it. Everything has green tea in it. 

Here’s the mother lode of them all: Yep! Pomegranate Green Tea. 

The folks who came up with this are probably billionaires now.  It’s probably little more than sugar water. 

We’ve been convinced that if we consume enough anti-oxidants, we’ll live forever and look like Brad Pitt or Halle Berry. 

This guy will probably wash down that ham sandwich with pomegranate green tea.

Doesn’t he look healthy? 

Oat Bran . . . Anti-Oxidants . . . 

I can just hear the chanting of U.S.A!! . . U.S.A!!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Bus

Now that I’m a commuter to work, I have the pleasure of riding the bus with lots of other commuters every day. 

Fortunately, my commute on the bus only takes about fifteen minutes longer than it used to take when I’d walk to work. However, the drawback is, it’s a bus packed with commuters; and I mean packed. “Packed in like sardines” doesn’t quite describe it. “Packed in like sardines inside a case of cans of sardines” is more like it. 

These buses handle lots of commuters, so the transit authority uses the double-long, articulated buses that snake around corners. The bus stop where I get on usually has a large crowd of people waiting. After all, there are two condo buildings nearby, each with 640 condos. 

I’ve learned that if I walk a couple of blocks up the street to get on, I can usually get a seat. Then, when the bus snakes down to stop in front of my building, I’m comfortably sitting there while everyone else sardines themselves in. The bus makes a few more stops, cramming in more and more passengers each time, before hopping onto Lake Shore Drive for the express shot into downtown. 

Fortunately, I get off at the first stop once the bus gets into downtown. By this time, the carbon-based life forms on board have been compressed enough that they’ve begun to turn into diamonds. I’ve learned to opt for a seat near the rear exit so that I can efficiently squiggle my way out when the time comes.

Recent advances in global positioning technology have made bus riding much easier. There’s an app that lets you see when your bus is coming. Or, you can look online at the “bus tracker” website, see when your bus is two minutes away and then leap out to hop on. It comes in handy when it’s a grillion degrees below zero outside. 

Now that I’m a daily bus rider, I’ve learned some clever terms:

Bus-Bunching: Buses get off schedule and two or three end up glommed one behind the other. It’s really frustrating to wait and wait for a bus only to see three of them pull up at one time. 

Bus Drive-By: A bus gets so full that no more passengers can squeeze themselves in. At that point, the driver doesn’t stop at any bus stops. The bus whizzes by while awaiting passengers stand there with their mouths agape. Bus-bunching ensues. 

I’ve already been the victim of a bus drive-by. It’s really frustrating. 

Thank god for taxis.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


Having rented apartments ever since college, I've never given much thought to the toilets with which I've been provided. As long as they've flushed away what they've been expected to, pretty much the only attention I've given them is to clean them.
Then, I became a home owner -- and everything changed. 
My new condo came with a gorgeous bathroom. Blond and tan stone surrounded the shower, walls and floors. The ubiquitous black granite encased the sink and counter top.  
And there it was -- a commercial-style pneumatic toilet. It's one of those that makes a huge racket when flushed, but boy, you could toss a ham down there and it would handle it.  
Being a new home owner, I was excited to have one of these. No more tanks; no more stoppage-with-overflows. I was set to go (literally).
However, it turned out to be a low-flow version. Upon flushing it, the racket would ensue but very little water would gurgle down. I tested it with a wad of toilet paper and it was very disappointing. It took more than two flushes and even then, toilet paper remains appeared in the backwash. 
I needn't go into details. Let's just say that healthy digestion resulted in -- well, I won't go into details. Let's just say I was struck with a good dose of buyer's remorse. Was I to live like this forever?
I recall that when I had this property inspected, the inspector seemed thrilled over the bathroom. He even referred to this toilet as a "puppy flusher". 
Was I missing something? As far as I could tell, this thing couldn't even handle a pudding-cup. 
Finally, I discovered the secret! You have to steadily toggle the handle about once every second. The low-flow, indeed, then becomes a puppy-flusher after about three pumps. 
I felt so relieved! -- just like Helen Keller at the water pump. As my 'puppy' flushed away, I could feel the hand of Anne Sullivan on my forehead, nodding it up and down, "Yesss! Yesss!"
I had unlocked the secret. A whole new world was now revealed to me. No longer would I live in darkness. To quote Helen Keller, "This was the key which would unlock the world for me."
My home, indeed, has a puppy-flusher.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Making the Move

Moving – It is said that moving is one of life’s most stressful endeavors. Yes, it is fraught with stress – I can vouch for that – but I have to admit that being single makes it much less troublesome. I cannot imagine trying to move a whole family and pets. The mind reels at the thought. 

I have just finished moving out of my beloved Marina Towers. However, it is a happy move for I am now a homeowner. The real estate market was incredibly inviting and I’m now paying less for my monthly mortgage, condo fees, and taxes than I was for rent. I now reside in a condo on Lake Shore Drive and actually have a nice view of the lake and its shore. 

The thing that made my move relatively easy was that I wasn’t rushed. I began hoarding office-paper boxes from work months ago when I first began snooping around Chicago’s real estate market. By moving time, I had over thirty of them squirreled away. 

I had also winnowed my belongings down to the essentials by that time. I subsisted on groceries that I had on hand; less to move later. Graduate school theology notes and VCR tapes went down the trash chute. Ugly shoes (what was I thinking?) and clothing that will never fit was chuted as well. My old clunky TV and microwave was given to other residents in the building. It was time for new ones anyway. 

I had also utilized the services of others. U-Haul will ship moving supplies to you free of charge, including boxes. A co-worker highly recommended some apartment movers to do the job at minimal cost (which they did splendidly.) A friend with a car graciously delivered my new TV. After moving, the last thing I wanted to do was to clean the apartment that I’d left behind. A professional maid service left the apartment gleaming within two hours; again, at a bargain. 

These movers and cleaners perform such backbreaking work and I don’t imagine they get paid much. They all received very generous tips, as they fully deserve. 

Moving from the 50th floor of one high rise to the (paltry) 7th floor of another presents some unique challenges. One must reserve freight elevators at both buildings at specific times which costs a pretty penny. If movers are late, everything gets thrown off; you might not even get the freight elevator. I began worrying about that several months ago.  

Helpful hint: Clean underpants are great for packing dishes. Just put a pair between each plate and bowl. However, I had to unpack the box labeled “kitchen” in order to have clean underpants to wear. That was weird. 

I’m now situated in my new condo and I love it here. 

I hope I never have to move again.