Sunday, August 24, 2008

Great Raids in Carpet Removal

We are officially in our new house, and it feels worlds away from the old one. No longer can I call myself New Ro's own blogger, so I will have to content myself with a new title (to be determined at a future date).

The house we moved into, in Mamaroneck, had acres of the thickest, dustiest, driest shag carpet available to man or beast around the late 60s. The color in the living and dining room was a putrid and virulent green—a color I actually favor when it comes to little cocktail dresses, but not on the floor. In the family room/den, the carpet was rust-colored; coupled with the dark wood paneling and small then-in-vogue windows, the room seemed to suck up all available light and deliver a Stygian black gloom suitable only for decadent key parties. It also features a dry bar and a dropped acoustic tile ceiling. Yeah, baby!

We happen to have about seven of some of the best relatives and friends on the whole darned planet, because they arrived this weekend and tore that carpet up. Every last stitch of it, every tack board, every staple in the floor. From about 8 a.m. until cocktail hour arrived on Saturday, our friends sweated and pried, toted pounds of dusty carpet padding, and rendered the carpet fit for trash removal. One large chunk from the dining room was so hefty that we called it The Beast; it took five people to hoist it out to the garage. The stairs alone took two hours of prying due to all the tacks and nails.

While all this was going on we also managed to fix a broken section of fence, repair a broken toddler bed, sweep the area behind the garage for sharp glass, and tamp down the dumpster in the driveway (one demented soul jumped up and down on the carpets shrieking like an ape—not very wise considering the crevasses between the broken old cabinetry shifting beneath, but rather amusing all the same). Other crew members entertained the children by singing songs, molding Play-Doh into a lifelike plate of spaghetti and meatballs, and dragging around blocks of concrete attached to ropes. And everyone actually got fed.

By five p.m. all that carpet was gone, revealing pristine hardwood floors beneath. One team member swabbed the floors with Murphy's Oil Soap and we retired for cocktails and take-out food. As we sat on our new front porch, nary a shopping cart nor a speeding car came into view. And this was good.

What kinds of friends do this sort of thing? Some might say: The insane kind. I say: The rarest and best.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Nature Red in Tooth and Handlebar

Today was an exceptional day for observing the local shopping carts in their native habitat of My Neighborhood. I followed the herd throughout the afternoon and was able to capture these photographs at extremely close range. When I say that my scientific interest was aroused, it's a vast understatement! It was such a pleasure to wander the streets and see the carts over hill and dale, foraging for refuse and left relatively undisturbed despite our proximity to an urban center.

This is the stallion I call Dreamcloud. His pride is evident in his bearing as the Alpha male of the herd. His pelt is extremely glossy due to an abundance of Colt 45 in the area. I was able to creep quite close before he startled and galloped away, rattling down Rhodes Street.

I also observed this young male lurking at the edge of the herd. Clearly an outcast with lower status than the rest, he sought to challenge Dreamcloud's authority but sullenly shied away, the bottles he carried (among them Miller Lite, Snapple, and the ubiquitous Colt 45) clinking ominously. I shall call him Black Sheep.

Finally, I captured this mating couple with a telephoto lens as I lurked behind a tree. The female, on the left, is skittishly backing away, while the male attempts to woo her by spinning its wheels and using other tricks in its sexual arsenal. (Note how it is rearing up on its right flank in a display of power and aggression.) If we are lucky, these two will come to an agreement and we will see a new brood of tiny shopping carts come next spring!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Brenda the Stubby-Legged Bride

So a while back on The Loop, I got a lot of flak for dissing New Ro shopping with cruel barbs and rude photographs. Just to show that I'm an equal opportunity kind of girl, I hereby present Brenda the Stubby-Legged Bride, discovered just this morning in the window of Larchmont Floral Designs on Chatsworth Avenue.

Her icy stare belies her quaking—and very stubby—legs beneath that flowing white skirt. Actually, maybe she has no legs whatsoever and is planning to trundle herself up the aisle on a rolling cart! What lies beneath the skirt? 'Tis a mystery that only her beloved husband will discover as he lifts the skirt ever so gently skyward...and Brenda giggles shyly.

Her left hip appears to be dislocated, but because this is Larchmont and not New Ro it most certainly is the result of a fall rather than an abusive incident at the hands of her fiancé.

[Disclaimer: I bear no ill-will toward stubby-legged, legless, leg-impaired, leg-challenged, and multi-legged peoples of any race or nationality.]

Right next door at K-9, the groomsmen are leashed and ready to attack anyone who dares to interrupt the ceremony. The guy on the right wears dark glasses because the bachelor party went really, really late. His hangover is so fierce that he's a-gonna bite cha!

Also sighted in the window of the Citibank on Palmer Avenue: This misplaced pink lovey, desperately beating itself against the glass in an effort to return to its small and grieving owner. Note the panic in its eyes! Trapped like a rat, it can only hope that someone will release it to run wild and free yet again. Many patrons of the bank turned aside for fear of getting mauled by the creature, and rushed to deposit their money elsewhere.

More to come, oh brave citizens of Larchmont.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Same 10 Questions I Always Ask Myself, Part the Sixth

1. What are you wearing?
Shorts in a size I STILL don't wanna be. And a shirt that failed to escape the latest Reflux Rage of the Incredible Spittling Infant. There is a big puddle of milk on my left shoulder. I just noticed it.

2. What's the nature of today's hypochondria?
This may not qualify, but a fear that the chestnut tree in front of our house will be torn down during a thunderstorm and will crush us like bugs. I think that's a phobia, really. Okay, so...Cancer. That will do.

3. What was today's workout?
The cool skate-y cardio machine at NYSC. While watching a silly movie called Malibu's Most Wanted starring Taye Diggs. Taye Diggs is amazing. Rent Daybreak on Netflix. This is an awesome show that ABC canceled but you can view the whole first season on DVD. Taye Diggs rocks! He can be comedic as well as serious and it's all good!

4. How do you do what you do and stay so sweet?
The sweet chortles of the Spittling Infant and his madly flailing toes.

5. What's that burning smell?
The smoking remnants of yesterday's 10-hour hypochondriacal weepy wine-sodden Code Red panic attack.

6. If you were an animal, what kind would you be?
A small, carnivorous whelk.

7. What are you drinking, and why?
The Little Penguin Cabernet Sauvignon, in the big bottle. $10.99. You get what you pay for. They know me at Jay's Wine and Liquors. I go in there after my workouts at NYSC, sweaty or showered. They are polite enough not to say, "You again?"

8. In what ways hast thou offended?
I let the Extremely Overtired Spittling Infant "Cry It Out" for ten solid minutes tonight. He fell asleep. I justify it this way: On a long car trip he cries sometimes for a few minutes in the car seat. And then he falls asleep. What are you going to do, stop every single time he squawks and nurse him for an hour every single time at a truck stop? Up yours, Doctor Sears! (Note that the Infant sleeps in our bed most of the night on most nights and I wear him in a sling when I cook dinner, and I breastfeed like mad, so I get hippy-dippy points.)

9. What's the next big thing?
God will stomple through New Ro, thwapping aside new construction with a flick of His mighty fist. He might tear up a few trees for good measure and then retire to The Tilted Kilt or Juniors for a cold one. He will disobey smoking regulations. He will get in a fight with one of New Ro's less-than-stellar citizens and receive a whack on the head via a pool cue. Mighty thunderstorms, tornados, hail, fire, brimstone, etcetera will be the unfortunate fallout.

10. Music selection?
My husband is playing this awful Portishead: Third. Look, I know this is apparently the music of choice for all the music rags, but it's like being aurally raped by a crack-addicted goat. Look at the photo of these people. They look really depressed, man. After listening to this I feel depressed, too. I want to run amok, wailing and gnashing my teeth, until I drown in the sludgy Long Island Sound.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Hello Postpartum Depression, Hello Doctor Fish Face

A couple of weeks ago I began to get the unsettling feeling that something was wrong. While it’s true that I have a three-month-old infant, am moving homes in about a week (or more, depending on a whole bunch of stress-inducing paperwork), and have to return to work at the end of the summer, the effect is more intense than all this would warrant.

The effect is quite nasty. What it is: A sensation of being underwater, coupled with a deepening and terrible anxiety. A foreboding sense of absolute doom. As I drive around, the sky seems too bright, the colors a shade toxic. Sometimes something has seemed to shimmer at the edge of my sight. Twice, while at home, I thought I saw someone in my peripheral vision, but when I turned my head no one was there. No one at all. "None of this is real," I thought, and not in that good I-smoked-a-joint-and-now-I'm-a-philosopher way.

The other day I felt so spacey I almost reversed the car out onto our one-way street without looking both ways. Sure enough, some fool zipped by heading in the wrong direction. For the rest of the day I pondered the depth of my near-mistake and which children would have felt the impact first (the two older) and which might have come out relatively unscathed (the baby). Yeah, it would have been the other guy’s fault, but that’s beside the point. Today, I blindly tried to walk in through the Out door at the Stop ‘n’ Shop and was headed off by a woman wheeling a cart. I wandered aside and staggered through the In door like a dumb bovine headed for the slaughter (and Stop ‘n’ Shop’s evil prices at the checkout once again made that simile a reality).

Most nights, I wake up at around 2 a.m. and think persistently about one of my older children running headlong into the street into the path of a car. If they manage to evade this fate, I think, one of them might be snatched. Or drown. Or be trapped in a burning building. But mostly, it’s about cars. If one drives by too fast on my street I itch to throw a stone at it. We’ve graduated from eggs to a hail of rocks.

Then, at the CVS: Christina Applegate has cancer? Good god, I probably have cancer too! Christina Applegate is younger than me, and more successful. If she can have cancer, I most certainly have cancer. Poor Christina Applegate. Poor me! I resist buying the magazine that describes her cancer in livid detail, sure that it will send me into a tailspin. I wander home, stricken with cancer.

Last time this happened I went for several months thinking I was just a tired new mother, until one day my fears coalesced into the awful thought that when The Bomb went off on the Metro North—as it invariably would when I was a passenger—my misery would at least come to an end. I had the good sense to know that this was not a normal thought. I sought the doctor. Medication was duly prescribed.

"Uh oh," says I, this time around. "This feels like postpartum depression again." I still have a lick of sense, after all. Armed with pamphlets from the hospital with titles like "Breaking the Silence," I called the Ob/Gyn office right away. My own doctor, I learned, was away. But Dr. X happened to have an opening. Thinking that I should get in sooner rather than later, I agreed to see Doctor X. I was sure that like all the other doctors in the practice she would be very nice.

I was very wrong. Doctor Cold Fish Face, as I now think of her, kept me waiting for about 15 minutes before she showed up. She had all the warmth and bedside manner of a gutted haddock on ice. Or a lobster slapped on one’s plate, it’s horrid beady eyes gazing up on stalks. Maybe I was hallucinating but this doctor seemed downright evil. I started to describe what was going on while she tapped away at a computer without making eye contact.

“I’m not feeling so good,” I said. “I have terrible anxiety. I know what this is. It’s postpartum depression. I had it before, with my second son. I want it to stop before it gets worse.”

[Disclaimer for those who may be freaked out or suffering from this affliction themselves: I am not going to write about hurting my baby. This is the common assumption when one hears about postpartum depression, but my form of it fortunately excludes the baby from all harm. That fat little fellow will be just fine. But meanwhile, I have cancer and will die within a few days.]

“Well, I basically have experience with some PMS,” she said dismissively. “Not really with this sort of thing.” Ummm…PMS? Was she kidding?

“Isn’t there anything you might be able to do?” I asked.

“I really think you should see your primary care physician,” she said.

“But I don’t know how quickly I can get an appointment. I’m here now. I’m really busy. I am very stressed. I am very anxious.” I wanted to add: Just driving here on the highway was a travail, you awful harpie! But my normal self seems encased in a shroud of toxic opacity. Like the bubble wrap I am using for packing the 1,865 boxes in my home, which I have to vacate in just a few days! You horrid slagmount!

“I suppose I could prescribe you something,” she sighed, looking put-upon. “But only enough for a few days. Then you’d have to see your own doctor.”

“Sure, that would work,” I said, relieved. She might have the appearance of a gimlet-eyed mackerel ready for the skillet, but at least she could stop the progress of this disturbing and escalating anxiety. She asked me to meet her in her office and she’d come in to discuss and give me the prescription. I went into her office, and there I waited.

And waited. I examined the photos of her kids, who seemed charming and fairly un-fish-esque. I eyed the tissue box with interest, as weeping seemed imminent. I heard Doctor Fish Face chatting in the hallway at one point and went out to take a look but couldn’t see her—but she sure did sound jovial. I think she may have been telling a joke to one of the nurses. I thought about escaping several times but stuck it out. “Just get the scrip!” I told myself fiercely. “This cannot go on!”

At least half an hour later she finally strolled in. At this point I had about a 15-minute window to get home before my babysitter had to leave.

“So,” she said blandly as she dropped into her seat. “Anyway, there really isn’t anything I can do for you. I suggest you call your primary care doctor.”

But wait…hadn’t she said she was going to help me? And why the half-hour wait? What, what, WHAT??!!

“Nothing?” I asked. “But I thought—“

“I just wouldn’t know where to begin,” she said, throwing up her hands. “I have no idea of the dosages. Maybe you can call your pharmacy and get them to look it up. As I said, this isn’t really my realm. Good luck!”

I got up and left the worthless bitch sitting there. About to hyperventilate, I staggered down to the on-site cafĂ© in the building. A nice man asked me what I wanted and I burst into tears. “T-t-t-turkey. And cheese. L-l-l-lettuce. Tomato. With, with, with—“

“Mustard?” he asked hopefully.

“No, m-m-m—“

“Mayo!” he guessed, and went off to make it. Good fellow.

I leaned against a case containing cold drinks and cried hopelessly. Out of nowhere, a gentle voice said, “Can I help?” I looked up into the face of a woman. She had very blue eyes. I think. Her face seemed soft and genuine.

“No, it’s okay, I just need to eat,” I said pathetically. “I’m breastfeeding. Didn’t eat a good breakfast.” I broke into a fresh round of tears.

She smiled and laid a hand on my shoulder. “Tomorrow will be a better day,” she said, very sincerely.

Thank you, kind woman. She was right. I finally reached my own doctor when he returned to the office a few days later and he prescribed the Big P, the old classic, the traditional fix, in a jiffy. Says it’s safe for the infant. I popped one this morning. I still feel like shit, but there is hope.

Monday, August 11, 2008

I Know You Are Out There

Maybe I'm new to this old blogging thang. Well, it's been more than a year and I just kicked in the Google analytics tool three days ago. In those three days I have tracked 35 whopping Absolute Unique Visitors! I think I can identify about 34 of you, but who is the mysterious 35th visitor? Come on, out with it.

I know it is you, Shuffles. I can just see you hunched over a dusty laptop with stained keyboard, sipping a cup of Chamomile tea purchased in the Stop 'n' Shop bargains aisle. A withered cat is twining around your unshaved ankles, and the smell of burnt broccoli is in the air. The bills are piling up in the broken-down oven, and I believe those are old love letters crowding the dishrack. You might want to check your porch, too. There's a package there containing a creepy owl-eyed doll that you got for a steal on eBay. (I would recommend returning said doll, because there is a curse attached. Don't say I didn't warn you, Shuffles.)

Also housed on your laptop is the unfinished novel, all 46 pages of it, about love, love, love. Love that you made. Love that you spurned. About your love of an old collie dog named Shep, who died peacefully one night by the fire in your childhood home. And your rather unconventional love of socks, and your never-ending quest to find the perfect sock that doesn't sag and bunch around your unshaved ankles. I think you have ankles that are quite fine, Shuffles, and they should never be encased in socks. Never! Some women have frightful ankles, but yours are nothing of which to be ashamed. I too have decent ankles, even during pregnancy. In that we are kin.

Shuffles, come clean. I know that you are reading my blog. You are Unique Visitor # 35. Please give me some comment love, Shuffles. I won't turn it aside, like that poltroon Tommy McBiggers did back in high school. I won't toss the processed tater tots at you like the rotten Heathers did in the lunchroom on that long-ago day when you were a mere Freshman with pie-crust teeth just begging for braces to tame them. Nolan Krinick, the evil dentist, fixed all that, didn't he? And then you entered your "roller coaster of slutdom" phase. Oh, but we won't discuss that further. Unless the comments are not forthcoming. Yes, I can be cruel.

When I drag my garbage to the street tonight, I will think of you. Maybe you will be watching from your porch, wondering if I ever used all of the Saffron. I did not. I have extra. I have enough for the whole durned block! Watch me make a cous-cous that will knock your socks off, revealing your unshaved (but well-defined) ankles.

Oh Shuffles, when the snow falls, will you still be there watching, even though we have departed? Just one comment and I will know that Unique Visitor # 35 is not but a hiccup in the Google Analytics architecture.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

It's August, People!

Witness the Curious Incident of the Summertime Snowman. Sighted on a porch on our street. Beats having to take your Christmas gear down from the attic come December.

Note: Click on the pic to see the snowman. I would have gotten a better shot but someone might have shot me for trespassing.

Habitat for All Things Creepy

After writing my earlier post on the New Rochelle armory, I decided to go on a reconnaissance mission and check out the rear end of the place. Rear end, indeed. There we witnessed this rather scary Habitat for Humanity Warehouse Sale, in a newer building not part of the original armory. My husband entered with much trepidation and found a few pieces of crappy pasteboard furniture in an abandoned hallway, as well as weird junk lying around on the floor. There were holes punched along the wall at various intervals. And not a soul to be seen. He backed out quickly. I thought about locking the car door while we waited.

As we drove away, feeling decidedly creeped-out, a strange man lurched out and stared at us with beady-eyed suspicion and malevolence. Another guy was picking through refuse in an alleyway next to the building. Is this really a Habitat for Humanity outfit or a front for--as my kids would say--a Ghosts and Monsters gathering?

We did note one key thing. The weed-infested property behind the armory will be grand indeed one day, when the brush is cleared and the view of the water is complete. Hopefully the armory will still be there to witness it.

It's the thought that counts

I have never been a particularly adept gift-wrapper, but this beauty for my son's third birthday was such an atrocious job that I snapped a photo of it. Note the masking tape. Was I drunk? Stoned? No, dear reader, that is simply the lousy wrapping job that I did while perfectly alert and sober.

He tore the paper off without a second glance.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Three Conversations

On humility:

Elder son: I like playgroups with girls. I really prefer girls to boys, actually.
Younger son: I like grills too! I perfer grills better than boys!
Elder son: Girls are cuter.
Younger son: Yes, they is cuter. Grills is nice!
Elder son: But my brother and I are the cutest persons of anyone on the whole planet.

On the nature of being:

Elder son: Mommy, can we ever go visit another planet?
Mother: Other planets are far away, and we don't know if there is one that supports life like ours, etc.
Younger son: Mein raisins!
Elder son: Did specks of dust float from a different planet to our planet? Is that where we came from?
Mother: Whoa...that's deep!
Elder son: But mommy, how did people come to life on this planet?
Elder son: Be silent! We heard all your talk the first time! Mommy and I are having a conversation!

On love:

Radio song: "Don't steal my heart and throw it away..."
Younger son: Dat's mean! Stealing hearts is MEAN!
Radio song: "...leave me drowning in my tears..."
Elder son: Hey! That's a real goofball thing to say!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

To Arms for the Armory

A mere stone's throw from my home sits the old New Rochelle armory, its grand old brick facade facing the Post Road, with two anchors flanking its entryway. Opened in 1933, the armory was a base and training facility for naval recruits. Now, of course, someone wants to tear it down. Developer Forest City Residential's plan to revitalize 26 acres of Echo Bay waterfront has the armory slated for the wrecking ball—-to be replaced by a 20,000-square-foot community center. Perhaps it will have a vaguely nautical theme, in order to preserve a bit o' history and honor the naval veterans who served there?

The armory hasn't seen a lot of action in the last several years, serving only as the home for New Rochelle's famous Haunted House each fall. Last year, a local politician stopped by our door with his hopeful plan for turning it into a museum, an ice-skating rink, or--just think!--a community center.

While there is no doubt that the Echo Bay waterfront deserves to be a place of real beauty rather than a sludgedump, why not incorporate the armory into the plans rather than tear it down? It seems that Forest City may have spiritual kin in the braintrust who razed New York's grandest train station in order to build Madison Square Garden, leaving us with the execrable fluorescent wasteland that is today's Penn Station.

Nonetheless, earlier this year, the City of New Rochelle accepted Forest City Residential's proposal, which includes the construction of hundreds of condos and townhouses along the waterfront, as well as restaurants and shops. “We will be long-term partners," said David Levey, executive vice president with Forest City Residential Group. "We will become part of the fabric of this community. We’re going to do a bang-up job. . .it’s going to be something that’s pleasing to the city and pleasing to the developers.” When it comes to the old armory, however, a group of local citizens are not pleased, and they are not going to let the building go down without a fight.

The armory has its biggest hero in Larchmont resident Alex Litzky, age 21, who is hiking the Appalachian Trail from New York to Maine in order to raise awareness and funds to save the armory. Many local merchants are standing behind Litzky's trek (which he began on Sunday, August 3), with several offering to donate percentages of sales to the cause. Walk down Palmer Avenue and it's encouraging to see how many Larchmont stores are advocating to preserve this element of New Ro history.

Litzky's hike was inspired by his father David, a member of the Save the Armory Committee. The group has spoken out in defense of the armory at public meetings on the Echo Bay plan. "Developments have brought a lot of congestion to downtown New Rochelle," the younger Litzky said, "and I don't think it's for the better."

Pledges for Litzky's hike can be made by calling 914-500-3165 or e-mailing

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Good-Bye to All That

The rumors are true. We are leaving New Ro and setting sail for the northern reaches of Mamaroneck, a town I once mispronounced as "Mama-ro-neck" after getting desperately lost there on the way home from Newport about, say, twelve years ago. (As a side note, I would like to apologize to all and sundry for hooking a piece of the Newport house's porch with the tail end of my 1984 Volvo and dragging it clean away as I left. I still can't imagine how it happened! I hope the check I wrote sufficed.)

I have held a certain sense of pride as New Ro's wee little voice of vitriol-sometimes-love from the trenches, but I'm sure I'll always have a bit of the New Rochellian in me. "Rochelle! Rochelle!" I'll sing idly while doing the dishes, a la Seinfeld. I'll come down and wander the aisles of the Stop 'n' Shop on Palmer Avenue, forlornly seeking Shuffles in the bagging area. Maybe I'll even come back to my street and toss an egg at a speeding car.

As if in farewell, a woman just slowed in front of our driveway, opened her maw, and expelled a great cloud of smoke. She then flung her cigarette onto our lawn and roared off to her own driveway down the street. "Goodbye, neighbor," I wept.

So what awaits us in Yo' Mama-Roneck? I sure do like the fact that it's diverse and kind of quirky, just like our humble hometown of New Ro. And friendly! We already have one neighbor who graciously offered us the use of his house whenever the mood strikes us. "Come on in and get yourself a cup of sugar, a drink, whatever!" he shouted, when we met. He stuffed all sorts of things into my hands, including icy-cold bottled water (it was a hot day) and hot coffee (I had an infant and he knew I needed it). "Just walk in the back door," he added. "No need to call." Another neighbor heard we signed on the house and dropped off a gift-wrapped banana bread, even though we don't move for about three weeks. Now that's unparalleled niceness. (Supernanny made a stealth mission and claimed the bread.)

I was also delighted to see that Mamaroneck has its own rather shopworn mannequin in the window of a store offering specialized bra fittings, although she hasn't fallen quite as low as the Craftform broad. Give her a few years and a couple of abusive boyfriends. She will be duly photographed. Hi Ho the Derry Oh, I'm off to enrage another entire township of citizens! (By the way, when was the last time you had your bra fitted? I did this as a teenager. An older, pinched-faced woman dragged a measuring tape around my bust in a most humiliating manner. I have been far too scared to repeat the experience and therefore I am sure I am wearing the wrong bra size. But I digress.)

There are just so many things I'll miss about our neighborhood. For example, a posse of boys on bikes rode through some time back, and the conversation as they passed was without price. It went something like this:

Boy One: My ball got squished! I got one ball left!
Boy Two: Screw yer ball!
Boy One: I went over a bump and my ball flew off.
Boy Three: Titties and ass! Titties and ass! I'm a-gonna get me some titties and ass!
Boy One: My baaaaaallll.... [Fading into distance. Exit stage left.]

Boys of Mamaroneck, can you do better? I challenge thee!