Magic Jewball

all signs point to no


Uptown Girl

Filed under : Judaism,New York City
On May 31, 2006
At 1:26 pm
Comments : 23

You may remember my description of Fifth Avenue, playground of Ladies Who Lunch and now, tech geeks. But there is another Fifth, as seen below.

Yes, this is Fifth, slightly further uptown in Harlem. Why do I bring this up? No reason, except I was there to catch a train yesterday and while I waited for this light to change, I couldn’t help thinking that this isn’t really what people think when they imagine Fifth. I don’t think Holly Golightly ever came up here. Or maybe she did. I never actually saw Breakfast At Tiffany’s although I did see the Seinfeld episode about it. Does that count?

Anyway, let’s pretend you don’t know where Harlem is (90% of you probably don’t and that’s OK; I don’t know where Wal-Mart is in your town). Ponder this math problem. Timmy lives in the 90′s and needs to go UP. Should he catch the train at 42nd or at 125th? I’ll wait for you to think about that.

The funny thing is, most people go all the way down to 42nd in order to then go back up to 125th and beyond. But, you see, 125th is in Harlem and people are afraid. Even royalty was once carjacked on 125th. Well, Queen Latifah is royalty, right? But I often take the train from there if I have no luggage (there’s a bit of a walk between the subway and the train station). It’s not that I’m so brave but it saves me ten minutes. Come ON. I need my ten minutes. Plus, 125th Street is really not that bad, despite what you’ve heard. Harlem has a rich history and not just of scaring the bejesus out of people who live further downtown.

This is the view most people get of 125th.

Not too close and with a Metro-North window safely shielding you. But clearly, I was OK enough to pull out my camera here. Of course I did. I was hoping to see Queen Latifah getting relieved of her car.

U2 – Angel Of Harlem
Queen Latifah – U.N.I.T.Y.

You didn’t really think I was going to link to Uptown Girl, did you?

So this weekend is another Jewish holiday. But Passover was just seven weeks ago! Yes, this is Shavuot (Shah-voo-oat) which literally means “weeks” because it falls seven weeks after Passover. On Passover we celebrate the exodus from Egypt. Seven weeks later, we celebrate the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people in the desert. The period between the two is called the Omer (see Leviticus 23:15 for more!). Before Casey Kasem, the Jews were counting down (or up, really) the days between the two fun holidays. But how can I remember what day it is so I can count it? Simple, I use the hOmer Simpson Calendar!

The tradition is to study Torah all night. My tradition is to go to sleep early and dream about blintzes. The reason we eat blintzes is because it is traditional to eat dairy foods. The dairy foods come into the picture because before the Torah, which we only got a few thousand years ago (give or take), we didn’t know the Kosher rules for meat. Because of this, we stick with cheesy goodness. So grab your Lactaid and party J-style!

“But Becca, will there be no new posts this Friday/Saturday? What will we do between cleaning out our sock drawers and watching the grass grow?”

Simple! The delightful Culotte Folle has helpfully agreed to be guest blogger on Friday and I have scheduled her post to appear then. In return, if I can get my act together, I may just get to guest-post to her blog next week! And joy was spread throughout the Blogosphere.

Garbage – Milk


Manhattan Solstice

Filed under : America,Music,New York City
On May 29, 2006
At 7:57 pm
Comments : 22

Happy Memorial Day!

Yeah, that didn’t look right to me either. See, even though everyone enjoys themselves on this day, we all know that underpinning our barbecues and beach parties are lots and lots of dead people. It’s kind of like that scene in Poltergeist when Craig T. Nelson realizes his house is built on a cemetery. It sure made swimming a lot less fun. But is it our fault that we Americans are so overworked that we will seize on any excuse to make merry and relax just a bit?

It’s OK, though, you’re in luck! I have found the solution to this problem. It’s a variation on that game where you add “and then we all ended up naked” to the end of your story, or when you add “in bed” to the end of your cookie fortune. In this game, you add “because soldiers died for us” to your fun filled Memorial Day sentences. Here are some examples from my own life:

I bought a new DVD player for $25 because soldiers died for us.
The whole city was empty and walking the streets was relaxing, because soldiers died for us.
I watched half-naked hot guys cycling in the park because soldiers died for us.

Yes, I felt a lot less guilty once I interjected them into every thought.

Speaking of memories, I’m sure you’ve all lain awake nights wondering if I have always had this bizarre sense of humor and if so, had I been inflicting it on others since childhood. The answer is yes! When cleaning out my childhood bedroom (you have to do it some time) I found the following undated letter:

Dear Tooth Fairy,

I’m sorry that I can’t give you my tooth but when I was in Cherry Hill Hotel, that’s in New Jersey you know, I was eating challah and my tooth came out and I didn’t know it so I threw it out. I know that sounds kind of strange but it’s true so please give me a quarter anyway.

Thank you,

PS, please excuse my bad handwriting.

Yeah, I haven’t changed much. And yeah, the tooth fairy was cheap. Good times, good times.

But anyway, back to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice so that Circuit City could have a blowout sale. Here are some songs about soldiers and war. Would it be crass to say that Vietnam inspired the best music both during and after? As much as I enjoy the Andrews Sisters, we all know it’s true. Even through the 90′s, people wrote good music about Vietnam.

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Fortunate Son

The Doors – Peace Frog

The Clash – Straight To Hell

REM – Orange Crush

Alice In Chains – Rooster

Oh, but special props to this song which came out during the first Gulf war but is just as appropriate to our current conflict.
The The – Armageddon Days (Are Here Again)

But on a happier note, this is a better picture (it comes from the NY Times) than the ones I took of the “Manhattan Solstice” a phenomenon that will happen twice this year, where for 15 minutes the sunset is perfectly aligned with the Manhattan cross streets. Take my word for it, it was even better in real life. The glow was awesome. Sometimes summer in the city is just beautiful.


Ownership will tear us apart again

Filed under : New York City
On May 25, 2006
At 4:45 pm
Comments : 12

There are lots of blogs out there that are sort of “New York for New Yorkers.” I linked to one that that lately makes me laugh and laugh over there in the Blogroll on the right (since it’s no longer just my friends, I had to change the title from “Links to Friends,” but “Links to Friends and Strangers” seemed so cumbersome). He was kind enough to link back, so come on J-Ball friends, let’s head on over to this is what we do now.

Back? But so I noticed that most of my readers are not from New York. Sure, I have Bob and some other New Yorkers, but, for instance, just today I got:

Chicago, IL
Jackson, Miss.
Carmel, IN
Gaithersburg, MD
Tulsa, OK
Norcross, GA
Nashua, NH
Houston, TX
West Bend, WI
Fayetteville, NC

And lots more. If you recognize your town up there, don’t be scared. I can’t see that you’re scratching your ass right now, just that someone in your area visited.

But I feel that the wide geographical reach of the J-Ball is an excuse to share a little more of, yes, you guessed it, You Live Like That, We Live Like This.

It begins with me telling you that I am a shareholder in an exciting and totally unprofitable corporation. I’d give you the name but you’ve never heard of it and besides, it’s my address. Yes, it is my building. I live in a co-op. A co-op is a building that is owned jointly by a group of people who live there. Being that most co-ops are in New York, we can just go ahead and say that these people are all insane in one way or another. In a condo, you own your apartment. In a co-op you own shares (225 in my case) of a corporation that exists simply to own a building. The building then gives you a lease to live in your actual apartment. So what’s so different about that, you ask.

Well, it’s this. We elect a board each year and that board decides who gets to buy an apartment. This is annoying if you are either buying or selling but fantastic if you would like to not live next to a guy who runs a prostitution ring out of his apartment, or even worse, is in a band. I listen to loud music all day. I don’t need it at night when I’m trying to watch the game.

Not that this has helped me in any way. To the left of me is a family of three who are still renters. The building has been co-op since 1984 but they have stubbornly held on. Now, this family is made up of a single mother and two teenagers of different genders and they live in a one-bedroom. My curiosity to know how they arrange themselves is eclipsed by the fact that they constantly look at me as though they would like me dead. Plus, I am convinced they do, in fact, run a prostitution ring out of their apartment. I could be wrong, though. It could be drugs.

To the right of me is a guy who is certifiable. His father bought him the apartment years and years ago so he could stow his crazyass son away and not have to deal with him. When I first moved in I could often hear him having nasty, blowout conversations on the phone with people where he would curse them out and tell them what horrible fate should befall them. Later on, the guy who lives above him told me, “Uh, Becca, he’s not on the phone.” Oh. Right.

But still, the fact that we are a co-op leads to a lot of fun joint decision-making, like the choice of a new color for the external doorframes which has taken over a year. Each year we have a meeting where we elect a new board (to paraphrase The Who, it’s usually the same as the old board) and yell at each other a lot.

If our co-op was a sitcom, the part of the weirdo who nitpicks over everything would be played by, oh, let’s call him, Nitpicky Guy. My inauguration into the ways of Nitpicky Guy was at the first annual meeting I attended where he tried to introduce a motion that hallway lightbulbs were too bright. Not to do anything about it, just to declare it. He was denied the right to make the motion. Yes, this is co-op living. Last year, he somehow made it onto the board because one member was stepping down and no one else wanted the spot. I can’t imagine how the other four are still alive, really. I might have burned down the building just to get away from this guy.

Then there is Honest Heartfelt Guy who makes it seem like every issue affects him Very Deeply. Last year he handed out a six page document he had dug up about how the AC unit on top of the building next door should have actually been built on the other side of the roof. Yeah, I can’t stand how loud it is either, but what the hey, I live in New York City. There’s noise. It’s shocking to us all, I know.

This year, he was especially concerned. We have a new cellphone tower on our roof. Yay, we get paid $30k a year to let it be there. But he felt Very Deeply that this might affect his health. He seemed on the verge of tears. And naturally, there was a handout. The board tried to reassure him that they had done research and that if he liked, we could have the cell phone company come and look at where his apartment was in relation to the transmission. What I would have said was, “Listen, freak, did you not hear me say thirty thousand dollars a year for using our empty space?” I’d sell my health for half that.

They did ask me to run for a spot on the board, but I think that was just to get Nitpicky Guy off of it. I declined. I don’t need to spend an evening a month deciding on paint colors and asking Sprint to come look at the roof. The one fun thing the board does do is interview new people who want to move in. The flip side of this is that several of your neighbors know your salary and your entire financial picture. I still remember one board member saying to me in my interview, “I always thought record company people made more money.” You and me both, sister. But now she’s my neighbor with the big giant dog. It’s fun to say hi to her in the elevator knowing she is aware that I make less than a transit worker. Luckily I’ve gotten a few raises since then. Now I just make less than a school custodian.

I know they have these homeowner’s associations in the burbs and they keep you from painting your house purple should you have no taste whatsoever. But this is different. If you burn down your house, well, you usually don’t take the entire neighborhood with you, which is what will happen if Crazyass Neighbor forgets to take his meds and does that. And, I’m sure it will be sad for the whole street as well as my building if the prostitution ring is busted up. We’re all in this together. As long as I don’t kill you first.

Title comes, of course, from Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart. For some reason I cannot fathom, it’s not available on Napster. But no problem! Here’s an exhaustive list of covers of it. Don’t bother listening to them, though. They all blow, even The Cure’s. But the site itself has long lists of covers of all sorts of songs. I know one day soon I’ll be really bored and then, look out, I’m reading them all.

And this is the song I really should have used in the last post. It has this classic, ripped from Kate Moss headlines intro: “Right, see, the thing that’s got it all fucked now is camera phones. How am I supposed to do a line in front of strangers when I know they’ve all got camera phones?” Genius!

The Streets – When You Wasn’t Famous


The person at extension blah blah is not available

Filed under : Gadgets,Rants,Tennis
On May 23, 2006
At 2:27 pm
Comments : 20

Well, my cell phone is dead. Moment of silence for my cell phone. Not too long, though. Make it like the moment of silence that Bob Sheppard calls for “our servicemen and women stationed around the globe” in the seventh inning stretch at Yankee Stadium. That is, like 4 seconds.

See, I’m not wedded to this thing as many of you are. Oh, I love pocket-sized electronic devices, that’s for sure. Sometimes I pile my cell phone on top of my iPod on top of my PDA and admire the layer cake of gadgets that I carry around. But I don’t talk much on my cell phone. First off, I am either at work or at home for 95% of my day and my landline service is far clearer. Second, half of that other 5% is made up of subway riding where there is no service. (Thank God. Can you imagine? “Yeah, I’m on the uptown B, where you at?” for miles and miles.) Here, I included a handy graph. It’s a little blurry, but you get the idea.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Here’s the key in case you don’t have 20/5 vision.

Work 65%
Home 30%
Subway 2.5%
Walking someplace V. important 1%
In the bowels of the Time Warner Center 1%
Misc. stupidity .5%

Of course, there’s much overlap between “Work” and “Misc. stupidity” but my graphing capability is limited.

But mostly, I have an old fashioned sense of propriety about phone conversations that irritates most people I know to no end. You know that behavior you have that you feel certain that your friends joke about when you’re not around? I’m sure I have several but I know this is one. I just don’t chat on cell phones. For one thing, I’m quite private and I don’t like to be yelling, “What do you mean he’s cheating on you?” at Starbucks. Once, the woman in front of me on line at the Food Emporium was having an entire, matter-of-fact, conversation on her cell phone about how her doctor had told her she couldn’t have children. Holy crap, how am I supposed to just watch my groceries slide across the belt and then go on with my day after that?

Even if I’m at home, I get annoyed if you call me from your cell phone. If you have no landline, that’s OK. But if you do, and you still chose to call me from waiting on line to get into “The Da Vinci Code,” well, how important am I supposed to feel? I guess the time you have at home is just too valuable to waste on little old me. And if I want to tell you something meaningful, “Hey, I’m really depressed,” or whatever, do I want you saying, “What? Can you repeat that?” every three seconds while I know you are simultaneously surrounded by a horde of strangers?

So, I rarely use mine. But that’s OK, it calculates tips and has a flashlight. I have Virgin Mobile which is pay-as-you-go and I pay essentially $5 a month. I almost never use it up. The Olympic moment for my cell phone is at the US Open in August/September when my family and I use our phones all day to say things like, “What match are you at? Should I come over? Is it a blowout? No, come here, it’s going into the fifth set and all the Chilean fans are going crazy!” We should really learn to text because, if you’ve ever been to the US Open, you know that people will give you the Stare of Death if you take a phone call while points are being played. That leads to a hastily whispered, “Court 12, on serve…call you right back. Bring ice cream.”

And so, I do need one. Sadly, at Virgin Mobile, part of the a la carte experience is not getting a free phone. So I will now have to shell out for either a “clamshell” or straight up model. I just need to make sure it has a good flashlight.

Yeah, I could have gone with either Hanging on the Telephone or Call Me (which my mother used to add several extra any’s to when she sang it: “Call me any any any any any time…..”) by Blondie. But that would have been too easy. I really wanted “Telephone Operator” by Pete Shelley but it’s not available on Napster. So let’s go with this gem from the early ‘90’s.

Primitive Radio Gods – Standing Outside A Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand


We’re s.h.o.p.p.i.n.g., we’re shopping

Filed under : Food,Stores
On May 21, 2006
At 12:34 am
Comments : 8

I have been thinking about stores lately, which is better than spending a lot of money in them, I guess. I have been known to do this too and that can be disastrous in a New York apartment about the size of your average closet. But it began because the other day I passed the scene of the opening of the new Apple store on Fifth Avenue. I am rarely on Fifth and when I’m there it’s usually for a different store, American Girl Place (I have nieces, nieces who have well-marketed hundred dollar dolls). But this time I was there to get a mammogram. Don’t worry, this post will NOT be about my breasts (gentlemen: sorry, this post will not be about my breasts).

So, a block away from there, I pass this huge glass cube with the Apple logo on it. Now, I had read about this but I still couldn’t figure out why it was such a momentous occasion. Yay, there’s an Apple store on Fifth. Tourists can now buy the same iPods they can get at their local Best Buy (or Apple store if they have one). Whatever. But there was a big crowd and lots of press. I know this is a continuing theme with me, but once again, I was caught without my camera. I mean, who would have dreamed there would be anything to take a picture of at a mammogram besides a bunch of women sitting around in hospital gowns? Stupid, stupid me.

Anyway, in that room full of women in hospital gowns, I had a lot of time to think about stores. This is because there were no magazines. None. Come ON. These women had all come prepared with work or a book or a paper but you could tell I was a rookie because I had nothing. I first filled my time by gazing at the inoperative stereo system across the room and trying to guess which knob had which function. OK, the slidey things are the EQ and the big knob is the volume and the buttons go with the CD, blah blah blah. Yeah, you know I was bored.

But then I realized, hey I don’t smell! The reason this was shocking is you’re not allowed to wear deodorant or powder in your pits when you have a mammogram. I have no idea why. Don’t bother to tell me in a comment, I don’t really care. But this was a lunchtime dealie and so I had spent the whole morning in the workplace with, you know, other humans. I did think that through in advance, finally deciding on a giant sweatshirt that I’ve had since about 1989 when giant sweatshirts were in fashion for women. I figured it would absorb my stink in its thick folds. (Before you ask, yes, we have a casual workplace – you couldn’t get more casual unless you came in nude).

As I mentioned, I had more than a few idle moments to think about why I didn’t smell. I came to the conclusion that it was the soap given to me by Kay from a store called Lush. I used to buy stuff at Lush when I visited the UK regularly. Then it seemed novel and fun to buy overpriced soap by the slice from bins under handwritten signs with clever descriptions on them. Once Lush came to the Upper West Side I stopped buying. I seriously have never bought a single thing from Lush in New York despite the fact that I pass it two or three times a week. Of course I do; it’s on a block with several other attractions. Shall I list them? Sure, everyone likes lists.

1. Dale & Thomas Popcorn. Holy crap, that stuff is good. Sweet, salty, fantastic.
2. Zen Palate. So good you forget it’s vegan. And you can get high from the herbal iced teas there, I swear.
3. Beard Papa cream puffs. For the strictly Orthodox, I must warn you, there’s no hechsher but what could they put in there? For anyone else, best.cream.puff.ever. And seriously, all cream puffs are good so you can only imagine.
4. Fairway (OK, it’s a couple of blocks away, but close enough). Best/cheapest grocery store in NY.

So into this mix comes Lush. But all those overpriced cleansy things just don’t have that thrill when you’re not on vacation. Everyone swears by their “bath bombs” but I don’t take baths so I don’t care (and I even have a jacuzzi bath courtesy of the previous owners who thought it’d increase the value of the apartment). And a shower is just a ten minute affair that is over before I can get to the fourth song on Turn On the Bright Lights and I skip the first one because it’s too slow for my chop-chop shower routine. It just slows me down. So, whatever. But Kay got me this nice lavender bath slice which lasted me all day. Excellent stuff. I highly recommend it for when you are going to get felt up by a machine and want to stay shower-fresh.

But this got me thinking. Maybe Steve Jobs figured people on vacation who have just overspent at Prada and FAO Schwarz will be willing to shell out for the same iPod boombox that was too extravagant at home. I, of course, will be gazing at it across Fifth trying to guess which button does what.

Title comes from:

Pet Shop Boys – Shopping

Oh, and I really did want to link to The Smiths’ Handsome Devil. If you know this song, well, you’ll know why. If not, Google the lyrics! Isn’t the chorus perfect, wink wink wink? But alas, I guess licensing their songs to online services was just another issue that Morrissey and Marr could not agree on. Blast those eccentric geniuses.