going postal

Over a two-and-a-half-square-foot surface, a woman meticulously built perfect rows of 39-cent relics. One by one, she transferred them from their roll to the package. Thankfully, the postman took the next couple customers in line while the woman simultaneously decorated and paid the shipping for her gift.

It's a good thing postage stamps come in the self-stick variety.

"Howminnny stamps d'yah need fah that?" someone behind me asked.

As the woman turned to answer the old man, she revealed her UPS store staff T-shirt and apron.

"About $75 worth," she said. "It's going to the U.S. Virgin Islands. I just want to get rid of these old stamps since the rates went up to 41 cents."

She resumed the stamp relocation process after recounting the rows and columns. I knew I wasn't going to make it to work on time.

"We jus' figyuhd ya were a li'l' crazy," barked a woman in front of me.

"Maybe a little," the woman laughed. "I just have so many old stamps." She double-checked the count on the rows she built in a rectangle around the address. "OK, I think this is ready," she said to the postman after adding three more stamps.

He slowly counted and canceled each of the 193 stamps, one by one. After the woman helped him move the large box into a cart, she grabbed her UPS hand truck and headed for the door.

"Next," the postman said, looking at me.

"How much to mail this regular mail?" I asked, handing him a brown-paper wrapped book I was sending to my mom. "I have some old postcard stamps I want to get rid of..."


break-in success

I awoke to a leg swinging across my torso. It was coming from - the window? Something was amiss.

"What the fuck?" I shouted. I elbowed Mike in the ribs. He didn't wake up. Great. Here I am, naked in bed, with some stranger climbing in the window over me. I instinctively pulled the sheet up over my breasts and sat up.

"Nicole?" the intruder asked. He pulled his leg back out of the window and replaced it with his head.

"Who the fuck are you?" I elbowed Mike again. He rolled over and noticed the latest addition to his room.

"Oh. Sorry. I'm Nicole's friend. Nicole got locked out. I was just going to let her in." The intruder swung his leg back up through the window frame. Clearly, this intruder was inebriated. Or just an idiot.

"What the hell are you doing?" Mike said.

"I'm going to go let Nicole in."

"Get the hell out of my window," Mike said.

"But what about Nicole?" he asked, as if he were the only one capable of walking down two flights of stairs to open the door.

"We'll let her in. Just get out of here."

The intruder slunk back onto the third-floor deck, over the railing and, I assume, back down to the ground. Or at least Mike didn't encounter him in the hallway or coming out of one of the downstairs neighbors' apartments.

Nicole apologized about the intruder. She had sent him home. Or tried to. He clearly wasn't very good at following instructions.

She thought we'd changed the locks. We thought she was some obnoxious kid ringing the doorbell repeatedly an hour earlier. Like those pesky car alarms, we cursed at the doorbell irritably, dismissed it as simply an annoyance, and went back to bed.

Moral of the story, kids: Don't assume every 3 a.m. doorbell will draw you out to a bag of flaming dog poo. It might bring an intruder through your window instead.


escape from big apple

Under the cover of darkness, the carnies packed up and skipped town last night. And I think I know why.

Not long ago I passed by the circus tent in Government Center on my walk home. It was late - around 3 a.m. - and as I came upon the outer perimeter, I heard some sort of commotion. Low and behold, when I rounded the bend, there were two humans making a break for it. The first specimen, a male in his 20s, had just finished scaling the fence and made it to the side of freedom. His cohort, a female, screamed from inside that she wanted out. The male jumped up on the fence so he could see over and coach her in her climbing skills. But she was panicked and cried that she was unable to make it all the way up. The male opted for another tactic, lifting the fence from its anchors, and the female successfully crawled underneath. The pair then stumbled away into the night.

All of this I watched from the shadows. I don't think they saw me, and of course, I didn't report this crime to anyone. Clearly these humans had been abused - perhaps kept in small cages, malnourished or forcefully inebriated. But the carnies were too cowardly to warn anyone about the danger of the escaped specimens and too proud to declare their inability to put on more shows without them. And they needed all of their resources to hunt down the missing pair. So the carnies left, swiftly and quietly in the night.

I just hope those two humans made it to safety. And that I can get some sort of refund for these tickets to next week's show.


under surveillance

The Eye of Mordor relocated to a shiny new plastic home outside my kitchen window. I think (read: hope) it's firey gaze is directed at the alley below, as all the new (read: additional) "no trespassing" and "under video surveillance" signs would lead passers-by to believe. But even if the camera belongs to my landlord and not to unloved-by-his-family guy or loud-masturbator guy (read: my neighbors), there's something creepy about having a camera right above my second-floor window.

If it's not capturing everything I cook on my trailer-home-sized gas stove (mmm, steamed greens - scintillating footage), surely there's some video of me blocking its view of the alley. While my fire escape turned out to be a deathbed for plants rather than a charming container garden - even before the Eye of Mordor made its home here - it does serve as an occasional makeshift porch/smoking lounge. So anyone reviewing the tapes (or, even creepier, a human operator watching in real-time) has surely seen me climb out my window and sit on the steps with a newspaper or the occasional smokey treat.

Perhaps I'll finally get to make my debut on YouTube.


unidentified object

I needed to retrieve something from an old friend I hadn't talked to in a while. One evening, I figured he'd be sleeping at his girlfriend's house, so I decided to go over in the middle of the night to grab it. Luckily, he always leaves his house unlocked. Now, I can't tell you why this object was was so desirable or why I couldn't just call him and ask for it. But logic just doesn't apply during REM, now does it?

I let myself in, walked up the stairs, and began my search. I found the object. I took a call on my mobile. No clue why I was getting a call at four in the morning, or why I bothered to answer it, but I did. On the way out, I found a pair of my shorts I didn't remember leaving there. No matter, I grabbed them and made my exit. The door slammed. I ended my call. I began walking down the driveway, over to the parking lot where my little blue Subaru GL was. But then the front door creaked. I crouched down and peered through the bushes. Damn, it was the downstairs neighbor (and mother of one of the kids whose apartment I'd just been in). I couldn't get to the car without being seen, and it was late, so there wasn't really any place else I could go without obviously having been the person who just left their house. In my panic ... I woke up.


laughing with myself

There's probably a number of people who see me in passing and think I'm mentally unstable because I'm laughing out loud, gesturing, or making some ridiculous face while sitting by myself in a cafe or walking down the street. So be it. Without the context of my thoughts, these things don't make any sense to anyone else.

But for a change: some context. I've been reading the papers in the local coffee shop, and as is typical in newspapers, there's often some gems buried in the stories that are laugh-out-loud funny. Or maybe I am crazy. Judge for yourself.

In today's Boston Herald, regarding what is done to an invasive species of toad in Australia:

"We kill them with carbon dioxide gas, stockpile them in a big freezer and then put them through a liquid fertilizer process that renders the toads nontoxic," [Frogwatch coordinator Graeme] Sawyer said. "It turns out to be sensational fertilizer."

Perhaps it's the image that comes to mind. Or the use of the word sensational. Or the fact that the type of person I imagine using the word sensational isn't the type of person who would partake in liquifying toads.
And in yesterday's Herald:

"The city of Boston is under siege from armed teenage marauders and cretins with chromosome damage who have paralyzed Boston," [Curtis] Sliwa told the Herald yesterday. Sliwa was announcing his intention to bring his Guardian Angels to Boston after yet another murder here.

Must be the alliteration. Or that it sounds like it could be the beginning of some lyrics. Or maybe it's just that my sense of humor is a little twisted. But I'm okay with that.


maybe i should go into sales

The dark side is failing.

Every time I ride the T, I stare in confusion and amazement that the people behind the Special K print ads thought they were a good idea. The ads are crisp and clean, with an image of one of the company's new products (the snack bar I understand, but Special K water? Really?) and the word unsatisfying. Now, I understand that the pouring water or part of the snack bar are supposed to be obscurring or making the un in unsatisfying disappear, but really, what you have is a large photo of your product and the word unsatisfying. And the un is just too clear for me to think anything besides, "Yuck. I better not try this new Special K product. It's going to taste terrible, and I'm not even going to feel full after I eat it. In fact, eating a bowl of Special K cereal is reminiscent of eating a bowl of shredded paper that was liberated from the office recycling bin and soaked in the communal coffee creamer during a moment of desperation. Not that I've ever done that. But I'm sure the taste is similar."

But maybe that's what the folks at Special K HQ were going for.

In other marketing missteps (and in a search for tastier recycling bin contents), I discovered a job ad that includes the phrase, "Work environment involves only infrequent exposure to disagreeable elements." This makes me wonder what is so occasionally terrible that the job poster felt the need to advertise it. And just what are these elements? It rains in the office? Drunken Red Sox fans sometimes riot in the employee parking lot? You have to lick and seal your own envelopes? There's an employee who masturbates in the bathroom every day?

If you're going to go so far as to tell me there are disagreeable elements, you might as well lay 'em out on the table. Take a cue from Special K - the world would be a much better place if everyone could be as upfront and honest.


the walls have ears

I have thin walls. So for better or for worse, I hear a lot of my neighbors' goings-on. But I'd rather not.

You see, I know more about one neighbor through my bathroom walls than from in passing in the hallway. I don't know his name, but I think he might be the Incredible Hulk. Either that, or he's the angry-at-city-hall maturbator whom Charlestown comedians the Walsh Brothers once encountered, pants around his ankles across the street from Government Center at 3 a.m. Except normally he's just angry at his bathroom sink for not draining properly. Or maybe he just keeps a loud, angry zombie in his shower.

My other neighbor was uninvited to Christmas dinner at his sister's house and habitually raps his fingers against our shared wall at odd hours of the evening. We've never introduced ourselves, but he frequently appears wherever I am - from Downtown Crossing to one of the local coffeeshops. Maybe he's the zombie from the other guy's shower and my brain is on next week's menu. Maybe that's why his sister uninvited him - she couldn't come up with something appropriate for him to feast on.

Come to think of it, just the other morning I awoke to the two neighbors having a conversation. Unloved-by-his-family guy was telling loud-masturbator guy how he was going to twist a knife into someone's abdomen and bite off his balls. Gee, how pleasant.

But again, I'd rather not know these things. Aside from the fact that it wouldn't surprise me if these men had zombie-mafia ties, it's just not as interesting to hear the sordid details of strangers' lives as it is to know salacious details about friends and acquaintances. And teasing a roommate about his orgasmic bathroom adventures probably has less severe consequences than bringing it up with someone who keeps company with the violent undead.

Also, if I know these things about my neighbors, then surely they have heard my phone conversations with my mom and know when and how often I partake in sexual relations.

Well, if nothing else, maybe they'll at least be able to write an entertaining blog post about it.


let kids be kids

I think I was born without the gene provides maternal instincts. I'm just not the that into kids. I don't get excited when I see babies. Even as a teenager, I found the idea of babysitting appalling.

But there are too many people out there who don't know themselves well enough to know they either aren't ready for parenting or aren't interested in parenting. And they go ahead and make babies anyway.

Take Michael and Carolyn Riley, who've made headlines for the past couple months after their 4-year-old daughter Rebecca died from a prescription drug overdose. At age 2½, the girl had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and attention deficit hyperactive disorder. She was prescribed several psychotropic drugs for all these ailments. Her siblings had similar diagnoses and prescriptions.

Kids at that age are just learning to talk. They've just starting walking. Everything they encounter is new and exciting. They have more energy than any of us ancient 20-somethings and beyond. They've probably eaten too much sugar and have already been exposed to our instant-gratification, ADD-inducing media culture.

Of course these kids are hyperactive and have short attention spans. Has our society really forgotten - that's what being a kid is all about. You run around and do crazy and fun things and hurt yourself and eat lots of candy and have not a care in the world.

Family of Rebecca have come forward to say that her parents routinely gave her drugs to sedate her. Preschool workers and other aquaintances described the girl as zombie-like. And the parents, who had a history of run-ins with DSS over abuse and other troubles, seemed to keep "losing" prescriptions for Rebecca and needing them refilled early.

It's just depressing. If the facts that have come out in the news are true, if Michael and Carolyn Riley drugged their kids to get them to shut up and go away, then they really weren't emotionally ready or available to take on the responsibilities of parenting.

I wish more potential parents would take a serious look at themselves and honestly answer whether or not they are financially and emotionally ready to take care of a child, to put someone else's needs above their own self-interests. And if the answer is "no," that they find something else in the world that is fulfilling for them. There's nothing wrong with that.


vile day

If there's reason to hate Valentine's day, surely it's due to the women who peddle gendered crap. Take, for instance, a story titled "Cracking the Cupid Code" in today's Boston Globe. Monique Doyle Spencer clues us in on how "women" see Valentine's Day:

[W]omen use V-Day as the crystal ball of your fate. They peer into it and look for the Three Signs of Your Doom. First, the gift you give is gravely less expensive than the one you were given. Second, your gift is not wrapped. Third, you give an Idiot gift. My own husband gave me a duplicate pair of cheap earrings I already have "because you like them so much."

She also gives us such gems as:

If you send her a dozen roses, be sure to send them to her workplace. Making her female coworkers feel bad will delight her.


Do not, under any circumstances, put any gift in a ring-shaped box. Even if you buy her the biggest diamond earrings in the solar system, you must still remove them from their ring-like box. Otherwise, you will hear the words Y-E-S, Y-E-N-T-A, A-I-S-L-E, and V-E-I-L. Avoid taking her to N-E-V-A-D-A for the same reason.

Ugh. this is supposed to be humorous, but it's just nauseating. Spencer then proceeds to advise against shopping at Victoria's Secret unless you're at least engaged (huh?), but says you still have to give a "romantic" gift if you give lingerie, like a book of poetry.

Folks, not all women delight in romance novel trash, being petty and making others jealous. All this after an oh-so-enlightening story yesterday ("Hooking Up Is the Rage, But Is It Healthy?") about how hooking up is bad for girls because they are more emotionally attached to sex than guys (that story also would have you believe that the hook-up trend is so prevalent that no one young has relationships, yet the only people interviewed are two women in *gasp* relationships).

Oh, Globe, you really don't know what the kids are up to these days, do you?

Anyhow, more power to people who enjoyed a happy, sappy day, today or any other day, regardless of gender (I'm so sending flowers, giving lingerie and putting something in a ring-like box for some boy next year). But me, I'd prefer a pleasant surprise any other day of the year. At least tomorrow brings the joys of half-price chocolates. Mmm, chocolate.


so much for the solar

The city of Boston is going green. Well, greenish.

After putting in extra-large curbside trash cans with solar-powered trash compactors, the city added solar-powered parking meters. No more do you have to dig around under your seat for quarters. These machines take those dreaded dollar coins - you know, the bulky gold coins that roll out of the Charlie Card machine en masse after you buy one ride on the T with a $20. If you've only nickels and dimes to spare, too bad. It's a solar-powered parking meter, not a CoinStar machine or a wishing well. But these meters do take plastic.

And it seems by green, the city is more focused on getting the green than going green. Gone are the days of getting some free time from the previous parker - each of these meters serves half a block's worth of cars. Instead of the meters displaying the time remaining for each corresponding parking spot, these babies spit out a sticky note with the expiration time printed on it. Yep, a "green" machine that uses hundreds of sticky notes a day. Sticky notes that inevitably end up in the trash. Well, maybe if people are nice they go from car window to secret communal stash of extra meter time to different car window to solar-powered trash can. But it's still a bunch of rubbish in the end.

FURTHER THOUGHTS (21 NOV 2006 | 11:30 PM): Nevermind about the plastic. The Boston Globe reported today that you can't use credit for the meters in any increment of 15 minutes (or 25 cents) - you can only use credit to pay for two full hours (that's $2). But there's hope yet. The news hook was that mandatory minimum payments actually violate the terms of several credit card companies.


a series of unrelated events

These are old but kind of funny, and I haven't posted in forever. Theoretically I might have developed any one of a longer form, but I'm lazy and if it hasn't happened yet, it ain't gonna.

• Nothing says responsible employee like running into your boss on the train the morning after a night of drinking. Especially when you still smell like a combination of alcohol and cigarettes and are only on the train because you crashed at a friend's place and got up early so you could go home and make yourself presentable before you saw anyone from work. Also, it's even funnier when you only work two days a week, and you've clearly chosen to get blasted on one of the few work nights.

• Homeless guys panhandling will do remarkably better if they tailor their pitches to the types of people who are passing by. Therefore, asking for donations to assist with the research and development of alcohol consumption while in Downtown Crossing should yield good returns. Or at least smiles.

• Sometimes a trucker who wants to drive through a road that's blocked off with a sawhorse will stop his truck in the intersection, get out and move the barricade so he can pass through. What's better is when he drives ten feet further, stops again and moves the sawhorse back into the middle of the road behind his truck. This is especially funny when the sawhorse was put there as a joke in the first place.

• "Indoor voices" are underrated. You may learn this the hard way, when you hear someone laughing in the alley below your window after you blurt out something to the effect of, "Yeah, I'm annoyed. I'm horny and I've always fucked you everytime you wanted to be fucked." Of course, if you've said this at normal decibel levels, it makes you wonder what else people in the alley or neighboring apartments have heard. And you thought paying more in rent to have a studio provided some semblance of privacy.

• It's weird when someone wakes up angry at you because of something "you" did to him in his dream. Don't worry, he'll get over it, once he makes you promise not do in real life what you did in the dream (even though it is unlikely in real life that you would have a threesome with him and his roommate and then go fool around with just his roommate after he's fallen asleep).

• When a car full of strangers honks at you while you're crossing the street and then someone shouts something to you out the window, you'll be happy when instead of asking for directions the driver says, "You're beautiful, that's all," and the woman in the passenger seat next to him says, "You're sexy." Still, you will not have a threesome with these people, because the light turned green before you could say anything more than "thanks."


i feel safer already!

The woman across from me snapped her gum and tapped her foot impatiently. Two college students bitched about their upcoming class schedules. A curly haired hippie-looking guy rocked out to his iPod. Everyone avoided eye contact and looked generally unhappy to be there. Just a regular night riding the T, by all standards.

But then I noticed to my left, a man was highlighting passages in a magazine. Okay, so he highlighted an entire sidebar piece in bright yellow. And, wait - he was starting to highlight the entire article that surrounded it - line by line, every line. He must be a little crazy, I thought. That can't be helpful - how is he ever going to find anything if he highlights everything? Definitely crazy.

I shifted my gaze back, toward his face, then shoulders. Oh, dear. Is that a real TSA uniform? Yep, that looks like a genuine ID hanging from his neck.

I feel safer already with someone so attentive to details being in charge of aiport security.

future bizarroworld

BOSTON (08/27/06) - Mother's milk is now bad for your health.

Last night the Transportation Security Administration added breast milk to the growing list of items prohibited in airline carry-on luggage after authorities at Logan International Airport thwarted a terrorist bomb plot; breast milk was a key component in plans for a homemade explosive device.

Acting on an anonymous tip, security officials detained four people - two Middle Eastern men and their wives - just moments before they were to board an American Airlines flight bound for Milwaukee. TSA officials said the two couples were in posession of iPods, allegedly to be used as detonators, and that the plot also would have made use of in-flight magazines or other available paper. All four suspects were arrested and are being held without bail.

"This was a very sophisticated plan and operation," said Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff. "It was not a circle with a handful of people sitting around and dreaming."

According to the new TSA restrictions, pregnant women and nursing mothers will no longer be allowed on domestic or international flights. Chertoff said the restrictions will remain in place indefinitely, and all women will have to undergo special screening to ensure they are not currently capable of lactating. Women should allow an extra hour and a half of time to clear airport security. Breast pumps also have been added to the list of prohibited items.

"This is outrageous," said Jamie Smith, a mother of two who was turned away from her flight to Los Angeles. "This is bad for business. Can it even be legal to ban someone from flying because of their gender?"

Smith was unable to obtain a refund, and most airlines are not waiving rebooking fees for passengers who can not currently fly.

Still, most passengers agreed that the new regulations were necessary.

"Whatever we need to do for national security is fine by me," said Bob Jones, a financial analyst who travels frequently for work.

"Our freedom is important," said Jeb Stratford, whose pregnant wife was turned away at the security checkpoint at Logan. "Whatever the government needs to do to preserve our freedom I support 100 percent. These are really small sacrifices when you look at the whole picture. What are we giving up, really, other than some small conveniences? Our freedom is at least worth that much." © IHTFBS News Service

But seriously - just wait for it ... what else could be next?


bits and pieces

• There are next to no Boston Herald newspaper boxes in the city. Every few blocks there is a cluster that includes a Globe box, Weekly Dig and Phoenix boxes, various dispensers of free classifieds, and the obligatory Improper Bostonian and Stuff@Night boxes. The two Herald boxes I found during a stroll from Harvard Square to downtown Boston were empty, of course. What's up with that?

• There is graffiti on the side of a building on Mass. Ave. that reads: "owned by no one but still illegal." It would be a good point, except for the fact that someone inevitably owns those bricks.

• Commonwealth Books on Boylston Street downtown is celebrating its 10th anniversary. The sign in the window is priceless:

Our 10th Year*
*despite Emerson College

• I have perfected the fuck-off-and-die look such that MassPirg canvassers don't approach me. But I was happy to see several anti-MassPirg flyers along Mass. Ave. that direct people to NoMassPirg.com. It's nothing fancy, but you can buy an anti-MassPirg T-shirt if you haven't perfected your look of death.