Sometimes you have orchid guilt.

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A while back, I bought an orchid.  
Well, actually, our cat Franny got the orchid for my girlfriend for Mother’s Day.  Ya know.  Like normal.  
Either way, there was an orchid in our lives.  And we were happy.

We put it up in our apartment and we were so proud we could hardly contain ourselves.
Orchid owners!  
We felt like we had joined the elite of fauna ownership – the special forces of flower-keeping.

There’s a status that comes with orchids, after all.  They’re not geraniums.  They’re not even tulips.  They don’t come little packets at the checkout counter of Home Depot.  They don’t exist in most gardens you come across.  There are entire organizations and websites and all manner of things devoted to devotees of the strange flowering plant.  

Therefore, they must be better.  They must be grander.  They must be hipper, cooler, rarer, weirder, and more fun.  Right?

We thought so.

It was good for a spell – we watered it with a little ice cube once a week like the instructions told us.  Sure, we’d forget sometimes, but we’d always manage to get that ice cube in there only a day or two after we were supposed to.  Then it happened – the orchid got sad.

The leaves started to wither.  The roots started to flake.  We tried more water.  We tried less water.  We tried more sunlight.  We tried less sunlight.  We scoured the internet for blogs and followed countless steps attempting to revitalize the poor cat’s Mother’s Day gift.

It was not to be.  The blooms did not return so we decided to let it go.  We placed it on a shelf and forgot about it.  We had fallen from the elite ranks of orchid owners to the level of sad normal people.

A few days ago, however, Becca came home with a new orchid in her arms.  We were to be elite once more!  We’re being extra vigilant with this guy and following the instructions to the letter in order to keep him alive as long as we can.

But when I picked up the old orchid plant to throw it away, the leaves were still green!
WHAT’S THIS?
Could this plant be fighting for its life still?  After weeks – nay, months! – of not watering it regularly?  I was perplexed, to say the least.  Yet there they were – bright green, beautiful leaves!  

Enter the orchid guilt.  

I couldn’t bear to throw away this old plan when it still has the tiny glimmering possibility of wick inside it!

So now we have two orchids.  One with flowers and one without.  

I guess it just makes us super-elite now.  🙂

 

 

 

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Sometimes you accidentally release a demon clown into the world.

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Meet “Funny Face.”

He was painted in 1969 – a Christmas gift to my father from his godmother (an amateur artist).

How this character earned the name Funny Face, I’m not certain we will ever know.  He looks like John Wayne Gacy.  Or Tim Curry as Stephen King’s It.  

He has no neck to speak of.  He’s pretty chubby, but not in that fun happy-chubby way.  His eyes are dark and expressionless, not to mention rather lopsided.  His uni-brow is menacing, to say the least.  His fire-engine red lips are ginormous.  And he has fangs.  

I repeat – he has FANGS.  Not huge ones, I’ll be honest, but FANGS, people.  FANGS.

Why does he have no other teeth?  And why are his fangs so tiny and pointy?  They’re like the canines on my cat.  And his smile is so lazy and half-hearted, like – I’ll say it – like a pedophile’s.

Finally, it looks like he has stubble.  There is actual darkening around his chin.  And it looks like it was actually painted on there.  On purpose.  Why would someone do that?  Was she playing with shadow?  Was she trying to give him a fat neck?  Or was she actually painting stubble on this guy?  Alas, we shall never know.

Funny Face lived in my garage as I was growing up.  Mom refused to let him inside the house (I wonder why).  But there he was, every time I went out to get a screwdriver or work on a Boy Scout project.  Watching me.  Eventually, it was time for me to be a real human and move out of the house into something of my own.  I took Funny Face.

Why, you ask?  Because I could.  And because I figured he would eventually get thrown out if he stayed with my parents.

Unfortunately, several significant others found him less-than-desirable on my apartment wall, so he stayed well-hidden.  One day, though, I made a decision and I put my foot down and got the old creep out of storage and stuck him up on my wall.  In my bedroom, no less!  I claimed him as my own and made no apologies about it.

My current girlfriend is still getting used to sleeping in a room with this guy, but thus far he hasn’t stolen her soul or anything.

Now, meet this guy:

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Apparently this charmer has been roaming the streets of Northampton of late, just standin’ around with his balloons and generally scaring the knickers off anyone who chances to see him.  You can read more about him here:
http://www.inquisitr.com/951291/northampton-clown-leads-to-police-warning-town-mystified/

So here comes the confession:

When I was home alone a few days ago, I happened to be in a really good mood.  And when I’m in a really good mood, I end up talking to inanimate objects (personality trait story for another day, perhaps).  Anyway, while getting dressed after my shower I spied my ol’ pal Funny Face on the wall and I struck up a convo.  We chatted about several things, to include lyrics for a song I was working on and some story ideas I had for a new novel, but I finally got around to saying, “Ya know, you really are a creepy looking guy.  I really hope you never come to life and terrorize the countryside or anything.”

BAM – the next day, this bloke shows up in Northampton.

You do the math.

I can only imagine that my dad’s godmother somehow trapped this frightening clown in her painting using magical means, and I somehow freed his soul.  It’s really the only logical explanation, I think.

At this time, I would like to apologize to the inhabitants of Northampton and its environs for releasing this demon clown upon them, and ask for their patience as I consult several resources relating to the occult in order to fully realize his transference back to the aforementioned painting.

If you do manage to garner an audience with the spirit, I would recommend that you address him as “Funny Face” (as that is his given name) and I ask that you please request of him to get the heck back into his stubbly, fang-toothed painting.

Thank you.

 

Sometimes Connecticut is the best place. PART THREE

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On our final full day in Connecticut, we woke up early.  After eating a quick breakfast, we headed up to Mystic, Connecticut.

It was Nerd Heaven.

Our first stop was the Mystic Seaport, which is an entire complex set up as a 19th-centry seaport.  SO MANY DEMONSTRATIONS.  SO MANY COOL SHIPS TO WALK AROUND.  SO MANY COOL OLD STOREFRONTS TO WALK INTO.  SO MUCH LEARNING. 

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Neat old ship! It had a fascinating history too detailed to recount here.

I cannot stress enough how much fun it was to watch an anchor being brought up or to watch an open-sea fishing demonstration or to walk through an actual old whaling ships.  Those areas that were not equipped with actual demonstrators in them doing something (blacksmiths, coopers, most of the ships) had wonderful educational plaques and reconstructions that you could read.  And then there’s the actual thrill of walking through another world – a world without computers and cellphones and electronic navigational equipment.  A brilliant place.  Just brilliant.

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That one’s mine. That cute girl there.

On that day, we wanted to stay forever.  We, however, had bought a double ticket that gave us admission to the Mystic Aquarium as well, so we begrudgingly left the seaport and headed across town to the aquarium, which was super-fun as well.

We both had grown up with the advantage of great aquariums, but this was no less fantastic than others we’ve seen.  The most entrancing animals present were the beluga whales.  I likened them to a cross between a dolphin and a dog.  They swam like dolphins – graceful, playful, upside-down, right next to the glass to show off for the kids – but there was something more (less?) there than you see in dolphins.  It was almost an openness, a simpler way of looking at things.  I know they’re not as intelligent as dolphins, so perhaps it was really just the lesser intelligence I was seeing.  But it was still charming to watch and something that I had never seen up close.

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Clarification: we saw actual beluga whales as well as plastic ones.

My one point of contention with the aquarium was the touch tank.  UGH.  I cannot abide by families (read: parents) who have no awareness of others around them. 

Yes, Ma’am – my girlfriend and I are standing right behind your child, waiting for a turn to touch the sting rays.  Yes, you’ve been there for ten minutes on your phone and your kid hasn’t even tried to put his hand in the water once since you first plopped him down there.  Yes, every other person around the tank is doing the same thing, i.e. – not paying attention to anyone but themselves.

After an extended wait, however, we managed to steal a spot and touch the ray.  After we did so, we left to make way for others who wanted to do the same.  How hard was that??

We ate dinner at a charming little place and made plans to come back the next day.

Which we did.

After a harrowing laundry experience the next morning (we may have overestimated the drying power of the standard Maytag), we loaded up the car and left our little house in Fairfield.  Then we drove right back up to Mystic Seaport.

After all, there was so much we didn’t do the first time!  The planetarium, the hauling up of the anchor, the exhibit on figureheads, the small boat museum!  We strolled the grounds a second time (AND STILL DIDN’T HAVE TIME TO DO EVERYTHING) and realized we had to head back home.

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The drive back was lovely as we listened to showtunes, refreshed from our New England vacay.

We dropped off the rental car and greeted our cat with open arms.
We were home.

Sometimes Connecticut is the best place. PART TWO

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We awoke with a wandering song singing in our hearts (Or something like that).  Vacation Day number two was our traveling day, and travel we certainly did.

Setting out early in the morning, we drove northward to Gillette Castle State Park, which is somewhere in between East Haddam and Old Lyme.  Here we purchased admission to the park’s main attraction, Gillette Castle.

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In 1914, William Gillette, the actor most famous for being the first Sherlock Holmes, built a huge frickin’ castle.  Out of stone.  He custom-made all the doors in the thing.  He created a secret passageway where he could spy on guests to decide if he wanted to come down to greet them.  He created a trick bar that only he knew how to open.  And he built a train.  And a railroad station.  And a track.  Just for fun.  He was a really cool, funny, fun dude.

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After eating lunch on the edge of a swamp (much prettier than you’re envisioning right now in your heads), we set off in search of more fun.  It wasn’t more than a half-hour before we stumbled upon The Goodspeed Opera House.  Of course, I said.  This is where it is!  I’ve never been.  Nor have I, said Becca.

On a whim, we thought we’d see if there were any seats left for that evening’s performance of “Hello, Dolly!”  Lo and behold, there were!  With a quick swipe of the Visa, we were the proud occupants of balcony seats.  Serendipity.  Sometimes you drive past a regional theater and just pop in for a show.  It happens.

With the afternoon still free, we drove into Hartford to the Mark Twain House.  Right next door?  The Harriet Beecher Stowe House!  Why tour one when you can tour both?  On that beautiful afternoon, we saw where two of the century’s pre-eminent authors wrote some of their best work.  We saw the actual desk where Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn sprang to life.  Pretty neat, if I do say so myself.

But we musn’t tarry too long, we said.  We found – again, thanks to Siri – a nice little Mexican restaurant on the way back to East Haddam where we satiated our appetites.  Then, with a quick trip to an ice cream parlor, we were set to see some theatre!

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The Goodspeed Opera House, for those of you who haven’t been, is lovely.  Gorgeous architecture and a really neat history.  The production featured the Australian Tony Sheldon as Horace Vandergelder, whom you may recall from his Tony-nominated performance in “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.”  After living in NYC and watching productions with such a jaded eye, it was glorious to be in a theater with hundreds of people who came in that night specifically to enjoy themselves and who succeeded marvelously.  A riotous good time.

Pooped from another long day, we made our way back to the house in Fairfield.

The next day was BEACH DAY (Take Two).  There’s not much to say about Beach Day except that it was perfect.  The weather was perfect – sunny and warm, but with a nice little breeze every now and then.  The beach was perfect – not too crowded, but not awkwardly vacant, either.  The water was perfect – the ocean was cool and refreshing and not as dirty as the more populated commercial beaches.  We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.  After a lobster roll for Becca and a chicken sandwich for me, we even squeezed in another movie.

Sunburnt and happy, we prepared ourselves for our next and last day of vacation, which was better than either of us could have dreamed.

Stay tuned for PART THREE, the final exciting chapter in the amazing Connecticut vacation!

Sometimes Connecticut is the best place. PART ONE

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After a crazy busy summer filled with a massive overhaul of my novel for my agent, house managing a sold-out run of an Off-Broadway show, and spending three weeks playing war for Army, a vacation was in order. 

An acquaintance of my gal Becca just bought a house in Fairfield, CT right by the beach and was going to be out of town for the month of August.  Take it, she said.  Use my beach pass, she said.  Have a good time, she said.  

Thank you, we said. 

So one Wednesday evening we rented a car, packed it up with our belongings, and drove north.  We knew that her son, a twenty-something who is normally off in school somewhere, was going to be present for the duration.  Oof, I said.  Human interaction.  Easy, Becca said.  It’ll be ok. 

When we arrived late that night, the son was not at home.  He had left the key under the mat for us, however.  So we grabbed our bags and went up to the door. 

We were a few feet from the front door when we heard a meow.  Suddenly, out from the bushes, springs a mangy cat.  Oh dear, I said.  Must be a stray.  Its fur was matted and scraggly and its meow was deep and scratchy.  

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This cat is more well-groomed than our Connecticut cat.

As we tried to open the door, the cat tried to go inside.  Hey there, I said.  Don’t go in there.  We shooed it away.  It didn’t move.  I walked away and called it so that Becca could at least get inside.  It didn’t move.  We set down the leftovers from our fast food dinner on the other side of the driveway.  It certainly appreciated our offering but came right back as soon as we went to open the door. 

Is it their cat, I asked.  It can’t be, Becca said.  She said nothing about a cat.  It must be a stray.  It has no collar and no tag. 

Finally we managed to get inside and slam the door in the cat’s face.  Thank goodness, we said.  Then we set about exploring the house, which was lovely.  We were offered the master bedroom on the third floor, which we gladly took.  We settled in for a good night’s sleep. 

In the middle of the night an incident occurred to which I was not privy, as I was sound asleep.  There was a knock on the door and a shadowy figure opened it up.  Hello, it said.  Becca, sleepily, responded in kind.  Did you feed the cat, it asked.  No, Becca replied.  OK, it said.  Have a good night. 

SO IT WAS THEIR CAT!  The epiphany may not be as profound as it was in person, but you get the idea.  We basically just told a cat to go screw itself because we weren’t going to let it in its own house or feed it either.  C’est la vie. 

The next day was a bit overcast, but we had already decided to do the beach.  It’s our vacation, darnit, so let’s start it off right.  After quietly taking the beach chairs from the garage (since the son’s bedroom was right across the hall from the garage), we loaded up our rental car and set off to find breakfast. 

Find it we did.  Siri, ever helpful, suggested Home On The Range, a small café in a quaint downtown area.  It had, without a doubt, the absolute best French Toast I’ve ever eaten.  The sweet little old lady that runs the place works there all by herself, taking the order, cooking up the grub, and clearing away your plates and serving as cashier when you’re through.  We would spend two more mornings savoring her wares. 

After we were stuffed, we went to the beach.  And there was nobody there.  Oh sure, there was a lap-swimmer.  And a couple strolling.  And an old man sitting on a beach chair.  But that’s it.  It was deserted.  The ominous-looking storm clouds may have had something to do with that. 

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Still, we were determined to have a good time.  Let’s not take the chairs, we said, as we may not be here long.  It’s a good thing we didn’t.  After frolicking a bit in the waves, Becca set out to carve words in the sand while I took pictures. 

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Artie plus Becca plus Rising-Tide Cat.

Then, after about ten minutes of watching the tide come in ridiculously fast, we skedaddled.  It was no more than a few seconds after we got back into our car that the clouds burst open and a monsoon began. 

What does one do on vacation in Connecticut at ten in the morning when it’s raining?  Why, go to the movies of course!  Eating popcorn and drinking soda for brunch, we sat with one other couple in a giant movie theater and watched The Butler (which I highly recommend, by the way). 

Back outside, the sky was no longer angry, but it wasn’t too happy yet, either.  What to do?  Go to the Barnum Museum, of course!  It’s so close, after all, in Bridgeport, CT.  Let us away, I said. 

Unfortunately, the Barnum Museum was hit pretty hard by a tornado a few years ago and is still not open to the public.  Sigh.  Back to the house to regroup. 

Upon arriving, we were met with a shirtless, skinny, tattoo-covered young man sitting on the front stoop smoking a cigarette.  The son, we guessed.  We guessed correctly.  After exchanging pleasantries and learning that the cat did, in fact, belong to the family, we scooted upstairs to plan our evening.

 We decided to venture north to New Haven, to The Original Frank Pepe Pizza Napoletana.  It’s this amazing little pizza place for which people line up down the street to get a table.  It’s been around since 1925 in the same location and owned by the same family.  Check is out at pepespizzeria.com.  It was scrumptious.  Certainly different than our usual New York City pie, but amazing nonetheless. 

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Only slightly tipsy from the entire bottle of wine we drank, we decided then to stroll the campus of the Ivy League member Yale University.  We imagined ourselves in more scholarly pursuits than our art schools offered us.  We dreamed of singing in the Whiffenpoofs and eating in the Spoonery.  And we watched all the kids move into their dorms for the start of the semester.  None of them looked smarter than us, we decided, so we totally should have gone to Yale. 

Because Becca had never been, and because there was one right by the entrance to the highway, and because we had nothing better to do and because we were on vacation, gosh darnit, we went to IKEA.  This activity needs no greater explanation.  It was pure, unadulterated, built-it-yourself furniture bliss.  We didn’t buy anything, but boy howdy did we make some I-want lists.

Full of pizza, popcorn, French Toast, and tired from a fun-filled day, we made our way back to the house to sleep.

It was a good first day of vacation. 

Stay tuned for PART TWO in my next post!

Sometimes it’s your birthday.

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A BIRTHDAY TALE.
By ME.

It is 2013.  In the United States of America. 
He wakes up at 8:30am.  He gets out of bed, stretches, and pads to the kitchen.  He fills the cat’s bowl with food and makes himself a large glass of chocolate milk – it’s his birthday, after all.
He sits down at the table and opens up the computer.  After checking his email and the news, he types in that most popular combination of letters and presses “Enter.”  His screen becomes a mosaic of blue and white, with colorful pictures spread throughout.  Here’s his cousin at her bachelorette party.  Here’s his co-worker at Coney Island.  Here’s a Buzzfeed article from that annoying guy that he hates talking to.  And there, in the upper-right hand corner, is the World.  And it’s lit up.
His breath catches in his throat.  There’s a tiny red number there – 1.  He had expected something larger.  He licks his lips nervously.  His fingers twitch as they drum the keyboard.  Slowly and carefully, his thumb moves across the touchpad and he clicks. 
The World reveals more information, but he only looks at the number of people.  The rest is irrelevant.  He knows what the rest says.  He clicks again, bringing up a picture of him on vacation in front of a picture of a pretty sunset he once saw.  He scrolls down, past the personal information, to the messages beneath.  There they are.  In gleaming black and white, each underneath their sender’s name. 
There are so many.  And it’s only 8:30 in the morning.
He smiles.  He has passed the Test of Self-Worth set down in those sacred Laws of Social Media.  He is now free to go about his day (and, truly, his year) secure in himself and his worldly offerings.  Oh, the disappointment and shame that would accompany anything less than exemplary display of cyber affection witnessed this morn…  He is free from that torment for at least another year.
He shuts his computer and takes a swig of chocolate milk.  It’s gonna be a good day.