Sometimes you have a *click click* ssssssssss-steam leak.

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While we were on vacation our apartment was left unattended from 18 December to 11 January.  (Sorry, burglers.  Even if I had told you this before the fact, there really wasn’t much in there to satisfy.)

This was the longest stretch it had been sitting empty in, like, forever.  As least in the four years I’ve lived there.  Needless to say, I was a bit concerned.  Not I’m-going-to-set-up-a-nanny-cam-to-make-sure-everything-is-ok-everyday concerned, but at least I-think-about-it-every-so-often-and-hope-everything-is-ok concerned.

I had left a card for our superintendent (complete with Christmas tip) and let him know we were going to be out of town for that stretch of time, asking him to keep an eye on things and grab our mail if it overflowed.  All seemed well.

The vacation happened.

We come back home (after an exhausting day of traveling, much of which was delayed) at 2am.  We open the door to our apartment and there, in the middle of the kitchen floor, is our window A/C unit.  That was IN the window when we left.  There is the Christmas tree, star akimbo, wearing only half our ornaments.  The rest are on the ground in various pieces.  Curious.

We put down our bags and investigate.  There is no sign of forced entry.  There’s nothing stolen.  There’s nothing broken.  Everything in the apartment is a little sticky.  Everything in the apartment looks like it got wet.  The floors are sticky.  The walls are streaked.  The dishes look like they had dirty water in them at one point.

“There must have been a leak,” we say.  “But why is the A/C moved?  Why did the tree obviously fall?  And why is it not messy?”  One would assume that, if there was a leak, things would be much dirtier and disgusting than they are.  Especially since someone obviously came into our apartment to do something (in theory, fix the leak).  And where did the leak come from?  There’s no origin point in the ceiling or anything.

Confused, we went to bed.

The next day was Sunday, so I couldn’t talk to the super.  It’s his day off.  We cleaned instead.  All the stickiness.  All the warped books.  All the streaks on the walls.  It was so weird.  We couldn’t even ask our cat what had happened because we took her with us!

When I finally caught up with my super, I got the story.  And it all makes sense:

During the deepfreeze that hit the east coast, the heat was cranked up.  We have radiator heat.  The force from the steam must have been so powerful that it popped the cap off the radiator.  Steam billowed into the apartment (for how long, who knows? A day? A week? I shudder at the thought.)  A neighbor saw the steam and thought it was smoke.  They called 911.  The fire department came.  My super couldn’t find the keys to our apartment.  The fire department climbed up the fire escape, busted the A/C out of the window, knocking over the Christmas tree right in front of the window.  

They came in and did whatever needed to happen to fix the radiator, but the place was still moist.  I imagine it was rather like a steam room.  The super and fire department left, closing the door behind them.  The steam could not escape.  Now that it was cooling down in the apartment, it turned to liquid and rained down from the ceiling over everything.  And then we came home at 2am on the 12th of January befuddled to no end.

Thankfully, nothing was damaged, no claims need to be filed.  Some of our books have warped covers, but that’s pretty much it.  Our Fosse-esque steam leak (it’s not really Fosse-esque unless you describe it like this post’s title, but that’s ok) was minor.  All’s well.

Now we just have to keep our eye out for mold!

Good to be home!!  🙂

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Sometimes you get lost on an Idaho mountain while snowshoeing.

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Behold the beauty of the western United States. (Click the panorama for a larger picture) Marvel in its magnificence. Kowtow to its comeliness.  This is where I have been for the past week.

Here, in the shadow of the Rockies, I traveled with my girlfriend’s family north into Winter itself and rented a cabin in the wilderness.

(NOTE: It is odd how I left the east coast at a balmy 45 degrees Fahrenheit only to discover it is now in the negatives!  Got out of there just in time, I’d say.  It hovers in the positive single digits here at its worst.)

On our first full day in rural snow-country, we went snowshoeing.  It was my first time.  Apparently there is usually a lot more snow on the ground than the good six inches under our feet at the trail-head.  This was the lowest elevation on which we would stand today, though, so I was already sufficiently impressed.

After strapping on the odd contraptions and grasping poles in hand, we set off.  After a bit, we came upon this helpful map:

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After studying the trails for a bit, we decided to head right to the summit of the hill and gaze upon nature’s visage.  Just because I’m such a helpful helper, I snapped a picture of it with my iPhone (its only use, since we were well out of cell service).  And we were off!

We made it to the summit and beheld the view (see first picture).  We stopped for a selfie:

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And then we made our way down.  And no, we were not going to simply reverse our snowshoes and retrace our steps.  We were witnesses Gaea’s spendor!  We consulted the iPhone picture (good on me, right?) and mapped a route back to the trailhead.

An hour later, we found ourselves blazing our own trail through up to two feet of snow.  So we backtracked.  Then we found ourselves on a cross-country ski trail.  So we backtracked.  Then we found what we thought was the correct snowshoe trail, but this only made a tiny loop and reconnected with the cross-country ski trail again.  So we had to make a decision.

It was now late afternoon, the sun sitting low in its easy chair on the horizon.  Something must be done.  It was decided we would follow the ski trail.  After all, based on the map (thank you very much), this trail should take us directly to “The Hub,” wherein we first saw the sign and snapped the life-saving picture itself.

(NOTE: I was pretty proud of myself for taking that picture)

The ski trail, however, brought us to a crossroads of ski trails that existed nowhere on the map.

Peril.

After more discourse, one of us discovered he had a bit of cell reception.  He fired up the ol’ iPhone and turned on his compass (thanks, iOS).  South was the direction of choice, because that led back to the trailhead and parking lot.  We turned right and made our way down that ski trail.

After a bit we came to another “hub,” complete with several intersecting ski trails and THIS ONE HAD A MAP!  Huzzah!  Unfortunately, it was a completely different map than the one we had previously seen:

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Perplexed as we were, we decided – dash it all! – we would just follow the ski trail all the way back to “The Hub” (the original), and then follow the actual snowshoe trail back to the trailhead.

Glorious day when we happened upon that original sign with the original map.  Our error, it seemed, lie not with what direction in which we chose to go, but with the fact that the first map we came upon was not specifically a winter map.  It had all sorts of hiking trails on it, too.

Sigh.

Safe and sound, though, we made it back to the cabin, where we could marvel upon the splendor of our cat:

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Sometimes you get snow. In a can. And it’s amazing.

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In the Beyond section of Bed, Bath, and Beyond, there exists a magical item.

This item is so wonderful, so indescribably joyous, that it can only be used at the holidays.

It has the power to bring a smile to the face of any person who holds it in their hand.  It has the ability to grow to ten times its original size.

I am speaking, of course, of Snow In A Can.

I discovered this mysterious and original bit of holiday magic while doing some Christmas shopping with my two younger brothers.  After assessing this magnificent invention and examining the pros and cons of a purchase of said item, I decided to splurge and take it to the cashier.

$2.99 later, it was mine!  Snow In A Can!

As soon as I got home, I rushed into the kitchen, my family assisted me in placing down plastic and newspaper, and I yanked back the pull tab on the aluminum container.

There, inside, was the magical substance – approximately a teaspoon of a fine, white powder.

After retrieving a cup of tap water, I put my sorcery to the test.  I filled the can with water, and lo and behold!!  It turned to snow!!!!

OK, maybe not snow per se, but a certainly a moist, gelatinous substance that certainly reacted like snow when played with.

We were able to roll it into little balls but, unfortunately, the balls did not join together well enough to make a snowman.  The weight of the abdomen completely crushed the base.  Even after placing the snowman on a diet and decreasing the circumference of the waist, the base still would not hold up.  It was at this point that we performed a base-otomy and constructed a snowman that was only one ball high.

Using the small piece of ribbon (read: scarf) and googly eyes that came in the aluminum can with the powdery pre-snow and miniature snow shovel, we decorated our blobbish snowman and felt the Christmas spirit coursing through our veins.

It was a joyous five minutes.

I whole-heartedly recommend Snow In A Can to all peoples, regardless of age, race, sex, ethnicity, religious affiliation, or baseline holiday spirit level.

I will be back to the Beyond to get another can before the holidays are over.  Make no mistake.

Sometimes you hear things about people in the pursuit of art.

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My gal and I have an etsy shop.  It started off as a really cool idea for her – making these adorable little baking mixes in mason jars.  She does all the rest, you just add love.  (That’s the name of our shop, by the way: JustAddLoveNYC)

Anyway, as I am also a musician, we thought we’d put up an ad on the shop site for personalized songs.  The concept – Ya need a song?  I’ll write it.

Thus far, I’ve done a few that have all been received quite well.  I just received an order for a personalized Christmas song and it struck me – these people send me a good bit of information about themselves.

I mean, the first song was for a company.  Yes, I wrote the theme song to the UK children’s play group Jelly Roles (www.jellyroles.co.uk).  So that wasn’t as personal.

Another one was an order from a nanny here in NYC.  She was leaving the country soon and wanted to leave a song for the two little girls she had been watching for years and years.  I got a lot of information about her, her two little kids, and the fun stuff they do together all the time.  

The Christmas song order is from a wife to her husband of 20+ years.  She was very helpful when she emailed me the information I ask for and gave me A TON of stuff to work with: hobbies, nicknames, habits, work info, moods, their relationship.

I find it’s a bit odd, knowing so much about people that I don’t actually know.  There’s that little squirmy feeling in my gut when I think too hard about it, like I have this almost-power over them.  Really, let’s be honest – I don’t.  I don’t think I can steal anybody’s identity with a hobby and a nickname.  And I really don’t think I can blackmail anyone by knowing how they take their coffee and how many Christmas songs they have in their iTunes.

Still, it’s an interesting feeling.  I’ve decided to take it as a gift.  I get to glance into others’ lives – if only briefly – and discover more about my fellow humans.  And that’s pretty fun.

(Coincidentally, if any of you are looking for pre-made baking mixes or personalized songs for the holidays, do visit us: https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/JustAddLoveNYC.)

🙂

 

 

 

Sometimes you use Sweet Potato Pie for evil.

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Thanksgiving has come and gone here in the States.  With it, a myriad of foods, beverages, and desserts have passed in front of my face in the past 48 hours.  I spied a sweet potato pie yesterday.  Now, I don’t know many people who indulge in the baked good made from sweet potatoes, so it is seldom that I come across one.  The last time I remember having an interaction with a sweet potato pie was in high school.  

The year: 1999.  The place: Waynesboro Area Senior High School, Mrs. Kaiser’s 9th grade English class.

Remember those old English class textbooks that had short stories, plays, and excerpts from other forms of literature in them?  
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Well, in ninth grade that year, we were assigned to read the short story, SWEET POTATO PIE by Eugenia W. Collier.  I don’t recall the plot of the story, so I’m of no help to you there.  I know it had something to do with a family in a big city.  Besides that, I’m useless.  I’m sure if I looked it up I could easily write a short synopsis here, but I’m not going to do that.  You are welcome to research it on your own.

Anyway, the day came where we were to discuss the reading assignment in class.  Cody, a young man on the outside of our friend group (who, in sixth grade, introduced me to Weird Al Yankovic, by the way), confided in me and a couple of other guys that he had not completed the assignment.  He had not read SWEET POTATO PIE.

Tsk-tsk-tsk.  For shame, Cody.

He asked us to summarize the events of the story quickly for him before class started, lest he be called upon to answer any questions.  He didn’t want to look like an idiot by not knowing what he was talking about.

Now, I had one of those high school experiences that everyone hates me for.  In essence, I was happy.  I had good friends, I got good grades without trying hard, I was popular with all my teachers, and I was in practically every arts extra-curricular group so nobody paid any mind if I was absent.  It was because of these traits that my friends and I were able to skip classes regularly and generally malign the good name of our school by being dirtbags while everyone thought we were awesome.  I’m not saying we were bad kids, mind you.  We did nothing unsavory.  We just took advantage of our niceness and respect that was given to us.  

We were also stupid boys who liked to play tricks on other people.

So when Cody asked us what the story was about, my friend Scott took the lead and spun a tale of Southern hospitality, wherein the main character of Sadie enters her dead mother’s recipe for sweet potato pie into the county fair so she can win a bunch of money to buy back her father’s farm.  She wins, and the farm is saved, and the story has a very happy ending.

(This, coincidentally, is nothing at all related to the actual sequence of events that take place in aforementioned story.)

Cody smiled and thanked us, and we resumed our business in preparation for the class.

When class started, Mrs. Kaiser began by asking who had read the story.  Of course every hand went up in the air.  She asked if someone could please summarize the events of the story for the class.

Now, I’m not sure if he wanted to make a good impression on the teacher, or if he wanted to forego further question-answering, or if he just wanted to show off in front of everyone else, but Cody waved his hand above his head like a flag.  He wanted to answer the question.

There was a moment when Scott and I looked at each other with disbelief.  This was amazing.  We never thought that it would actually happen, that he would actually make a fool of himself in front of everyone.  We thought the chances were fairly slim that she would call on him and he would give some insane answer relating to a baking contest.  But here we were, watching it unfold perfectly.

Cody, when called upon, relayed the story of young Sadie and the county fair, the tragedy of her father’s farm, and the love that went into the baking of the pie itself.  Mrs. Kaiser stood with a straight face, obviously unsure of what to do.  The kids around us were giggling up a storm.  

Proud of himself, Cody finished the synopsis and settled back down into his chair comfortably.

The class erupted in laughter and Mrs. Kaiser shook her head.  Cody’s freckled face grew beat-red and Scott and I almost died of giddiness.

I don’t remember if he was punished for not completing the assignment.  Probably not, since it provided such a wealth of entertainment.  Scott and I each received an embarrassed punch to the arm from the kid, though, which was more than worth it.  

Cody now works as a government contractor working with the US military in Afghanistan.  He’s big and burly and bearded.  Ain’t no way I would pull a stunt like that on him now.

But I always think of that ninth grade English class anytime I think of sweet potato pie.

Sometimes it’s a Wednesday matinee

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As you may or may not know, Wednesday matinees in the theatre world are the preferential performance for those above seventy years old to attend.
The confluence of three hundred bodies on their way out of this world is something to behold.
This proves for memorable (and ridiculous) conversations for me, whose job it is to deal with them.

Here is one such conversation. Everything below is 100% true. Nothing has been falsified for effect. I’ll set the stage, as it were:
The show is going. We’re about a half-hour in.
I hear a cellphone ring. The ringtone is MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This.”
I begin my survey of the audience. Where is it coming from? Is anyone reaching to turn it off?
I follow the sound to the center of the back row. Easy. It’s one of two white-haired people. They look to be a couple, so I kneel behind them and speak to them both.
Me: Please turn off your cell phone.
Man (loudly): What?!
Me: Please turn off your cell phone.
Woman: He doesn’t have a cell phone.
Me: Then please turn off your cell phone.
Woman: My cell phone’s not on.
Me: I hear a cell phone ring coming from your purse. (on her lap)
Woman: That’s not my cell phone.
Me: Ma’am, it’s coming from your purse. I see the light and can see it vibrating. (it was even jingling the clasp on the purse)
Woman: You’re wrong. That’s not my ring.
Man: I’m trying to watch the show! Be quiet!
Woman: Don’t yell at me – your phone is on!
Man: I don’t have a cell phone!
Woman: Oh right. Well, it’s not mine.
(the cell phone ring ends and starts up again – still MC Hammer)
Me: Ma’am, turn off your cell phone.
Woman: That’s not my phone! I don’t have a young person song as my ring!
Me: Ma’am, please could you check to make sure?
Woman: This is ludicrous! You’re bothering my husband with all this.
Me: Please just check.
Woman: Alright, if you want to look a fool. (Takes the phone from her purse. It is vibrating lighting up, and playing MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This”)
Me: Please turn it off, Ma’am.
Woman: Someone changed my ring! I don’t even know this song! I turned my phone off when I sat down!
Me: Please turn it off, Ma’am.

This is my job.