Friday, December 21, 2007

For God and Underwear

So chances are, you don't go past Exits 14/15 on I-95N in Connecticut that much. It's a shame, really, because God is watching all those who do. And He wants all those motorists to know He cares. He is with them. How do I know this? He has a billboard telling me so. It's even signed "God." I didn't know He was into outdoor advertising, but what do I know? I know I should be comforted to know He has his eye on me and the other motorists on I-95N, but frankly, it's slowing down traffic, and I wonder how many motorists have gotten into accidents staring at that billboard when they should be focused on the road ahead. God knows.

And another thing, I know there's a writers' strike going on but who's brilliant idea was "What would Jesus REALLY do?" airing tonight on CNN? Is this REALLY a good idea? Do we REALLY need to hear Jerry Falwell's views on the war in Iraq (again) and how Jesus would have/would handle it? REALLY? At least they could have included Anderson Cooper. But no.

Moving right along...

So about two weeks ago, I take my daughter to her tae kwon do class, make myself as comfortable as possible on one of the metal benches in the waiting room, and crack open the latest New York Magazine (my "gift" for renewing some membership, though I didn't have a choice). And there, somewhat spread-eagled on the very first spread, is a guy in a dazzlingly white bikini, though I first thought it was underwear, apparently advertising cologne -- of course! -- in a boat... on a lake... practically naked.

I quickly shut the magazine and reopened it. Yup. Still there. I couldn't quite believe it. (OK, maybe I'm just a prude... about some things. Just seemed odd to have a near-naked guy spread-eagled on the first spread of New York Magazine.) So I turned to the father of one of my daughter's friends and said "Dan, check this out." There was no denying it now. Clearly there was a near-naked man poking out from the very first spread of New York Magazine.

Ah, how times have changed. Remember the days when if you wanted to advertise a bra, you had to show it next to or on top of a fully clothed woman -- a woman typically wearing a turtleneck or a modest dress? And I can't remember a single ad for underwear, besides Underoos, which were for the six and under set. Don't those days seem so long ago and quaint? Now, thanks no doubt to Madonna, undergarments are outergarments. And long gone are the days of modest advertising.

Go into any Abercrombie or Hollister, stores that attract a tween and teenage crowd, and you are surrounded by packages featuring perfectly sculpted males in briefs or boxers or the oh-so-popular boxer briefs. And these boxes of boxers are not tucked away in some dark back corner. Oh no. They are prominently displayed. Oh how today's young women are going to be disappointed. Tip: Don't judge a package by the cover.

So while I am on the topic of underwear... I must have received at least three emails and as many catalogs from Victoria's Secret since I started typing this note. OK, I exaggerate a bit. But REALLY (Thank you, Jesus), why me? I've got an OK body, but I'm no Gisele Bundchen. Not even close. Though frankly, besides Gisele, who is?

Over the years I have bought some shirts, a pair of men's style PJs, and what could best be described as a granny nightgown (long since discontinued, clearly because of lackluster sales) from Vicky's Secret. (What's the secret you say? These women have no nipples!) But nothing to elicit this deluge of catalogs and emails. And another thing: Who the heck buys this stuff, specifically those skimpy undergarments? I mean, there are, what, 122 women out there who actually look like a Victoria's Secret model? Maybe it's an aspirational purchase? Buy this push-up bra and thong and you too will look like Heidi Klum?

So I asked my spouse, who thinks women look sexiest in large, flannel pajamas, and he said, men. Men buy Victoria's Secret stuff. I am assuming for women (most likely a mistress), but you never know. Still I am curious. If you know, let me know. Enlighten me.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Of Carl Banks, Hollister, and Top Secret Cow Abductions

Though my mother, who only occasionally lives in New York and has no clue what sports radio and The Fan (WFAN 660 AM) are, as many of you know, I have become rather addicted to sport talk and the Fan in particular. It all started with Imus in the Morning, which used to be on WFAN weekdays from 6 - 10 a.m.

Every morning since moving to CT, we either woke up to Morning Edition on NPR or to Don Imus on the FAN. And even after the I-Dude was fired (a bit unfairly, if you ask me, though you didn't), we continued to listen -- to the point where I know listen to the Fan on my own, in my car or in the kitchen, when Kenny is not around.

Indeed, I have become a bit of a Fan/sports radio junkie, even watching ESPN at the gym while working out. I watch sports, too. I watch the Giants (and, until they SUCKED, the Jets -- sorry Gette and Rich) every Sunday. I used to watch the Patriots, too, until Tom Brady (who, okay, is pretty cute) started knocking up supermodels and Belichick was caught cheating (and who says cheaters never prosper?). And I have a soft spot for Green Bay since my Chicago area days. (Go Brett Favre!)

When we lived in Evanston, Illinois, back in the 1990s, when Michael Jordan and the triangle offense were king, I was a HUGE Chicago Bulls fan. I even listened to the playoffs while giving birth to Abby, until the doctors and Kenny insisted we turn off the game because I wasn't paying attention to the job at hand -- or cervix, as was the case.

And yes, I was a HUGE Mets fan as a kid, attending my first game when I was around 8 and becoming hooked. (You think I don't know suffering? Try being a Mets fan post-Tom Seaver, from the mid-1970s through the mid-1980s. Cubs fans: You know of what I speak.)

Now I derive almost equal pleasure listening to guys talk about sports. Not all guys mind you. Just the ones who actually seem to know what they are talking about.

Which brings me to Carl Banks, who now has a regular gig on the Fan, one or two days a week for an hour. For those of you who don't know, Banks (this is taken directly from Wikipedia)

is a former American football linebacker who played for three teams from 1984 to 1995, the New York Giants, the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Browns in the NFL. He made the Pro Bowl in 1987, had 39.5 career quarterback sacks, and was a member of the NFL's 1980's All-Decade Team. He attended Michigan State University and was the 3rd overall pick in the 1984 NFL draft. He was a member of the Giants teams that won Super Bowls XXI and XXV. Banks was a standout in their Super Bowl XXI victory in which he recorded 14 total tackles, including 10 solo tackles.

He also happens to be a very good analyst. Seriously. I don't usually pay attention to what's being said on the Fan. I just like listening to guys talk sports. I find it strangely soothing. But Banks had me hanging on every word. He doesn't just talk sports, he explains sports, in a way I hadn't heard before, kind of like a sports scientist, which, being a former political scientist, impressed me.

Among Banks's words of wisdom: Donovan McNabb is an underrated QB with a powerful arm but no good receivers -- and don't be surprised if the Jets go after McNabb or the Eagles pursue Laveranues (pronounced "Lavernius") Coles, the Jets wide receiver. Just saying. Cause Carl did. And Carl is good.

Moving right along...

So on Saturday I met my friend, Larissa, who lives in MA, at the West Farms Mall in West Hartford, or Farmington (depending which map service you use), CT, to catch up and do a little holiday shopping. I don't like crowds or shopping, so I kind of had to psych myself up for this little foray.

As we all know, shopping during holiday time has its own special challenges. But is it my imagination or does everyone want to be 21 with the latest cell phone and lots of bling, regardless of the time of year? 'Cause I swear every other store, with the exception of Gap Baby and Build-a-Bear and the Calendar Store (more about that in a minute), seemed to be targeted at/for teens or twentysomethings with lots of $$$ to burn.

Every major cell phone carrier had a store. There must have been at least three nail salons. There were jewelry stores every 10 feet, each one practically giving away charms and pendants. And I didn't begin to count all of the stores selling accessories. (Seriously folks: how many feather boas and bulldog hair clips does a girl really need?) And the displays in every clothing store positively screamed: Are you young and hip or want to be? Shop here!

I have to admit, though, some of those stores do a great job of marketing, particularly Hollister, where Larissa and I went to get my niece a gift card. The place was like a beach house, albeit a very upscale, classy one, with dark woods, wooden shutters, a painted tin roof, atmospheric lighting, sepia-tinged photos of surfer Dudes and Bettys (how Hollister refers to its female demographic), a live beach cam showing live images (mostly waves crashing) from Huntington Beach, CA, on 3 x 3 rows of TV monitors, and MUSIC BLASTING SO LOUD WE COULD BARELY TALK OR THINK. That may have been why Larissa was briefly tempted to buy a $90 sweatshirt, which, I admit, did have the softest lining ever. Very furry. About 20 minutes later, after polling a bunch of Bettys as to which gift card I should get my niece (the one with cute gay guy or one with cute gay guy and chick who looked like a young Daryl Hannah? They unanimously chose the latter), we left the beach and re-entered reality, or whatever passes for it at the mall these days.

After wandering around and deciding against having our portraits taken with Fred Claus or the Mafia Elves, we headed into the Calendar Store, so I could acquire a 2008 weekly engagement calendar. (Hey, just because I write about technology doesn't mean I have to use it.) Who knew there were so many choices? I figured I'd just waltz in and pick up another "Cats" one, because Abby likes looking at the pictures. But that would have been too easy. Maybe I should have chosen the Bichon weekly engagement calendar, or the one devoted to Yorkies, or to Pugs, or Kittens. Nah. Too tame. Like hard bodies? Take your pick, though they were all wall calendars. (More flesh to love, I guess.) Btw, who knew there were so many hunky NY firefighters? Or that they were still putting out Baywatch calendars? The things you learn at the mall.

I had pretty much decided to go with the "INSPIRATION 2008 HARDCOVER WEEKLY ENGAGEMENT," all in caps, the word "CALENDAR" omitted, because the pictures were pretty -- and it was on sale -- when I spotted the calendar that would change my life (well, at least for the next few minutes): "Top Secret Cow Abductions!" There was only one copy left, on the top shelf, near the back. I reached up on my tiptoes and gently grabbed it. These were not just any cow abductions, my friends. No. These were TOP SECRET. Which is why you cannot find this calendar on, only ( and a few hush-hush sites. Carefully, quietly, surreptitiously, Larissa and I flipped through the calendar, keeping a careful eye out for government agents and aliens who might not take kindly to us discovering their evil cow machinations. And while I was sorely tempted to purchase the calendar, I put my family's safety and security first and replaced the calendar back on the shelf and made my way to the register, where I paid for my "INSPIRATION" engagement calendar and left the store.

As far as I know, I was not abducted by aliens on my ride home, and had an uneventful rest of the weekend, waking up this morning to the sounds of Boomer and Carton on WFAN.

Wishing you easy shopping and easy listening this holiday season,


P.S. And if you happen to notice any levitating cows, take pictures! I know a guy with a calendar who will pay you top dollar!

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Tale of the One-Armed Tow Truck Driver

What you are about to read is true. It happened to me this weekend.

So on Saturday, while leaving the gym, my steering wheel started to shake. I immediately suspected something was wrong with my tire, but continued to drive on it, waiting for the tire pressure light to come on -- which it did, just as I got home. Sure enough, my left front tire was flat. Fortunately, there's a tire place down the road, so I slowly drove my Mini (which is Royal Taupe and known as Roger) there as the tire was not completely flat. A guy at the place said they didn't have any tires that would fit my car but he'd patch mine up that afternoon.

Three hours later...

I pick up my Mini, which is only two years old and has less than 17K miles on it, and check out the tire, which looks OK. But I just have to ask the guy, because I am a woman, and I don't entirely trust the guy, and I am going into NYC on Sunday, can I drive on this tire to NYC tomorrow? The guy says "no problem." So, of course, because, a) I'm a woman and b) this seems way too good to be true, having cost me only $4.19, I say, Are you sure? And, How long will the patch hold for? His response: "for miles." So I ask, How many miles? And he says, "thousands of miles."

So Sunday morning, I head off to NYC, which is approximately 50 miles away. It is my first weekend day outing on my own in, oh, maybe a year (pathetic but true), for a fun brunch in TriBeCa that took me months to coordinate (can you hear the tiny violins playing? I can) and within minutes, I feel my steering wheel pulling to the left. But do I stop and check my tire? No. Because I am convinced that I am just paranoid.

Thirty minutes later, things gets worse. But do I stop at the Greenwich service area? No. I am on a mission.

Ten minutes later, the tire blows. Fortunately, I am able to safely steer off onto the shoulder. Unfortunately, I am on the Hutchinson River Parkway, where the shoulder is about as wide as I am (OK, about as wide as my Mini), just in front of the sign for Exit 19/Wilmot Road.

So I calmly call Mini Roadside Assistance, and 10 minutes later I get an operator, probably based in North Dakota or India because the words "Hutchinson River Parkway" do not register. After putting me on hold for several minutes, she kindly informs me she cannot help me because I am on the Hutch (which I know), and no trucks are allowed on the Hutch, and that I need to call a special number. so I ask her, Who is it I am calling? She does not know. "Someone who can help you," she says. Great.

So I call the number. Turns out, it's the Westchester County Police. The officer or dispatcher is polite, takes down my information, and says he'll send help. (I then call Kenny, my spouse, and ask him to call both my lunchmates and cancel, so I can keep my cell phone clear. Kenny and Abby, btw, are having a grand time, playing games at a local arcade and then going out to lunch.)

About 10 minutes letter, a police car (a Ford Crown Victoria) speeds into view. Officer Grasso (whose name I only found out much later) gets out and together we take a look at my car and try to figure out where my spare is. And no, it wasn't obvious. It is under the car. We -- okay, HE gets it out, and we stare at it. Apparently, Westchester County Police officers are not allowed to change tires. Great. But, he says, there's a tow truck coming. Should be here any minute. I am very excited. Maybe I can make it to NYC after all! (HA!)

About that time, another cop car pulls up, this one an SUV. The officers confer. Traffic along the Hutch crawls to a standstill. A few minutes later the SUV pulls away. That leaves me and Officer Grasso to discuss life, the universe, and everything.

It turns out that Officer Grasso is a former football fan who now prefers NASCAR. We agree that Jimmie Johnson is a good driver but that there are too many pretty boys in NASCAR and in sports in general, many of whom are not talented but get by on their looks. We agree that talent trumps looks. He has two kids, 10 and 11, the former was a preemie, and his wife is a pharmacist. He is from Queens and is captain of his softball team.

He asks me what I do. I tell him that I write about entrepreneurs and their ideas and inventions and he mentions that he, too, has invented something, which I cannot disclose here, but I tell him he should pursue it.

Finally, after waiting by the side of the road for nearly 90 minutes, my feet (and other parts) freezing, and listening to Officer Grasso give me the gory details of various accidents he has seen on the Hutch and the Bronx River Parkway (thank you so much, Officer), the tow truck pulls up. And out walks a big black guy (looks like a football player) with a big smile and... one arm. You have got to be kidding me, I think. Am I on "Candid Camera"? But no, he is for real, and he could not be sweeter or more apologetic about keeping me waiting (said he had just gotten the call).

In FIVE MINUTES the guy had the spare on and had cleaned up the debris. AMAZING. I felt like an idiot. (For the record, I could change the tire on my Camry and on my Saab, just didn't know how to do it on a Mini and was too scared and cold to try on the Hutch on the narrowest of shoulders.) The tow-truck driver then informed me that the spare needed air, and I really shouldn't drive much on it. Great.

Officer Grasso then asks the guy if I can make it a few miles, to a service station further up the Hutch. The one-armed man says I should be OK.

So, with a police escort, I slowly, very slowly, get off at the next exit and get back on the Hutch headed north. Less than 10 minutes later, we are at the Mobil station, the one with the enormously obvious fake cell phone tower tree. Officer Grasso then proceeds to fill the spare and my right front tire with air -- and invites me out to lunch with him and his partner. I thank him but politely decline.

I returned home three hours after I left, hungry and depressed. But it could have been a lot worse. Not every day do I stop traffic on the Hutch or get asked out to lunch by a cop. And hey, both the Giants and the Jets won their games that day (though I'm not sure about Jimmie Johnson -- forgot to check).