The big mix-up

March 12, 2006

I was on Creamy Crayons today, the soft crayons that become water color when you paint over them with water. I was seated at a table and had kids come sit down and color with me. Easy peasy.

I ran into the inevitable one year olds who parents see a toy they can actually play with and let them run rampant and even try to eat these crayons. I ran into the parents who left their children with me thinking I was their personal free babysitter. I ran into the children who would tell their parents “No!” and what to do and their parents would do it, if the kids said “Jump!” the parents would say “How High!” while already jumping up and down trying to satisfy their demon children.

Then I ran into the Orthodox family. Normally it’s locals on Saturdays and foreigners and Orthodox Jewish on Sundays. That’s just how the store works. Now this kid, about four, with long curly brown hair tied half-way back with a sparkling bow clip sits down. This child is wearing tights with hearts on them underneath shorts and a fitted denim jacket with coordinating puma sneakers. The kid dropped a crayon and ordered the mom to pick it up, I trying to play nice get to it first and say “Here you go cute Puma shoe girl.” The mom or child hadn’t told the kid’s name and I usually say something similar in this situation.

That’s when the mother said “That’s not a girl, it’s a boy.” That’s when I did a double-take and said “Oh! I’m sorry. Let’s just get back to coloring.”

Awkward.

I had to alleviate the tension and remove myself from the equation. I ran back to Jen who was counting the till  and asked her if that kid was a boy or a girl.

“Girl. Are you crazy. Look at the sparkly clip an the tights.”

“Boy.” I told her.

“Boy?” she shrieks at which point the mother turns and looks at us looking at her. Nothing good came from that interaction.
Let’s just say. It was a big mix-up I’m not making again. I now am going to be completely gender neutral unless the parent makes a “she” or “he” remark first.

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My LES foodie dream

March 10, 2006

Eater had a contest to describe how you would spend $250 on food and a drink on a Thursday night in the Lower East Side. The prize, dinner at 71 Clinton that’s closing.

 I’m difficult though. I would prefer to spend my money on a Saturday or Lazy Sunday in the LES, rather than Thursday night. Oh, and another little caveat, I can’t drink. and I don’t drink.

So, I wrote up a little diddy but never sent it. For my own records, this is how I would spend a dream Saturday or Sunday in the LES with $250 for food (provided by someone else).

I like bang for my buck, so $250 is like a goldmine.  First, you have to start with brunch since getting an early start to the day is out of the question if your quest, as in mine, would be gluttony.

Essex of course fits the bill. $12 for the matzo brei concoction ( I go the vegetarian route on this one though I think there is a meatier one as well) and then of course a side of  home fries for another $3 and then of course all the mimosa’s you can drink. Technically I think it’s three and I don’t drink but since I plan on only paying for my own meal, since I’m stingy and technically the money would be mine, I’ll pass out those drinks to the brunch party as compensation. Finally of course, leave a $5 tip for service and having to deal with my then drunk friends.So that leaves $230.

Yonah Schimmel’s is next on the list to load up on knishes. Why not? Scary work lady who took me to see Kinsey with her and her 70 year old husband introduced them to me. The only good thing she introduced me to that night. At what I remember is like $2 a pop, you can get a lot from savory to sweet. I would bulk up on the potato and then the sweet potato variety- 10 each to appease the masses totaling only $40.

That leaves $190.

Having resided in the dear old jolly land of England, I miss the chocolates immensely. Therefore best head to Economy Candy to load up on them. My faves are the Aeros, Flakes, and Kit Kat Chunky’s. The each run about $1.40 so figure 10 each, since I really should watch my figure is $42. While I’m there might as well get some bulk candy as well, I’m a sucker for dark chocolate nonpareils. I think those run about $12/lb so get two-who really needs to watch their figure anyway, bringing the total up to $66.

That leaves $133.

Enough of being thrifty. Time to splurge WD-50 – never been and am quite curious. So best get the veggie tasting menu at $95, then of course the dessert tasting at $35 Which is $130.

Finish up the night after opening both the button and zipper of my pants and walking like I just rode a horse with a grilled veggie dog at the pushcart for $2, and tip the guy $1 because he was always nice to me.

High on….work

March 5, 2006

Sometimes, although something may not go your way, you have to choose the moments of humor to weigh more on the scales of experience than the moments of misery and pain.

Work is pain. Work is misery. Yet moments at work are pure gold.

For instance, today I was marked to demo Magic Plastic, liquid plastic you put on a straw and blow bubbles that’s now “non-toxic.” Or so they say. After stepping on a tube, ruining the carpet, having it all over my hands, I started blowing actual bubbles. Wooh. But somewhere down the line, either the amount of air I was expending or the “non-toxic” smell of the plastic made me high. Really high. The phrase “higher than the kite” didn’t even apply, high.

This led me to try and convince customers unconvincingly that this toy was appropriate for their 5 year old child. This led me to pop a few bubbles, mid-blow and shout “I suck at blowing.” – leading customers to stare at me. (NB: That is so becoming a pin for something) It led me to shout out that “It’s hard for Ruben to get it up” when he couldn’t get his remote controlled motorcycle going. It led me to walk by a whole bunch of celebs on my way home who were filming Reign O’er Me (entitled on IMDB as Empty City) at Baruch (transformed to the Manhattan Criminal Court) singing Bob Marley at the top of my lungs while PA’s tried to tackle me.

Sometimes, you have to cherish these moments of absurdity to be able to survive the misery of retail. Note to remember for the rest of my life.

Riding the famous’ coat tails

March 4, 2006

I could never be a famewhore’s whore. It wouldn’t work. At the toy store, we get tons of celebs in all the time, and there are two distinct traits divided between the female celebs and the male celebs.

If you are a female celeb it is gauranteed, even indoors, you will purposely try to make yourself appear like a praying mantis. What do I mean? Abnormally large sunglasses that cover 5/8th’s of your face, super skinny legs and arms but adorned with abnormally large bracelets, bags, and boots.

If you are a male celeb you will be adorned, even indoors with a similar praying mantis but with overprocessed hair and a fur coat in attempt to distinguish themselves as the pampered and not the actual working female celeb.

Female celebs for the most part, although insect in appearance tend to be nice. Male celebs could care less about being in a toy store. Male celeb’s female famewhore’s whore, the bitchiest people on the planet. I mean I guess it is quite demanding and taxing to spend other people’s money. And all the time to overfry your hair!

Today I was on the comfy computer, the annoying computer for 1-5 year olds when suddenly Scottie Pippen, former Bulls star, approached. Not that big on the celeb meter but still big enough to warrent two security guards with him. He noticed the comfy computer and in an attempt to break for freedom from being subjected to shopping, he actually listened to the pitch and was going to buy. Yes! Another one sold! But then, I got a whif of the bleach and my sales went from +2 to -139283.

“Oh please, she’s way too advanced for that. She’s two and the smartest princess. And it only comes in clear. Don’t you have something stylish in pink, with crystals? Something more expensive?”

He quickly put it down, resigned looking. She readjusted her fur coat, attempted to flip her fried hair and sent the personal shopper in to a panicked scramble to find something educational for her “extremely” bright two year old that was also “blinged” out.

She’s just spending his money and he doesn’t care.

However that one image of Scottie Pippen putting down the Comfy Computer made another potential customer return the already almost purchased computer and several others walk away quickly.

Thanks famewhore’s whore. You look like an overprocessed praying mantis, and you are devouring your famewhore like one as well.

Truth Tables

March 1, 2006

Truth tables are a type of mathematical table used in logic to determine whether an expression is true or valid. However, wouldn’t life be much simpler if this was truly applicable to real life, not hypothetical conjecturing?

For example, as shown in the wikipedia definition:

Logical conjuction is when two propositional variables, A and B, and the logical operator “and” (∧), signifying the conjunction “A and B” or AB. In common English, if both A and B are true, then the conjunction “AB” is true; under all other possible assignments of truth values to AB, the conjunction is false. This relationship is defined as follows: by thomas james

A B AB

The logical disjunction or “OR” (∨) relationship is defined as follows:

A B AB

It’s nice. It’s neat. It’s logic. But life doesn’t work that way. Sometimes to false statements make a truth and two true statements make a false one.

Logically that doesn’t make sense, but neither does life.

Where am I going with this? I took a good old truth table test to my life and things didn’t add up. I guess it started when people keep asking me what I want to do with my life. I say I don’t know, I haven’t found myself, but I know. Deep down in my heart, I want to write. However, I know I’m not good enough to ever do that for a living.

That kills.

“No I’m not pregnant.” “Yes I am single.” “No I’m not in a relationship, I don’t believe in love or relationships.” “No I’m not just saying that.” – Things I said to my radiologist today before I was irradiated, blown up, x-rayed, and fried. He said I was lying. It didn’t make sense that I wasn’t ever in a relationship or not pregnant at my age. But that was true.

That kills.

“Someone so young shouldn’t be so sick” he said after awhile.

That kills even more.

I wish life was like logic sometimes, black and white. Logical and predictable. But it isn’t. And that kills most of all.

Love Not Love

February 26, 2006

I don’t believe in love. That’s the first thing you have to know about me. I just don’t. I think love is a social construct created to explain our need to be physically intimate with people and not appear as socially defunct by being alone. I mean come on, do the math. Do you really believe there is one person for everyone else in the entire world? Given the statistical diversity and population spread, why does everyone’s soulmate seem to live in the same town as they do? Who’s to say that these people couldn’t live 3,000 miles away, never meant to cross our path and even perhaps be of a different generation. I don’t get love. I don’t get the preternatural fascination we have with it and why we choose to define our lives around searching for it.

It makes me sad sometimes to realize that I’m the type of person who will always be alone. I accept it, but at the same time when a mysterious copy of Modern Bride makes its way into my post box, I do feel a tinge of sadness. I look at the dresses and wish one day I could feel like a princess, like the people in that magazine, just for one day-then I remember love is just a convenience not an actuality.

Sometimes though…

When I got off the subway the other evening after work, when it was springtime in the winter and the temperature soared above to twice what it should be, I saw something. This something might be called the l-word, and in some ways although I know it won’t happen to me, it gave me a little bit of hope, a sign that love may actually exist in this world. This man, probably over 50 not in the best shape was walking around midtown east with who I assumed was his wife. Suddenly he stopped, put his hands on her shoulders then cupping her face. He then did the most shocking things I’ve seen in NYC, he took off his shoes and gave them to his wife-her feet in obvious pain even from my standpoint from wearing 5? stillettos in a mistaken attempt to merge fashion with functionality. Any man that would dredge around on a nyc sidewalk in barefeet just so his wife could be comfortable must love her immensely. I mean, the spirilla, the streptoccacca, the man-eating flesh virus left from human urination exposed to his poor feet, just so his wife could be comfortable. If that’s not sacrifice and selflessness than I don’t know what is.

Is that love? Exposing one self to pain, discomfort, and future loss of toe just so another can be happy, or is it a pre-emptive strike of self preservation to keep one’s sanity when obvious fashion conflicted wife begins nagging and moaning in two seconds from the obvious blisters that will form from her “Camping heels?? I don’t know. Maybe it is love and that makes me all the more sad. Alone and tough I know I’ll always be, but sometimes I want to be weak, just so someone can be tough for me.

Calling in my points

February 26, 2006

Glenn (name changed to protect the innocent) from my main 9-5 is in a community play version of This Life. Martin’s in a community play version of anything every freaking month. He stresses, he freaks, he makes everyone at the office go and cheer on these horrible productions by guilt and manipulation. He’s a gay jewish single 47 year old, he’s good at it.

This time he’s playing the main character. He’s an invalid in bed. The whole play is him not moving in a bed. Kill me now.

I can’t go. I would honestly kill myself or gauge something out. I rather have four endoscopies in a row rather than see this production. He’s a nice guy but I already have to sit for an hour week and listen to him stress about his three non-relationship relationships EACH WEEK. Every week it’s the same. It’s like being forced to watch the same episode of the Brady Bunch where Greg keeps wearing the Tiki and bad stuff happens to him in Hawaii and he doesn’t catch on. He’s not sure if this guy is his boyfriend or just a guy he is dating, He’s not sure if the guy he’s sleeping with is the one because he splatters water when washing out his toothbrush. I hear it all, every detail, every same story, every freaking week.

I think this therefore exempts me from going to see him in a bed just talking. I see that at work. I pay attention to him at work. This should be a time to let others experience his voice. However, unfortunately life doesn’t seem to work this way. My inability to appear mean and disinterested means an obligation to go and be interested, more so than anyone else. That’s what the laws of etiquette and courtesy state.

I however am bucking the trend. I’m not going. Antisocial me is calling in all the points I get for being his sounding board on his love life. That buys me a free pass. I’m breaking convention. I’m staying home.

Old Man at the Diner

February 23, 2006

Scrambled Eggs, toast, bacon and juice. That’s what he gets everyday, the old man who sits at the third table in the window at the diner on the corner of my block. I see him every morning in his sweater vest, hair neatly combed, shoes polished and news paper folded next to him on the table. Every day he sits there alone and eats the same breakfast. His Usual. That’s how he probably orders it.

He’s a comfort, something that I check on every morning. Make sure that the Old Man is there. I don’t know why he intrigues me so, but his regular patronage of the same table and the same meal is a comfort for me.

The diner often times makes me sad. All the people sitting at the tables in the window, all with someone, friends, family, smiling and laughing, makes me feel quite alone. He however is my steadying force.

I make up stories about this old man. His life. What he’s thinking. What he plans to do with his day. Sometimes he is this widowed old sod who after years of his wife cooking him the same breakfast before he went to work, now has to resort to going to the diner for his breakfast before he returns home alone to continue reading his paper and listening to the radio. Other times, he just someone who has lived alone all his life, too busy in his work to seek anyone out, and this is the only way he feels he can connect with others, by observing them at their tables. Oddly enough, most of the tales I spin about him have this morose romantic quality to them. He just seems like someone who has lived some sort of tragic life. Maybe that’s because he eats alone every day and orders the same thing, maybe it’s just because I’m alone and that’s how I feel sometimes.

I got worried once. He went missing from his normal spot for almost a week. Did something happen? Was he ill? Did he die? Did he suddenly decide forget this, I’m moving to Florida and leaving chilly New York far behind? I worried. I stressed. He wasn’t there at the third table in the window at the diner on the corner of my block anymore. I became all out of sorts. Then miraculously he returned: scrambled eggs, toast, bacon and juice. All was right with the world.

He must have had a cold I thought. Perhaps, his daughter had a kid and he went to visit her for a bit.

I don’t know. I don’t know even why I’m so taken with him. All I know is that it made me feel safe when I saw him at his table with his usual this morning, and that’s the only reason I feel like I can make it through one more day, tough times and all.

Fun? Fun? There’s no fun in a toy store!

February 20, 2006

Just a note about the FAO Fun Police.

Mr. Weeble Wobble, the assistant manager from hell, is the Fun Police, the PooPooing Po-Po. If he sees fun, it’s his sole mission, his reason d’etre, his singular goal, to squelch, smother, and defeat it.

“Keep that frown upside down? is his refrain.

Now, that would be all well and good in most places of work, but you see this is FAO Schwarz, the epitome of toy stores. It’s like telling everyone in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory to go on a diet and promote lettuce tasting chocolate. It doesn’t make sense.

Most people who work on the demo team are out of work actors. Very creative people who have decided waiting tables just doesn’t give them the creative freedom to pursue their art. You have Cesar who has a comedy show that runs every several weeks, there’s Chris who is crazier and quick-witted than your average bear, there’s Annie from Oklahoma, Micah who can attract any person to him with his ambiguously gay over the top acting, and all the other cast and crew.

Today, someone brought out the Hummer boom box to demonstrate the sound and power. Out bounced some classic Sugar Poppin’ Daddies and we all started to dance. All of a sudden it’s 6 of us dancing around, gathering a crowd with kids joining in and dancing with us. Parents are laughing, taking photos, people outside are pointing through the windows and making their way to the entrance, and most of all the atmosphere of the store was on fire. Then Beeker, the Weeble Wobble walked by with his clipboard.

He steps in the middle of our dance circle. “Tessa I need you back at the Illustory. Annie, get the party room ready/ and you…I don’t know what you should be on, but you’re here to work and you’re disturbing these customers.? Um…alright then there Steve, I’ll get back to holding my book which doesn’t create any interest and staring into space, and these customers that were having fun and actually being driven to buy things will just walkabout, browse, and walk out.

In an instant, the levity and ambiance of imaginary reality was sucked out of the second floor like I would suppose a vampire instantly sucks all the blood from its victim.

He disappeared for a bit and in my corner of non-creative, creative play promotions, Cesar stood making his magic plastic designs. Magic Plastic is the old school goo you put on a straw and blow to make semi-permanent bubbles. Selling point, now they’re nontoxic! (Damn, now you can’t get high!) Cesar had made a good size bubble and was bouncing it back and forth with a customer. Then, this little boy spiked it directly in Cesar’s face, popping it on his glasses and making this big blue glob stick onto his face and glasses, almost impossible for Cesar to get off. Now, this was quite funny. In one instant Cesar was just standing there hitting a plastic balloon, the next minute he was like a smurf who had his chewing gum stuck over his head. Hilarious. So funny, I actually fell to the ground crying with laughter.

Just then, faster than a speed of light, dundundadunnnnnn Fun Police to the rescue.

“Why are you laughing? Why are you on the ground? Cesar that’s not apart of the approved uniform.? The customers who had gathered to laugh at Cesar’s misfortune and wonder at the classic toy quickly dispersed, putting the magic plastic back on the shelf, not buying any of it. Weeble Wobble noted our having fun on his clipboard.

This went on all day. Poor Alan, demonstrating the wave board would see the Fun Police coming and skate his way as fast he could two floors down to try and avoid the Weeble Wobble. But then, even in the 0.2-second dash down two flights, the Weeble Wobble would be waiting for him clipboard in hand to chastise about something. How did he make it down there so fast? Was it a doppelganger, or was he really such a Man of Misery with the super power to find fun and snuff it out to only let unhappiness and dreariness fill the world? He would make a good super hero in that sense, a comic book character that can only breathe with his mouth open and hates fun. It’s a guaranteed classic right there.

It’s a toy store. When your employees have fun, it creates a mood more conducive to buying toys. I don’t understand the sequoia tree that is permanently lodged up his ass, but perhaps super Tessa, the queen of undermining authority will make an appearance soon.

May the Schwarz be With You

February 19, 2006

“Beached Whale? – SLAM. A partially deflated rubber whale slammed on the floor in front of me.Chris looked at me expectantly and I tried my hardest not to laugh. A horrified look crossed the face of a customer I was talking to at the Comfy Computer, and she picked up her “genius? child and ran off. I laughed. I laughed hard.

“Free Willy? I chimed back.

Chris broke into a soulful clap and dance singing Michael Jackson’s title song to that awful film.

Annie, rushed over joined in our now Michael Jackson soul circle dancing around the deflated whale, humming along with us as we realized we didn’t know the words but but scarily remembered the tune to the song.

Just another day at FAO.

From fathers hiding from their familes in the narrow furniture hallway sitting in pink feathered and sequined chairs under canapés of pink tuille, a mass of long legs peeking out from tiny chairs, to parents trying to convince me their two year olds are too advance for the child’s computer I’m selling since the two year old already has mastered Google and has their own myspace-there’s never a dull day sets in at the FAO Schwarz.

Nothing however beats poor little William. You see, Dr. Frankenstein has nothing on FAO Schwarz. I’m not even referring to the monster children or even worse Upper East Side parents who not only cater to every whinge and moan of their child, and demand the world themselves while chatting on their cell phones. No, up the escalator from the life sized animals, past the big piano that only costs $250k, lay Madame Alexander’s Doll Factory replete with severed doll heads on the wall.

The children choose the skin color, eye color, hair color, and hairstyle of their collectible, customizable, personalizable mini-me. After which we helped construct the doll in a fun process that includes microwaving the doll (not to long or the plastic melts as I learned) to and strapping it into a mascochistic torture restraint device in order to glue hair on. Fun, we promote, at least for future serial killers. But we do it all with a smile, wink, and an attempt to make the doll semi-normal looking. Quite hard when you are giving a two-minute brief on how to make the doll before you are thrust on to the floor as a certified dollologist with years of experience and a degree in doll making.

It’s normal, light skinned, blue eyes, medium blonde funky flip. Latin skin, grey eyes, dark brown playful pony. All little girls with their parents who have convinced that spending $40 on a unique doll will shut them up for 10 minutes, or older women who want to recapture their youth by collecting dolls. That was until little William, a little three-year old boy dressed in tight leather pants, a lambskin coat and a pink scarf wearing nail polish brought in by his grandmother. The Scissor Sisters youngest fan. Grandma decided that it would be oh so cute to have William make a doll. Now the store’s blatant girls ‘section of dolls and arts and crafts divide with boys’ science, math, and cars personally offend me. I think boys and girls should have equal opportunity to play with things. But the Madame Alexander Doll Factory was different. It’s definitely a girl’s girl type of create a girly doll with painted nails and makeup.

William and his grandmother struggled between the fair and Latin skin doll with brown eyes to match William’s. After choosing the Latin skin doll to reflect his slightly tanned tone, I’m sure that was applied from a can given how fake tanned his grandmother was, next came the hairstyle design. Black was a given. Now the closest to his short-cropped top was the Mop Top Bop, a bowl hair cut typical of young girls haircuts. But that didn’t do for Grandma. His hair isn’t straight she informed me. Then turning to William “What would you like your hair to be like when you get older?? He chose the crazy corkscrews, corkscrew twists on top of the head evident of longer girly locks tied up in a funky type of style.

I, slightly phased at this point, decide that this isn’t going to be a normal doll making. I debated between referring to the doll as her or him, since this doll was supposed to look like William, but was very evidently a girl doll. “What do you want to name your doll?? I said in the process of twisting the legs in, deciding on the gender-neutral description of doll over him or her. Grandma replied “Willameena, that’s what you like for later right William.?

Pause. It became evident. Grandma wasn’t a female empowerment equal opportunitist. No, grandma has already decided that William, age three, will become Willameena and is using this doll as a mechanism to help him comprehend his future self. Every fiber of my being was trying not to look shocked and I tried to shoot discreet “OMG? looks to the two girls at the register that were already blatantly gossiping behind hands covering their mouths. Quickly I finished the doll with the trademark wink and smile and decided that indeed maybe Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory wasn’t truly a reference to the dolls, but to the parents or grandparents who raised their children here on the Upper East Side.