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Tuesday Fiction: Take the Slow Train to Brooklyn

Screen Shot 2014-01-07 at 9.33.04 AM.

In the event you think all I ever do is work blue, drink too much and sling bad musical advice, here’s a chance to peek at my literary life. Of course, this little exercise in flash fiction is all about a caustic, down-on-her-luck dipsomaniac who stumbles into a subway jam fest, but I prefer to think of these as just a few of the many leitmotifs of my life, rather than signposts on the road to Betty Ford.


Op Ed: The Selfies

Normally I avoid straying into political territory in social situations and my online ramblings. More often than not, the combination of my slightly off-kilter views, propensity for personal mockery and three-cocktail minimum tends to ruffle the feathers of my dinner companions, and has even cost me the occasional friendship. And what’s the point? It isn’t as if my insights, no matter how razor sharp, are going to change anyone’s position or worldview. No, I find it’s best to just smile and nod when politics come up, then steer the conversation in a less contentious direction, such as whether Martha Stewart bathes in her own urine, chews broken glass for breakfast and transforms into something even more terrifying than her TV persona at the full moon.

So that’s my policy. Or it was until the Weiner-Spitzer story picked up steam and I felt compelled to opine on the whole sordid, sorry mess. For what it’s worth here’s my two martinis’ worth.

"One is a genius, the other is insane."

“One is a genius, the other is insane.”

Do you have to be a narcissistic attention junkie with the scruples of a used car salesman and the professional standards of a carnival barker to run for political office these days? Maybe not, but apparently it helps. Given the steady stream of rehabilitation-flogging, forgiveness-demanding, scandal-tarred politicos seeking second chances from the voters they betrayed, not to mention their beleaguered families, what else makes sense? Not so much shameless as utterly unshameable, Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer want their redemption, and they want it now.

Of course, sex scandals are nothing new in government. There was Grover Cleveland in 1884; Wilbur Mills and the strippers in the mid Seventies; Marion Barry’s 1990 ‘ho and crack fest (“Bitch set me up!” ring any bells?); Bill Clinton and his Oval Office shenanigans; and most recently Mark Sanford’s infamous Appalachian Trail of Tears (and big fat lies).

In the current political climate it seems anyone can come back from almost anything. Except maybe trying to solicit gay sex in a men’s room using sign language. An infringement on the Americans with Disabilities Act, perhaps?

pinky and the brain

See what I mean?

Owing to a fortuitous special election, Sanford is well ahead of his fellow travelers on Redemption Road, but New Yorkers move fast, and Spitzer and Weiner have a lot more baggage to dump. These two, it seems to me, have more in common than non-standard sexual tastes, over-inflated balloon heads, no principles and wives who are way too good for them. There’s a detectable whiff of narcissism about them both, though clearly Spitzer is the brighter of the two, The Brain to Weiner’s Pinky, if you will.

As you no doubt recall, Spitzer, the former Big Stick of lower Broadway, was chased from the governor’s mansion (presumably with his socks on) in 2008 after being identified as Client #9 in a prostitution sting. The long-married father of three somehow managed to avoid prosecution and hold on to his lovely, if bafflingly-loyal wife, and he is now running for New York City comptroller. He may even win. So let’s break this down: New Yorkers are seriously considering handing the financial reins of the nation’s biggest city and most powerful economic engine to a man with poor judgment, no impulse control and a pattern of aggression and lying. Sounds good to me. In fact, it sounds a lot like Anthony Weiner to me.

The flash of the camera phone in his face, the bleep of the sent selfie, and the illicit thrill of his naughtiness intoxicated his weak brain.

The flash of the camera phone in his face, the bleep of the sent selfie, and the illicit thrill of his naughtiness intoxicated his weak brain.

Weiner – the Mr. Toad of sexting – is asking the voters of New York City to make him Mayor Bloomberg’s successor, despite his 2011 disgrace and a newly revealed phone sex relationship with a 22 year-old woman. Kind of puts a new spin on the notion of Bloomie’s nanny state, doesn’t it? See my comments above re: judgment, impulse control and lying. I can’t imagine what’s going on in his wife’s mind, but as Kingsley Amis rightly observed, “Other people’s priorities are endlessly odd.”

By now, the other mayoral hopefuls have issued the standard calls for Weiner’s withdrawal, most notably John Liu, the current city comptroller. He pointed out that Weiner’s “propensity for pornographic selfies is a valid issue for voters.

Well there you have it. And so, despite his own scandal problems, Mr. Liu just got my vote purely on the basis of that observation. If the public can’t expect accountability and integrity from its elected representatives, maybe we can get by on humor.

Advice: Auntie Slattern’s corrections department

I totally agree. Now shut up and listen.

I totally agree. Now shut up and listen.

I’m not an expert on much, and frankly anyone foolhardy enough to take life advice from me would be well advised to have a sturdy liver, legal counsel on retainer and a reasonable tolerance for extended visits to Betty Ford. Nevertheless there are several subjects on which I feel entitled to make rather free with advice, and on occasion I do — cooking (or not cooking as the case may be), aesthetic and sartorial choices, driving in the city, effective child rearing, grammar and language to name but a few. Well now that I think about it, that’s more than a few and really it’s not the whole list either, but never mind, let’s continue.

Since at the moment the temperature on the east coast is roughly equivalent to that of the surface of the sun and I am really REALLY cranky as a result, I’m feeling inclined to offer up a few unsolicited corrections to erroneous, even egregious, behaviors that are irking me. Obviously I understand that we all have room for improvement, and I am no exception. In fact, constructive criticism (“Pizza again? Is it too much trouble to put the wine bottle down and make dinner?”), helpful tips (“Try getting out of bed before noon if you want be able to sleep at night.”) and polite suggestions (“Perhaps if you chose gazpacho for lunch instead of a third Bloody Mary, you might feel a bit perkier in the afternoon.”) routinely come my way. I give all fair consideration before disregarding them and doing exactly what I feel like at the time. I may be a slattern but I’m no hypocrite.

Anyways, in the spirit of helping my fellow man and with the goal of blowing off some steam, here are a few suggestions I feel the reading public could benefit from. Feel free to forward them along to acquaintances in need of a gentle shove.

Underwear ≠ outerwear



I know, I know, I’ve pointed this out before, but clearly the message is not getting through. Witness the following photo I snapped last night on the New York City subway. At least I’m pretty sure I did. Given the number of margaritas with beer chasers that accompanied the rather festive evening meal, the details are a bit hazy, but how else to explain this photo in my phone?

Now, granted, it was hot — I mean searing, hotter than the hinges of holy Hell down there. But I was dressed and most of the other travelers were, too. Were we comfortable? No, but we were decent, and that’s the crucial issue here. We should all try and look decent.

Happily the front of the garment offered a bit more coverage than the back if my recollection is correct. But really in what galaxy is this an acceptable way to leave the house? Does no one own a mirror anymore? What is going on? I really would like to know, because I’m having a very hard time understanding the thought process/life perspective that allows a person to take a look at herself thusly attired and say, “Okay, looking good. Let’s go!” So ladies, please, I am begging you, check your back fat before you step out the door. And for the love of God, invest in a slip.

Your tense makes me tense.

Though I understand the linguistic evolution behind Americans’ misuse of complicated conditional verb tenses (I’ll spare you the grammar lecture, so don’t say I never did anything for you), it still irks me to hear someone say, “If I would have known your were coming I would have baked a cake.” In case you are wondering, it should be “If I had known you were coming I would have baked a cake.” Or in my case laid in a supply of decent rye so we could sit out on the terrace like civilized people and have a refreshing Sazerac or three in this dreadful heat.

What chafes me even more is to see this erroneous verb tense published in an article about writing, as I recently did in Writer’s Digest. Yup that’s right, a magazine about writing, for writers. I’d share the quote with you, but I set the issue on fire (with my MIND) in a fit of pique.

Similarly, there’s the convoluted, hopelessly nonsensical “I would have liked to have done that.” It should be, “I would have liked to do that,” meaning that in the past you would have enjoyed something you didn’t do. Alternatively, you could say, “I would like to have done that,” meaning that in the present moment you wish you had done something you did not do and wish it was among your past experiences. What you cannot do is mash the two together into a grammatical Frankenstein and hope no one notices or cares, at least not if I’m in earshot.

You see, it’s not the death of the English language, but its slow torture and frequent maiming that drive me to drink. Admittedly it’s a short trip, but still, you take my meaning.

And don’t even get me started on “Does everyone have their paper?”

There’s a good reason you never used that Flesh crayon.

three-flesh-crayola-crayonsRemember the one? Pinkishy-orange and bearing no resemblance to to any naturally-ocurring human skin tone. Barbie-colored best describes it.

You’d fight with your sister over the Midnight Blue, pinch your best friend to get your hands on Forest Green, bite your brother to loosen his grip on Chrome Yellow, but that nasty Flesh-colored crayon stayed in the box untouched, as sharp as the day you whined and begged until your mom agreed to buy the 64-color crate with the handy sharpener on the back.

big pink

Living next to Big Pink without the drugs or the fun.

Why? Because it is the ugliest color in the universe that’s why. Worse than red-brown, chartreuse and mauve combined. It’s nasty, folks, and it should be illegal. At the very least, if –hypothetically — your next door neighbor were to paint the back of her house and all the masonry in the yard this dreadful shade, she should have the decency to sell the property to a nice gay couple who’d paint it a tasteful ecru.

I’m all for letting the freak flag fly, but really, this is just too much.

Well, I’m feeling better now. Any pet peeves you’d like to share? Have at it, my friends.

Where has all the glamour gone?

Of sweatsuits, French manicures, Vinny the Chin and tiny little women with big demands.

Not for daywear, not for travel, maybe for prison.

Not for daywear, not for travel, maybe for prison, but only minimum security.

Having strolled the avenues and byways of this planet for more decades than I will ever admit to, I have seen a fair sampling of humanity. In airports, grocery stores, doctor’s offices and even the occasional holding cell, I frequently find myself cheek by jowl with people from every walk of life, social strata and ethnic group.

By dint of living in New York, I even encounter the odd celebrity, as, for example, I did on one of the upper floors of the Plaza Hotel in 1989. This was my first ever celebrity sighting, so it sticks in my memory. I was actually there to look at corporate meeting rooms when lo and behold, I spied the original Mrs. Trump, Ivana, standing by the elevators with a hapless flunky who was looking more like a whipped dog than an uptown interior decorator as a result of the tongue lashing he was receiving about the progress and direction of renovations to the hotel. If memory serves, Ivana was about the size of a toothbrush and was repeating the same thing over and over, “No, no, NO, I vant goldt!” Truly a moment for the ages.

Anyhow, I share this by way of noting that she looked fabulous — exquisitely tailored pantsuit, coordinating stilettos, Louis Vuitton binder and a beehive that Patsy Stone would have killed for. Her lipstick was intact despite the fact that she had clearly been flapping her gums for some little time, and you could have sliced a baguette on the creases of her trousers. Ivana the Terrible was, in a word, glamorous.

Now THAT'S a nail job. Courtesy

Now THAT’S a hand job. Courtesy

Sure she was old school, but as we all know, there are infinite ways to do glamour. Just last week I saw a gorgeous African American woman of Amazonian proportions on the subway. She was sporting canary yellow leggings, matching thigh high boots and bag, and was rocking a coordinating manicure and a gold streaked Lady Godiva weave. The color was fabulous with her skin, there was not one hair out of place, and she was sublimely confident. I longed to ask her where she’d scored the footwear, as it’s so very difficult to find high style boots with wide shafts, but reconsidered after hearing her excoriate the man standing next to her who had the effrontery to stare. It was an extremely admiring stare, and rightly so, but since she took exception I decided to keep still.

In the event I have any male readers left at this point, let me point out that glamour is not an exclusively female domain. Recently, at the corner bodega of all places, I spotted a hipster guy in high tops, jeans, a white shirt and a vintage tuxedo jacket. He was buying gourmet beef jerky, coffee and Red Bull, so although I shuddered at the state of his gastrointestinal tract, he nonetheless had an elegant je ne sais quoi that would have stood him in good stead in almost any social setting — until the Red Bull and cowhide made their presence known, symphonically, several hours hence, anyway.

Just stepping out for a smoke and a stroll.Via

Just stepping out for a smoke and a stroll.

The point of all this is that glamour is many things to many people. What makes me feel good (three inch heels, a pencil skirt and a martini) may not work for you, especially if you prefer yoga pants and a t-shirt. Provided both fit properly, the pants have been hemmed so as not to drag on the ground, and your dirty hair is pulled back in a tidy ponytail, this can work. At the gym. Where it doesn’t work is at Bloomingdale’s, jury duty or parent teacher conferences, which are just a few of the places I have spotted this “look.”

And then of course there are the pajama pants. If you recall, appearing in public in your sleepwear used to be a pretty solid strategy for your insanity defense. These days, however,  you can’t swing a cat on the street without hitting some schmuck in penguin patterned loungewear. It’s sad really. Sad to see grown-up people with jobs and mortgages walking around town looking like they’re on a day pass from a nearby facility where no one’s allowed to have shoelaces or belts.

Aw c'mon. This is not nice.

Aw c’mon. You don’t own even ONE half slip?

But as bad as the slovenliness is, the near nudity is even worse: thongs on the beach, muffin tops oozing over skinny jeans and the dreadful tank top that inflicts backne, tattoos and scraggly chest wisps on a blameless public. It’s as if we’ve all stumbled into a D-list Abercrombie shoot featuring a bunch of Kardashians, a couple of Wahlberg wannabes and assorted wardrobe malfunctions being passed off as fashion. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not have the image of Kim’s bum seared on my consciousness for the rest of my life, and yet I cannot seem to escape it.

At the risk of sounding like my grandmother, I can remember a time when people bothered about their appearance, and society as a whole had certain expectations. Men wore hats, women wore stockings, everyone wore underwear. You couldn’t see it of course, but you just knew it was there, largely because all fabrics other than flannel were scratchy and unpleasant next to the skin. Underwear provided a necessary buffer zone between the more delicate areas and abrasive tropical wools, heavily starched linens and that miracle of drip-dry miracles, rayon. and rightly so.

Via Esquire, courtesy Fotonoticias/Getty Images.

Via Esquire, courtesy Fotonoticias/Getty Images.

These days, it seems not a week goes by that we’re not assaulted by the sight of some starlet’s deforested lady parts, a random pedestrian’s whale tail, or highly compensated movie stars dressed for a day in the sandbox at work. I mean, c’mon Adam, we love you, but isn’t it time to shave and put on your big boy suit? I know you’ve got one.

So listen folks, it’s a new year and time for a fresh start. Toss out all those baggy surrender t-shirts, childish pajama pants (you know you’ve worn them to the grocery store) and ill-fitting sweat items. Slip into some stretchy new undergarments, coordinated separates and shiny shoes and show the world your glamorous bad self for a change. I guarantee you’ll get treated better on airplanes, at work and in restaurants (admit it, you do want to eat in places where it matters). As an added bonus, I can stop beating this dead horse and start writing important posts wherein I demonstrate how ontogeny really does recapitulate phylogeny or discuss whether Spinoza’s reconciliation of the mind-body problem still holds water. Or maybe I’ll just go back to flogging recipes. Either way, it’s win-win for us all.

No more fracking kale!

What is all the fuss about?

Image courtesy

May I speak frankly? Thank you.

I hate kale. I mean I really, really loathe it. Even more than okra, even more than radishes.

It’s not for lack of trying it either. I have nibbled the ubiquitous superfood in salads, baked it into chips, steamed, buttered, braised and sautéed it. I’ve even tried tarting it up with spicy mango salsa, and the verdict is in, children. Kale is nasty. It tastes exactly the way I imagine soylent green would, and it smells like the inside of a teenage boy’s sneaker as it cooks, after which time the aroma of putrid cabbage lingers in the house for approximately five years. The odor has a half-life, people!

Kale stalks are tough and fiberous, the taste makes you wretch, and it returns on you, if you take my meaning. The last time I gagged some down, the flavor lingered in my mouth even after three toothbrushings, a careful flossing and Listerine rinse, and half a dozen tequila shooters with lime and salt. That is some awe-inspiring staying power.

Yeah yeah yeah, I know, it’s got every freakin’ vitamin and nutrient in the world and probably a bunch that haven’t even been discovered yet. There’s folic acid and protein in the leaves, it regulates your digestion, conquers cancer and prevents every disease known to man, as well as — again — some horrible afflictions no one has even come down with, let alone found a cure for, as yet. It’s downright miraculous.

Get your lard on.
Image courtesy

Which is why, I suppose, it is currently turning up on every goddamned plate in every overpriced, artisanal restaurant in New York City, more often than not accompanied by pork belly, lardons, thick cut bacon or some other equally fatty, heavily smoked, thoroughly undigestible subcutaneous pork product. By the time the dynamic duo of leaves like wire brushes and jagged nuggets of semi-masticated pork scratchings has blazed a trail through your digestive tract, you will be keenly aware of having eaten something, let me assure you. And don’t even get me started on what it takes to extract the remnants of same from between your crowns. A little after dinner fracking, anyone?

So I’m drawing a line in the sand — think of me as the Gaddafi of roughage. There will be no more kale in the Slattern’s culinary realm. I will not buy it in the pathetic hope that I will find an appetizing and savory way to cook it. If it appears as a side dish for a $25 entrée, I will insist on extra cauliflower gratin instead. And if someone offers me a green smoothie saying, “You’ll never guess what’s in this!” they’d best be prepared to wear it.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Think you’ve got the stomach for even more semi-coherent ranting? I’m not so sure, but if you’re game, why not check out these other posts? Welcome to the monkey house, folks.

How ’bout some cheese with those fries?

Sunday Morning: Of buttermilk and headaches

Fear and loathing at the Fairway

Girls’ night with Martha

In the event this is all too much, may I suggest you take a gander at some of the blogs listed right over there in the sidebar? All are excellent and bear the Slattern’s seal of approval.

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