Saturday, November 22, 2014

ride to nowhere

I am going to the West Village to meet Carol to see Punk Rock, an off-Broadway play that recently opened to great reviews.

On the subway heading downtown is an adorable little boy.  While everyone else sits in silence, he is talking about anything and everything.  He tells me his name is Jimmy, and I guess him to be between four and five.  “I’ll be five in January,” he specifies.  Jimmy is looking out the window as the #1 train speeds through the dark underground tunnel.  There is little to see, but he watches anyway.  His dad tells me that his son loves the subway.  “In fact,” he says, “that’s what we are doing today.  Just riding the subway.  He’s been on every line except the Z.”  I didn’t even know there was a Z line. “What’s your favorite subway?” I ask him.  “The #7 because it goes to Shea Stadium, and I love the Mets,” Jimmy answers with pride.

Before exiting, Jimmy’s dad let’s me take his picture for this blog. 

I get to the theater a few minutes before the play starts.  My phone rings; it’s Carol.  “I am so sorry.  I took a cab to the wrong address, and now I’ll never make it on time.”  She’s at the headquarters for MCC theater in midtown, not the West Village theater where the play is being staged. 

It would have been so much nicer to have been with Carol than to be alone. This ferociously gripping play leaves me with much to talk about.  Like Jimmy, the young  characters in this play are on a long ride to nowhere, though their trip is far from being an enjoyable one.

Friday, November 21, 2014

a well-needed laugh

I meet my friend J to see a screening.  Both of us are on tight budgets so we bring our own dinners and meet in the Sony atrium where there are chairs and tables.

Beforehand, I stop by Butterfields, a great little gourmet sandwich and bakery place that is near the subway.  It’s 6pm on a Friday and it turns out that every Friday night their sandwiches, made earlier that day, are half price at this hour.  I even get a half-priced carrot-cake cupcake that I later feel too guilty to eat.

J and I are both going through challenging times.  Our intimate conversation is not sugarcoated.  Right now, things are tough for both of us. 

We get to the screening early.  It’s an Argentinian film called Wild Tales; neither of us know what to expect. We are sitting in the theater and J turns to me and says, “By the way, I’ve been trying to get into your blog and I can’t.”  J is a pretty straightforward person, but her candor, so unexpected, surprises me.  Then she casually adds, “Really, I’ve tried a few times, but I just can’t seem to get into it.”  I say, “Well, that’s all right.  You know, it’s not for everyone.”  I imagine her reading my stories about a free Brita or a new coffee maker and think, I can see where anyone might find this really boring. 

Then J starts laughing.  “No, I mean literally, I can’t get into it.  I go the site and it locks me out.” 

The misunderstanding strikes us both as so funny, we start laughing uncontrollably.  The type of belly-laughter that doesn’t come along too often.  The kind where your eyes tear up and you can barely catch your breath.  It’s a great relief for the two of us, especially given our intense conversation at dinner.

And the movie?  It’s six unrelated short films all about revenge. It is wickedly funny, clever, and beautifully shot.  We both love it.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

dinner with friends

Five of us meet to celebrate Pam and Janice's birthdays.  The restaurant is Cavatappo Grill.

It’s a non descript neighborhoody-looking place.  Nothing fancy. It would be easy to pass by, thinking it was a glorified diner.  That would be a mistake.

The ambiance is homey and comfortable. And while there’s a nice buzz, it’s quiet enough to easily converse.  The food is — across the board — outstanding. It’s near impossible to have only one piece of the amazing bread.  We order two salads: the beet and goat cheese salad, and the shrimp and avocado.  Each salad is enough for two people, but each is so good one person could happily eat it. 

I get the veal scaloppini that is outstanding.  In fact, not one morsel ends up in anyone’s plate.  We split two desserts: a panna cotta and a large slice of blueberry pie.  Though we are here for the company more than the food, everyone is impressed with the large menu, beautiful presentations, and excellent quality of everything we order. 

The five of us (two couldn’t make it) are all ex-Horace Mann moms.  And all of us have sons the same age.  I don’t see these woman often enough.  Our conversations entertain and challenge.  Tonight for example, before the appetizers have even been served, the staunch republican in the group and the equally staunch democrat start a discussion on Obama’s plan for immigration, which is being announced tonight. Surprisingly, they are in agreement.  But I sit in admiration of how articulate and knowledgeable they both are. 

It’s easy to feel like the lazy one among this impressive group of women. One runs 7-8 miles four times a week when she’s not seeing patients (she’s a doctor).  Another is a lawyer and also a part-time judge in the summer.  A third gets up at 5:30 most days and lives a full life before getting to her office where she acts as CFO for small businesses, or something like that.  And the fourth does some complicated international investment work.

This small circle of friends is one I am humbled to be part of.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

an unexpected gift

Sometimes I discover things before my friends do.  Other times I’m years behind.  Like getting phone service through my cable provider.  Or, using a water filter.

Years and years ago I bought a Brita.  I think the usage instructions seemed too complicated so I put the pitcher and filter away and never used them.  Today I take them out but need to call Brita for help.  I get the lovely Tamara from Florida.

She is very knowledgeable, and easily explains each part. Tamara also doesn’t laugh when I ask stupid questions (like, is the filter inside the cylinder-shaped thing or is the cylinder-shaped thing the filter itself)? 

I am about to hang up, but then ask, “You know, the model I have is very old, and it’s been sitting in my cabinet for years.  Do you think the filter is even good anymore?”  Tamara tells me that it won’t be harmful, but it’s unlikely that it will still be effective.  I then give Tamara my model number, and she has a hard time (maybe an impossible time) finding filters for a model this old.

Me:  I should probably just toss this one and get another.

T:  I think so.  I’m not sure you’ll be able to find any filters for it.  But for your trouble, I can send you a $10 coupon.

Me:  Thanks, I appreciate that.  Do you think if I buy a new one at Bed Bath and Beyond, I can combine it with one of their 20% off coupons?

T:  Yes, definitely.

Me:  Great; that’s what I’ll do.

T:  Wait.  Which one would you want; I can maybe do something more for you.

I go on the BBB site and find the one I want.

            Me:  I’ll probably get the Brita Grand Carafe Pitcher (it’s $34.99).

            T:  What color?

Me:  Oh, I like the clear with the white.  But I’m not ordering it through you, because I can get the 20% of through BBB.

T:  Oh I know; I understand.  Just hold on a sec though.

            Me:  Okay.

T:  I’m feeling generous today.  And besides, I feel bad for you in cold New York.  I heard it’s freezing there today.

Me:  It is. I'm sorry, did you just say you’re sending me the new pitcher for free?

T:  Yup.

Me:  Really?  Wow.  That is so incredibly nice of you.

I am stunned by Tamara’s generosity.  I tell her I write a blog and can I write about this?  I want to make sure she won’t get in trouble.  She assures me she won’t.  It turns out she is a musician who plays multiple instruments.  She is talented as well as kind.

And it’s my good luck that Tamara isn’t performing today. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

a call worth making

Unlike most people, my cable bill is doing down.

In 2010, I was paying $150 a month.  I have two TV’s, two digital cable boxes with DVR, internet (no phone), and HBO.

For the same service today, I pay $103.

Yesterday my friend Ellen sends me an email on a documentary she says  I really must watch called Leave the World Behind (about the group Swedish House Mafia).  But it’s on Showtime, a premium channel I don’t get.

I call Time Warner Cable (TWC), and see what promotions they have.

Five minutes after ending the call, I am receiving SHOWTIME, and, I’m told, my monthly bill will be $2 less than I am now paying.

While I am on the phone I ask about any other promotions.  I find out I can get my home phone service added with the same exact features as I now get with Verizon.  I pay Verizon $66 month. I'll pay TWC about $13/month, including taxes.  That's over $600/year savings.

Not bad for one phone call.