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August 31, 2015 / thackersam

August 30 – The New Neighbor

beeJust before dusk on Wednesday, I noticed a bee crawl into a small hole in the concrete near the top right hand (my right hand, not the bee’s) corner outside my window. Of course it’s the window that faces the river that I like to leave open a few inches, keeping my very large Max in mind. I am scared of bees, and for these purposes please note that when I say bees, I include wasps and hornets. In fact, the one person I knew that was more afraid of bees than me was our friend Amy, the one that had passed away four months before Vicki did. Her passing was not bee-related, I am just mentioning it because she was truly terrified of bees and her behavior when a bee, wasp or whatever was in the vicinity made me have to be the strong one and may just have inspired me to be braver around them. That however doesn’t mean that I feel comfortable when I am in their presence. “It’s a fly” Amy and I would repeat to each other when something buzzed near, whether it was or not, trying to convince ourselves that it really was. My new neighbor is no fly, and my biggest hope for him is that he is indeed a bee and not a yellow jacket. The thought of him perchance entering my abode had caused a minor panic regardless.

My problem in dealing with the situation is one of respect. I don’t like killing anything, especially if it’s just doing what it does. I’ve mentioned before how I escort out ladybugs that have inadvertently landed in my home and try to encourage flies to go back to the opening, which has worked a time or two. But what’s worse than causing another creature to die is causing another creature to suffer to death. And what is even worse than that is being trapped and scared, and suffering to death. (Note to readers: I am not a vegetarian, however if forced to be I’d be able to do so as long as you leave me my cheese.)

I could call building management and they would come plug up the hole, which I guess would be the responsible thing to do if there were an infestation. But I needed to observe before I put a possibly harmless creature at risk. Though I did close the window when I noticed the bee, the hole at the top of the window is far enough away from the opening at the bottom. Plus, I was mighty impressed with this guy. I am on the 35th floor after all, a big climb and not only does he have the stamina to get all the way back home, he remembers where it is. It’s a little hole in a big city. How freakin’ amazing is that? Plus, it’s late in the season and what I know about bees is that they do weaken as they near their time, which makes them cranky and more apt to do something that could cause them to lose their stinger at my expense. I may be able to deal with this, unless he does turn out to be a yellow jacket, a member of the wasp family, and they’re just mean and ornery, and don’t lose their stingers so can just keep coming at you.

So I waited, and the next evening, just about 6, I saw him leave. I pulled a chair up to the closed window with my feet up on the HVAC to watch for my new neighbor’s return, which he did, just before dusk. He circled a bit as he homed in on the hole and flew right in. About 10 minutes later, he popped out, flew around and went back in, repeating this twice more, I assumed. As I was busy writing about just how amazing I think he is, I did not see him leave the third time, and the return made me wonder if this was a companion and the out then in motions of the then first bee was his way of alerting his guest to the location by waving about yelling “Hey Harold, over here!” That made me a bit uneasy, so I grabbed the old, family kitchen ladder and through a not so clean window, glasses that need updating, and with a bad angle of the hole, I noticed that he was cleaning and didn’t see signs of a second bee. Specks of yellow dotted the hole’s entrance and as his butt end was visible, I saw him cleaning the pollen off his legs. Or perhaps he was gathering, I couldn’t tell, but when he was done, his porch was clean and he seemed to be bedding down for the night. From this I determined that he was on his own, the hole was shallow and most importantly, he was a honeybee, as I don’t believe that yellow jackets are pollen gatherers. As it got darker, I climbed the kitchen ladder one more time, briefly shined a pen light into the hole in which the bee was still visible, and returned the ladder to where Max likes it. Feeling all was well, I opened the window.

Then came Friday. I was home by 3pm, and saw my new tiny neighbor coming and going for the rest of the afternoon, and when it was almost dark, I shut off the air conditioner and opened the window figuring he had settled in for the night. Of course he had other ideas and about a half an hour later, he flew into my apartment. Freaked, I cried out, “No, you didn’t just do that, did you?” The last thing I wanted to do was to kill him, but I grabbed my fly swatter, which is actually only used on mosquitos, and prepared myself for a showdown. But he was not looking for a confrontation. I don’t know what he intended now that he had gone from neighbor to roommate, but I only spotted him twice that night, once flying into one of my torch lamps and then leaving it to an undisclosed location. He was still very quick. Max was well aware that we had a guest and remained alert throughout the night. I know this because I had left the torch lamps on in case the bee was looking for that warm resting place, and to keep him from resting anywhere near me. At about 4am I awoke to the sound of Max running around, obviously chasing something. But when I fell back asleep, he seemed to still be in active pursuit and doing more staring than anything else. I was hoping that the bee made it out the window, but I have not seen him since. I checked the torch lamps, which were filled with dust and dead bugs and one live ladybug who eagerly climbed on to my finger and with a little coaxing, flew out the east window as there is a balcony below so not to throw her out a 35 story window if she were not strong enough to handle it. Dead or alive, there was no bee, but you’ll be pleased to know I cleaned the lamps thoroughly as I should do more often. It’s possible that I will find the bee carcass in some other resting place, or not. And if Max knows what happened to the bee, he’s not talking.

Having strayed from the theme of the blog, which has nothing to do with bees, on the music front I further explored the Trouble Buddy box and withdrew Midnight Radio by James Lee Stanley. It’s the only record in the bunch of which I have never heard of the artist. Not a hint, don’t even recognize a single note. Upon research, this is one of a few of his albums, it came out in 1980 and he is a folk/light rock (mellow rock) musician, and I believe he is still active. Coincidentally, we share a Facebook friend, who is NOT Trouble Buddy (if it were, it might have explained this choice), and I have a pretty limited number of Facebook friends.

Weight wise – it’s coming along and I think I might come within striking distance of the goal by the goal date, but perhaps not quite make it. I’m not dismayed, I have seen signs that it is attainable with a stricter diet, but sometimes things come up, like my recently departed charge who presented me with a pastry from Financier on her last day. I was hoping that it wasn’t chocolate because then I could resist, but it’s very nice when people know you oh so well. One’s gotta live and I don’t do this often, although bread may be the ruin of me.

August 23, 2015 / thackersam

August 23 – John Barleycorn & What That Has To Do With Writing

BarleycornSome people in certain types of businesses have a misconception about writers. As I have supported myself for more than a dozen years working as a writer for several organizations, I have encountered such issues. Issues like – you’re a writer, that’s communications so you can be our spokesperson. No I can’t. Like many people, and many writers, I would rather get a Brazilian wax in Macy’s window than speak publicly (that was the line with which I opened the two-minute speech I gave at Vicki’s memorial at the beginning of the year, for which I fortunately got a laugh). Or – you’re a writer, so you’re the one who should take the minutes. No, I’m not. If you want notes taken of the meeting, either invite a secretary or have someone do it who actually cares or knows what you’re talking about. Truly no disrespect meant, but it should not be tasked to the person whose ears will only perk up when she hears something that will make an interesting story, and is otherwise concentrating more on her doodles than the conversation in the room. I have found this particularly true of certain non-profits that favor services over the marketing department, as it should be, but please try to understand our existence. (In the very much for-profit environment in which I currently work, not in the marketing department but in a service function, the marketing people are practically treated as gods, while my department is treated as a nuisance, no lie.)

Regardless, I must say that I have turned out some really good stuff: newsletters, brochures, annual appeal letters and reports, and some very reader friendly manuals and guides. But I really, really need to concentrate more on my own work, and therefore must make sure I stay away from home more, where I am bound to glue myself to my old dinosaur computer that has the version of spider solitaire that I have been playing for YEARS and is my preference. So, this weekend, which started Friday afternoon, I took the laptop to a place not far from me, ate outside and chatted with the young waitress, who recognized me as a fellow writer by the notebooks and scribbled on pieces of paper I had anchored on the table. And I wrote.

Then yesterday, I walked around trying to find somewhere to eat lunch and write, without winding up at my favorite Indian buffet on Greenwich Street, where I would undoubtedly have too many portions of goat curry and rice pudding, which would not contribute positively to my weight loss plan. I managed to resist, by the skin of my teeth when I spotted a sign that read “John Barleycorn.” I had to go in to what turned out to be a large street-block long Irish bar, where I got a lot of writing done and ate totally inappropriately. And no one there had heard of “John Barleycorn Must Die,” not even the guy behind the bar who looked as if he could be about my age.

The significance of the reason I walked into the bar, which was not to start a joke, is that just the night before, I decided that I wanted to listen to my cassette tape, on my new cassette player, of Traffic’s John Barleycorn Must Die, if not just to hear the title song. People of my generation were supposed to like John Barleycorn Must Die, and I did, even if the album was not on my shopping list back then. But I did like it enough to purchase the tape many years later, probably from a discount rack (like another can of beans-Billy Joel “The Entertainer”). I thought I was in for a strictly meditative, yoga-laden workout when I hit play, however there was much movement added to the cobras and the cat/cow repetitions before I lied on my back, legs up against the wall and mellowed out. For those of you who own this album, CD or are looking for something to download, this is worth a listen, maybe two.

The short-lived Traffic consisted of Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi and the late Chris Wood, and this utterly swell record came out in 1970.

August 16, 2015 / thackersam

August 16 – Steely Dan – Aja

Steely DanAs cool as I always thought Steely Dan is, I never owned any of their albums. Not until the Trouble Buddy package arrived earlier this summer. My two favorite Steely Dan songs, “Dirty Work” and “Hey Nineteen,” oh and “My Old School,” so that’s three, are not on Aja. However, it does have “Peg,” which would be in the top ten, and some other good tunes. What I like about Walter Fagan and Donald Becker, is their different sound, and vivid lyrics. Vivid in the way they conjure up clear images through the stories. Can’t you just see Fagan slapping the side of his head, while explaining to his 19-year-old conquest, who Aretha Franklin is, with gentle exasperation? And what is wrong with Ricky anyway that he shouldn’t lose that number, the only one he’ll want? I did not, however, exercise to Aja, but it did make an appearance for company, and it just happens to be on the turntable now. Which is on, and spinning. And sound is coming out. It’s actually making me want to go out and get more Steely Dan, and that is not a bad idea.

Here’s a bit of good news that happened to me today. Each Sunday morning, I walk across the highway to have breakfast at Tribeca’s Kitchen, a diner/restaurant on Church Street. I bring my laptop and the latest victim in my series of erotic murder stories, and get work done while being served my omelet, no potatoes, fruit cup and coffee. You may remember how I lamented leaving Bayside and the diner I would go to at least weekly, and having the busboy/man place a cup of coffee at my favorite table for one before my butt hit the seat, and the waitresses asking if I’d like the usual. Today, the waiter that usually serves me at this place that I’ve been coming to pretty regularly for the past few months, placed a cup of coffee on my table as he passed based on assumption. A correct assumption. They seem to have no problem seating me at a booth for four, without me ever asking, which is great for spreading out the computer and notebooks. The food too. Today and last week, the fruit cup has contained just strawberries, blueberries and blackberries, cause the waiter knows I’m into the berries. And now, the busman will refill my cup until I tell him I don’t want to see him again. He understands that I mean until next time. Yes, even in the 92 degree weather we’re having today, I must have my diner coffee. I really like this place, and would come here more often if it was closer to home and/or work.

And now, I must go and work on the story. My victim in this one is so deplorable, I’ve already killed him after the sex part and just have to work in the rest of his story from all my notes and scribbles.

August 10, 2015 / thackersam

August 9 – Tuesday

Tuesday BladeWhen I was 19 or 20, I joined The Book of the Month Club. One of the monthly selections that I received because I actually ordered it, was a book called The Tuesday Blade. Those of you who are aware of my current project and the length of my memory will understand that this has particular meaning even though the main character uses one of a set of fancy straight-edge razors to slay her victims. I’ve yet to determine the type of knife my character uses, but let’s just say for now it will be in the dagger family. The razor set in this book consists of blades for each day of  the week, much like the days-of-the-week panties referenced in When Harry Met Sally, though I think there was a Sunday blade (this is a chance for you to watch, or re-watch if you’re like me, a truly wonderful movie).

But this post in not about a specific book or movie, it’s about Tuesday. What is it do you think, about Tuesday that makes it so, well, Tuesday. Of course, it does mean that Monday is over, but it’s got something else going for it. Something about the word itself. Example: One night I decided to give a television show about 30-something males a shot, as there was nothing else on of interest to me. I’d never seen the show and knew nothing of the characters, but in the opening, because that’s as far as I got, one asks when a particular event had occurred. The answer could have been anything – February, 6:45, 2007, a couple of weeks ago. “Tuesday” I blurted out a moment before the character from whom we were awaiting the answer said “Tuesday.” There was laughter. Canned or live, Tuesday seemed to be the funniest response. I do believe the show has since been cancelled, through no fault of Tuesday’s.

Getting back to movies, we have If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium, starring the late, fabulous Suzanne Pleshette, and book to TV movie Tuesday’s with Morrie. But as this is a music, exercise and memory blog, we have to acknowledge that Tuesday has been quite popular with songwriters. Why, for instance, did the Moody Blues choose Tuesday to represent afternoons on their classic album Days of Future Passed? There is of course “Ruby Tuesday” by the Stones and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Tuesday’s Gone,” and oh so many others that mention that particular day of the week. Let’s not forget the group from which Amy Mann sprang, ‘Til Tuesday. And just so you know, I don’t believe that Tuesday’s just as bad as “Stormy Monday,” especially since when Tuesday ends, we get to celebrate Hump Day!

Btw – To my California friend, the pendulum thing is good just as long as it swings on the downside. So don’t be dismayed at that three-pound range. I am now more encouraged than I was last week that I shall hit the pact mark and will have comfortably lost the six pounds by September 4th. While I cannot avoid the contents of the traditional breakfasts with the ex, when I am on my own or with others like my City cousin, I can say the words “no potatoes” now with more ease, and instead of having salad for lunch and then Chipotle’s or curry for dinner, I make sure I have another salad at least two nights a week. And while I will try to up that number, I will never give up the cheese.

Maybe we can enlist Trouble Buddy’s help in thinking of a better moniker for you than California friend.

August 3, 2015 / thackersam

August 2 – Writing…

WDConfI went to a three-day writers conference in midtown this weekend. As they usually do, it got my juices flowing. So tonight’s post is going to be very short because I have to go kill a guy. (You know that I mean in a story – that I’m writing, right?)

Why DO writers like coffee so much?

Btw – Exercising to the usual. So nothing new to report on that front.

July 26, 2015 / thackersam

July 26 – Max and Steed

Max&Window2 (2)This would be Max checking out the sunset the other evening that’s reflected in the windows of the building across the highway. He’s actually facing east. And yes, I have a tree in my apartment. His name is Tree and he has an interesting story to tell that goes back more than 30 years. Tree has been sporting my bowler hat for the past couple of months, and is looking so dashing in it that in honor of recently passed Patrick Macnee, aka John Steed, it will remain there indefinitely.

Yesterday was another movie with the ex day. My first movie pick was going to be the animated Inside Out, even if we were still a little gun shy from last year’s Lego Movie debacle (we were the only ones in the theater and I had to go looking for someone to start the movie as they forgot about us, but that was a mistake, cause the movie sucked – big time). Second choice was Trainwreck, which the ex was okay with. I think he’s just antsy to get out more. And if I hadn’t already discovered that Mr. Holmes was the movie I really did want to see, I admit I would have thought twice about the Trainwreck thing after recent events. I think it may be telling that the sick fuck with a gun chose a movie that would ensure many, probably mostly women in the audience.

Anyway, the fact that Mr. Holmes was playing at the same theater where we saw Amy three weeks ago to the day, we had the chance to again go to the Landmark Café on Grand Street, one of my favorite diners. The movie dragged a bit, but I very much liked the ending. And I like this theater that reminds me of a citified Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, L.I., the next town over from where I grew up, a progressive town that boasted both Hamburger Choo Choo and the Unitarian Fellowship, which was a pretty cool way to grow up back then. Lately, when I go to theaters that play more mainstream movies and therefore have mainstream trailers, I rarely see one that makes me want to see any of the films they’re attached to. The trailers at this theater: for a movie about the suffragette movement (that had the ex demanding to know why we (women) haven’t done something like this before filmwise), and documentaries about Malala and Steve Jobs, all piqued my interest. I guess gone are the days when I would think a movie like Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke was so incredibly funny that I then had to drag my mother to go see it. She called me man every day for a solid month afterward before she began to taper off.

I’ll say this, it is a good thing we didn’t do the 5lbs in a month thing. That pact the ex and I’ve got going for each of us to lose 6lbs in two months isn’t looking so good either. He is not the best influence, but I had not a kernel of his popcorn. We did have bacon though.

July 20, 2015 / thackersam

July 19 – Zoot (and Rowlf)

Zoot & RowlffI am so excited. The Muppet Show is returning to nighttime television. I heard this TV commercial and recognized the sound of Muppets. I like Muppets, so I guess I was subconsciously paying attention when something tapped me on my mind’s shoulder and said – hey, you may want to look at this. Then it registered. The Muppets are back. That makes me very happy indeed. Those who have been with me for a while may remember that when we ended the M’s during the album A to Z segment of this presentation (a fancier word for my blog), which was I think was December of 2013 (also recall that this was a mighty good holiday time for me starting with probably the best birthday ever), we were forced to exercise to The Muppet Show album from the late 70s. It was a gift, I swear. But an appropriate one, cause I loved that show. After work on Mondays when I still lived at my mother’s house on the Island, I’d walk the 12 to 13 minutes back home from the LIRR station, which even way back then that was unheard of on Long Island, whistling The Muppet Show theme song. 

It once was that the TV was always on, then eventually it was always on and I was paying less and less attention. Now I’m not only having the TV off in favor of music or the radio, I find that I sometimes prefer nothing at all, and appreciate the silence. You do get other sounds living on the river though, even in the City, even this high up in an apartment building. Why only recently one of those massive cruise ships, possibly the Queen Mary II, was heading out towards the ocean and passed a smaller cruise ship (not small, just smaller) that was coming home and had yielded to the larger one. And as it passed, the larger one let out a long, low blow, if you will, and the smaller ship responded with a less deep blow of the horn. They exchanged blows a few more times. I really enjoyed it. I can imagine how the people on the ship felt.

And there you go. I guess the theme of this evening’s post is that it’s the little things in life that make me happy – like the return of the Muppet Show or watching two ships passing and saying hello. I realize that being able to afford to live in the City to watch the two cruise ships on the river is not so little, and, I’m sorry to say, it’s something that can’t continue much longer. I have known that this is not my landing spot, and I don’t think the next one will be either.

Btw – My weight is now creeping back in the right direction. I went to one of my favorite diners today to get some work done over eggs and coffee. I ordered an omelet with no potatoes. That was difficult to say, as I usually ask for my potatoes to be well-done and never say “no potatoes,” but I did.



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