Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Think of me as Jimmy Stewart in “Rear Window” (okay, without the broken leg or classy chick)


Okay, I just signed my lease for what will now be my 16th year in this apartment building.  My rent was increased $21.00 a month (to $556.00) which isn’t going to break me, but it did encourage me to spend a week or so looking at other places in my neighborhood--only to discover I still have a pretty good deal here.  Big surprise, I’m staying put for another year.

I can’t believe I’ve been here this long though; if others had a say in my living arrangements I’d be long gone.  There’s one in particular, my friend & coworker Kathy who looks for every opportunity to tell me it’s time to move.  If I report that my 91 year old neighbor just died, she says “poison air…you gotta get out of there!”   If I complain that the guy who lives across from me slams his door when he comes & goes, she tells me it’s only so long before he Hulk-smashes my own door down & rips my head off.  If I said “a sack of money just fell from the sky & landed on my balcony”  Kathy would say “McDougall, that’s drug money—please get the hell out of there!”

So last week when a young Indian couple moved into the empty apartment down the hall (and the guy was wearing a turban), I wanted to tell somebody, but I knew Kathy would probably drive over here with a U-Haul—so I told my other friend Danielle instead.  She said  “Ooh, you’re going to come to work smelling like curry now!”  I just looked at her.  Then she said “You know you’re not just getting that couple, right?  Their whole family will move in there too!”  I said “It’s only a one-bedroom, Danielle” and she replied “that’s how they LIKE it, packed in like a can of sardines!” 

Meanwhile, in the last week or so I have seen a pair of elderly Indian women enter & exit that apartment, and a gorgeous twentysomething woman straight out of Bollywood with 4-5 giggling Indian girls in bright colors (and all looking 10 years old) following behind her.  Then there was an elderly Indian man going in there the other day with a paper sack full of big yellow flowers, and last night the original turban-guy was attempting to lug a giant baby stroller up the stairs.   It’s a one bedroom unit, people!  What’s going on in there!?   No matter—I’m fine.

Remember the movie “Rear Window” with Jimmy Stewart & Grace Kelly?  Jimmy plays a photographer for “LIFE” Magazine, holed up in his shabby one bedroom walk-up with a broken leg.  Grace Kelly is his gorgeous Madison Avenue girlfriend who can’t figure out why Jimmy prefers slumming it, when he could probably afford ritzier digs—but Jimmy will have none of it.  He’s just fine where he is, thank you very much.

“Oh darling, you’re missing out on all the finer things in life!  You can’t live here forever, you know!” 

The truth is, my place reminds me of Jimmy’s digs a bit; it’s a little worn from wear.  My patio door is fogged in a few spots (something to do with leaking gas between the double-pane glass that 2 bottles of Windex won’t clean off). 

My kitchen is pretty outdated too, there’s no granite countertops or stainless steel appliances (but I do have some really nice ceramic tile flooring in there).  It’s a small place, and I’m planning to paint a couple walls a different color, just to shake things up.  Things could be worse.

So why am I still here?  I haven’t completely ruled out finding someone in a pretty dress someday, but if she starts asking questions, here’s what I’ll tell her:  I like this neighborhood—I’m able to walk anywhere I need to go.  My dentist, the barber, the supermarket, a couple pizza places, even a decent restaurant or two—just a stroll up the street.  It may not have the “cool factor” of the Southside, but it doesn’t have all those bars either.  (I’ll take dudes in turbans over drunks any day.)

Why not a house here?  I just don’t want all that room unless I’m sharing it with someone.  A place with more swag like in Sewickley?  It’d be nice but I’d rather have it in the bank instead.  If I’m going to impress someone, it’s not going to be because I live next door to a Bentley dealership!  (Okay maybe that would impress, but I think I’d have to be driving one of ‘em too.)

All of this just to explain why I signed that lease again & am in no big hurry to live in the lap of HGTV luxury.  So until Grace Kelly comes along, or I remain single, retire early & move back home someday, this “home away from home” set-up suits me just fine.  (But I’d sure like to know what’s going in that other apartment!)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Forgive me for I have sinned: My top ten lame confessions for the summer of 2012


My friend Gary is a curious person; we met a few years ago on a retro-TV message board, got into a heated discussion about the Brady Bunch of all things, and ever since then, one of us will contact the other if we come across some obscure bit of trivia—we’ll have a laugh then catch up on more normal things.

So a couple days after Labor Day, Gary emailed me to ask if I owned “Police Woman” on DVD yet (no) and then proceeded to tell me how much he dreaded the end of summer, it was time for his “yearly confession”.

(Gary’s a Catholic & explained to me that he prefers to do his penance after he’s gotten everything he can out of the summer.)  When I asked him what sort of stuff he confesses to, he said “Well, I blew $750.00 in Atlantic City one weekend”  and when I asked if gambling was a sin, he said “It is when you tell your old man your car’s in the shop and you need $750.00.”   Gary, please tell me you didn’t really do that.  Anyway, I told him I was glad I wasn’t Catholic as I have nothing good to confess, and he said “Bullshit!  You’d have that priest in the box for a day.”

I’ve been giving it a lot of thought, and while I don’t know what Catholics confess to (but I have a pretty good idea), I came up with my own list of how I’ve sinned this summer:

 10. It’s not exactly kosher  

I’ve been living alone for over 20 years and until this past summer, it never occurred to me to buy bacon.  Then one day in June, my pal Erin & I were talking how nice it’d be to find a good BLT for lunch & it hit me, why aren’t I making these things at home? I’m now on my fourth pack of the stuff since June.  I need an exorcism, I’m possessed by fatty pork!


9. Call me once, shame on you—call me twice, shame on me

My friend Danielle (who’s a volunteer for the Obama campaign) recently told me how exhausting it is to call total strangers to remind ‘em to vote & hopefully support Obama.  “Doug I’ve called 128 people so far, only 4 answered and one asked if I was out of my effing mind.”

I told her when I get those calls, I either say “Go Romney!” or “Go Obama!” depending on the party calling (just to get these mofos off my phone).  She is now officially hating on me.  Sorry, Danielle!

8. Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo  so please don’t call while my favorite TV show is on!  I shamefully admit that I am hooked on America’s favorite Redneck Family.  Sketti with butter & ketchup—who knew?  I’ll never buy Prego again!

 7. They’re only leaves (& maybe the occasional bird dropping… a little dirt never hurt anybody) 

Residents on the uppermost floors are asked not to sweep debris from their balconies to the balconies below.  Thank you, Lobos Management

I don’t think the guy who lives below me gives a crap, so until he comes up here & complains (like my former neighbor did) I think I’m good!

6. I’m not a good loser  It’s taken me 7 weeks to lose 1.5 lbs; those Dr. Oz pills didn’t help & neither does that bacon.   

sexy indian5. I love my screensaver of my niece Sophia very, very much

but I love sexy women dressed in skimpy Native American costumes too, so when I came across this curvy lady in my online travels, I figured it was time I replaced that photo of Sophie I use for my screensaver for awhile.  Heh!

(FYI, I showed this to a friend of mine & he asked me if she was a genuine Native American.  I figure my niece has more NA blood in her than this chick, DOES IT MATTER?!)

4. “That music will rot your brains out”

So why do I buy stuff like “The Very Best of Patty Duke” for my MP3 player?  A coworker stopped over at my desk the other day & asked if I was okay, it looked like I was in pain; I told her I was, I was listening to Patty Duke sing “Danke Schoen”. 

 3. Promises, promises

When my friend Kar-Kar left UPMC back in May, she said “Douglas I’m worried that after I leave, I’ll never hear from you again!  Tell me I’m worrying for nothing!” 

Oh Karyn, it’s only been a few months!  Besides, you look like you’re doing just fine… (okay, I really do need to call her soon, sorry Kar)

2. Complaining about the weather and it’s been nothing but sun & clear skies for most of the summer.  Kinda makes me feel guilty sitting inside, writing these silly-ass blogs…

1. Arab turmoil in the Middle East, economic woes in the US and I don’t have a clue what’s going on--I’ve been spending all my free time watching PSY do his “Gangnam Style” routine for the last two weeks!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The time my brother convinced me he could make me levitate—and other hocus pocus

Getting my mail hasn’t been a big priority with me lately.  Most of my bills are sent directly to the bank now, and since closing my Netflix account a month or so ago (needed to take a break, is all) I haven’t exactly felt the need to rush downstairs and retrieve the latest LL Bean catalog. 

But my retired neighbor doesn’t know this, so he had no problem knocking on my door while I was getting dressed this morning, just to let me know something has been sticking out of the bottom of my mailbox since Friday.  Thanks Jim!

My older brother Duke & me in the summer of ‘69; I’m getting to this

Anyway, after I thanked him & sent him on his way, I went downstairs & collected my mail—Kuhn’s Market flyer, credit card offer, Entertainment Weekly magazine—and then I noticed this postcard for a new Hypnotherapy office in the North Hills, offering a 20% discount on my first visit:

Our unique, effective and specific techniques will help you:


Improve my golf game?  Where do I sign?  Okay that’s not fair, I haven’t a clue of this shaman’s prowess and for all I know he’s working wonders.   (Hmm… I do see a couple items on this list I wouldn’t mind going into a trance for…)  But the thing is, everytime I see something related to hypnosis, I can’t help but wonder if it’s the real deal.  I’ve been duped before.

Way back in the summer of ‘69, when we still lived in town, my brother Duke approached me one afternoon & said “Let me hypnotize you.”   (That’s my brother & me in the photo above, that same summer.  He was 10, I was 7.)   While I struggled to come up with an answer (I didn’t want to hurt his feelings but I was sure he couldn’t do it) he said “Do you doubt my abilities?  Look what I have!” and held up a hypno-coin.  I think my jaw dropped—I was all too aware of it’s power!

 As an avid comic book fan, I was accustomed to seeing these mysterious devices in every issue of Superman & Batman I could get my hands on.  But where I read the books solely for Supe’s exploits in the 40th century or to drool over Batman’s latest bat-gadgets, my diabolical brother pored over the ads & sent away for stuff like spy scopes & books on becoming a Judo Master. 

So I shouldn’t have been surprised when he pulled out that disc, but I was.  I quickly said no.

Duke wasn’t about to let me go that easily though, and asked why not.  I told him I was afraid what he would do once I was under his control.  He thought for a moment, then said “But I can make you levitate.  Wouldn’t you like to float up in the air like Superman?”

Aargh!!  He knew me too well.  As my sister Shawn can attest, it was around this time I was going through a “Please God help me fly” phase, where I would kneel on the sidewalk & pray to God for the ability to fly, then take off running down the street & jump into the air—only to crash on the cement.  God, didn’t you hear me praying up there?  What’s this going to take?  Duke won.  I said yes.

When I asked my brother how this was even possible, he scoffed and reminded me of those magicians that made women float on tv, and said “they don’t use wires, you know.  If you put someone under a deep enough trance, you can command them to float.”

It’s pretty sad, what a seven year old will swallow.

 But you have to understand, Duke was known for being a bookworm; he read constantly, and what kid asks for high school textbooks for Christmas?  My brother, that’s who!  I said it made sense to me, and my thoughts danced with the idea of hovering in the air… maybe after I got good with it, and with the right costume and cape… I told him I was ready.

Duke had me lie down on the couch, while he hovered over me, twirling that infernal disc in my face.  I got the standard routine:  “You are getting very sleepy… when I count to 10 you will fall into a deep sleep…1…2…” 

After he finished counting, I closed my eyes (it seemed like the thing to do) and he asked me if I was under.  I sure didn’t think so, but played along and murmured yes.  Duke then said “If you are REALLY under my control, raise your right arm… your right arm…” I slowly lifted my right hand into the air, and I heard a small, excited gasp.

Now at the time, this was a sensitive topic between Duke & me—I constantly forgot what my right & left was, which angered him to no end.  He would often test me by saying “Hold out your right hand” and I’d give him my left, and he’d yell “You have a 50% chance of getting this correct and you always get it wrong!”  So I think my getting it right this time confirmed to his supercomputer brain I must indeed be in a hypnotic state.

So as I’m laying there, eyes shut & knowing I am NOT hypnotized and wondering how I’ll fake levitating, I hear him get up and move away.  I open my eyes a tiny bit, and see him in the other corner of the room, going thru our mom’s sewing basket.  He pulls out her tomato pin cushion and I shut my eyes again as he makes his way back over to the sofa. 

 Duke bends down and whispers “It is a scientific fact that when a subject is in a deep hypnotic state, you can stick needles in him and he will not feel the pain, and he will not bleed… he will not bleed.  Repeat after me, I will not bleed…” 

What!?  It suddenly dawns on me—Duke wasn’t interested in making me levitate so much as he wanted to create some kind of human pin-cushion.  Why I continued laying there, I don’t know; but now I squeezed my eyes shut and prayed it wouldn’t hurt.  It was right around then that I heard an “OOMPH” sound and opened my eyes.  My dad was standing there, holding Duke by the back of his neck.  He said “What’s wrong with you, boy?  Why are you standing over your brother with a needle?”   Duke looked properly annoyed and Dad looked down at me.  “Were you sleeping?  Did you know this maniac was going to stick you?!”  

I can’t remember what happened after that… you know how kids are, I’m sure I went on my merry way while poor Duke went back to the drawing board.  But to this day, everytime I see one of those twirly-gizmos (which thankfully isn’t often) I can’t help but flinch a little.  My brother wasn’t your typical big brother—but I wouldn’t have wanted things any other way.