Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Welcome to Bay Shore!

Welcome to Bay Shore! You'll come for the Superfund cleanup site; you'll stay for the souvlaki! This photo is the closest I come to setting up a moblog. (Verizon conveniently charges 25c/picture to get your photos off your phone unless you bypass them with a data cable and some hacked-up software.)

We also had some excitement (the unwanted kind) yesterday when a guy in a pickup truck plowed into a crowd of union protestors, killing two of them. He then sped off to the Bay Shore Inn, which was the scene of many a post-prom party when I was in high school.

Except now that I think about it, I attended high school in Connecticut, not on Long Island. And my prom date turned out to be a man in disguise. Well, nothing that another quarter in the therapy jar won't fix.

Monday, July 19, 2004


I just bought a brand-new 500-count box of Q-Tips. I don't know whether I'm imagining this, but they seem to have made the swab shafts bendier again. I can't get them past the opening of my ear canal without their doubling over in defeat like a vegetarian who's just discovered that the LichenStar Farms Chik'N-Nuggets they've just eaten were, in fact, made not out of chik'n but chicken.

I don't want a safety Q-Tip. I want a ramrod-straight Q-Tip. I want to be able to plunge it into my ear so far that I have to tie a string to the outer cotton bud. I want to twirl the Q-Tip around. In fact, I want an adapter so that I can put the Q-Tip into a cordless screwdriver. If necessary, it can bend like a sigmoidoscope, but I'd prefer that it stay straight and make my ear canal bend to fit. I want to get it in there so far that it touches my brain and my leg twitches. Because that's where my ear itches right now. My Flents ear plugs can work their way in that deep, so why not my cotton swab?


In the looming shadow of an NHL work stoppage this fall, the revived WHA has announced six franchises, including one in Quebec. They also announced that they would be naming that franchise the Quebec Nordiks. Great idea, considering the NHL still owns the rights to the Quebec Nordiques. The WHA is confident that there will be no confusion because they spell the name differently. I don't know about you, but I'm really excited about some of the potential WHA rivalries. The battles between tri-state rival New Jersey Devels, New York Raingers, and New York Islandurrrrs will soon be legendary. The Toronto May Poleefs may be facing off against the Buffalo Say-Brrs at the very same time the Philadelphia Phlyurs will be traveling to meet the Los Angeles Kingzz. And really, the NHL will see no reason to file suit against any of this because the WHA founders are living on a small cloud community on a planet orbiting Arcturus.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Tim Horton's

After decades of waiting, I finally took the plunge today. I had my first Tim Horton's experience. They had this big sign in the window hawking their egg salad sandwiches, and it was breakfast time, so I made my way in. I ordered my egg salad, and I was given the combo offer. I could either get the egg salad sandwich, or I could get the egg salad sandwich with a donut. I did not know that if you ate all your breakfast, you'd be eligible for dessert. I love this country!

I also made my way over to World of Drugs World a bit further down Bloor Street. You know how people come to Canada to get prescription drugs cheap? Well, they also have great over-the-counter stuff. Go ask the pharmacist for acetaminophen with codeine - 200 caplets was about $10. Back hurting? Why not try some methocarbamol with ibuprofen? Sneezing? Allegra awaits.

Coffee Crisps aren't bad either. They're like a Kit-Kat, but if you close your eyes and concentrate, you can make out the faint wisp of mocha-like flavoring. For some reason, Eclipse gum is called Excel up here. And the winterfrost flavor is called winterfresh.That really knocked me for a loop.

My flight was scheduled for 7:30. I got to the airport at 5:35, and went through the same harsh questioning about my lack of a fifth form of ID. The ticket agent then said that there'd been some weather problems, so she'd put me on standby on the 5:40 flight. So I'm off the 7:30 flight in favor of another flight that leaves in five minutes on the other side of customs. Interesting concept - take away my guaranteed seat for a plane whose doors have probably already closed.

The line through customs was empty, so I made a quick detour through the duty free shop to buy maple candy. Unfortunately, they didn't have the big trays - the ones with the single super-sized maple leaf in the middle. I did a grab-and-run on the smaller boxes, shoved aside some dawdling tourists from Wisconsin, and was out of there in three minutes. My new flight was scheduled to leave in two minutes now. As I left the duty-free, an entire women's hockey team flooded the line in front of me. My choices were to go to the end of the line, or enter it at the point of the store exit. I'm an American - you take a guess.

The strange thing about the customs booths were that they were American agents on Canadian soil, and it displayed a "Welcome to the United States" sign. I was still in Canada. In fact, the "Friday's American Bar" near the gate was more than happy to take Canadian money. There aren't "Welcome to Belize" signs anywhere in American airports, are there?

I got to the early flight gate about 5 minutes after the scheduled departure, and they weren't close to boarding. Everyone who'd arrived for the later flight was being sent over to this one without a seat. They finally let us on about 45 minutes late, but held the plane at the gate until they got every seat filled. Then they pushed back and announced that we didn't have a gate opening for almost two hours at LaGuardia, so we'd be hanging out on the runway until we were an hour away. The last seat - the one next to me - was filled by a kindly gentleman named John Boozehound, who needed to order four mini-bottles for the one-hour flight.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Gordon Lightfoot

Okay, I know I'm in Canada. When I turn the TV on, do the first two words that come out have to be "Gordon Lightfoot?" I mention this to a couple of Canadian friends, and their reaction is "Oh yes, I saw that. He's not looking well." Well, how would YOU look if your last thirty years had consisted of playing concerts and people shouting "EDMOOOOOOND FITZGEEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRALD!!" the entire night, exhorting you to play your Top Of The Pops sea shanty about an obscure maritime incident? You've got other things to do, like playing that new ditty you've just penned about a horrific snowmobile accident near Whistler back in 1953. You've got a new album to sell to pay off your crippling Indian casino bills, dammit.

I have to admit that I like the money up here. The $5 bill is especially fetching. It was designed so that you'd always have something to do. When you get bored of Canada after 3 minutes, you can just turn the money over and watch a hockey game on it!

Sunday, July 11, 2004

First day in Toronto

I flew up to Toronto today. I know, hundreds of millions of people do this every day, but my passport was expired. It turns out that an expired passport no longer identifies me as the person displayed on that passport, because maybe someone else sprung up looking exactly like me but with a fake name in the past ten years.

The other problem was that while I did have my driver's license and birth certificate, I was born in England so my papers left the ticket agent dangerously confused. When you're an American citizen born in England, you get a second sheet, which is the US embassy's record of an American being born abroad. I triumphantly displayed four forms of ID to the clerk: expired passport, birth certificate, American certificate, and driver's license. She took a good, long stare at the papers, then looked back up at me and let me know that the easiest way would be if I just kept my passport current. A quick $20 under the table and I was able to avoid the American Airlines detention facility for people who only have four forms of ID on an international flight.

The flight itself is only an hour long, not counting the time waiting on the runway and the bus to the terminal at Lester Pearson airport. I discovered that when people are trying to get off a plane, they don't appreciate it when you're walking down the steps to get off the plane and start waving and blowing kisses like you're The Beatles. Their loss.

I grabbed a cab from the airport to town, a route that encompassed both the best and worst of Canada. I discovered that you can make anything Canadian by sticking a tiny maple leaf next to the logo. So Sears becomes . Subtle! Now I feel good about spending my hard-earned loonies at this retail establishment! This is much better than that Wal-Mart down the road. No local cultural sensitivity at all when they adorned their logo for the Canadian market:

I snapped back to attention as we drove past one of the saddest things I'd ever seen: a giant inflatable green monster sitting atop an industrial storefront. The temporary sign on the store read "Bailiff Seizure Baby Furniture!" Now I started thinking about an episode of Cops, where the sherriff's men smash their way into a two-room house, throw the baby on the floor, and repossess the crib. And now you can purchase that crib at low, low prices!

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Herb's Market

We've had several great weekends in Montauk in a row now. The weather had been beautiful: sunny, not terrible humidity, not too breezy. However, not all is well in this paradise-by-the-sea. In particular, I reference the sign behind the deli counter at Herb's Market.

Herb's sign presents, for the benefit of its staff, a fried chicken price chart. It starts innocuously enough: "4 pieces, $4.00." The next price point is "8 pieces, $8.00." Okay, I think, there's probably some sort of discount that kicks in when you buy fried chicken in bulk. But the chart continues unabated in multiples of four pieces: "12 pieces, $12.00," "16 pieces, $16.00," all the way up to "96 pieces, $96.00." Why? Someone explain to me the utility of this sign. Hey, I think I have the hang of this now. How about: "Chicken: $1/piece, 4 piece multiples please!" Or did they have seasonal help scrambling with a calculator to work out how much a 36-piece order would cost someone at $1/piece?

Wednesday, July 7, 2004

The Cat

First off, we had a bit of controversy around the magazine last month. Joel Spolsky separated Microsoft into two camps, with us leading one of them. Anyway, I've spun off an essay on the subject here.

After John Kerry named John Edwards his VP candidate yesterday, the Bush campaign launched an ad campaign calling Edwards the "second choice." And who knows more about being a second choice than, oh, GEORGE BUSH - the second choice of the American people in 2000!

I've been walking to the train station lately. It's eight to ten minutes, depending upon which side of the platform I want to end up on. It's something I feel I should do now that gas is up around $2.20/gallon. That one mile a day I walk instead of driving might not seem like much, but you multiply that by 20 days a month, and figure that my car gets 20 MPG, and I can save $2.20 a month if I walk every day. That's MY $2.20, not the evil oil companies'! I can buy myself something special with it, like half an Entenmann's crumb cake, and eat the entire thing on the way home, thereby negating the healthful effects of a month's walking.

One downside of the walk is The Cat. Two weeks ago, a dead cat appeared on the grassy area between street and sidewalk along the shortest route to the station. Someone had put a washcloth on top of it. I figured it would be moved pretty quickly - no one wants a dead cat in front of their house.

Days went by. The cat wasn't moved. Someone mowed around it, so the grassy strip was now well-tended except in this little dead cat jungle. It wasn't being eaten or anything, it just sat there. I finally drove past it again yesterday, and it was still there, lying there twisted with a death meow on its face, looking like it had just spent some time on a feline Catherine wheel.

Another good thing about walking is that I don't have to deal with Escalades. I was on the highway yesterday, minding my own business but wondering just what crap the white Escalade in the far left lane would pull. They always do; their drivers tend to be atrocious because of their false feelings of womb-like safety. So I properly apply my turn signal to indicate my imminent exit, when Womb Boy comes barreling out of the far left lane because, well, too busy on the phone to move into position for the exit without going perpendicular. The driver, who I must say never appeared to break conversation, flashed the universal signal of Escalade triumph: a rocking motion that made the semi-semi look like it was about to go up on two wheels as he tried to reestablish a straight-line trajectory. No offense, but Escalade drivers are dicks, and their trucks are leaky condoms that provide the illusion of safety without actually coming through.

And speaking of commuting! The train I take home is always hit-or-miss when it comes to peaceful coexistence, since it stops at all the connector stations for Fire Island ferries. A couple of days ago, I found a nice quiet seat. A young woman sat two seats ahead of me and curled up with a book.

Then the train got to Jamaica. A group of three young gentlemen boarded. You could instantly see that they were looking for trouble - they were carrying three fishing rods and a bongo. THey were wearing stupid straw hats and were trying to grow vague beards. I could immediately tell that there was the potential for some explosive anger on my part. The three young men sat two behind the woman, and one next to her.

Things started slowly, just some generalized inane chatter. One of the lads was reading "Fight Club", and when he got to a passage about "tits", he chose to read it aloud to the others without the benefit of removing his headphones so that he could modulate his voice in any way.

We passed Hicksville, and Lad 2 announced in his best outdoor voice, "Dude, that sign just said HICKSVILLE!!!" The three lads collapsed in laughter. Then they got into a deep discussion about the proposed cross-sound tunnel.

"You mean they're going to dig under the ocean? They could never do it by hand. You'd need some really fast water robot."
"A waterbot."

The explosive anger kicked in. I'm sure that one of them could hear the anger forming behind them, because he hooked his ear buds to his hat so that we could all share his nice someone-else's-walkman effect.

Finally, we were approaching my stop. The discussion turned to another young lady that Lad 3 knew. For unknown reasons, the young woman trapped by them didn't claw her way out of the side of the train at this point. Maybe she was deaf.

"She's like the devil. She like doesn't care that people can go to jail for having sex with her. If she were like a morally like good person like, she would say this is like fine but you're going to go to jail and i don't want you to go to jail, man. I'd rather be ignorant than a whore."
"Her having sex with two people does NOT make her a whore."
"No, the fact that they were over 18 makes her a whore. That's sick."

Yes, Hicksville indeed.