Tag Archives: cities

you think a dumpster brings our neighborhood together? you should see what happens when there’s a fire.

not our neighborhood. our neighbors, however, would have all come out in their slippers to watch it burn, tho.

holly always tells me that if someone’s trying to mug me i should yell “FIRE!” and not “HELP!” because “help” they’ll ignore around here. but “fire.” oh everyone in our neighborhood cares about a fire.

i recently told you about how a single neighborhood dumpster, at least here in southeast baltimore, brings people out of their homes in droves to throw things out they’ve been collecting in their basements, backyards and, i suppose if they’re hoarders, dining rooms, for 20 or more years. it’s like a community outing–if you can have a community outing in housecoats holding old microwaves while simultaneously smoking and yelling at your children. which, in baltimore, i think you can.

anyway, fires are pretty exciting around here–they’re also pretty freaking scary, as our homes are, like, connected, and one fire can, you know, burn an entire block. but these are details! there are sirens, huge red fire trucks, big fire dudes, and, mostly importantly, lots of smoke. in other words: free entertainment.

the first fire i ever saw in our neighborhood was a few years ago. i was home sick, alone. all the sudden i see this tan smoke blowing past our window. it didn’t even look like smoke. i was like, what the hell’s going on out there? a sandstorm??

i put on shoes and a hat to cover i’m sure what was a huge hair day for me (home sick means huuuuge hair) and went outside to find pretty much our entire neighborhood already outside watching a church burn.

i was like, oh my gosh. the church is on fire. i know you’re all wanting to sing: the church/the church/the church is on fire/we don’t need no water, etc. but shame on you cause it was a church and it was pretty upsetting.

i don’t know how my neighbors were all feeling. hell, i was surprised to see them all home on a weekday afternoon. i wanted to shout does anybody work around here?? but didn’t fearing repercussions and possibly violence.

everyone was huddled in groups across the street from the church, pointing. then the wbal-tv news chopper came by and we all gawked at that, too. (i love me some wbal, but damn that chopper is so damn loud.)

i tried explaining the scene to holly when she got home but i was kind of speechless. it was like…we all came together, i wanted to say. but then i snapped out of it and  instead complained that i had to change my clothes b/c i smelled like a barbecue.

the secret was out. fires are a community occasion around here. even more so than a dumpster b/c you can join in without fear of bumping into the person actually paying for the dumpster you’re about to drop your 1976 mini fridge into.

now if you’re actually being mugged while there’s a fire going on, i don’t know what to tell you. maybe yell something about free crabcakes? then duck & cover.

holly and i both have one shiny fingernail thanks to the hot israeli girl at the mall

if you were a jersey girl in the 80s/early-to-mid 90s who went to “the city” w/your street-wise mom on an even a semi-regular basis, you probably grew up with the following advice:

“listen to me. are you listening? walk fast and stare straight ahead. don’t talk to anyone, don’t look at anyone and don’t make eye contact. AND HOLD ONTO YOUR BAG.” (holding onto your bag was key.)

considering that i got those pointers hammered into my head at a fairly young age, i’ve gotten pretty darn good at avoiding anyone who appears even remotely like a threat. holly, once a western pee-ay girl who used to say hi to everyone and “stare at the crazies” (as she did on our first date almost 10 (!!??) years ago), has followed in my footsteps and now also excels at walking fast, staring straight ahead and holding onto her bag. (psych! you know she never carries a bag! i’m the bee-otch always stuck carrying everything in whatever bag/purse i’m dragging around.)

anyway, the story. so if you’ve been at any mall in the past 20 or so years, you know the hallways are full of these kiosks. jewelry kiosks. family photography kiosks. bath fitter (omg, still don’t get that one) kiosks. (i’d like to take the opportunity here to note that a disproportionate amount of kiosks sell cellphone cases. how does one make a living selling cell phone cases?!) and then there are the hair straightener kiosks. and the nail care kiosks. and for whatever the hell reason i don’t understand, the great majority of these last two are manned by israelis.

oh israelis. i love the israelis. i love israel. been there twice. gorgeous, magical place, unbelievable food. but hot damn, israelis are pushy! it’s their “way.” their “charm,” if you will. they are also disproportionately good-looking. this combination makes them extremely good kiosk employees. almost deadly.

here’s a typical exchange at an east coast mall for holly and i.

(handsome israeli man zeros in on two potential customers. they’re both female. double whammy. we make eye contact for .02 seconds. dammit! this is what my mother warned me about!)

(it’s too late. he’s walking towards us. he singles me out.)

“excuuuuse-me! MEEEESS! [“miss”],” he shouts across the hallway. “meeeess! excuuuuuuuuuuse me do you straighten your HAAAAIR?!”

(of course i straighten my hair! i’m jewish! i want to yell. instead i focus on a an invisible spot across the mall and walk faster.)

“keep walking, honey,” i tell holly w/out moving my lips. (suddenly i’m a ventriloquist, too.) “just. keep. walking.”

MEEEEES! deees will only take a meee-nute! you have very beautiful hair! i make you even more beautiful!” (what he doesn’t realize is that his swarthy charms won’t work on us the way they do on other girls. we are immune.)

“THAT’S OK NO THANKS WE’RE NOT INTERESTED BUT THANKS ANYWAY!” i yell back, trying not to sound rude but failing. i sense holly’s defenses crumbling simply bc she is too nice. i, on the other hand, was raised in new jersey. i grab her arm and drag her. we finally make it out of the danger zone. we both breathe out.

this scenario is repeated fairly frequently. but last week [when we were prowling every hair place in white marsh looking for the perfect product for holly’s hair (don’t get me started, don’t even get me started)] there was a crack in our usual plan. it was…a woman.

we were passing a nail kiosk and a pretty olive-skinned girl spotted us.

“shit honey! she saw us.”

“excuuuuse me!” she shouted. “are you two seeesters?” [“sisters”]

seeing how i’m friggin tired of ppl asking if we’re sisters (hello, we look totally different. but we both have brown hair, are caucasian and under 5’5″ so sure, i guess we look like sisters), i was like, “no. we’re married.” i don’t usually do that, but i figured, what the hell. maybe she’d give up b/c gay girls don’t care about manicures bc we all work on motorcycles when we’re not fixing cars and building ikea furniture. (false, btw. i totally do my nails and hello, i’ve never put together ikea furniture. i get holly to do it for me!)

anyway, i don’t remember what she said, but her accent was so cute and she was so pretty (ok, gorgeous), that, yup, you guessed it. holly and i both stopped.

“let me ask you a queeeestion,” the hot israeli girl asked us both. she knew she had the married girls hooked. “are you reeeady to see something unbelievable?”

“um…yeah?” we both responded. i wanted to run but my legs were glued to the marble floor. i couldn’t move them. it was like a bad dream except not that bad.

she asked to see holly’s hand. i knew what was about to happen. yup, and out came the three-sided puffy nail file (ladies, you know the one i’m talking about). she filed and filed and was talking and talking and honestly? yeah, i don’t remember what she said, just that she was unbelievably pretty.

“try not to yell too loud when you see this, okay? you will simply not belieeeeve dees.”

she lifted the nail file and holy crap, i could practically see my reflection in holly’s nail. then she did it to me while i stood immobilized, unable to tell her to stop or no. when she removed the file, my nail (index finger) was shinier than it’s ever been in my entire life. then she took out some special bottle of oil and put it on our cuticles. and still, we could not run.

“beautiful, no?”

“wow,” i said, looking at my  nail, preparing to tell her that under no circumstances were we going to buy these nail kits. or even one nail kit for that matter.

“only $34.99!” she said, smiling her thousand-watt israeli smile.

“no…it’s ok, maybe next time,” i croaked, clearing my throat.

be strong, i told myself.

“ok! for you, i give at special price! $29.99!”

“no, seriously,” i said laughing. “we’re ok. no, thanks.”

but no. this didn’t work either. she just thought i was playing hardball.

“come here, come into my office,” she told us, moving towards the kiosk chair. and what did we do? we followed her. like little lambs.

“for you, only for you, i give very special price.” (only for me? geesh.)

she tapped some numbers into a big calculator and turned it around to face us. it read $24.99.

this was my big chance to say no. ain’t no way no how uh-uh not gonna buy it. what did i say instead?

i asked if she worked on commission, for her name and told her we’d be back next week. until then, we each have one insanely shiny fingernail. all of this could have been avoided if we’d just stuck to the plan and run like hell.

things i love about our neighborhood (not)

that’s so 90s that i said that but whatever. here goes:

i love seeing ppl put “the club” on their car steering wheels around here. ha! yeah like that’s gonna help! if anything i think seeing “the club” (talk about 90s! geesh) will only irritate potentials thiefs, therefore making your lame car (oh and it’s always total jalopies/clunkers that have the club) more likely to get its windows smashed in for the 47 cents you left laying on the front seat. (duh.) seeing the club on your damn steering wheels make me want to smash your window in. and i don’t even need change. (right now at least.)

oh and i just love the fact that we got a $60 CITATION for WEEDS around the tree we begged, prodded and pleaded to get planted in front of our house to make the block look better. yeah so ok there are weeds there now but they weren’t there EIGHT WEEKS AGO when the “inspector” ticketed us! this city is out. of. control. it’s so damn broke they will ticket you for BREATHING. i wish i was kidding! inspectors come into neighborhoods where they think ppl can afford arbitrary tickets–think again; we really can’t–in order to fund who knows what. the only thing that runs smoothly in this city is the library system. (long live the enoch pratt free library. i love you guys. mmmwah.)

speaking of tickets, i also love that one of our two cars gets TICKETED like every other day for some stupid parking violation when ppl consistently park in our dirty alley, blocking both the trash and recycling trucks. what gives!? we call and cops don’t even show up, not even a ticket for these idiots. hello it’s ILLEGAL to park in alleys! man up and park on the street like the rest of us! i hope your tires blow out from all the broken glass when you try to drive out in the morning. and i hope a rat makes a nest in your back and/or front seat of your car and then chews a hole straight thru to your motor.

and speaking of animals, i just love how cats somehow hide their crap in the grass so i inevitably STEP on it on my way to bring the trash out to said alley every week. my sh*t kicker boots are truly sh*t kickers. can’t even bring the damn things inside! these cats are unbearable! if you’re a cat lover, move to downtown baltimore. i guarantee in five minutes you’ll hate them. they’d scratch your eyes out in five seconds so don’t “aww.” they will cut you.

and even tho i say i don’t love it but i actually kind of do in a way. i love the interesting things that show up curbside around here. mostly it’s shoes (sandals, randomly) and pieces of weave.

i will save more “things i love about our neighborhood (not)” for later. i’m sure i’ll come up with more. until then, goodnight.

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if i wanted it to be this hot, i’d live directly on the equator

i interrupt this blog hiatus (omg wtf’s up w/the blog hiatus? i know. it’s annoying me, too) to say that my car’s already reading 94 friggin degrees and it’s not even 9:15 in the morning!!!! 

yes, baltimore–and every other city w/in driving distance–is trapped in a heat wave right now. and i am not a fan of the heat. and srsly? if i wanted it to be this hot i’d live closer to, or directly on, the equator. i am not kidding. i could do very well in an area that’s consistently 60-70 degrees. (does a place like that even exist? if so, pls tell me where it is.)

yesterday was weird. first of all, it was so hot that the city, well southeast baltimore at least, felt like a ghost town. not everyone around here has air conditioning, so when it’s hot, ppl usually hang out on their stoops or the sidewalk to get some relief. but the sun was beating down with such intensity that even the usual stoop suspects stayed inside. i didn’t even smell one bbq. not even the drunks in the house by the alley were out. total silence save for some sirens here and there. like i said: weird.

then, late afternoon, our power went out. in the almost-four years we’ve lived in our house, our power has never gone out. never. the lights went out. dishwasher stopped. the hum of our air conditioner disappeared. holly and i looked at each other and were like: uh-oh.

turns out the entire block was out. within 10 minutes, the temperature in our house went up two degrees. then i started thinking about all the pricey frozen stuff we had in the freezer. and the two new half-gallons of milk in the fridge. and that our cell phones had weak batteries. and both of our computers weren’t charged up. and all the assignments i had to finish.

wow, we are so dependant on electricity, i thought, suddenly filled with deep thoughts about modern life and its luxuries. this, of course, was followed up with a loud “THIS SUCKS” to holly. so much for deep thinking.

she, of course, concurred.

“the silence is deafening,” she said from the couch.

“i know,” i said. i was about to start humming top 40 hits to fill the dead air, but instead suggested we go out for pizza, since we decided that even cracking our fridge or freezer would put all of our cold and/or frozen food in jeopardy.

we went out and came back and the power was still out, tho the BGE guys were working on it. (major props to those guys.) thankfully our neighbor lori the teacher opened her home to us like she usually does (hi lori! love ya) and we charged an extra cell phone battery and holly’s computer. everyone was out on their stoops and sidewalks by then. and i guess the darkness and boredom drove everyone that had leftover fireworks to light them off almost simultaneously. most of the ghettofabulous fireworks around here sound like machine guns, so between the darkness, silence and bursts of uzi-like explosives i felt like we were in some kind of urban warfare movie.

we broke out the flashlights and then lit all the little tealight candles we have left from our wedding (almost two years ago now! can you believe it??). it could have been a romantic moment if it hadn’t been like 90 degrees in the house.

we went up to the roofdeck and since it was so dark and on the way up, i did a little flashlight signal to jerry the drunk (who was hanging out his second-floor window, like he usually does; tho he did have clothes on this time, seemed like, anyway. note: he doesn’t always have clothes on) as my way of saying hi. he waved. (i gotta say, he really is the nicest neighborhood drunk)

we didn’t last long up there b/c honestly, the fireworks (in such close proximity) combined w/the darkness all around was freaking me out. we went to sleep, to the sound of the guys working, on top of our comforter, and holly woke me up around midnight to tell me the power was back on. i went downstairs to check on the stuff in the fridge (food: always my biggest priority) and everything in the freezer was still frozen solid. whew.

then i got some crushed ice and poured myself a cold glass of iced tea, turned up the ac, went back upstairs, turned on the ceiling fan and turned on the tv. (i would have fired up my 450-degree hair straightener, but, you know, we weren’t going anywhere.) ahhh. creature comforts.  man i love electricity.

so today it’s supposed to be even hotter (104 degrees, msnbc is telling me) b/c of the humidity. and it’s not cooling down anytime soon. do you hate this heat? do you love it? and if you love it, why?!

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and here’s why people move to the suburbs

b/c when you’re trying to have a nice dinner outside–on your deck, say–some dude goes in the alleyway directly across the street–you know, the one you have an absolutely perfect view of–and just when you think he’s going to do something completely disgusting like pee he actually proceeds to do the ultimate in disgusting: barfs his guts up. repeatedly. and then you lose your friggin appetite, pack up the dishes and the half-eaten plates of food and haul everything inside with a big sigh.

then you say to your partner when you get downstairs–holding your breath so you won’t barf yourself–that you know why ppl move to the suburbs. that this is why ppl move to the suburbs. and maybe we should move to the suburbs?

ok, so obviously you know that this story wasn’t about someone else or hypothetical. it’s about us and it’s about last night and i’m having a hard time not getting sick just thinking about it. i’ve never wished for someone to pee in an alleyway before. and i’ve never wished for a hard rain like this either. (luckily, we think Jerry the Drunk ,who lives in the house directly next to the alley, cleaned it up since he has a hose he uses to water the plants–he has an incredibly green thumb, you’d swear he wasn’t drunk the way his plants and flowers grow–out front.)

look, it’s not baltimore per se. this kind of crap happens in every city. anytime you have a mass of humanity living close together, disgusting things inevitably happen. but for crying out loud. the dude was probably drunk and it wasn’t even 7pm. 

each day that passes here makes me more and more appreciative of the picturesque little new jersey town i grew up in. you’d be hard pressed to find me making cracks about living in the suburbs anymore. not after living here. wooh boy. no way.

it’s fun to scare body shop girls

"hi lady! boy do i have a story for *you*!"

even tho i’d like to be, i’m not one for expensive beauty products. neither is holly. therefore, we usually find ourselves skipping specialty stores like the body shop. that all changed in november when our next-door, wall-sharing neighbor “kicked it,” was discovered, unfortunately, in a serious state of decay, and our entire house (and everything in it) smelled like death. while we tried to figure out how to get rid of the smell, we tried everything and anything to cover up it up.

well i told you that cinnamon spray was a total disaster (cinnamon and death!). natural citrus spray from whole foods was even worse, believe it or not (citrus and death!). holly cooked one of her famous roasts to cover it up–which worked while it was cooking, but hell if we even had an appetite for it. (plus, eventually, it was…beef and death! nice, right?). 25 boxes of baking soda didn’t even put a dent in it. then we somehow simultaneous thought of a winning remedy: home fragrance oils from the body shop. those always smell so good (and strong!) when they’re burning outside the shops in the mall. so we high-tailed it to the nearest location at the inner harbor and settled on pine oil, which, thankfully, was around during the christmas season. we needed to get an oil burner, too.

now, i’ve found that there are usually fairly nice girls working at the average body shop. even here in baltimore [home of the GCE (Grumpiest Cashiers Ever); dc comes in as a close second, btw]. the girl working that day was no exception.

“can i help you ladies find anything?” she chirped. her makeup was perfect. her hair was perfect. she had a thousand-watt smile.

oh my oh my oh my, what you have just gotten yourself into, i thought.

 “uh, yeeeah,” i said slowly. “we’re looking for…an oil burner. we already found some oil. is this stuff…potent? because we have a…situation at home.”

and then we told her what was going on. her face fell.

“oh my,” she said. oh my is right, i thought. she wished us luck as we walked out the door. we’d need it.

we went thru that pine oil fast. (i just remembered we bought some cranberry oil, too, but that wound up smelling a little body-like so we stopped using it.) we went back before thanksgiving and bought another two bottles of pine. we burned thru those, too. thanksgiving came around. holly went to western pee-ay, i went to eastern (philly). i needed to unwind in a city where i didn’t fear for my life most of the time, so i as soon as i got out of the cab at my parents’ condo, i went out walking–in the rain, w/out an umbrella (virtually unheard of for me)–for about, oh four miles or so. (i do love my city walks, esp. in the fall.) i wound up at a fancy mall in the center of town. and lo and behold, there was a body shop. and they were having…a sale. on home fragrance oil of all things.

“you finding everything ok?” asked the nice girl working there.

i told her yes and said how happy i was that the oil was on sale. we agreed that is indeed great stuff. she offered up some other scents but i told her that we were only using pine b/c it was the only thing that covered up…yeah. so i gave her the 15-second version. she twisted her face up and then expressed some heartfelt sympathy that we were going thru it at all (and that our neighbor had such a lonely passing).

holly and i hit a local mall over the weekend. i’m not fond of malls, so she really has to bug me to get me to go. we started passing a body shop, but slowed our pace as we sniffed whatever enticing oil blend they were burning. it smelled fruity. and we agreed we needed something. it’s warming up outside (uh, yeah. it was over 90 degrees yesterday! and today!). which means our late neighbor’s house is warming up (w/out any a-c). any residual funk in there is going to warm up, too. and we fear our basement is starting to get…that smell. again. so we walked in and went right to the oils.

once again, a pretty, bubbly body shop girl came up to us and asked us if we needed any help. we told her we were ok on the oil front, but did they sell any replacement metal oil burner bowls? 

“ours is a little…gunked up,” i explained.

“yeah,” holly said. “we used it a lot this winter.” then she shocked the bejeezus outta me by telling her the 15-second version of why our house stunk so bad. she didn’t tell her to get a reaction. she really just wanted to emphasize just how well those home fragrance oils work.

the girl’s eyes bugged out. wide. and that’s when i realized that freaking out body shop girls is almost as fun as coming out to someone that doesn’t expect little choppy-banged, lipstick/heel-wearing me to be a card-carrying homo. ok wait. there isn’t actually a “homo card,” but i swear if there was i’d have one. and if they actually existed, they’d be one helluva lot more stylish than what the DMV hands out. HOLLA!

oh fer cryin out loud: i really am old now

b/c i just called the local elementary/middle school “not as a parent but as a concerned member of the community.” damn kids are running wild in the neighborhood! not only walking in the middle of the street–i’m not talking a few at a time either, i’m talking 15-20 at a time; the sidewalks are clear btw, there’s  no reason to walk in the middle of the street–but taking handfuls of icy, sharp snow and scratching cars as they drive by.

this one kid did it to the car in front of us, then looked us straight in the eye and did it to us, too. they all pretty much sh*t a brick when all the sudden holly opens her door and gets out to yell at them, “hey! do you have money to fix the scratches on my car?? do you????” at which point they all started taunting us, shouting curses, dancing and giving us the finger, still in the middle of the street, of course.

look, i’m not stupid. these kids have been cooped up inside for over a week. and a lot of the kids around here depend on school to eat, so they’re probably grumpy and their home lives are probably crap. but: it is DANGEROUS for them to be walking down the middle of the street any time of the year, but esp. when two-way streets are now one-way and there’s ice and snow everywhere and most ppl around here don’t know how to drive in these conditions anyway! half the cars you see every day are slipping and sliding down these narrow sidestreets that a lot of the schools are on. they also shouldn’t be messing with moving vehicles, trying to damage them. these kids are badasses as it is. middle schoolers have actually beaten up full-grown adults in this city. but c’mon now. taunting drivers while they’re slipping and sliding on bad road conditions? plus taunting drivers in general! and destroying property. school administrators should know about that.

then we’re trying to pull in our spot and just as we’re starting to back up we see this woman–i don’t know if she was a mother or just a caretaker/daycare person–but she is beating this little girl that couldn’t have been more than four. i’m sorry but a kid that little does not need to be hit like that. what could she have possibly done?? the woman’s got about four or five kids with her, including an itty-bitty one in stroller. and this little girl is just wailing and now the others that saw her get hit are crying, too. we didn’t know if we should say something to this woman or not. i just kept thinking, if we say something she’ll probably get even more mad and beat the girl some more. yeah, and we’re wondering why kids are cursing us out and destroying property. i’m not saying it gives older kids a carte blanche to do whatever they want to, but it was certainly a cause-and-effect reminder of what some of these kids have gone thru and continue to go thru on a daily basis. it’s funny how you need a license to drive, but anyone biologically able can have a child.

anyway, i’m like, 80 now, calling school administrators. and i know they have enough to worry about. but still, they ought to know what their kids are up to in the neighborhood just outside the school building.