Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hazy Shade of Winter

I'd forgotten how white snow is.

I mean, I've seen snow in NYC, of course. We just had a whole snowstorm full of it. It swirled around, piled up, and ended up coating my cell phone even though it was hidden in the depths of my coat pocket. From my bedroom window, my roommate and I watched snowflakes float lazily to the ground as we laughed and pointed at people who were slipping and falling in the snow on Ninth Avenue. But I had forgotten how pure and blindingly white snow actually can be...until I went home to Canandaigua.

As I drove in the family minivan--actually, I was being driven since I haven't been behind the wheel since August and no one trusts me to drive in the winter--I passed lawns and fields and hills that were blanketed in blindingly white, sparkly bright snow. Completely smooth and untouched. The kind of snow that hurts your eyes. Basically, the snow's so bright, you have to wear shades.

The best part about this brilliantly white snow is that it stayed brilliantly white. All ten days of my trip. Sure, the two feet closest to the curb became grossly brown, and it really put a damper on my plans to trek around the outdoor outlet center. And the Wegmans parking lot was full of disgusting slush. But the snow made everything else look like a picture print by Currier and Ives.

Now that I'm back in Manhattan, I'm trying as hard as possible to keep that perfect snowy image in my head. Especially when I see city workers throwing all snow remnants into the street, hoping that cars will reduce it to slush. Which really just adds insult to injury. Not only is city snow immediately gray, it's also trampled on by millions of pedestrians and thousands of cars. The snow's beauty is completely destroyed, kind of like when Mary Poppins slums it with the chimney sweeps on the roof and gets all sooty. Only worse.

It seems as though there's a legal limit to the snow here; however, I did have one brief shining moment of snowy glory in Manhattan. Picture it: a crisp, sunny afternoon on the Radio City roof with snow up to my knees. No one had been on the roof yet (probably because it was dangerous and forbidden), so a friend and I ran and jumped and slid and made snow angels. Being from Florida, he had never made a snow angel, and being an adult, I hadn't attempted one in at least 15 years. It was thrilling.

But even that was just a tease. We had 100 square feet of snow on the roof, which is roughly the size of my parents' backyard. If you're into snow, upstate is where it's at. No contest. In short, there's simply not a more congenial spot for snowily-ever-aftering than there in upstate New York.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Mighty Mice

 Back home, our main critter problem seemed to be ants. They were everywhere. They’re just so darn tiny that they crawl in through windows and under doors and somehow always appear on the countertop when you’re trying to make peanut butter and jelly.

And every once in a very great while, a bat with a Santa Claus complex would stumble down the chimney and into my parents’ formal living room. While I screamed and hid, my mother would calmly close the pocket doors, sealing my father in the room with a pool net and steady hand.

In Manhattan, my main critter problem seems to be mice. Not rats, not roaches. Mice. And as much as I detest them, I must say that they're sometimes adorable, Jim Henson-style mice. When I’m not hating them for ruining my life, that is. I mean, they’re so cute I almost expect them to burst into song. Regardless, I obviously cannot live with mice, even if they’re of the singing variety, so they must be destroyed.

MOUSE #1: Die Hard Mouse
In my first NYC apartment, I lived with a lovely girl named Erica Kane. Seriously. She was even requested to attend the Rosie O’Donnell Show when Susan Lucci was a guest. Anyway, we saw a mouse in the apartment and set out glue traps accordingly. When I came home from work, I saw that the glue trap was now the home of a half-dead mouse.  Though squeaking, flailing, or just plain determination, that little guy had wiggled that glue trap into the middle of the kitchen floor on his way out of the apartment. (I use the word “kitchen” lightly. It was more of a short hallway with cupboards on one side.)

I wanted to vomit. I obviously did not want the mouse in the house, but I couldn’t think of a way to dispose of it without actually getting near it. So I fled. Like the coward I am. I stayed out of the apartment for hours, and when I returned, the mouse was nowhere to be seen. Erica never mentioned it. As the lease holder, I assume she was afraid that the sight of a mouse would freak me out (as it did), and she wanted to make sure I didn’t pick up and move out. Not because she liked me that much, you see. She just didn’t want to go through the hassle of finding a new non-psycho roommate. 

Yippee ki yay, little mousie!

MOUSE #2: The 40-Minute Mouse
Since I had so cleverly gotten away with shoving mouse disposal duty on poor Erica, I assumed I was in the clear. Wrong. We had set out a just-in-case glue trap, and I later found it in roughly the same position it had been in the first time. Luckily, this mouse wasn’t moving.

Since I was 24-years-old, and therefore a grown-up, I didn’t want to shirk my duty a second time. So I did what any grown-up would do. I called my dad to cry a little bit and beg for ideas for getting the mouse out of the house with a minimum of contact. Of course, my father wasn’t home. And neither was my Sicilian grandfather, who wastes nothing and probably would’ve told me 63 uses for a mouse carcass before disposing of the remains. Luckily, my Uncle Peter was home and suggested throwing a paper towel over the mouse to obscure it from sight. That helped immensely

My main goal was to remain as far away from the actual creature as possible, so I put the top of a large pizza box on the floor and used a broom to sweep the paper towel-covered glue trap onto the cardboard. That way I could pick up the cardboard, keeping my fingers far away from the glue trap and the mouse itself.

But it squeaked! IT’S ALIVE! THE MOUSE WAS ALIVE!!!

After squealing, dropping everything, and running to my room to hide, I took several calming breaths and returned to the kitchen to finish the job. After a couple more false starts, I was able to sweep the glue trap onto the cardboard and dump the whole thing in a garbage bag, which I brought down to the curb. The whole disposal process took 40 minutes.

Immediately following, I used at least half a bar of soap to rid my hands of mouse germs that I was certain must have traveled over the cardboard and on my skin.

MOUSE #3: Big Top Mouse
I thought mice were ground creatures. Not so. When I was calmly lying in bed, I watched a mouse run all the way up the doorjamb of my closet door, disappearing from view on the other side. Needless to say, I sealed the closet door and wore the same clothes for three days.

MOUSE #4: Poor, Unfortunate Mouse
I once had a super named Ray who had a silent sidekick whose name I can’t recall. It was kind of a Penn and Teller type situation, necessitated by Penn’s (or is it Teller’s?) lack of English vocabulary. But he was a sweet, sweet man who was always smiling.

One day, Penn was fixing something in my room while I was sitting on my bed and playing on the computer. I felt odd being in my bedroom with a strange man, but I would have felt odder leaving the room and giving a strange man free reign in my room. Suddenly, Penn sat up straight, looked at me, and said, “Mouse?”

I nodded to him, then proceeded to babble about the tiny baby mouse I had seen running down the hall before realizing that I was using so many unfamiliar words that his eyes glazed over and he had stopped listening.

“I kill?” he said.

“Yes, please,” I answered.

Everything went back to normal for a few moments, until—BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

I glanced over to see Penn thumping the floor with an upside-down broom. That’s right, folks. He was using the top end of the broom like a spear to squash the poor baby mouse into a pulp. But of course, you can't just spear a running mouse. Previous to that, he saw the little guy run by and swatted it back and forth between his hands to disorient it. I was watching a homicidal mouse murdering maniac at work. He stopped, bent down, and looked at me with pride shining in his eyes. I inadvertently began to lean over to see the damage. “No look,” he said, waving his hand in front of my face. “You no look.”

After hiding my eyes while he removed the flattened mouse, he came back in and said, “A’ home, I keeeell snake. 50 snake. In basement.” He held his hands open twice as wide as his stocky body. “Theeeees beeeg.”

My mouth dropped open. I’m not sure horror was the reaction he was going for. It seemed that some sort of admiring response was in order. So I gave him the damsel in distress act, thanked him for his help, ushered him out the door, washed the floor, and threw away the broom.

MOUSE #5: The WB Mouse
One cozy winter evening, I turned off the lights and settled into bed to watch an episode of Felicity. Which is the best college angsty show that ever was, in case you’re curious. Anyway, I was completely enjoying the romantic tension between Felicity, a sweater-loving do-gooder; Noel, the brainiac Boggle champ; and Ben, the broodingly hot slacker. Then, I glanced to my left…and saw a mouse sitting perfectly still on my other pillow, staring at the screen and enjoying the show with me!

I screamed and sat up, inadvertently flipping the mouse’s pillow over in the process. I suspected that the mouse was hiding under the pillow, and I knew I had just one chance to catch it. I stared at the pillow, plotting my next move. I didn’t have a next move. Before I knew it, my hand yanked the other pillow. I was hoping to come up with a brilliant last second plan, but brilliance escaped me. And so did the mouse. I had no idea where it went, so I did what anyone would do: I stripped all the sheets from my bed, laid on my mattress pad with every light blazing, watched two seasons of Felicity, and stared at the clock until morning.

By 2006, I had become somewhat accustomed to seeing the occasional mouse in my apartment. Seems like it’s just a hazard of living in New York. I am completely aware that people all over the country have mice in their homes, but I’m guessing their mouse problems don’t increase because the laundromat downstairs is being turned to a Thai restaurant.

My feelings about mice can be wrapped up in something my doctor said when she broke the news that I had a roach allergy. “But I’ve only lived here for a year,” I protested. “I’ve never even seen a roach!” She said, “Oh, they’re there. If you live in Manhattan, they’re in your walls. Even in the nicest building in the city. They’re there. They’re always there. They’re everywhere.”

Monday, January 3, 2011

Times Squared

"You live in New York City? Are you going to Times Square for New Year's Eve?"

This is probably the number one question asked by non-NYC folk to NYC'ers this time of year. By the time the speaker hits the "T" in "Times," you can already see a Manhattanite squirm. In fact, the whole exchange takes on a Matrix-style slo-mo effect: the speaker's mouth moves as if it were stuck together with peanut butter, the voice becomes electronically distorted, and the sound waves become visible as they hit the recipient, who alternately switches from discomfort to horror to politely-masked disdain.

Why would a simple little question make one panic? Because there's no way any self-respecting New Yorker (or New York transplant) would ever set a pinky toe inside Times Square for New Year's Eve. I hate to be blunt, but thar she blows. Even the mere mention of such an idea throws a New Yorker into a complete frenzy, as if someone yelled, "BED BUGS!" in a crowded theater. I understand that people from various other regions of the country might think that a Times Square New Year's Eve celebration would be an entertaining way to spend the evening. After all, Ryan Seacrest makes the two-second clips you see of partygoers on TV look exciting. But here are the reasons New Yorkers treat Times Square like a quarantined area:

1. New Yorkers pride themselves on individuality. Following a crowd of a million idiots is not an option.

2. Once you have been on an overheated, overly packed subway car at rush hour that has come to a complete halt in a tunnel, you never want to be in a small area with wall-to-wall people ever again.

3. Not being able to go to the bathroom for seven hours seems like a miserable way to usher in a new year.

4. Unless you get there at 3pm, you probably won't be able to see the ball drop. Instead, you'll have to crane your neck for a view of a telecast screen, which you could see much more comfortably from your living room recliner.

5. No booze allowed.

6. Spectators are herded and corralled like cattle being led to slaughter.

7. When you combine amount of people trying to override the no-booze situation by showing up drunk with the no-bathroom situation, the effect will most likely be a negative one for your shoes.

8. Annoying noise makers, whether they are objects or people.

9. This word to the wise from the Times Square Alliance: "Remember that you could be spending an extended period outdoors in potentially below-freezing conditions. You should be well-prepared and well-insulated. Many layers, synthetics (such as Goretex and polypropylene), wind-resistant and water-repellant outerwear and a good hat are the keys to staying warm." 

Meaning, "Stay inside, morons!!!"

10. Being surrounded by a horde of people who don't live here and have no idea where they're going or what they're doing is pretty much a New Yorker's worst nightmare.

Even though I've never been in Times Square on NYE, I've been adjacent to it. Last year, I learned that you can see the ball drop from my roof. Sort of. It's actually a reflection of the ball from a nearby building with mirrored windows. Now, it may not have been as exciting as being amidst the freezing, drunk, pee-filled, impatient crowd, but when I walked around the roof freely with my glass of champagne in hand, knowing that I had a clean and conveniently-located bathroom just steps away, there was nowhere I'd rather be.