Hello, my name is Alexa, and I’m a web-aholic. I can’t live without the Internet. Well, at least not happily. And I’m kinda shocked to admit it. I mean, I live in NYC. It’s a fab city; a happening city, full of fun and quirky stores and even more quirky characters.

I know I’m dating myself (which is probably illegal in many states) by saying this, but I remember typewriters, paper, pens and pencils. Yes, people, the rudimentary way of writing something that then had to be handed in person to someone or snail mailed. (I also remember not having to use “snail” to specify what type of mailing I meant.) But why deal with other human beings when you’ve got the web, right?

I was really sick and stuck home for weeks, which in a noncyber world would’ve sucked big time. Being in between bad relationships, how’s a NYC gal supposed to get medicine, food, pay bills? (My electric company wouldn’t care I was too sick to walk a few blocks to the post office.) But yay web and access to supermarkets, drugstores, restaurants and online bill pay! And, of course, girlie things like makeup and fancy undies to cheer me up, computer games to quell the boredom, patterns and fabric for sewing, books (the physical kind, still haven’t done the reader thing yet, that’ll be another column). Packages arrived on a daily basis – almost as good as Christmas.

Writing was not happening as I couldn’t concentrate well enough to string together coherent words. And I really missed blogging and my fiction writing. But at least I had emails with friends to keep me company.

When I finally ventured out into the real world again. I realized how much I had missed the most basic human contact (beyond delivery people), even just chatting with someone in line at a store. I decided not to order anything online for the next few weeks and do all my shopping in person: strolling supermarket isles, trolling bookstores, fingering fabric in person, trying on makeup samples, scouring hardware store shelves for just the right screw or hook. Plus, my computer had to go into the shop for days on end, so I really didn’t have a choice.

People, people and more people. Clerks and managers and fellow shoppers.

Cranky people, indifferent managers, rude staff, pushy-shovy customers.

Salespeople in small stores often pounced on me, while large stores often left me adrift without any help – huge, sprawling stores with sooooooo many choices it was dizzying. I needed a search function to narrow down my choices!

Yeah, it was nice to be out and about interacting with other humans, briefly. But, mainly, it was incredibly time-consuming and exhausting! And often fruitless – no, I don’t mean I had trouble finding fruit – I often couldn’t find what I was looking for or flat-out gave up in exasperation. And the prices were often way, way higher than online.

So, I learned an interesting lesson: Yes, it can be nice to interact with random strangers who have something in common with you by virtue of shopping at the same place. But the time I spent NOT finding what I was looking for, and the money I spent on subway fare was so not worth it. If I’m going to spend money and time to get somewhere, I want to end up meeting friends; going to a flea market; or some fab, funky store; seeing a band – not trolling through mega-stores and tiny boutiques with salivating salespeople.

So, don’t get between me and my computer or my brand-spanking new smart phone!


So, I’m heading home on the subway at crush, er, rush hour. The only thing that is less fun … is a root canal. But it’s fast, and I’m lazy and my only other alternatives are an expensive cab ride, which will crawl through traffic at 5:15 PM (kind of like a snail on downers) or an equally packed bus (faster than a snail, but not much). Oh, all right, I coulda walked. Yeah, right. I just worked nine hours at a crappy job and I am soooooo dying to walk 30 blocks to get home – not! Plus, I’m on an express train, so I’m looking at maybe 15 minutes of this mass mush.

So, as I mentioned, I’m on a packed subway. I’ve managed to wrap a few fingers of my right hand around a pole, but the other hand, my entire arm in fact, is smooshed against my side, gripping my purse in this crush of humanity. Why do I like living here again? Oh, yeah, something about the diversity of people – most of which seem to be crammed into the same subway car as me.

I notice a guy near the door staring intently. At me. Do I have dirt on my face? Is my lipstick smeared? (I now wear stay-put lipstick, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog in itself.) I’m a subway savvy New Yorker – I know you don’t stare back. You just don’t. So, I turn my head as best I can in this situation, and gaze at the frayed split ends of the brunette woman next to me, and the ketchup stain on the tie of a guy in an ugly brown suit. And, inevitably, my eyes cut back to Mr. Stare Happy.

He has a fold-up table under his arm and a huge opaque black trash bag at his feet. Oh. He’s a street vender, heading home, just like me. Except he probably spent all day outside on his feet next to his table of wares on some street corner in midtown.

Whereas, crappy job aside, I had a comfy chair to stick my butt in all day. OK, so maybe he isn’t a nut job or a would-be stalker. Though dealing with the public all day is enough to drive anyone over the edge. (Yet, another blog for a later date.) Whatever … I wish he’d stop starting at me so intently.

I watch the stations whiz by and realize my stop is just moments away. Mr. Stare Happy, still drilling me with his gaze, stands next to the doors. The exit doors. The doors that I will have to walk through, past this creepy guy, to get off this dang train.

I’m thinking of “like a deer caught in headlights” and the way rabbits freeze when they know prey is near, hoping they won’t be noticed. Well, I’m not Bambi or a fluffy bunny. I don’t scare easily. I will not be intimidated!

But my heart is really starting to pound as I see the train is approaching my station. I won’t use the cliché of my heart “leaping out of my throat,” but have you see the movie “Alien”? Well, my heart feels like one of those critters about to claw its way outta my chest. OK – dammit – I’m scared. Me. The loudmouth tough broad, frightened by some squirrelly weirdo who may want to do … something to me.

I could stay on the train for several more stops till the train is less full and I can get further away from him. I’m calculating the next stop and how far away that is from where I really need to be.

Screw that! Crappy job equals cranky gal, and I want a soothing glass of wine within the next few minutes, not a half hour from now. Ya know, assuming this guy isn’t knife happy in addition to stare happy.

I tell myself I’m overreacting.

The car slows, the bells dings, and the subway doors open. A whole bunch of people ahead of me will have to leave or move for me to get out. And, just my luck, Mr. Stare Happy isn’t one of them. I take a deep breath, putting what I hope is a determined, you-better-not-even-think-of-messing-with-me look on my face, and shoulder my way to the exit.

I can barely breath – I’m just trying to keep the alien critter behind my rib cage from bursting through my chest wall and staining my really pretty blouse. And, of course, I’m trying to scoot as far away as possible from Mr. Stare Happy as I exit.

He moves toward me.

I turn my head away from him. I won’t acknowledge the freak. Just let me get safely off this train.

I pass him and manage to get one foot safely on the station platform.

He lunges at me!

He grabs my hand and shoves something into it. I twist away from him and stumble onto the platform.

I turn around, staring back at him, shocked. The doors close. He presses his face against the glass, still staring intently, but with a slight curve of a smile to his lips.

No, no, no, no, no! What the hell did he just shove into my hand? I don’t want to look.

I have to look.

My fingers are curled reflexively around something soft; dark green material peeks through my clenched fist.

Did he just shove his snotty handkerchief into my hand? Do men even use handkerchiefs anymore?

I really, really don’t want to look, but, of course, I have to. I slowly uncurl my fingers to reveal a folded square of green material, silky and beautiful. It looks pristine. New.

I unfold it slowly.

It is indeed pristine. And new. And not a trace of snot. And the most beautiful shade of emerald green. And it feels silky because it is silk – the tag says so.

Holy crap. It’s a lovely scarf. It’s … a gift.

What the hell?

Mr. Stare Happy must sell scarves.

Maybe he doesn’t speak English. Maybe he’s shy around women. Maybe he is just a weirdo – yeah, probably is. But for whatever reason, he stared at me and decided I had to have something beautiful that only he could give me at that moment. Maybe he recognized the look of another human who worked a crappy job and needed some cheering up.

No one’s ever given me a silk scarf before. I love it! Of course, the guy could have found a slightly less terrifying way to bestow it upon me.

I tie the soft material around my neck and remove a hand mirror from my purse. It looks fantastic with my coloring. I pat the scarf in place, a relieved and happy smile on my face, and I wonder if the scarf vender does this on a regular basis.

I’ll probably never know.

I head home, still wanting that glass of wine, but now in a slightly better mood.

New Yorkers are used to seeing homeless people on the streets and sidewalks – almost every street and sidewalk – sometimes more than one begging on a single block. You get jaded. You can’t help it. I mean, what am I, a social worker? Am I supposed to give to these people who may be junkies, alcoholics, meth heads, or wackos? I’ve been attacked, pushed, shoved and spit on by these, these … people.

Hmmm. They are actually people. They are actually my fellow human beings. I don’t know for sure what led them to beg, plead and sometimes literally cry, tears running down their dirty faces, for a dollar, a quarter, a mere penny. Some may have gotten themselves into this fix due to their lifestyle; some may be crazy; or they might have been sane when they first were forced to live on the streets and the became crazy.

As a science fiction fan (stay with me, folks, I swear this is related), I think about the apocalyptic movies and TV shows I’m seen where a lone human, shell-shocked and desperate to find another survivor, searches through rubble and walks down eerily empty city streets hoping to see another human. The lone human, usually the hero, is often grubby, streaked with dirt and debris and, presumably, if he or she has been searching for a while, doesn’t smell very appealing.

See where am I going with this?

If said hero comes upon another human, the hero is elated, relieved that another of his kind survived. They might even embrace, forgiving of any body odor or ragged clothing. These fellow humans wouldn’t care if one had been a banker, lawyer or a street person in their past lives.

So, with those kinds of thought and images deep in my brain, but still a jaded New Yorker, I sighed when I saw a man begging outside the supermarket on a bitterly cold winter afternoon. Great, I thought. Now I have to avoid this guy twice, both going into and exiting the supermarket. Rather clever positioning on the guy’s part, actually.

I don’t often go to that particular market, but they have a few items the health food stores don’t carry. I couldn’t find the frozen veggie dinner I was looking for, but I did find a gorgeous plant, a new flavor of Belgian beer, and a yummy-sounding raspberry chocolate bar. I bought ’em all.

The exit is a double-door situation, giving me time to put my gloves back on. The homeless man was still smack-dab in the middle of the entrance and exit of the supermarket. And as I set my bag down to button back up my warm new winter coat I got for Christmas, I heard the beer bottles clink and saw the plant tip. I grabbed the bag to protect my groceries: the beer, the chocolate bar and the beautiful plant. Not a single nutritious necessary-for-sustaining-life item among ’em.

Alexa, I chided myself, are you really going to give the poor guy outside the cold shoulder a second time? I mean, my shoulders are toasty and warm. His jacket has holes in it and looks more appropriate for summer than 19 degrees with a bitter wind chill, and his bare hands are almost as red as my stylish leather gloves.

I took off my gloves, still standing inside the double-door exit area. I looked for small bills. Maybe a couple of singles ,,, screw it! I removed a bill, put back on my gloves, picked up my “groceries” and exited the store.

I walked up to the man – gosh, he was old enough to be my grandfather. This homeless man should be enjoying a warm Florida afternoon in a rocking chair on his porch.

I handed him a five dollar bill and said, “Take care.” Lame! Shouldn’t I say something more profound?

He looked me in the eyes – many homeless won’t even raise their heads to look at who gives them money – and his face crinkled into a huge grin, revealing many missing teeth. “Thank you, ma’am. Bless you, bless you. I wish you a joyous year,” he said. He looked at the $5 for a long moment.

“Bless you, too. I hope things get better for you.” Also, kind of lame, but I didn’t know what else to say. A tear rolled down my face. I smiled back at him. And hurried away from my fellow human, embarrassed by overwhelming emotion. (I hate to cry in front of anyone. Makes me seem less the tough New Yorker.)

No one – NO ONE! Should be that grateful for a $5 bill.

The tears were really flowing now, and I didn’t want them to freeze on my face. I stopped to wipe them away, and take a deep breath to calm myself. I wasn’t crying just out of pity, but at the thought that I had helped one human being have a slightly better day. I felt grateful and more than a bit guilty that I could afford to buy frivolous thing like those in my grocery bag.

No, I’m not a social worker. And I can’t give $5 or even $1 to every homeless person I pass. But I could help one old man have a meal tonight, and if he spent part of my gift on a bottle of booze as well, that was his business. He was entitled to a little drink of joy, too. After all, I lifted his spirits and he lifted mine.

So far (and it ain’t far), I’ve enjoyed blogging and receiving feedback, with sometimes unexpected consequences like great tips for treating the common cold, or a chance to just puke up (writing wise) a topic that upsets me and many, many others.

So, comment, grouse at me, smile and say something nice, or encouraging, or inspirational (if you’re one of those strange people who do that frequently and actually enjoy it) or just say, “Hey!”

Looking forward to greeting and grousing with you all. Come smooze, as we say in the city, NYC.

Cheers and beers and even tears are OK,
Alexa deMonterice
(aka The Cranky New Yorker)

So, it’s a dank, dreary, damp, day near dusk (yeah, I like alliteration, so sue me). I’m heading out to the local bar to meet some friends. I’m cranky because I have the start of a cold – a bad, mean-spirited, won’t-let-you-go-without-a-fight cold – I can tell. I’ve had longer relationships with colds than many boyfriends.

Being a typical New Yorker, I have no patience for red lights. So, I’m peeking around a van parked near the crosswalk to see if the traffic has slowed enough to allow me to cross without getting squashed like a big cockroach. Cars, cars, trucks and taxis: No crossing without impending death for me right now. It’s cold even through my gloves and coat, and I swear this is the world’s longest red light!

A woman comes up on my left and also peeks around the van. Then she glances back at me and says, “Oh, I’m so sorry.”

I give her a quizzical look as she hasn’t stepped on my feet or so much as brushed against me.

“I didn’t mean to cut in front of you,” she says. “Are you trying to hail a taxi, too? You were obviously here first.”

I am speechless for a moment. Who the hell is this woman? This polite woman. Polite, considerate and didn’t even shove pass me. She’s gotta be from out of town, but savvy enough to know the cab-hailing process in New York. A tourist with a really good guidebook, I decide.

“Are you crazy?” I ask. “Nobody asks that in the city.”

“Well, I do,” she says with a smile – and I’ll be darned if that isn’t a distinctly Brooklyn accent, now that I’m paying attention.

“I’m not waiting for a cab,” I tell her, “and thank you for being so incredibly polite.  Have a nice night.”

We smile and wave to one another and I finally cross the street.

I never wish people “a nice night.” What has this woman done to me?  I almost forgot about my chest cold.

UPDATE: It was recently reported by a travel guide that NY is NOT the rudest city in the country. Los Angeles is! Ha! Take that you plastic people in La-La Land.

So, like a lot of other blogs, I could blather on about my pet cat (though since I just got one for first time in 30 years, I may blather a tad at some point–and you WILL enjoy it. Ya hear me?), some hot guy, my job, how much politicians suck or what I ate last night for dinner.

Do you really care to hear about any of those things?

I doubt it.

I’d rather tell stories or just riff. It’s what I enjoy. I hope you will, too. 😛

In-your-face blogger, that’s me. Been called Oscar the Grouch of horror/science fiction field. OKey-dokey–been called much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, worse. 😀