Posts Tagged ‘city’

You may ask, where the hell have you been?

OK, fair question. My best answer is down the rabbit hole.

My life has sucked.

My hovel of an apartment has sucked (and that ain’t changing anytime soon).

My chronic pain has sucked.

My job has sucked.

Hurricane Sandy sucked.

Oh, STD!

No, no, gutter minds. That’s what I say to myself when wallowing in a pity party.

STD: Stop Talking deMonterice. Or, in NY parlance, stop kvetching

I may stop talking, but I *had* to write. I mean, popping outta bed at 3AM gotta write.


Because Santa brought the good ol’ USA a sack full of slaughtered children and teachers.

WARNING: Do not read the following if you have the blues. ‘Cuz I cried before, during and after writing it.

Click here to read “26.”


I never cared for Mickey Mouse. I don’t find him cute.

Hmmm. Do you suppose “Mouse” is his actual last name? Who knows? And I don’t really care. I just know he irks me with his high-pitched voice, his freakishly oversized shoes (and you know I love shoes!) and his syrupy positive attitude.

As for the real thing: we had a mother’s helper when I was a kid who brought her pet mice with her. I thought they were cute enough in their cage. And I even thought the one resting on my palm was cute – first and only time I ever touched a mouse – until it simultaneously peed in my hand and bit my finger, drawing blood. The little creep was lucky I didn’t feed it to our cat! My babysitter from hell put him in my hand to show me “how cutesy- wootsy he is” – not!

So, I don’t like cartoon or real mice.

I’m not a morning person, no matter what time my morning actually starts. (Yes, this relates, hang in with me a moment.) I tend to stumble around, as if I’m not familiar with my own apartment, until the caffeine kicks in.

My eyesight is laughably poor. (Yes, this relates, too. You should know by now I like my tangents.) I wear my glasses first thing because who wants to shove little pieces of plastic in your eyes when they are still gummy from sleep? That means things viewed peripherally (where the lens of my glasses don’t extend) are blurry I-don’t-know whats. So, shadows startle me, fallen leaves from my houseplants turn into scurrying bugs and the irregular wood grain of the floor holds assorted creepy crawlies from my myopic caffeine-jonesing morning perspective.

When I saw a shadow move across the floor one morning, my first thought was, Man, my eyesight sucks.

My second thought was, Wait, did that “shadow” make noise?

But then my thoughts returned to a desire for more caffeine.

As I came back from the kitchen with more coffee, the blurry something brazenly ran right next to me, making actual scurrying noises. I’ve never heard a mouse running across the floor, but I knew it when it happened (once the coffee woke up my ears).

And the cliché of shrieking and jumping on a chair when seeing a mouse – completely true! Well, except for the jumping on a chair part – too much of a physical demand first thing in the AM. But I kind of twitched violently, spilling my precious wake-up fluid.

Oh, this mouse was going down!

Besides, I don’t want a roommate, especially one that wasn’t paying rent.

I kept thinking about a forensics show I’d seen about the Hantavirus, caused by mouse poop. A mousey virus that killed people.

This was a potentially lethal mouse!

Yeah, yeah. You think I’m overreacting. But then you probably like Mickey Mouse. Or you’ve seen cute little field mice scampering outside of your equally cute house in some rural area and say, “Aww.”

Folks, this is a New York City mouse! A big (O.K., not so big) tough rogue mouse that had scaled multiple stories to invade my space! A mouse with attitude and chutzpah (non-New Yorkers, look it up). Whether or not it had disease, it scared me. Yeah, big (O.K., also not so big) tough me was freaked. It was a mighty mouse (no capitals here as I don’t mean the heroic cartoon mouse I actually liked from childhood.)

So, now what? I may slaughter all manner of things in my horror short stories. But I didn’t really want to kill this little (yes, I reluctantly admit it was quite small) critter.

First, I covered my bare feet with shoes. Now my feet were safe. A good first step, ha ha. Next, I tried to figure out where the mouse had actually disappeared to. I knew it had to involve a hole of some sort.


Have I mentioned how screwed up and decrepit my Manhattan apartment is? There’s poorly cut holes where pipes emerge under my kitchen sink and behind my gas stove – plenty of room for a mouse.

But the biggest holes weren’t even holes, they were looming abysses.

I have heaters that are recessed underneath my windows and hidden behind a removable metal panel. Take off the panel, and you see the floor just stops, but the apartment doesn’t. The lazy hack who’d designed (and that is so not the right word) my studio, just hadn’t bothered to extend the flooring all the way to the wall. So, herein lay the afore-mentioned abysses that led to the space between my place and the apartment below, at least  ten to 12 inches wide in places and who knew how deep.

Can you say, “Hello, mousey”?

The panels had little doors that flipped up so you could stick your arm in and adjust the heat without removing the whole thing. And the door on the left never did close correctly. I was betting it was literally a mouse door.

Well, problem solved. I’d just duct tape the door and prevent him from scaring me awake in the future.

Done and duct taped. While I was at it, I taped up every crack and crevice around the heaters. And in the kitchen, too. I didn’t really know what kind of behind-the-wall access it had – was it like a big mousey city, with numerous intersecting “streets” back there? I wasn’t taking chances.

After using up most of the duct tape, I was feeling very smug.

Until I saw it again.

It ran exactly in the direction I had predicted it had come from: the panel door that hung partly open.

Which I had just taped closed.

I think it may have banged its nose on the closed door (no, I didn’t feel sorry for it and you can’t make me, not in my apartment!). So, it did a rapid turn, took off in the opposite direction and dashed behind my desk.


Shades of “Tom and Jerry”! I swear, sometimes my life is a cartoon. (Though I’m much cuter than Mickey, but I’ll admit Jerry is probably as cute as I am, another mouse I do actually like, being as clever and conniving as he is.) Actually, at that moment, I felt very much like the clever but luckless Wile E. Coyote in one of his many failed attempts to trap the roadrunner.

Fine! I untaped the stupid door. Come on in, mousey!

How exactly was I supposed to communicate with the mouse that he could now leave the way he came?

Rodent speak failed me.

I simply waited, perched on my bed, where I had a good view of the room.

I got impatient. I threw various non-lethal objects close at hand toward the desk to get the whiskered squeaker to move: tissue box, books, shoes.

Finally, it got the hint and ran back through his doorway.

I ran almost as fast to retape the door. 

About ten minutes later, I heard a shriek from the woman below me.  I knew that kind of screech. I pictured her cowering on a chair.

I had to smile. I like the woman downstairs with her 4 AM parties about as much as I like Mickey. Hearing her scream had almost made it worth dealing with my temporary rodent roomie.


One of the things I really love about New York City is there are restaurants serving almost every kind of food from all over the world – except, in my experience, really good Texas barbecue beef and pork. I know from the good stuff, having gone to college in Houston. I used to buy barbecued meat at the Houston airport (yes, believe it, airport food doesn’t always suck) from a vendor who knew how to wrap for air travel, and bring it to my dad, who couldn’t get enough of the rich smoky goodness. (O.K., now I’ve made myself really hungry and I don’t have time and money to fly to Houston for dinner!) And if you readers out there do actually know of good Texas BBQ in New York City, please, please, please let me know.

Anyway, lots and lots of yummy interesting food can be had in the city. And it’s always fun discovering new places. So, one day, I was shopping in the East Village with a friend and we decided it was time to chow down. But where? So, many choices and a whole lotta “been there, done that” – we wanted to try someplace new.

So, we’re walking along, perusing menus in the windows of restaurants that displayed them, and peering into the interior of others to decide if we deemed them worth a try. Nothing really struck us as very compelling and different.

As we were approaching the end of one block, we saw a guy wearing a waiter’s uniform come tearing around the corner. He held something furry at arm’s length, that swung from his clenched fist.

What the hell? My friend and I stood transfixed, watching.

The critter was about half the length of his arm and the tail, which he was holding it by, was fluffy with fur. But it was not the right shape to be a cat. And furry meant not a huge rat. It was a grayish color. No stripes on the tail, so not a raccoon.

The waiter continued running till he came to a tree in a sidewalk planter that was full of weeds. He threw the creature into the planter and vigorously scrubbed his palms against his apron. He looked down at the animal and shuddered with fear or disgust, and then rapidly disappeared around the corner he’d come from.

“That’s too big and hairy to be a rat,” I said to my friend. 

He agreed.

“I can’t stand it; I gotta know,” I said.

We both grinned and walked toward the mysterious critter.

Nervously, we approached the planter and peered into the weeds. Was it still alive? I wondered. If so, it was likely to be pissed at its rough treatment and might take it out on us. If it was dead, it might smell really bad, which is not my idea of an appetizing pre-dinner experience.

But we had to know.

Unfortunately, this was in my pre-smart phone days and I didn’t have a camera handy. So, no emailing a photo to a friend to ask, “what the heck is this?” Or Googling guesses as to the animal’s identity.

But from what I remember from the last time I went to the Bronx zoo, we were looking at a very stiff and very dead possum.

Yes, a possum.

Now we have lots of squirrels, mice, pigeons, a hawk or two and, unfortunately, rats in NYC. But possums are not native to the area. You don’t see them just hanging around in Central Park or ambling along your window sills. On the other hand, we have our share of nutty characters who like their exotic pets, illegal thought they may be to keep in an apartment. (Goggle “NYC tiger in apartment” for some examples of really stupid “pet” owners.)

I don’t know much about possums – whether they are dirty, disease-ridden creatures, or cuddle worthy (the later is unlikely given the sharp-looking claws the dead one was sporting). But I and my friend were pretty sure we didn’t want to go to a restaurant that had them hanging out in the kitchen, or wherever that waiter had found it.

“I think we should skip that block entirely,” I said to my friend, pointing in the direction from which the waiter had come.

“Ya, think?” my friend agreed. “Eighth Street’s got some good eats,” he suggested.

So, onward we headed, eventually finding a nice cheap Middle Eastern restaurant that seemed completely free of possums.

(And props to me for never once making puns about the impossumbilty of it all!)

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.