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November, 2006:



I’ve been thinking about this post for a long time and trying to figure out how to write it. And then my sister was here last weekend and expressed, out loud, some of the thoughts I’ve been having that I felt I couldn’t possibly share with anyone. And my sister is pretty PC, and very smart and savvy, and damn it, if she can say it out loud, I can too.

It’s about living in a neighborhood of mainly LIP. Lower Income People. Is saying it that way perjorative? I’m sorry if it is, it just seems descriptive to me. But that’s not the controversial part. (By the way, my sister lives in a somewhat similiar neighborhood in Chicago – it’s at least a few years ahead of ours in development but definitely not the North Shore yet.)

What’s probably controversial is my attitude towards living in my neighborhood amongst people who think that for some reason they are entitled to do whatever the hell they please. Like walk across the crosswalk against the light in front of oncoming cars without looking either way. With a baby stroller or a toddler in hand. Or throw trash in our yard, right over our fence, so much so that we can’t keep up with picking it up. Or hang out on my corner, right below my bedroom window, playing a boom box and yelling at each other so loud that we can’t sleep in the summer. Or….or….or. Why do they do that? What is it that makes them feel that they can set their own rules? Or are those the rules of neighborhoods like ours and my sister’s, and we just don’t understand them?

There are huge advantages to living in our neighborhood, and living in any neighborhood that seems to be on its way up. There are many days that we feel like pioneers, people who are helping to grow a city and make it more economically viable, safer, and prettier. We think we got a really great deal for our house, for the space, for the aesthetics of an old house, for our corner lot with our huge parking yard and gigantic garage. But we’re not the same as the people who settled SoHo decades ago, or who are settling outer parts of Brooklyn now – our neighborhood is not industrial. It’s always been residential. And so often I have the feeling that we’re invading, rather than pioneering, and that there is this huge sense of resentment among our neighbors.

Often when I pull into my driveway there is a man sitting across the street outside the (we hope former) crack house. This man pretty much knows my comings and goings and also, therefore, knows what I bring into the house. On weekdays he knows that I only ever carry my backpack and purse. But on weekends, after I drive away, I nearly always come home with bags of stuff. Stuff from the grocery store. Stuff from Bed, Bath & Beyond. Stuff from Target. Stuff from Home Depot. And yes, on rare occasion (house is pretty consuming these days), stuff from Nordstrom or Bloomingdale’s. So this guy knows we have money to spend. Our neighbors mainly carry at max one or two grocery bags, on foot, from the bodega on Broadway. And here we are regularly unloading multiple bags from various stores that are only accessible to us by car. And you know what? Sometimes I feel sheepish carrying those bags into the house. Like it’s too much. Like it’s unfair that I can get this stuff when I know that a former neighbor/crack house tenant had to borrow $10 from Adam once to feed his kids and then sent one of the kids to buy a loaf of bread and american cheese.

(And yes, sometimes I feel like a target carrying those bags – and I look over my shoulder to make sure no one is following me into the house. And I really don’t like feeling that way in front of my own house….but a discussion of our neighborhood’s crime rate would have to be another post.)

But you know what? We earn this stuff. We’ve earned this house. Collectively Adam and I likely make more money than all the neighbors in the three-family house next door. Is it snobby to say that? But it’s the truth. And sometimes I think that we’re doing something good by setting an example – if one kid in our neighborhood can see our house looking nicer and us carrying packages of cool stuff and me going to work every day (indeed, in my shearling coat and with my ipod in my ears), maybe they’ll think about what they can do to get on the same track. Maybe we can befriend the kid who shovels the walk when it snows and help him figure out that he can go to college and earn a degree and get a good job and help his family and his neighborhood when he gets older.

But maybe there’s not aspiration there. Maybe that’s why there’s what I perceive to be this strange attitude of entitlement – maybe it’s actually rebellion or indifference or revolt. I wish I understood it more. I wish I didn’t feel so sheepish.

Turkey inadequacy

So here I am, the Saturday before Thanksgiving, expecting 10-12 guests in our house (including most of Adam’s immediate family and a nice repesentation from mine), and I haven’t started shopping. In fact, I only even started making the shopping list this morning, and while I was making my list decided to call Fairway to order a turkey. Because of course we don’t want to get caught without a turkey!

So I get on the phone with the turkey department (which is separate from the meat department, I learn when I try to also order a brisket a few minutes later – but briskets are always in stock and so no need to order, it turns out), and ask for a 16-lb turkey. So she says, “what kind of turkey?” And I’m thinking, “a turkey turkey?” Fortunately I don’t say anything quite that stupid – instead I say “um, I don’t know, what kinds of turkeys are there?” Then silence. The woman on the other end is completely dumbstuck by my question. Apparently everyone else in the world except me knows that there are different kinds of turkeys. She asks again, “what kind of turkey?” and I ask, “can you tell me about them?” Silence again. “Hold on.” Next a man gets on the phone and tells me about the four main types of turkeys they carry – basic Maple Crest, Murray’s farm-raised preservative-free, Grateful Harvest 100% organic, and kosher. He gives me a bit of detail about each and pricing and I tell him I want the Murray’s. “Oh no, m’am, let me give you back to her to order – I just wanted to educate you a little bit about these turkeys.” Well, then, now I’ve been educated! The woman gets back on the phone and asks how big the turkey should be – she says “do you want 8 by 10, 10 by 12, or 16 by 20″ – which I’m thinking is the dimensions of the turkey to fit in the pan. And I’ve got a 16” roasting pan….

Anyway, it turns out that was the poundage and with only slightly more difficulty I manage to order a 16-20 pound Murray’s turkey and it will be available to pickup on Tuesday. Which will be a most unpleasant day to be at Fairway. I’d better get most of the shopping done this weekend! Back to the shopping list.

Lock story #2: Not locked out… Not at all.

Here’s kind of the opposite tale of woe with regards to a door story, and equally scary.

So I was in Providence for two days doing work on my upcoming New year’s Eve Festival, as I am wont to be at this time of year, and Stephanie was in the city, doing her job, as she is wont to do, which means nobody but Joe (feline to the left, and my arch-nemesis) was minding the house, keeping our house safe from our neighbors and other ne’er do wells and such that populate our proximate perimeter. (oooohhh alliteration!) And Joe was being aided ably by our handy dandy alarm system.

At 3:44 pm, I get a call from the alarm company saying that there was an alarm code from our front door, and what should they do? dispatch the police? As I am 3 hours by car away, and Stephanie is an hour and a half by transport away (and that’s another kick in the butt– I’m 160 miles away, and Stephanie is 15 miles away– Grist for a different mill) So I say Yes– please dispatch the police.

About 20 minutes later, I get a call from my mom that says that the Yonkers police just called her in Narragansett RI, and they are going to call me. Talk about scary for her! Moments later, I get a call from MY HOUSE, and it’s an officer. He suggests that somehow, the front door was left UNLOCKED, and that a DHL guy opened the door and put a package in, and that set the alarm in motion, and what should he do? I walked and talked him through the process of locking the door and getting out of the house making sure in the process that Joe had not absconded for parts unknown, and started driving to Yonkers (sorry mom, no dinner with you tonight!)

Made it home in 3 hours flat and nothing was stolen, thank god! (especially the TIVO, which has bunches of stuff I need! :o) ) Apparently either I or Stephanie left the front door open. Now I don’t think I did, and Stephanie doesn’t think that she did, so perhaps it was Joe? I guess I might have, after doing all that work on Sunday. It just doesn’t seem like me though to leave that unlocked. I’m usually very locky.

Oh well, it’s done, and we’re not the worse for wear. And I hope that it never happens again!

Now they say that stories happen in threes…. In the last two days I’ve been locked out, and had an unlocked door. Perhaps some kind of lox lies in the near future?
Or Goldilocks will come to our door, and then huff and puff, and blow my…. oh but this is a family blog!

I know it won’t be anything involving John Locke of TV’s Lost, as it is now off the air for three months. (Boo Hoo)

Maybe my next set of things will be about the Florida Keys….

Locked out…. (a very expensive lesson)

So we did something that was stupid stupid stupid… and cost us a pretty penny to boot (and we’re still not done.)
Saturday we spent most of a beautiful day outside painting shelves. I have a set of four book cases from the bookstore days. We painted three of them a long time ago with the idea of putting them in the living room, and thus getting some storage in the living room. Of course, we didn’t paint the shelves right away. So we spent the afternoon painting them. Well, to be truthful, Stephanie did most of the painting. I did all of the heavy lifting. But we only got one side of the shelves painted before the weather turned rainy and we had to bring everything back into the garage.

We had tickets to the theatre at night (The Umbilical Brothers, an Australian comedy duo that is performing at the New Victory for the next week or so) So, we took showers and got cleaned up and got ready to go. We were going to treat ourselves to an early dinner at Saigon Grill (one of Stephanie’s favorites at 90th and Amsterdam) and then go to the theatre.

And this, dear readers, is where the story starts to go horribly wrong. In the course of changing pants etc, I leave my keys upstairs. Stephanie gives me the key to her car (which I don’t have on my key anyway, since the administrator from our temple has temporarily borrowed my key so that she can take Stephanie’s car on a mission of mercy.) But for some unknown reason, Stephanie does NOT give me the rest of the keys. She takes her key OFF her ring. I assume that I have my keys with me, and I assume that she has given me her keys. At this point, we turn on the alarm and exit the house, locking the door behind us using the push button lock. When I go to lock the deadbolt, I realize that Stephanie has taken the key off her ring. I reach for my keys in my jacket, and then my pants pockets, and realize that somehow, my keys are inside. We are locked out of the house.

This sets off my buttons– I’m hungry, we were supposed to have a perfect date night, and now everything is all screwed up. After walking around the house trying to open various windows (hoping that the screens would give out without much problems (no dice) and calling our friend who has the only other key (not home) we do the only thing that we can do– we call a locksmith. It is supposed to take 20 minutes for the locksmith to get there (plus $55 to just show up, and then the labor) But what are we going to do? We need to get into our house.

We’re both starving, so I run out to the Pizza Barn to get some quick food (I did have my wallet with me) I get back, and there is still no locksmith. At this point, our friend calls with the key. But at this point, it seems too far away to go get it (she lives in Sleepy Hollow– 25 minutes up, 25 minutes back) We eat our food in the car (it’s getting a little cold) and then I see somebody walking around and it is our guy. He gets to work, and it takes him a while to break through the lock. After a bunch of false starts, it turned out that even that stupid little lock was hard to open without breaking the entire door frame. He finally had to drill through the center lock in order to open it.

He finished right at 6 pm, and our show started at 7. We rushed down to the West Side, parked a block from the subway, subwayed to 42nd street, and managed to get into the show before it started.

This whole excursion cost us a cool 100 balloons, plus our well-planned date night, and we still have to get our locks fixed. Our bottom lock doesn’t work (the top one works no problem, and we are going to bring in a different locksmith to key all of our locks (as we’ve been meaning to do for a while) Who knows how much THAT will cost.

As for the show, there were pieces of it that were pretty funny, but the show itself didn’t quite hang together. It was a “Best of” show, (called The Worst of) and because the pieces were from all different shows, they didn’t quite gel. There was lots of funny stuff, but the show I’d seen by them previously was more compelling and more virtuosic. Still the audience loved them, and kids REALLY dug the show.

And now we’ve got to come up with a better contingent plan– how are we going to stop ourselves from being locked out again (other than NEVER EVER TAKING YOUR KEYS OFF THE RING STEPHANIE!) We’re talking about hiding a real estate lock box outside somewhere. Does anybody else have any other suggestions?

Flea circus in Riverdale– December 3, 2006

A lot of people have been wondering when I’d be performing the flea circus in New York– here’s an opportunity to see the show for FREE! Come check it out, if you get the chance.

KILL DATE 12/3/06

Trained Fleas Perform In Riverdale

RIVERDALE, NY: This winter, the stars treading the boards at the First Annual Riverdale Jewish Arts Festival (December) will be rather difficult to see. That’s because they will be insects. Trained insects. Fleas, to be exact.

The show, the Acme Miniature Flea Circus, is an authentic Victorian flea circus that features trained fleas Midge and Madge who perform spectacular circus stunts as seen before (and on top of) the crowned heads of Europe. Midge and Madge will make their Riverdale premier on Sunday, December 3, 2006.

Details magazine called the show “One of the top alternative circuses in the country.” The New York Times said “The appeal is irresistible… Gertsacov is every bit the fantastical impresario, in his purple top hat and cash-register voice, introducing us to the wondrous insects itching (sorry) to perform” And the Los Angeles Times says that “Professor Gertsacov holds the audience (and the stars of the show) in the palm of his hand.”

According to Professor A.G. Gertsacov, ringmaster and proprietor of the Acme Miniature Circus, flea circuses were popular entertainments during Victorian times, but had nearly disappeared since the advent of television. The last popular American flea circus was Professor Heckler’s of Time Square, which left New York in 1957. The rumor is that Heckler thought that the nude shows were giving his fleas a bad name.

There are now only a handful of flea circuses still performing throughout the world. Gertsacov’s is arguably the most famous. The Rhode Island native (now based in Yonkers) and his amazing insect stars have performed throughout the country, and in Canada, Chile, and Brazil. He recently spent three months performing in Times Square, less than two blocks from where Professor Heckler once had his fleas. Gertsacov has also been filmed for documentaries on the History Channel, the Travel Channel, and numerous news programs. He’s even been a question on Jeopardy!

Gertsacov’s educated insect stars pull chariots, dance on a tightwire, and perform other circus-like stunts. While he does not reveal his method of training (a proprietary secret, he explains) , he assures the curious and the civic minded that he uses only methods of positive reinforcement to teach the insects their routines. “I treat them as if they are my own flesh and blood,” Gertsacov says. “And in some ways, they are.”

Professor Gertsacov will bring his minuscule marvels to perform in their Riverdale premiere on Sunday, December 3, 2006. He invites all curious parties to come and see the show that was deemed one of the top shows of the world famous Spoleto Festival in 2004. But he asks that you leave your dogs and cats at home. Gertsacov quips, “I don’t want anyone to steal the show.”

Shows are the Riverdale YMHA, 5625 Arlington Ave, Riverdale, NY on Sunday December 3, 2006. Shows at 1 and 2 pm. Admission is free, but seating is limited, so please arrive early.

For more information about the show, or to reserve tickets, contact Erna Brout, Festival Coordinator at the Riverdale Y at (718) 548-8200.
Or visit http://www.shalomriverdale.org
For press information, photographs, or interviews, please contact Flea Master Professor A.G. Gertsacov at 917-334-2502 or visit the flea circus website: http://www.trainedfleas.com.

WHAT: Acme Miniature Flea Circus at the First Annual Riverdale Jewish Arts Festival
WHERE: Riverdale Y, 5625 Riverdale NY 718-548-8200
WHEN: Sunday December 3, 2006 at 1pm and 2 pm.
COST: Free (seating limited, please arrive early)

MORE INFO: http://www.shalomriverdale.org
MORE INFO: http://www.trainedfleas.com.
RIVERDALE Y DIRECTIONS: http://riverdaley.org/new_page_4.htm

The water may suddenly become discolored…

This isn’t actually supposed to affect us, but I thought I’d point it out, in case we suddenly go a little crazy, or our soap starts turning us brown, or something…..

Hydrant flushing could discolor water in parts of Yonkers


(Original publication: November 10, 2006)

YONKERS – The city’s Water Bureau will be flushing hydrants in northwest and southeast Yonkers, which could cause water discoloration during the weeks of Nov. 13th, 20th and 27th.

City officials said the flushing will only take place on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

The areas affected will be west of Nepperhan Avenue to Warburton Avenue, south of Executive Boulevard to Ashburton Avenue, and east of Central Park Avenue to Bronx River Road, south of Yonkers Avenue to the Bronx border.

Residents located in these areas may experience discolored water during the flushing period due to high iron content in the water. Though it may be discolored, this water is tested regularly and is not harmful for consumption. However, it can stain laundry and porcelain surfaces, so residents of the affected areas should not wash clothes during the daytime hours of this flushing period.

Residents may contact the Yonkers Water Bureau at 914-377-6765 to obtain more information or inquire about hydrant flushing scheduled in their neighborhood.

First performance in Portsmouth went very well…

My first performance in Portsmouth went very well. But let me backtrack a little:

My circus ring fits in my car!!!

I wasn’t sure if my 16foot circus ring (8 1ft x 1ft pieces) would fit in my van or not. As it turns out, it does when you remove the backseats– this is excellent news, because it means that every show I do fits in my van. The ring was built in 1992 by George Marcincavage, a Rhode Island actor/carpenter and founder of Alias Stage (now the Feinstein Gamm Theatre. ) I think George is now an architect in New Jersey. He did a genius job of building the ring–it’s sturdy and beautiful. The only downside is that it doesn’t fold inside itself (but if it did, it wouldn’t be as sturdy as it is)

When I had the circus ring built, it was supposed to fit in my Isuzu Trooper– but it never did, and so I didn’t tour that much with it (or when I did, I rented a truck, or brought it in two separate trips) I now have a Honda Odyssey, and I love it to pieces. And the fact that my circus ring fits in it is the icing on the cake.

So I got up to Porstmouth NH on Thursday night after a lot of Boston traffic, and was able to load in to the theatre. The Theatre is a great small space that is shared by two Portsmouth companies– Pontine Movement Theatre (the company that is hosting me) and the New Hampshire Theatre Project The two companies split the cost of the theatre, which provides rehearsal, performance and office space for them both. They split weekends during the summer for performance, and so they’ve always got something going on there. It’s really a great setup.

Pontine has done a terrific job of doing publicity– I’m in most of the papers and the show has a large picture of my tattoo to the left in one of the “Best of the Week” sections . I’ll have to get a copy of that and scan it in (most of my publicity is about the flea circus, so it’s good to have something about this other show.

I spent Friday during the day teching in and rehearsing. This is a show I haven’t done in five years, and although I’ve been looking at the script, my memory as an actor is physical– what am I doing in the space, where am I, where is the audience, etc. My show doesn’t have a lot of tech, but I like to use what they have, and since they’ve got a full theatre, I’m adapting the tech to what they have. In a theatre where the lights only go on and off, that’s what I use. In a theatre where they have a full setup, I use that. There were some minor snafus– in recording the music to CD, I had inputted a couple of songs incorrectly, so I redid the CD on the fly, and then spent time memorizing my lines and buying props I forgot to bring (Hello, new clown umbrella!)

I had brought my makeup, but wasn’t sure if I was going to use it, and then decided that I would. I hadn’t put my makeup on in close to five years. Most of the time as a clown, I’ve been using just a nose and my oh so expressive face. But this show, which is about being too much of a clown, needed to go over the top with the clown makeup. Considering, the lines and look were very good. Not bad for the guy at clown college who was nicknamed Smudgo!

The show went very well. I did everything in the order that I wrote it, the tech come off beautifully, the obligatory avante garde dance piece came off great, and the ending of the show (where I quit clowning cold turkey and join the audience, and invite an audience member to come on stage and perform for us the audience) was great. At first nobody wanted to go, and then finally, a guy agreed to come up and … display his mustache. He had a very thick Walrus Mustache, and he displayed it. I announced John and his Mysterious Moustache of Delight, and he got a standing ovation (with my prompting from the audience, and that delighted me enough to going back to being a clown (and finishing my show)

This part of the show, which is always an improvisation, is fun and scary, and wonderful. I’m hoping that today’s two shows and tomorrow’s will come off equally well (Tomorrow’s Sunday show is nearly sold out– last night’s was about 2/3 full.) It’s only 47 seats, but still, it feels really good to entertain people and have them enjoy it. One could almost get… addicted to it!

If you are in the Portsmouth area, stop on by!