Back Story

As some of you might know, I’m not 100% on board with massages. I’ve already posted once about how they make me feel vulnerable and anxious. But last week my back and shoulders were practically cobblestone, and there was no denying the fact that I was in desperate need of a rubdown. So I looked up a cheap massage place near my job and booked 30 minutes (because my anxiety usually sets in around 40). 

First of all, let’s go through my massage salon selection process. Yelp was obviously my first point of reference. I narrowed it down to .3 miles and $/$$, doy. The place I found was at the top, with approximately 1,0000 reviews, with an average of 4 stars. People were like, “It’s not nice in there, but I can walk again!” I also checked out the parlor’s website, which was basically a scrolling page of coupons with various colors, typefaces, and sizes, so I knew it would be grade A. 

When I walked into the massage room, I couldn’t help but notice that the lighting cast the room in a startling shade of red that suggested danger. I ignored this and stripped. There was soothing (?) music playing, and no pesky chimes or scented candles, which I appreciated. 

“You ready?” asked my masseuse, her head peeking through the curtain, suggesting that I better be. 

I gave her clear directions. My only previous massage experiences were frou frou places that I’d found on Groupon, and they basically gave me a gentle skin caress. I didn’t want her messing around. She needed to destroy the knots. 

As I lay on my stomach, she began to knead my upper back. Everything was going well, until I noticed that she was making a weird sound with her mouth, like she was sucking one of those strawberry candies that comes in a strawberry wrapper that only old people like. It was a strange slurp, but I was pretty sure there was nothing in there. I had just spoken to her face, and there seemed to be no candy, no gum. But now the slurp was all I could hear. 

“Girl, what you got in there?” I wanted to shout. But I didn’t, because a) we were five minutes in, and it seemed an odd time to bring it up, b) what if there really was nothing in there, and I just ended up sounding like a complete jerk for criticizing what might be a rare mouth disorder, and c) as mentioned earlier, massages make me anxious. A person is never more vulnerable than when laying face down, naked, fully relaxed on a massage table. She could have snapped my neck and been done with me.

So I dealt with her crazy mouth sounds and let that be that. Really, she was having a field day on my back, so so I couldn’t complain. There was an interesting elbow-on-back scenario that recurred a number of times, which I enjoyed. And at one point she pulled out a ladder and started massaging me from a very confusing angle. I’m not entirely sure what was happening, but I’m pretty sure that if I’d stood up, we’d have found ourselves in an Ethel -and-Lucy situation. Nothing like a little massage parlor slapstick!

About halfway through, the lotions came out. I’m personally not a fan of strange lotions, as I not only hate the smell of everything, but I’m also allergic to everything. This stuff wasn’t too bad, though, and it really made for smooth sailing, so I went with it. 

We were nearing the end when the woman twisted my arm behind my back. Then she punched me behind my shoulder blade. Hard. Like four times. It was startling to say the least. She was punching me hard enough that I decided (around hit three) if she punched me three more times I’d should “please stop!” But, there were only four wops, and I let out a sigh of relief when they were over. I was fully prepared for the punches on the opposite side, and put on my game face. 

Next up came the hot towel, and let me tell you, there’s nothing like a scalding cloth on freshly punched skin. That’s a sensation I’ll never forget.

“All done,” she whispered in my ear. I jumped.

“Thank you,” I said, my eyes still closed, face stuck in the hole thingy. 

When I stepped outside of the room, my masseuse stood holding a Dixie cup of water for me. I drank eagerly. She slurpped on nothing. A nervous condition, no doubt. 

I walked away feeling looser, but wishing I’d gone for a full hour. I wanted more twists, and rubs, and even punches. I’ll know to book a longer session next time. And to pop in my earbuds before she even gets star, just in case I get Slurppy again.  

Bag it Up: A Reflection

Last night I went to a Blackstreet concert. Yes, that Blackstreet. My friend got free tickets to New Jack Swing 2015, featuring Blackstreet, Guy, and El Debarge, and she was kind enough to invite me. I didn’t think twice. How many people have the opportunity to hear “No Diggity” live for free? Probably anyone who goes to an Atlanta mall on a Saturday afternoon, or Citibank employees who went on the corporate retreat in 2000. I was excited, nonetheless. 

The concert was at the new Kings Theatre in Flatbush, which is a beautifully restored space with a super-friendly staff. After arriving and going through security (I get nervous every time I go through a metal detector and have my bag searched, like maybe someone planted something on me), we made our way to our seats. The show hadn’t started yet, but a DJ was spinning old school hip-hop hits, and the crowd was live. It was a “grown and sexy” audience, and they were not afraid to back it up to some Mary J. Blige. 

Eventually, Teddy Riley and Friends made their way to the stage, and the crowd went wild. I’ll be honest, our section was not quite full, meaning it was pretty empty. But those who were around us made up for it with their energy.  I had expected to see El Debarge first, but no, they just jumped straight to the headliners, which I thought was an interesting tactic. Don’t make them wait for it. My guess is that one of the members of Blackstreet had to wake up early on Sunday morning for church and requested to go first, so that he could get a good night of sleep.

I must say, the dudes killed it. I hadn’t ancticipated much choreography, but they did more spins, contagion snaps, and bodyrolls than any of us knew we wanted. Clad entirely in matching white, they jumped around the stage just as much as I imagine they did 20 years ago (unfortunately, I didn’t attend many R&B concerts as a child, so I can’t be sure…though I did see En Vogue at Six Flags when I was about seven, and I hate that I don’t have a clearer memory of that). 

They wasted no time getting to the hits. The second song they sang was “Don’t Leave Me.” Luckily, the words to the chorus were projected onto the screen behind the guys, so even those fools who didn’t know the six lyrics could sing along. When the lyrics weren’t being projected, an image of pink and red raining hearts took over the screen. And then a giant rotating computer-generated rose, in front of which those same tiny hearts rained. It was pretty good. 

 

Giant rose w/hearts + Teddy Riley or somebody

 

Later, the guys ran from backstage with handfuls of long-stemmed red roses. They writhed and gyrated, while women with fresh relaxers in Carlos Santana shoes flocked to the stage. Their dreams had come true. The men tossed the roses at the women whilst doing sensual dance moves (no easy feat, to be sure). All I could think, as the women jumped up and down, was “good for you, girlfriend.”  

Roses. Love.

 

Teddy then spent a fair amount of time singing other artists’ songs. I think he produced or wrote all of the songs, so it’s cool, but it was really confusing to hear him sing “My Prerogative” by Bobby Brown and “Right Here/Human Nature” by SWV. But I loved it, of course. At one point, the screen flashed “Teddy” about six times in a row, then “You Jam” “Teddy” “You Jam.” I mean, he did jam, so I couldn’t argue.  

Finally, the group sang “No Diggity,” which made my life. Then they sang some other songs, and I checked my phone. Then it was intermission. 

The bathroom conversation was excellent. “It’s a party in there!” was uttered more than once. And each time, more and more people agreed. Maybe someone said, “Teddy is jamming!” but maybe not, and it was just his not-so-subliminal messaging working. In any case, people couldn’t wait for more. 

But they had to, because intermission was an hour. This would have been annoying had the DJ not been amazing and played every Ja Rule song known to man. There were a lot of late old school songs, plus 90s and early 2000s hits, and then “Truffle Butter,” which made no sense, but I’m always on board with that one. 

When we went back out, it was Guy time. Just to be clear, Teddy Riley is in both Blackstreet and Guy. But Guy is older, started in 1988, so the true die-hard Teddy Riley fans were really in their element now. I was a little indifferent, until Johnny Gill came out, and I was like “what is happening,” then Wreckx-N-Effect came out and sang “Rump Shaker,” and I was all “I can’t.” It was fantastic. Also, they kept doing that new, cool thing where they say, “Now scream!” and everyone obeyed. That was fun. 

There were a number of times when Teddy would single out the people in the house “over 25,” without realizing that no one in the audience was close to 25. He’d say, “Only stand up for this song if you’re over 25,” and I’d stand up but have no idea what the song was. I don’t know that he’s totally clear on what year it is. Also, I went to the bathroom at one point, and when I came back, he was just in the middle of the audience, on a chair or something, singing with his shirt off. 

Before we knew it, the show was over. El Debage never came out, and no one really cared. All in all, it was a great night. No diggity, no doubt.

Demo

On Monday morning, my boyfriend and I stepped onto the train together. The train was pretty full, but we were able to find seats. As we sat down, we heard something loud coming from the corner. There a man sat, a bluetooth speaker in his lap, blasting very loud, very bad rap music. He and his girlfriend nodded along. 

This didn’t seem so unusual at first. Most New Yorkers have been on a subway car with someone blasting ratchet music from his cell phone. And it’s obnoxious, of course. But this was different, and not just because this guy thought went through the trouble of hooking up his music to this massive bluetooth speaker. David and I listened for a moment, and both of us were unable to identify the terrible song playing (normally if we put our hip-hop brains together, we can come to some conclusion). 

“It’s his own music,” said David. 

This made sense. The production value was terrible (think Casio keyboard circa 1999), and the flow was, for lack of a better word, wack. I couldn’t totally understand the lyrics, which isn’t unusual (how many times have I mumbled along to a YG song before realizing what was happening, and then uttering a silent prayer for forgiveness?). Thankfully, the aspiring rapper and his girlfriend (I assume she was not his wife…a man like that can’t be tied down) would chime in every few words, as rappers are wont to do. We would just hear rap, rap, rap, GOLD CHAINS, rap, rap, rap, MASERATI, rap, rap, rap, BOOTIES. I mean, staples. Yes. But it’s been done. Maybe try something a little more original. Also (#noshade) but I’m 90% sure this guy never set foot inside a Maserati. I never have. I don’t think anyone I know ever has. There is no shame in not being supremely rich. I’m just saying, might be better to keep it real.

Also, it’s worth noting that this was not a young man. I’d guess he was between 45 and 50, which is not necessarily prime for being discovered in the rap industry. Maybe things are changing? But no, they’re not. If you’re a rapper over 25, you better rhyme tight. And you better know somebody. And you better be able to keep up and know the language and trends. Like, please no who “My Woes” are before trying to be a rapper in 2015 (I dont’ know what that means, but I’m not tryna rap. Also, please let me know if it’s an offensive term, I’ve been using it quite regularly). 

So, this guy was steady rapping, and everyone was mad. The woman across from me was reading a New York Times and just boiling. She kept sending her stink eye down the train, and I was like, Girl. Relax. You don’t know him. He might be crazy. It’s true. We all read and watch the news. People are insane. I would have loved to shake this man and tell him how terrible his music was, and that nobody wanted to hear it in the morningtime. I would have loved to scold him for all of the coarse language he was blasting while tiny elementary school children sat right across from him, but I’m not yet comfortable using the term ‘coarse language’ aloud. And again, everyone is crazy. You never know when someone might pull out a weapon, or spit on you, or give you a demo CD then ask for a five dollar “donation.” So I kept my mouth shut. 

I’m all for following your dreams, but if you’re goal is to become a rapper, maybe don’t force your terrible sounds on innocent people on their way to work. I mean, aspiring actors don’t just hop on the train and perform a monologue. Psychology students don’t get on and ask if anyone has an issue they’d like to discuss (that would be a nightmare, the student would never leave the train). I’d encourage this guy to go the traditional route, and just post something on YouTube or Vine.

[I hope you enjoyed my attempt at using hip-hop terminology]

Worst Behavior

[First of all, I know. It’s been a while. Almost a year to be exact. But I’m back. All is well.]

I went to see a 5 hour play last night. Bold move, I know. But I’m not here to tell you my thoughts on the production, but rather my thoughts on the audience. I suppose the length of the show increased the probability of interruptions throughout, and it had it’s quiet moments, which likely illuminated these disruptions. But these people were unbelievably, shamelessly loud.

There were so many things. First came the usual coughs and sneezes. Obviously, it’s been 2 degrees for the past few weeks, so everyone has pneumonia. But pneumonia or no, you spend good money on a ticket you’re gonna see the show, especially when it stars Albert Goldman/Pepper. So screw it. Suck down a garlic clove (also appreciated by your fellow audience members), and call a car. This is your “outing” for February, and you’ll be damned if you’re going to let a little whooping cough get you down.

In fact, the man sitting directly behind me (who may or may not have been the old man from Up) spent a good portion of the first act suppressing a cough in the most distracting way. He was trying so hard not to make noise (which I appreciated) that I thought he either die or vomit on my head. Things weren’t looking good. (However, this man did redeem himself during intermission. He made a call on his flip phone. “Yes, it’s very good,” he said. “Very good. The performances are excellent.” I wanted to pick him up and give him a kiss on the top of his head.)

About halfway through Act I, Siri arrived in the mezzanine. She was like, “Your destination is on the left.” What? The play had started about an hour ago. Was Siri drunk? If the person had moved at all, it was to go to the restroom. And if the person used Siri to get to and from the restroom, then there are larger issues at hand.

We were a few minutes into Act III when the Long Island woman a row behind me had a revelation. “This is an excellent play.” Full voice, just in the middle of the show. I had to turn and give her my “Boo, pull yourself together” look. There were a couple of other instances of full voice chatter further away throughout the show. I don’t know what the deal is with that (and it happens A LOT in movies), but it needs to stop.

An appreciated moment of audience noise came during this act as well, when the only black character in the show had a “drop the mic” moment. He was excellent throughout the show, but he really nailed it in this scene. As one of probably six black people in the house, I had what I thought was a particularly visceral reaction to the moment. And while I wanted to shout “yaaaaaaassssss,” and start voguing in the aisles, and fall into a death drop, I restrained myself. I was glad to hear, though, that the entire audience appreciated the moment. There were lots of claps and “wooos,” so that was fun.

In Act IV Siri came back. Everyone was like, “We get it,” so she shut up. People got cough-y again, and started unwrapping Werther’s. Seven people kicked stainless steel water bottles. Maybe a baby was born. I don’t know. Was there an arm wrestling match in the balcony? Hard to say. French lesson in the partial view seats? Sounds about right.

Finally, it was over, and everyone clapped and got all, “We did it! We were so quiet!” And I was like, “What? You guys were so loud! The whole time!” And they didn’t hear me, because they were obviously extremely loud, and they were shouting, “Bravo!” And I was going, “did you even see the play?” And then they were like, “Taxi!”

I get that there are only so many things you can control while sitting in a tiny theater seat. But as a people I think we should make the following efforts while in the theater:

1. Turn off your phone. I know it’s hard, but Siri is obviously going through something, and quite honestly, she can’t be trusted. It’s the only way.

2. If you are sick, like really sick, don’t come to the theater. I know it’s hard, but you are a) going to be miserable the whole time b) disturb everyone around you and c) get everyone sick, which is the ultimate offense.

3. If you’ve got a little tickle in your throat, bring paper-wrapped lozenges, not plastic-wrapped. It reduces the noise pollution drastically, and if it keeps you from hacking everywhere, that’s good too.

4. Keep your noisy bottle in your bag. You will definitely kick it if it’s not in your bag, and it will definitely roll down many, many rows.

5. Shut your damn mouth.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you at the theater.

Toddler in a Toy Machine

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A missing toddler was found unscathed in a claw toy machine in Nebraska. This raises many questions.

Why are toddlers allowed at bowling alleys (it seems like there should be a 4 and up rule…toddlers can’t bowl, and even I feel unsafe at bowling alleys, although I’m bigger than most everything there)? How insecure are claw toy machines? Why aren’t the rest of us trying to steal all the teddy bears we can right now? How many toys did the kid take? What is “Nebraska?”

I think the most important thing is that the toddler was found unharmed. The second most important thing is that someone took this amazing Twit pic. I mean! That kid is having a blast and also hates his mother. He’s going to be a nightmare.

All told, this story had a pretty great ending. Things might not have ended so well had he been found in certain other parts of the bowling alley:

1. Behind the bar. The risk of being behind the bar wouldn’t be the possibility of the kid consuming alcohol. Honestly, he’s probably no stranger to Bud Light, and that’s all they serve at those places anyway. But bowling alley bartenders are typically unresponsive, often borderline comatose. The police might scour the place, while the leather-skinned bartender stands there chomping on some Juicy Fruit, shaking her head like “no idea where that lil guy could be.” Meanwhile the kid plays with a toy truck by her feet. He runs the truck over her foot, and she’s like “ah, keep forgetting to put out those mouse traps.”

2. Through the ball return-y machine. There might be a group of office workers on a team building outing. They’re nearing the end of their first game, everyone is finally starting to loosen up, when Charlene bends over to retrieve her 6 pounder. She’s on a roll. But instead of her ball, the machine spits out a toddler. Totally kills the mood. Charlene is like, “does this belong to someone?”

3. Outside smoking with the bikers. This would just be a terrible place to find a child.

4. At the end of a lane before a strike. The kid is chilling behind the pins, and Charlene has finally gotten back into the groove after that other incident. She’s feelin’ real smooth and does a fancy leg behind the other leg bowl, and everyone is all “Yeah, Charlene! Strike!” And Charlene is like, “Oh my god, is that a child!” The drunk guy at the lane over goes, “Hey, anybody seen Lil TJ?” Everyone screams. Charlene decides not to have children.

I’m not a parent, but I’ve obviously got lots of good advice for those with children. If you’re going to bring your wee ones to a death trap such as the bowling alley, try and keep an eye on them. My guess is that this was gone for a solid 10 minutes before anyone noticed. He probably made the rounds before ending up inside that machine, and it probably took him a while to get in there once he’d arrived at his destination. And if a kid can get in that thing, God knows what else was floating around in that pool of dusty toys. I actually can’t even think about it. So, the next time you bring the baby to bowl, put a leash or something on him, or expect to be put on Twitter blast.

UPDATE: It seems the child actually went missing from his home? They weren’t even at the bowling alley! I don’t know where to begin.

Unusually Thicke

UT_ShowPage_640x300_PremApr16_v1-2I was walking home when I saw Dr. Jason Seaver staring at me from atop a taxicab. Oh, I was pleased. TV dads and in-your-face advertising are two of my favorite things. But then I read the text above Dr. Seaver’s (aka Robin Thicke’s dad) head and nearly got sick on the sidewalk.

Apparently, Alan Thicke has a new reality show called “Unusually Thicke.” Gross, I know. It’s the most disgusting thing I’ve heard all day. The show, like all reality shows, is about nothing, and it airs on TV Guide Network, which I don’t think is real.

Now, the more that entertainment changes, the more I realize how out of tune I am with what people find entertaining (I don’t think I could watch any Housewife for more than 10 minutes without calling my mom to thank for…for everything). But I’m pretty sure my feeling that this show sounds a) super boring and b) very misleading, is shared by many. I mean, Alan Thicke played Dr. Seaver 20+ years ago. Who even cares about him? He’s only famous now because his son is a chart-topping sleaze ball. But Robin Thicke can’t be on every episode of the show. He’s got a lot of sunglasses shopping and strip-clubbing in Miami to do. The elder Thicke better think of a few ways to make this show interesting if he wants a second season on “TV Guide Network.” Below are a few tips, Mr. Thicke:

1. A marriage on the rocks makes for great TV. Consider dating Vivica A. Fox. I’m sure she’d be down, and I bet your son has some connections (maybe don’t tell him what you need her number for…or do. Weak moral fiber makes for a great wingman!).

2. Get a pet. Cat’s are internet-funny, but only when they can play the piano or something. You could have a camera out all day, and a cat might just sit behind the couch staring at the wall. I’d go for a dog if I were you. They’re cute and lovable, and they make big messes that you’ll get really angry about (TV gold!). If you can’t get your hands on a canine, try to find a parrot that can sing “Blurred Lines.” Guarantee there’s one out there.

3. Come home one day with hair extensions that are only like two inches long, just at the ear. This will really confuse and upset your wife, and make things even steamier with Vivica A!

4. Try to learn a new language. Not only will this expand your mind and open up opportunities for you, but it will make for some hilarious (if terribly, terribly offensive) restaurant scenes.

5. Throw a birthday party for Robin. This will undoubtedly be the highest rated episode of the season. Invite Paula, but don’t tell Rob. Also invite the cast of “Growing Pains,” because it’s been FOREVER. Do you have other children? No one cares. Invite them if you want, but make sure those others are there. And have plenty of mixers on hand.

6. Babysit your grandchild. You don’t know anything about kids these days! You’ll probably learn what Molly is. Your grandchild is three.

7. Dump your wife and marry Vivica A. Fox. It’s tough decision, but you know. Ratings. Invite Mary J. Blige to sing “Be Without You” as your bride walks/body rolls down the aisle.

Oh what fun this will be! Will things work out with Viv? Do you secretly like your extensions? Your wife is pregnant! Did Robin come up with the name for your show? Everyone will have to tune in to find out!

Dance Floor Dealer

Last weekend, I went out with some friends. It was nothing compared to the night I wrote about a few months ago (in the cave of young people singing Miley Cyrus). This time, we only went to Franklin Park after having a nice Thai food Shabbat at Heather’s apartment, as we do. She lives directly across the street from FP, and it’s a 10 minute walk home for me, so I figured I may as well do it while I was right there and fulfill my seasonal “going out” quota.

Things were fine at first. The DJ played decent music, and we found a corner where we could pile our coats and dance without making contact with other people. We worked it out. I mean, my friends broke it down. It was a blast. Until something strange happened.

In the middle of some really great Nelly song (which one? so many to choose from!), we all looked at each other. There was a terrible smell in the air, reminiscent of the stink bombs people set off in high school. But this was no stink bomb. This was a fart. We had no qualms about waving our hands in front of our noses, making it clear to whomever had “dealt it” that we did not approve of this behavior. We did not accept it.

We looked around to see who it might be. We were really the only people occupying the corner, aside from some friends chatting in a booth, and a semi-scruffy dude with a drink in his hand. He was jus bobbing along, wasn’t with anyone, didn’t really know what was going on, definitely more suspect than the friendly group in the booth. We were pretty sure it was him. But as I said, the jams were decent, and we were really burning some cals on the d-floor, so we proceeded.

A few minutes later, it happened again, the crippling stench. Still, the only viable culprit seemed to be the dude. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. We decided to relocate to a more congested area. It wasn’t an easy choice. The heart of the dancefloor is typically filled with a number of unfortunate characters: drunk girls who dance confusingly, creepy arm-grabbers, and “fun guys” who like to sing along with the lyrics and dance all crazy. But as a group, we determined it was safer to be in the midst of these folks than to have that guy break wind in our vicinity once more.

Things were alright for a while, but went rapidly downhill. First, the song selections began to decline. Instead of late 90s/early 2000s hip-hop, the DJ began to play the original 70s tunes from which many of the other songs sampled. Unacceptable. I just can’t with the 70s. Then, gassy fellow reappeared next to us, his drink either refilled or still un-sipped. He held it up in front of his chest, as he rocked back in forth. The songs began to creep up from the 70s to the 80s to the 90s. “Everybody Dance Now” came on, and the guy said “Awwwww yeah,” and I just wanted to be home. I think that was literally the only song he recognized. “Everybody Dance Now.” This wasn’t the night it could have been. I leaned into the group of girls (as Sheryl Sandberg would want) and announced that if the guy did the deed again I’d be heading home. Everyone laughed, but I wasn’t kidding. He’d gone too far, and his terrible taste in music angered me even more.

Obviously, he farted immediately thereafter. It was sour, and despicable, and all of us cringed. I threw my hands up in surrender, then flashed the deuces.

“I’m out,” I said, and two others agreed. It was time to go. We went to get our jackets and made our way out the door.

I don’t know what kind of black bean burger or kale salad the fellow had for dinner, but he should have just stayed home. He would have felt a lot better in bed, and he’d have saved us all a lot of strife and heartache. Thanks to that stinker, nobody was dancing now.