More at Lot Less

There is a quaint little shop on the corner of Fulton and Gold Street where dreams come true. That shop is Lot Less. Shopping at Lot Less is a physical, emotional, intellectual, and often sensual experience.

As you walk through the doors, you will come to realize that you are not in Kansas anymore. The first thing you will find (after passing the security guard, who is there for obvious reasons) is a bin filled with whatever the deal of the week is. I call this the Money Bin. As “Please Don’t Stop the Music” by Rihanna pumps through the speakers, eager blue collar folk surround the bin like a pack of rabid wildebeests. Sometimes The Money Bin houses 2 for $5 graphic tees, other times $5 metal clasp pocket books. In any case, there is a deal in there that you can’t pass up and are likely to shed blood for.

To the left of The Money Bin, you will find the cosmetics and toilletries.  Now, some people like to spend loads of money on “quality” cosmetics from Clinique and Lancome, but why when you can get a “Chocolate Decadence” eyeshadow compact at Lot Less for $1.99? Did I mention that the compact includes 4 shades, and it tells you on which part of the eye each color goes? Well it does, so deal with it. There is also an abnormally large Nair section, but we don’t need to get into that.

Lot Less has everything you need to be a street savvy New York woman, including Dereon lingerie. That’s right. Beyonce’s own House of Dereon is available at Lot Less (my guess is that Beyonce has no idea, and will sue once she discovers this information). You want to look like Beyonce in your underwear? Well come on down to Lot Less and get a purple Leopard print bra and panty set. You still won’t look like Beyonce, but at least you have matching underware now!

There is also an impressive recreation section at Lot Less, filled with unpopular board games and computer games like Hamburger Island, in which the player gets stuck on a dessert island and must make hamburgers…obviously.

Which brings me to my favorite Lot Less section: the food region. I don’t understand why people buy food anywhere BUT  Lot Less. Last Saturday I bought a bag of dark chocolate almond Dove’s for 99 cents. They sell 3-pack boxes of popcorn for the same price, similarly priced cracker snacks. Panettone will run you about $2.99, and Quaker instant oatmeal is usually $1.79 a box. They also sell pear halves in heavy syrup, so you can get some produce in too. Additionally, the have great on-the-go meals for around $2.00. They are usually little pasta or couscous dishes that come in a can with a happy looking woman on the front. She has abnormally large hands, probably from the canned couscous, but she’s just so pleasant.

Unfortunately, liquor, prescription drugs, and tobacco products are not yet available for purchase at Lot Less, but it is my belief that things will change within the next few months.

It is my belief that someone could survive only by shopping at Lot Less, and I may be the woman for the job. Sure, I’ll probably develop a life-threatening illness or turn to a life of crime, but I will have saved so much money, and that’s what it’s all about.

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Move About Myrtle

This past Sunday, I had the honor of working everyone’s favorite street fair on behalf of BAM. That’s right: Move About Myrtle. Move About Myrtle, as I’m sure you know, is a street fair along Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn, where there are no vendors selling cool earrings or fried food. Instead, there is me sitting under a tent with Lindsay, talking about our Saturdays for three hours, hoping that no one has a question. There is also either a DJ or an unknown band, depending on when you are there. It is epic.

When I first arrived for my shift, there was a heavyset black woman, smoking a cigarette and doing some subtle robot-like moves near the stage that held the DJ. I knew it was going to be a good day.

Across from our table, there was a larger, circular table, at which sat about 7 black people, 65 and up. They took out paper bags and began to pour what I can only imagine was Andre or Alize into long, slender, plastic champagne flutes. They also had a bag of UTZ potato chips. They were my kind of people.

As the band Fifth Nation kicked it on stage (they were actually quite good), a few of the older people began to get up and dance. There was also a woman in faded denim jeans who joined them, but stayed long after they were gone…really she danced by herself for the entire three hours. As we watched the woman (who was decidedly high) dance, we were caught by surprise. The man who worked at the Halal grocery store on the corner made his way to the street cum dance floor (a phrase that I should know better than to use with you pervos) and began dancing with a watermelon in his arms. I should have called the police then and there, but it was all too good. He looked very happy.

Lindsay and I were pleased to find that there would be a fashion show as a part of the fair. Tre Elegante was the name of the shop hosting the show, and it  proved to be tre elegante, indeed. While the clothes were utterly bizarre for the most part (there were a few pretty great pieces), the show was more about the models and the emcee. The DJ pumped bumping fashion show jams, and there were 4 models. One was a short, round,middle-aged black woman with red rim glasses and finger waves. One was a late teens or early twenties white girl with a bad maroon die job, and presumably a crystal meth addiction. One was a regular woman, who must have been Tre’s cousin. One was  a real model.

The short fat woman killed it. I don’t think anyone could have convinced her that she wasn’t Beyonce, or at least Solange. The look on her face was beyond fierce, and the crowd of drunk old people loved her. The star of the group, Bobby we learned, would stand up and shout, “Gone girl! Work it!” Some of the woman in the group would high five the woman.

The white girl was a hot mess. When she first walked out Lindsay and I looked at each other in sheer terror. Was she high? Had she never walked in heels before? Both? My vote is for both. Each step was a challenge. I’ve never seen someone wobble like that. She also kept doing a strange thing with her face where she would smile, then suddenly not. We’re pretty sure she was tweaking out. Bobby and Friends liked her a lot too.

The other two were unextraordinary. They were boring, and pretty, and not funny.

Now for the emcee. Picture, if you will, a slim black man in a brown turtle neck tucked into black pants, wearing a backwards hat, with one leg propped up onto an awkwardly tall speaker. That was him. Apparently he was the production guy. I was ok with that. The production guy loved fashion. He knew terminology and was very enthusiastic. He clearly had no idea what was happening with any of the pieces, but man could he wing it.

“Nice,” he would say when one of the models would walk out. His general spiel was something like this:

“Ok. Very nice. She is wearing a tangerine short-sleved dress suit with a ruffle collar. And she wears it well. Looks like there is a tail in the back, comes about mid-calf, just above those open toed slingbacks that match just right. Strut, girl! You can see that the color in the dress really pulls out the highlights in her hair. Work it! Very nice. Very nice. She wears it well.”

In the meantime, Bobby and Friends were standing at their table or going up to the “runway” to shout “You go girl!” It was a classy affair.

Some of my favorite emcee moments were “Alright, it looks like a macrame, chiffon number” and “not too sheer, but sheer enough.” He also loved the round woman’s hairstyle, claiming that her finger waves accented every outfit she had on (fun fact: finger waves accent nothing). Once when she came out, he said something along the lines of, “Alright girl! She is wearing a black suit dress with a jacket. It has two buttons in the front…it doesn’t quite button up, but that’s alright. It covers what it needs to, and baby, you got a lot!” I almost had to leave.

The fashion show was full of inexplicably long pauses, during which the dancing high woman would end up being the center of attention. At one point she put up two birds and looked very upset. We all got pretty nervous. She began to walk up to the models as they walked down the concrete runway. Then she just started dancing again. No one was hurt.

Things also got out of control as children began to make their way to the DJ stage, and the emcee said, “Children, please get down from the stage. Please remove your children from the stage.”

After the fashion show, Bobby came over to talk to us. He kind of kept gyrating his hips as he explained to us that he was about to turn 71. He couldn’t stop smiling, and he spit a little as he spoke. I don’t know exactly what he was trying to convey, but it was something about not worrying anything “politicalwise,” “professionalwise,” or “anything-wise.” I would have taken his advice had I understood what he meant. In any case, he looked like he was having fun, and he danced with all of the ladies at his table (one came up to grab him away from us, like she was jealous).

All in all, Move About Myrtle was more fun than I could have imagined. I would do it again if I could guarantee that all of the same people would be in attendance…and I think they will.

Apple Surprise!

I found myself eating apple pie at 10:30 this morning, wondering where I’d gone wrong. But what was I supposed to do? My boss brought in a miniature apple pie and sent out an email letting us all know of its whereabouts. Believe me, I tried to work. Write the press release, Lauren, I said. Read the article. Still, all I could think about was the baby pie sitting, untouched, just steps from my desk. There I sat with my hot cup of coffee, optionless. After all, am I not human? Doth my heart not pound in my chest like the drum of a warrior at the thought of a freshly baked pie? Yes. It doth. So, I sat there eating breakfast #2, feeling slightly guilty, but pretty confident that it’s what Jesus would have done.

After finishing my slice, I blacked out. JK (but wouldn’t that have been dramatic?). In actuality, I started to wonder why I didn’t eat more apple pie, and if there was some sort of healthy alternative. Then I remembered my most favored college dessert: apple surprise.

This is not a real picture of apple surprise. There are usually not other apples behind apple surprise.

Apple surprise is a delectable dining hall treat made with apples, a little of this, a dash of that, and a whole heap of love. To be fair, I was first introduced to apple surprise by Taiji, a small Japanese fellow, with an affinity for contact improv and toe socks. I don’t remember exactly how he made it, but I took his recipe and made it my own. Now, I am here to share the secret with you:

Apple Surprise

Ingredients:

1 apple (preferably Granny Smith style, definitely not Red Delicious–more like Red Disgusting!)

A wee bit’o butter (or margarine, if you’re on a diet, and let’s be honest…you are)

1 baby small scoop of brown sugar

1 fetus small scoop of white sugar

1 dash of cinnamon

Raisins (golden, if you got ’em)

The nut of your choosing (unless you’re allergic, in which case, get over yourself)

Granola (a half scoop, if at Harris)

1. Cut apple into smally pieces (lose the core, duh)

2. Throw in all that other stuff

3. Microwave for 1 minute

Secret step: Make a wish!

4. Let cool for 1 minute (an amateur will get too excited and shove a piece right in, but that will end in public embarassment and third degree burns)

5. Enjoy! Surprise! It’s so good!

And there you have it. The key to happiness (unless you’re allergic to nuts…you’ll never be happy).

No Money, Mo Problems

Today I dropped a fiver on some crazy breakdancers near the Seaport. Let’s be clear: I am TIGHT with my money, but these guys broke it down. There was spinning, popping, locking, voguing, and so on and so forth. One guy even kicked it up a notch, smoking a cigarette while breaking, then eating the cigarette, then popping it back out between his lips. For some reason I found this to be both astounding and respectable. Additionally, a skinny Indian breaker kept retreating to his backpack for a puff of his Albuterol inhaler. I gotta rep for the asthmatics. Also, they were dancing to the dirty version of “Boom Boom Boom” by the Outhere Brothers, which has deceivingly (and satisfyingly) filthy lyrics (enjoy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WqHQ_wWbG9Y). I would consider those five dollars to have been well spent.

These guys were a nice contrast to the absurd folks I encounter on a daily basis who expect money from strangers. Yesterday, while riding on the downtown 4, I noticed a six foot pile of cans standing on the platform of the Bleecker Street station. As the doors opened, the pile of cans walked onto the train. It was no pile at all, but rather a Can Man. A man covered from head to toe in soda cans. I only knew it was a person, because he had a face (deadpan, like nothing about this situation was strange) and two hands pushing a unicycle. He just stood there on the 4, holding his uni, all covered in cans, while people looked, whispered and laughed.

There is no way to know if this is the Can Man that I saw

I don’t know how long it took him to assemble his suit o’ cans, why he created such a nonsensical ensemble (I’m assuming there is some political symbolism?), how long it took him to put on said ensemble, why he had a unicycle (it seems like the single most inconvenient outfit to wear while using the single most useless mode of transportation), or what he expected anyone to do. I assume he wanted some sort of attention, but I have no idea what sort. Should we have clapped? Stuffed dollar bills into his Pepsi cans? Ignoring him seemed like my best option. Also, it was pretty steamy yesterday, and hot metal cans cannot feel good on bare skin (I imagine he was completely nude beneath his aluminum getup).  This guy clearly did not think it through. I hope he learned his freaking lesson.

I also encountered a fellow last week at the L stop at Union Square. At first I couldn’t tell if he was homeless or a hipster. He smelled pretty ripe. Suddenly, he whipped out the wildest juggling skills I’ve ever encountered. I mean his hands were going willy nilly, balls flying all over the place. He even pulled an apple out of his bag and got that baby up in the mix. At one point he took off his dirty, smelly flip flop, and balanced it on his nose like a seal. Then he went all the way down to the filthy floor and laid on his back with that thing still on his nose. Nice one, I thought, as he made his way back up, floppy still in place. Everyone watched in awe, but not a single person gave him anything. He was impressive, but juggling is a part trick, not a money maker. I suggest this fellow devote his spare time (and it seems he has plenty of it) to learning a more marketable skill, such as smoking while breakdancing.

Each and every day, the streets and subway stations of NYC are stocked with people getting their hustle on. I encourage you, if you feel so compelled, to drop a dollar to those you find worthy. But if someone is simply wearing a stupid outfit, just avoid eye contact and hope for the best.