(Almost) Better Than Sex and The City

The best thing a girl can do is visit NYC with a girlfriend.  Especially if that girlfriend is Italian and a foodie (which I think might be redundant.)

Ladies – You know how things are…well, different…when we go somewhere with a guy?  We stress more, eat less and obsess about what to wear?  All of that pretty much goes out the window when you’re with a girlfriend, right?  Going with an Italian girlfriend is even better because any pretense of dieting and/or healthy eating is discouraged and will likely be met with instant and merciless mocking.

I arrived at Fashion Plate Barbie’s house with my dust-and-dog-hair-covered duffle bag and my (broken) toiletries bag wearing jeans, a $16.99 red cowl-neck sweater, socks and shoes like these, but less fancy. I would describe myself as frumpy, but that would be too sexy a picture to paint. She was ready to go with a leather-handled suede overnight bag she must have borrowed from Audrey Hepburn. She was wearing a cute pair of denim capris, a black scoop-neck top, a black brocade 3/4-sleeve jacket and a pink and black striped scarf.  Oh, and shoes like these, but more fancy.


We checked into our swanky hotel.  It was a one-bedroom suite that (mercifully) had two bathrooms, a fact that would definitely be appreciated the next morning.

We decided we’d go out for a drink (or three) and grab dinner somewhere.  I changed into my dressy outfit (and by ‘dressy’, I mean a clean sweater and a necklace) and we headed out to a bar around the corner that had a 2-for-1 martini special.

We each had three.

I should probably mention that I am not a drinker.  I never went to college, so I didn’t build up the tolerance most of my friends did.  I also have an acute fear of vomiting and have not done so in 30 years.  My fear of vomiting definitely trumps my desire to act like a drunken fool, so I usually just order a soft drink or maybe nurse a glass of wine.  This is a wonderful deal for my husband, who will have a designated driver for as long as we’re together.  I’m almost certain it makes the short list of reasons we’re still married.

We weren’t sure what we wanted for dinner, but we knew we didn’t want Italian food.  We’re both first-generation American daughters of Italian immigrants, so incredible Italian cuisine is available to us any night of the week.  We discussed heading to SoHo for dinner – maybe some Thai or a good steakhouse or a place called Agave that a Facebook friend had recommended and FPB had coincidentally discovered on a previous trip to the city.  So it was settled.  We were heading to SoHo.

But first I had to pee.

OK, so you know how every drunk is a little different?  Some of us are loud drunks, some of us are angry drunks, some of us are happy drunks?  Turns out I’m a chatty idiot drunk.  I like to know a lot about the people I meet.  I’m not one of those people who’s happy to just discuss the weather.  I’m more interested in how you met your husband or where you went to school or how many kids you have or whether you like your kids.  So, if you’re within a foot of me when I’m stone cold sober, there’s a good chance I’m going to interview you like I’m Barbara Walters. You can only imagine how bad it is when I’m drunk.

As I stood in line for the bathroom, I struck up a conversation with a couple of tourists from Pensacola, Florida and a native New Yorker and proceeded to grill them on what they did that day, what kind of food they had eaten that day, where they were planning to eat that night and where they planned to be in five years (ok, so I didn’t ask that last one…mostly because I ran out of time.)  The New Yorker was being kind enough to make a couple of SoHo restaurant suggestions, when I completely cut her off and said (ok, screamed) Fried chicken and waffles!  I want fried chicken and waffles!

Except it sounded like this:

She politely suggested we try a place called Red Roosters.

A few minutes later, I stumbled back to the bar and announced to FPB, who was ready to head out to SoHo, that we were headed to Harlem instead.

She’s such a good sport.

Rather than try to navigate the subway system from Midtown to Harlem, we decided to hop a cab.  FPB is quite good at cab-hopping, by the way.  Very Carrie Bradshaw.  About $10 later, we were at 125th and Lenox in a very crowded Red Roosters.

Me: I laaak tibul for tooo.
Hostess: It’s a 1.5 hour wait, unless you want to sit at the (packed) bar.
Me: Dssnt luuk good at brrr.  Hngrry.  Neeeed friii chken nnnn waaffff.
Hostess: You should try Amy Ruth’s.  It’s at 116th and Lenox.  You can take the subway to the next stop and you’ll be right there.
Me: Yurr thh niicest grrrl on thhh plaant.

Two stops later, we got off the subway at 110th Street.

Harlem could use more street lights.  Or more businesses.  Or more pedestrians.  It was way quiet on 110th.  A car pulled up like a cab, only it wasn’t a yellow cab.

Driver: Where you headed?
FPB: (sitting in the backseat) Amy Ruth’s…frii chken nnn waafff…116ftth.
Me: (standing at the open door) Issss thsss a caaab?  Thrrss no mmeeeterrr.
FPB: My feee herrrt.  Geh innn.
Driver: Yeah, see the sticker on the window?  It’s cool.
Me: Amy Rooooth’s, plllssss.

Amazing how sore feet, alcohol and the promise of fried chicken and waffles will cause a woman to set aside everything she knows about safety and trust a stranger because he has a STICKER on his window.  Oy.

Fortunately, the semi-legitimate cab driver was not nefarious.  Nor was he cheap – $5 (plus tip) later we were at Amy Ruth’s.  Or, as I like to call it…Heaven.

I highly recommend you get drunk, head on up to Amy Ruth’s in Harlem and order the following:

The Al Sharpton (no joke – it’s fried chicken on a Belgian waffle – they offered white or dark meat, we chose dark but I’ll bet the white meat would have been just as delicious – be sure to slathered it in hot sauce and syrup)

Collard Greens (smoky deliciousness)

Potato Salad (perfection)

Candied Yams (dessert disguised as a vegetable)

Macaroni and Cheese (the best I’ve ever had IN MY LIFE, and I’m a mac & cheese connoisseur)

We ate without speaking, other than the occasional ‘aaahhh maaaah gaaaaad’ and ‘soooo muuuchhh bettttrrr than SooooHo’.  Given the choice of a night with George Clooney or a repeat of that meal…well, I’d take George Clooney, of course, but I’d be thinking about every decadent morsel of that meal.

We walked out of that restaurant knowing that we had experienced a meal like no other; a meal we would one day describe to our grandchildren.

About $10 later, we were back at the hotel watching the end of Celebrity Apprentice (which made our Donald Trump, Jr. sighting the next day all the more interesting.)

About 10 hours later, I was rethinking the wisdom of slathering quite so much hot sauce and syrup on my waffles and thanking the hotel gods for separate bathrooms.


I’m headed to NYC with a dear friend of mine tomorrow.  I’ll just refer to her as Fashion Plate Barbie.  She’s one of those women who always looks beautifully put-together – cute dresses, shoes and accessories, regardless of where she is.  Like the ladies in the soap operas.

Seriously, why are those soap opera ladies always dressed up?  Nikki Newman on the Young and the Restless is a homemaker, for shit’s sake. Why is she wearing cocktail dresses and dripping in diamonds in the middle of the day??

Anyway, back to Fashion Plate Barbie – sometimes she even wears really cool head scarves that make her look 60’s-style mod.  I am in awe of her sense of style.

And then there’s me.

I’m more like Barbie’s sexless little sister, Skipper.  My uniform is jeans and a sweater.  (I was planning to wear sneakers to the city because the last time we went, I wore what I thought were ‘comfortable’ shoes – clogs with a low heel – and I wanted to amputate my feet with a butter knife by the end of the day.) I always feel a little under-dressed when I’m with her, but we always have a good time together.  As much as I’m looking forward to spending time with her, I’m terrified that she’s going to want to go out on the town while we’re there for I lack the wardrobe, the shoes and (most importantly) the gumption for that.

Oh, I forgot to mention that we’re spending the night.  How cool is that?? We’re staying at someplace called the Manhattan Club.  She told me that one of her clients told her she could have it for a weekend.  She must be the best realtor EVER!  When she told me we were staying there I was all ‘oh, how nice!’ because a free stay is a free stay, but I didn’t know anything about it.  Turns out it’s pretty swanky.  Rethinking the sneakers.

Unfortunately, I’m rocking some pretty serious PMS right now.  It shouldn’t be a problem, though, because my husband won’t be there to annoy me by doing things like vacuuming the counter when I’ve asked him to help me clean the house.

Honest to God.

We had a contractor scheduled to come to the house this morning to give us an estimate on some work we’re planning to have done.  Jack was kind enough to volunteer to help me clean up the filth before he was scheduled to arrive.  And by ‘volunteer to help me clean up’, I mean ‘not whine like a little girl when I asked him to help me clean up’.

I appreciate Jack’s help around the house.  I really do.  It’s just that sometimes he has difficulty with prioritization.  For instance, early in our marriage he was a shift worker.  On his days off, I’d give him a to-do list.  If we’re being honest, it was more of a wish list.  If we’re being brutally honest, it was more of a list of things I would be angry about when I got home.  This is how it went:


Unload dishwasher

Reload Dishwasher

Clean sink

Wipe down counters

Sweep kitchen floor

Ten hours later, I’d come home and find the dishwasher full of clean dishes, the sink full of dirty dishes, crumbs and other food particles all over the counters and muddy floors. Meanwhile, the junk drawer would be cleaned out, the silverware drawer would be completely reorganized and the pantry would be alphabetized.

And my head would explode.

Today, I asked him to vacuum while I dusted and he accidentally vacuumed the furniture polish I had just sprayed on the kitchen table.  Seriously.  He apologized and told me he had just vacuumed the kitchen counters and had gotten carried away.  Deep breath.

About 10 minutes before the contractor was scheduled to arrive, I was running around like a maniac trying to hide dirty laundry and straighten up the bathroom.  When I was in the bathroom, I noticed that the floor needed to be vacuumed, but I couldn’t find the vacuum cleaner…because Jack had decided it was necessary to completely dismantle it so he could clean each piece and wash the filter.  True story.

Sometimes I think the makers of Midol have hired him on the sly to test the limits of their product.  I’m pretty sure he’s telling them they need to develop bionic-strength formula, stat.   I’m also guessing he’s even more excited about my trip than I am.

Dancing In The Dark

I keep seeing my friends post Facebook updates about Zumba.  I’ve never been to a Zumba class and am not even sure exactly what’s involved other than a great deal of movement set to music, but I already know I wouldn’t enjoy it.

‘No,’ they say, ‘Zumba’s soooo much fun!’

Well, yes.  Perhaps it is…for normal people.  I, however, am not normal for I cannot be choreographed.  At all.  No, seriously.  You know the Electric Slide?  The one that children and 97-year old women jump up and dance to at weddings?  Yeah.  I can’t do it.  I usually sit at the table watching in awe as though I’m witnessing the most intricate tango ever danced.  A tear trickles down my face, like that poor Indian in that pollution commercial from the 70s (yeah, I know…Native American…but they were still ‘Indians’ back then) – not because I’m sad, but because I’m humiliated.  It’s such a simple dance, but it might as well be an Irish river dance as far as my abilities are concerned.

It’s not that I can’t dance at all.  I can bust a move if I’m dancing freestyle…at home.  Sometimes I bring my laptop into the kitchen when I’m making dinner and play the ‘walking mix’ from my iTunes library —

Shut up.  I could start walking again.  It could happen.

— and somehow convince myself that I am Beyonce.  I’ve even attempted her Bootylicious move, but a sharp pain that shot from my hip, through my spine and straight to my temple put an end to that nonsense in about three seconds.  Pretty sure it was the Baby Jesus telling me to stop kidding myself.  It would be bad enough if I limited my performance to just her dance moves, but no…no…I become her musically as well.  I’m not sure which one is more offensive.

That’s a lie.

It’s close, but seriously?  How does she hit those notes??  Have you ever attempted to sing Irreplaceable?  I’m pretty much limited (or I should be) to the ‘to the left, to the left’ part.  Except that I literally don’t know my left from my right, so I’m usually pointing to the right when I’m singing that part.  Ugh.

I really need to invest in some window treatments for the kitchen…or at least turn off the lights.

High Quality Service

I was a waitress when waitresses were still called waitresses.  Now they’re ‘servers’, which sounds so much more demeaning to me.  I guess the Council of Offensive Words (COW) decided that specifying the gender of the person who brings the food might somehow denigrate their individualism.  Asshats.  I hate COW for making me have to think before I speak.

The other agenda items at that particular council meeting were:

– No longer allowing people to refer to stupid wardrobe choices, statements and/or decisions as ‘gay’

– No longer allowing people to refer to stupid wardrobe choices, statements, decisions, themselves and/or their husbands as ‘retarded’ (this one was particularly difficult for me because ‘developmentally-disabled’ simply doesn’t roll off the tongue in an argument)

– Deciding whether those who still refer to African-Americans as ‘black’ should feel uncomfortable doing so (tabled until the next meeting)

Unlike most of my co-workers (most notably, my husband,) I really enjoyed waiting tables.  I wasn’t tethered to a desk, my schedule was flexible, I got to meet all kinds of people and I was surrounded by free food.  Plus, I didn’t have to go to an ATM for four years.

I was dirt poor, had no benefits and was exhausted all the time, but I had fun!

My waitressing job made me a much better tipper – I even established a Minimum Tip Requirement (MTR) of $5.00 or 20%, whichever is higher, even if I’m alone and the check is only $8.95.

My waitressing job also made me much more demanding of good service.  Maybe a little too demanding.  I expect to be greeted within a minute or two of being seated:

Jack: What’s wrong?
: Nothing.
: You look pissed.
: Seriously?? We’ve been sitting here forever! Are we wearing some kind of cloaking device?!?!  Do they not realize how competitive the restaurant industry is??  This is complete BULLSHIT!  I’m about to get up and leave!
: It’s only been three minutes.

I know.  Completely unreasonable.

I want my servers (cringe) to be pleasant, but not overbearing.  I want them to be available and attentive, but not stalker-style (we worked with a woman who would sometimes linger way too long or even – gasp! – sit at the table for a few minutes.)  Most of all, I never want to see empty glasses.

Yeah, I know.  Hot, spit-free food should be a priority, but I really hate when someone’s drink runs dry.  No excuse for that.

Smart business owners would be wise to scout salespeople at local restaurants. Good waitresses would make great salespeople.  Think about it – they make a living by working hard and schmoozing.  Not to mention, they know the value of good customer service.

I once went out to breakfast and practically begged my waitress to go to real estate school.  Her name was Tawny.  She was about 24 years old.  Single mother.  I’m pretty sure her mother was a Whitesnake fan.

This morning we went to Cracker Barrel for breakfast.  Our waitress would have made a terrible realtor.  I love Cracker Barrel, though.  The little store has so much crazy inventory to soak in that I’m actually disappointed when our table is ready.  They have everything from clothing to stoneware to candy to toys.  I once bought a friend a joint for Christmas and picked up bendable Gumby and Pokey dolls at Cracker Barrel so he could play with them when he got high.

Don’t judge me.

I don’t smoke pot.  I know a lot of people who smoke pot regularly and swear by it.  I envy them.  I can’t smoke it because it doesn’t have the same effect on me as it does on the rest of the population.

Back when I was a waitress, I was scheduled for a split shift (10-2 then 4-close).  During the down time, one of the pothead bartenders showed up to pick up his paycheck.  He told me that he and his friend were going to smoke some weed and asked me if I’d like to join them.


I had only smoked pot one time before and it made me kind of sleepy.  Or maybe I was doing it wrong and it was just a long day.  Either way, it didn’t turn me off to the idea.

We went out to his car and proceeded to smoke three bowls.

Oh. Dear. God.

I remember going back into the restaurant, sitting at a little booth in the back of the bar, putting my hands on the table and watching them melt.  My tongue tripled in size, my lips were numb and my heart was racing.  I had never been more thirsty in my entire life, but I was afraid to drink anything because I couldn’t feel my lips.  All I could think about was the headline proclaiming ‘Retarded Waitress Dies of Pot Overdose’ (‘retarded’ was still ok back then).  My poor parents!  They would think I had been a drug addict all along!

Mercifully, Jack showed up early for his shift.  I told him I was too high to work the rest of my shift and asked him to tell the manager and drive me home immediately.

Me: Blllthhome.  Pthhhdrive.  Fthhhhcan’t.
: OK, I’ll let him know.  Get in the car.

The drive home was like a scene out of The Shining.  The road kept getting longer and longer.  I’m pretty sure those creepy twin girls were there.   I thought we were driving over a bridge, but it was just Main Street.  I got so freaked out, I had to recline the seat and go to my happy place.

Jack was laughing at me and blathering on about how it would wear off and I would be fine.  I was not amused.  Nor did I believe him.

A few years later, I tried it one more time just to see if there was a problem with that particular batch.  Nope.  Same thing happened, only on a much smaller, less dramatic scale because I smoked way less and had the good sense to not be at work.

Never again.  Unless, of course, the recipe has changed…

Guide To A Happy (or at least tolerable) Relationship

Jack: I’m going to read a romance novel.
Me: Why?
Jack: So I’ll understand what you want.
Me: Romance?  You think I want romance?  Puh.  Maybe if my time machine could take us back to 1985.

It took about eight years of marital misery before I figured out the male psyche.  Then I immediately felt stupid for having been so clueless about something so simple.  The minute I figured it out and adapted myself to it, our marriage clicked.  Like a born-again Christian wanting – needing – to spread the word to the unenlightened, I find myself compelled to impart my wisdom upon you…

Step One: Wake Up
Ladies – We should file a class-action lawsuit against Disney.  He is not a prince. He is not dreaming about you instead of ruling the kingdom. His kiss will not awake you from your slumber.  In fact, he’s going to tip-toe by you while you sleep because he knows he’s screwed something up and there will be hell to pay when you wake up.
Guys – You should file a class-action lawsuit against Hugh Hefner and Larry Flint.  She doesn’t look or think like that.  Her turn-ons are a guy who’s gainfully employed and won’t care (or notice) that she owns 30 pairs of shoes. Her idea of a good time is not rubbing you down with oil and making sweet love all night.  Her fantasy is not walking in on you with another woman and joining in.  Her idea of a good time is reading a good book or taking a nap in peace.  Her fantasy is you and the kids cleaning the house while she reads a good book or takes a nap in peace.  She is not fantasizing about your penis.  Ever.

Step Two: Understand And Embrace Reality
Ladies – Boys want three things – physical contact, tranquility and nourishment.  In that order.  And, let’s be honest, they would take a pass on nourishment if they could get touched and be left in peace.  They assume we want the same things, bless their hearts. Don’t bother writing him a sweet little note about how much you love him; in the unlikely event that he actually reads it, it will only confuse him.  He will either wonder what you’re trying to hide or which of his mistakes you’ve discovered.  Also, a bird flying by the window will make him completely forget the note ever existed.  More importantly, don’t expect him to write you a sweet note.  He’s not wired for that nonsense.  The only note you should expect to receive is ‘please pick up beer and jock itch spray when you go out’.
Guys – Girls want three things – appreciation/kind words, thoughtful gestures and your financial assistance with filling their home and closets with nice things.  Note: grabbing her boobs as she prepares dinner does not count as a ‘thoughtful gesture’.  Instead, tell her that she’s entirely too pretty to be stuck in a kitchen.  Tell her to change her clothes so you can take her out to dinner.  Comment on her pretty outfit.  Do not ask when she bought it/how she paid for it.  Do not comment on her overflowing closets.  Do not question why she needs so much clothing.  While at dinner, mention how much you appreciate having her in your life.  Resist the temptation to roll your eyes when you say it.  Trust that you will be rewarded with physical contact and tranquility.

Step Three: Cut To The Chase
Ladies – Stop expecting him to know what you want or need.  Boys are not complex thinkers.  They are simple creatures with simple needs.  They don’t ponder why things are they way they are or what motivates people to do the things they do.  Know why?  Because they don’t care.  Know what they care about?  Getting laid and being left in peace.  In that order.  They would rather eat glass than figure out what you want or need.  Especially because they know that what you need will inevitably involve them getting yelled at and/or being given a task of some sort.  If you want/need something, tell him.  Use small, easily understood words and don’t ask for more than one thing at a time:

Right way:
Me: Honey, will you please take out the trash?
Jack: Sure.
Me: Thanks for taking out the trash, will you please unload the dishwasher?
Jack: Sure.

Wrong way:
Me: Honey, will you please take out the trash?  When you’re done, unload the dishwasher, put those boxes for Mat in the car and feed the dogs.
Jack: Did you see that bird that just flew by the window?

Guys –  Seriously?  She’s exhausted.  You got up seven minutes before you had to leave, showered, brushed your teeth, got dressed, went to work and came home.  She got up at least an hour before you, ran around like a maniac making sure the house was in order, lunches were made, the kids were up, dressed and fed.  Then she went to work, thought about what to cook for dinner, remembered that she forgot to defrost chicken, rethought an entire meal, finished work, ran to the grocery store to pick up the ingredients for Plan B, rushed home, threw dinner on the stove, and fought with the kids to do their homework.  Standing a foot from her asking her why she’s so cranky may result in a pan-shaped dent in your forehead.  Offer to help her instead.  Do not be insulted when she asks you why you’re being so nice.  Tell her that you know she’s had a long day and you just want to help.  Resist the temptation to roll your eyes when you say it.  Trust that you will be rewarded with physical contact and tranquility.

Step Four: Change Your Mindset
Ladies – Going forward, your motto is ‘Treat them like shit and they’ll stick to you like toilet paper’.  If you want your husband/boyfriend to pay attention to you, behave as though his disappearance would merely cause you to wonder why there’s not as much laundry to do.  The male love for boobies and sex is trumped only by their aversion to drama.  They will lose interest the minute they sense insecurity in a woman.  Someone once said you cannot love another until you learn to love yourself.  I say you will not find love until you stop giving a shit whether or not you find love.
Guys – Going forward, your motto is ‘Happy wife, happy life’.  Just do whatever she asks you to do.  Arguing is futile.  Cooperation will be rewarded.  This is a no-brainer.  If you don’t have a DVR, contact your cable provider and order one immediately.  The ability to pause or record a game will result in much more physical contact, tranquility and nourishment.  It may very well save your relationship.  At the very least, it will make her stop screaming at you. Don’t do it for her; do it for yourself.