Sunday, December 19, 2010

who's got a big red cherry nose?

Last night, my son and I stopped for dinner at National Mechanics an hour or so before heading to a concert. National Mechanics is a restaurant and bar in the Old City section of Philadelphia, and one of my son's favorite haunts.

We came inside out of the cold December evening and were greeted by a dark-haired young lady who grabbed a couple of laminated menus and directed us to a table toward the rear of the dining area adjacent to the bar, lively with Happy Hour patrons. As we each perused our menus, a waitress, whom my son knew, politely introduced herself and took our drink orders. She returned with the two glasses and accepted our dinner requests.

My son and I talked as we waited for our meals. I regularly interrupted his train of thought to have him identify various songs playing on the slightly-too-loud piped-in music.

At a point in our conversation, I was distracted by something in my peripheral vision. The dark-haired hostess was having words with a man near the bar. The man, whose back was to me, was wearing an ill-fitting Santa Claus suit. Although they were less than two feet from where I sat, I could not hear their exchange over the ambient music. From the stern expression on the hostess' face, it was apparent she was not pleased. Her jaw worked and her brow knitted as she made her point. The Santa man listened silently and rocked slightly from side to side. Finally, he dropped his shoulders and staggered toward the the door. The hostess, with arms defiantly folded across her chest, watched to confim his exit. As she made her way back to her post by the front door, I tapped her shoulder when she passed within reach.

"Did you just throw Santa out of here?", I asked.

"Santa was in here earlier.," she replied, "He's had enough."

Sunday, December 12, 2010

josh pincus is confessing

I have spent nearly five years expanding my blog with observances of the quirkiness of my surroundings, chronicling the deaths of those once celebrated and now forgotten, stories from my past and, of course, my silly drawings. In that time, I presented my views on religion, both my own and those of which I am not a follower. Because I have often been questioned as the peer-appointed spokesman of the Jewish faith, I have tried to detail the unusual customs and rituals associated with being a member of “The Chosen People”. Well, it’s time for Josh Pincus to come clean.

I grew up in a Jewish household. To me, that meant we didn’t drag a tree into our living room every December, we didn’t dress up in our finest clothes on a late Sunday in April, and we didn’t believe that Jesus was Our Savior… whatever that meant. (Who thought, at six years old, I needed saving?) Despite the majority of my classmates also being Jewish, we weren't denied participation in Christmas card and gift exchanges at school and dyeing Easter eggs every spring. It also didn’t stop me from enjoying another practice associated with my communion wafer-munching friends — the visit to Santa Claus.

I have vivid memories of accompanying my Mom to one of several large department stores in the pre-mall days of the 1960s. The store’s toy department was jammed with all the latest offerings to fulfill a child’s appetite whetted by Saturday morning commercials and the thick Sears Wish Book. Just past the aisles of colorful playthings was an area gaily decorated with twinkling lights and pine garland and speckled with oversized red velvet bows and piles of fake snow. In the center sat a raised platform covered with more fake snow surrounding a great throne on which sat the seasonal fat man himself. Several holly-decked pylons connected by candy-striped rope designated a queue line. Excited children chatted and fidgeted as they waited their turn to greet St. Nick and impart their requests for gifts.
My mom directed me to join the line while she made arrangements with the “elves” operating the huge tripod-supported camera for a photographic record of my encounter with Santa. (Although I’m sure he did, I don’t recall my older brother joining us for these yearly excursions. Obviously, he got wise to this scam at an earlier age than I did.) I patently waited for my chance to tell Santa what I wanted. I knew that we didn’t celebrate Christmas, didn’t have a Christmas tree and especially didn’t have a chimney or fireplace, but I never made the connection. All I knew was: if you wanted presents, this was the guy to ask. A smiling little girl in white tights and a plaid coat climbed down from Santa’s lap and happiliy skipped away. A college-age young lady in full elf uniform waved me in. My moment in the spotlight had arrived. My mom stood by the platform’s exit ramp and beamed. I’d fix that in a few minutes.

The kind-faced Santa looked down at me perched on his red-flocked lap and asked if I had been good this year. My six-year old mind assessed the question. As if any six-year old would fess up, I answered that I not only had I been good, I'd been very good. Then, he asked the most important question, the one I was preparing for. “What would you like for Christmas?”, he smiled. I wrinkled my brow at the “Christmas” reference. Then, I raised my head proudly, cleared my little throat and replied.

“My very own roll of Scotch tape.”

Santa stared, perplexed. “What?” he asked in a puzzled tone. “I want my very own roll of Scotch tape.”, I repeated. (Okay, I thought, the guy’s old. Maybe he didn’t catch me on the first go-round.) Santa looked over my shoulder at my mother. My mother frantically looked around for a place to hide. She glanced back at Santa with a “that-is-not-my-kid-on-your-lap” look on her face. Santa looked at me again and saw the “I-am-not-shittin'-around” look on my face. With disbelief, he stammered as he echoed my request.

“A roll of Scotch tape?”

I confirmed.

“Nothing else?”, he asked, somewhat hopeful.

I stared back at Santa with my own disbelief. “Nope” I said. Why on earth would I want anything else, I thought. I’m talking Scotch tape, my chubby friend! Do you have any idea how much fun I could have with my very own roll of Scotch tape?

The bewildered Santa smiled, nodded, handed me a candy cane and sent me on my way. I joined my mom who was busily trying to hide her embarrassment from the other mothers. “Did you just ask Santa for a roll of Scotch tape?”, she asked.

“Yep. Of my very own.”

Mission accomplished, we continued walking through the store.

(left) Josh Pincus visits with Santa, circa 1967.
(right) JPiC hits the jackpot!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

there's the wind up and there's the pitch

I spent a long weekend at Harrah's Resort in Atlantic City with my family. This is not another account of my wife's affection for gambling. This is a story of racism, once again, rearing its ubiquitous head.

After breakfast, my son and I headed back to our hotel room while my wife spent some time in the casino. (I don't know... maybe she was checking out the carpeting or lighting fixtures for an upcoming home improvement project.) We stood at the bank of six elevators waiting for one to whisk us up to our room on the thirty-second floor. A chime split the air announcing the arrival of an elevator. My son and I filed in. We were followed by a man and woman in their thirties and another couple, I would venture to guess, pushing seventy. The doors shut.

The older man — a short, bent-over fellow — was giving the younger man the "once-over", until he finally cleared his throat and addressed him. "You look like C.C. Sabathia.", he croaked. His thin lips curled back, revealing an obviously false set of equine-like choppers. The object of this observation was a very tall (about six foot-five) black man sporting a New York Yankees baseball cap. He was preoccupied with his cellphone, unaware that the old man's comment was directed at him. So, the elderly gentleman repeated his assertion, this time a little louder — "You look like C.C. Sabathia".

C. C. Sabathia is a Cy Young Award winning, four-time All Star pitcher for the New York Yankees, whose seven-year, $161 million contract is the largest in Major League Baseball history. He is six feet-seven inches tall and weighs 250 pounds. The only thing that our fellow elevator passenger had in common with Mr. Sabathia was he was tall, he was black and he wore a Yankees hat. He was approximately half the girth of the Yankee hurler and didn't remotely resemble him.

The young man smiled uncomfortably and mumbled apologetically to the old man, "Heh, heh... I wish I had his money." Just then, the doors opened and the younger couple exited the car. The older man and his silent wife remained for one more floor, ultimately leaving the elevator occupied by just my son and me. Once we were alone, my son turned to me and, noting my short stature and pointing to my red hair and glasses, said, "Y'know, if that guy in the Yankees hat wasn't here, the old man would have told you that you look like Woody Allen."

Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia

Another story of racism can be found HERE on the josh pincus is crying blog.

we're s-h-o-p-p-i-n-g

Several hours after a full Thanksgiving meal of lentil soup, mashed potatoes, green beans and a huge slice of Tofurky as the crowning jewel, my wife and I set out for a traditional Thanksgiving evening ritual.

At midnight on Thanksgiving, we found ourselves in a queue line for The Disney Store at the Hamilton Mall, just outside of Atlantic City, New Jersey. Two Disney Store employees were monitoring the flow of customers into the store and pacifying the anxious by passing out printed fliers highlighting special limited-time offers. From behind a cloth-tension line barrier, we observed a mall alive with bustling bodies, each laden with many bagged purchases. In front of us were two women busily discussing  their buying strategy and listing the potential recipients of their discounted scores. They also commiserated about the wretched children they left at home and how they toyed with the idea of sleeping in their cars to avoid returning to the afore-mentioned, child-packed abode. Behind us, we overheard several more women having almost the identical conversation. Yet, they were in line, at midnight, on a family holiday, at a store that stocks items targeted to the 2 to 9 year old demographic.

I turned to my wife, a lifelong passionate shopper, and said, "It's midnight. Our son is 23. And we don't even celebrate Christmas. What the fuck are we doing here?"

"Social experiment.", she answered.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Just hangin' round a roadblock

On Thursday, I was sitting in my office and I was distracted. I knew somewhere, 39 floors below me, was a Philadelphia soft pretzel calling my name. I jumped from my desk, hastily put on my gray Phillies hoodie and my denim jacket, darted down the hall and made a determined bee line for the elevator.

Philadelphia soft pretzels are my Kryptonite and the pretzels of my dreams are sold at the Philly Pretzel Factory location just inside Suburban Station, a sprawling network of tiled walkways snaking underneath downtown Philadelphia. Besides offering access to various routes of public transportation, Suburban Station boasts an array of shops and services and fast-food establishments.

In the lobby of my employer's building is a long, steep escalator that deposits riders at an exit, one level below the bustling street. This exit leads to a tributary corridor of the train station. Once though a set of revolving doors, I am just a Dunkin Donuts, two short stairways and a water ice stand away from pretzel pay dirt.

I hurried to the pretzel vendor. From the size of the queue line inside, I was not alone in my cravings of a mid-afternoon pretzel. I spotted a few familiar faces in line. Faces I regularly pass as I make my way from my morning train to my office. Some were permanent residents of the train station, who had managed to scrape together a few coins to trade for a snack (or in the case of some, a long-awaited meal).

I took my place in line behind a man wearing a dirty and frayed jacket. He gripped a loaded plastic bag from Shirt Corner, a mens' clothing store that is thirteen blocks away. From the size and heft of the bag, it obviously did not contain shirts. I inched closer to the counter as each customer's order was filled. The man in front of me placed and received his order. He meticulous traced the surface of his pretzel with complementary mustard squeezed from a plastic bottle. When his doughy baked knot was properly anointed, he exited the store. I gave the counter girl my order, got my pretzels (three and an accompanying Coke Zero — the Number Three Combo) and headed back to work.

When I got to the first small stairway I had to scale, there was the pretzel guy who was in front of me in line — just standing and eating his pretzel. He had not made it very far from the front door of the pretzel store. He was standing equidistant from either wall and dead-center before the stairs, blocking anyone who might be walking in a straight line. Among the "straight-line walkers" who were prohibited from pursuing a direct route were me and hundreds of other people. He was oblivious to the world around him, aware only of the mustard-covered yeasty ambrosia he was apparently enjoying. And he apparently chose the perfect place in which to experience his enjoyment to the fullest. I jockeyed my way around his girth and was followed by a parade of similarly inconvenienced walkers. I glanced back and pretzel guy was still transfixed in his moment of zen, as hunks of pretzel tumbled around in his head.

Monday, November 8, 2010

it's happy hour again

Last week, my place of employment invited everyone in the Philadelphia office to a "happy hour" as a show of appreciation. Since most "social" programs have been cut as a result of the recent downturn of the economy, a small gathering like this was welcomed by the employees.

At four o'clock last Wednesday, a full-coverage email went out encouraging everyone to take some time out of their day to congregate in the office library for light fare and alcoholic and non-alcoholic refreshment. I joined some of my department co-workers and queued up for the free eats.

The company was kind enough to recruit a caterer to furnish an array of hot and cold appetizers, some displayed in large metal chafing dishes. I am a vegetarian, so I am constantly scrutinizing all edible offerings placed before me. Since the serving vessels were not labeled, I stuck with the things I recognized, although some of the mystery foods did look good. So, I scooped up a couple of  slices of bruschetta and went over to some of my co-workers.

As we made small talk and happily munched from our individual plates, I directed my friend Kym's attention to the buffet table, specifically to a plate piled high with small pie crusts stuffed with a thick and creamy, green-flecked filling. Just past the pies was a mutli-tiered plate laden with thinly-sliced celery and carrot sticks and ceramic crock of dip. Pointing to the pies, I asked Kym if she knew what they were. She raised her eyes, extended her finger, and, with a deadpan expression across her face, she confirmed, "That? Right there? Those are carrots."

I looked at Kym. "Do you really think I can't identify a carrot?"

I ate the bruschetta until it was time to go home.

come in here dear boy

This past Friday, my wife and I indulged in one of my favorite double-features. Based on her (rampant? excessive? extravagant? .... let's say "passionate") gambling, we were awarded free buffet and free tickets to bad-boy magicians Penn and Teller at Harrah's Casino in Atlantic City. After stuffing ourselves like Thanksgiving turkeys, we enjoyed a stellar performance by the celebrated illusionist duo. Upon exiting the showroom, my wife headed to the casino for a few hours of pressing a button on a slot machine while it eats dollar after precious dollar of our hard-earned income. I dislike gambling. Not because of any sort of moral issue. I just find it boring. My wife, however loves it. And since I enjoy spending time with my wife, I feed an inordinate amount of cash into one of those machines, too.

Saturday evening brought us to our second casino in as many days. Even though Philadelphia legalized casino gambling in 2004, after much debate and protest, Sugar House Casino opened its doors just this past May, making it the first casino within the city limits. My son was attending a concert at a venue two blocks from Sugar House Casino. He asked for a ride home after the show, and since he does not drive, my wife and I obliged his request, knowing that we could kill some time at the casino. Fishtown, as you may imagine, isn't an upscale Philadelphia neighborhood, as, say Society Hill or Rittenhouse Square. The name being the first indication. The building that houses the casino is big and bright and flashy and totally out-of-place in the dingy, blue-collar community.

We parked and walked through the parking lot (past a sign warning against leaving your children in your car — a chronic problem in Philadelphia area casinos, thank you) to the main building. Upon entering we were surrounded by flashing lights and the mechanized "cha-ching" of coins (coins no longer fall from slot machines, only bar-coded paper vouchers). My wife settled at one of her favorite themed machines while I wandered for a bit. I sat down in front of a slot machine in the large No Smoking area. After a few minutes, I caught a whiff of the unmistakable and nauseating smell of cigar. I looked around and spotted the source of the stench. Over at a nearby craps table stood a man with slick helmet of coiffed black hair. He was wearing a classic tuxedo and, in his hand, he held a fat, long, black salami-like cigar — it's far end smoldering and erupting in thick, gray smoke. He rolled the stogie lovingly between his stubby fingers and, with his other hand,  cradled the waist of a trampy-looking trollop, who was over-dressed in a sequined mini.

I marvelled at this prick as I reminded myself that I was in Fishtown — fucking Fishtown —  and not on the set of a Martin Scorsese film. "Who the fuck dresses like that?", I thought. This guy reinforced my belief that anyone under the age of sixty that smokes cigars is a douchebag. Cigars are things our grandfathers smoked. Old men on a park bench, with no pleasure left in their life, smoke cigars. Bookies and gangsters in 1940s movies with Edward G. Robinson and George Raft smoke cigars. Forty-year old guys do not smoke cigars unless they are in a casino in Fishtown trying to impress themselves and the bimbo they're trying to charm into the sack.

He may as well have had a neon sign over his head that flashed "Asshole" in glowing red letters.

...and my wife does not have a gambling problem, goddammit!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

on a clear day you can see forever

I took this photo of the Disney Studios in Burbank, California on Saturday, October 23. This view, from high in the Hollywood Hills, can only be seen from one place.

Wanna know where I was when I snapped it?

Click HERE and find out. 

where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies

I'm gonna plead ignorance here. I did some research, but it only turned up bits and pieces and not a full explanation.

For some time now, I've seen these guys selling pies. I don't know if it is purely a Philadelphia phenomenon or if it exists in other cities. I've spotted them in several places, but mostly on the median strip in the middle of bustling Broad Street and Windrim Avenue and sometimes at the foot of the escalator off of 15th Street at the entrance to the Market-Frankford subway line and Suburban Station.

They pace the street, facing oncoming traffic, waving a shrink-wrapped pie in the air, silently offering it for sale. They don't call "Pies for sale!" or anything like that. They just pace and wave. Wave and pace.

The pies look vaguely homemade, with golden crusts and golden-brown filling, not unlike pumpkin or sweet potato. The salesmen are all African-American and their appearance is reminiscent of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. They vary in age from early thirties down to barely seven or eight. Though not in uniform, per se, they all dress similar, as though they are following a dress code, sort of like Target employees. Solid color ill-fitting suit with pants that are too short to cover their white socks. Shined, two-tone shoes. White shirts adorned with a tiny red bow tie clamped tightly at the neck.

I don't know if they represent a particular group or movement or religion. I don't know the significance of their appearance. I don't know what the sale of the pies supports. And I don't know how the pies taste, but they sure look good.

Who are they and have they made it to your town yet?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

a painting from my past

I did this painting in art school in 1981. I never felt I was much good at painting and I gave the original to my friend Sam, one of my biggest fans and supporters of my work.

Despite Sam's regular change of address,we remained friends over the years, even though there were many times that we lost touch.

Sam found my painting and sent a scan of it to me in 2007. Of course, I had long forgotten about it.

HERE is a link to a story I wrote about my friend Sam back in March 2010. I wish he could have read it.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

streets of fire (and brimstone)

Why are Christians so concerned with non-Christians' current convictions and afterlife fate? And why do they need to spread the teachings of their scripture to followers of other scripture and convince them that theirs is better? Proselytizing is a predominately Christian phenomenon and I just don't get it. (According to the sage source Wikipedia, the groups noted for their extensive proselytism include Anglicans, Episcopalians, Born-Again Christians, Jehovah's Witnesses, Jews for Jesus [affectionately called Christians among Jews], Roman Catholics, Southern Baptists, Mormons and Seventh Day Adventists — all Christian-based sects. It should be noted that Jews do not actively seek converts, as we are not completely happy with all of the members of our current natural roster.)

Guerrilla preaching is everywhere. I've gotten crucifix-emblazoned pamphlets proclaiming my inevitable trip to Hell handed to me in the train station. I've had leaflets — warning the grim consequences if I don't accept Jesus as my one true savior — waiting for me under the windshield wiper of my car at a mall. And if you live in or nearby a large city, you'll see that a bustling street corner is the perfect pulpit for preaching "The Word" according to.... whoever.

Street corner religion is most intriguing. There's a guy I pass most mornings in Philadelphia's busy Suburban Station on my two-block walk to work. For the most part, he is dirty and disheveled, save for a Philadelphia Phillies cap proudly perched on his matted hair. He is dressed in torn sweats and a windbreaker that has seen better days. He offers passers-by small, black & white circulars of a religious nature. He mutters an unintelligible speech punctuated with a random shout of "Jesus" after every third or fourth word. During baseball season, when the Phillies were suffering through an extended slump, I figured his Lord had better things to attend to and was ignoring his loyal service.

I am fascinated by another single prophet addressing his permanent al fresco congregation at the corner of 16th and Market Streets, a weathered volume of (possibly) scripture in hand, screaming his own interpretation to anyone within earshot. On various occasions, I have heard snippets of his doctrine to include advice on how to raise children, dealing with unconfessed sins, following Jesus' predestination for working as a stockbroker or at McDonald's, and the Blessed Virgin Mother offering transportation service to the airport. A co-worker tells me that he sputters out the word "lesbian" whenever she crosses his path on her way home.

I'm not much for religion. Most of it makes no sense to me. And when you have a guy like this as your spokesperson, I'm gonna need a little more convincing that this is the pathway to salvation. Although, I may take Mary up on that ride to the airport.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

and like a good neighbor

Look, just because my house happens to be next to your house doesn't automatically make you my friend.

After two years of marriage, my wife and I moved from a rented apartment in northeast Philadelphia to a three-story, six bedroom twin home (it's tall and narrow, before you get too impressed) just outside the city limits. A fire wall separated us from our connected neighbors. Occasionally, we heard muffled voices through the walls and once in a while there would be an odd "cooking" aroma, but I'm sure they had similar complaints about us after our son was born within our first year.

The neighbor we saw most often was just across our side-by-side driveways. She was a single mother of two boys. My family's relationship with her family was a friendly "hello" if we passed each other on the driveway. Sometimes I would have to remind her boys not to ride their bikes across my lawn. They apologized. Once, she sternly requested that I not mow my grass at 8 AM on Sunday morning. I apologized.

And then she moved.

A couple, slightly older than my wife and I, with a small child moved in to the vacant home. He was a spaced-out hippie holdover. Harmless but clueless. Their boy was a quiet and unusual child who rarely spoke and took to instant idolization of my son (much to his dismay). She was... was... a... um... total whack-job. She was very, very vocal about how her old neighborhood was wonderful and how this neighborhood was unfriendly. Could it possibly be you, I wondered. I had an immediate dislike for her.

Soon, they got a dog. A big hound that soulfully howled twenty-four hours a day. The loud howling was coupled with her loud yelling trying to quiet the animal. In the early morning hours, she would stand on her driveway (which is directly under our bedroom window) and scream at her son's protests over going to school.

The couple divorced. He moved out and things got worse. She got another dog. A small thing with a high-pitched "yip" that created cacophony when blended with the other mutt's wailing. She clamors about on her driveway at 5 AM, sorting her glass recyclables and loudly singing an off-key medley of show tunes for her own amusement. Then, she erected a basketball backboard at the top of her driveway, so her ridiculously uncoordinated son could rebound a basketball off our car every time he missed a shot (which was quite often). Then, she took in a boarder who, we later discovered, was a recovering drug addict that had fallen off the wagon. Two weeks ago, he broke into my car and stole my ashtray filled with pennies (about forty cents), then disappeared.* I am constantly picking her blown-over trash cans off my driveway, along with the trash remnants that accompany them. I regularly find empty bottles and food containers (from brands I do not use) in my yard. She installed motion-activated spotlights on the side of her house that are aimed at my house. She extended her driveway over the property line and spilled mud and debris onto my driveway during the concrete-mixing stage of the construction.

This morning, I was awakened by the sound of her crying and screaming loudly on her driveway. In my darkened bedroom, and without the aid of my glasses, I squinted at my alarm clock. It was 6 AM. "What the fuck is she doing now?" my wife whispered in the dark.

We've been asking that question for years.

* It cost me $75.00 to replace the ashtray, and I don't even smoke!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

day by day

Okay, so yesterday I was sitting in the waiting room of a doctor's office. There were a few other people — three men and a woman — each seated in a plain brown armchair, some thumbing through magazines, one reading a newspaper. I was the only person in the room who was under the age of seventy. One man and the woman were having an inane and pointless conversation about the availability of Phillies playoff tickets. Each offered incorrect information to the other about how they understood tickets to have been distributed. I was about twenty minutes early for my appointment, so I knew my name would not be called any time soon.

Suddenly, the door creaked open and another potential patient joined us in the waiting room. This man, a hulking figure with a shaved head, dark and weathered sport coat and ragged Dockers, lumbered to the reception area, his heavy shoes crushing the carpet with each step. To confirm his appointment, he announced his name to the woman at the desk. Silently, she scanned the appointment sheet. She gave it the once-over again. She studied it a third time, this time she used her extended index finger as a guide, running it over each and every entry on the sheet. She glanced up at the man.

"Are you sure your appointment is today?," she asked.

"Uh, I think so," he answered, shrugging his slumping, though massive, shoulders.

She scrutinized the list again, this time more slowly and meticulously than her three previous attempts. She briefly conferred with another younger woman in hospital scrubs seated at another desk.

"Could your appointment have been yesterday?," she asked.

"I dunno. I thought it was today., " the man muttered, the words slurring together, barely intelligible.

The receptionist politely offered a solution. "I can make an appointment for you right now, if you like. Maybe for later this afternoon. Would that be okay?"

"That'll be alright," he accepted.

The young woman in scrubs interrupted. "Here it is!," she said. She directed her speech to the man.

"Tomorrow!," she said, "Your appointment is this time tomorrow!"

"Okay," he said, "I'll come back tomorrow." He turned and headed towards the exit, almost knocking over a frail older man who had entered during this exchange.

My name was called and I was directed out of the Twilight Zone and into the first consultation room on the left.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

this day in history

History was made today in Philadelphia. If you are not a baseball fan, this will mean nothing to you, so you might as well just stop reading now. I am a baseball fan, so I will continue...

Today, Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Roy Halladay became the first pitcher in the history of Major League Baseball to pitch a perfect game in the regular season and a no-hitter in the post-season, both in the same season. Halladay is a soft-spoken, reserved thirty-three year old who goes out to the pitchers mound every fifth game and quietly does his job without pretense. When Halladay is "on", he can send chills down your spine.

I understand that he didn't cure cancer, or feed the hungry or bring world peace. His feat is pretty insignificant in the scheme of the universe. I know he's just a guy throwing a stitched leather ball in a game that eight-year-olds play. But in the eyes of baseball fans in Philadelphia, Roy Halladay represents a hope that has eluded them for way too long.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

losing my religion

I see my friend Randi at the train station a few times a week since she and her family moved into the neighborhood. Coincidentally, we work in the same office building.

This morning, the train schedules were way off because when I arrived at the station at my regular time, the platform was packed with five times the usual amount of waiting passengers. A few minutes later, a visibly annoyed Randi stood by my side. She informed me that she had already been at the station earlier in the morning, waiting for a train that never arrived. She told me that several trains had zipped by with no intention of stopping. Off on the distant track, a train approached and we had this brief exchange...

R: "I hope this train stops. Please God."
The train wooshes by, leaving mussed hair and rattling newspapers in its wake.
JPiC: "It didn't stop. There is no God."
JPiC: "You just said 'Please God' and the train didn't stop. Your God has forsaken you."
R: "That's because of the jerks at SEPTA! (the region's mass transit company)"
JPiC: "The train goes by and it's SEPTA's fault. But, had the train stopped, would it have meant that God had answered your prayers?"
R: "Shut up."

Saturday, September 11, 2010

the greatest american hero

I collect autographed photos of celebrities. Before you get all impressed, I specifically focus on celebrities of the, shall we say, "washed-up" variety. For nearly twenty years, I have attended various sizes of so-called collector shows, where dealers gather at a contracted hotel conference room and display their treasured wares for curious hunters and collectors of post-war pop culture. In the more recent days of post-eBay, many of these regular shows have disappeared. The few that remain have had to resort to extremes to make attending more appealing to potential patrons. A few shrewd show organizers began touting appearances by actors whose careers had waned in the eyes of a fickle public. These performers swallow their pride and sit in an area separate from the vendors behind a folding table stockpiled with 8 x 10 glossy photos of themselves at the pinnacle of their popularity and others from lesser, sometimes unfamiliar, productions made when their demand was on the decline. For a reasonable fee (that has lopsidedly escalated over the years), a fan can awkwardly reminisce with a childhood idol and walk away with a personalized souvenir of the encounter.

I have well over one hundred photographs in a collection that boasts the likes of such luminaries as Lisa Loring (Wednesday from the TV series The Addams Family), Larry Mathews (Ritchie Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show) and the lovely Erin Murphy (little Tabitha from Bewitched). Most of the celebrities are pleasant and cordial with a few being extra friendly and engaging. Some are totally devoid of personality. While others are are downright assholes, behaving as though this whole scenario is beneath them and Hollywood will be knocking on their door any minute after a thirty-five year absence.

One show, in particular, that I attend regularly is the twice-yearly Monster Mania in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. I look forward to this show for several reasons. I get to see my friends and fellow artists Matt and Will and we have a blast marvelling at the plethora of horror-related memorabilia on display. But, this show is also one of the few remaining shows to offer face-to-face time with forgotten stars of recent and not-so-recent filmed entertainment.

Usually Monster Mania advertises one celebrity appearance that is "the deal breaker" and this year was no exception. Upon reading the list of scheduled guests, I, along with my son E., Matt and Will, were absolutely psyched to meet the one and only William Katt, star of Carrie and, most importantly, The Greatest American Hero, the single greatest television program since Paul Nipkow began messing around with the transmission of moving pictures in 1884. (Maybe.)

We entered one of two conference rooms whose walls were lined with tables at which celebrities of varying levels of fame were seated. Some were conversing with fans while others, gathering no interest in their presence, stared off into space. Standing adjacent to a table at which L.A. Law star Corbin Bernsen entertained questions from a young couple, was Mr. William Katt, busily covering up his stacks of photos with a dark tablecloth. My friends and I approached Mr. Katt and asked if he was leaving for the day. He replied in the negative, explaining that he was scheduled to participate in a "Q & A" session for the next hour. He thanked us for stopping by and sincerely requested that we return in sixty minutes. We, of course, obliged.

We killed time perusing the dealer room, gawking at some of the other celebrities (like Eric Roberts and wacko deluxe Gary Busey) and catching up with the events in each other's lives (Will informed me he had lost his job the day before). The hour had flown by and we headed back to seriously commune with Carrie White's prom date. Sure enough, there was William Katt, now uncovering the photographic chronicle of his career. He was moving rather like he was in slow motion, but we thought nothing of it. I got in line behind a guy who already gripped an accumulation of pictures in his hand. My son stood next to me while Matt and Will queued up behind us. When our turn arrived, I approached the table where a droopy-eyed William Katt sat motionless behind. I told him I was a fan of his 1980s TV show and selected a photo of him in full costume to be inscribed. He picked up a Sharpie and wrote "Believe it or not! Thanks- William Katt" across the bottom of the photo — a reference, of course, to the show's iconic theme song. I passed a twenty into his waiting palm and he handed me the pic. Matt, who was on the fence over whether or not to drop twenty bucks on another autograph, was overwhelmingly convinced once he saw Katt's clever inscription. Matt stepped forward, chose a photo, mentioned something about the horror film "House", another of Katt's roles, and waited for Katt to begin writing. Katt sat, slightly rocking from side to side, the whites of his eyes slowly becoming obscured by his heavy eyelids. He held the Sharpie a good three inches above the photo and made circles in the air, the pen point never connecting to any writing surface. We all exchanged glances with each other, confirming that we were all witness to the same thing. Mr. Katt remained in this state for — no exaggeration — three minutes, at which time, Matt leaned into my ear and whispered, "He is sooooo fucking baked!" Finally, after regaining brain synapse and divining a clever sentiment, the pen met the glossy photograph and he wrote "Thanks for coming. William Katt". He put his hand out for payment from a now-disappointed Matt and he gently blew the fresh ink dry. "You guys want a picture?," William asked, slurring his words and staggering to his feet. We arranged ourselves in a standard pose and, as Will raised his iPhone to snap the shot, William rearranged us to a pose more to his liking. Will quickly took the picture, thanked Mr. Katt and made our way from his table. Almost simultaneously, E., Matt, Will and myself said "What the fuck was that?" "I'll tell you what that was," offered Matt, "he was totally fucked up."

Now I know the real power behind getting that suit to fly.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

another expert

This past Tuesday, my son E. and I went to see singer-songwriter Stan Ridgway in concert at the Tin Angel, a small venue on the second floor of a restaurant in center city Philadelphia. Stan, for those (read: most) unfamiliar, was the leader of the quirky 80s band Wall of Voodoo, most famous for their MTV-heyday era hit "Mexican Radio". Stan has had a 27-year solo career since severing ties with Wall of Voodoo, releasing eleven albums and acquiring a passionate cult following. Stan rarely tours outside of California, but E. and I have been lucky enough to see him live several times. (Yeah, we number ourselves among that cult.)

After dinner and twelve dollars worth of ice cream from the quaint and old-timey Franklin Fountain, E. and I hiked over to the Tin Angel. The street entrance to the Tin Angel opens to a long and steep staircase that leads to the narrow and intimate second-story performance room. Having arrived an hour or so before the official showtime, we took our place in the small queue line that had begun forming.

Ahead of us on the stairs, we soon found out, was the world's foremost expert and authority on all things Stan Ridgway. He was with a younger woman and another man sporting a souvenir t-shirt from a previous Stan Ridgway tour. (I sarcastically lamented to my son that I had forgotten to wear my Stan Ridgway shirt. Now, how would he know I was there to see him if I wasn't properly labeled.) As we stood and waited, the expert expounded on Stan's career, highlighting various other musicians he had played with and carefully name-checking albums from early in Stan's discography. He related stories he had read about the inspirations for songs and appearances Stan had made on foreign music programs in the 80s and 90s. He dropped the names of Stan's influences and collaborators and haughtily announced what he predicted to be the set-list for this evening's show. His two companions seemed about as impressed by his vast knowledge and insider information as E. and I were from our eavesdropping. Not content with spewing little-known tidbits about the evening's headliner, he began a lengthy dissertation chronicling the multitude of performers whose autographed photos graced the wall of the stairwell. His comrades were not nearly as dazzled by his insight as he was, as the expressions on their faces betrayed their indifference. After a lull in his monologue, he returned to the subject of Stan Ridgway by asking his male sidekick, "What's your favorite Stan Ridgway song?"  I was hoping he'd direct the question to me, as my answer would have been, "Hmmmm, that's a difficult one, but I'd have to say I'm kind of partial to... Fuck you, asshole."

It's interesting that I seem to encounter one of these guys at every concert I attend. Every concert seems to have a pre-show band expert placed in the crowd within earshot of me. The expert is there to inform his entourage of live music greenhorns about the show they are about to see. He will tell of the past shows he has seen and rank them in ascending order of entertainment "wow factor". He will prepare his pals for disappointment, as this show can't possibly match the performance he saw the band give in July 19-whatever. He knows every note and every word to every song and will sing along with each one — straining his voice to heard above the crowd as though he was asked to duet. If this guy's behavior doesn't seem familiar, well then, you are probably that guy.

Monday, September 6, 2010

nip it! nip it in the bud!

Mrs. Pincus and I just returned from a short trip to Laughlin, Nevada. Without going into too much unnecessary detail, it was a free trip with free airfare, free meals and free accommodations at Harrah's Hotel Casino. However, just because something is free doesn't mean it is wonderful or should be envied. Laughlin, it should be noted, would be the place of insertion for the tube if the state of Nevada were to receive an enema.

My wife and I, whose ages each hover around the half century mark, brought the average age waaaaay down when numbered among the other members of the chartered trip. We were one of the few that did not come complete with our own tank of oxygen, our own aluminum, four-wheeled walker or several cartons of unfiltered cigarettes.

Just after midnight Pacific time, we landed at Bullhead City International Airport, a flat one-story building reminiscent of a bus terminal located at the end of a two-lane blacktop road that bisects a huge expanse of dirt. A set of steps was wheeled up to the plane and the travel-weary group was herded off to waiting buses, but not before several dozen rewarded themselves with a cigarette for sitting patiently through a five-hour flight. After a three-minute ride across the Colorado River (That's right, the airport isn't even in Nevada. It's in Arizona.), we were assigned rooms via the contents of sealed envelopes and we were on our own for the next four days.

During the week, despite our greatest efforts, we spotted some people we recognized from the flight. One couple, in particular, stood out. The man looked like Don Knotts, the scrawny, nervous actor most famous for portraying Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show and, later Mr. Furley, the weasly landlord on later episodes of Three's Company.  His female companion resembled 70s-era Cicely Tyson, the Academy Award-nominated actress famous for her ground-breaking role in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. We saw this couple everywhere. In the casino, in the restaurants and in the halls. At the end of the week, we saw Don and Cicely again as we boarded our airport shuttle bus for our journey home.

Our plane touched down an hour early in Philadelphia. We were forced to taxi around the airport in search of a open gate and access to the terminal. It was like driving around the tarmac looking for a parking space. Finally, United Airlines offered its heartfelt sympathy by opening a gate for us, which our adept pilot promptly overshot trying line up the plane door with the expanding corridor that was our exit. (I shit you not!) At last, we were permitted to leave. Heading toward the baggage claim, my wife commented that she hoped we would never ever encounter any of these people ever again...ever.

Our designated baggage carousel was currently winding down from its previous flight. A few straggling passengers were watching three lonely pieces of luggage travel around and around and around— sad and unclaimed. Soon the carousel's perimeter was lined with many familiar faces from our flight, anxiously awaiting the arrival of our checked belongings. Don and Cicely staked themselves a prime spot directly across from Mrs. Pincus and me. We would soon realize that we had great front-row seats for the entertainment portion of our luggage retrieval. Suddenly, Don's weary eyes widened as he spotted, what he believed to be, one of his suitcases. In reality, it was one of the leftovers from the flight before ours, already on its fifty-eighth lap around the conveyor. He excitedly reached towards the bag and, upon realizing his error, pulled back. The black tweed overnighter continued on its familiar route. A minute later, the bag returned to Don's field of vision. And once again, he made the reach and, again, disappointment swept across his face when his mistake became apparent. I swear to God — and I am not exaggerating — he did this ten more times. Ten! Ten more times! I remind you that, at this point, there were three bags on the conveyor belt. A small red bag with a metallic ribbon tied to the handle, a beat-up blue suit bag and Don's bag's doppelganger. Each time the black bag came into Don's peripheral vision, he swiveled his melon-like head around and lit up, knowing that this time the case was his!

A flashing light went off and our group's luggage appeared in a clump and was soon in the hands of its rightful owners. After identifying and grabbing my wife's suitcase and my wheeled duffel bag, we waited to see what Don and Cicely's bag really looked like. It turns out, it was a swirly paisley pattern and as different from Don's prey as could be.

Mrs. Pincus and I made our way to the airport parking lot, never turning back once.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

what we have here is a failure to communicate

Last night, I was at Harrah's Marina casino in Atlantic City. More specifically, their Waterfront Buffet. Harrah's buffet is a step up from most other buffets in Atlantic City casinos, with different stations featuring a mini-bounty of meat and vegetable dishes alongside many offerings from different international cuisines. Of course, it is all capped with a diabetic-inducing spread of rich and tempting desserts and the encouragement to sample two or three. It pales in comparison to its Las Vegas counterparts but, considering Atlantic City is a ninety minute drive from my front door, I can't complain.

Last night, after finishing the salad, sushi and Asian noodles from trip number one to the buffet, I was ready for the conglomerate of food I would soon call "my main course". I grabbed a dishwasher-fresh plate from the stack and went to peruse the evening's fare. As a vegetarian, my choices are somewhat limited in the meat-heavy provisions, but I can always find more than enough to fill my platter and satisfy my appetite. As with most buffets, enormous crab legs and other shellfish are quite popular and are presented as such. While I do eat fish, I also keep kosher, so crab and its shell-encased buddies are off my list. Cod and tuna are cool and Harrah's salmon, open-grilled before your eyes, is pretty tasty.

As I approached the Italian section of the buffet, laden with antipasto, Sicilian style pizza and a sausage-and-peppers mixture, I saw a tray labeled "Basa Oreganto". Beneath the folded cardboard sign were neat little lumps of white, ribbed, plump ovals — each dusted with tiny, green flecks and dripping with translucent melted butter. I stared at the dish, puzzled by its appearance. I examined the identifying sign again. I don't speak any foreign language (except a few words in Spanish and "Excuse me, where is Danny?" in Hebrew), but I concluded, by the green substance on the food and the familiarity of the words, that oreganto meant it has oregano in it. But, basa was not recognizable to me. I spotted a worker in the preparation area behind the buffet itself. He was unwrapping something or chopping something or checking some warming equipment — something food-preparation related. I cleared my throat to get his attention and motioned him over to me.

"Hi," I began, "could you tell me what is basa oreganto, please?" "Eh?," was his response. I gestured toward the food in question. "Over there," I again explained, "the dish that says basa oreganto..." He cut me off mid-sentence. "Pasta? You want pasta?," he asked and he looked past the basa oreganto toward the cooked-to-order pasta section. "No, basa," I said, slightly raising my voice above the ambient noise, "What is it?" "Pasta?," he repeated, his gaze at me turning to disbelief, "You spaghetti." I felt myself involuntarily roll my eyes. (For Christ's sake, I thought, I know what fucking pasta is! Does this guy really think I couldn't identify spaghetti?) "No, come here", I said, as I guided him to the object of my inquiry. "This!", I announced, as I pointed directly at the green-speckled food. "Oh, it's fish," he finally answered. "Okay. Thank you.," I said. Unsure of basa's kosher status, I walked away without taking a piece. A woman holding a plate at chin-level, sparsely arranged with a small clump of mashed potatoes and a single thin slice of roast beef, stood nearby. With her face screwed-up in a perplexed knot, she interrogated me. "What is it?" she whined, drawing each word out into too many syllables. "Fish," I answered as I scooted past her. "Oooooooh," she yodeled, "I thought it was cauliflower."

Who gives a fuck what you thought it was. Where's the fucking ice cream?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

maybe I'm amazed

You think what your kid does is amazing? Look! Look at how he walks! He's amazing! Look! Look! He's pointing at that bird! Isn't he amazing? He just kicked that ball! He's amazing! Look! Look! He drew a picture of a flower! He is amazing! Look! He's eating a piece of bread! He's amazing!

Amazing? Those things? Are you kidding me? Those are the things that every kid does! I did them. You did them. Neil Armstrong did them. The pope did them. Brad Pitt did them. Jeffrey Dahmer did them. Everyone. Everyone who has ever lived on this earth has walked and pointed to something and kicked something and drew something and ate something. Amazing? That word is tossed about so often and so freely. And wrongly.

Recently, I read a story of a doctor who was treating a patient. His patient was a pregnant woman whose unborn child developed a tumor that was detected through a routine ultrasound examination. The doctor was able to open up the woman's womb, remove the tumor from the fetus and replace the fetus back into the womb. The woman carried the baby full-term and it was delivered without a hitch. That, my friends, is amazing. Your kid picking up an earthworm or dragging a fucking red crayon across a piece of paper or bringing home an "A" on his first-grade math test is not amazing.

There are 6.8 billion people on this planet. You think the things your kid does are amazing? Think again.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

that guy

Do you know that guy? Of course you do. You've seen him before. I see him everywhere, and I know you do too. I've seen him in the mornings when I'm waiting for the train that takes me to work. Then, he's on the train. There's several of him on the train as a matter of fact. He's got his bag on the seat next to him, not allowing anyone to share his seat. He also eating something big and sloppy and totally inappropriate for the morning commute.

I've seen him on vacation, unhappily accompanying the family that he hates through a theme park or other tourist destination. He is sad. Sad about being there. Sad about being there with his family. Sad about the hand life has dealt him.

I've seen him at the supermarket, wanting to purchase that giant bag of barbecue potato chips, only to be told by his wife that he cannot get them. "They are not good for you," she berates him, as she drops a half-gallon of gourmet specialty ice cream into their shopping cart.

I've seen him in a restaurant, sitting at a table while his kids scream and yell and climb under the table and wander off to stand and stare next to someone else's table. Then they announce the need to visit the bathroom. His wife won't move her ass, insisting "I took them to the bathroom last time. Now it's your turn." He just wants to order three hot fudge sundaes and eat them at another table. In another restaurant.

I've seen him at my job, hunched over a desk, fighting back sleep, keying wrong information into a spreadsheet. He is neither qualified for nor pleased to be doing his job. And he lies to his family about what sort of job he has and his level of importance within the company.

I know you've seen that guy. Just look around. He's there.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


In January, a coworker (the woman who creates all deliverables electronic* and maintains the company website) reported that she was expecting — as in "a baby". Of course, everyone in the department was happy for her. A week or so after the initial springing of the joyous news, it was understood that I, as her regular back-up for days off and vacations, would be taking over her responsibilities when she goes out on maternity leave. I, as the resident graphic designer with a smattering of HTML and web experience, was the logical choice. So, in the coming months, some time was set aside each week for me to sit with — we'll call her "Jane", because that's her name — Jane, while she instructed me in the "ins and outs" of the tedium and minutiae that is a sprawling and cumbersome company website. I feverishly scribbled incomprehensible notes that I knew, months down the road, I'd never be able to decipher. Page upon page of my legal pad were filled with a secret code of carats and dashes and chevrons and brackets, as Jane expounded on the wonders of tags and file hierarchy.

Suddenly, as a precaution, Jane, although still able to work, was confined to bed rest for the remainder of her pregnancy. She was able to work from home and, however awkward, we were able to continue my training over the phone. Then one day, two weeks ago, I received the email I had dreaded. Jane announced that she was entering the hospital for the purpose of inducing her labor. It was sink-or-swim time for ol' Josh Pincus. I was flying solo, brother. I was fucked.

My first full week on my own went pretty well. In addition to my own work, I completed those assignments originally meant for Jane. I created projects based on templates that Jane had previously set up. I repeatedly referred to my illegible notes. (They turned out to be pretty helpful. I wished I had taken notes like those in high school.) As Friday approached, my head reeled, but my work dwindled to a manageable amount.

On Monday, it was more of the same. I edited pages, changing a number here or a phrase there. I created emailed invitations and entered additions to staff biographies. This afternoon, I was creating a routine page for a specific event. I carefully followed my step-by-step directions, checking and double-checking each operation with every new step. I clicked the big “upload” button and, a few “ERROR” messages later, the company’s intranet ceased to function. I stared in disbelief as my computer’s screen stared blankly back at me. "Internet Explorer cannot display that page" was the message displayed each time I meticulously entered and re-entered the intranet’s URL. I pulled my cell phone from my pocket and, although I was reluctant (and actually forbidden), I sent a text to Jane. It read “Uh oh. Please call me.”  What seemed like a lifetime later, but was only five or so minutes, my phone rang signifying Cavalry Jane coming to my rescue. She was kind and sympathetic. She coolly asked, “Ugh! What did you do?”  I explained every move I made. Every click, every keystroke, every message received and a timeline for all. Jane accessed the company’s network from home and was able to mirror the programs I was using. After a few exasperated moans and groans, she told me to call the company IT department. She determined it was most likely an internal server problem and it happened — coincidentally — at the same time I was making intranet edits. And best of all, it was not my fault. I emitted a huge sigh of relief.

Oh, I asked about the baby. I’m not a total asshole.

*how's THAT for corporate jargon

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

no, I don't love your dog

I have been pet-free for three years. Before that, I had always had at least one cat. Sometimes, more than one. Cats are really good pets for people who don't always want a pet. They are affectionate when you want them to be and when those times come when you don't want to be bothered, they are happy to oblige. As far as a cat is concerned, people only exist to open cans. Yeah, once in a while a person can scratch a cat's head, but they are primarily a can opener.

Dogs, on the other hand, are honest-to-goodness, high-maintenance pets. Dogs need to be walked and played with and, because they love to roll around in their own shit, they need to be bathed. (Cats take care of that on their own, without human assistance.)

Dog owners are high-maintenance, too. Dog owners treat their dogs like most humans treat their children (the ones that they love, anyway). And because dog owners love their dogs, everyone must love their dogs. You must! How could you not?

I have lost track of how many times I have been accosted by a dog on the sidewalk — all muddy and slobbery and smelly — only to have its owner assure me that "He's friendly!" or "He won't bite!". Well, I don't want to be friends with your fucking dog. I have visited dog-owner friends who refused to pull their over-curious canine away from me, while laughing and explaining, "He probably smells your cat on you." Well. I smell his excrement on him, so please get him the fuck off of me. I don't love your dog. Only you love your dog.

My wife had a few dogs growing up and has brought up the subject infrequently in the twenty-eight years we have known each other. Fairly late one evening, my wife and I were driving home in a treacherously heavy rainstorm. A block or so from our house, I could make out a figure in the downpour. It was a man dressed in a rain slicker with a waterlogged hat drooping on his head. In one hand, he held an open umbrella. In the other, he gripped a leash. At the end of that leash was a soaked dog, its sodden fur matted against its body. The man dutifully followed the dog as he slowly and deliberately sniffed the ground looking for a place to crap — or possibly for nothing in particular. I pointed out the fogged window of our car to the sorry-looking sap with the dog and I said to my wife, "Y'know why we don't have a dog? Because if we did, that poor asshole would be me."

Sunday, August 15, 2010

my day so far...

I woke up at 11 a.m. today and, as per my usual routine, I checked my email. I received an invitation to contribute to this new blog from another artist named Patrick. Almost three years ago, Patrick and I participated in a "Portrait Exchange". We exchanged photographs and drew each other. That exchange was documented HERE on my blog. Shortly afterwards, Patrick seemed to have stepped off the face of the earth, until just a few weeks ago, he pops up on another illustration blog (to which I also contribute) called Monday Artday. Monday Artday, coincidentally, is barely hanging on as a viable and relevant outlet for artists, since its curator has been MIA since some surgery several months ago. So, I suppose, that's how Patrick found me again.

And here I am, being asked to chronicle the (wonderful) everyday moments that do not usually get noticed. Well, after checking my email this morning, I was really jarred awake by my neighbor's construction team drilling and sawing something out in her backyard. I'm hoping it's a taller fence, so I never have to see that lunatic again. She has been the bane of my existence for the eleven years she has been my neighbor.

There... how's that for documenting the mundane? Not that wonderful, but neither is life.