Funny to Me – Got the Jimmy Legs

Funny to Me

It's the only way to live in cars

Every New Yorker without a car should force themselves to rent a car at least once a year, if only to reiterate the inherent smartness of living the rest of the year without one. Sure there is the initial joy of feeling like you can go anywhere! do anything! You feel possessed of the heady sense of self-determination that no-doubt drove our forefathers to wagon-train into the Great Unknown of the Louisiana Purchase only to settle in what is now Utah. Then you realize that all the assholes who get in your way on the subway are now in front of you, each in their own metal exoskeleton, and each of them with as little clue as to where they're going or how much room they're taking up than on the L train platform.

I just returned a rental car (from Image on Empire Blvd, cheapest Sentras in town!) and despite how useful it has been over the past four days, I am relieved to not have to drive one for the foreseeable future (at least, not in a major metropolitan area). We got the car to drive to Baltimore to surprise Jeannie's mom, who turned 80 recently. We snuck down and stayed at a friend's house for the night, then emerged while the Moms was at what she thought was a casual dinner at her friends' house. The surprise worked (video to follow, I left my camera in Jeannie's purse), and a lovely time was had by all. We got to spend some time with her and I got to see the many faces of Baltimore, something I had wanted to do since Female Trouble. A misreading of the map landed us in West Baltimore, which indeed does have that Wire feeling, although to me it looked a lot like Bushwick in places. Our friend lives in Hampden which is like a flower-filled and silent Williamsburg, with better architecture. In between we saw sweeping mansions and blasted out hovels, historically-significant buildings and an influx of skinny jeans.

The rest of the time we were driving, to Baltimore, to Bel Air, back to Brooklyn. I know Robert Moses didn't invent the superhighway but I still like to curse him every time I'm in traffic. There was a lot of traffic to and from Baltimore, mostly severe jams that lasted hours and seemed to have no cause whatsoever. Also there are like a bazillion tolls between Brooklyn and Baltimore, whose costs were only slightly less annoying than how the constant stopping and paying affected traffic. It's impossible to relax while driving, and relaxing isn't something I'm that good at anyway, so I'm still a bit frazzled from the trip.

One shining light was the fact that Costco is right off the BQE, and we got back into town just in time to duck and grab more cat food and dish soap. Our car was minuscule but it held all the crap we got there, as well as all the crap we bought at the Bel Air Target (I know we have one in Brooklyn but it's always so picked over). The Costco trip was something we needed to do anyway so it was a nice perk to get that out of the way. We dragged the stuff home and thankfully got a decent parking spot in front of the house. Despite the positives, I still can't see how people can live like this every day.

I took the car back in the morning, thinking the trip would be a nice cruise over to Crown Heights, but once again the Impossibly Stupid Drivers of Brooklyn were out in force. It should have taken 20 minutes, tops, to get over there but it took twice as long, due to bad drivers, a plethora of red lights, and perhaps a bit of my own poor driving skills. With the car dropped off, I walked around the corner and got on a 5 train taking me almost directly to my office halfway up Manhattan in less time than it took me to drive a few miles in the car. Now that's transportation.

Tougher than leather

Now that I'm in my new office, I am surrounded by people I don't know. I suspect they worked at the same company as I before we were bought out, but who knows? I worked from home most of my career and then worked for a couple years in a satellite office. So I don't know most of em.

There's a guy one cubicle-group over from me, he's middle-aged, salt-and-pepper hair, wire-frame glasses. He is showing all the signs of Mid-life Crisis Syndrome. He's in his late 40s, works in finance, BUT: he drives a kickass motorcycle. See, ladies? He's still cool! He's still cool.

How do I know he drives a kickass motorcycle? Because he wears a leather jacket and carries a helmet in every day. I suppose it's possible he just walks around with the jacket and helmet on, but I have to hope there is a kickass motorbike in there somewhere. It saddened me for a while, he was just like the guy in Weeds who tries to capture some modicum of machismo by getting a Harley and growing a handlebar mustache (played by Andy Milder, pictured above in all of his badassery). But he runs afoul some REAL bikers and gets knocked off a guardrail and winds up in a wheelchair for most of season 3.

The other day I was walking past Mid-life Crisis guy's cubicle and I overheard him on his phone. He was speaking German. Then it dawned on me: This guy's not having a mid-life crisis, he's just German. Somehow that makes his behavior completely acceptable, I don't know why. What do Germans do when they want to remind themselves how cool they are? Buy another pair of leather pants? No one knows.

Which end will I be on this time

We went to our polling place this morning, fearing long lines and difficult-to-grok voting apparatus. But not only were the machines working fine and easy to understand, there was no line. Like, at all.

As you may know, your average polling location is split up into a number of "election districts" which determine how many actual voting booths there are. Your address somehow determines which election district you are in. So we're in front of our booth, with no one else. All around us, every other district had fairly long lines, some prohibitively long. Not being one to look a gift horse in the mouth, we voted and got the hell out of there. But I gotta say, it looked a little weird.

Not to put too fine a point on it, we were pretty much the whitest people in the room. The only other white guy was filling out a provisional ballot … for our election district. It would not be hard to look at this scene and assume the palefaces had some kind of elevated status (like how first class passengers get to go through airport security faster). In short, on this historic day, we looked like the poster kids for White Privilege.

Now, I know that couldn't really be the case, but try looking up 'election district maps' and see what you find: Dick. What the hell is an election district? Anyway I eventually found them on some of the maps of other districts. Here (with a little inference) you can see that election districts are very small subdistricts, in my case 3 consecutive blocks. But more tellingly, my district is actually part of a larger Assembly district whose borders make me a part of Ocean Hill; we're just over the line by one block. Odd then, that my voting location is squarely in Bushwick, since many other designations include us with other neighborhoods. Who knows, but what it means is me and my 3-block radius vote in our own special bubble. Still, 3 blocks in this neighborhood is still a whole lot of people. (I'm sure they're all planning to vote when they get home from work.)

And it doesn't stop there, take a look at the Congressional District maps as well, it gives gerrymandering a bad name. You'd think that districts would be more or less blob-shaped, a circle or influence, or a square. But no, my district is a weird multi-pronged affair, covering several neighborhoods and spanning ridiculously-varied socioeconomic strata. Seems suspect, in any case. Forgive me if I seem cynical and paranoid, it's just been a long time since I voted and it felt like it mattered.

And I know you like the feeling going up, going down

Does anybody remember the mall-store Merry-Go-Round? When I think of it, I still see green spandex, mesh-front shirts and headbands. To me, it was the apogee of 80s fashion, jumping on every ridiculous leg-warming trend and running it directly into the ground. But nobody seems to remember it now. I can't even remember if my local mall had one; I don't remember shopping there, but I do remember how much I associated it with my pubescent days. You don't see stores like that anymore; but what happened to it?

My theory: like so many icons of the 80's, I think Merry-Go-Round was killed by grunge rock. It killed a lot of things: hair-metal, knit ties, Kurt Cobain. And Merry-Go-Round (not to mention pretenders to the throne like Chess King, who, it may interest you to know, was bought out by MGR at some point. I don't know why I feel bad about this, but considering how ingrained 80's nostalgia is in our stupid culture (largely now by people who were not even remotely in existence during the aforementioned decade), you'd think there'd be some kind of monument to it. Surely, if it weren't for Merry-Go-Round, 80's culture as we currently regard it would not exist.

Info on the store is a bit scant, but I did find this bizarre, press-release style company history, that oddly doesn't mention that the company went bankrupt (had to find that elsewhere). But it notes the kind of forward-thinking that should have given it immortal icon status:

When pop star Michael Jackson appeared on MTV wearing a red leather jacket with 27 zippers, Merry-Go-Round sold more than 50,000 similar jackets at $29 each. Similarly, when the lead singer in the rock band Def Leppard performed in a video sporting a Union Jack sweatshirt with cut-off sleeves, a new fad was born. Merry-Go-Round sold over 40,000 copies of the sweatshirt at $15 each.

Merry-Go-Round managed to eke into the 1990's, but by 94 it was pretty much over. I'm not exactly sad about it, but I guess I feel the company doesn't get its due in pop-culture history. I'm also hopeful that I won't be spending any more time in malls so these admittedly dorky notions don't obsess me further. Though I do have some lingering questions about Orange Julius …

Your mouth is writing checks the bank won't accept

A couple of months ago, somebody stole my credit card info and charged a bunch of stuff with it. It was only because I obsessively check my online statement that I noticed it, and at first it didn't even register. This was about the time we booked our tickets to lovely sunny Cleveland, and I noticed there were charges that looked like airfare; at first I didn't think anything of it. But then I saw there were 3 charges, not two. Plus, each was for in excess of $500, way more than one should spend to go to The Heart of It All. There was also a charge for some stupid VoIP company, but that $20 charge paled in comparison. I canceled the card and was refunded the fraudulent charges.

Now, this is what irks me: a few weeks before this happened, my creidt card company had shut my card down; it discovered suspicious charges and stopped my account from working pending my approval. What sort of charges tip off the credit industry? For me it was Century 21, Netflix and cat food … stuff I buy all the time. So I buy some stuff form stores I have bought from for many years, alarms go off and the security details suspends my account until I call into their lame automated call center. I verbally approve every charge and my account is back.

Cut to a month later: I notice airfare charges (from a company based in ROME, no less) and now it's up to me to convince them I didn't make these charges. What, are hackers so talented nowadays they can make stolen work seem more legit than the real stuff? Anyway, I will say the credit card company was rapidly compliant, closing the account and getting me a new card quickly. Among other things, we went out to Ikea with the new card and spent tons of dough on some new furniture and other crap we may regret in a couple of months. Then I tried to buy something with the card and it says it's not working again. Here we go again …

I call in to find out what's up and they lame automated system tells me they have reason to believe (again) that fraudulent activity has taken place. They recite the list of suspicious charges, all legitimate, all mine, all for companies I buy stuff from all the time. But in all of this, they didn't mention the Ikea purchase at all; I asked about it and they said it wasn't suspicious. So my 20-dollar charge to a pet supply company I buy from almost every other month is more suspect that the enormous purchase from Ikea, from whom I've never bought from before? I just don't get it.

Anyway, it's all settled now at least and as far as I can tell, my account is safe for now. But one ironic outcome: I checked with the VoIP company to find out who used my card and they gave me the email address associated with the charge. It was my email with my first and last name reversed. Clever! So I emailed it:

From: jimmylegs
To: legsjimmy
Subject: having a good time

are you using my credit card?

I didn't expect a reply, but the other day I got one:

From: legsjimmy
To: jimmylegs
Subject: RE:having a good time

yes. i have ur info when i hacked one shop. im sorry

I wanted to find out how he got it, so I wrote

From: jimmylegs
To: legsjimmy
Subject: RE:having a good time

ha! wow i didn't expect a reply. can you tell me what shop you hacked? i'm trying to figure out where it got out.

From: legsjimmy
To: jimmylegs
Subject: RE:having a good time

becos im úing thí mail for búyome thing 😀 that reply u man hehe i dont remember shop was hacked i have many many

I'm not sure why his spelling got so bad at the end there, but it momentarily spooked me that he still uses the email address to buy stuff. But he doesn't have my card info any more, and as his email is a gmail account, there doesn't seem to be anything to do about it. It feels like that episode of Seinfeld when Jerry's car gets stolen and he calls the thief on the car phone:

JERRY: can I have it back?

CAR THIEF: Mmmm, nah, I'm gonna keep it.