Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sorta Senior Moments

Image courtesy of digitalart

My car battery died. I went from running late to not running at all. I deduced dead battery when I repeatedly pressed the car alarm remote and nothing happened. I didn’t hear the familiar and reassuring “churp-churp” signaling the alarm had been disengaged. I pressed all the buttons: lock, unlock, panic.  I pressed them quickly. I pressed and held them. Nothing. The good news? The car was stuck in my own garage. The bad news? With the remote not working, how was I supposed to get into my car?

         The slogan, “I could have had a V8” can easily be “I should have gotten AAA.” But when your car is new it seems like an unnecessary expense. As the car ages it just gets away from you. It’s like flood insurance. You don’t think about buying it until you see your couch floating by. So no, I don’t have AAA.  I did what any other youngest and only girl in the family would do.  I called my Dad.

            He ambled out to the garage and I explained the problem.  And by explained I mean pouted and whined. For emphasis, I vigorously pressed the remote buttons right in front of him so that he could see I’d done my due diligence before calling him out to the scene.  I looked at him expectantly with an imperious, “Well? What are ‘WE’ gonna do now?” expression. See how I did that? I made my problem “our” problem. Smooth right?

            My Dad – with the infinite patience that only men with daughters can have – looked at me, looked at the car. He took the remote and did something I never expected. He walked over to the car and, with the key that was dangling right next to the remote, opened the door.

I shit you not.

            I’d like to say I was dumbfounded, but no. I was just dumb.

Yes, I am openly admitting that it never occurred to me – a college-educated, magna cum laude degree-holding, world-travelled grown woman – to open the car door with its key. But in my defense, when was the last time I’d ever had to do that? Like, never ever. Scratch that. There’s no defense. I’m an idiot. And worse, there’s precedence.

            Growing up, all I ever heard my Dad listen to in the morning was 1010 Wins radio. He wanted to get the news, traffic, and weather before going to work. Occasionally he listened to News 88, but we were first and foremost a 1010 WINS family. We gave them 22 minutes and they gave us the world. But that world didn't include music. Although my Dad loves jazz in general and Charlie Parker in particular I never heard him listen to music on his radio; just information, sports scores, and car commercials.

            One day when I was about 15 years old I saw my Dad changing the batteries in his radio. I was fascinated.

            “What are you doing?” I asked.

He was surprised, not at my question per se, but at the fact that I was talking to him at all. At 15 we had reached that predictable stage of our relationship where his very existence embarrassed me and I truly believed his goal in life was to ruin mine. He seemed genuinely caught off guard.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Changing the batteries in my radio.” 


            “Because they’re dead.”

            “Wow. You’re radio takes batteries?”

“Yes,” he said. “Of course my radio takes batteries. What did you think it ran on?”


            My flabbergasted Father froze in place, radio and batteries in hand. And I was so serious that I didn’t even have the good grace to pretend that I’d been joking. You can’t call it a senior moment when you’re not yet even a senior in high school can you? My genuine wonder didn’t make things better. I could almost hear my Dad thinking, “Oh, dear god. My straight A, prep school-educated, college-bound, book-smart daughter is an idiot. Thank god she’s pretty.”

            But instead, in both instances, my Dad said nothing. And somehow that was worse. His silence was judgment writ large. I think he was quietly tallying all the money he and mother have wasted ... I mean ... spent on my education. They probably deserve a refund.

            The good news is these brain fails don’t happen often. The bad news is maybe they do and I just don’t know it.

Thanks for reading The Urban Erma. You can subscribe to the blogcast (yes, I made up this word) FREE on iTunes. And, in case you were wondering, in addition to blogging I am also an amazing stand-up comedian. I do "Thinking Cap Comedy." Basically, if comedy were music, I'd be Jazz. Want to see a show? Check out my schedule at @

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Smokers Unite: You Smell Bad and Nobody Likes You

Image courtesy of graur codrin
It was a happy day for me when smoking was banned in bars and clubs around the country. I don’t miss standing on stage and being enveloped by the slow moving but relentless blue haze that seemed to creep straight out a Stephen King novel. I’ve gotten used to breathing deeply at bars and only smelling disinfectant and desperation. That changed when I went to do a show recently at Karma Lounge in New York City.

A small sign above the door said “Smoking Allowed” but my brain dismissed it. It must be one of those quaint holdovers from back in the day, mere decoration. So when I walked in it took my nose a few minutes to identify what it was smelling.  “Wait … that’s not … but … oh … the sign was right?” My nose was not happy.

By some special dispensation, smoking is allowed at Karma because it’s a Hookah Bar, whatever that means. As my eyes adjusted to the dimness it was a throwback to see smokers at their leisure. They were standing up-right, relaxed, and happy.  I’ve become so accustomed to seeing them furtively smoking in hunched, harried, and huddled groups that this new posture looked almost brazen. I felt happy and sorry for them at the same time. Modern convention has turned them into the Untouchables, and not the sexy crime-fighting kind.

My sympathy however was short-lived as the carcinogenic cloud attached itself to me like a cat that heads for the person in the room who is most allergic to it.  I’d like to say my tolerance for the smell of smoke isn’t what it used to be, but it wasn’t all that strong to begin with. When smoking in night clubs was a ubiquitous fact of life I had a handbag full of defenses. When someone next to me lit up a cigarette, I would light up a stick of incense. If they inquired I’d say, “You smoke what you want and I’ll smoke what I want.”

I also carried small candles. The bartender at the now defunct Pips Comedy Club would always ask me for the one that smelled like maple syrup. As the comfort food aroma battled with burnt tar he’d smile and say, “Now I’m in the mood for pancakes.”  

            It’s been a long time since I’ve needed to have those tools at the ready. So, I walked into Karma unprepared. But the longer I stayed – the things I do for stage time – the more my senses eventually adjusted to the smoky environment. I had almost convinced myself that the smell wasn’t that bad. And it wasn’t until I left the club.

            The fresh night air hit me and stirred up the smoky scent that had laid itself on  me like a layer of radioactive dust. I had that, “Oh dear god is that me?” moment. The one you usually have late in the afternoon when you realize that you’ve forgot to put on deodorant that morning. The smoke had worked its way into my skin, clothes, and hair. I smelled horrible. I couldn’t stand myself.

I knew that I’d be up very late doing laundry, showering, and washing my hair. Sure I could let the clothes wait, but there was no way I could put ass to mattress or head to pillow smelling like an ashtray. I also couldn’t go to bed with a wet head of hair, which has grown quite a bit since the smoking ban began. My quest to be the Black Rapunzel has drawbacks, chief among them: even with a blow dryer, it takes my hair longer to dry in the winter.

It was going to be a long night but I thought I’d at least have the company of my insomniac Cocker Spaniel. But when I got home he sniffed me, sneezed, and took his leave. He stomped off to the bedroom, curled up on his pillow, and was snoring within minutes. So much for unconditional dog love. Either second-hand smoke makes my Dog sleepy or he’s a militant anti-smoker who’s not above using the tool of social ostracism to make his point. If the latter, I’m lucky he didn’t also bite me before turning his furry back on me.

It’s one thing to be stink-eye snubbed by strangers. But to be shunned by a loved one, by a being you feed, clothe, house, and care for … I suddenly know how the parents of teenagers must feel. I think I also know how smokers feel. You smell bad and nobody likes you. You need a place of refuge. That place is Europe. But if that’s not in the budget, I know a place where you might find some good Karma. 

Inhale responsibly.

Thanks for reading The Urban Erma. You can subscribe to the blogcast (yes, I made up this word) FREE on iTunes. And, in case you were wondering, in addition to blogging I am also an amazing stand-up comedian. I do "Thinking Cap Comedy." Basically, if comedy were music, I'd be Jazz. Want to see a show? Check out my schedule at @

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Dammit Denzel!

I spent part of the holidays catching up on the movies that I missed last year. And I missed many. I always do. I just can’t keep up. It seems that by the time I finish watching the trailer and saying to myself, “Yeah, I’d like to see that” it’s already out of the theaters and on cable. But I was a bit surprised to see HBO offering a Denzel Washington movie that I’d never even heard of: Safe House? Damn. Now I’m even missing the trailers.