Tuesday, December 22, 2009

it's a long way down the holiday road

Three courses down (final grades submitted to registrar) and one to go. I'll read most of the material tonight, but I'll have to run into the office tomorrow afternoon to pick up a few last-minute submissions in that class.

Then some cleaning around the apartment, laundry, and packing tomorrow night, and on the train Thursday AM for Florida. All I can say is the sun had better shine, shine, shine while I'm there. I might also get a chance to touch base with friend Pooh, who moved back down there the first of the year.

I've railroaded myself into a corner though, in terms of vacation time. I jumped at the chance to serve again as a peer reviewer for the Corporation for National and Community Service grant cycle. I have nine -- yes, nine -- grants to review and complete an individual reviewer sheet with my notes. The grants are shorter than typical, as these are additional, short-term grant projects, but I have to have the reading and reviews done by the first of January.

This means that I either read them all in a marathon session on the train -- which was supposed to be my relax and catch up on sleep time -- or do a couple each evening while in Florida, after fun in the sun.

Either way, I did it to myself. Why? Two reasons. First, I'm not one to turn down a $700 stipend for work I usually find enjoyable. Second, I'm always concerned that I'm not doing enough for tenure, and this looks good under professional activities.

Back to reading/grading for now. And probably some Ben and Jerry's.

photo mine, a typical stack of student papers on any given weekend

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

when the working day is done

I have

--two more finals to give,
--four sets of final exams to grade,
--one more set of final papers to grade,
--an all-day conference on human trafficking,
--prep/orientation for CNCS grant proposal peer reviews,
--grades/attendance to submit for four classes,
--a department holiday party,
--a another office holiday party,
--a little christmas shopping, and
--at least six individual student meetings

all by the 23rd.

The $64,000 question is will I be physically capable of taking that vacation on the 24th.

'Cause I really just wanna have fun!

Monday, December 14, 2009

I think it's funny as hell

That Oprah, Obama, and Michelle colour-coordinated their outfits for the big interview.

And Obama is still damn nice on the eyes. Yep.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

shameless product plugging

I don't have to go to the local laundromat weekly, thanks to a couple of handy-dandy products. It's a bit of a hassle to find a time to go that fits my schedule, is when they are open (they close early evening), and when they aren't horribly overcrowded.

So now I wash my clothes with this little item:

I can fit a work week of blouses in one load, two pair of slacks in another, etc. I do a half-dozen small loads, and my work clothes are done. Put them in, fill with H2O from the bathtub faucet, agitate for 5 - 6 minutes, pour out wash water, fill with rinse water, add fabric softener, agitate again, pour out water.

Then I put the load into this lovely little helper:

This thing spins clothes much dryer than the laundromat washer manages to do. After this, I hang the clothes up and they are dry in a couple of hours max. Between the two, I only have to go to the laundromat once a month or so to do towels and sheets. Everything else can be done at home in the evenings. It works very well to do the laundry while cleaning the apartment -- I intersperse dishes, vacuuming, dusting with loads of clothes, and it breaks up the monotony of doing one thing for too long.

And if I need something to dry more quickly, I have this:

It hangs over the door and funnels hot air into an enclosed square of fabric. Today I washed a sweatshirt-type hoody, and I used this to dry it so that it would still be soft, not slightly stiff like some heavier fabrics come out when hung dry. It only took about 45 minutes to dry it completely.

It sure beats packing all my stuff into a wheeled cart, dragging it to the laundromat, and fighting for available washers and dryers.

Monkeys made of gingerbread and sugar horses painted red

As any professor will tell you, the week before finals is not-so-affectionately called 'dead week' for a reason. Zombie madness. The brain is mush. Excuses and begging abound as students realize the end of the semester is here. Tempers are short as faculty field requests for leniency from students.

I was happy to have an evening off from the madness, thanks to a fellow blogger who shared a ticket to this event at Carnegie Hall on Wednesday this week. It was a lovely concert, and I had not been to Carnegie Hall yet, which added to the fun.

But the next morning, it was back to trying to finish reading final papers and create final exams and grade final exams and finish committee work and write letters of recommendation so that I can have an actual freaking vacation for the first time in years -- which of course is frying my brain.

My last final is on the 21st; as long as I have the other three classes done and grades input before that, I should be ok. I can complete the work related to that last course on the 22nd; wash clothes, clean the apt, and pack on the 23rd; and be off on the 24th.

But in addition to that, I am again serving as a peer reviewer for grant proposals to the Corporation for National and Community Service. They are running a special review for summer 2010 projects, and the review begins December 18. So there are conference calls to listen in to at the same time as finals.

And while I get to leave for an actual vacation to Florida on the 24th, I'll be taking probably five grant proposals with me to review over the week (I do have to pay for the darned vacay after all, and the peer review comes with a $700 stipend -- plus I enjoy doing something different from teaching that's still professional). When I get back the first week of January, the team I'm assigned to will do conference calls to come to a consensus on how to rate the proposals under our review.

There are also two all-day conferences, one on December 18 related to human trafficking at Safe Horizons, one on January 7 related to grant writing by the CUNY system.

One saving grace in all this is that for the first time in 30 years of single parenting, I won't have a kid in the house for the holidays -- which means I don't have to bother with holiday decorations. Whooo hooo!

And then hopefully, if it fits with their work schedules, I'll be able to fly to Washington State to see my son -- and for the first time, my new grandson. I really do hope that all works out.

And somehow in all this, I am supposed to get some work done on the MFD*. If you figure out how I can do that, please let me know -- I'm all ears.

I found this very early Bowie album, and love this song. I've been playing it fairly nonstop for days now (I have no idea why the hell there's a cat in the middle of this photo series).

photo mine, taken outside work 10-29-08

*MFD = mother fucking dissertation

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

betcha by golly wow

I uploaded some stylistics recently, and I've been listening today.

I have to be careful about what I post on facebook. I'm linked to work people, including a department chair who is very influential. So, no whining on FB...all smiles, good to go, yessiree bob. Pile it on, I can take it.

I am so fucking mindnumbingly brain dead that I might as well be a vegetable...in a coma. I'm so exhausted that my right eyelid has started twitching -- something that has happened only rarely since the encephalitis, and only when my body has given up the ghost.

I think I've lost all hope of finishing the MFD, which means I won't get tenure when the time comes. I just don't see a way clear to getting the thing done. That means I've got five more years after this one, and then my contract won't be renewed. How the fuck do other people finish their diss while teaching full time anyway?

This semester has been so bad that I'm actually beginning to question my career choice. Just a little bit, but still...the question is beginning to nag at the back of my mind. I still love the actual teaching, but the committee work and focus on research and writing, which I can't even begin to get to, have me spinning my wheels.

I just want it to be over. And yet I don't think it will ever really be over.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Where else can you get the munchies, decide to make a run to the store for chips and donuts, not have to get in your car, not even have to cross the street, and be back home in under ten minutes.

Literally right around the corner, there's a grocery store, a chinese/mexican fast food place, a pharmacy, a hardware store, a nightclub (for the young crowd), a couple of small bodega/deli-types, a laundromat...


(photo is not mine, but these fire hydrants really are around the corner -- they are a bit faded now though)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

precious: yet another movie that doesn't 'get' social workers

Of course, being a social worker, I'm more observant of how the media screws up depictions of social workers.

First, social workers play many roles in the professional world. While most people think of child protection workers when they think of social workers, we can also do clinical work; work in schools; do case management; work in the corrections field; work with kids, elderly, veterans, or people with developmental or physical disabilities; as victim advocates in court systems; as policy analysts/advocates; in the international arena; as agency administrators; as professors (hello!); and the list goes on.

In other words, we aren't just the devil who takes away people's kids (or don't take them away when we should have). In fact, in most cities, to be a child protection worker, you don't have to have a degree in social work specifically -- you can have a bachelor's degree in any helping profession.

So far, I'm aware of only one show that got the social worker role correctly -- for a specific field within social work -- and that would be the series Judging Amy. Amy's mother, played by Tyne Daly, was a social worker in the child protection field, and she played it like it is in the field.

But the movie Precious does it again -- depicts a social worker inaccurately.

First, when a social worker visits the family at home, the movie suggests that it's to keep them eligible for welfare. But then the social worker asks questions that make it appear that she is actually a child protection worker. A welfare financial services worker is a completely different job than a child protection worker. In fact, most welfare financial services workers are not social workers -- that job doesn't require a bachelor's degree.

Then the Mariah Carey-as-social worker role also seems to combine the financial worker with a child protection worker. Precious first goes to see Mariah supposedly to get welfare. Later on, Mariah is facilitating a meeting between Precious and her mother. It doesn't work that way -- as I said, they're two different jobs. If Mariah is a financial worker, she wouldn't be facilitating family meetings. If Mariah is a child protection worker, she might be supervising family meetings, but she would not be determining eligibility for welfare checks. She wouldn't be saying "Okay. Well, I'll see you next time then. Or maybe you'll see someone else. But you're going to have to talk to someone if you want your check, sweetie."

Then, there is the way that Mariah acts during the meeting between Precious and her mother. Most people not in the field will think that she was great -- she supported her client, held the mother accountable, etc. Whoo hoo. The problem is, the methods she used are not appropriate social work methods; she was judgmental, confrontational, interrupted, lost her cool and yelled, and lost control and cried. I assure you, that's not what we teach our students. I'll definitely be using that particular clip as an example of what not to do in my direct skills course.

Does it ever occur to any of these shows/movies that they might want to consult with a local chapter of the NASW to be sure they get it right? Or don't they care if they get it right?

Disclaimer: I haven't read the book, so I don't know if these inacurracies are from the original.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

letters to an erstwhile father

Dear Daddy,

So, let's start this trip down memory lane with your separation from her mother. She can remember some of that, you know.

She remembers her mother scrambling to find both her shoes -- she was forever losing just one of the pair -- because she was late taking your kids to see you. She remembers her mother saying that since you never wanted to see your kids, she wasn't missing this chance. That if she had to dump the kids on your doorstep, she'd do it.

She remembers her mother taking them by the pizza place where you worked. They stood on the little ledge meant for kids, in front of the window to the kitchen, watching daddy make pizzas.

She doesn't know whether this was before the separation or after, but it seemed that the mother had brought them there to see you -- to remind you that you had kids. Or she was dropping them off at the end of your shift. That memory is a little bit hazy.

But she remembers being fascinated by daddy making pizzas. As if it were rocket science, and you were the most incredible daddy in the world. She could have stood there on that platform, looking in that window at you, forever.

Much later in life, as an adult, her mother let it slip that she'd briefly been in a psych ward in a hospital during that time. That she'd only gotten out because a visitor for someone else turned out to be someone she knew, and that person helped get her released. She doesn't know how accurate that is, because, well...it's mother, and her stories are always skewed to make her seem the victim.

But one thing that has always puzzled her: the mother hinted that you had played some role in her being in that hospital. In fact, she thinks the only reason the mother told her was because she thought it would make her angry with you for 'doing that terrible thing to her.' She laughed inside, because it confirmed what she'd 'suspicioned' all along.

Of course, this confirms that you must have realized that there was something wrong with the mother. And that begs the question: why, oh why in the bloody hell would you leave your little ones with the mother if you sensed that something wasn't right with her?

She's well aware that in the mid-60's, the mother always got custody of the children. That it was generally accepted that children had to be with their mother. But you could have stayed close, visited them regularly, made sure that they were alright. You could have protected them from the mother's mental illness, and the subsequent abuse.

Instead, you chose not only to leave the area, but to move to Canada. So you wouldn't have to pay child support. Which the mother never let them forget. In her anger over having to support her kids completely on her own, she never failed to find moments to tell the kids just how much you didn't want them.

And from the moment you left, you never looked back. No phone calls. No letters. Never once a birthday card. You left your babies. With a woman who was mentally ill. Never an attempt to find them again.

In fact, she can't figure out how, years later, the mother's second husband was able to legally adopt the kids (and wait till she tells you about him, dear daddy). How was the adoption done legally? Were they unable to find you and the kids were officially deemed 'abandonend'?

Or did they find you, and you signed them away with a pen. Wiped away your name on their birth certificates, and put his there. She can't decide which is worse. But as bad as it is, she thinks she'd prefer it be the former, rather than the latter.

When she was very young, she was sure you'd come back for them. Later, it became her regular fantasy -- daddy would find his kids and take them away with him. Only you never did. Her later fantasy was that she was completely adopted, or switched at birth, and her real parents would come and save her one day. That second fantasy got her through lot, dear daddy -- a hell of a lot.

And if she's really being honest, a part of her still wishes she'd been switched at birth. She'd rather believe her real parents don't realize they don't have her, than to believe that one of her parents didn't want her, and the other one resented her.

There's more, so much more, dear daddy, but no time right now. She'll be writing again, soon, with more memories...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

letters to an erstwhile father

Dear Daddy,

Do you mind if she calls you that? It is, after all, what she called you in the beginning. You were Daddy then. Before you left. The next time she saw you, she didn't feel comfortable calling you anything. Calling you by your given name didn't seem right. Neither did Daddy. Or even Dad. 'Cause you weren't either of those at that point. But they were all about appearances in their family -- and she uses the term family loosely. Very loosely. Or maybe not so much about appearance, but about avoidance. Or about doing what's expected. And so, when she saw you all those years later as an adult, she did what was expected -- she called you Dad.

She's wanted to write this letter for a long time. Or perhaps what she means to say is that she's been thinking forever about all the things she'd like to say but hasn't had the courage. Or things she'd like to ask, but doesn't. Because they don't discuss things in their family. They pretend problems don't exist. Outwardly, at least. Perhaps because they are afraid of the potential answers. But these thoughts have sure as hell been in her head for a long time. Forever. Or since she was big enough for her my pint-sized brain to begin to form them. To wonder. It's time to let them out. To give them wings. To watch them soar. To give her peace.

Have a seat, dear Daddy, and get comfortable. This might take some time...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

sit there, and count your little fingers

God, she was having a hell of a rough night. She tried to chalk it up to hormones, of the menopause variety. And maybe it was. But she was overcome with recurring visions of this memory.

Or perhaps, it was the fact that this was the only memory she could muster in which any affection occurred between her and either parent, that was preying on her psyche. That was making it so very poignant.

Try though she might, she simply couldn't bring to light a single memory that involved either parent holding her, hugging her, or engaging in any other parently type of loving touch.

They must have done it sometime, right? That's what parents do. They hug their kids. They tell them they love them. Right? Sure they do.

So they must have done it, and she just can't remember it. But shouldn't she be able to remember at least one time? Just one? Why would her mind unilaterally block every single memory of any loving gesture?

She'd been lying awake at night for a couple of nights now, tears leaking out the sides of her eyes unchecked. Did the hugs happen and she just can't remember? Or were neither of her parents -- not the mother with the borderline personality disorder, nor the father who left and never looked back -- capable of that kind of normal parenting behavior.

Strangely, she felt as though she were in mourning. Little girl blue.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

to infinity and beyond

I became a grandma last month. And the little guy came a bit early and wound up in the NICU for almost a month. He's home now, though, and gaining weight nicely.

How to put into words the feelings?

The sense of life and continuity, simultaneous with the realization, hitting smack between the eyes, of one's own mortality.

How eerily he looks like my son at that age, even though he's so much tinier.

Wanting like crazy to hold him close, but he's cross country and I can't get away mid-semester.

John Lennon, Beautiful Boy

Monday, September 14, 2009

learning to live all over again

One challenge of this move has been finding a new doctor.

Actually, finding the new doc wasn't a huge challenge...it was his diagnosis when I finally met him and he ran a bunch of tests that was tough.

I have high blood pressure, and I'm diabetic -- type II. Seems I've likely been this way for years, but by health insurance standards (they look only at specific tests and specific results) I was 'borderline,' or 'pre-diabetic.'

Of course, an actual diabetes diagnosis gets you much more aggressive treatment than 'borderline' does, so I never really took it seriously. Till this doc told me my blood glucose was >500 and the sugar in my urine was so bad that I had a UTI that I hadn't even noticed, and that there was evidence of problems with kidney functioning. After he threw around terms like diabetic coma and future dialysis, I was sufficiently impressed (read: terrified).

So now I'm on avandamet 2/500 twice a day (and micardis hct), and my life is even more chaotic than it used to be. Now I have to figure out how to eat small, healthy meals every few hours instead of the one or two large, totally unhealthy meals I used to do. And I have to try to take my meds twelve hours apart, at the same times every day.

Both of these challenges are proving to be... well... challenging! My work schedule just doesn't allow for small regular meals, or even for taking meds at the same times. And whatever is in that avandamet, damn! If I overeat, or eat really unhealthy stuff, I get very sick.

I know that they say this whole thing is about a lifestyle change, but until you actually have to change a lifestyle that's 20 years in the making, you just don't realize how difficult it is, what a huge impact it has on everyday living.

What to eat becomes a major focus of your day, even more so than it did when you ate fast food. Not too much sugar or other bad carbs, the more refined the worse, veggies and protein are your friends. Except that I hate most veggies, so I keep getting stuck with the same ones till I'm going nuts. Then I blow it and eat something horrible and feel sick all night.

Sigh. I've purchased all kinds of pots and pans and knives and small appliances to make cooking for myself more appetizing than eating out. Little forays into things like sauteeing shrimp and throwing it over angel hair pasta have been good.

Of course, cooking for one adds an additional challenge to the mix. Because of course, I don't like leftovers either, lol, so I don't want to cook too much food.

I've also ordered a special pair of sneakers so that I can exercise -- at least walk -- which I haven't been doing because of pain and numbness in my toes. Oh yeah, that's another symptom of diabetes, for those who don't know. Has to do with circulation. If it doesn't improve, I could lose those toes ten years from now.

But hey, no stress...no stress at all.

Chill out...what I'm tryin' to do...

(photo taken at ft. tryon park)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

In which I finally take the old apartment key off the chain

God, I haven't written here in forever. Well, for a good six months anyway. Didn't know if I ever would again. Don't think anyone even reads this anymore. Oh well. I always said I wrote for me, not for others, so it shouldn't bother me if no one comes around, right?

Almost four months into the new apartment. It's still hard to believe I'm here. Today I spent two hours at the laundromat and the rest of the afternoon at home running around in a peasant shirt and panties.

It isn't as though I spend all my time hanging around the apartment, though. Yesterday I spent a cool two hours at the Frick, and then popped by Macy's Herald Square to pick up a set of cooking pots. They were on sale and I had a coupon, so I paid about $130 for the set.

Last weekend I did one of the tours at the tenement museum. And I bought one of these deals on facebook and will do it on one of the upcoming three-day weekends.

So I'm loving the hell out of the city -- the stuff to do, having this place right across the street, having everything I need literally around the corner from my apartment, the half-hour commute to work instead of 1.5 hours.

But hell...I lived in my last place for 11 years -- that's longer than I've lived anywhere else in my entire life, including childhood. So even though I didn't love the hell out of the place, it was still hard to take the key off my key chain.

You know what I mean?

(photo mine, taken at ft. tryon)

Saturday, August 01, 2009

it's like...you know

You know how it is when you go visit family, or a very good, old friend. And you stay with them in their home for an extended vacation.

Everything in the place is familiar, because you've been there so many times before. And it's great, for awhile. You genuinely enjoy being there. It's a novelty, really.

But weeks later, you're tired of being somewhere that isn't home. You begin to think about home, picturing it in your mind. And eventually, the slightly-familiar-but-not-quite-home feeling urges you to pack up and leave.

To go back.

To go home.

That's what it's like. Like I'm visiting a relative. Everything in the apartment is familiar...like I've been here many times before. And I love the new place, really I do. Everything about it so far. It's a novelty, you see.

But it's just too soon to really think of this as the place to come home to from a trip somewhere else.

It's like the visit is wearing thin. And it's time to go.

It's just a bit unsettling.

It's like...you know.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

and what will you be doing this weekend?

My work for the weekend. If I think about it, I'll cross them off as I get them done.

1. Record points in gradebook for study guides in policy course. (finished 7:30 pm sat)
2. Read journals in skills course and record grades. (finished 10:00 pm sat)
3. Read take home exams in internship course and record grades. (finished 1:40 am)
4. Read informative papers in intro course and record grades.
5. Write exam 1 for intro course. (finished sunday 5:30 pm)
6. Write exam 1 for policy course. (finished sunday 8:00 pm)
7. Develop an alternate final assignment for internship course for students whose placement doesn't allow for the assignment currently required. (finished 2:35 am)
8. Write letter of reference for student applying to NYU.
9. Create computer in-class research project for intro course.
10. Prep for Monday courses.
11. Clean apartment, do laundry. (so far, I've managed to do the dishes and order pizza for dinner)(sunday: 1st load in washer 1:20 pm, 2nd load in washer 1:45)
12. Work on MFD. (not bloody likely)
13. Touch up grey roots (hey, I have my priorities). (finished sunday, 1 pm)

So...what are YOU doing this weekend?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

I'm still standing

They all woke up early yesterday. Even her, considering she wasn't going in to the office. The three of them were up and out the door at 8:45 am, due in Queens at 10 for a funeral. The rugrat's boyfriend had found out the night before that a very good friend of his had died in a head-on collision. A young 22 year old woman, who left two little ones behind. Estranged from most of her family, she'd been fairly alone for the last few years. The bf later said that he could tell they'd used a lot of makeup to make her presentable for open-casket.

The plan was that she would drop them off for the funeral and find a coffee shop to get some paperwork done. What she found was a mcdonald's, but it would do. The music was way too loud, and there was a group of about a dozen 'seniors' who looked to be in their sixties and seventies hanging out talking and laughing at one end of the restaurant. They were relaxed they way people are when they spend a good deal of time somewhere -- like they 'own' it, like it's their place.

She spent almost two hours there, completed reading journals and commenting on them for one of her classes. She had just started reading a chapter in a text book for next week when rugrat called and said the funeral was over. She packed up, hit the restroom, and picked them up. They hadn't eat, so she ran them back to the same mcdonald's -- drive thru this time -- to get them something to eat. Then they headed for the freeway and the drive home, so rugrat could get ready for work and she could get numerous bits of work done around the house.

That was about 12:15. And that's when the car died -- just before the turn to the freeway entrance. It had been cutting out when rugrat would take it to work, for a week or so now. But since it hadn't happened to her, she hadn't been particularly concerned. She'd thought it might be the battery, and that was one of the things she'd planned to do that afternoon -- buy and install a new one. But now there they were, stalled in the turn lane, hazards on, cars rushing around them.

It'll start in about 20 minutes, rugrat said. And the check engine light will go out. And it did start in 20 minutes, so they got themselves onto the freeway to hightail it home. Only the check engine light didn't go off as they drove. And on the van wyck expressway, in between exits to the LIE, they hit bumper-to-bumper traffic. and the car died, in the far right of three lanes of traffic, with a fourth lane on their right merging in. At about 1:00.

They sat there on the VW, cars creeping around them, thankful that at least they were in slow-moving traffic. Although it amazed them, the number of people who would come up behind them, see their hazards blinking, and yet still pull up on their bumper instead of going around.

So, a call to AAA was made, and it went something like this, sans the frustration of the moment:

--We need a tow from Queens to Yonkers. We're on the VW expressway.
--I'm sorry, that's a state road, and AAA isn't allowed to tow cars on state roads. It's a state law. They have franchise tows on state highways.
--I thought AAA covered me anywhere in NY.
--It does, but we can't pick up on state roads. You have to call the state tow number and pay to be towed off the state highway, then we'll reimburse you.
--How do I get a tow truck then?
--If you'll hold, I'll try to find the state highway number for you to call.

The woman does come back with two numbers, one a toll-free line. She calls that one, and finds herself on the state thruway line that provides info on ez passes and roadway conditions. Fat lot of good that did her. The second got her to an actual person:

--AAA gave me this number. I'm stalled on the VW in Queens and they say they can't help me, that I need a local tow. They said you were who I should call to get the local tow.
--We don't do that, but here's a number you can call.

She called the number:

--[insert explanation previously given]
--We don't do that at this number, but maybe they do at the city level. I'll transfer you, hold please.

The person who picked up at the transfer:

--[insert explanation previously given]
--Oh, we don't handle that here. There are tow companies who are franchised for sections of the state highways, and they drive the highways looking for stalled vehicles. You just have to wait for one to come.
--[insert ever increasing fear and frustration, while trying to stay calm and respectful] We've been here for 15 minutes and several tow trucks have driven by, but none has stopped. How do I know which one is the right one? What am I supposed to do? I don't know which tow company to call to get off the freeway.
--I understand. If you'll hold, I'll try to find the local tow company that's franchised where you are.
--Thanks for holding ma'am, I have the name and number of the tow company that has the franchise for that spot on the freeway.

She called the tow company and they said they'd have someone there in 20 minutes. About ten minutes after the call, a police car crept up behind her. See, her car had been blocking traffic throughout the numerous phone calls.

Rather than get out of the car, he used the loudspeaker, telling her to put her car in neutral and steer for the edge of the highway. He used his car to gently push her car to through traffic to the side and up beyond the merging lane to a shoulder, then stopped and told her to hit her brake.

Then he got out of the car with a stack of flares in his hand. He brought a few to her and asked her if she'd ever used them. Of course not. So he showed her how to pull the plastic from around the sides, pull of the striking cap, and light the flare. Then he motioned for her to put hers beside the car toward the front, while he did the back. Just as she got out of the car to place the flares, and as he was asking her if she'd called a tow truck (as if she should have known how to go about that), the truck drove up.

She didn't have to set the flares, and when she motioned to the cop -- who'd gotten back in the car after setting only one flare -- to ask if he wanted them back, he shook his head no. So she now has three flares on the floor in the front passenger seat.

The tow truck told them to stay in the car, and he proceeded to hook up and tow the car off the highway and down to the street below. There's nothing quite like sitting in a car that's being towed off a highway. The rugrat called it a bit like a carnival ride, except that every deep dip in the rough road hurt and they cringed to think of potential damage to the rear of the car.

The charge for the tow: $80.20. They barely covered the cost by pooling all their cash.

Now, they needed to get from the street to home. Which meant another call to AAA, at about 2:00:

--My car has stalled and I need a tow truck to get from Queens to H--.
--OK, we'll set that up. Are there others in the car with you?
--Yes, two others.
--The tow truck can only carry two at the most; you'll need to make other arrangements for at least one of the other passengers.
--How in the heck do we do that? We came here for a funeral, for gosh sakes, how are we supposed to get home?
--I could help you call a taxi.
--You may not be from downstate and don't know the area, but a taxi from Queens to H- would run about $200. Clearly I can't afford that. Never mind, I'll figure something out, just send the tow truck.
--OK, and where exactly is it going to?
--To my home. I can't afford to get it fixed right now.
--Are you sure you don't want to tow it to a mechanic? AAA has a policy that we cannot tow the same vehicle twice for the same problem.
--Are you freakin' kidding me???? My god, this is unbelievable. Never mind, there's a mechanic two blocks away from my home, I'll push the damned thing if I have to. Just send the tow truck.

They desperately needed a bathroom, and asked at the nearest business -- a new car place, ironically -- who were very nice. It was key not just because they all had to pee, but for her, it was aunt flo visiting, which meant near hemmoraghic that required hourly bathroom trips. Yes, TMI, but it will be important later inthe story.

And the rugrat and bf had to call a friend from Yonkers, who'd just arrived home from the funeral, to come all the way back and pick them up. And then ensued a series of texts and phone calls, as rugrat tried to get someone to fill in for her at work until she could get there. The friend finally arrived at about 3 and drove them home.

After a few update calls from the new tow place and AAA letting her know that major traffic was delaying the tow, it finally arrived at about 5 pm. That's three hours without a bathroom, folks. Just so you know. An older man, limping, with an even older -- it seemed -- truck, that actually stalled once when they started the tow. He was a bit condescending -- ok, more than a bit -- asking questions like 'are you sure you know how to get where we're going?' Um, hello...we're going to my home. I've lived there for 11 years. I kinda think I know how to get there.

He pulled up the car onto the flatbed and off they went, stopping for fuel for his truck. Traffic was indeed horrific, on the cross bronx. Once they went north on the major deegan, the road cleared and they made better time. She directed him first to the cash machine in town, since she had to cover the toll over the whitestone both directions -- and it's more for a truck than a car. $23 more, on top of the $80.20.

After an excruciating ride -- the old truck hit every spot in the road, she hadn't had a bathroom break, and his conversation consisted of derogatory remarks about mexicans with liberal use of the word retard to describe his employees and advice for her along the lines of finding a rich old man to take care of her so she wouldn't have to work anymore-- she finally arrived home at 7 pm. Five hours without a bathroom.

He pulled her car off the flatbed and she gave him directions to get back to the major deegan (trucks can't go on the saw mill or the hutch). Since he'd spent some time complaining about some employee who couldn't find his way even with a gps, she figured he could follow her instructions -- right, right, right, then left. But as she walked up to her apartment, she heard the truck going south. He turned left instead of right. Oh well.

She ran up the stairs to the bathroom, only to discover that she needed a shower. Badly. Thanks aunt flo.

Then she ordered pizza. 'Cause she sure as hell wasn't cooking after all that.

elton (check out the guitarist):

Friday, February 06, 2009

same as it ever was

So...I was up early to walk to the auto body shop to pick up the car so that I could drive to quest diagnostics, and after that to the hospital for the ultrasound.

Some of the blood tests ordered were to be done fasting, so I had nothing to eat or drink before starting out at about 8:45 this morning. Two miles of walking, a trip to the gas station, and eight test tubes of blood later (yes, eight: three purple, three white, two blue) I headed to the hospital (conveniently right across the street from both quest and my doc) for the ultrasound on my leg. At least one of the tests my doc requested is intended to rule out arthritis. Which is important since I'm still in a great deal of pain, and there's no blood clot.

Yep, the verdict is no blood clot. Whoo hoo!

And I was so hungry that my first stop after the hospital was KFC.

Rugrat was thrilled to have the car to drive to work today. Then it sputtered on the way home and died. She managed to get it home, but it drove rough the whole way. See, the body shop doesn't really do engine work. Those are two different things.

Sitting for six weeks in this cold without being driven probably didn't help. And we can't get it to the mechanic till Monday, but rugrat needs to get to work the next two days. And we'd really like to stock up on food at costco so that we don't keep grabbing fast food.

I love my car, I love my car. Really, I do.

When I don't hate it.

And grandma. Grandma. I knew it had to happen eventually. And I love rugrat 1, and will love his child of course. But damn. Grandma.

David Byrne

say hello

To grandma spring. Which is what I will officially be in 31 weeks.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

it's all random

When you eat a jello pudding cup, do you use your finger on the insides of the container to get every bit of chocolaty goodness? I just did -- in my office, where anyone could have walked in and seen me.

When you delete an email your yahoo spam box, a warning pop-up box asks you if you're sure you want to delete. Why don't we get the same warning box when we delete an email in our inbox -- the folder with the emails we're most likely to want to keep?

Is anyone else crushing on Barack? Am I nuts to think he's kinda good looking? Even worthy of a fantasy or two?

Did you know that after taking only three Zestrils (over three days, not all at once), your high-blood-pressure-induced headache will be completely gone and you'll be a totally new person in a way you haven't felt for about a year, with a brand new outlook on life? Even your colleagues will notice that you seem peppier.

Dominos has a new specialty pizza called the Cali Chicken Bacon Ranch(TM) that is particularly awesome. I mean it. Try it and see.

I get my car back tomorrow morning. Just in time to stop by the outpatient services at the local hospital for an ultrasound of my leg to rule out another blood clot. Please think happy karma thoughts for me. Another round of anti-coagulants is not on my list of things to look forward to. High blood pressure meds -- in a flash. Anti-coagulant -- not so much.

Can you say cold? I knew you could. It is -1 without the wind chill today. And it's supposed to be 51 on Sunday.

According to UPS tracking, both sets of shoes in the previous post were delivered this morning, after I left for work. Tonight is officially designated as try-on-new-shoes night. Of course, since there is still frozen snow, not to mention slippery ice, all over, I won't actually be able to wear a pair tomorrow. But perhaps on Sunday...although of course, that kind of heat (ha ha -- 51, that kind of heat) will melt everything, making for a mucky mess. I'm not wearing new shoes out in that.

I am officially killing time because I don't want to prep my lecture for class...which now officially begins in 41 minutes.

For some reason, the old monkees theme is running through my head. Don't you hate that? So I went to youtube to find a clip from their show, with them singing the them song. BUT, I can find the music with no video, or video of the show with another group actually singing. But not them singing, with video from the show. Am I asking for a lot? I don't THINK so.

But I did find someone on youtube who put the song to beatles' video. It's kind of funny.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

speaking of shoes

Because when am I not thinking about shoes?

I decided with my federal tax refund (what, you haven't filed yet? Dudes, I not only filed, I got my money on Friday) that I would buy a few decent pairs of shoes. You see, I love shoes, but have a wide foot, and payless -- my shopping choice for shoes -- hasn't had the wide sizes as often as I'd like.

So I went online and found wide sizes at Jessica London and ordered about seven pair. The total was $199, but it seemed to be worth it if they fit well.

But, I was also concerned about customer reviews that the shoes didn't have enough cushion on the bottom. See, I have plantar fasciitis, and I really should be wearing orthotic inserts, but since they don't fit in most shoes, I go without. I sort of knew that I should be wearing good orthopedic shoes, or my feet in ten years won't be able to hold me up. But my vision of orthopedic shoes was that they were butt-ugly.

Anyhoo, I wandered onto a site called Footsmart, and after scrolling through the horrors of the typical orthopedic shoe, I began to find some that weren't so bad. Actually, some of them were quite cute. Really. I mean, look at these:

And these aren't even the really pretty ones, just those more in my price range. I mean, I only got these six, for about $300, in comparison to the 7 for $199. But everything on their site is supposed to all be comfy, wide, and meant for people with foot problems. I won't know till I try them, but I'm hopeful. And if they work, and I can walk without constant foot pain, I'll probably send back the JL shoes and buy a couple more pair from this site.

Yes, I know, they aren't my heels. And I'll keep my heels for dress-up. But still. For everyday wear, these might kinda rock.

Pretty shoes.

That fit.

And feel good.

And look good.

Whoo hoo!!!

I'm still fly

Brought work home with me so that I could avoid the rat race commute on Friday. It's 3:53 on Sunday, and I still haven't touched it.

Still don't have a car. Got the insurance $, towed the car to the body shop, and -- they can't find a used hood. So the car sits at the shop until they find the used part. Because insurance won't pay for a new part on a ten year old car, and I sure as hell can't pay for it.

Finally went to the doc for a couple of serious problems I've had for a good six months. Major (and I do mean major) headaches, which might just be due to a blood pressure of 160/100. So, it's high bp meds for moi. And if it makes that motherfucking headache go away, I'll take it -- really I will. And nearly constant major pain in my right leg from hip to knee, so bad even oxycodone doesn't make a dent in it. A scrip for an ultrasound to see if it's another blood clot; a referral for an orthopedic specialist if it ain't. You all know that it must be excruciating if a masochist says it hurts, right?

I feel another part to the runaway series stirring inside me. Probably next weekend, since it's essentially a five-day weekend for me. I think my anonymous reader gave up on me ever getting the last two parts written, it took so long. I'll keep up with it more now (are you still reading?).

And there's a story somewhere deep in my recent sifting through of the rugrats' baby clothes and giving them to each of them, with stories attached. My mind lately has been full of my younger adult years, especially those with the first rugrat when I didn't have much of a clue. It's bubbling, just beneath the surface, wanting to burst forth in bits and pieces. I guess it's lucky that I tend to write in bits and pieces, isn't it.

My 49th is this Thursday. That happens to be a holiday on my campus (Lincoln' bd). I don't have classes on Friday, and Monday is president's day. We'll see how much I can get done in those five days. Or if I'll lay around like a blob because I'm so physically and mentally exhausted. I'll probably get about half the stuff done that I want to get done. I wonder if it's just because I'm putting too much on my own plate and have unrealistic expectations of myself. Or if I'm just a lazy ass.

big tymers, still fly:

same song by devil wears prada:

I love that the same song can be so different.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sunday, January 25, 2009

the soundtrack of my life, part V

the soundtrack of my life series

She was only in juvy for a few days this time, and a social worker came to drive her to a group home. She didn't even know till then what was going to happen. That was typical of the system -- don't let the kid know till the last minute...less time for them to freak out.

Citadel, the group home was called. It was in Browne's Addition, to the west of downtown. Originally, that part of town was where the wealthier people lived when the place was being settled. The addition was full of those old, three-story homes that eventually were made into apartments because no one could afford to take care of them properly.

This home was still intact, hadn't been partitioned off for apartments. It stood on the corner of Pacific and...she couldn't remember that either. Maybe Cannon. Imposing, that house was. Intimidating. The little alcove to the right off the front door was probably initially for the side table that would hold a tray for people to leave their calling cards. Now, it held the only telephone available for about eight girls.

Just behind that was the stairway on the right. Going straight ahead through the foyer would find you in sort of a rec room, complete with an old shag carpet that had to be raked when the girls cleaned. To the left of the front door was the living room/tv room; walking toward the back of the house, next was the dining room. There was a doorway from the dining room into that rec room, making a complete circle. Behind the dining room was the kitchen, beyond which was a small room converted into a laundry room, next to the downstairs half-bath.

The second floor was the bedrooms for the girls. Two rooms with three beds, and one with two. And a third bedroom that a college student lived in. Her name was Ruthie. She was supposed to be a sort of casual counselor/helper to the group home 'parents,' but even looking back with a fairly objective eye, the college student was pretty ineffectual. She had very few actual counseling skills, at least in terms of working with teens. And she was smug and judgmental to boot, which didn't endear her to the girls. There was one bathroom on that floor for all eight girls and the college student. And at the back of the house, a small open area with sofas for hanging out. And a door leading to the requisite fire escape that had been added to these old buildings.

The third floor belonged to the house 'parents' and their two little girls. None of the teens was ever allowed on the third floor for any reason, so of course there's no description. The 'parents' -- she could still remember their last name -- Gross. No lie. They had no training for dealing with teenagers either. And, it seemed, very little parenting skills in regard to their own kids, as those two little girls were spoiled rotten holy terrors who quickly learned that they could lie to their parents and get the teens in trouble as the parents would take their word over the teens every time. So some of the girls wickedly plotted ways to catch the little ones in their lies and relished watching them get in trouble, even if it didn't last long.

She had to go to school while she was there, but it was a different school, so she didn't know anyone. She hated it, lost in that big high school, skipping lunch because she had no one to sit with. She didn't think she'd ever been so fucking alone as she was there. She lasted a couple of days before the anxiety threatened to overwhelm her and she just hung out downtown instead.

She and the other girls got along for the most part, although of course there were serious knock-down drag-outs from time to time. They formed into smaller pairs and trios, girls occasionally moved out and more in, and they spent most of their time hanging downtown, since it was within walking distance. Her time there became a blur of late nights and and hangovers. There was a curfew, of course, and supposedly consequences -- although those were not meted out fairly, but more harshly on those the 'parents' didn't care for. At first, they would sneak in and out by way of the fire escape, but eventually the 'parents' got wind of it -- thanks to Ruthie -- and they would wait for the girls to sneak out and then lock the door behind them.

Why, you might ask, wouldn't they just lock the door before they left. They seemed to love watching the girls come crawling home, forced to ring the doorbell to be let in. Ruthie, on the second floor, would ignore the bell until it woke up the 'parents,' who would take their sweet time coming down, and sometimes wouldn't open the door but would leave them outside. The girls then learned to leave the laundry room window slightly cracked. Not enough to notice, but enough that it wasn't latched and could be pushed open from the outside. Not all the girls could get in that small window, but at 98 pounds, she was one that could. Eventually the 'parents' discovered the window, but not till after she had left.

Her strongest memory of that home was a particular television show that all the girls were careful to be home to watch. Sunshine was the short-lived series, and it opened to John Denver's song Sunshine on my Shoulders. The girls would be milling around taking care of personal things, but when they heard the theme song, they came running and remained glued to the tv till it was over.

The show was about a guy who was taking care of his step daughter, whose mom/his wife had died. So, she wasn't really his daughter, but it didn't stop him from treating her like she was. The dad was a musician, rode a motorcycle, and was generally considered cool by all the girls. But of course what really drew the girls to the show was the dad/daughter relationship. Here were a bunch of teens, who either had dads who'd abandoned them, or dads who'd beat them, or dads who molested them. None of them had a functional relationship with their father, but they seemed to know one when they saw one. And watching this dad, who didn't even really have to take care of his stepdaughter, but choosing to, and willingly and lovingly...well, it held the girls attention every bloody week. They wanted what the girl in the show had -- and so did she.

But she caused a lot of problems at this group home. She just couldn't keep her mouth shut, called the 'parents' and Ruthie on their bullshit a little too often. If it was wrong, or unjust, she let them know. To know inside that all she'd ever tried to do was get away from the egg donor, and that all she'd gotten for her effort was this fucked up group home, just made her crazy. She was so angry at this point, it came out in so many ways, most of them self-harmful. Smart assed, fuck you attitude. Major drinking and partying. And those 'parents' didn't want her there causing trouble anymore. So they called the cops and told them she was a danger to their little girls and they wanted her gone.

She'd never, the whole time she was there, every said or done anything that could conceivably hurt those little girls, no matter how angry she got. But that didn't matter. When she heard they'd called the cops, she lost it a little bit. The injustice, the lie, was more than she could handle with her limited emotional resources. She did threaten them verbally then. Not the little girls, the 'parents.' Which of course played right into their plan. When the cops showed up, she was the angry one, while they seemed like the injured party. They were too much like the egg donor.

So the two cops took an arm each, lifted her off her feet, and carried her out to their car and put her in the back seat. She would have bruises on her arms later from the strength of their grips. She'd been in that group home for about a month, give or take a few days. Now she was headed back to juvy for the second time.

If I had a tale that I could tell you
Id tell a tale sure to make you smile

Sunshine on my Shoulders:

And back in '74:

the soundtrack of my life, part IV

The soundtrack of my life series

She sat on the bench at the station, staring at the building across the river. She could see the lights in the windows, and reflected on the water, tonight. In the summer, the huge trees in front of the building obstructed her view; but in the winter the trees were bare.

No music from her zen tonight, as she'd managed to screw up turning it off when she got to work that morning. She thought she'd done it, but apparently hadn't kept the button pressed long enough and it ran all day, until the battery died. So her music tonight was the sounds of Marble Hill -- faint voices, traffic, and the sounds of the number 1 as it crossed the broadway street bridge. And in the occasional moments of quiet, the sound of the river flowing, the wide, flat patches of ice twirling around the edges as they were pushed by the visibly swift current. The east river ran north along the east side of manhattan till it hit the bronx, and then curved west to join the hudson.

As she watched and listened, she was thinking -- stressing really -- about selling her soul to Dell for the new laptop and wireless printer she'd charged at an outrageous interest rate. But then her mind ran to the past again -- back to those runaway years.

She'd tired of trying to run to someplace, and decided to simply 'hang out' around town the next time she left. There'd been a lot of so-called spending the night with friends, but really hanging on the streets, so she sort of knew the ropes.

She could always get places to sleep at night if it got cold. There was the time she was partying with some guys, for example, and they let her have a bit of floor in the cheap hotel room they all shared. One of those kind with only one bathroom on each floor that everyone used. She needed to pee badly in the early morning hours, but they wouldn't wake up and show her where it was, and she couldn't find it. By the time she found a gas station with a bathroom on the way home the next afternoon, she hurt so bad she almost couldn't pee anymore. And after that, she had some serious bladder problems for most of her life. But hell, even that was better than being at home.

So one day she decided she just wouldn't go home at all, and she hung downtown for a day or two. Riverside was the place for the kids, especially at the ONB building. It had big, deep window sills outside, big enough to sit in and low enough to get up to. She was sitting in the window one afternoon when she saw her younger brother running over from across the street. He had a crooked smile on his face, and right behind him was the egg donor. The little fucker. He'd given her up, led the woman right to her.

That's the way they were, her brothers and her. They didn't have the 'all for one and one for all' attitude that some siblings develop when facing a common adversary. No, each one of them would give the other one up in an instant if they thought it would save them from hell. They'd all turned each other in at various times throughout their lives. Willingly, eagerly, happily. OK, perhaps not so willingly and eagerly. Or happily. They each felt a deep guilt when they had escaped to their bedroom, but had to listen to the other one's agony. At least she did, so she assumed the other two did as well. But that guilt didn't stop them from giving each other up, over and over.

The woman approached, and she gave a performance worthy of an oscar right there on the sidewalk. The begging, teary-eyed. Please come home, why do you do this? She had all the attention, pleaded innocence to her own crimes, and the kid came off looking like a loser. Again. So she got up and walked away from them both. And it wasn't but a few minutes later that the cops showed up. Because remember, running away was against the law back then. And in a midsized town like that, they picked up runaways if they knew where they were.

They escorted her to the back seat of their car, and drove her to juvy. Juvenile detention. She'd never been there, and her heart beat nearly out of her chest in trepidation. After all, she'd seen the tv shows of kid detention centers, the violence there. She was expecting the worst. And found nothing like the telly -- this wasn't NYC, after all. It was clean and quiet. No one screaming or threatening or whacking anyone around.

She was briefly checked and changed into...damn, she's completely blanked out of what they made the kids wear. Couldn't remember. But she did remember they made her take out her earring, looked for any other jewelry, put everything into a box and put her name on it. They took her to...again, it's a blank. Was this selective memory? She can't remember what the rooms looked like. Were they small cells with only a couple of beds, or a larger room like the jail in the small town. The memory just wouldn't come.

She did remember they had private bathrooms, with semi-communal showers. At least she didn't have to pee in public. They showered every other day. The facility supplied some cheap-assed shampoo that made her already unruly hair even worse. A female guard had to dole out shampoo, soap, and toothpaste/brushes a little to each girl, just enough for that shower -- they weren't allowed to have supplies of their own. They would go into the shower room, wet themselves down, then reach around the wall and the guard would squirt shampoo into their outstretched hand. They would lather up, then get back under the spray to rinse off.

She remembered a large rec room where they spent most of their time. There was a tv, and a foosball table. There may have been some books. She didn't like big groups, but she did know a couple of the kids from the street so it wasn't at bad as it could have been. But she spent a lot of time just laying on her bed, staring at the ceiling. Or sleeping, if she could get away with it. But they frowned on sleeping during the day and would kick her ass off the bed if they caught her.

But mostly she remembers the empty echo of the place. You know the sound your footsteps make on a cement floor in hallways that have no carpet or wall accessories to absorb the echo. Like a place not really lived in, despite the number of people there. She also remembers one of the guards. The woman's name is lost to history, but who she was will never be forgotten. She was one of those incredible people who try to get kids back on the straight and narrow, keep them moving, get them feeling better about themselves. Let them believe that someone out there actually cares about them.

On the day she left juvy the first time, the guard took out her checkbook and tore her name, address, and phone number off a deposit slip and gave it to her. Told her to call her anytime, day or night. She didn't do that with all the kids; maybe that's why this kid remembered it so vividly. Maybe she really thought the woman did care, at least a little bit. She would have an occasion a couple of years later to be there with a social worker picking up another kid, and she asked about the guard. They said she'd died about a year ago. Cancer. Couldn't have been more than about 30 when she went. The kid never forgot that. And felt badly that she'd never contacted the woman, even to say thank you.

She couldn't be released from juvy without a court hearing, so she found herself one day standing in front of a judge. Of course, the egg donor was there, giving what was unarguably her most oscar-worthy performance to date. And again teary-eyed, she told the judge she'd given up on being able to control the kid. The kid was uncontrollable. Incorrigible was the word the court used. All a parent had to do back then was declare the kid incorrigible, and the judge would make the kid a ward of the court. Then the court had jurisdiction over where she went.

Of course, there weren't foster homes for teenagers. So the judge decided she should go to a group home. She didn't even know what a group home was. But she would soon find out.

I'm young, I know
but even so
I know a thing or two
I learned from you

Love Hurts, Nazareth:

Thursday, January 15, 2009

get a good job with good pay and you're okay

put this under fucked up beyond all recognition

I have two outstanding parking tickets in NYC. One from August 2005, one from April 2006. My fault. I'll say that up front and take responsibility. Both tickets are for expired meters, which in NYC goes for $65 a pop. We won't mention the fact that both tickets, months apart, were from driving into the city to meet fellow bloggers coming in from out of town. ;)

We only have 10 days to pay the ticket, and if we don't, an additional $60 fee is added to the original $65. Which of course makes total sense -- I mean, if I can't pay the $65, surely I can fork out $125. So, I forgot about them. Ignored notices, ignored the judgment. I mean, it's not like it was a moving violation...it's just a parking ticket. And not even a ticket for a no parking zone, or handicapped zone. Just expired meters. And they won't boot/tow the car for two lousy parking tickets. Right?

Well Monday I received a letter from the city of NY. Seems I've ignored the notices until the original tickets, added fees, and interest totals $311.82. And they've discovered that I am a city employee (as a prof in the city university system, I am, in fact, employed by the city of NY), so my case has been turned over to the NYC Department of Finance's 'Operation CityScoff.' Yes, yours truly is now a scofflaw! *snort*

The letter threatened "judgments against [my] non-exempt personal property" if the amount isn't paid in seven days. Among the many directions on the back of the letter was this: "To establish a payment plan or inquire about an existing plan call..." I wasn't exactly worried, since I own nothing of value; but what about garnishing wages...would they do that?

So, I called the number. After being on hold for 25 minutes, someone with a rather pronounced accent finally picked up my call (I only mention the accent because it was difficult, over the phone, to understand him, which didn't help the following conversation--which is a shortened version of the actual conversation; there was a lot of 'what?' and 'could you repeat that please' going on).

NYC: How can I help you?
ME: I need to get a payment plan for a couple of parking tickets.
NYC: Your license plate number please?
ME: W-----.
NYC: I'm sorry, you are not eligible for a payment plan.
ME: But I have a case number. I received a letter. It says I can call to make a plan.
NYC: What is the case number?
ME: 004------.
NYC: Your total balance is only $312. It is not enough for a payment plan. You must owe at least $500 for a payment plan. You must pay the whole amount due.
ME: What if I can't pay the whole amount?
NYC: Then you can go online and pay for one ticket now, and the other one later.
ME: There is no web address on the letter anywhere, or any instructions to go online.
NYC: www.---------. You can pay each ticket there.
ME: But what if I can't pay for one whole ticket at once? That was the problem in the first place.
NYC: Then you can pay part of a ticket online.
ME: How is that different from a payment plan?
NYC: If you are on a payment plan, the city cannot tow your car.
ME: You mean, because I don't have a payment plan, the city can still have my car towed while I'm making payments?
NYC: The city can tow a car if the tickets, fees, and interest are $350 or more. If the interest on your tickets takes your total amount from $312 to $350, your car can be towed if it is in the city.
ME: And if it is towed, how much to I have to pay?
NYC: You would have to pay the amount you owe in full, plus the towing costs.
ME: And this makes sense to you? Because it doesn't make sense to me. Is there anyone else I can talk to about this?
NYC: No, that is the policy. There is no one else to talk to.

A word of caution -- if you owe between $350 and $500 to NYC for tickets, you are one seriously screwed dude.

So I am logging on to the city's website now to make a partial payment on each ticket. And while I fully admit that the tickets are my fault...well, this thing is still a money-making business -- a racket, if you will. Gotta love the city!

UPDATED TO ADD: I just paid $25.00 on each ticket to bring my balance down. And guess what? The city charges a $4.00 convenience fee for 'allowing' me to pay online. It also requires an email address.

And by the way...the city never sent anything that suggested there were limitations on a payment plan, or what the guidelines for towing a vehicle are. And the dude I spoke with, who told me to go pay online, never told me there'd be a fee, either.

pink floyd, money: