Rantopolis

Elevators. Aka potential stink tanks.

Living in a high rise, the only way to exit the building is by first taking the elevator.  Or by parachuting out of the window which I do not advise.  What with the winds and all.

Press the down button at your own olfactory risk.

Most of the time the quick elevator journey is uneventful.  However, there are times when a gas mask is desirable.  Let me count the ways.

1.  People who wear too much perfume or aftershave.  Or make selections that smell like a cross between Draino and Raid.

2.  Smokers whose garments reek of nicotine.  (My goal is to throw up on one of them.)

3.  Non bathers.  Yep. There are one or two in every building.  Eau de stench.

4.  Smelly pets.  No, I don’t think it’s cute if your dog licks my ankles with his slobbery, smelly tongue.  On the other hand, you may wish to ask it how it enjoyed a heaping helping of the body lotion I just slathered onto my legs.

5.  Food.  I don’t mind the scent of pizza wafting out of a delivery bag.  It’s garlic reeking through human pours that I have issue with.  Are you trying to protect yourself from the invisible vampires who live in the neighborhood?  Seriously.  What the hell are you eating?!

6.  Passing gas.  You can’t hold it in for a few more seconds until you enter your own apartment?!  Seriously, what is your problem.

So, if you are guilty of any one or more of these six olfactory sins, then the next time I enter an elevator and you are in it, I would appreciate it if you could wedge yourself into a corner as far away from me as possible.  It would also be a good idea if you turned your back to me.  This way you will be missing my grimacing and eyeball rolling.

January 29, 2012   2 Comments

Categories: Chicago style , The high rise files

My new name: the water whisperer

Hellooo Rantopolis readers!  I’ve been a little preoccupied with all kinds of H2O drama in the past couple of weeks which has sucked up much of my free time.

You see, it appears that I’ve turned into the Water Whisperer.  In fact, communities experiencing a drought may wish to hire me since I now have the ability to make water appear.  My singular talent appears to be making water magically appear through plaster.

Somebody needs to alert Monster.com to add a new job type to its search function.

The first sign was bubbling paint in the hallway between the condo in which I live and the one next door which I rent out.  When I noticed it my heart sank.  I knew that on the other side of that bubbling, flaking paint was the shower wall.

This was not going to be good.

My condo staff investigated the problem and said that they would have to put holes in the wall in the front and side of the bathtub to get to the pipes causing the problem. .  Of course, these were both walls that were tiled.  They were going to remove the tile, break through the plaster, make the repairs and then re-tile.

I sat back and thought about this.  What were the chances that they could remove and replace old porcelain tiles without breaking them?

I’m thinking zero.

So, this is how a little bubbling paint, turned into a decision to do a complete bathroom gut and renovation. Since I’m trying to sell the condo, I figured this probably would be the smart choice in the long run.

By the way, have you priced marble and shower systems, lately?  It’s a shame that organ-selling is illegal.

Having done several renovations in the past, I schedule the job with the contractor to coincide with my tenant’s vacation and start specing the new fixtures, tile and so.  Both time consuming and expensive, but I had committed to the project, so full steam ahead.

Then on Thursday morning as I was starting my day in the master bathroom, I dropped a Q-Tip on the floor.  As I bent down to pick it up, my head happened to turn slightly to the left.

That’s when I saw this hiding behind the toilet:

I might as well just shove a spigot into the plaster and turn this space into a water fountain.

You have got to be freakin’ kidding me?!!  Another water leak, in another bathroom, in a second apartment…just days apart?!!!

Have I been doing incantations in my sleep?!!  Do I have some sort of magnetic field around me which is causing copper piping to weep?!

Luckily for me, the problem was attacked immediately.  The toilet was removed, the wall was taken down, the problem was fixed.  (This time it was actually the toilet seal that was leaking and the water had wicked up the plaster.)

The wall was replastered, then painted.  Finally the toilet was replaced.

As for me, I am trying not to look at any walls for the foreseeable future.  Just in case my piercing eyes decide to escalate things by creating a water park in my living room.

January 22, 2012   Comments Off on My new name: the water whisperer

Categories: Accidental things , Home repairs

Today I am grateful for my broke ass

Yesterday started like any other day by my taking a shower.  After I exited, I leaned into the shower area to wipe the back wall. Unknowingly, I had my feet planted on a wet hardwood floor.

Still not sure how it got wet.  I guess that will remain one of life’s mysteries.

The water caused my middle-aged lower extremities to attempt the splits.  (I believe the last time that happened Nixon was president.)  Until the trailing leg decided it wasn’t having any.

That’s when it decided to buckle, throwing me hip/side ass cheek on top of the bathroom scale.

This is the devil's toolbox.

Oh, the irony.

As I started to go down, I quickly tried to position myself to minimize injury.  My ass is definitely more padded than say…my wrist.  (Who said all of those holiday desserts didn’t serve a health purpose.)

So, I decided, ass it is!

But then I thought, I better try to prevent my head from striking something so I stuck my hand out.

Yeah, I thought of all of these things in the space of a second.  (I’m Greek.  Not only do we talk fast, but we also think fast.  I probably could also have found the time to assemble a gyro sandwich on the way down.)

So, here I am a day later with a huge black and blue mark on my hip/ass side region.  I also have a sore wrist and some stiffness in my upper left arm.

What I am most grateful about is that I didn’t break anything.  (I live in fear of breaking my hand/wrist since I write for a living.)

So the moral of this story is that it is much more desirable to have a broke ass than a broken hand.  And while a padded ass may not be ideal for skinny jeans, it is an excellent talisman against hip replacement.

I think somebody should pass me some dessert.

January 15, 2012   4 Comments

Categories: Accidental things

This explains everything

Did I take a vacation last month?  I think I did, but that deep relaxed feeling I was able to conjure during my two weeks in Florida is a distant memory.

Not to mention that my fabulous suntan is flaking off like stage four dandruff.  Despite the fact that that I’m applying lotion every 7.5 seconds.

But I digress.  Let me discuss what I mean by “this explains everything.”

Last week was a short week when people were still segueing out of holiday mode.  This week?  This week is more like someone flung open all of the cages in the zoo and the animals are running loose terrorizing the city.

Every day this week has started before 7 a.m. with some European-related client drama.  It’s ended past 6 p.m. when I push away from the computer.  (Not really, because now I’m on the laptop and before 11 p.m. hits odds are pretty high that I’ll get some email that needs immediate attention.)

It’s Wednesday and I’m looking at the calendar in disbelief that it’s 11 more months until Christmas break.  Or seven months until my trip to Greece.  Or maybe two more months until I’m institutionalized.

Feeling absolutely exhausted with two more days left in the business week, I figure I should read a few more industry e-newletter emails before reaching for the remote control.

That’s when I saw it.   An article detailing the most stressful professions.

Public relations executive  #2.  The only profession more stressful than mine is commercial airline pilot.  (Okay, on some lists the military and the police bump me  slightly down the chain, but I’m always in the top 10.)

Hence the reference to “that explains everything.”

That means what I do for a living is more stressful than neurosurgeons and trial attorneys.  Those wimps didn’t even make the top ten.

Note all of the letters that have rubbed off of the keys. If that doesn't say stressful profession, I don't know what will.

If that wasn’t enough, while I was in the process of typing this, my local news reported that Chicago residents are subject to a higher than average stress level.

Great.  Both my profession and zip code are conspiring to give me a heart attack.  Or maybe a stroke.  Whichever can kill me faster.

The good news is Northwestern Hospital has WiFi available throughout the building.  Which, of course, means my profession will continue to stress me while I’m on life support.

January 11, 2012   2 Comments

Categories: Chicago style , Stress attack

Guy tries to pay with million dollar bill

This actually happened on December 31st, but it’s taken me this long to stop laughing.

The obvious point is that a person that actually has access to a million dollars is not likely to be caught dead in Wal-Mart.  Unless, of course they are part of Sam Walton’s family and have shown up in an armored vehicle to pick up that day’s receipts.

This place scares me.

Secondly, everyone knows not to give a cashier an abnormally large bill for a small purchase.  (Dude…seriously?!  A million dollar bill for a $467 purchase?  That’s like giving someone a $1,000 bill for a 46 cent purchase.)  Way rude.

That kind of shit will get you bitch slapped by the cashier.  And “dirty-looked” by everyone else standing behind you in line.  Maybe even shot at in the parking lot.  Here’s hoping.

Have you seen the people who shop at Wal-Mart?  If they stampede your ass you will turn into ground meat in no time.  Those people don’t play.  (And spandex is their favorite fabric.  Just in case you didn’t know.)

And what did that asshat attempt to purchase with his million dollar bill?  A vacuum cleaner, a microwave and some other stuff.  (Please tell me I don’t actually have to point out that there is no such thing as a one million dollar bill.  Okay.  Good.  The largest U.S. bill currently in circulation carries a charming portrait of Mr. Franklin.)

Dude?!  Seriously?!  No guns??  No bulk toilet paper?  No house dresses for your woman?  What the hell kind of Wal-Mart shopper are you?  (Are you sure you didn’t mean to hit up the Best Buy?  Just think of the reward points you just walked away from.)

For years Wal-Mart was banned from opening a store within the Chicago city limits.  Yet another sign of intelligence from the Windy City.  (That, and the ability of our dead people to vote.)

January 4, 2012   2 Comments

Categories: Idiots at the store , Just plain weird , What is wrong with you?

Why my ears almost left my head today

I normally go to spin class on Tuesdays and Fridays during lunch, but I thought it would a good idea to start the new year right by going today.  I checked my health club’s schedule and saw that there was a 11:30 a.m. class.  After logging a few hours at the computer doing end-of-the-year paperwork, I jumped into the car and raced to the class.

Walking into the room, I noticed the instructor.  Someone I didn’t recognize from some of the other classes I’ve attended.  She was a pleasant, pretty blond.  I am guessing she was about 40 years old.

She announced to the class that she was excited to be doing this New Year’s Day class.  In preparation, she had pulled about four hours of music from which to choose.  She said it was hard for her to boil her choices down to 45 minutes, but she was sure that we were going to love her selections.

Cool.  Brand new year.  High-energy spinning class.  I was ready to get my biking groove on.

So, I’m trying to guess what the first song was going to be.  Flo Rida?  Lady Gaga?  Taio Cruz? Nikki Minaj?  Chris Brown?  David Guetta?

I adjust the bike, jump into the saddle and set the resistance.   She leans over and plugs in her iPod into the room’s sound system.

I hear the first few notes.  I’m like….dude…seriously?!   Led fucking Zepplin?!!  This is a spinning class in 2012, not a bong party in the 70s!

I look around the room and everyone has this stunned expression on their faces.  They are probably thinking what I am thinking.  This is a warm up song.  This can’t be the vibe for the rest of the class.

Unfortunately it was.  With the exception of an Amy Winehouse song and a White Stripes track, everything she played was originally released on an LP.  (I started to expect Roaring 20s music.)

To make matters worse, she kept exclaiming at the beginning of every track, “Oh, you are going to love this one.”

Yeah, maybe in 1972, but today…not so much.   (Who picks an Amy Winehouse song for a spinning class?!!  Somebody who is trying to get you to commit suicide while on a bike?!!)

We segued from James Brown to the worst of Motown to the Doors.  I kept looking around the room for a lava lamp and a black light poster.

We struggled through 45 minutes of this aural torture and then some guy with a Scottish accent in the back of the room says, “You actually have four hours of this stuff, huh.  I am so grateful this class is ending.”

I almost fell off the bike laughing, but not before I shouted out, “I’m with him.”

It was so Norma Rae of me, don’t you think?

This was met with, “Oh, come on you guys.  You can’t be serious.  This is great music.”

Yeah, maybe if you are about to have root canal.  Or trying to entertain people in an assisted living home.  But for a spinning class in 2012?

Hell to the no!!

At the end of the 45 minutes, Miss I’m Going to Ignore the Class’s Feedback, asks if she should extend the class by playing more music.

No, no, NO!!  Please stop!!  I’ll give you the PINs to all of my accounts if you could please stop playing this shit immediately.

I get off the bike and walk by the Scottish dude.  I quietly say to him, if I stay in this room one more minute my ears are going to propel themselves off of my head.  He starts laughing loudly.

Decades after leaving school, I continue to disrupt the class.  Finally, something I can be proud of on this first day of the new year.

Wishing all of you a happy and healthy 2012.   Thanks very much for supporting Rantopolis in 2011.

January 1, 2012   Comments Off on Why my ears almost left my head today

Categories: Exercise torture

Random end-of-vacation thoughts

I’ve just returned to Chicago having spent half of December in the Florida Keys.  I’m on laundry load #7, so all I am capable of right now is a random list of thoughts as I transition back into the real world.

1.  Reuniting long-lost siblings. I walked into the store with a lovely cream-colored Coach handbag which I had purchased earlier in the year.   I had no idea that the bag had been separated at birth from its siblings.  Clearly, screaming to be reunited with its gunmetal and black leather family members.  What could I do?  How could I possibly not succumb to begging from supple leather?  Not to mention the salesperson waving a 30% coupon off the already deeply discounted prices.  No one can say I don’t have family values.

Family portrait.

2. Vermin.  Fifteen day vacation.  Ten mosquito bites.  You found a way to bite me while I was laying out at the swimming pool.  (Couldn’t have been any other time because I slept in a hyperbaric chamber trying to prevent a sneak attack during the night.) When I rule the world I will find a way to destroy all of you itch-inducing, red bump making fuckers.  Oh, and the one that bit me on the ass?  He will be water boarded.

3.  Reclining bastards.  Do you asshats realize when you recline your airplane seat, you are shoving the back of your seat into my eye sockets and thrusting my tray table into my solar plexis?  Is a three-inch recline that important to your comfort?  Here’s hoping an air bag explodes into your ribs during your drive home.

4.  Thrifty car rental.  Even after I changed to a fourth car during my 15 day rental, you still didn’t get it right.  There was a warning on the dash that said, “oil change required.”  The warning would not go off, which means that it covered the space where the odometer should be.

When I tried to report it at the end of the rental, the attendant did not know the word “odometer.”  He kept pointing to the speedometer and telling me that it was working fine.  The highlight of my weekend will be filling out the customer satisfaction survey.  I will be using phrases like “douche bag customer service” and “Flintstone mobile.”  Or why don’t we skip all of this and go right to the huge discount you will end up giving me on my next rental.

5.  Miami airport.  My hate of this place continues.  Even the people who work there hate it.  How do I know?  They bitch about the place more than I do.

6.  A French street corner.  About 20 years ago, I bought a collapsible bag made from parachute fabric on a French street corner.  I spent the equivalent of $7.  This bag has served as my emergency second bag (translation: I went shopping) since that time.  It’s as light as a feather and collapses to the size of a paperback.  The French excel at croissants and street luggage.  I have proof.

7.  The best beach pillow.  A couple of years ago, I bought a back support pillow from The Back Store.  It didn’t work out so well for back support, but turned into awesome sauce as a beach chair or blanket pillow.  Another cool part is that it totally deflates and inflates automatically.  And the fabric is perfect for wet hair, etc.  It doesn’t absorb!  Don’t ya just love multipurpose stuff?!

Collapsible bag + beach pillow. Awesome sauce!

8.  Russell Brand/Katy Perry.  Russell filed for divorce today due to irreconcilable differences.  You entertainment types are relationship wimps.  My marriage lasted for four whole years and my ex was Satan.

Okay, so now I’ve gotta go take yet another load out of the washer as my tan continues to fade.

December 30, 2011   4 Comments

Categories: Random thoughts , The Conch Republic , Travel drama

The Christmas Eve crab claw beating

For those who celebrate Christmas, more likely than not, your family has annual traditions and rituals they partake in.

For many years now, my mother and I have been celebrating Christmas at Rantopolis South in the Florida Keys.  The geography lends itself to some mighty fine seafood eating, including the coveted seasonal stone crab claws.

Boats pull up to the dock and minutes later you are driving away with a bag full of yummy.

We always place our order right after Thanksgiving.  We hope for the colossals, but settle for the jumbos if the former aren’t available.

But here’s the thing.  Although these puppies are beyond dee-lish, they are a super pain to crack open.

In the past, I’ve tried all sorts of things.  Tools that look like nutcrackers, long skinny metal prongs to get to the crab meat and brute strength.

I’ve had shells flying everywhere and near finger amputations.  (Trust me, blood is not a good sauce for these things.) And I’m not really interested in something that is going to harsh my vacation vibe.  Especially when they cost close to $30 a pound.

However, a couple of years ago, I had a stroke of genius.  A way to get to the crab meat easily without:

a. splattering the shell and meat everywhere

b.  a hospital visit

So, my friends, through the magic of You Tube, I would like to share with you the annual Christmas Eve beating of the crab claws.

Put towel on floor.  Place individual serving on crab claws into a slider bag.  Close slider bag.  Beat the crap out of the claws with a wooden mallet.  Serve.  (Don’t forget the mustard sauce.)

Voila!  No flying shells, spilled blood or trip to emergency room!  Plus it feels great to beat the crap out of something.

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that your dinner wasn’t on the floor before you ate it, right?

December 26, 2011   Comments Off on The Christmas Eve crab claw beating

Categories: Holiday rituals , The Conch Republic

Four rental cars in 24 hours. Seriously.

Yeah.  Four.  Not making it up.

The story starts pleasantly enough.  I arrived at Miami’s Thrifty airport counter a week ago.  Lo and behold, they had my full-sized car ready.  A Ford Taurus.

Gasp.  Ready?!  You mean you aren’t going to pull your usual trick?  The one where you try to pawn off an SUV on me?  Wow.  I should buy a lottery ticket.

So, things were going well until midday yesterday.  We were a third of the way to Ft. Lauderdale from the Upper Florida Keys, when we hear chimes alerting us to the low tire pressure indicator.  We find a gas station with an air pump and my cousin,  the automotive electrical engineer, goes to work trouble-shooting the situation.

She adds air to the right front and back tires.  Low pressure indicator still on.  She moves to the left side and tries to do the same.  However, instead of the tires inflating, the air hose was actually causing them to lose air.  The deduction was that the left tires had faulty valves, which weren’t allowing inflation.

We figured that the problem wasn’t dire enough for emergency action, so we decided to continue our drive to Ft. Lauderdale and then deal with the car after lunch.

About four hours later we pull into the Ft. Lauderdale airport and find our way to the Thrifty return lanes.

Hi….there’s a problem with this car.

Okay, do you to switch it with a different car? 

(Really?  That easy?  You didn’t even ask me what the problem was?  What if I had a dead body in the trunk?  Still cool with my swapping it?)

Yes, that would be great.

Okay, let me get the paperwork.

He hands me my original paperwork with a few additional sheets added to the sleeve.  After I bitched a little more, I also received a coupon for 10% the next rental.  Finally I was asked what was wrong with the car.  He then wrote my answer on the windshield. (For a sec, I thought of starting a game of tic tac toe.)

So, off I go to the counter to negotiate the replacement vehicle.

The representative suggests a Crown Victoria as an option.  He asks if I want to see the car first.  Apparently, the low tire pressure affected my brain synapses and I decline.  He then gives me the keys to a car that resembled a  Blues Brothers police cruiser.

Seriously?!  They still make cars like this?!!  Unfreakingbelievable.   This thing had the shift on the column and a bench seat.  OMG!!!!

I drove it to the end of the row and then came back.

Excuse me sir.  I am sorry.  You gave me the option of seeing the car and I declined.  I am an asshat.  I should have taken you up on it.  This car is horrific, you have to give me something else.

With no other full-sized cars available (and my rejecting the ubiquitous SUV), I agree to go down one class to a standard.  He handed me the keys to a dark maroon colored Ford Fusion and off we went.

Within minutes I was being strangled by the seat belt and when I accelerated, the car sounded like it had tuberculosis.  Zero to 60 in three hours.  Peachy.  This was going to be my ride for the next week?!!  Sigh.

So, fast forward to today.  Driving down U.S. 1 this afternoon,  we hear chimes again.  And a low tire pressure warning.

OMG…seriously?!!  Is Thrifty trying to punk me?!!!  Am I in car rental Groundhog Day? Are Fords devoid of any quality control?!!

I quickly look at my watch.  4:50 p.m.  I’m about three miles from the Upper Keys Thrifty location.  Not sure if they close at 5 p.m. so I hit the gas.  More tuberculosis.  (After all this is the Keys.  People take their cocktail hour very seriously so I need to get there before they start hammering brewskis.)

I walk in and explain my current dilemma and the car rental events of the past 24 hours.  The woman behind the desk proceeds to tell me that this sort of thing happens all the time and and I shouldn’t be concerned.

Uh.  No.  I further explain the problem with yesterday’s deflation and I am not comfortable driving a car with a safety warning.

She tells me that if I fill the tires with air and then drive five miles it should adjust itself.  I was pretty sure that the next set of instruction were going to involve me clucking like a chicken, chugging a beer and running around the car ten times.

Instead of following her moronic instructions I politely explained why her theory wasn’t correct and proceeded to ask….once again….for a new car.

Is the current car filled with gas?

Uh.  No.

Okay, well, you are going to have to fill it with gas and the come back.

Sweet mother of god.  Thrifty is going to give me a stroke.  Off I go to the gas station and pump $14.81 worth of regular into this piece of asthmatic, under inflated piece of crap.

I return to the office where the attendant completes the transfer.  She hands me the sleeve stuffed with more paper and all sorts of “returned” notations on the cover.  She hands me the keys.

Can you tell me where it’s parked?

No, I’m not sure where anything is parked. Just use the keys and try to find the car that lights up when you push the open door button.

Fabulous.  As I try to find Car #4, I turn around and snap this photo of the seat belt choking Ford Fusion.

Tuberculosis on four wheels.

Rental car #4.

My new ride, is the last car in the row.  A lovely silver Taurus.  A smile crossed my lips as I realize that I would now be back to driving something comfortable.  I enter, start the car and find my self staring at the following:

Engine oil. Change soon.

Shoot me.  Does Ford make any vehicle that doesn’t display a warning message of any type?

The only one that would be appropriate is, “you are stupid if you buy or rent this car.”

P.S.  Did I mention that I left my Jawbone bluetooth behind in Car #1?

December 21, 2011   Comments Off on Four rental cars in 24 hours. Seriously.

Categories: Car drama , The Conch Republic

The day of the iguana

So, we are in the Florida Keys, having a wonderful time during my annual Christmas break.  After an exhausting morning of suntanning (people, it takes a lot of energy to apply sunscreen and turn over), it was time to take a lunch break.

As I prepared lunch at the condo, my cousin was on the balcony looking out at the ocean.  She spots a “thing” sitting on top of a mangrove tree.  I go over to take a look.  The “thing” looked like a lizard to me.  (Helloooo…what do I know?!  I’m a city rat.  I can spot a drug dealer a mile away, but a reptile?   Sorry, not up on the various species.)

Cities have rats. Subtropics have these fugly things.

So, back to the lizard.  It seemed to be immobile.  Like it was sick or something and had crawled up there to die.  (My mother informed me that she had seen it yesterday and it made her gag.  That’s mom.  Huge lover of nature.)

We stared at it for a while and then it suddenly decided to move.  Sort of lumbering from the top of one tree to the next.  Okay, so clearly it wasn’t dying.  Maybe it had been suntanning, too.

When it made its way to the other tree limb, I could see its full glory. Orange spikey things coming out of its back, orange feet and an orange and black strip-y tail.  Oh, and it was big.  Like five or six feet, big.

Frankly, I’d prefer to run into a drug dealer than this thing.

Not knowing what it was, I decided to stop into the condo management office on my way back to the pool.  They’re used to me asking random questions.

Hey, sorry to bother you, but there is this lizard thing outside my window sitting on top of a mangrove. Do you know what it is?  Have you seen it?

You mean an iguana?  Uh.  Yeah.  They are all over the Keys.  That particular one parked itself outside my office for about six months and just used to stare at us.

Okay, so now we know what it is, what the hell does this thing eat?  (Please don’t tell me middle-aged women who are tanning by the pool.)

It typically eats leaves and bugs.

Awesome.  I’m home free.  This fugly thing isn’t interested in eating me.

Next problem.  How to prevent the no-see-ums from eating me.

December 19, 2011   1 Comment

Categories: The Conch Republic