Archive for April 2012

Oh No! The Bags Are Here!   8 comments

The American Medical Association published a report stating that traffic fatalities are “significantly” higher on tax filing day than the same day a week earlier or a week later. The inference is that this is due to the harried and scattered state of mind of taxpayers rushing to meet the deadline. My father never had this problem. Daddy started his tax preparations in late February. He didn’t have to say a word. We knew when the paper bags arrived in the dining room.

Daddy was a podiatrist in the days of one man practices. And In Daddy’s case, it was truly one man. He never even hired a receptionist until his later years. He answered his own phone and scheduled his own appointments. When the phone rang, he’d apologize to the patient in the treatment chair and pick up the black receiver, then swivel around to the tall secretary desk just behind him. He’d flip through the gold-edged pages of the leather-bound appointment book until he came to the right date, then enter the patient’s name, in pencil, at the desired time. Then, he’d swivel back to resume his treatment….and the conversation.

Daddy spent a lot of time swiveling. Next to the appointment book was a yellow legal pad. He’d pause in his examination to whirl around to record what he found in his examination – corns, calluses, fallen arches, skin conditions, ingrown toe nails. And as he treated them, he’d whirl to make diagrams and notes of what he was doing – in pencil

Ink was reserved for the record cards. And I do mean ink, Sheafer’s blue black. Papermate was just beginning the ballpoint revolution, and while Daddy might pick up one of our retractable pens at home, his records were fountain pen territory. Each night after office hours, he would transfer his notations to the patients’ records; 6×9” file cards which he kept in two long file drawers by the phone. You could tell the long-time patients. They had several cards, dog-eared and fastened together with a paper clip. Daddy kept his practice going until he was 82 and he never altered this routine.

Nor did he alter his sartorial routine. He’d dress in  a suit and tie, fedora and overcoat in the winter, then get in his car for the twenty minute drive to the office. There he’d change into crisp white pants and a tunic. It didn’t matter that nobody would see his tie and suit other than the occasional neighbor or Dr Riley and Dr Griffin, the two dentists with whom he shared the office suite, men dressed in those days.

Daddy was also his own accountant. He had his own way of keeping track of his expenses: grocery bags, sturdy brown paper bags, this being pre- paper or plastic?.  Each January he’d take a bag from the folded stack my mother kept under the sink and bring it to the office. He’d open it wide and stand it in the corner of the supply room where he kept his uniforms, towels, drapes, antiseptics, lotions, salves, bandages, powders, blades, files and other various tools of his profession.

Once a week he’d get out his checkbook and pay his expenses: linen rental, medical supplies, his share of the rent and utilities and Mr. Glass’s pay. Mr. Glass was Daddy’s only employee. Daddy swept up after each patient, and disinfected his own tools and work area but Mr. Glass did the major cleaning. He also came by our apartment on Saturdays and washed or waxed our floors.

When Daddy had written the last check and sealed the last envelope, he’d drop all the receipts into the paper bag. If there was no receipt, he’d jot the amount and date on a scrap of paper and drop it in too. When the bag was full, he’d put it in the closet and bring another one from home. This was his accounting system. This was also why he started in February.

Daddy would bring the bags home, lining them up against the dining room wall, to be dealt with on Wednesday or Sunday nights after dinner. Since his practice was largely made included a large portion of working people, Daddy offered evening appointments, and by the time he “did his records” it was usually 9 PM or later. Wednesday and Sundays were his days off so on those evenings he’d sort through each piece of paper, separating them into piles according to their payee, and stack them on the dining room table. By April 1st, the table was a bar graph of his expenses. Luckily we ate in the kitchen.

As each of us grew up took on our own tax preparation we’d try to persuade him that filing the bills as paid would save him time. We found it hard to reconcile his fastidiousness in every other area of his practice with his lackadaisical approach to the financial area. No, he argued, he couldn’t be bothered with filing. He insisted it would take the same amount of time as sorting. It was just a matter of doing it then, or doing it now. And so, we gave up. I came to view it as an if it ain’t broke don’t fix it type of thing. And it never broke.  In his fifty three years of filing, never once did he have to file for an extension.

As for his daughter? I can’t say that I ever developed a system. When I bought The House of Mars, I was a sole homeowner for the first time and I set out to keep all my expenses the right way. I bought a file cabinet and filed everything away. That worked for a year, maybe two

The file cabinet today?

So where I do my filing?

What’s that saying about apples and their distance from their tree?

What Could Go Wrong?   4 comments

My friend, CM and I get together from time to time and our adventures  (or perhaps misadventures is more appropriate) usually involve  my getting lost. You name the county, I got lost in it last year

  • On Memorial Day I got lost in Rockland County trying to find Piermont so we could have lunch overlooking  the Hudson.
  • In August, heading down to the Jersey Shore for  vacation I did fine on the Parkway but got lost as soon as I got off at Exit 61.(Ocean  County)
  • October, we roamed Dutchess County trying to find the Stormville Airport flea market (even though I’d driven there twice before).
  • Last December,we visited the holiday train show in the Bronx Botanical Gardens (Bronx County)then headed over to Arthur Avenue, the Little Italy of the Bronx, for dinner, a distance of perhaps seven blocks. Well,   I managed to turn the wrong way upon exiting the park and got completely turned around. Should I mention I lived in the Bronx for nine years and worked there for  eleven years!

If they ever do a remake of Thelma and Louise and cast me in the Thelma role, the movie will end  quite differently. I won’t be able to find the cliff.

A few Saturdays ago  we went to see a movie – new year, new leaf, I was determined  nothing would go wrong.I was picking CM up  in Yonkers. I lived inYonkers for five years, knew it like the back of my hand. Then we were heading up to Port Chester. Port Chester is two towns  north of Harrison where I lived for a different five years of my life and knew it like the back of my other hand. Anyone who knows Westchester is thinking, that’s about  twenty-five miles south to pick her up then she’d going to head east,  and back up north another 15 miles or so. Why, when there are movies all over the county?

Free movies passes, that’s why! CM had received  AMC movie passes from her place of work and Port Chester has the only AMC theater in Westchester.  Free was worth the trip. Plus,  Mary Ann’s, one of my favorite  Mexican restaurants, is in Port Chester. I hadn’t been there since I moved.  We’d have dinner there after the  movie. CM was fine with that. She’d eat anywhere that had  Margaritas

Well, that was a minor problem but it didn’t have to do with my driving.  AMC Port Chester is one of those giant multiplexes with fourteen theaters. You’d think that with 14 films to choose from there’s be one we would agree on. Luckily we  tackled it before we got there. I called her Friday night:

CM: “Ooh, goodie,  The Artist  is playing. I’ve been dying to see that.”

Me:  “That’s in black and white, with subtitles. I don’t want to see that.”

CM: “But it won a lot of Oscars.”

Me :”doesn’t matter”

CM:  “There’s a dog in it. You  like dogs.”

Me: “I’d like to see Hugo.”

CM: “Isn’t that a kids movie? ”

Me: “No. It’s just magical. Plus it’s in 3D. I haven’t seen a 3D movie since I was a  kid. 100 Ghosts, I think it was.”

CM: “Oh” sigh, “OK”

CM is nicer than me. Plus she’d have her margarita after it was all over

Saturday arrived and yippee,not one wrong turn. But we did come upon a roadblock  –  at the ticket counter.

CM: “‘Two tickets for Hugo, please and we’d like to use  these free passes.”

“Ticket selling guy: “There’s a 3D surcharge so that  will be $11.”

It was time for a conference. We stepped aside and let the  people behind us buy their tickets

“CM: You sure you don’t want to see “The Artist?”

To be honest, there really wasn’t anything I wanted to see, but I knew what I didn’t want to see, a silent movie in black and white .

She thought one of the movies might be good;  about a woman who’d been kidnapped and I guess her sister too, because now she was trying to find her.

Me: “OK, sounds good.”

Back she went to the counter “Two for Safe House.”

Now it so happened she also had a free popcorn coupon and while she went to redeem it I stood gazing up at the fourteen titles along the wall behind the line of ticket sellers

“Hmm, that’s asking for trouble,” I pointed out when she returned. “There’s a Safe House playing and  a Silent House.  People could get mixed up.

We gave our tickets to the ticket taker and he directed us to auditorium #5 where we settled into our comfortable rocking seats for twenty minutes (yes, I kept track) of previews, each one louder than the preceding one until finally, “Your Featured Presentation flashed on the screen.

Thankfully the volume was a little lower but not much, for the soon we were engulfed in the cacophony of a car chase through street of downtown  (We’d soon find out) Johannesburg, South Africa and  behind the wheel of the careening car was  Denzel Washington. I’d seen him on David Letterman about a week earlier promoting his latest film in which  he played a rogue CIA agent. I also seeing a poster  for the movie on a bus shelter. I turned to CM just as she was turning to me

“We’re in the wrong movie,” we said  in unison  “We wanted Silent House.

All in all, it  was  a good story, a bit on the violent side, although CM would say a lot on the violent side. But she admitted it had a good plot….. and now she was ready for   her margarita

“Is it close enough to walk?” she asked as we exited the theater.  “I’ve been dreaming about that Margarita since I got up this morning.”

It wasn’t, so we headed back to the truck .  And I sort of, kind of, got turned around and ended up  Rye, the next town  but I knew how to  get back  to Port Chester so, technically, we weren’t  lost.

“Okay, here’s Burger King,” I told her, “Maryanne’s should be coming up, right here on the right.”

“Closed.” she said.

“What do you mean closed. It’s Saturday Night.”

“Closed.” she repeated.

Not only was it closed, it was empty, derelict, abandoned”

I thought CM was going to cry. “Do you know another Mexican restaurant?”

I didn’t but I knew a good Italian restaurant –in Harrison.

“Do they make margaritas?”

I wasn’t sure but I assumed so. But it  didn’t matter what I assumed.  It had been thirteen years since I lived in the area and I forgot I had to take a turn off of Route 1. So we by-passed Harrison  and ended up in ———-

“Welcome to Mamaroneck” CM read  “Are you lost?”

” I know an even better place, Augie’s.   It’s an old-fashioned neighborhood place, one side’s a dining room, one side’s a bar – definitely Margaritas. It’s  in Larchmont, the next town.

AM sighed and I drove. Suddenly she yelled  “Stop. – Mexican Grill!”

And that’s how we found Gusano Loco  Mexican Grill. Found it, but we weren’t there yet. I had to find a parking spot.

The restaurant was at one  end of a bloc of storefronts, an Equinox gym was at the other.

“Why don’t you park in the Equinox parking lot?” Asked CM.

“Nope, I’ll get towed”

“But they’re closed.”

“No, they’re not.” I pointed to one lone stationary cyclist. “I’ve been towed and  it’s not fun.”

We drove a few block, made a U-turn, passed GL again, made another U-turn, passed GL again, tried a side street.

“I don’t see why you don’t park in Equinox.” CM was getting cranky.

I was already cranky. “Look, right there, a tow truck, that’s why!”

“But he’s towing away a disabled car.”

I parked on the street just up from the restaurant

CM pointed to a sign. “No parking. Won’t you get a ticket?”

“At least I won’t get towed.”

The March wind was brutal but it didn’t matter, we’d escaped the prison that my truck always turns into. I pushed the door of the restaurant and the first sight to greet us was a sign:

“All our customers can park in the Equinox parking lot.”

Need I say more.  Yes I need to.

A week later I had dinner with my sister-in-law who happens to live right near GL and related our saga.

You could have walked to Mary Ann’s ” she told me.

“They moved to Mamaroneck?”

“No, they’re still in Port Chester but they moved to Main St – right around the corner from the movies.”