Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery






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Sunday, April 03, 2005


Umbrella's Last Stand

I have some issues. A whole fucking boatload of 'em, actually, but I'm talking about a specific issue this evening. My issue this evening is that my umbrella is gone.

It was a nice umbrella.

I don't know how it is in every major city, but here in New York, life is cheap and so are umbrellas. Any time so much as a drop of rain tumbles earthward from on high, there're a dozen hucksters standing outside of every subway station, every museum, every movie theater, anyplace where people might have gone in when it was dry, only to emerge to a downpour. These guys (invariably knowing just enough English to say, "Umbrella! Five dolla!") make their living off of stupidity and chance. The prey on the stupidity of people who ignored the weather report and now want to avoid the consequences and the masses of poor schmucks caught unawares when nature does what the AccuView forecast said it wouldn't.

The umbrellas they sell are cheap. They're built specifically to get you from the point of purchase to your house and no farther. The first time you fold them up, they will commit hari kari. The mechanism that springs the umbrella into glorious full-sized life will disintegrate, leaving you with rain-gear that won't open. Or the metal ribs that stretch the fabric will fall apart like a Democrat on election night. However it happens, these things are built cheap, sold cheap and remain cheap for all of the one and a half times you use them.

I get sick of it, which is why I spent a few extra bucks and bought a semi-decent umbrella a few months back. Got tired of having a new umbrella every eight days or so. I decided that I'd go with something sturdier. I went into Rite-Aid and found myself a Raines Slimline. Now, don't get me wrong, I didn't spend a hundred bucks or anything. I didn't buy a gold-plated bumbershoot. I didn't pick up the top of the line, makes toast and walks your dog, built in MP3 player umbrella at Sharper Image. But this was a solid, wood-handled, full-sized dealy. When it was up, you by god knew it was up and there was no way any god damn rain was gettin through.

And I kept it. I bought the thing in November, I think. It was at least that far back. Hell, it might have been earlier than that, even. I didn't leave it at a restaurant. I didn't lose it at school. I didn't inadvertently walk out of the crack house without it. I brought it home faithfully and put it in the same spot every time I used it. Every time.

I took pride in it. When the tiny little collapsible umbrella my wife got went belly-up, I sneered. "Should have gotten a burlier umbrella, tootsie," I said to her, as she was drenched by torrential rains. I was smug in my impressive dryness.

Then today happened. New York city was hit by a gusher. The rain came fast and furious. Subway rats were building arks out of used condoms, it was that wet. And the wind! Donald Trump had to put an extra coat of shellac on his hair to keep it in place during these gusts. I saw carpetbag-clutching nannies being blown all over the place, shouting "Supercalifuck!"

As my wife and I headed down to take advantage of a rare two-for-one deal at the Guggenheim, we (the umbrella and I) got caught in a nasty wind as it whipped around the corner of the building. My wife's coat billowed out like a sail and she actually started to parasail down the street. I felt like a big-wave surfer being flung about in the white-water (yes, I've recently re-watched Stacy Peralta's Riding Giants) and I couldn't for the life of me figure out from which way the wind was coming. I tried turning the umbrella this way and that to shield myself. My confusion cost me. Oh, it cost me big-time.

A particularly strong gust--let's just agree at this point to call it a wind-shear, as I'm certain it also ripped the wings off of several low-flying planes today--caught my umbrella just wrong and it flipped it inside out. "This can't be," I thought, "that's for lesser umbrellas." But it was happening. To me. I spun around and the wind turned my umbrella right-side-out again. But the damage was done. The spokes of my Raines Slimline had been bent out of their natural position, never to be right again. I tried bending them back, but had no luck. When I folded it, the thing was lumpy and unappealing. When I opened it back up, one side of my umbrella was as limp and flaccid as Jose Canseco after an injection. Nothing I could do would restore it to its former glory.

I briefly considered accidently-on-purpose leaving it in the coat room at the Guggenheim, which I though would be a very dignified end for the old trooper. Then I was seized by the same inexplicable guilt I felt as a child when I would toss the unwanted licorice-flavored Good-n-Plenties out the car window. (I knew I didn't want to eat them, but I shuddered to think that they would be run over and in some sort of candy version of pain.) I brought Old Faithful home with me until I figure out some sort of proper burial.

And this is the issue to which I earlier made allusion. This sad habit of anthropomorphosizing everything I own is bad. It's why I have the same shitty frying pans I bought ten years ago. It's why I still haven't thrown out the desk chair with the missing (and most definitely irreplaceable) wheel. I should get rid of everything I own except for maybe my Snackmaster Sandwich Maker. That, I can't get rid of. It makes lower-calorie toasted cheese, you see. Mm.

Now the question remains... What umbrella will you buy next?
no no, the question is: who needs to think of Jose' Canseco, in this fashion, this early in the morning?
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