Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Working girl

I was on the train yesterday and got to thinking about all the different jobs I've held. I think my mind wandered in this direction as it was early afternoon and my day off, and whenever I'm out and about on a day that most people are working I wonder about the other people who are out and about and seem to have the freedom to not be at work on a Friday afternoon. Are they on their lunch break? Are they en route to a meeting? Do they work nights? Are they an actor or pro boxer or inventor? Are they unemployed ? Independently wealthy?

I've always been a worker. My first real job was at 11 or 12. I was hired by a neighbor who lived on the 5th floor of my apartment building to assist him in a local election campaign. I wore a round, navy blue button on my lapel that read 'Caz Grascz for Freeholder' in white text. (Both names rhyme with Jazz). I did not know what a freeholder did (actually I still don't), but I liked Caz and wanted him to win more than anything. He had a big personality, and knew how to relate to children. He wore a plaid sports coat and porkpie hat, had a big nose and a shiny, reddish complexion, and his real name was Casimir which I thought was neat. There was something about his speaking voice that reminded me of Earl Scheib.

My job was to stand next to him as he knocked on doors, smile as he gave his pitch, and when he was finished I'd offer a leaflet from a small stack which I kept neatly organized in my hands. I remember thinking, at the time, that I was hired for my intelligence, and that maybe I had a future in politics. I wore my campaign button to school and the other kids thought it was dumb, which only made me more loyal to Caz. Sadly, Caz did not win and I have since lost the button. I'd kill for that button now.

Since then, I've had so many different jobs. I've been a baby sitter, a zoo docent, a TV extra, a clerk typist for the US Navy, a bartender (I lasted one day), a publicist, a refugee advocate, a PA to a man who had an addiction to strippers, a telephone market survey conductor, a data entry zombie, a hauler of recyclables (I wore overalls and leather gloves), a face painter at children's parties, a receptionist for an orthopedic surgeon and a proofreader, to name a few. I've worked at a Japanese bank, a Manhattan emergency room, a Bronx grammar school, a record label, and the United Nations.

I once almost took a job selling knives door to door, but despite the rich writing material I knew such a job could provide, I couldn't bring myself to do it. What kind of weird people buy knives from a traveling salesman? Whoever they were, I did not want to meet them.

My most favorite "almost job" was as a translator for Mexican heart throb Luis Miguel. He was in town to promote his record and his regular translator cancelled last minute or something. I got the call from my temp agency but couldn't get there fast enough. They gave the job to someone else.

Friday, March 05, 2010


Monday, March 01, 2010

Pigeon-toed duck

This handsome fellow was born last spring in our neighborhood pond. Being pigeon-toed myself, I really dig him.

Love is in the air

This morning on my way to the bus stop I noticed two mated pairs of tufted ducks in our neighborhood pond. I'm really excited to see them, because last year they came to the pond to have their chicks and then left as soon as their offspring became independent. I expect they've returned for the same reason this year. I'll be following them closely over the next few weeks to see if I can spot any signs of their nesting. More soon.

Tufted ducks (or, Aythya fuligula, their unpronouncable Latin name) are such pretty birds, with their little golden eyes and jaunty, feathery tufts. And so fun to watch as they dive! The chicks are possibly the cutest in the world--little round black fluff balls with boundless energy. It was amazing last year to watch them learn to dive by trial and error.

Have a look at this video I found on YouTube that shows the diving action:

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Don't mess with a Dune Ant

As I mentioned previously, survival against the harshest imaginable conditions was a constant theme for us during our visit to Namibia. Well, not for us as well looked after tourists, but certainly for the all of the wildlife around us. We were constantly awed at what we learned about the ingenious survival techniques of desert dwellers. And not only must the animals be incredibly resourceful, but tough, tough, tough.

Take the Dune Ant. Every time I photographed one, after one or two snaps, the insect would sense me and, rather than scurrying away, actually stop its activities to look up at me and cock its sharp mandibles menacingly. As if to say, "Hey! Hey! Yeah, you, the papa-frickin-razzi. I'm workin' here. We ain't all on vacation. Get that lens outa my face before I bite your ass."

After coming home I read a bit more about the Dune Ant, and I'm even more impressed. They actually herd scale insects like livestock in order to milk their sugary secretions. And, according to a short description I read on, they can navigate by the angle of the sun and "in order to limit water loss, they breathe in short rapid bursts." They also fiercely defend their nests and will fight intruders to the death, pinning a rival ant to the hot sand to cook it alive. Wow.

Have a look at this video courtesy of Animal Planet which explains more about this tenacious ant. And click the photos for a better, close up view.