Thursday, May 12, 2016

A Cat, a Bucket, and a Snow Shovel

This piece was originally written on August 12, 2015.

I had one of the most terrifying experiences of my life last night.

Usually, when I get home from work, Comet (my cat) is full of excitement. He meows uncontrollably until I open the door, then he purrs and rubs up against my legs, and then lies down on his back so I can rub his belly and snuggle for a while. He follows me from room to room all evening and, if for some reason he wanders, I just call his name and he comes bolting to wherever I am. He and I are pretty tight.

But last night he wasn't there. I called for him and got no response. I went down into the basement and called again, and soon heard his cries coming from underneath an old dust-collecting weight bench. He just stared at me, meowing, but wouldn't come to me.

I crouched to see what was wrong, and found that he had cornered a snake under the bench and was guarding it, calling for me, not really knowing what to do next.

Now, you should know that I have a very stark, inexplicable fear of snakes. I can't even look at a picture of a snake without my heart racing and my breath shortening. They're at the very top of my phobia list, followed closely by chain saws, aggressive bees, drowning, haunted houses, and most lizards.

So, naturally, my first reaction was to scream--no, shriek. The grown man that I am suddenly turned into a little child throwing a tantrum. I screamed, jumped up and down, whimpered, and even yelled for my mom (who was, of course, miles away at her own house). I spun my wheels in panic so much that Comet started to forget about the snake and looked at me with his head tilted, curiously.

Now, I should also explain that this was a little itty-bitty snake. It was probably 12 inches long, perhaps a young garter snake. I don't know. I didn't look closely; I couldn't look closely. But small snakes actually petrify me more than big snakes. They can sneak into your room, under your sheets, or pop out of the toilet without warning. They're terrifying!

After a few deep breaths, I tried to figure out how to get that scary serpent out of my house.

I found an old bucket and then got a snow shovel out of the garage. Then I scooted the snake to the middle of the floor with the shovel, scooped it up, and dropped it in the bucket.

But I missed.

The snake fell half in and half out, and quickly slithered back onto the floor and made a beeline toward the washer and dryer. But I headed it off at the pass! Scooped up again, my second attempt at bucket snake dropping was a success and then the lid quickly snapped on.

Now what? What do I do with this thing!?

I have a couple of creeks in my back yard. So I ran, bucket held out as far away from my body as possible, squealing a little under my breath, stopped on the first creek bank and opened the bucket lid. Then I reared back and launched the snake as far as I could. It landed on a little island in the creek and slithered away.

I went back inside, thanked Comet profusely for saving us from a snake invasion, and then took one of the longest showers of my life.

Comet's demeanor as we went to bed was one of a proud, homestead-protecting, hero guard cat. It was adorable. He got lots of treats and a little kitty massage.

For most people, this experience would be no big deal at all. In fact, it could possibly be quite routine. But I'm not most people. I'm sure there are a lot of things that you couldn't handle that I'd be totally okay with. Phobias are funny like that.

If you ever have a snake in your house, please don't call me. But if you do, I'll send Comet over, along with a bucket and a snow shovel. Then you're on your own.

#PrinceComet #Phobias #CatsRule #AskUncleMarty

May the Schwartz Be with You

This piece was originally written on July 15, 2015.

Tonight, the FAO Schwartz flagship store on 5th Avenue in New York closes its doors.

There are few things in this world that give warm, fuzzy feelings like a visit to this New York landmark. Now its presence will just have to remain in our memories--our fond, fond memories.

When I was young, my grandmother would often take me there as a special treat. She and I would have a city day, take the train in, people watch, and inevitably stop at our favorite toy store to get the latest He-Man toy to keep my Masters of the Universe collection complete. She spoiled us--individually, so we felt incredibly special--in any way that she could.

A few years ago, I worked with Banana Republic on the visuals team at their flagship 5th Avenue store. We'd create window displays and in-store displays. Because we primarily worked at night when the store was closed, I'd often walk up 5th Avenue during our 3AM "lunch" breaks, look in windows, and take inspiration from other shops. Rarely could a display rock it at the same caliber as FAO Schwartz!

I believe there was an unspoken contract that your mind signed when you walked under that big ol' red and gold awning:
- Leave your worries on the street.
- Eat as much candy and ice cream as you want, guilt free.
- Be a kid again, no matter how old you've become.

As a business person, I completely understand this incredibly difficult decision that had to be made to close those grand doors. However, as that little kid that still gets giddy when he sees a giant pile of stuffed elephants, I have a hard time imagining the greatest city in the world without its cherry.

Rest in peace, big piano.

#FAOSchwartz #NewYork #FifthAvenue #BigPiano #AskUncleMarty


I'm a very private person by nature--an observer. I don't let it all hang out.

For my 30th birthday, seven years ago now, I took a two-week vacation to Hawaii. I wanted to get away, get a tan, snorkel, and decompress.

I went alone. I love to travel alone.

While I was on Maui, staying at an adorable little inn overlooking a picturesque cove full of Orcas and newleyweds, I learned about a nude beach that wasn't too far away. Figuring I'd shake things up a bit, I went to check it out.

To get to the nude beach, not sanctioned by the state, you had to go to a more mainstream beach and then climb up a lava tube and over a cliff. That alone was exciting, but not nearly as entertaining as the little beach that I found on the other side.

The beach was beautiful--tucked away, serene, and full of naked people of all shapes and sizes.

Not everyone was showing their full monty. Some of us were there purely on sightseeing expeditions, never intending to bare our bare bums. So I chose a bathing suit over my birthday suit, however I did muster up the chutzpah to wear a less conservative one than my normal beach boardies. You know, "When in Rome..."

Watching the bathers being so free, owning every inch of themselves as they splayed in the sand, splashed in the waves, and frolicked in the surf, completely comfortable with their skin to the wind, I realized something about myself: I keep much of me very guarded.

I don't think being guarded is necessarily a bad quality. It has its merits. But there is a balance to be struck between sensitivity and principal; between compassion and passion. So consider this blog my attempt to shed a metaphoric layer or two.

At least, that's how I see it.

#Maui #Hawaii #BirthdaySuit #AskUncleMarty

A Few Limes

I had a blog before this one, titled A Few Limes.

I never told anyone about it.

The fact is, A Few Limes never really got off the ground. I started it, restarted it, took it down, and then restarted it again. It became more of a frustration than a boon, and quickly found a home on the back burner alongside countless other projects that I had high hopes for.

I had another blog before A Few Limes. It was titled TLC: The Lymphoma Chronicles. Its purpose was to keep my friends and family up to date during a very scary, trying time as I battled--and beat--a rare and very aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

TLC was good for me. It was necessary. I kept at it and reaped its reward: pulling through an intense treatment regimen with most of my sanity intact.

I hosted TLC on CaringBridge (a wonderful site, quite worthy of support) and I kept it secure and password protected. After officially becoming a cancer survivor just over three years ago, I took TLC down, but hope to someday turn that grand, harrowing, monumental, ridiculous experience into a book--a bestseller, of course.

With every good intention, I'm going to try my best to keep up with Ask Uncle Marty. 

It'll be good for me.

#AFewLimes #Blogging #AskUncleMarty

Ask Uncle Marty

It's a blog!

Welcome to my new baby, Ask Uncle Marty.

I hope that this forum will allow me to express some of what's on my mind and in my heart. Not everything will be cerebral, but that's what blogs are for.

For a few years now, I've had the honor of writing feature articles and an industry-related advice column, Ask Uncle Marty, for MBC Today, one of the retail shipping industry's leading publications.

However, there's so much more to write about than just shipping and shipping stores. So I'm expanding my horizons and taking Ask Uncle Marty worldwide with a blog. If all goes according to my master plan, I'll soon be picked up for global syndication. (wink)

Please understand that, while I have lots of opinions, they're simply just opinions. You can take them or leave them; I don't expect everyone in our delightfully diverse world to share my mindset.

Writing is therapeutic. At least, it is for me.

Let's begin.

#HereWeGo #StartHere #AskUncleMarty