How to survive a disaster

How to survive a disaster

Disasters can be dangerous, even deadly, but by following these handy tips you can be sure that you’re safe every time. Feel free to print this out, laminate it, poke holes in the top and run string through those holes so that you can wear this article around your neck at all times. Thus you will survive.

Should you need to resort to cannibalism, never eat the thin active people. They’re always stringy and tough. Go for the overweight and docile; their meat is finely marbled and always tender.

To survive, you will need plenty of water. 90 proof whiskey is 20% water, so be sure to have plenty on hand to aid your thirst. Whiskey is also a handy disinfectant.

White it would seem useful to have a rifle or handgun, remember that the wide scatter of a shotgun requires less aiming and can be used effectively against crowds of looters or zombies.

A portable radio can provide life-saving information and updates; there are even solar powered models that never run out of batteries. Or better yet, get an MP3 player which lets you choose your own playlist so you don’t have to listen to what those fat cat corporate radio stations want you to hear.

It is important that you find shelter in a safe structure. In Des Moines, you will find that bowling alleys are exceptionally well built.

If you are in a group of strangers, stay together. Try and make sure you are either A: the cocky young hero who needs to reconcile with his dying father, B: the pretty girl who, at first hates the hero’s brash attitude but later gives in to the obvious attraction, or C: the comic relief guy. Everyone else will be dead within two hours.

In this day and age you need not get two of every animal on your boat. Just take digital copies of their genome maps.

When looting, always go for the sporting goods store (guns, ammunition and camping supplies), the hardware store (generators, rope, and shock weapons) and the grocery store (food, bottles water and salad dressing). You’ll find that you’re prepared while those idiots with plasma screen TVs will die of starvation in a few short weeks.

While it is highly unlikely that you would need such information to survive a disaster, the metric prefixes are, from smallest to largest: milli, centi, deci, deca, hector and kilo. You can remember that with the handy mnemonic My Cousin Delores Died Horribly Kilo.

They’re popular articles, but don’t take those “desert island albums” things to heart. That classic Coltrane record isn’t going to help you catch fish, though you might be able to make a passable snare from a reel-to-reel copy.

Don’t view the next insect attack in a negative light. Think of it as dinner.

If all else fails, panic; run around and scream your head off.

Commander in Chimp?

According to the Constitution (of America) the president must be a natural born citizen, at least thirty five years old, and have lived in the United States for at least fourteen years. Mind you, these are the only qualifications stated. Nowhere does the Constitution clearly define what a “person” is. Could the government of the people, by the people and for the people include such people as chimpanzees, dolphins or parrots?

If a citizen has to be a person, then how do you define what a person is? The easiest way to describe a person would be that they are a member of homo sapiens sapiens; they have 46 chromosomes, and can breed successfully with other members of the species. We could add that they have the ability to think, reason and communicate. But, is this too narrow a definition of what a person is? There would seem to be beings who meet many of these criteria who cannot vote and beings who fail to meet some or all of these criteria who can vote.

It is known that chimpanzees share 98% of their DNA with us and that humans are just another great ape. But, at no time in history has suffrage crossed species lines (Caligula’s menagerie notwithstanding). Currently, the only voting standards are that one must be a citizen, aged 18 or older and a member of homo sapiens sapiens. This does not take intelligence into account at all and yet we often separate human and non-human animals by the ability to speak, communicate and reason.

America's Commander-in-Chimp

If a parrot, chimpanzee or dolphin can communicate and shows evidence of reasoning at the level of a human child, why should they be denied suffrage while a retarded human adult with a five-year-old’s mind is granted suffrage? Should they be denied personhood on the basis then of species? They do have different numbers of chromosomes, but then again not all humans have 46 chromosomes. Should we deny the vote to those with Klinefelter’s syndrome? After all, they have 48 chromosomes, the same number as a chimpanzee. But, species is not just chromosome number, actually most scientists would describe a species as an isolated breeding population. Yet those who are sterile or use birth control are not denied the vote.

Mind you, there have non-homo sapiens sapiens who did possess intelligence equal to us. Would a living Neanderthal or Cro Magnon be turned away from the voting booth simply because they do not belong in the exact same species as us? We can define “human” or “personhood” across species lines, so why then do we not define citizen status across species lines? If dolphins can be as intelligent as we are, why are they not granted suffrage that an equally intelligent human or perhaps a non-homo sapiens sapiens Neanderthal would likely be?

There are numerous non-human animals at least as intelligent as below-average humans. Many of these animals can communicate with us in abstract ways, they are self-aware, can use tools and think. Perhaps they are not as intelligent as anyone reading this article, but they are certainly more intelligent than many mentally impaired adults and imbeciles.

Now, another question arises; do non-human animals really understand the issues involved in the elections and in government? Well, they may not, but this is not a requirement of human voters. While there were, at times, literacy tests at the voting booths, currently literacy, and understanding of civics are not required of any human who wishes to exercise her right to vote. As governmental decisions affect human and non-human animals alike, we could in fact say that it is cruel to not grant non-human animals the vote, since laws may affect their very lives. Should they not have a voice?

True, non-human animals do not pay taxes, but are also no paid for the work they do. Plenty of non-human animals have jobs for which they are not compensated, so they can’t actually pay taxes. But this is irrelevant. Despite the popular idea of “no taxation without representation,” we rarely hear the converse “no representation without taxation.” But of course, paying taxes in not a requirement for voting.

The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution reads:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Historically, the Supreme Court has held that the amendment’s protections extend to such ‘persons’ as Exxon, Google or Sony, which now under U.S. law can be considered persons. Granted, a corporation cannot vote, but this does show that the U.S. government is willing to extend the constitutional person-hood to non-human entities.

So, what is preventing us from extending suffrage to non-human animals? Science recognizes that a human being is a member of genus homo, has 46 chromosomes, thinks, communicates and forms a reproductively capable population with others like it. And yet, voting privileges extend to beings or constructs that violate each and every one of these criteria while conversely denying the vote to beings who do meet quite a few of the criteria.

Why does suffrage work this logically inconsistent and unfair way? It is easy to see that it is our own human bias and species centrism and that discrimination against intelligent non-human animals has no real logical, biological or legal basis. Perhaps one day soon wise up and then we will have a Commander in Chimp.

Our Review of Kebob Cafe in Astoria Queens

Probably few people know about the tiny neighborhood of Little Egypt, nestled within the much larger neighborhood of Astoria, Queens. To say Little Egypt is tiny, is actually quite an understatement; it consists of one block of Steinway Street, between 28th Avenue and Astoria Blvd, excluding, of course, the two thirds of that block occupied by non-Egyptian related businesses. So, when we say that Little Egypt is a tiny neighborhood, we really mean to say that it’s a collection of seven hookah bars, three restaurants and a store that sells phone cards and Moroccan pop music.

When I first moved to Astoria, many years ago, I took frequent trips up to this block. It was right after 9-11, so the idea of exploring a predominantly Muslim area carried with it a mystique of being accepting of other cultures and taking full part in the brotherhood of humanity. Sure, those back in Georgia might fear or hate the swarthy Middle Eastern immigrants, but here I was ready to buy cigarettes in their delis and sample their cuisine. This soon stopped. Not because I wasn’t interested in promoting the brotherhood of humanity, but because traveling to Little Egypt left me feeling like a black man at a lunch counter in Selma, Alabama circa 1952.

Let’s just say that these Middle Eastern men were not interested in serving white Americans, or treating them with the simple respect due a money-laden customer looking for hot falafel and kafta kebobs, or with looking me in the eye, or acknowledging my existence. Let’s just say they were about as interested in serving me some food as a laid-off Detroit auto-worker is interested in the new line of Toyotas. Dutifully, I would go up to the counter, ready with my order, only to be completely ignored. Arab men, in their over-sized Yankee jerseys and saggy jean shorts would show up after me, and would be served instantly. A few times I would just get frustrated and leave, other times I would stick to my guns and insist on being served my food, only to stand there sheepishly waiting while others came in after me, ordered, took their food and left while I still stood waiting for my lamb goodness.

Finally, and that is to say after about three months of this, I never bothered going in to those shops again. Yes, I voted with my dollars and took my business elsewhere; explored the Columbian, Brazilian, Greek and Eastern European fare to be had. It actually gave me a little satisfaction to see one dining establishment that had snuffed me, El Manara, closed one day as I walked by. And thus, for years, I ignored that block, ignored Little Egypt, and what might have been of its culinary offerings.

Until yesterday, when I was persuaded to give Kebob Café a chance. I’d probably walked by the place a thousand times, but I assumed it was like the others and never bothered to go in, try it or even give it a second chance. Yes, I was horribly, horribly wrong.

To say the Kebob Café is small is another one of those understatements, like saying the universe is ‘roomy.’ There’s enough room for about twelve people to enjoy a meal, though only for six of those to sit comfortably. Other than the size of the place, my first impression was of the smell; exotic and unearthly spices for the highs, heavy with frying meat to the lows, with just a hint of pounded dough and fruit to round out the middle. Secondly, I noticed the numerous pieces of figurative art on the walls, tucked in between antique lamps, esoteric decorations and quietly hidden iPod playing traditional Mediterranean music. Wait a second. Figurative art? Must not be too strict of Muslims I thought. This thought was seconded, voted upon and passed unanimously when the Chef came over and offered us something to drink, pointing out the numerous wines and beers he had on hand.

Barely had I begun to notice how different Kebob Café was from the run-of-the-mill places, the Chef came over, sat down with us and began to go over some of the various menu items he was preparing that night. Not through rote memory, but rather on a journey, he recited the various dishes he was capable of preparing.

Now, I’ve been to places that had the gimmick of not having a menu. Either they offer only one or two entree choices, or they force you to just kind of guess from the waitress’s speech. But, this was different. There’s no menu at the Kebob Café, because I think the Chef doesn’t like it being so clinical. He, and his helper, are the only staff, there are no waiters or busboys or dishwashers, no hostesses or line cooks. And with so few diners per seating, it’s an intimate atmosphere. So intimate in fact, that after he gave us a few options, he saw our bewilderment and stated quite plainly “I have to go prepare someone else’s meal right now, you drink your beers and then we’ll talk through this, find something you’ll like.”

After a few minutes he did come back, returned to his seat and plainly asked “What do you like?”

We rattled off a few notions and he took the bait, hook, line and sinker. Immediately, he began to prepare a meal in his head and describe it to us “First we’ll get you some falafel and some hummus, and a salad. What do you like better: beets or artichokes? Beets? Okay, we make you a beet salad with some peppers and onions- you don’t like onions, it’s okay I know the Chef, we put in some other stuff then, mix that up with a little oil and vinegar. Then you need something like a main course; you like meat, are you vegetarian? Meat, eh?”

Then, he proceeded to rattle off the numerous meats he could prepare for us delicately roasted and served over a bed of rice; a zoo, a menagerie; beer, lamb, chicken, duck, fish (of various types), rabbit, quail, yes quail, and, while I’m not certain, he may have mentioned kangaroo, bald eagle and ibex. Indeed the Chef is half of what makes Kebob Café worth visiting and returning to. Like an old Vaudevillian, you know in your heart his banter is well rehearsed, heavily practiced and that with you, it’s the fifteen thousandth time he’s done it. But it’s good, it’s professional, and he’s a master so you can’t help but appreciate it.

You know you can trust a chef when in the close atmosphere of their restaurant you can watch then nibbling at the food they’re cooking. Once you’ve seen them do that it’s okay that they come over to your table and pick up individual pieces of a dish and show you, with their fingers, how best to combine them. When this Chef picks up, with his bare fingers, a piece of food off the platter, dips it into the sauce for you and puts it on your plate, you’re appreciative of the suggestion.

And the food. Oh yes, this is a restaurant review, so what about the food? Kebob Café is one of those places where they bring you huge plates of various foods and while you may not be able to accurately identify what exactly the particular food item is, specifically, you don’t care. It’s just big heaps of delicious food. Our meal consisted of a beet salad (beets mixed with other things we couldn’t quite identify), a huge plate of hummus, baba ganoush, fresh apples, roasted peppers, steaming hot pita bread and various other touches, which again were not identifiable but were nonetheless delicious. To top it off, we had roast lamb, stuffed with, yes, more lamb. The inside lamb was finely chopped and mixed with walnuts, spices and again, various other bits. Did we know what they were? No. Were they good? Yes. And was it lamb stuffed inside of other lamb? Yes, and it was quite good.

Kebob Café is an excellent spot for delicious food and in a good atmosphere, cooked by a Chef who knows how to make a meal a great experience. It’s intimate, it’s good, you’ll laugh, you’ll get stuffed and, if you can get a chair, you’ll have a great evening. It’s a little pricy, but well worth it. And I recommend it, because, hey, I know the Chef.

Kebob Cafe
25-12 Steinway St., Astoria, NY 11103
N or W to Astoria Blvd.


There are only a handful of places I hate more than IKEA: the gypsy slums of Rome, my gangbanger friend’s couch in Compton, Las Cruces in New Mexico, South Carolina’s lovely North Augusta, and the 34th Street QuickStop DMV. That last one may actually be a tie with IKEA (and more on it in a later story).

Recently I came into some extra cash. I won’t tell you how, but it was exciting and nefarious. Having also moved into a new apartment without any furnishings it was clear to me that I must make a trip to the holy grail of middle class whitey: IKEA.

I don’t hold any guilt for that because I’m Jewish and middle management. So while I should be running the world and rich, I’m pulling in less than many waiters every year and inputting purchase orders every couple of days. Really I’m an underachiever, no matter how big my equipment is.
My first frustration with IKEA was that directions to their store were rather vague. Basically “Go to Brooklyn, we’re there.” Being a Queens boy I took the F to York street and expected to be in IKEA. Then I walked down to the Water Taxi, which I had been assured was a location from which I could take a ferry to IKEA. Turns out that all that stuff about a ferry from Brooklyn to their location was a lie. I did get to see some Asians taking wedding photos in mini-skirts and short sleeves in 25 degree weather, so I wouldn’t call it a total loss.

I did remember that there was a free shuttle from Court Square to the store, so I headed up that way. Now, again, IKEA’s instructions were basically “Go to Court Square and you’ll magically arrive at our store. Because IKEA is magic.”

What I did find, after about a half hour and several text-messages to friends from the area, was a bus stop that was two inches wide and camouflaged to look like Brooklyn. I actually only noticed it because I was sending a text message to someone and walked into the bus stop pole to which the IKEA sign was affixed with scotch tape. Very classy.

When the bus finally arrived, it was this hulking teal thing. Think the Incredible Hulk, but gay. And a bus. And driven by a guy who REALLY didn’t give a shit. Which is fine. I’ve worked several shitty jobs in the past, but I made sure to clean the spittle from my chin after the boredom got to me. Have some self-respect.

The one high point of the trip was that everyone getting on the bus was incredibly polite. It was all “No, you can go first” and “Would you like this seat?” I even ended up with a woman named Jillian in my lap, things were so friendly. She was from Norway and liked many of the bands on the label for which I work. Normally I hate Norwegians, but she smelled good and was sitting in my lap.
Speaking of Scandinavia, IKEA is supposed to work on some model of Swedish efficiency in America. This was the first thing I noticed about it. You walk in and there is only one escalator going up. There is one person at the bottom of this escalator whose job it is to scream at the top of her lungs that there are bathrooms on the first floor (our second floor, silly Yooropeens), and the second floor (our third floor) has many of the things you need to furnish your home. There is also a woman with a bowl of candy. She has no teeth.

Black arrows guide your path throughout the store. Not that anyone pays attention to these. And most of the price tags in the store include an aisle and bin number you can write down. Not for when you check out and it just gets sent to your house, but so you can check out, get a print out, then go down to the Self-Serve furniture area and put your heavy items on a cart. THEN you can check out. And then you can go pick up the extra parts of your furniture. Oh, and THEN you can take your 500 pound cart (no exaggeration, my receipt says 473 pounds) to the home delivery section. Which is 300 yards from the checkout counter.

The obvious problem with this Swedish efficiency is, of course, that there are no actual Swedes involved. I didn’t even detect a hint of Dutch or German accent in other shoppers, so clearly there is no one in attendance who could offer anything close to Swedish efficiency.

Instead people go the wrong way, no one travels in a straight line, everyone is from a different ethnic group or socio-economic class, and maybe two people in the entire store listen to Metal. At least the signs were bilingual in Spanish. There were several Jews, which is promising, but mostly I wondered how squirrely nebbishes who looked like that could land women who looked like THAT.

My friend Johnny described it as walking into a UFO. If so, it’s an alien spacecraft populated entirely by the denizens of Steinway Street in Astoria and the Russian section of the boardwalk at Coney Island. He mentioned how it’s podlike, with all of these sections set up to look like what your house could look like with these goods in it. That would be true except for the absurd panoply of human waste occupying each pod.

These were truly alien. There was the mother changing her baby on the quite sexy red couch, which was selling me on the bending a woman over it possibilities until the moment I noticed mother, shit-cheeked baby, and diaper changing. None of which was taking place in a bathroom.
I also saw a room with elegant wood paneling, underlit shelving, and fifteen Russian girls in their early 20s with pot-bellies who completely negated my other article on how hot Russian women ten to be (for a short period of time). I’ve never seen so many moles, many cancerous.

Another example was the sexy bachelor pad setup, with a combination chaise lounge/sofa, entertainment centre, and hot hot heat media shelves…with the seven year old girl attempting to be sexy on the bedding. I think my sex drive is still suffering.

Even the purchasing system was Byzantine. You grab a pencil and this tiny form they give you. Then you see a thing you want, write down what it is and the price. And most of the time you write down an aisle number and bin number after this. Unless, of course, none is provided. In which case you have to go ask the “Co-Worker” at a register (if you can find one) about it.

The “Co-Workers” are “Over-Worked” and barely paying attention. So if they miss a couple of items out of your list…oops. Which brings me to this self-service furniture pick up. After you visit a Co-Worker, you’re supposed to go downstairs and grab your own stuff. Only then do you get to a cashier. So I head on downstairs to get my stuff. I’m a young man, strong like bull as a cute Russian girl told me while I struggled with an entire couch. But, as the couch just spoken about attests, there’s only so much I can do when the couch is ten feet long and I’m not.

So it’s entirely unhelpful when the IKEA spokesgrunt with the backbrace looks me over and says it’s lighter than it looks. Then he looks over my friend Jillian who’s only a shade over five feet tall and 95 pounds (most of which must be her breasts) and says she could’ve helped me. Yes, she could’ve, if I was trying to use her to seduce my way out of a concentration camp in World War II. The irony of this will play out in a couple of paragraphs.

I have had a pair of shopping experiences that were worse. In 1986 my Mom accidentally left me in the changing room of a Mervyn’s department store where I was briefly accosted by security who mistook me for a very small woman attempting to steal a rather large brassiere and some ruby red pumps.

There was also the time I stopped in the aforementioned Las Cruces, New Mexico to fill up on gas at a Sonoco gas station while moving my mother’s home from near Austin to near San Francisco. Of course any visit to Sonoco gas stations ends in a half hour bound and gagged in the storeroom after an armed robbery. Really, all I wanted was some gas, a couple of sour fruity straws, and a pack of Camel Wides to last me until Bakersfield.

After all of this, my night would not have been complete without being called a Nazi. To my surprise, I was called such just as I boarded the complimentary bus back to Borough Hall. While I contemplate my status in Hitler’s genocidal machine, I can at least rest tight in the fact that my living room will soon be furnished…if they get my address right.