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You can’t tell me that all of these suit-sporting schmucks with the Bluetooth apparatus decorating their ears don’t feel self-conscious about thinking they’re so important. That they don’t think about how incredibly ridiculous they look – and, even more so, sound, when their inane conversation dangles in front of their mouths like the babbling of schizophrenics. Even the cockiest among them must know that his ego is bigger than his cock can ever hope to be. He cannot wake up in the morning, strap that thing to his head, and think, “This looks awesome.” He can’t. He just can’t.
Alvin, scrawny and shiny-scalped, takes up residence on the mats near the treadmills. He’ll be there for at least the hour that I’ll be occupying a treadmill, engaging in stretches as strenuous as finger-crooking or foot-arching. He’ll lie on his back, rotating his ankles as if they operate cogs in a Rube Goldberg contraption, executing a simple task requiring his rapt participation. For the piece-de-resistance, he’ll lift his pipe-cleaner legs so the knees are over his shoulders, thus exposing, to all passersby, the detailed contour of the junk squished between his legs that no one should ever have to witness.
I love my fabulous new laptop (my boyfriend’s one-year anniversary gift to me!) so much that I want to take it everywhere. But sitting in a café, or being stationary anywhere, just isn’t good enough. No, I want to wear this glossy beauty on a strap around my neck, displaying it, open, in front of me, like a “cigars/cigarettes” box ‘round the neck of a fleshy showgirl-wannabe circa 1930-something, peddling overpriced wares to leering, pinch-happy, boozed-up, florid-faced traveling businessmen and other sundry leches. Or like a little drummer boy, typing with glee and abandon everywhere I go. Look at meeeeee!
“Anorexics these days have it better than we did 30 years ago,” Tara says. “I had no one to share tips or tricks with. Now they’ve got online ‘pro-ana’ support groups, where they can exchange stories and cheer each other on!”
Yeah. Back in the ‘70s, it wasn’t all the rage yet. It wasn’t “chic”. It barely even had a name, and the doctors didn’t know what to do with a girl who, at 109 pounds, still felt enormous.
“I came up with the idea of rocks in my pockets during weigh-ins, all on my own!” she tells me proudly.
I wonder what the housekeepers think when they encounter the DO NOT DISTURB signs. Do they merely think the occupant is sleeping or showering? Or that the person is doing a particularly difficult crossword puzzle and cannot be interrupted? Or meditating between the credenza and an open suitcase?
Or, do they think, as I do, that behind the door lies a fleshy Midwestern tourist, naked, hog-tied (probably expertly), waiting, as instructed by her flubby husband, to return with a cup of coffee for himself and nothing for her, before administering the morning beating before heading out to see the sights?
The man who is no doubt his best friend waits patiently as he, in all his floppy-eared adorability, circles and circles and circles until he finds the perfect spot over which to crouch and deposit the load he’s been waiting all night to expel, but which, because he is such a good boy, SUCH a good boy, yes, he waited until his proper walk to do. Not that the one corner in the living room, by the piano, which he’d used as a puppy, didn’t call to him several times during the night, of course. But now he knows better!
The small stuff. We’re told not to “sweat it”. But we’re also told that we should appreciate life’s little pleasures: to stop to smell the flowers, to sit on a park bench and listen to children laugh, to find joy in ocean breezes on our faces and in our hair. All the hideously cliché things that can be found on countless “inspirational” websites or on office cubicle-quality posters or fortune cookies.
So I suppose that, as with everything else, it’s acceptable and appropriate to indulge what is perceived as the “good” and to want to ignore and avoid the “bad”.
I can’t even say happiness comes in waves. That would mean it has an ebb and, yes, corresponding flow, and that just isn’t so. No, it comes in fits and spurts, without warning or fanfare, and disappears just as quickly and without event. It’s the flick of a light switch, without the option of a dimmer. It’s an exclamation point, placed randomly on the page, sometimes even mid-sentence, but never preceded or following by an ellipsis.
When it comes though, it overwhelms, and I cannot imagine feeling any other way. But then, mere seconds later, I don’t have to imagine.
It’s easy to forget there’s a whole world outside of your own little one, when you’re hooked up to more equipment than a car crash victim lying in a hospital room in traction with IV and catheter tubes wending every which way. With the iPod pounding Nick Cave directly into my brain, cell phone tucked under my left thigh in case of vibration, and fingers dancing across the laptop keyboard in concert with Nick Cave, I may as well be in an isolated igloo on Jupiter and not in a hotel lobby in Philadelphia, wishing I were anywhere but here.
Whenever I’m at the laundromat , I’m sure the attendant wants me to join her staff. The way I drop coins, without counting, into the slots and select water temperature, is exactly how the ol’ pros do it. The way I seamlessly transport wet laundry to dryer, piling it in a rolling cart and pushing it, without hesitation, to its destination. All with the quiet resignation of a seasoned employee. However, if she asked, I’d have to report that she’s got competition from Banana Republic, where I smooth sweaters onto shelves and carefully replace fallen shirts onto hangers with aplomb.
I’m gonna be the only person who doesn’t mention “9/11” today. I’m gonna be the only person who doesn’t mention “9/11” today. I’m gonna be the only person who doesn’t mention “9/11” today. I’m gonna be the only person who doesn’t mention “9/11” today. I’m gonna be the only person who doesn’t mention “9/11” today. I’m gonna be the only person who doesn’t mention “9/11” today. I’m gonna be the only person who doesn’t mention “9/11” today. I’m gonna be the only person who doesn’t mention “9/11” today. I’m gonna be the only person who doesn’t mention “9/11” today.
My mother didn’t make us dinner the night she and my father told us they were divorcing. Before the announcement, my brother, sister, and I had been at her friend Marilyn’s house, where we were served very thick broiled hamburgers containing large chunks of near-raw potato. Once home, the news was broken with a minimum of emotion in a semi-darkened room. My forced tears and moaning, performed on a twin bed, lasted for maybe half an hour. I’m quite sure I kept them flowing by focusing on how much I despised the addition of huge potato chunks invading my hamburger.
Dear Paternal Grandmother,
Did you ever cook? I don’t remember ever eating at your apartment. All I remember are plastic, thigh-sweaty slipcovers, you giving me and my sister black and white “copy-books” that you took from the school where I think you worked as a secretary, the unmistakable odor of mothballs, and an intense desire to flee.
Of you as a person, all I recall is your slenderness in a one-piece bathing suit at the swim club pool, your legs spider-veiny and scratchy beneath the water. How I know what your legs felt like, I have no idea.
Apparently the hotel caters to a certain physical variety of business traveler. I am not that variety. My body does not include the freakishly elongated torso and tragically stubby legs that the room’s tall desk and squat office chair can comfortably accommodate. This is fortunate for me outside the walls of Room 608, as I could not quite strut down Philadelphia’s streets with that unseemly torso/leg combination. But contained within Room 608, for the duration of my stay, it would benefit me to be so unfortunately physically equipped, if only because it would facilitate my use of their desk/chair set-up.
Fourth grade recess found me thankfully ostracized, sitting off to the side somewhere with a novel and a dictionary, my best friends, while the rest of the class was busy not being miniature librarians. I could imagine no better way to spend my time, on the playground or off, and was happier lost in words and discovering new ones than just about anything else, including (maybe) watching The Brady Bunch while eating Ellio’s pizza. So why did the recess monitor, someone’s permed, matronly, and ill-advised mom , have to take away my books and tell me it was so wrong?
The loose cherry display at Whole Foods bears little signs telling people to feel free to sample the cherries but to not deposit the discarded pits into the display. I always think, “Who needs to be told this?” But then I see some oblivious lout, hovering by the display, surveying the wares like his life depends on the selection, sucking on a cherry like he’s never had one before, showing more tongue than anyone should ever have to witness as he spits the pit into his palm, mindlessly rummaging through the bin again, and realize why the signs are there.
If you’re ever in doubt about whether you should include me among the poor saps on whom you inflict a hilari-thon of stupendously annoying mass e-mail, please allow me to settle your mind. I don’t like stupid jokes or office humor. So unless it includes photos of stuff like fuzzy puppies drowsing in shoes, an orphaned duck nuzzling a pig it thinks is its mom, baskets of daisies mixed with kittens, or raging cases of gangrene that resulted in particularly grueling amputations, the removed distal extremities of which are shown still wearing rings or ankle bracelets, I’m just not interested.
It’d be bad enough if just one person said it -- “For a fat guy, you’re not very funny” – but now even the pizza delivery guy’s chimed in.
A few months ago, that comment would’ve had Ned stuffing himself into the car and dashing to the nearest doughnut drive-thru. But now he’s so enormous that he can’t even get out of bed, let alone cram himself into the car. Gone are the dashing days, that’s for sure.
Conclusion: Ned’s experiment is a big fat failure. A sense of humor, elusive for a lifetime, cannot be gained merely by gaining weight.
Next month my fella and I will be like two spry and bright-eyed 80-year-olds, swathed in old tweed (his jacket with elbow patches, mine with a moth hole somewhere on the lapel), motoring up to New England in the MINI to oooh and aaah the colorful foliage, pulling over along the way for hot apple cider even though it will no doubt remind me of the end product that will require another pulling-over that will have me delicately squatting over a pretty pile of already-fallen leaves – the part of the charming autumnal scenario the J. Crew catalogue will never show.
Roy, a jaded eye-roller, says he decided to take my assignment – “learn something new every day” -- to heart. Although he’d dismissed it as “retarded” when introduced during Tuesday’s session, today, two days later, he’s eager to discuss his progress.
“Today I haven’t learned anything yet, but I will right after leaving here, I swear. Tuesday I wrote off. But yesterday? Score!”
He’d ogled a woman at the supermarket whose face was obscured as she bent over her cart. When she arose, he saw she was “butt-ugly”.
“And that’s how I learned that even fugly chicks can have awesome tits!”
Snapshot in motion on Sixth Avenue, while waiting for the bus on a recent morning:
A small car, with Mom behind the wheel, Dad in the back on the passenger side, infant in a car seat next to Dad. Mom’s laughing, looking in the rear view mirror at Dad and the baby. Dad’s laughing toward the baby. And the baby’s laughing just as much as Mom and Dad. In the back-back, a Golden Retriever, facing backward, laughing the most.
Although I cannot hear the actual laughter, the visual is so rich that I almost can.
Despite myself, I laugh too.
If you want to “skeeve” me (hello, I’m 12, please enjoy my outdated slang that I never used even when it was in fashion for about 15 seconds back in the ‘90s), you will pry open my mouth and spoon hot pineapple into it. For maximum skeeve factor, the hot pineapple will have been cooked in a thick, gooey, too-red sauce that, although claiming to be “sweet and sour”, bears absolutely no qualities of the latter adjective. Toss in a hot maraschino cherry or two, and you’ll have me wanting to scrub my tongue and throat with a wire brush.
Although I would derive immense pleasure from smashing his pompous head in with a large old-fashioned skillet until the skillet’s surface was well-seasoned with his blood, or swinging a wooden baseball bat into his gut with enough force to split the jiggly jelly-roll, I suppose I would settle for just a swift, sharp, open –handed slap. My cold right hand across his hot left cheek, so solid a slap that not only would the outline of my hand be left impressed on his stunned flesh for at least a day, but a palm-reader could tell my fortune from the impression.
Of the six women on the jury that has just seen the pretty social studies teacher led handcuffed out of the courtroom, on her way to prison for seducing 14-year-old student, two of them are wondering really hard, behind their non-descript glasses, what it would be like to brush the floppy, glossy hair off the boy’s slightly perspiring forehead and look into eyes that they noticed, even here from the jury box, were breathtakingly heavy-lidded and fringed with lashes they themselves couldn’t achieve even with the best mascara. Unlike the teacher, they will never be “the one” he remembers forever.
You live just across the park from me, a 15-minute bus ride tops, and work two subway stops away. Yet in the past 1-1/3 years that I’ve lived in this apartment that places us so relatively close to each other, every attempt I’ve made to get together has been ignored. I hate to sound like our mother, who complains to ME all the time that you never call HER, but, hey, what the fuck is your problem? Are you JUST NOT THAT INTO ME? Must I remind you I’m your sister and not a date?
The pack of breathless tourists bombards the hotel lounge, a blur of comfort shoes, capri pants, and fanny packs, a chatter of activity and enthusiasm. It is clear that at 3:30, they’ve already put in a full day of whatever it is tourists do. Clear not just from the way in which they plop themselves into the chairs and the shopping bags they’re toting, but also from the smell that attached itself to them, individually and en masse, from the moment they invaded the space. Here, in Philadlephia, it’s the undeniable odor of someone who’s just seen the Liberty Bell.
A mere skip from 44, and I still haven’t had time to feel 43. What’s next? “I look in the mirror and can’t believe I’m not the 16-year-old girl I was back in the old country!”?
When I was 16, I thought I’d feel “older” when I reached this, the age of my own mother. This was the age where you were supposed to know what to do, what to say, how to act in all situations. You were at least supposed to know how to hem pants or fold a bottom sheet without suffering an aneurysm.
I’m still waiting.
Because I’m not a fan of “God bless you” and the its knee-jerk sidekick “Thank you”, my boyfriend and I now substitute “G” and “T” words, respectively. In this way, we preserve the nicety of acknowledging a sneeze but avoid the phrases associated with their acknowledgment.
“Grapefruit,” I said this morning when he sneezed.
“Tangerine,” he replied (much to my delight, because that is what I would have chosen as the rejoinder).
To be best performed, the two words or phrases should be in the same category. Please keep this in mind when you adopt this exercise as your own.
Even a “venti” coffee with two espresso shots, downed in 12 seconds flat, can’t rouse energy in me today. I am a Suzy Homemaker/E-Z Bake Oven, desperately trying, with all my lightbulb-power, to bake a tiny brownie-esque “cake” that even a starving hobo or my well-meaning guinea pig dad would reject.
Is it possible to become “immune” to caffeine? If so, what’s next? Do I resort to tying rubber tubes around my arms, looking for ever-elusive veins (in vain for a vein?) to transport the chemicals to wherever it is they need to go to make me feel marginally alive?
Strut, she does, down the sidewalks of the city that never felt like home, even though she lived here for 12 years. Visiting, seven years after she left, simultaneously feels like she never left and like she’d never been here in the first place. Either way, though, it feels small. Much too small to have ever accommodated her all those years and certainly too tiny to hold her now.
Strut, she does, like she’s got a secret. Like she’s too cool for school. Like she’s about to steal candy not only from babies but octogenarians, tweens, and her own mother.
The Tip Jar