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Theodore “Thready Bear” Sorensen, long-time resident of Manhattan, known throughout the 1990s as “the city’s best-dressed homeless man,” died in his sleep on Tuesday morning. He was reportedly 68.
Throughout his life, Theodore never accepted what he called “selfish charity,” preferring to forage almost daily through Dumpsters and sidewalk garbage for the clothing that became his trademark not only among his peers of homeless men and women who lived in the subway tunnels running along the C line but among some of the city’s more elite and well-heeled, whose homes resided above the city’s more affluent 6 line.
Continued from 9/1
When the newly-widowed offered the contents of their husband’s closets to Theodore, he refused, often lashing out in a barrage of curse words. The women were charmed, however, that he peppered his language with the niceties to which they were accustomed.
“Ages ago, I offered him two drawersful of silk ascots. He told me to please eff off,” Kiki Waterford of Park Avenue remembered over Sachertorte at Payard.
“He rejected a dozen pairs of cashmere socks,” Binny Trumble recalled, eying Ms. Waterford’s Sachertorte. “He asked me if I would kindly suck his something or other.”
I know of only three people in whose bathrooms I will find hand towels readily available for use by people who do not live there: my mom; my boyfriend's mom; and me.
I am always dismayed when I am visiting someone, use their facilities, and realize that I am going to have to either wipe my hands on my clothes (an argument for always wearing jeans) or avail myself of an apparently already-used bath towel that, in these places, always seems to be limply hanging from the doorknob or a hook on the back of the bathroom door.
Toward the end of the almost eight-year run that I lived with M in Philadelphia, there was a five-month period in which he uttered only 15 syllables -- syllables, not words -- to me, an average of three per month. The longest string was, "Did you feed the cat?"
How wasteful! A more economical choice would've been, "Feed cat?" Or, not wanting to appear as if he were being purposely syllable-stingy, the less stilted "Feed the cat?" He should've surrendered those two wasted syllables to me. I would've made better use of them. "Fuck you" would have served me well.
I don't understand people who, when presented with a city so vibrant that the throb of its energy can be felt in their veins, cut themselves off from the experience via iPods or other headphone-bearing devices. Why deny yourself the cacophony of traffic, the symphony of multiple languages, snippets of passing conversations? What better way to be "in the now" than to be just where you are, your mind free to accept all that surrounds it. To deny yourself participation in the bombardment is to accept a beige existence. Why choose beige when the world is ripe with glorious color?
Good day, and welcome to my directly addressing you, gentle reader (appellation courtesy of Judith Martin a/k/a Miss Manners), in order to bring to your attention something that will bother me if I don't warn you. And that is this: In tomorrow's entry (which I wrote before today's, because that's just the kind of madcap adventuress I am), I alternately, unintentionally, used the names "Lily" and "Lila" when I only really meant to use one name throughout. I apologize any confusion my dementia may have caused and thank you for your continued reading of this, my 70th month of entries.
A month after Lila's mother stopped remembering everyone's name, including her own, she insisted she'd never seen Lily before. She accused Lila of trying to steal her watch when Lila removed it to give her her daily bath.
"If you were really my daughter," she said, "you'd know you were inheriting it. You wouldn't have to steal it while I'm still breathing!"
In sleep, her mother remembers everyone's name. Lila stays awake, curled on a bedside chair, just to hear the lilt of "my lovely Lily" spill effortlessly from her lips.
"You look like hell," her mother says every morning.
Ever since he was five years old, Leonard dreamed of someday filling a jar with his fingernail clippings and presenting them to the lady he'd ask to be his bride. He was dead sure any girl would be charmed to receive such a gift. Indeed, she'd be so charmed that she wouldn't even want an engagement ring. After all, what diamond could outdazzle this treasure?
Thirty years later, he still hasn't found a lady worthy of bestowing this prized possession on. His friend Joel tells him he may want to remove the jar from his dashboard when going on dates.
The new lawyer had a bizarre hold over one of the two name partners of the firm. In her ill-fitting Liz Claiborne suits, shoes so sensible they'd send even the stodgiest of librarians into catatonia, and limp pageboy haircut, there was no way she could inspire anything even remotely akin to lust in anyone with vision above 20/4000. It wasn't just the appearance. If that wasn't enough to repel, there was the matter of the nasal monotone. Still, R found her so utterly charming that when she asked him to fire me, he did. She must've been one primo cocksucker.
She minces her way up Sixth Avenue in silver platform sandals from which orange-tanned toes struggle to escape, a short black skirt whose hem is aggressively jagged on purpose, and dyed-to-match hair nearly reaching that hem, collecting leers from men from all walks and crawls of life. We're maybe 20 feet behind her jiggling buttocks.
"Nice outfit, Poca-fucking-hontas," I say, turning to my left to share an eyeroll/smirk combo-pack with my friend. "Stunning."
"I'd like to poke her hontas," he says.
"What does that even mean?" I say.
"I have no idea," he says.
We giggle into each other's face.
My mother never perched on a velvet-cushioned vanity bench and created a colorful, different face to present to a cocktail party crammed with people. She never piled her hair up like a wedding cake or draped herself in pearls or baubles or shiny anything. She didn't turn away from a makeup mirror to smile at me, a breathless admirer whose age was still in the single digits, and dab fierce red lipstick on my smiling mouth.
My mother never stood in front of my father, looked over her shoulder, lifted her hair, and asked, "Would you zip me up, darling?"
Two weeks in, and it felt like I'd been doing it for years. I'd thought I'd start out slow, be broken in gradually, be permitted a gentle initiation into this supplemental employment. I knew how to talk on a phone, of course. Heck, I'd been doing it since Alexander Graham Bell and I were chums way back in the day. But I don't think Alex ever thought his exciting, revolutionary contraption would be used for such lurid exchanges as those in which I was being paid to indulge a few decades later. Did they have phone sex then?
Continued from 9/13
By the end of the first week, my employer jubilantly told me the client feedback was overwhelming. I was thrilled to learn that I was an all-out rip-roaring success!
My bedtime stories were a smash hit among the men willing to shell out quite a bit of cash for the privilege of beating their meat to such elegantly crafted stories of scat and sadism! Where else could they masturbate so freely to the master story-telling of a woman who, several told me, had a voice reminiscent of their mothers', who had lulled them to sleep ages ago?
I forget how I found out PK died, but I'm convinced I caused her death.
Her husband's and my mutual digging-of-each-other ("crush" is too juvenile) spanned about two decades, but we never dug ourselves into a hole by acting on it. A long time ago, I'd secretly "prayed", jokingly, inside my hilarious head, that something terrible would befall PK -- overnight obesity or death -- so I could step into her tiny shoes.
We did get together several times after my prayers were answered, but it wasn't as thrilling as I'd hoped. I think I owe PK an enormous apology.
I have a difficult time finding any resemblance between the toddler and his dad. The kid's not adopted, so it's not that. It's just that the dad is balding, bearded, and bespectacled, traits he doesn't share with the kid.
"He looks like just I did at that age," the dad says. I cringe inside, waiting for him to call his son "a mini me." Fortunately he spares me.
I can't imagine the dad with hair, clean-shaven, and naked-eyed. On the few occasions I've imagined him as a boy, I pictured him exactly as he is now, only two feet shorter.
How long have the trees been shedding leaves? For a few weeks I've been noticing an influx of dried brown leaves scattered on my patio, but I can't locate their source. (I think they're maple, but what do I know?) I start scooping them up to toss into the kitchen garbage, then realize: Wait. These leaves may be insects' homes. I could be razing houses and displacing their residents. I redirect them into an empty flower pot outside. I hope the insects enjoy their new condo.
I wonder: Would I make a good real estate developer or a poor one?
Don’t stare at Maura. It’s not polite. It’s not her fault her enormous brown eyes protrude like those of a Pekingese. Or maybe it is, since this is the way they’ve been ever since she bludgeoned her mother to death with a pewter candlestick 20 years ago, when she was 5. This is last way her mother ever saw her face.
“Don’t do that with your face, Maura,” her mother would say if she saw her now. “It will freeze that way.”
Her mother. Sigh. Always with the clichés.
But she can’t say that now, can she, Maura?
In case you're wondering if the New York Public Library keeps records of every book you've ever borrowed, the answer is a resounding NYET. I wanted the list because when my hard drive conked out in August 2006, I lost my Book List (a Word document). It took me about a year to call the NYPL because I was afraid to learn what they confirmed: since 9/11, that kind of record-keeping is not permitted. While this rankles the hell outta me, I am comforted by the knowledge that no one will ever know I read a few really shitty books.
J, my friend who ran the phone sex operation, had only one requirement for her "girls": We all had to be very physically attractive. She didn't like the idea of her callers thinking they were talking to lovely ladies when really they were talking to trolls who could only describe themselves that way under cover of telephone darkness.
Still, we all had to claim to be 28-year-old paralegals. Any older, and these discriminating connoisseurs would find us too mature. If we were secretaries, were weren't ambitious enough. If lawyers, too ambitious. This was juuuust right for the Moldy-Cocks fairy tale.
A hired car is taking me to the hospital where my friend's been in the psych ward for several days. I have her purse and keys, which she needs for her release the next day. It's 7:15, 45 minutes until visiting hours are over. Traffic's backed up. I'll still have to deal with finding my way around the hospital once I get there.
I'm told she's not in the computer. Still, I'm led to Psych 2, Psych 3, this building, that building, this floor, that floor. It's 7:55 when someone tells me I'm probably at the wrong hospital.
Continued from 9/20
The enormous-thighed worker behind the desk says that the hospital I probably want is on the other side of the expressway and that I can't possibly get there in time. The corners of her mouth smirk at my obvious dismay. I've been dashing around for over half an hour, scorned at every ward on every floor, treated with rude indifference despite my friendly approach. I'm ready to lose it. Fortunately I'm sane enough to realize that an outburst could land me in one of the wards of this hospital that I had mistakenly thought contained my friend.
Continued from 9/2
Theodore did not grow up natty. The Orchard Street tenement he shared with his parents, Bertram and Molly, and six siblings once housed a tiny closet, but because each Sorensen owned only the clothes on his or her back, Bertram converted the closet into bunk-bed-style sleeping quarters for his brood.
“We had no clothes,” Theodore said in a rare interview for GQ, “but we were close.”
Designers Karl Lagerfeld, Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren, among others, offered funeral wardrobes for Theodore’s burial, but in keeping with his lifelong sartorial choices, he will be laid to rest in vintage.
You know you’re really arrived when you’re sashaying up Columbus Avenue on a perfect summer day, early evening, minding your own pretty business, quite possibly humming a little nonsensical tune to yourself, and two glossy, well-tanned professional-looking men, dressed beyond the nines, break their babbling stream of intense and flamboyant chatter to look you up and down, taking in your perfectly fitted dark brown wrap dress and strappy sandals, bestow upon you the whitest of grins, and coo, “Oh, you are fabulous!” and “You are stunning!”, and give you thumbs up on hands that are probably as well-manicured as yours.
This morning, West 78th Street between West End and Broadway was blocked off for a TV show or movie whose identity I don't know. I stood on a corner, along with other neighborhood types, hoping to catch some action. I was rewarded in less than a minute, when a production assistant yelled, "Stunt!" and then, "Action!"
Immediately a yellow cab sped down the block from the west side of West End, swerved, and screeched to an abrupt stop on the north side of 78th.
They could've just waited on any block in the city and gotten the same result. Free.
The notion of a "catnap" holds no appeal. A catnap is something white-shirted mid-level execs take in their Successories-appointed offices before big meetings, ten minutes they tell themselves is going to do a world of good, much better than the lunches they skip in order to complete their important work in preparation for the big meetings.
If I'm going to nap, I'm going to take a real nap. Better yet, a siesta. A long, luxurious, close-the-blinds, snuggle-under-the-covers, say-adios-to-the-world-for-at-least-an-hour snoozefest-a-gogo-a-rama.
Yeah, you big execs may luxuriate in posh places, but I've got you bastards beat when it comes to real luxury!
Sometime during my friend's small shindig, her mom retreats to the bedroom and lies down on the bed with a heating pad in an attempt to ease her hip pain. My friend and I join her for a few minutes, leaving the boys in the living room to yell at the Presidential debate.
Her sweater dress is hiked up to her hips. She's got great gams, not just for a woman of 69, but for one a third her age. But do I really need to see the little furry forest creature nestled between them, contained beneath her sheer pantyhose?
Four map-holding girls, seated to my west at The Spotted Pig, ask the bartender why there's a long line outside a certain place in the neighborhood.
"It's Magnolia Bakery," she says. "It was in Sex and the City, so everyone wants to be there."
The girls grimace. Aha! Instant camaraderie!
"And the cupcakes aren't even good!" I say to them. They guffaw. "Save yourself the anguish. Go somewhere else. Be original!"
I may as well be on top of the bar with a megaphone.
"Thanks for saving us the trouble!" one says.
I want to adopt them for the afternoon.
I often disquiet myself by imagining that anyone with a well-developed sociopathic personality with access to a hypodermic needle could easily taint a wide variety of packaged foods in any store. The person wouldn't necessarily be standing at the shelf as he injected Brie cheese or ground meat with the poison. He could place the items in his cart, lean over it while rustling through the contents to find something, and perform quick injections as he pretends to search for the Pop Tarts. Then, post-tainting, he could return the items to their shelves, and no one would be the wiser.
I cannot decide which kind of baseball bat I'd like to grip in my hands as it cracked against your left temple and then, a nanosecond after the blood gushed from your ear, against your right. Would I choose wood? Aluminum? Which would cause more excruciating damage? Which would produce a more satisfying thwack? I'm leaning a bit toward aluminum. With aluminum, I could heat it first so that its contact with your flesh would cause a bit of sizzle along with the skull-splitting. Only the best of beatings for you, you vile scum, for fucking with my best friend.
I am trying to pretend that the click-ticking of the alarm clock doesn't bother me. That the click-tick click-tick click-tick of the clock clock clock doesn't click-tick bother clock clock me click-tick. I am trying to tell myself the click-ticking is charming, that it's like a heartbeat click-tick clock clock click-tick, that I can barely click-tick hear it click-tick clock clock, that it's only because click-tick I'm focusing on it and listening for it that it's making me murderous click-tick and wanting to punch it in the tick-click face. Its "heart" is making mine click-tick itself to a heart attack.
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