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I am uncomfortable with perfectly plotted, neatly aligned gardens, where flowers, grouped by variety, stand at attention to make the staunchest of drill sergeants proud, the grassy edges of paved walkways are as meticulously groomed as the bikini lines of modern Playboy centerfolds, and the layout is as rigid as a new suburban cemetery. I prefer the garden equivalent of a man's face two days unshaven, a bed left rumpled after a particularly lurid romp, the flowers cross-dressing and cross-marrying in a blazing orgy of color, doing the tango in tutus when others would have them waltz in ball gowns.
In the few years I have known her, every guy she hangs out with for more than two months is her "soulmate". Every one is someone she cannot imagine ever living without, the one with whom she has the best, hottest, raunchiest sex ever. And every time, when the inevitable horrible breakup occurs, I wait for her to tell me she should have heeded the "red flags".
She is like the suburban mom who, every Christmas, admires her just-decorated tree, and while admiring its twinkling lights in the darkened living room says, "This is the best tree we've ever had."
Even in the moments of my suburban teen angst when I felt most tortured, repressed, unheard, and alone, I never once carried around a pencil-margined, dog-eared copy of anything Sylvia Plath or Ayn Rand or Charles Bukowski and either read it or pretended to read it while skulking down the hallways of my high school (making sure the silent brooding guy in English class could catch a glimpse of the cover) or while deep into the denim recesses of my beanbag chair. I didn't seek validation in others' words. Amazing how many people, years removed from their teens, still do.
When the subway rumbles toward the platform, the racket so all-encompassing that it could obliterate the chaos of an Apple store stampede on the day of a new release, my brother lets loose the loudest of his gassy-assed expulsions. Given his penchant for this charming mode of expression even in moments of pin-drop silence, this doesn't shock me. I suppose it wouldn't shock him, then, to learn that I take advantage of the clatter by shouting elaborate strings of obscenities. I only do this when no one is around, though. I'm not sure I could say the same for him.
My ninth grade chemistry teacher looked like a cross between Beaker, John Waters, and a pushbroom. His voice, halting yet earnest, seemed lodged somewhere behind his pancreas, muffled under a bed pillow, struggling to project itself via a throat numbed with Chloraseptic. My doltish, unimaginative classmates took every opportunity to aggravate and play limp practical jokes on him, but I never participated. Instead, I admired him for daring to divulge to these undeserving idiots that his cat's name was "Kitty Kitty Pal Noodle". They all made fun of him. But I? Developed quite a bit of a crush, of course.
From first through third grade, all the neighborhood kids would take turns going to each other's houses after school for a variety of snacks and hoopla. We weren't supposed to play favorites, but we did anyway. Most of the other kids preferred Penny's mom, Peg, whose laugh and green eye shadow were as robust as her Pucci-clad body, and whose snacks were guaranteed to ruin a week's worth of dinners.
Nathan's mom, Jacqueline, never wore anything but gigantic black-framed glasses, a white lab coat, and yellow Playtex gloves. She creeped the others out. She was secretly my favorite.
When I was in second grade, Jacqueline's husband moved out of their house and into an apartment complex near the swim club. The only time we saw him was on weekends when he'd pick up Nathan in his red Corvette and drive away with the top down, causing us to regard our own dads, with their insistence on rolled-up windows and locked doors, as woefully substandard.
Pretty soon our moms were whispering "divorce" the same way they whispered words like "shit" when we were within earshot, their favorite to describe what they thought of Jacqueline's husband.
Jacqueline was the only divorced mom in the neighborhood. Although we were all afraid of what the word would mean for us if it happened to our families, those of us who'd overheard our moms talking over mahjong were excited by what it meant for Jacqueline "as a woman" -- even if we weren't exactly sure what that meant. We just winked at each other as if we did.
"She's gonna have to clean up her act, though," Wendy's mom said, "and knock it off with the weird crap if she wants to attract anyone good."
I suppose Wendy's mom meant how Jacqueline would fill the holes of her pink bowling ball with chocolate pudding and slurp it out with a straw. Or how when one of the "arms" of her eyeglasses broke she replaced it with a chicken bone and told me, "I'm killing two birds with one stone" and quickly explained what that meant when I looked at her in horror, thinking she had killed a chicken for the sake of her glasses repair.
I wish I could've frozen her in time and defrosted her as a friend now, 40 years later.
"I never talk to anyone," Ann tells me half an hour into our conversation. We, like the rest of the residents and volunteers in the recreation room, are done planting flower bulbs in small pots.
My new 93-year-old friend from Bombay and I are still unsure whether we were supposed to peel them like garlic. It doesn't matter, though, because we've moved on to discussion of mustard seed and the "tzzzt tzzzt tzzzt!" I am to listen for when making a simple curry. This is the fourth time she has told me. I act as if it were the first.
A client congratulates me for earning the most money in a month in the 30-year history of his company. I tell him I'm honored and should have a satin pageant-style sash bearing the name of his company. He says I should too but does not offer to supply one. After checking out way too many websites supplying sashes for every occasion and customizing a few "just to see" (red satin with white block letters outlined in silver!) , I realize, is this how I want to spend the real prize, the money I'd earned? (Hint: The answer is not yes.)
Bonnie may not have what it takes to be in the top 10% of her senior class, she may have bombed every history test since first grade, and it may have taken her six days to figure out how to do a Google search, but in the end, when the note was found propped up on her desk just inches away from her lifeless, still-swinging Conversed feet, even the most ardent naysayer was impressed that she had researched the date of her suicide to coincide with a day in history where nothing else too exciting had ever occurred. Bravo, Bonnie!
"If you want to live to be as old as I am," he says when I reach the fourth floor landing, "you won't run up the stairs!"
I didn't think I was running, but I guess to this ancient little guy any movement on the stairs is "running".
I laugh and hand him the food I've brought from the church. He presses a 50-cent tip in my hand despite my protests. He says my smile is worth everything.
He returns to his apartment and shuts the door. I hurry down the stairs since he didn't admonish me in that direction.
I used to love opening my grandparents' hall closet to admire the rows of canned pears and peaches (in syrup) standing at attention on one shelf and pudding and Jell-O boxes stacked on another as perfectly as if a skilled brick mason were hired to orchestrate the project. When Poppop left this world in 1993, three years after Bubby, he left behind a rather impressive stash of the pudding and Jell-O. I wish my mother had decided it was important enough to save. I would've liked to have created some sort of sculpture/shrine out of the boxes in their memory!
In the past couple of months, I've seen two young "urban" guys on the subway wearing eyeglass frames without any lenses. Both times they sported them with such a serious expression on their faces that I couldn't help but laugh, before thinking, "Oh, give me a fucking break" and wanting to poke them in the humorless eyes through the frames, with an index finger dipped in jalapeno juice.
I have been inspired to start another trend, this one for the Fall 2010 season, that will have the same cretins sporting non-functioning hearing aids. And come Spring 2011, decorative trach tubes.
I hated Elizabeth the minute I saw her in the dance studio during a summer acting program. Although I'd long ago stopped wanting long blonde hair of my own, some vestiges of the Jan-like envy of Marcia Brady's hair I'd had in elementary school remained. For some reason, this blue-eyed stunner really liked me (perhaps she'd always wanted to be a raven-tressed Jewess?), though, and when she confided that she suffered paralyzing panic attacks and that she was seriously considering literally breaking a leg to get out of having to perform a self-choreographed dance, I fell in absolutely hopeless love.
The problem with "Greatest Hits" albums is that the songs as presented don't present a story the way they do from the albums from which they were culled. This is like being offered a Reader's Digest version of a full-length book. Sure, it may be easier to consider only the parts that have been deemed (by whom?) the "best", but a vital part of the experience is seeing how the parts, as originally composed, all fit together. I regard albums the way I regard people: I want to know the whole package, not just the carefully edited, most enjoyable elements.
Anyone who has any doubt as to whether cats can understand English or if they're totally full of shit when they act like they don't know what we're talking about needs to come over to my apartment when Shana starts scratching and scraping as if she's been guided by unseen spirits to unearth archaeological treasures from beneath the little crewel rug underneath her litter box and I, looking over from my desk perch, yell, "NO, IN YOUR BOX! NO, IN YOUR BOX!" and she immediately stops with the furious paw action, hurdles into her box, and seamlessly continues without interruption.
At long last, after coveting the groovy silver thong-style Birkenstocks seen on the feet of Gwyneth Paltrow and/or Heidi Klum, I succumbed to the self-imposed peer pressure, however mild, and bought a pair online. User comments drooling over their delightful blend of sassy style and unparalleled comfort sealed the deal.
I wish I could say I now know what all the hoopla was about. Alas, the hard plastic piece between the toes causes such hideous discomfort that it makes me want to hunt Gwyneth and/or Heidi down and bludgeon their tall pretty blondness with one of my usual high heels.
On a recent bus ride, an older lady with a walker had no idea where the building she wanted was located on West End Avenue. All she had was the number of the address, which was of no use to the bus driver. I recognized the number as being very close to the address of my old building, so I walked toward the front of the bus and told her approximately where she should get off the bus.
"Thank you!" she said, with an grin as wide as Broadway. "You saved my life!"
For some people, that's all it takes.
"Give her a steak and a cake," my stepfather would say as my grubby hands grasped either end of a large steak bone with and snapped it into two pieces, the better to suck out the warm marrow like a rabid T-Rex, "and she's happy." My mom happily forked over the fat she'd trimmed from her own steak, its glisten and sizzle slicking my lips like the lipgloss I was too young to wear. With the edge of my index finger, I'd swipe the gristle from the plate underneath my own meat and suck it off like a starving cur.
I have no idea whose wedding it is, but I'm going with some guy Joe I recently made out with at my sister's 16th birthday party. I'm trying to convince myself we're dating and that he, a junior, would love to go to my senior prom, and this limp date is only just the beginning of our being "Double Joey", which is how I jokingly refer to us (but only to my sister). I wind up drunk on gin and Tab in the ladies room and have no idea if I've even attended the wedding. And the prom? Yeah, right!
Tommy Berdini wanted nothing to do with me, but I wanted everything to do with him. Of course, I was seven, so my "everything" wasn't really much of anything except wanting him to acknowledge my existence, if even just briefly, by glancing my way during recess. I was sure that once he met my lovesick laser gaze while hanging from his knees on the monkey bars, his girls-are-gross resolve would wilt and wither, and then, if he didn't fall on his head and crack his skull, fall in love with me forever or until the bell rang, whichever came first.
The coffee guy at Fairway stabs the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe with the large scoop, pivots on his heel to face the scale where a small bag awaits, its mouth open like a baby bird, and with a flick of the wrist, the beans cascade inside. An adhesive price label zips from the side of the scale, and he presses it onto the front of the bag.
"Anything else?" he asks.
"Yes," I want to say. "I admire how you always get it to come to exactly $8.99 (one pound)." But can I do so without sounding like a condescending UWS dick?
When I was a kid (cue three-foot snowfall and a five-mile walk to school barefoot by candlelight fueled only by a slice of stale bread) you never heard of any of us being unable to eat a bake-sale cupcake because it may have been baked in the same kitchen where a peanut had been present, breaking out in hives by thinking about a cat, or ricocheting off the walls with ADD. There was that one kid who was rumored to be a hemophiliac and that other kid who had an epileptic seizure during gym class, but that was about it.
"My name in Hungary was very fancy," she says. "Tusi, T-U-S-I, like" -- here she points behind her body -- and of course I know what she means because I'm Jewish too. "But they wouldn't let me keep that name here. I told them I wanted to be Judy, but the man, he was hard of hearing, so I've been Trudy for more than 60 years."
For her 84th birthday in June, I'll buy her a JUDY mug. It's the least I can do for this tiny lady, the only one in her family to have survived the concentration camps.
When visiting two of my favorite boys in St. Louis, they wanted to watch their beloved Glee, so I thought, okay, all right, let's see what all the hoopla is about, why are so many people are obsessed with this stuff to the point of spontaneous jizzification, maybe I'm holding out just for the sake of holding out like I did with Arrested Development (which I wound up ADORING). Well, I disliked Glee even more than I anticipated. Even Jane Lynch isn't enough to make me want to turn it on again. So now I save myself for Modern Family.
I cannot bear to flush a cockroach down the toilet if I see any signs of movement. I prefer, instead, to gently nudge it with the corner of a Banana Republic invoice into a tall vase and then run to the already-opened door leading to my patio, where I tap him onto the rusty old cat carrier. With the edge of the invoice, I flip the poor little guy so he's not on his back, but his weakened legs won't allow him to walk away. A few days later, the ants carry him off in a ceremony far more elegant.
While waiting on the corner of 72nd and Amsterdam for the light to change, I'm riveted by a petite girl with wavy long brown hair, dressed in an Emma Peel sort of getup complete with boots, a loose kelly green scarf the only relief from black.
"I found my new girlfriend," I say to my boyfriend, gesturing toward her with all the subtlety of an alarm clock.
She leads the way across Amsterdam, affording me the view for which I was hoping. Alas, she hurries toward a female friend, whom she hugs passionately. The nerve! Cheating on me so soon!
This week I won a rainbow "wind spinner" on eBay for $1.71, beating out two hapless hopefuls who had finally managed to scrape together their life savings to afford their childhood dream of possessing three rather flimsy whirling wheels of synthetic ribbony fabric that, true to their name, spin in the wind, like a hybrid pinwheel/kaleidoscope. Today it arrived, and I was so overjoyed that, before sticking its spike into a flower box on my patio, I pranced around with it, as ebullient as Rip Taylor with his bucket of glittery confetti, in my own private fabulous gay pride parade.
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