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Joyce wonders how hard she'd have to smack the Pekingese on the back of the head in order for its eyes to pop out and roll onto the sidewalk like errant gumballs. Years ago she heard something about how a Pekingese's eyes sit loosely in their sockets, otherwise unattached. The mere thought of any harm coming to this dog she's just met outside Starbucks is enough to make her cry, and of course she'd never do it. But still, as the little dog smiles up at her, she puts her arms behind her back, locks her fingers together, and wonders.
Three notes in, and already the crowd, on its feet to begin with thanks to the venue that supplies no seating, seems to stand even more, roaring and whistling and hooting. It seems they're a secret society that knows the music, coming from the hands of their guitar-strumming idol, like the back of their own. They do this for every song. Perhaps they can tell the difference between each one, but I, with my ear that's unfamiliar with her stuff, can't distinguish one melody from the next. I feel like I've crashed a party. I'm just waiting for the cake.
Never mind the claustrophobia. The real problem with the new walls of the ladies room stalls at the gym, which only leave a two-inch gap at the bottom, is that now when someone does something magnificently horrifying in a neighboring stall, I can't peer underneath to see her shoes so I can put a face to the feet when I see her on the gym floor, and thus am robbed of the privilege of knowing which snooty bitch it is who thinks her, um, shit doesn't stink. Because now I know better. (Sorry. There's no "nice" way to say it.)
The sub hands out books we never used with Miss Price and orders us to turn to page 52. I doubt some of the kids can count that high, even though this is third grade. I flip to the page with a fake-bored sigh, trying not to gloat when I'm the first one there.
"Is there s'posed to be blood on page 52?" Caroline says.
"The word FUCK's on my page 52!" Bruce says.
"Mine's got a picture of someone's bare butt!" Charlie says.
(I feel gypped!)
The next day we have a new sub and our old books back.
I was terrified of the typewriter the first time I sat in front of it in ninth grade typing class. I'd seen my mother using ours at home and was in awe not only of the speed with which she did it, without pause, but with her magical ability to do it without looking at her hands. "Touch typing" sounded like something done by the blind. I marveled they, hey, you know what, a blind person actually *could* type, and would probably it to handwriting. Within weeks I was typing like an old pro. And the rest, friends, is history.
As much as I dig a fresh 5-subject spiral-bound, college-ruled notebook with divider pockets, a pencil box full of yellow #2 Dixon-Ticonderogas so sharp they could put someone's eye out, and a thick-barreled 4-color Bic ballpoint pen with which to take painstakingly multi-colored notes, I'm overjoyed that "Back to School!" is a memory so distant that it's like the pinpoint of light that appeared on-screen with a static click moments after switching off my grandparents' Zenith console TV. Still, I wouldn't mind pressing a freshly-mimeographed, slightly damp and limp handout to my face right now and inhaling the purple deeply.
Auxiliary use for Metrocard, #462: Transporting earthworms from busy rain-soaked sidewalks to safety inside curbside plots of dark soil containing plantings, leaves, and sentinel trees.
Several hours later, I put a Tupperware-type container to very good use by using its lid to coax a terrified water bug from the bathtub into the container itself, then dashing to the patio door (already open in anticipation of the event), placing the container on the ground, flipping the lid off, and shrieking like Edith Bunker on crack.
P.S. "Water bug" is short for "enormous scurrying cockroach that could masquerade as a medjool date".
If you had any romance at all, when you saw the woman trying to choose between two bunches of flowers outside the bodega, you wouldn't have burst out, "Buy 'em both!" as you lumbered by without breaking your stride. You would have paused, greeted her with a friendly smile, said, "Pardon me," taken the flowers from her hands, indicated for her to follow you into the store, and bought both bunches for her, without caring if she'd been buying them for herself or someone else. It wouldn't have been a "pick-up". It would've been a pick-me-up, for both of you.
He sits on the wooden bench outside the retirement center (read: $3,000-a-month apartments in an old hotel around the corner) watching passersby, all dressed up but with no place to pass by, an expression on his face that I alternately decipher as quiet bemusement, slight amusement, or a touch of disdain. I'm convinced he hates me for being "young" and on my way somewhere. I smile at him and say, "I like your socks". (And I do. They're red.) I point to his ankles, international sign language for "socks". He nods his head. He doesn't smile. Nothing to decipher there!
In one month, you will have been married for two years to the shmoe who doesn't deserve you. I'm amazed you've managed to stay together this long, given what you've told me about his drinking, sock sloppiness, and insistence on having a baby when it's clear your body doesn't want to accommodate one.
The wedding present you never picked up from me, despite repeated invitations to do so, still resides beneath my desk. It is now officially mine, even though I have about as much use for an immersion blender as you do for that nincompoop.
I think I could turn and live with animals, they're so placid and self contain'd,
I stand and look at them long and long.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the earth.
(Mr. Whitman doesn't need 100.)
I am the daisy whose petals you plucked off in a misguided attempt to determine whether or not the schmuck who hasn't called you a week after your first date, during which he didn't comment on let alone compliment you on the outfit you spent hours deliberating with your girlfriends and didn't even suggest dessert after dinner and used his tongue on your cheek when you averted your face in your lobby and declined his offer to come upstairs, loves you or not. For this you plucked me from the earth, robbing me of my life? I love you not!
Brussels sprouts roasting in the oven, cat snoozing on the bed, cargo pants and tank top and "hoodie" and unbrushed hair and fluffy socks and more home-percolated coffee than I could ever afford if I drank an equal amount from Starbucks (which I don't even like anyway), cursing at my monitor for a variety of reasons (not like I need one), mid-day bike rides to meet friends for (more) coffee, the possibility of flopping onto the bed or sofa for an impromptu siesta of indeterminate length, leaving my desk whenever I want for whatever reason. All hail working from home!
I've barely bought anything for myself in a year, very few clothes, no shoes, nothing for the apartment ("Nothing for the cat!" Shana says, looking at me with disdain over a shoulder upon which is perched a twig toting a bandana filled with catnip, bonito, and a small can of Spot's Stew), taken no trips, downgraded my gym membership, taken my bike instead of the subway, diverting those funds to paying down my credit cards. The thrill of eliminating that debt, of freeing up several hundred dollars a month once I've accomplished that, far outweighs the thrill of new purchases.
Within 15 minutes of opening, one Target store sold out its Missoni "collection" that was slated to last through mid-October. Gotta love the masses who think that a few cheap zigzags will distinguish them from the rest of the sheep heap. As for me, well, I'm on a Missoni to save people from indulging their urges to do stupid shit, like plunk down hard-earned do-re-mi for a cut-rate version of something that, even in its much more expensive form, looks like what someone's grandmother, while watching "The Golddiggers", would've knitted to throw over the back of a decrepit rocking chair.
When did we become a nation of such insufferable pansies? Did our whining, our carping, our self-absorption take root only 40 years ago or so with the advent of the hideously named "Me Generation", or did it lie dormant inside our husks for decades or centuries, marinating in the juices of our viscera, bathing in bile, until such time as it could no longer contain itself and started seeping from our souls, oozing from our pores, and tainting almost everything we think and touch? When did we decide we're all such unique perfect snowflakes? How long can the epidemic continue?
Mike and Miranda have run out of words. They open their mouths to speak and nothing comes out. They stare across the breakfast nook table at each other, wanting to say how much they've loved having fresh-squeezed orange juice because of all the pulp, that it tastes so much more like oranges than the stuff they get in the carton or that frozen concentrate stuff they remember from when they were kids, and how, oh my god, grapefruit juice would probably be amazing too, especially the red kind, but they just don't know how to say it. The honeymoon's over.
My response to those who think I'm over the top or don't "get" me or don't like me (rare!) because they are, in some way, intimidated, is an enormous "Fuck 'em" tinged with laughter, and pity for their small- and/or closed-mindedness. Whatever. If people want to be shackled by their own self-imposed limitations on becoming the FUN FUN FUN people they can become, or for refusing to free their, um, SPIRITS, then that's their problem. I choose to surround myself ONLY with people who have a finely-tuned sense of the ridiculous, the obscene, the absurd, and the fabulous. Their loss.
Dinner with a lesbian friend visiting from the Midwest, at a great little Indian restaurant on Christopher Street. She's in a white cotton floral frock that displays an eyeful and handful of cleavage, dainty sandals, and carrying a little purse. I, on the other hand, am in jeans, blue suede shoes, and a camouflage quasi-messenger sort of bag, looking like I could take your eye out just by looking your way. She tells me of "lesbian bed death" horrors and her girlfriend's power tools, of their trip to a sex toy shop, their first ever. I need more lesbian friends.
No matter how much it would warm my heart, there is no way that Shana is ever going to accept an empty toilet-paper roll as a toy.
I don't know how many times I've tried to encourage her to play with one. No matter how excited I was to nudge the bare cardboard roll toward her with my foot in the hopes that she would realize how much fun it is to chase it around the apartment, she still doesn't express even the slightest interest. I'm crushed. But at least, in identifying this harsh reality, I've taken the first step.
A few random tidbits of little importance and perhaps no interest to anyone:
- The walk home from the gym never takes more than an hour and varies from just over 3 miles to 3.6, depending on the route.
- I only have to do one load of laundry a week, and even if I use the "triple loader" washer and one dryer, it only costs about $6.00.
- A six-pack of soda is much cheaper at Fairway than at Westside Market.
- The Westside Market cashiers are giving those at Fairway some pretty mighty competition in the surly department.
Left-handed toothbrushses, right-handed toothbrushes; pillows for the side-sleeper, back-sleeper, stomach-sleeper; insoles for our shoes to accommodate arches, heels, balls of the foot; shampoo for oily, dry, color-treated, emotionally immature hair; phones that recognize our voices; entry systems that know our fingerprints. No more one-size-fits-all for us, no way, no how, buddy boy. We're all such finely tuned machines, such unique souls that need and warrant and deserve specialized, individualized, pasteurized attention. We've earned it, baby, we've come so far, there's no one quite like us, damn it. Yeah, keep telling yourself this, candypants, as you wait in line at Starbucks.
The number of fingers and toes I'd sprout if I swam in and drank from the nuclear fallout-infested waters of a faulty power plant wouldn't be enough to count how many teetering, short-skirted, slump-postured girls I passed on a walk from East Houston to West Houston on a recent Saturday night who looked, sounded, dressed, and acted as if they were stamped out at an IKEA-like facility that manufactures floozies instead of furniture. None of them were laughing and their arms, which they'd hoped would be accessorized by a man at that late hour, were instead raised to hail cabs.
While on the bus recently, I saw eight young women dressed in blue getting out of two yellow cabs on the far side of the Broadway across from Lincoln Center. Their outfits were those of stewardesses from the new show "Pan Am", complete with the darling little hats already perfectly perched upon their careful coifs. They were laughing among themselves, red-painted mouths no doubt admonished to avoid coffee cups, seemingly unaware of the striking anachronism of their colorful appearance among the modern drab of the morning's passersby. I hated each and every one of them for not being Christina Ricci.
A woman, probably late thirties, dark-haired, pale-skinned, dressed in something approximating pajamas, stumbles onto the subway and starts her shpiel. She's homeless, she's hungry, she doesn't want to put us out, she knows we hate her.
"Can somebody help me out with some food and a cold drink?"
No one's biting. She gets on one knee. Still, no bites.
She changes her voice to that of a whining three-year-old and continues her plea. Bingo! A dollar.
Perhaps I "should" pity her, but all I want to do is send her to her room. (If only she had one.)
Maybe if I hadn't seen similar acts before on a way too frequent basis, maybe if I didn't have to work my ass off to keep myself from being homeless and wearing filthy pajamas in public (let alone at home), maybe if her voice wasn't so cloying and manipulative, I would have a shred of patience and pity for this person. Otherwise? No dice.
She rewhines her plea for food or a cold drink.
"A shame she's only wants something cold," I say to my friend, "because all I've got is a Thermos full of hot liquid cash."
Happy hour means nothing to him anymore. He can barely afford the diner coffee he lingers over while struggling to think of where to sleep tonight. He's been evicted from his apartment, can't stay in the office anymore, and the subway is out of the question. Eventually he finds a very cheap place, and even though it's not the most comfortable of accommodations, he's grateful for the space and curls into it, hungry for dreams. Three hours into his snores, he's roused by a night attendant making customary rounds. Manhattan Mini Storage isn't a motel, he's told, and evicted again.
Every time I go to the laundromat, I'm convinced that the attendant is so impressed with the ease with which I slide my quarters into the washing machine slot and the thoroughness I display when running my hand inside the dryer to ensure no sock is left behind that she's going to offer me a job. But then she realizes she has never seen me fold anything on the premises, figures there must be a reason, and discounts the idea of the offer. (If she saw the way I "fold" a fitted sheet, she'd be quite pleased with her decision.)
Eggplant parmigiana has made me swoon mightily for as long as I can remember, an exalted position in the food chain ranking right up there with thick-cut french fries and crunchewy chocolate chip cookies. (Indeed, these are my three "desert island" choices. And as luck would have it, my desert island of choice is Manhattan!)
My fella took it upon himself to concoct a version to beat the band, and this past weekend bestowed a four-layered panful upon me here in my apartment. And oh, it not only beat the band, but the orchestra and its conductor. To a pulp!
This evening I displayed uncharacteristic restraint when someone tried to sass me on the subway moments before I got off. I don't know whether that impresses me or depresses me. Although her "sass" was as flabby as her ass, and it would have taken minimal effort to show this squirrel-haired, mom-jeaned, sneaker-footed nincompoop that my tongue is even mightier than my biceps, I didn't give her the lashing I desperately wanted to unleash. I chose to be the bigger man even though the bitch was three times my size, but man oh man, I know I could have "taken" her.
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