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In my fantasy, I am telling the talk show host that I wrote my entire book during trips home from the gym on the M5, in longhand in a little notebook, gathering as inspiration whatever I happened to see through the windows as the bus made its way up Sixth Avenue, along Central Park South, and up Broadway, or what happened on the bus itself. But this could never happen. Although inspiration could pose a challenge, and would, the bigger threat to success would be the fact that even reading the back of the Metrocard makes me supremely nauseous. Pffft.
It's bad enough that I forget what I was going to say, especially when, mere seconds earlier I was certain it was such a profound thought that it could never be lost in brain abyss, but it's even worse when the person to whom I've just lamented the derailment, offers as solace the standard, "Well, then it must not have been that important" At that moment, the desperation to remember is so intense that the thought's importance is magnified tenfold. I wonder if Thomas Edison's lunch partner ever said that to him when he momentarily forgot his light bulb idea.
If you want to wake up in a city that never sleeps, I don't suggest you come here. Or at least not my neighborhood. Maybe the hoi polloi are out and about, shuffling off to Buffalo on Broome Street, or hobnobbing till their nobs fall off on Christopher Street, or waiting on the wrong side of a velvet rope in the Meatpacking District, but up here, in my neighborhood, you'd swear our cardiganed dad put us on a lights-out curfew that we're all too willing to comply with, not even bothering to sneak a flashlight under our bunk bed covers.
It would be bad enough if he were talking in a bad Kermit voice, but apparently this shmuck at the table behind me has practiced quite a bit because he sounds even Kermittier than the real deal, an observation that his date, obviously a dating site "match", has made at least three times in the ten minutes he's been reading appetizer choices off the menu in the voice. When he excuses himself to go to the men's room, she bolts from the restaurant Upon his return, I want to turn around and say, "It ain't easy bein' green," but refrain.
She's trying to win him over by writing him a song, but the words rhyme in ways that recall an eighth-grader's attempt at an "A" during a marking period tainted by C-minuses. Ten years of piano lessons have left her with an ability to do little more than create limp arpeggios, and the damper pedal isn't adding anything to her efforts. She opts for cookie-baking instead, but her creativity extends only to the Nestle Tollhouse recipe on the back of the chocolate chips package. Then she realizes: She learned her blow-job skills from top-rated gay porn. She's good to go!
When Netflix decided to stop being a dick to its customers and ditched its limp idea of splintering its offerings onto two websites, I felt enormous relief because that meant I didn't have to choose one company over the other or abandon the enterprise in its entirety. I have no idea why I gave a rat's ass let alone the four that I assigned to it, but I do know that I felt victorious, newly unburdened with the task of having to find another service that I didn't use enough to warrant any sort of concern in the first place.
After a long wait outside Pommes Frites, I finally have my hot paper bag in hand. En route to the bench I'd scouted out a few blocks away, I come across a scruffy youngish guy and his dog on the sidewalk outside a bodega. I pass silently, on my way to devour the fries while they're still piping, knowing there's no way I'm going home without backtracking. When I return and ask the kid if he wants a drink, he specifies Sunkist Orange. I'm relieved the store carries it, so I don't have to ask if another brand will do.
I arrive 10 minutes late for the volunteer project, and as I enter the school library where ten second-graders are waiting to make circuits out of batteries and tiny bulbs, I remind myself, a la "To Sir With Love", to comport myself like a lady when apologizing for my tardiness. Like the screaming banshees, all in need of either a nap or an appletini, mind or care about anything but being whiny and stealing the batteries and scotch tape. But at the end, when I stand to leave, the brattiest girl hugs me, and I feel like Lulu should sing.
Some days it comes easy, this writing stuff whatnot whozit thingamajig-a-gogo-rooni, and words flow from fingertips without ever having been in my head-nook at all, without ever having rested in my brain or taken root anywhere, spilling from my hands, threatening to short-circuit the keyboard, but coming to life without so much as a labor pain, a whimper, a cry. Others, though, holy moly, it's cerebral constipation, words refusing to budge even with the aid of a pick-axe or any amount of jackhammering or jumping jacks, and if the words even do find their way out, they're bloody fucking stillborn.
The brat is whining in the front hallway, as usual, about who the hell knows what. He still doesn't seem to know how to express himself with words, choosing instead to resort to the same loud, amorphous, sob-heavy cacophony I've been hearing from him since he first emerged onto the scene six years ago. I don't think I've ever had an experience with this kid where, if he wasn't already crying when I saw him, he was about to burst into tears or had done so only moments before. I'm sure he'll be a real winner in the dating world.
She married well, divorced even better, and has the benefit of living in an $18,000/month Park Avenue apartment where the elevator opens directly into a little vestibule just outside her front door. Beyond that door is a huge center hall with a large living room on either end, and somewhere behind that is a kitchen, at least three bedrooms, other little rooms, nooks, crannies, and, of course, bathrooms. All of this space, though, and nothing contained within it charms me. I know I'm supposed to find it enchanting, that I'm expected to be envious, yet I don't and I'm not.
Running around town with a friend I've known for half my life, interacting like we just saw each other yesterday even though it's been about ten since it was just the two of us without any form of male attached, still finding the same stupid stuff funny, still with the same inflection of certain pet words only we "get". Although she's got the security of the house and the husband, she can't stress enough that I should be thankful for my single life, my gem of an apartment, my patio, my privacy, freedom, and gorgeous vintage cape! And I am.
I am often titillated when I see someone Out of Context. Before I moved here from Philadelphia, I came up to see my then-boss' niece in a play. When I saw him in the lobby before the show in "slacks", pullover sweater, button-down shirt, and loafers, I almost didn't recognize him. Where was the little florid-faced guy in the dark suit, slightly frayed shirt, and squeaky shoes in need of resoling, who ground his teeth almost to talc and whose halting shuffle led him to my desk, where he would hover in front of me like a hummingbird?
Even though it was the weekend, and he too was entitled to dress more casually than the office required, I still expected to see him in business attire. On the rare occasions that I contemplated his life outside the office (which amused me too, in and of itself), I pictured him at home, in an office chair, watching TV in a suit.
I even expected to see his hands clutching a 50-page dog-eared, coffee-ringed document in need of revision "ASAP" and a faded, brick-colored file bulging with three years of shoved-in papers desperately in need of my attention.
We stood, facing each other: he, grinding his teeth and regarding me with a blend of admiration and amusement; and I, wearing an obscenely fake smile, wanting desperately to flee the room. The usual. The only things out of context were our physical forms.
We made lame comments about how "funny" it was to see each other outside the office. I said I felt like I should be revising a document.
The following Monday, as he shuffled to my desk, grinding his teeth, a document in hand, he was beaming. And for some reason I felt like crying.
My landlord came down for a matter involving inspection of outdoor plants for beetles and told me he'd heard me yelling at my cat. I said yes, I had, because she'd done something exceedingly unacceptable. He said, "Oh, I thought maybe she mounted you or something." (WTF #1)
"Oh no, "I said, "I would've LIKED that." (WTF #2)
Later he came by with the exterminator (unrelated to the earlier event) and kept telling him to use "jelly" around the "penetrations". "And I don't mean KY Jelly!" he said. (WTF #3)
My unflinching participation seems to ensure no increase in rent.
When we were around seven years old, my best friend Ellen and I kept a spiral-bound notebook called "The Buzzem Book" in which we drew walking, talking, buzzems" who always appeared in smiling profile, sporting jaunty, um, berets. Ellen's spelling wasn't the best, but rather than erase all instances of that misspelling and correct it, I purposely misspelled it too, in the event the book fell into the hands of adults with good spelling. Which it did. When our teacher returned the notebook to us after confiscating it, she praised us for our inventive creation of such an adorable character.
Quite the 'tude on this snood of sisters. Suzanne, the oldest, can't compose a sentence that contains more syllables than words, yet she drones that the packed pages of an acquaintance's just-published tome aren't worth the paper they're printed on. Lisbette, the middle nitwit, trips over her own flat feet by merely traversing her kitchen to grab grapes from the fridge, yet has no problem finding fault with pre-adolescent ballet students she glimpses through the plate glass window at Miss Randi's Rat-a-Tap. And Maura, the "baby", sputters through cupcake-dappled lips that the buttercream frosting sucks at the church bake sale.
My lips melt into your skin the moment I press them against your forehead. I can't tell if the heat is from panic or tears or -- how do you delicately refer to gushy nose goo? -- but I feel like when I eventually peel them away, an elaborate seal, as if made with hot wax, will remain embedded in the flesh just above the eyebrows, forever. What will future employers, friends, lovers make of it? Or will it only be visible to you when you peer in the mirror while brushing your teeth, and to me if ever we meet again?
Before I ever volunteered for real, I used to try to convince myself I'd like to help out around Thanksgiving. Not with my own family, but with the discarded families of other people. I'd think, "This year, I'll find one of those churches or community centers or warehouses or gorgeous old converted barns with stained glass windows and random-width plank floors, where they serve turkey to the homeless, and I'll ladle stuff onto unbreakable dishes, while serving up a heaping portion of smiles and good will." By the time November rolled around, of course, I'd change my tune.
All of a sudden I'd remember I was opposed to both the turkey and the downtrodden. I'd realize that I'd ruin my manicure while helping to clean up after the serving portion of the day. And realize that I wouldn't even help clean up and would instead do what I did when at my mom's or anyone else's house: join a cluster of bloated deadbeats crowded around a TV with poor horizontal hold and watch reruns of Walker, Texas Ranger. So, in the end, it was better to keep the fantasy alive, knowing it'd never come to life.
When a certain organization I do work for has an assignment for me, they call on the phone rather than sending email. I often consider not answering the phone just so I don't have to engage in an exchange that, although no longer than 30 seconds and merely consisting of a greeting and a "Yes, sounds great, thank you!", causes me to cringe hard enough to wring a pint of bile from the sponge of my liver. Once the call is over, I feel like a celebratory cocktail or a scoop of ice cream is warranted. Or a padded cell.
The rain-sogged, bedraggled Beanie Baby cat is face down by planter, next to a splayed banana peel and a postcard announcing a spa's grand opening, neither of which is paying any attention to the cat, who's sniffling back tears and feeling foolish about the tag still attached to its ear, like that makes any difference these days anyway. The cat is lucky I come along, because although I think I "should" leave it on the sidewalk in the event the mom of a crying toddler comes back, looking for it, I know it will have a better home with me.
As a rule, I don't like change for just for the sake of change Of course, some rules are meant to be broken, and it's fun to fix something even if it ain't broke (and here I pause to cringe at the use of "ain't", which I used in reference to the old saying, but which, because it's not used in the exact order in which it was in the original saying, sounds out of place, and I don't want anyone to think I actually say "ain't" as a real word). And now I forget what I was saying. Nice.
You'd think J and I would know by now that if we eat Indian food, especially at a lunch buffet, we're going to lapse into a coma that lasts for at least 12 hours, rendering us useless to do anything but loll on the sofa looking like we need breathing tubes and feeling like we need our stomachs pumped and our heads examined. But no, here we are, dozing off on the sofa in the late afternoon, leaving Woody Allen and Diane Keaton to their witty neurosis without us as their witness. For some reason this brings me marvelous comfort.
On a recent morning on the bus, some amorphous mass masquerading as a female member of our species was loudly yammering into a cell phone as if it were a walkie-talkie, holding the phone in front of her face and practically making out with it when speaking, and then holding it above her shoulder when listening to the other party's response on speakerphone. How I managed to not bolt from my perch at the back to where she overflowed from a seat toward the front and wallop her in the gut as if it were pizza dough is beyond me.
I vacillate between loving that my apartment is a colorful mishmash of stuff I've amassed over the years or that's been given to me -- bits of art made by friends and family, other people's trash that I treasure, rocks from a beach in Greece, a red parsons table I coveted 40 years ago, a light-up painting of Venice that was my grandparents' that I coveted even longer -- and wishing it were less crazy and more West Elm. But then someone comes over and marvels over all of it, and I'm reminded again why I love it so much.
"How nice--to feel nothing, and still get full credit for being alive." -- Kurt Vonnegut, "Slaughterhouse Five"
Full credit isn't enough, damn it! Go forth today, kidz, and earn some extra credit.
Contrary to what someone's comment suggested regarding my above Facebook post, I'm no twirling, dirty-barefooted, "Up With People" gigglesnort. My own sort of "positivity" isn't steeped in overblown Oprah hoohah or cluttered with potpourri-scented sentiment. I prefer stomping in rain puddles during a storm to frolicking under a rainbow after one. But I like being alive. And I like other people to like it as well. L'chaim!
Somewhere between 67th and CPW and 74th and Amsterdam, I had the great privilege of meeting and smooshing Chance, a 5-year-old Golden Retriever who leaned on me ("He doesn't do that very often," his mom-guardian said); Duke, an enormous, slightly lumpy older Black Lab with a graying muzzle, and his roommate, Roger, a somewhat burly brown Dachschund who was rescued just three weeks ago; and Boris, the roundest Pug I've ever met, who was smiling just outside Levain Bakery (no doubt hoping to get rounder by way of a little treat from inside). My day can now begin. (Or end!)
Plain Jane, Fancy Nancy, In-Between Doreen. No matter which one someone is or perceives herself to be, there isn't a broad/chick/dame who doesn't find fault with herself and think someone is "better" than she is because that other person has something she doesn't have. Miranda Kerr, I'll bet sees frog eyes looking back at her in the mirror some mornings, just as Alessandra Ambrosio sees a Marge Simpson overbite as she brushes her teeth and Gisele Bundchen sees a honker that takes over the middle of her face when she blows her nose (because yes, Gisele Bundchen blows her nose).
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