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I don't feel the need to be " plugged in" anywhere around the city except in cases of "extreme emergency" such as when someone on the subway clips his or her nails or chews gum so loudly that it sounds like their teeth are going to be yanked from their roots and embedded into the mess. I may miss something good, otherwise. Or even something not so good. Plus, why let some external source sway me? The stuff inside, the daydreams, the memories, left to their own devices is more engaging and entertaining than any of claptrap produced by others.
In the back of my mother's freezer, behind the Morningstar Farms fake meat and 520 varieties of Trader Joe's delicacies, secreted as if it were the block of cash my dad stored in our freezer almost 40 years ago (I never asked why), resides at least one and perhaps two small loaf-shaped honey cakes baked by my grandfather. They've been there since at least 1993, the year he left this world, relics, I'm almost sure, from his own freezer. I feel sorry for them that they'll never be eaten, but no way would any of us even dream of it.
I see friends who live in Indiana more frequently than I see my mom, who lives near Philadelphia. The last time I visited was in October, and I only remember because of the dress I was wearing and cross-referencing it with a profile picture I created for Facebook where I'm wearing that dress. Whenever I feel even marginally guilty about this, which is rare, I remind myself that she has only visited me twice in the six years I've been in this apartment. The fact that I will be in Arkansas visiting another friend on Mother's Day is purely coincidental.
The current crop of "kids these days" is the first to know nothing but "swipe" technology. These kids, when handed a "vintage" Etch-A-Sketch, would no doubt flick their grimy fingers against the gray screen, expecting to create instant magic, without even trying the two white dials first. Or at all. And, if shown what the toy does, how the dials work, would lose interest within seconds because it's not fast or glamorous enough. This is the kind of stuff that pushes my buttons, a phrase that would stymie them. In communicating with them, would I say, "This really swipes me?"
I'm pretty sure making a cake from crumbs is preferable to being given an inch and taking a foot, but will my fresh-baked aphorism enjoy the same staying power as the tried and true? Will it survive the inevitable comparisons , or will more astute observers make the distinction that the other two sayings suggest somewhat of a more negative situation whereas mine, I hope, is, well, more hopeful? Did Mark Twain ruminate, over lemonade served a wraparound porch, over his sayings before releasing them into the world? Would he tell me I making a mountain out of a molehill?
On the other side of the wall, a tranny is securing herself into place, juggling and struggling so she can go out and approximate something called a "strip" that she hopes will tantalize someone enough to cram a dollar or two into panties barely large enough to cover girl parts and certainly not large enough to completely obscure what she's trying now to contain. Someone I had considered a friend is struggling just as hard to invade mine. I wish I hadn't been such a lady, and had kicked the bastard so hard he would've needed tape to repair himself.
Patrick Swayze, pre-fame, lived in this building, and cabinets he built remain. A small-time Broadway actress who resided in "his" apartment died recently, an eremitic hoarder. Often I fantasized about swiping the many unopened packages that would appear for her in the lobby. After her death, my landlord offered me some of her clothes and shoes. The clothing was too large (and cigarette-smoky), so I hoped the shoes would fit. Oh, what fun, to walk a mile in shoes to which some Swayze molecules may have been attached! Alas, they too were too big. There would be no dirty dancing.
I cannot disappear into a book the way I can into a movie, not when I'm in this frame of mind. Reading requires me to inject myself into the story, to create and imagine, to bring forth voices and postures and colors and shapes, to set a pace, to make it my own. And right now, when I don't want to be reminded of myself, where I need to escape the hellish swirl inside my head, I need to relinquish all control. I need the director to show me what to see. I need my hand held. I need numbness.
I'm in the little store with my mom, wagging my tail, laughing at people passing by outside, looking forward to my bouncy walk home and getting treats like always for being such a good boy. I'm skinny, just diagnosed with a disease that got me that way, but I'll be okay, and treats help so it's all good! This girl with long black hair like mine and her guy friend with curly hair dash into the store like they've seen a squirrel and make a fuss over me. I give them high fives, and they laugh. It's a great day!
Thank you, schlub in the ill-fitting suit who slumped onto the bus with a cell phone sprouting from your shoulder, for allowing everyone from the driver to those of us in the back to revel in the drone spilling from the dim bulb masquerading as your head, thus prompting the first passenger you passed to say, "Too loud!" Had it not been for your display of poor manners, I wouldn't have exited the bus when she did, way before my intended stop, to tell her she was my kind o' gal and to share a few laughs on Sixth Avenue.
Would it have been better if I hadn't spilled my guts? If I had left my viscera intact, coiled neatly within the confines of my body, cushioned by muscle and bone and whatever else is crammed and nestled and wedged in there (fiberfill? nougat? packing peanuts? a litter of kittens?), minding its own business, never to be revealed at all let alone splattered all over the sidewalk? Did I have to unscrew my mouth, thus forcing the slinky-like fake snakes inside the trick can of peanuts to spring out and fling themselves every which way? Really, were you even surprised?
I want to sit "Indian-style" on scratchy carpet in front of an old console Zenith and turn the UHF knob as fast as I can and have my grandmother chide me to stop because it will break. This makes me want to insert a finger into the hole of a rotary phone dial and feel its resistance as I move it all the way to the end of its path, to be calculated however it used to be calculated. I want Charles Chips in a tan and brown canister. And milk in glass bottles even though I hate the stuff.
I'm at the posh David Yurman Townhouse for some sort of function, dolled up like a girl, hobnobbing with two slightly catty men in jackets whose names I've forgotten moments after the introduction. I can't get a word in edgewise, which is fine, because this means my participation is limited to pretending to listen. My mind is wandering to more pressing matters such as how soon can not only detach myself from their droning company in particular but from this way-too-polished shindig in general and bolt home to the comfort of pajamas, my cat, and the hiss of the radiator.
I've only ever seen this band perform outside in Central Park. I'm used to no microphones or amps, no stage or walls or ceiling, nothing to rein in the sound. Natural light. Last night, in a bar deep in Brooklyn, blotto, hippo-hipped, Converse-footed chicks and equally doughy guys, ricochet off each other and collide into everyone and everything. This morning, not even half a day later, the guys are back in the park, as better suits them, without the warbling shrieks of beer-soaked buffoons, and I can share the experience with an old lady and her dog on a bench.
Some of them think they have to read the paragraph without stumbling, inflected like they're auditioning for a soap opera. Sometimes Brian swears he can hear the curve of every comma. And this one tonight, Gretchen, over chicken Caesar salad, is trying her best to read the whole thing without taking a breath, so when she finally gets to the end of the block, she lets out a "Whoo!"
It's a shame, he thinks, that she made it through without an error, because he has a feeling a second date would have been fun. But rules are rules.
Brian knows from experience that a girl who tries to read the page perfectly will, the morning after, sneak from bed when she thinks he's still sleeping, and doll herself up so that, when he awakes, he'll find her dewy-skinned, glossy-lipped, pretty as a petal. But he doesn't want a fresh flower facing him when he opens his eyes. He wants a sweet weed, bleary, unmarred by the application of anything artificial. The girls who not only stumble over the paragraph but stumble over the simplest of words are his favorite. And, oh, when they laugh about it!
Consider this the point in our reader/writer relationship where we can sit across the table from each other in a cozy nook, each eating our breakfast (an enormous plate of home fries for me, a heap of French toast for you, coffee for both), or sitting side by side on a train, each reading a book (Ray Bradbury for me, William Burroughs for you, comics for both), not saying a word, so comfortable in our silence that we're not worried about what the other is thinking or if the other person is "mad", safe in the depth of our connection.
Good riddance to a ten-year friendship. I won't miss your paranoia, your bullshit, your attacks, your inflexibility, your hypocrisy. I will miss your humor and our daily email, but I'll get over it. The world is way too full of caring people who don't attack friends for having different viewpoints for me to waste valuable time trying to explain myself when no explanation is warranted. It's one thing to laugh together privately over the ridiculousness of a mutual acquaintance, but it's quite another to receive the vitriol when it's not warranted. Enjoy your tiny corner of the world. Game over.
In middle school, a group of girls found great pleasure in picking on a kind of frumpy, plain, quiet girl I'll just call "D". After gym class, they'd hide her clothes when she was in the shower; another time they tricked her into smoking "pot" that was oregano, hoping she would pretend she was high (she did) so they'd know she was trying to be "cool"; and other stuff that was just as stupid. I never participated. She crashed our 10-year high school reunion. She wore jeans and motorcycle boots (she rode one to the cheesy venue) and came right up to me. "I came just for you," she said. "I was hoping you'd be here. You were the one person who never picked on me in school, and I want to thank you." I still get chills thinking about it.
Big fun is not important to me in the least. I'd rather tuck myself away in my warm, quiet, cozy, colorful apartment by the park, armed with my cat, snacks, a movie or two or three, yoga pants, a tank top, hair atop my head like Pebbles Flintstone, lights way down, a smooshy blanket, then be out and about in a dress among other people dolled or duded up, turning down drinks, enduring endless babble and prattle, all the time wondering if I'm going to take the bus home or the subway or a taxi or just walk. And when.
Two vegan cookbooks that are touted as being bible-like in their all-encompassing amazingness, not just by their publishers and online reviews but by one of my best friends as well (whose taste in good food can be trusted), and a rave-receiving bread book, are all within easy reach of my little hands, but what do I do when I want to eat something and don't have the money or desire to leave the house? Open my freezer and select Trader Joe's swoon-worthy "tofu edamame nuggets". Sometimes I wish it weren't that easy. Goal this spring: Put the damned cookbooks work!
Should I fear that I said too much, that I toppled the glass and let it spill all over the place without even running for a paper towel or sponge to mop up the torrent, when I should have measured out a dose with a dropper and pinched the rubber tip slowly to allow only a careful bit the size of a tear to run free? I don't think so. No. Why merely dip a toe in a pool when your whole foot craves cool relief? And why stop at the foot if you think your whole body could benefit?
Save your vitriol for the angry not-so-young man bloggy websites to which you submit your hate-crammed manifestos against everything you regard with narrow-minded derision. Save your cleverly worded sentences for the frothing masses who adore you for expressing yourself in a way they wish they could but can't. I wonder, are they supporting your half-baked notions because they really agree with what you say, or are they doing so because they want you to think they're as cool as you think you are, as hip, as brash, as truth-telling, as omniscient? Don't they know their empress is wearing no clothes?
She, like the meals we deliver to her this Saturday afternoon, is on wheels. She invites us into her home, accessed by a door more fitting for a broom closet than an apartment. Her hair is long, like ours. She marvels over the red of my companion's and is quick to rave over my raven. "I stopped cutting mine when I got sick. It used to be here," she says, smiling, indicating with a shaky young hand the space above her shoulders. I imagine her in a coffin, at long last released from illness, hair floating above her shoulders again.
Save your dirty-footed goddess sunshine prancing for the other self-proclaimed goddesses, your tutu-twirling, pigtail-jangling, faux apologetic attachment to Anthropologie and cotton candy and hand-knit arm warmers and stripey socks for the other members of your estrogen tribe, who will call themselves divas and pretend to surround the word with air quotes when giggling it aloud, but who, when they stop spinning in the middle of a field of wildflowers, are convinced they've been chosen for Great and Whimsical Things such as aimless poetry aided by a thesaurus, hunt and pecked on an antique typewrite, or warbling along to the ukulele.
My compulsive need for self-correction, which would be less rampant if only I'd proofread more carefully (or at all), prompts me to point out an error in my 4/20 entry that completely changes its meaning. By inadvertently (natch!) typing "then" instead of "than", I portray myself as someone who, after satisfying her quiet homebody side, finds joy in dolling up to present herself to a situation of big fun far from her sofa.
I don't necessarily care about the unintended misportrayal of myself. Instead, I care that someone might think I don't know the difference between "then" and "than". Godforfuckingbid.
Give me the grit and crumble of Tenth Avenue over the glitter and cache oF Fifth Avenue any day. Give me the tiny bodega with the sun-faded ad for orange juice in its dusty window, the Thai restaurant half the size of my small apartment, the motley shabby bleary-eyed denizens who chose liquor over coffee, the tiny thrift store with a semi-whimsical name, the sidewalks in need of repair, one of the last streets in the city to see the sun after it rises, over the snoot of designer poppycock. Poshness and pomposity make me panic more than anything here.
Even though I can see Manhattan any day I want just by walking out my front door, something about seeing it in movies or on TV delights me to no end. I have watched Taxi Driver just to see Columbus Circle pre-Time Warner Center. When people ask I live, I say, "The New York City you see in 'You've Got Mail'," which, no matter how much it thrills them, I'm positive thrills me more. I don't even particularly like that movie, but watch just so I can see a bench on film that I've passed countless times in real life.
Last night was one of the best nights I've had in recent memory for reasons I won't disclose. Setting it down on paper, even just a virtual sheet in Word, or letting it waft through cyberspace and finding a home on this website, perchance to be read by eyes I've never seen in real life, anchored in faces I wouldn't know if I passed them on the street, somehow would take away from the preciousness, and the little stumbles and big fears that, had they not been overcome, would never have allowed me to get to where I was going.
The wicks wait for your hand hovering above to rouse them from the dormancy of the past few months. The tapers, still standing tall, daydream of the long night when they will lose their height. Incense snuggles in paper sleeping bags, eager as well to come out and celebrate, to feel the heat of the flame that will release its gift. Pandora is silent on the iPad, waiting for the swipe of your finger to open its Doors. I lie diagonally in bed, my head occupying the space where yours should be, waiting for you to reclaim it. And me.
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