Is it really travel, Marnie wonders, if the destinations
come to her condo doorstep by way of a gargantuan "lazy Susan", just
like the McCormick spices that she used to love spinning on the same sort of
contraption in her parent's avocado green kitchen? This is perhaps a bit too newfangled for her
sensibilities, but she takes comfort in knowing that she still has one of the
older systems, which requires her to actually press a button, rather than swipe
a card or touch a screen. She sighs,
adjusts her scarf, and steps out of Ohio into Paris' Sixth Arrondissement.
Wanda warns me for the fourth time that the kettle may be
hot. She pretends to touch it and then retracts
her fingertips quickly, winces until she's ugly, and says, "Yeow!"
I says. "Are you trying to
tell me that I shouldn't do THIS?" I press my palm, still wet from washing, on the stainless steel. It pops and sizzles. Hot tears spring to my eyes, I gasp and
sputter, but continue pressing., my palm stuck to the kettle. I scream.
"What's wrong with you?" she says. "It's not even turned on."
"Who's the better mime now, Wanda?"
Can't anyone ever move from New York City or express a desire
to do so without having to make a big motherfucking deal about it? If you feel artistic expression would fine a
groovier, cheaper home in Portland or you want to follow David Byrne to Los
Angeles or ride your stagecoach to the middle of nowhere, then just do it
already. And once you've left, and the Chrysler
Building's reflection is behind you, let it go.
People who say, "I used to live in NYC" are the same sort who
still identify with what they were in high school.
I am feeling that horrible anxiety again about the state of the
drawers in my apartment. This time it's
not the clothing drawers, since most of them are in okay shape. Instead, it's the kitchen drawers behind which
lurks a cacophony of utensils and gadgets, small pieces of wrapping paper, and
an assortment of whatnot and whozit that I can't even categorize. It's also the drawers of my mini filing
cabinet, which houses a jangle of electronic things that probably malfunctioned
years ago and which I just couldn't bear to toss. I need to stop anthropomorphizing busted
earbuds, for starters.
Traffic was a-bustlin' at 57th and Sixth at 8:32 a.m. and
everyone was getting nowhere. Tempers
were finding an outlet via a variety of horns, one guy even went so far as to
open his car door and step out to see what was taking so long for someone to
get a move on, and a jogger started feeling self-conscious doing that stupid
little dance thing at the street corner for longer than usual. The traffic cop's face was blank and she held
up one hand to no one in particular, as if telling us all to talk to it.
For as long as I can remember, I've always had at least a
very low level buzz of insidious anxiety humming below street level, vibrating behind
the fuzzy static, as persistent and nagging as a gnat just outside my
peripheral vision, resistant to flailing and swatting. No matter what else I'm doing, however happy
I may be at a given moment, it will be there, occasionally spiking, stabbing a
bit more, briefly, just to let me know it has the potential to punch through the
surface and manifest itself in a way I don't want to entertain or even consider.
In eleventh grade, my English teacher, mustached,
thin-lipped Mr. Leneweaver, informed the class in a tone I associated with military
dads admonishing their kids to steer clear of "the stuff", that
everything about the world is recorded somewhere. He cited several examples, and then said,
"Take a look at your chairs. The exact
number of bolts used to hold it together is written down somewhere." He glared at our silent faces, chin lifted, as
if daring someone, anyone, to challenge him.
Thirty-five years later, I often think of him while on the subway,
wondering how many bolts hold it together.
There's need to tell my mother about any
"romantic" offers I may or may not be entertaining. I don't want the weekly inquiries into the
status of any entanglements or her
insistence on reminding me about her preference for what she quasi-jokingly calls
"manly" men as opposed to the "pretty boys" she knows have
always been my thing. I think she's
still miffed that I didn't want to make it work with the guy whose hair
reminded me of what would result on someone's scalp if Michael Bolton, Gene
Wilder, and Gallagher had a baby.
I am grateful for discretion.
I'd like to know who these cats are who get all zen-groovy
on catnip, who loll around as if on Ecstasy, who see everything in kaleidoscope
form, including psychedelic mice and fish even more fascinating than the red
beam of a laser pointer, who hold their paws up in front of their faces and
meow-laugh at the wonder of it all. I sprinkled
some on the bed/top of Lola's scratching post, and although she expressed mild
interest, looked at me after a few tentative seconds like a square who wasn't
having any of that hippie shit.
"Yeah? So?" she said.
The thought of being turned loose in any sort of shopping
arena with a credit card held high above my head, shouting, "Charge
it!" like Betty and Wilma, does not fill me with joy. I am probably in the minority as far as my
gender goes, but the idea of going out into the world with the express purpose
of spending more than, say, a half hour looking at stuff and finding something
good enough to want to spend money on, makes me want to retreat to the comfort
of my own home, in the dark, doing it online instead.
I miss the old WALK/DON'T WALK signs in New York City. I liked to envision myself, for the duration
of the DON'T WALK blinking, making my way across the street but pirouetting or
sashaying or shuffling off to Buffalo-ing or doing an elaborate series of
gymnastics. The modern pictograph of a
walking figure and a hand make me think we have become a world of illiterate babies
who can't even be bothered to sound out simple syllables, just like they wouldn't
know what to do with any sort of button or switch with fingers that can only
tap and swipe.
They called it "The In-Between Times", but nobody
knew what it meant. People were saying
they were "between a rock and a hard place", but there were no hard
places anymore. Or, for that matter, any
rocks. After an irate band of
"mommies" rallied with all their might to eradicate anything deemed
perilous to their special snowflakes, all hard places were banned and removed
from the planet and replaced with down-alternative, gluten-free soft sculptures
that whispered affirmations upon contact.
No one really remembered what came before or what was coming next, so "in-between"
lost any and all edge as well.
In the early '80s, I bought two pairs of 1950s vintage shoes,
one black, one brown, from a Philadelphia thrift store for $1 each. I've worn them quite a bit since then and
they've remained in wonderful condition.
Recently I took them to a shoe repair guy on West 72nd Street, a charming
older gentleman with a wonderful lilting accent, his tiny old-fashioned shop
crammed with tools of the trade, the kind that gives me hope that "the
neighborhood" hasn't gone completely to modern shit, and had them beautifully
resoled and -heeled for $38 each.
I am grateful for Elias.
A story just appeared in my Facebook "news feed"
about a cat someone gave away, via Craigslist, on Hallowe'en, who was found
dead and obviously purposely mutilated (I will spare you the devastating details).
With all due disrespect, how much of a stupid motherfucking moron do you have
to be to give away a cat on Craigslist in the first place, but especially on
Hallowe'en? This jackass may as well
have taken the poor baby to a shooting range and dangle it in front of a paper
target with a neon sign saying, "SHOOT DIS KAT & WIN SUM BACON!!!"
Lola's not a meower, her foster mom says. She chirps a bit. I'm vaguely disappointed, because I want her
to talk to me. I mean, in a voice other
than the one I will of course create for her, the one where she will respond to
my daily question, in exasperation, "Yes, I'm pretty" and give me advice
that's often ill-advised and foolish to heed.
So, now I've had her three and a half months and she's not
only meowing like a madman but inflecting and shouting "Hello!"
I don't want my money back.
I am grateful for feline logorrhea.
The term "on fleek" has to go the way of the
dodo. I don't think I've ever heard it
uttered aloud, perhaps because I don't hang around with "millennials"
or the kind of beyond-millennials (Generation X? Generation Y?
Baby Boomers? Am I missing
someone?) who would use it even in jest.
No thanks. I'll stick to "groovy"
and everything else that conjures up the era I prefer with the attitude I
prefer. (P.S. I want to be able to use "on fleek"
here ironically, but find I can't even use it in a sentence. I get an F (for "fleek"?).
I'm dressed appropriately for trotting a few blocks to pick
up a carton of chocolate soy milk. Once
out of the apartment, I develop a wicked craving for the food at Buddha Bodai
in Chinatown and can think of nothing else but this one dish I had with friends
on Christmas Eve 2010 and haven't had since.
I'm not thrilled with my jeans and T-shirt "look" for anything
more than neighborhood errands, but I press on and take the Q downtown,
daydreaming of tofu. I hope today isn't
the day Robert DeNiro isn't out looking for his next as-of-yet-undiscovered
Try as I might to live "in the moment", I'm already
dreading the inevitable glut of "elf on the shelf" photos on Facebook
in December. I hate that thing almost as
much as I hate the term 'Turkey Day" and people posting photos of their sloppy
feasts, in the preparation, presentation, and what looks like regurgitation
stages. I generally avoid the "news
feed", but still that nonsense finds a way to seep under the doorjamb and
not just dampen my consciousness but downright flood it. Hallowe'en, with all the attendant zombie crap
is bad enough. Jane, stop this crazy
Marnie is the pineapple Dum-Dum in the bag Hallowe'en. She'd like nothing more than for this kid to
reach in, grab her, regard her, tear off her wrapper, and put her in her mouth
with the same gusto as she just did with the miniature Milky Way and the York
peppermint patty. But no. Instead, at the end of the night, when this kid
and her brother and sister are making trades, no one wants Marnie.
"And that's how I met your grandfather," she imagines
saying one day, fondly gazing at the lime sourball who's made her life so
Somewhere among my stuff stored in my mom's basement (if she
hasn't thrown it away) is a piece of chewing gum in a piece of paper, rescued
from an ashtray, saved from certain disposal in the regular trash, by me, in a
frenzy after my ex-boyfriend discarded it when visiting my brother (his best
friend) at the family house where I still lived because I was maybe only 20 and
couldn't possibly live without a tiny grayish imprint of perhaps two of his cherished
molars. I wonder if I would have done
the same thing had he blown his nose.
Are there spies on the street to make sure that the people
whose job it is to hand out fliers for sample sales, free "Time Out New
York"s, and postcards for complimentary massages aren't doing their job
for 20 minutes, only to get discouraged after being rejected 97.2% of the time
(scientific statistic), sneak a few of the handouts into their jacket pockets,
and then sidle over to a trash can, unload the lot, and then make their way to a
local pub where busty wenches serve ale and people dressed like King Henry VIII
are feasting on large drumsticks?
I'm still not convinced my landlord doesn't watch me through
some sort of surveillance camera(s) .
I'm still not convinced that the vent in the ceiling above the shower
isn't equipped with a device with special anti-fog properties so he can enjoy a
steamy peek without all the steam, if indeed it is a vent and not just a little
alcove disguised as one designed expressly for this purpose. I still think the bizarre sconce setup houses
downward periscopes. I hope he's satisfied
with an eyeful of me typing at my desk at 10 p.m. in a psychedelic plush robe.
I make the bed every day without fail, usually before
leaving for the gym in the morning. This
morning I did not because I wanted to change the sheets but didn't have
time. When I returned, I tossed the
fresh sheets on the bed in anticipation of doing so. Right now I'm not in the mood to do it,
though, so I was thrilled to see that little Lola had decided to lounge among
them, thus making it "impossible" for me to do. I like to think she did it expressly for my
benefit. I am grateful for my cat.
My mom and sister take NJT into Penn Station, the first time
they've visited me or been to the city at all since Fall 2006. They're waiting on Eighth Avenue, looking for
me in the wrong direction.
"It smells like pee," my mom says of the subway
platform, as if it's my bathroom she's criticizing. She's appalled at the crowd waiting for the train. This is probably more people than she's seen
in all of 2015. She asks if I'm wearing
makeup. She laughs at the subway ads for
Already I know she can't wait to go back home.
I ask Whitney if she and her burly dog, Steely, have a safe
place to sleep. Yes, she says, they go
to a church. I ask if Steely has food
(her sign says "Dog Comes First"), and she indicates a duffle bag at
her feet, beside which he nuzzles a tattered blanket. "That's all Steely," she says with
a smile that's more gaps than teeth. I
ask if she needs anything. She says she's
okay. We talk for ten minutes.
She'd accepted my dollar with sincere gratitude and now says,
voice choked with emotion, "Thank you for talking to me."
I'm several paces behind a person bent so far forward at the
waist that his or her back is parallel to the sidewalk. The person is dressed in simple pants and
jacket and is completely bald, and I can only see part of a profile tucked
below. The skull is studded with several
raised reddish blotches and bruises, and just as I think, "Probably from
bumping into lots of stuff," the person nearly does so with a post, but reaches out a hand in
anticipation, avoiding more damage. My
own problems are immediately rendered bullshit.
I'm grateful for my spine.
Lola stomps across my chest with as much graceless impudence
as she does across the bed, never breaking stride, failing (and not even
trying, I'm sure) to differentiate between the bed's surface and my body. She settles, lies across me, extending a paw
to touch my face, not realizing (I hope) that claws can damage. I'm have "waterfall face",
remembering how Shana did the same paw thing but without the shenanigans and
preamble (or claws*). I feel like I'm
cheating on Lola by daydreaming about Shana, and cheating on Shana for, well,
*Don't lecture me on this.
I recently had a whopping two inches taken off my hair The extra-long mermaid thing works on few
chicks, and I'm not one of them. I keep
fantasizing about cutting off more so that it swings just above my shoulders
but don't know if the look suits me. I keep pulling it back to approximate a
style and found an online tutorial for a hairstyle that mimics the look
brilliantly. However, even the simplest
of the steps, the braiding of the back of the hair and pinning it at the nape,
requires coordination I do not possess.
Thrilling, I know.
My brother's girlfriend needs someone to escort her from Lenox
Hill after a procedure this afternoon, and when they asked if I could help out,
of course I said I could and would. I
said it with hearty cheer, especially since the promise of lunch afterward was
attached. I am choosing to treat this is
a little adventure (to the Upper East Side!), even though I will probably be
sitting in a hideously lit waiting room at the appointed time, fantasizing
about being home with my cat, making coconut "bacon" in my dehydrator
while wearing torn clothing. Such a
An ex-"BFF" is leaving NYC for a smaller town in a
state across the country in a van that cost just over half what my rent
is. She has no job, nowhere to live, traveling
with her cat, and no doubt sleeping in the van to save money. If we were still friends, let alone
"BFF" (F that second "F"), I'd caution/counsel her,
disregarding the eye-rolling cliché, that no matter where she goes, she's still
going to be the same person with the same problems she thinks she's escaping by
leaving, without a wide variety of Indian food and karaoke.
One year ago today, Lola Vatepoz's
"family" dumped her in a Brooklyn shelter, because, hey, that's what
you do on Hallowe'en with your almost-4-year-old mostly black cat when you're a
heartless ghoul. She was in the shelter until
just before Thanksgiving, and I imagine her sitting at a long table holding
paws with the other cats in her foster home, saying thanks for her new
life. Now she has me, and she never has
to worry again about being dumped or fret about not being adopted out because
she's an "adult", black, and has only one (glorious) eye. Happy Meowllowe'en!