I started watching All My Children in 1986, while working in
a suburban law office. All of "the girls" watched while playing
solitaire at a big table in the lunch room, and I played my own pathetic game
of solitaire, sneaking peeks at the TV screen, thinking, "These people are
LOSERS." Then the ratio of solitaire-playing to TV-watching shifted and I
found myself with card in mid-flip, gazing at the TV with the same facial
expression that Jack reserved for Erica, and I'd be the one
"shushing" people when the sound of their cards flipping was too much
The number is impressive, especially for NYC.
I say. "Wow. That's a ton of space. I guess no matter how much stuff I have,
it'll still look minimalist, huh?"
He opens the door.
We step inside. He turns on a sconce.
I look around but see no other door leading to the rest
of the place.
"Look up," he says.
I do, and in the distance see a ceiling fan.
"I don't get it.
This isn't 5,120 square feet. You
can't even fit a sofa in here."
"I never said square," he says. "Cubic.
8 by 8 by 80."
My cat has gained perhaps 1-1/2 pounds in the year since she
was delivered to my doorstep by the Vlasic stork who mistook her for a dill
"This pickle must weigh 10 pounds if it weighs an
ounce!" he said, sliding a pen from behind his ear and indicating for me
to sign the slip. "Boy, is my beak
"So old-fashioned," I said. "No electronic signing box thing!"
"I don't know what you're talking about," he said,
I decided it wasn't worth explaining.
"Enjoy your pickle, ma'am," he said and flew away.
"You too," I said.
Monica tells me her get up and go has gotten up and
gone. She pauses and waits for the wittiness
of her remark to sink in, begetting my favorable response. In that moment between when the punctuation
at the end of her sentence wafts slightly into the air like a balloon and settles
into place and the moment when I react, I consider whether I should pretend I
think it's witty or to act like I don't get it because it's just too banal for
a superior mind like mine to grasp just how unwitty and unoriginal her offering
Snapchat Morgenstern and Instagram McAllister exchange
knowing glances on the first day of seventh grade when their teacher, Mrs. Dixon-Ticonderoga,
runs down the list of students in homeroom.
The boys haven't decided yet if they're instant rivals or bosom buddies,
but either way, they know they have some kind of kinship.
Mrs. D-T (how are they supposed to remember that stupid
mouthful?) is almost at the end of the roster.
"Facebook Zabrowski," she says, and Snapchat and Instagram
brace themselves with disappointment, smirking at each other.
"Oh, no. I
misread," she says. "Frances
The boys now realize they're friends.
MItchell comes to my office with an empty bottle of Mateus covered
in dripped wax. He says that just like a
tree's rings reveal its age, the wax suggests the bottle's. Just as I'm thinking how much I don't give a
damn about the age of this dusty bottle, he starts picking off the filthy multi-colored
wax and piling it on his knee. He says he
must remove all of it by the time he goes home so his daughter will have a good
bottle to use for her macaroni and gold spray paint project. Wait. They
still do that?
I think, if pressed, and under penalty of not only perjury
but having their Facebook and/or Netflix privileges revoked, many people would finally
admit to the ladies and gentlemen of the jury and to whatever god or goddess they
believe in and on the graves of their dearly departed ancestors that, no, they
don't really like Shakespeare and never did and only pretend to be so dedicated
to the work of "the Bard" that they'd be willing to be devoured by
mosquitos while camping out all day in Central Park for the opportunity to witness
a humid evening performance. Feh.
Morgan Flabbergast tells me he's the fastest kid on the
block, whether it's running, biking, walking, pogo-sticking, or swimming.
"Big deal," I say.
"What about eating hot dogs, doing the '12' multiplication table, drawing
a perfect map of the United States on an Etch-a-Sketch, naming all the state
capitals in order of population, shelving all books at the library in their
correct Dewey Decimal System places, getting to the center of a Tootsie Pop, and
spelling 'supercalifragilisticexpialidocious' backwards? I know I'm forgetting something."
"That you're a gayrod maybe?" he says.
"Oh! That you're
the quickest wit," I say. "That's
I have developed a sort of Tourette's syndrome every time I
pass Ann Taylor Loft, particularly the one at 69th and Broadway, most often when
I pass by after the gym. When I glance
to my left and see the white signs announcing in a bland font a sale of the antiseptic,
benign, quiet dresses and slacks (not pants) and tops (not shirts), I can't
help but say, or practically spit, "Boring!" and my stomach can't
help but churn a bit at the thought of being trapped in clothes that have all
the pizzaz and vitality of beige wall-to-wall carpeting.
Jeanette and Rob finally reveal the name of their baby after
six months. We're all pretty sure it's a
girl, but who can really tell with newborns.
And anyway, they're steadfast in their commitment to not divulging the
kid's sex for another six months. So far
they haven't slipped up with pronouns. I
would applaud them for this, but I don't want them to think I actually approve.
So, the kid's name is Floof Adams Morgan.
"If you wanted to keep it gender-neutral, couldn't you
have just gone with Hamsterdam, Dewitt, or Terry?" I say.
"Terry?" Jeanette says. "Ew."
Beulah asks if I have a semicolon I can spare. She has three question marks, two ellipses,
55 commas, and 14 periods in her change purse.
She's all out of colons and only needs one semicolon to pay for her newspaper. She doesn't want to break a question mark; she'll
need them later when she asks the produce guy if that fruit she likes is a
papaya or a mango. I tell I don't carry punctuation
in my purse, but I can spare a couple of quarters or whatever the equivalent
is. "Where the hell are you from?" she asks.
It starts with a kick to the dog's side by the sweaty ogre
walking him. A majestic creature, built
like a champion boxer although not the actual breed Brown, panting, headstrong on his leash by
the curb. I keep walking. Tears threaten. I want to say something. I don't know if I should. But I can't live with myself if I don't.
I stop at the corner. I pretend to text. They
turn the corner into the cement yard in front of crappy Amsterdam House. I wait, hoping nothing will happen. But it does.
The guy punches the dog's side.
I hesitate for less than one full breath cycle.
"Don't treat your dog like that!" I shoul. "Stop
"Don't tell me what to do with my dog!" he shouts.
I shout back that his dog is going to grow up mean and he
has to fucking stop it.
"I'll do to you what I'm doing to my dog!" he shouts.
"Oh, fuck no, you won't," I shout.
It continues for several more beats. I leave as we're both shouting, "Fuck
I hate thinking what that poor dog's life must be like. I'm never going to forget this.
My coffee grounds this morning told me good things are in my
immediate future. My fortune cookie
didn't seem as optimistic and predicts rain for October. And a nice phrenologist I met in line at
Whole Foods, who I talked to while she was in child's pose on her balcony, told
me that her reading is at odds with that of my astrologer. Gosh, what’s a girl to do? Maybe just get to work and be a good person
and take responsibility for my own deeds and doings? Excuse me while I consult my tea leaves for a
Frank has been working at Jigsaw Orphanage for 68 years,
ever since he was 12 and his dad told him he had to start "earning his
keep" by working in the family business, just like he had to do when he
turned 12. Business is showing no sign
of slowing down, which is terrific, because his great-grandson, at age 3, is
already fascinated by the massive stock of stray pieces in the shop and the
card catalogue that keeps them all organized, and knows they're not for him to
play with, they're for people to pay a pretty penny for.
A friend recently told me that I hate everything. I hate to tell you, friend, but yes, while I
do hate some things, I love many things too, so your statement is, quite
frankly, poppycock. Here, in no
particular order, are some things I absolutely adore a/k/a love.
The zigzag of fire escapes.
Vertical signs. Neon signs. Outdoor entryways leading to basement
apartments. Vibrant mosaics. Flocked wallpaper. Old soda bottles. Red wagons.
Flower-festooned bicycle baskets.
Tinkling bells on the doors of corner-type grocery stores. Brickwork.
The lovely Indian fellas at Desi Deli on Tenth Avenue. And their food.
In sixth grade, we made dioramas. I wanted mine to be the best and needed an
exquisite box as the stage. No crappy
Thomas McAn box for me. My grandfather
happily donated an empty cigar box, a wooden delight with tiny brass hinges and
I forget what the diorama scene was, but I remember being
pleased with it. I got an
"A". The teacher raved about
the workmanship of the box, marveling over the tiny brass hinges and the clasp.
I let her think I was a regular ol' craftsman. Yep, that part was all my handiwork, Teach.
I do not know how the good people of Gilligan's Island
survived for so long without eggplant parmigiana and French fries. I would be fine with living in one of the
cute little thatched huts, putting on fun stage shows for a half dozen people,
not having to go to work, marveling at the sway of palm trees, lounging on the
beach, fantasizing about getting twisted in a hammock with The Professor,
perhaps never wearing shoes again. But
no eggplant parmigiana? No fries? I'd fashion a raft out of Thurston Howell,
III's skin to get back to the mainland posthaste.
A friend recently went skydiving. It looked scary as hell but exhilarating. I've wanted to do it for quite some time,
which I find hard to believe given that I'm not one of these daredevil
types. I wear a helmet when riding my
bike in Riverside Park among toddlers.
But still, I keep thinking about the rush, the absolute thrill and sheer
terror, and me screaming, "Fuuuuuuuck!!!" the entire time, the way I
did on a particularly rickety wooden rollercoaster in Dorney Park in the early
'90s. I wonder if I have any friends who
would do it with me.
I was surprised that my dad not only loved doing cryptograms
but excelled at them. I never saw him
read a book, and his spelling wasn't great, but he was aces when it came to
these things. I'd turn to the newspaper puzzle
page, and there in his bad handwriting would be the cryptogram, completed in
ink. My mom bought softcover books containing
a variety of puzzles, and when I turned to the cryptograms pages, there would
be my dad's scrawl, almost as if the books were bought that way. It was one of the only real bonds we had.
My best friend's daughter left this world on the 28th. (I'm obviously not writing this on the date
I've assigned it on 100 Words!) I have
nothing to say about it that won't sound incredibly trite if reduced to words,
especially a mere 100. And yes, I could
take several entries to write about her, but I won't. Somehow writing about it in a forum where
only one person knows me (hi, SD!) would make it seem unimportant, like her
life and the loss of it means less than it really does. I hate "the cycle of life". Hate it.
I'm not a big makeup person.
I don't go nuts in Sephora. If I
ever need something there, I'll dash in, grab it, and leave. The times when I've sampled stuff, I feared
that one of the gloopy-faced shop girls was going to chastise me for drawing on
my hand with an eyebrow pencil or, even worse, ask if I wanted her to apply it
I might take her up on it but with a caveat: That I get to use a bar of old-fashioned Lava
soap to scrub her face free of the six inches of gloop.
The world of watercolor painting is at once daunting, exhilarating,
fascinating, discouraging, and encouraging.
I suppose there are as many adjectives to describe the craziness that
swirls and jangles in my head at the mere thought of undertaking it let alone
actually doing it. The books I've bought,
the online tutorials I've watched, the words and the images, all conspire to
paralyze me as much as they inspire to motivate me. The feedback I've been getting helps beyond
measure. I'm painting for myself, but if
anyone else is delighted by what I'm doing and tells me so, that's enormous fuel.
I'm walking down Broadway on my way to meet a friend for
lunch. An older man with beautiful
white/gray hair in a vibrant button-down shirt, waking in the opposite
direction on my left, spreads his arms open, says, "Oh!" and his
friend tells me to have a nice day. I
grin and thank them and am on my way.
I'm not going to even pretend that I was even slightly offended,
that they had no right to assume I would be flattered by the gesture and
greeting. I loved it, and it made my day
a lot brighter. Carry on.
My newest obsession (because a girl's gotta have one, natch)
is watercolor supplies. Daniel Smith
paints are lauded among many people online, and I already have a set of six primary
colors in 5ml tubes that I've been mixing to marvelously fun effect. I'm giddy with the results, but the lure of
the 200-plus colors (pigments!) is incredibly strong. I've spent an inordinate amount of time
ogling them, succumbed, and now have invited a dozen brilliant new friends to
take up residence here. I feel like I
haven't eaten all day and am waiting the appetizers at a favorite restaurant.
I asked Facebook "friends" who support Ochre-faced
Ogre to defriend/unfriend. Someone
asked, "Would you prefer I vote for Hillary?"
I replied, "I'd rather you vote for a dill pickle, a
remote control, dryer lint, my cat, one of your dogs, a sheet of copier paper,
a toenail, a watermelon rind, a houseplant, a container of margarine, a
toothbrush, a beta player, a broken step stool, a haypenny, an old TIc Tac
found under a sofa cushion, a gnat, an eyelash, a malfunctioning Oster blender
circa 1972. As long as it's not this illiterate lump of landfill. Oh, and P.S.
I have not left the premises since Saturday morning's jaunt
to Whole Foods. I have been keeping
myself entertained with the frustrations of watercolor painting and busy with
work at home and making a disappointing "chickpea scramble" from a recipe
a friend sent to me. Although I wasn't
thrilled with the results, I was quite happy with the Tamerlaine Farm Sanctuary
hot sauce (albeit pricy for a small bottle) the same friend recommended and can
see myself dousing my hands with it and licking it off while watching
"Silicon Valley" until I reach one week of being a veritable shut-in.
Yes, I'm the yenta behind the "Magic Eye" peephole
on my front door. Yes, that tiny swivel
sound you'd hear if you stopped futzing with the recyclables in the hallway is
that of me sliding its little cover aside so I can press my eye against the
glass to enjoy a minuscule distorted image of you getting in the way of my
scurrying out to my mailbox, because I haven't spoken a single word to a real
live human being since Saturday, let alone you, my landlord, and I don't trust
myself to not ramble like a dolt.
My landlord and his new young sidekick are in the front
hall, futzing with recyclables or whatever it is they do out there that I can't
quite make out through the Magic Eye on my front door. I look in the mirror, and make a few
adjustments, because it's important that they think I'm fetching and adorable
and not at all a literal hot mess who hasn't left her apartment in almost a
week. I fling open the door to indicate spontaneity,
step out into the hall, and instantly chat them up like a beloved recurring character
on a sitcom.
Since some of my items are on back order, I told the good people
at Jerry's Artarama (yes, its real name!) to wait until they have everything to
ship it. This means I will not receive
the package for until late August or early September, which is kind of a good
thing because by then I will sort of "forgotten" which watercolors I
ordered and it will make tearing open the box immediately upon its arrival,
like a starving black bear who's come across a momentarily neglected picnic
basket, that much more fun. (Do bears really
even do that, BTW?)
At the very moment I was checking a package's delivery
status online, noting it was to arrive by the end of today, and thinking,
"I should dry my hair. I don't want
the delivery person to see me less than Auntie Mame fabulous," the buzzer
buzzed, an intercom voice announced a package, I dashed out to the front door, and
a box was placed in my hands. BY GREGORY
PECK. Who did not care even one skosh about
my wet hair .
All right. So most of
that is true. It does not take much to
make me giddily happy.