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Two of us wait for acknowledgment by customer service personnel at the bank. We've put our names on a sign-in sheet that's the equivalent of the button on a streetlight post that changes the light to green. I pretend I'm not trying to decipher her scrawl under the section designated for the reason for our visit. When she and I smile in solidarity, I say I'm taking a "zen" approach to the wait and that I'm not going to let this aggravate me on such a nice day. She agrees. Silently, we each know the other is full of shit.
No one in the world right now knows that Lester has just impaled the roof of his mouth with one of the individually-wrapped toothpicks he grabbed from the container on the diner counter as his wife was paying the check. No one else knows that the taste of fake mint and pale wood tinged with dirty pennies thanks to the blood invades his mouth and that he wants to curse like a motherfucker. Lester just adjusts the brim of his baseball cap, looks off above the roof of his pickup, and silently reminds himself that he's a man, damn it.
Forty years ago this September I sat in the high school auditorium and cringed as I realized that the dread I was already feeling was just beginning. Someone onstage said something about how those four years were going to fly and one day we'd wonder where they went, and I thought, "But right now I have those four years to suffer through." I was 13, and four years was about one-third of my life so far.
Those years slogged, interminable and torturous. I have absolutely nothing in common with anyone who says those were the best years of their lives.
Different strokes for different folks. Live and let live. Blah blah whatever. As long as it's not hurting anyone else. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I can tell myself all of that for so long before I roll my eyes and want to shout out, either directly into the atmosphere or via my fingertips into cyberspace, exactly what I feel instead of the distilled version that already has people up in arms because they think it's so bold and gutsy. "Tell us how you really feel," some say. And as I often think, "Hoo boy, motherfuckers. You don't really want to know."
It strikes me that if I squint and blur my vision abit, I could pass for Oscar Wilde. I wonder if he, unearthed, would be prone to squint and blur his eyes in the direction of a photograph of me, and agree. Or would he say, no, he could pass for me instead. Would we quarrel over this? Would we exchange fake laughs? Would we make droll remarks about each other's appearance, which would have at least one of us excusing ourselves on the pretext of needing to pee but really just feverishly examining our eyebrows in the bathroom mirror?
If you'd told me 30-plus years ago, while I was on my way to a club dressed in a Michael Jackson-esque jacket, micro-mini with cinch belt, and pointy-toed booties with silvery jangles across the instep that on a Saturday 30-plus years in the future I'd be living in New York City with all kinds of glamorous options at my manicured fingertips but chose to be home in pajamas by 6:30 having just eaten homemade chocolate chip waffles and about to watch "Starman", which was a new release back then, I would've told you to fuck off. Fuck off, 23-year-old me.
This is the first downpour in the new house. In all our preteen years, my sister and I have never seen this much water covering land. The overflow from the creek that cuts through our back yard has obscured the creek itself and the far yard across our bridge looks like a lake. The water is even creeping up the grassy hill from this side of the bridge. Will it reach the house?
"It's gonna take months for this water to go away!" one of us says.
The next day it's gone. The creek acts as if nothing ever happened.
Many times when I've been in the shower so long I can't remember how long it's been, not wanting to leave the hot water that threatens to make soup out of me (flesh falling freely and easily from my bones like boiled chicken), or when I've been in the shower so briefly that I'm sure a shower expert would wonder if it did any good, I think of something I read ages ago about Cameron Diaz being "green" by taking, like, a 90-second shower and wonder if she's still doing that. Or if she ever did in the first place.
I don't ever care if it rains the day we've planned a picnic. I will have been dreading it anyway, even as I was deciding what I should make for it or bring to it and wondering what I'd wear. I will have been hoping that two hours before I was to get on the subway to meet you, someone from work will have contacted you about an emergency that you had to tend to and you wrote to me to say, damn it, fuck, the picnic is off because of it. But I'll be happiest if it rains, regardless.
Outrage is now the default response to everything online. Mild dissatisfaction or moderate dismay not only don't have a place anymore in their own right but don't even exist as stepping stones on the way to ultimate outrage. People who are sloths in every other way are lightening quick to whip out their precious phones at the first indication of something happening above a murmur, as much to capture the "offense" as to hope the video clip goes viral and their efforts can be "liked" and retweeted by a faceless amorphous morass. I'm not outraged by this. I'm gravely disheartened.
Why did it take me so long in the dream to realize that if we didn't stop eating the dog eventually he wouldn't be able to get up from where he lies next to us on the ground let alone walk at all? I marveled for a split second how easy it was to slice through his legs as though they were marzipan or a refrigerated roll of packaged cookie dough. He didn't yelp in pain and just let me do it, and as I removed the third paw, and he looked up at me in confusion, I started bawling.
Plaza Fashion was the place to go to get the grooviest iron-ons for whatever color T-shirt you wanted. My sister chose "Foxy Lady" in a script-ish lettering and Charlie's Angels (the original three, natch). She was about 10 or 11 years old and tiny, which made the first T-shirt particularly hilarious. We didn't realize at the time how "iconic" the second T-shirt would be. She'd probably still fit in them today, and I wish they were still around so I could convince her to do so. Hell, I'd jump-start my anorexia if it meant I could wear those T-shirts myself.
I unfollowed a Facebook "friend" because the bulk of her photos were of her in swanky lounges around the world, tanned and trout-pouty. When I'd made her acquaintance in Central Park, she was wearing minimal makeup and yoga pants and was absolutely adorable. She was vegan and into yoga and seemed completely down to earth. Now I've unfriended her because she's become one of these Instagram babes whose life goal seems to be to build up her ass and thighs, and who now brags that to get that way she eats enough meat to fill a small petting zoo, "lol".
I don't know who repulses me more: Your flabby, sweat-soaked, florid-faced, gasping, grunting, screaming, white-haired client with the apparently deep pockets to be able to afford a "trainer" at least three times a week or you and your need to loudly demonstrate your super skill of counting backward from 12 as he completes his poorly executed sets of exercises that look like they're designed more to exhaust him than do anything beneficial for his health. I'd swear you're having him do this crap to humiliate him. Somehow, though, I doubt he's as embarrassed for himself as I am for him.
There's almost nowhere else I'd rather be immediately after leaving the gym than the oasis of Westside Market at 77th and Broadway. Something about its narrow aisles, stocked with obvious care like a gigantic jigsaw puzzle, its nooks and crannies and little twists and turns, feels like a cocoon. It's simultaneously more intimate and adventurous than Fairway, more private and relaxed. It's more unassuming. I feel like there are treasures on its shelves just waiting to be discovered and that they have all the time in the world to be uncovered. And that I have all that time to give.
The thought of walking around the city in high heels is ludicrous, yet I did it for so many years and, I might add, with ease, and never thought much about it at the time. The idea of wearing "sensible" shoes was anathema and I scoffed at my brother's girlfriend for her insistence at least 20 ago that once you live here for a while, you won't be wearing high heels anymore. "But wearing high heels is so New York!" I thought. Now when I see someone wearing them I think, "Bitch, please. No one who lives here does that."
I was not at the funeral for an ex-boyfriend's grandmother, but I like to imagine that I was and that I was encouraged to say a few words about our camaraderie, which arose because no one else wanted to listen to the same story over and over again thanks to her Alzheimer's and no one in that stuffy family would have wanted to hear what I had to say either. I wonder if I would have livened up my recollection by including a bit about how appalled and disgusted I was by the racist term she used for Brazil nuts.
How has it taken me this long to watch "Better Call Saul" and fall in love with Bob Odenkirk? I really liked him on "Breaking Bad', but his character somewhat rankled me because it felt a bit too cartoonish, so I wasn't in a rush to watch this show even though I wanted more of the same delectable taste that "Breaking Bad" had given. Now I can't get enough of this show and Odenkirk even though I feel like I "should" pace myself so I can savor it. But oh, it's like golden steak fries and I just can't stop.
I've been here for three hours, and I'm homesick. I haven't been to Philadelphia much since leaving 17 years ago and the times I've visited, I haven't spent any real time wandering the streets alone, so I haven't been able to quietly panic-sob at my own pace as I'm doing this time. The city is sleepy, so molasses slow, so narrow, so quiet compared to NYC, and I envision myself living here again, buying fruit at Reading Terminal Market. By the end of the day, though, I'm missing NYC and realize it's more home to me than Philadelphia ever was.
There's no shortage of gelatinous girl guts on display here. Philadelphia's Center City nightlife is absolutely overflowing with barely contained middle mush. Is it a trend that's particular to this city or is it rampant across the region or the nation? Whatever it is, it's disturbing and I'm aghast at the brazenness of those baring midriffs that must be the result of overindulging in the local cuisine of cheesesteaks, soft pretzels, and cannoli on a regular basis. These are not mere "food babies", like the kind you get from one night of dietary debauchery. What the hell is going on?
I'm trying hard to pretend this "comedian" deserves laughs. Even the minor chortles he's managed to elicit from me are contrived, perched on my bottom lip for a beat before tumbling off with reluctance. At this rate, each laugh is very expensive: If I laugh four times, that's about $8 each, and I fear my nephew's girlfriend wasted money on my ticket. The headliner, however, has me laughing, and genuine guffaws at that. Now I want to take my chortles back from the other guy, like a tip I gave a barista in anticipation of good service that never came.
The sign for Broadway Restaurant, in my old neighborhood a bit further up the Upper West Side, is enough attraction for me to want to go inside, yet for some reason I have never done it. I recently peered inside the plate glass window and spied a U-shaped counter with vinyl stools, and the rest of place looking like it hadn't been updated for at least 30 years. To say I was elated is an understatement. A scan of the menu posted in the window revealed decent prices for a bagel and home fries, so I'm there. I can't wait.
The Ethiopian place that delivered to my apartment raised its prices enough so that it's now prohibitive to consider it an option for my customary Friday night treat. True, it's enough food for at least two nights, but true, I feel compelled to eat it all in one night, so I can't even pretend that that additional cost, divided by two, isn't really that bad. This saves me the inevitable deep regret I experienced every time I ordered it and overate and promised myself it would be the last time. I suppose this is what the kidz call a "win-win".
There is more life in the 98-year-old grandmother you're eulogizing than the eulogy itself. Good god, man, she was on the planet for close to a century, and all you have to offer is the kind of stale facts any Midwestern obituary writer could peck out on an IBM Selectric? I didn't know her as well as you did, of course, but I'd offer a livelier version of her than you did and deliver the words in living color rather than the washed-out gray that yours are steeped in. I sure hope your PowerPoint presentations are more rousing than this.
Tomorrow I will be baking a chocolate Bundt cake with rivulets (!) of ganache cascading down its sides, so if you happen to be on the Upper West Side at all, please feel free to wiggle your nose in the air like a cartoon character to sniff out my precise address (hint: I live near a park!) and then pop by and buzz my buzzer so I can pretend I'm not home as I lounge on the sofa as if it were a chaise, cramming handful after handful of Bundt into my cake-hole much to the disgust of my cat.
Dear chick at the gym with the exceeding poor jerky form: For the love of all that's good and holy, your fucking cuticles are not a suitable breakfast. I fantasize about telling you that a friend had to have a finger amputated after infection set in after aggressive cuticle abuse. (You don't have to know it's an imaginary friend. Shhh.) The only good that's come out of your repulsive, compulsive habit is that it compelled me to assign you a top secret nickname: Kewpie Doll, out of the "cu" in "cuticle" and the "pi" in "pick" and "doll" just because.
I'm hoarding Hard Candy's Beetle and Mr. Wrong nail polish, in case you're wondering why you can't find it anymore. Walmart (pause to quietly retch) used to sell it online but doesn't carry it anymore and it can be found only on eBay, perhaps from eremitic people who had been hoarding it themselves. So now it's my turn, but I won't part with any of my stash, no matter what the offer. My desire for these groovy polishes far exceeds any desire I may have (which I don't) for an all expenses paid trip on a lousy Princess cruise ship.
Lincoln has finally fulfilled his boyhood dream of replacing his perfectly serviceable brown eyes with two freshly minted pennies. Now it's fun to wink at people, have them ask why his eyes are so shiny, and say, "Just call me Winkin' Lincoln." It usually takes a beat for people to "get it" and say, "You went that far for a joke?"
"I think it's clever, if you want my two cents," a female voice says. This is the first time Lincoln wishes he wasn't blind. He'd love to see the face of the girl he'd beg to be his wife.
More than a handful of years have passed since we dated and I haven't seen him since. Contact has been limited to the occasional Facebook message or a comment on each other's pages. A woman who appears in some of his photos has as her profile picture one of the two of them together in Italy.
After commenting on a recent food photo of mine, he sends me a private message that contains no words but a real live dick pic whose angle I have a difficult time ascertaining.
The best response to this unwanted, unsolicited nonsense is no response.
On my quest to become a regular at the halal truck a few blocks from home, I went again today, a mere few days after the first time. I said the nice fella who mans the truck, "I was here the other day and loved it so much I had to come back!" He smiled and seemed genuinely pleased, but of course all I could think was that he was thinking, "Good god, zip it, you chatty Upper West Side mommy in your nice scarf who thinks she's doing a good deed by patronizing my truck." (P.S. Such a bargain!)
I'm strolling around the neighborhood, feeling cute in my orange tank top and snappy new Columbia "knee pants" (cuter than they sound, trust me), smiling into the sun and at people and, of course dogs, stopping to meet one and his dad and a random lady who'd also stopped to meet the dog. I don't plan to eat, until I come to the halal truck I'd been wanting to try for a while. "No time like the present!" I shout inside my head, following by a "Fuck yeah! Falafel!" Five dollars later, I'm the happiest girl in all of NYC.
The Tip Jar