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At the bar after the Wooster Group show a woman near me was saying something about meeting a person from the "same part of Madison". I turned to her and said, "It's hard to believe anyone's left to tend the cows, I run into so many Wisconsinites here." It turns out her family's in Milton, which is about eight miles from my family. She once had a party where everyone had to bring someone from Wisconsin, and no-one had a problem doing so. "I bet there's another cheesehead here," she says. "You mean besides me, you and Willem Dafoe?" (Appleton.)
Too, too, too. I keep saying that, although it's actually two, two, two. I paid some bills early just to have an excuse to write the date. "We should do something too, too, too," I say to J. I think he thinks I'm hinting at marriage, and maybe I am, but I'm never sure myself. I do hope before I die somebody tells me, maybe in front of a couple other people, that they would really like to never not know me. Just for the gorgeous bald hope of it. But really, I would've been happy going to Coney Island.
Although only one year older than J. she had played his mother in a movie. Not a record in filmland motherdom, but worth mentioning. After the play J. and I stopped her to say hello. She did a double-take before laughing, "Oh that was you! I didn't recognize you in the front row and thought you were a couple of no-good downtown hipsters who were just so…" She left the sentence hanging there both complete and not. "Was I sitting like this?" J. crossed his arms and hunched his shoulders. The truth is, we are downtown hipsters, and probably so…
We imagined there was a lot of trash talking about Jesus going on. Lots of "Jesus hates you's" and "What would Jesus do's" furtively hissing through face masks on both teams. Upon learning that the Rams are considered the most Christian team in football, any scoring by the Patriots roused gleeful rounds of "where's your God now's?" from the room. We cheered for the Patriots at the behest of our New England hostess. We even cheered for the lone Muslim player in the Ram's line-up. And when Sir Paul McCartney sang with Terry Bradshaw we wondered where's our God now.
I dreamed of clowns last night. Not clowns really but one clown in duplicate. Ronald McDonald to be exact. The clones clearly felt no compunction to wear the traditional bright yellow outfit, but their hair and makeup made them all recognizable nonetheless. I was walking up Broadway near my apartment, but it was narrower than actual Broadway and partially enclosed in clear fiberglass domed ceiling. Ronald McDonalds were stationed along the sidewalk, but not just in front of his eponymous eating establishment, but also Starbucks and Wendys. Upon waking I remembered J. pointing out the policemen stationed in those places.
I rested my backpack on a potted tree and wrestled through the debris for my phone. J. has all but stopped screening so he picked up on the second ring. "The rat is in front of America's most convenient bank! Look out the window!" The former sneaker/hip/hop wear store, despite its many windows. is becoming a bank we had never heard of, but find no fault in its claim of convenience. We have often speculated about the person who rents out the enormous inflatable rats for labor disputes. Standing behind the rat, I waved up at J. in the window.
Thursdays are strange. I am as scheduled as an Upper Westside preteen, but it's my own doing after all. Writing gets wedged in between the two dance classes that just happen to fall on the same day. I have a hard time settling down after ballet. At the Writer's Room I piss around for awhile, piggybacking on some stranger's airport internet connection, surfing instead of writing until I can get my body and mind back in alignment. When I finally settle in it's time for the next class. Very unproductive, but I am in less pain when I dance regularly.
How long you think until movies will be made of the events of the last two falls? Ah those innocent days of fall 2000. We couldn't wait for the election that wouldn't end to end, couldn't imagine anything worse for the country. Surely some inspired screenwriter can do a job on that fiasco. And what about this fall? When will it start being mined? Maybe I'll start a pool. Who will be the first actor to play Giuliani? When will
Law and Order
rip it from the headlines? And what about this coming fall? It's bound to be a whopper.
This is the truth. I feel despised. Worse. Tolerated. I offer honest compliments and receive silence. Not even acknowledged. I am less than tolerated. I have no right to appreciate others' talents in my lack. I was once told by a friend in an acting class that I'd never be a good actor because I was too self-protective, didn't exploit pain. But that's what I learned in the hospital. The best way to fight despair is to try to present as happy. Make that choice long enough and eventually your body will believe it. My whole life is an act.
H. was showing the sonogram pictures, "At first I was creeped by shooting sound at the babies, but they're so cool. If I had my own I'd take tons of pictures." Moonscapes were magnetted to the fridge. H. pointed out the eyes, the noses and they could be nothing but faces. The girl has lots of dark hair, the doctor said and thick eyebrows. H. was obviously taken aback and the Chinese-German doctor said in his unreproduceable accent, "Very good in a girl. Very pretty, like Brooke Shields." Later I heard H. telling someone her little girl had a unibrow.
Walking to the bar after another play an enormous SUV pulls over and a young woman says, "Excuse me." "Yes?" "Is ground zero that way?" She pointed north up West Broadway. Living downtown I'm approached by bewildered out-of-towners asking direction to clubs with shocking frequency. For this reason it took me a moment to process that "ground zero" wasn't the name of a club. "No" I said, with shock and realization hitting me. "Is it that way?" She pointed the other direction. Yes, I said icily. She sucked her teeth at my reticence and I wished I thought to lie.
I'm a sucker for the passionate pursuit of the non-sensible, although I prefer sports involving flight or speed. The payoff is being subjected to near-death horror and rehabilitation stories. The brain damaged ski jumper, the luge coach losing half a foot, the figure skater with the broken landing foot. And then there's the part where people have to lose. When the man in the Canadian figure skating team kissed his silver medal before the crowd who believed the gold was rightfully his, he won. When the Russian gold winner did the same, I understood, but I also wished he did.
"After being subjected to a bi-partisan oral barrage from 21 senators…" J. thinks this is the best lead-in he has ever read to a
New York Times
story, joking that is sounded pornographic. "Oral Barrage 6, this time it's bi-partisan," I said. The Enron hearings seem to be getting more and more boisterous from the best-of selection J. has been reading to me. Now with more oral barrages. After he leaves I continued my wild goose chase to surprise him with replacements of the bicycle lights he had stolen. Everywhere I go I see delivery men carrying bouquets of flowers.
An old friend is being stalked by an even older friend. We may have been responsible for them meeting, I don't remember. Always kind of solitary, it appeared to be by choice, refusing invites until we stopped inviting. She was older than us, so we assumed an established life somewhere we couldn't see. As he recounted the telephone and e-mail messages we were mesmerized by the portrait of a person we didn't know. He would break off his account and sing a snatch of
. She had never seemed like a person who would scream hysterical obscenities on the street.
Eliminating transportation has become an organizing principle in my life. First private, now public. On the J train crossing the Williamsburg bridge I'm struck by how seldom I use subways anymore. It's how I've arranged my life. A woman seated across from me sports sweat pants and a sweat jacket (not a matched suit), gold jewelry and one of those shortish curly hairdos that are very popular among other squat rumple-faced women her age. As she riffled through her purse I despaired I couldn't see her beauty. Then I noticed her hands—inexplicably youthful and smooth with an understated manicure.
All I want to do right now is knit and watch the Olympics. Novel? What novel? Who am I kidding? I'm knitting a sweater. It's gray heathered wool, which is to say dull silver. I bought the yarn before Apolo Ohno fell and it became achingly clear that silver is the new gold. It was meant for J, but as it takes shape I suspect it'll be too small. I've started to call it the futile sweater, but soldier on in its futility. Obsessively repeating "knit, knit, purl, knit, knit, purl" obliterates real thought from taking hold in my head.
"We're starting by asking for $500…" I explained to the young woman from my alma mater I have no money for charitable giving right now. Undeterred she repeated her spiel, slashing the price of philanthropy to $250. You're not getting to the end of your script. It's not a script, she said, I memorized it. Uh-huh. Listen I said, I live in NYC, Washington's not giving the aid it promised, so my taxes are gonna increase. When you get around to calling fellow alum Mike Bloomberg, do this, just consider part of his gift as coming from me as well.
Why hasn't a word come from the corpse collectors? One was arrested and he posted $25,000 in bail, and yet the papers keep hypothesizing that the reason for the lapse in service was that the oven broke and they didn't have money to fix it. But there was collateral enough to get a $25,000 bond. On what? Land? They've done a real number on their property values. Why hasn't anyone asked? And if they have, why haven't they reported that the family was not forthcoming with answers if that is the case. I say this as if answers could exist.
A person rarely looks as naked as when they stand on a busy street in New York City holding a map or a guidebook. I throw a blanket over them the best I can by asking if they would like some help. The object is invariably some easy if questionable landmark, like the young British family looking for Washington Square Park. I resisted asking if they hoped to score fake pot and pointed them along. Many people just want an indiscriminate subway, as if any will do, answering "any" when I ask which. I guess that makes them true tourists.
Every morning the pain is back. It envelopes me like baby fat. I always wake before J. and am grateful that he doesn't see me inch down the stairs from the bedroom. First my right foot, then my left foot to meet it. The right and then the left onto the same step. A full transfer of weight an unthinkable balancing act. Pain is boring in a way most extremely personal, secret things are not. Still I am grateful. This is a 2 or 3, not the 8 or 9 when the doctor first asked me to rate the pain.
J. said to the lawyer, "Well of all the wills I've ever witnessed, I'd have to say that this one was the best." We all joked, first our friends got married, then they were all having babies, now we're witnessing their wills. How tired was the lawyer of hearing jokes about sound minds and bodies? T. protested that he wouldn't be doing this if he wasn't under duress as the baby cried in the next room. You procreated of your own free will, I said, that's not duress. S. laughed, pointing out that at least we weren't willed the baby.
I had one of those dreams that wakes you up because you start to realize that it must be a dream. In the dream I picked up J's phone and flipped it open for no good reason. A streaming LED text ran across its screen "Use this phone to call girls". In the dream I thought, his phone doesn't do this and why would he program it to remind him that? I woke up wondering if my subconscious knew something I did not. And if all characters in my dreams are really me, then was I actually cheating on myself?
As I walked from my apartment building a man in an idling truck catcalled. For some reason whenever a stranger spews abuse masquerading as appreciation, I look at them. I guess it's part of my startle response because I would really rather ignore it. Definitely not show them my face. At just that moment a man about my age walked between me and the truck driver. Surprised he looked over at the speaker then noticed me, and dropped his head. Caught in a drive-by. I know that even if he had previously understood it, in that moment he felt it.
Sunday. Baked banana bread. Fixed the loose, stripped knobs in the shower. Bought a miniature rose plant and repotted it. Finished one hat for L., but it's clearly far too big – especially for a person with almost no hair – so I decided to alter the pattern and make a second. Made dinner. Scratched our heads until bleeding over the Olympic closing ceremonies, then watched old Martin and Lewis shows our friend the magician had lent us instead. (Dean sings "Levine and Rose". Made us laugh.) J. read to me from Lewis bio "King of Comedy" as I knitted. Wrote this.
His voice broke on his first sentence, "Do you want to come with me to visit F. at the cat hospital?" Pick me up I said. The vet said they were force-feeding him, we could see him in a couple minutes. My brother got this cat 15 years ago with his then girlfriend whose new husband was now actually paying F's ongoing vet bills. Allergic to cats and dogs. the new husband/reluctant cat benefactor suggested maybe F. should be put out of his misery. As F. weakly pulled himself toward my brother, anyone could see this cat wanted to live.
The alarm woke me which is unusual. I usually wake before it even if I was not the one who set it, which I wasn't. "Do you have an audition?" I asked though I was pretty sure that he didn't. No, Skilling and Watkins were going to be questioned by the Senate Committee this morning, he said. I thought that wasn't for an hour. "Yes, but I want to start the tape." J. likes sleep. He's good at it. Ten-twelve hours isn't unusual. This is the true measure of his obsession with ‘N Ron, especially Skilling, the group's bad boy.
A dumpy, disheveled man somewhere between 40 and 65 with an assortment of rumpled bags clutched to his rumpled coat challenged my resolve to help strangers as he burst a mumbled question at me. But I asked anyway, "I'm sorry, what?" "Is there a library nearby?" Of course. He looked like a man who spent his days at libraries. How odd he didn't know where they were. "There's one on Second Avenue above Eighth, and another on Sixth Avenue around Tenth. Neither are very close. About 15 blocks either way." He mumbled something else, but this time I didn't ask.
"Look at this," I pushed my computer in front of J. "I got this e-mail just now, but the address isn't right. That's not my exact user name and the @ isn't my ISP, but another hotmail server altogether."
(the "misdirected" email read)
Thanks again for lunch. Steve.
But the return address was some John Somebody.
J. looked at it. "That's fake he declared, don't write back. They're obviously trying to get you to write back for some reason."
I agreed. My first impulse had been to reply, but showed it to J. instead. Paranoid, I ran anti-virus.
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