Rob was up all night working on Goblin’s costume. Unfortunately, it caught on fire, so she just had to go looking as she normally does.
The mighty huntress.
Goblin and a somewhat taken-aback squirrel.
Rob was up all night working on Goblin’s costume. Unfortunately, it caught on fire, so she just had to go looking as she normally does.
The mighty huntress.
Goblin and a somewhat taken-aback squirrel.
Since no one ever uses their god-given talents for their ultimate good, i.e. to create things for me, I asked Faustus to knit me a sweater.
He told me that his dog was knitting me a sweater.
This crushing news brought to mind another traumatic story of my elementary school days.
Picture it: Forest Knolls Elementary School, the late 1970s. Young David’s art class undertakes an ambitious project based upon the portraiture of limners.
If I recall correctly, limners were artists in the American colonial days who painted portraits based only upon written descriptions of the subjects. Apparently, there were not enough painters to go around in the early days of the colonies, so settlers would order their portraits by mail. I suppose a limner was a crude precursor to the police sketch artist.
Each student in my class wrote a description of himself or herself and handed it in to the teacher. The teacher redistributed the descriptions anonymously, and we then had to create portraits based upon them. At the end of the experience, there would be a grand exchange, in which each “limner” would find out who his or her subject was and surrender the portrait for a comparison of likeness in front of the class.
Since the whole thing was framed as a sort of competition, I naturally launched myself into it with gusto, laboring for untold hours at my effort. Unfortunately, I do not recall how close said effort came to its intended target because this revelation was overshadowed by tragedy.
The teacher-poor, misguided soul that she was-decided that I was the most sensitive and understanding student in the class and gave the description I had written of myself to a mentally challenged and severely handicapped boy whose name was also David. The resulting “portrait” of brown and black crayon scribbles was so devastating after all my hard work that I was inconsolable.
Of course, now that I look back at the experience, it was a blessing in disguise that prepared me for a lifetime of disappointment at the asymmetry of my colossal efforts for everyone else, versus everyone else’s meager efforts for me. Not that the other David’s drawing was not the best he could do at the time . . . and not that any of this really applies in this situation, as I have not undertaken much on the behalf of Faustus or his dog that has not been repaid a thousand times over by their valuable friendship.
But when I am presented with a loosely knit sweater with an incomprehensible pattern and four sleeves by a Maltese beaming with pride, at least we all know there is a precedent.
And I will be as sensitive and understanding as I ever was.
Yesterday, I tried to be nice. This happens much more often than I let on, but this one was truly out of the blue.
At some point during this past week (I’m not sure when, as TiVo grabbed the episode for me), Judge Judy completely skewered a personal trainer who refused to refund the money of a client. Even though Judge Judy was correct in her judgment, she did not give the impression that she was impartial in this case. In fact, she seemed to have made up her mind before she heard anything from the personal trainer, and was consequentially icy and rude to him from the outset of the trial.
Normally, I’m all for this, but only when it’s obvious that the litigant is trying to pull a fast one. In this case, it seemed as if the personal trainer truly thought he was in the right. He was bumbling and arrogant, but it was clear he didn’t mean anyone any harm.
At one point during the trial, Judge Judy read aloud from the personal trainer’s contract, including the name of his business. With that information, it was a simple thing for me to discover his website and email address, and I dropped him a quick, anonymous note that I had thought JJ was too harsh with him, that I could see his side of the complaint, and that he hadn’t received a fair hearing. If I had just been humiliated in front of millions of people on national television, that’s what I would want someone to do for me.
He responded back immediately, seeming very grateful for my comments, although apparently not grateful enough to send me the requested photographs of himself with his shirt off.
What ever happened to common courtesy?
A couple of nights ago, I watched something called “Loretta Lynn’s Haunted Plantation” on the Travel Channel. The haunted plantation is a large, restored antebellum plantation in Tennessee; it is the center of a fifty-mile radius in which seemingly everything is named after the Coal Miner’s Daughter. If I lived in an area where everything was named after me, I think it might go to my head, but not Loretta Lynn . . . although something else may have gone to her head, if you know what I mean. She spent the whole program tottering around in a cheerful daze, saying whatever little thing came into her mind.
The people who work for Loretta Lynn have elevated her to the status of deity. They wear tee shirts with her face on them and speak about her in worshipful tones, their eyes shining with holy light. Even the ghost is a Loretta Lynn fan, as it supposedly attacks anyone who upsets the album covers she has hanging on the wall.
Loretta Lynn had a hard life until the 1960s, at which time she became some sort of country empress. This is fine, and I don’t begrudge her a penny of her fortune. She paid her dues. Throughout her childhood, she lived in a one-room cabin with her family of ten. If I had to live in a one-room cabin with my own family, I would have a heart attack long before I got even one album on the charts.
I suppose, now, her biggest problem is the ghosts who haunt her house. Or, judging from everyone’s behavior, the LSD lab in the basement.
Sam Squirrel: (gathers nuts) La la la.
Goblin Foo Uvula: (jumps out from behind a tree and lunges at Sam) Grrrrrr!
Sam Squirrel: (terrified, runs up tree) Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!
Goblin Foo Uvula: (looking up at Sam) Are you scared?
Sam Squirrel: (panting, wild-eyed) Yes! Yes, I’m scared!
Goblin Foo Uvula: Well, you shouldn’t be. You’re on “Scare Tactics”!
Sam Squirrel: Huh? What?
Goblin Foo Uvula: Your friend Friendly Squirrel Half-tail set you up.
Sam Squirrel: Oh @%#! Oh @%#!
Goblin Foo Uvula: You should have seen the look on your face!
Friendly Squirrel Half-tail: (comes out from behind tree, laughing) Yo, I got you, man!
Sam Squirrel: (descends tree, jokingly chokes Half-tail) Man, I was @%#! my pants! (approaches Goblin Foo Uvula in a “high-five” stance) You @%#! freaked me out, G!
Goblin Foo Uvula: Ha ha. (devours Sam Squirrel in one gulp)
Friendly Squirrel Half-tail: Uh. (swallows heavily)
Fade to black as Goblin approaches Friendly Squirrel Half-tail, jaws open wide.
Shannon Doherty: (in slinky dress) Looks like Friendly Squirrel Half-tail got a little lesson in karma. Scare you later.
After yoga this afternoon, Rob and I went to Barnes and Noble at Union Square because I needed to find a reference book for Macromedia Flash MX 2004. I love bookstores, but Barnes and Noble always perplexes me. It seems they carry fewer books all the time, in favor of such sundries as yoga mats, wrapping paper, calendars, and tchotchkes of a most heinous variety. I have to wonder if they are losing touch with their target audience. One section is labeled “Gifts for Readers,” which one would think a bookstore would know something about, but Barnes and Noble apparently does not. They treat “readers” as if they are a myopic, cave-dwelling species that requires full-page magnifying sheets and teeny little lamps clipped to the covers of their books, or as if they have just flown in from the Middle Ages and need to stock up on sealing wax and quill pens.
I am all for not buying books as gifts for “readers,” because most “readers” I know like to choose their own books, but if you are ever in a shopping quandary, a gift certificate is a better choice than bookends shaped like William Shakespeare’s head.
This afternoon, I played frisbee for the first time in twenty-five years. One would think that if one is good at something when one is six, one has the potential to be even better when one is in his (ahem) late twenties, but one would be mistaken. Every one of my tosses sent people scurrying in hot pursuit, tripping over boulders, or crashing face-first into prickly tree branches. I suppose I could claim it was all part of my nefarious plan and leave it at that.
Note to self: revise nefarious plan.
It did get me thinking, however, about things that happened when I was a child. I remember when I was in fifth grade. My teacher was Miss Sonnenberg, who used to give us credit for bringing in newspaper articles every morning for an activity called “What’s in the News?” Each student was to clip an article from the paper, present a précis to the class, and then pin it to the bulletin board labeled “What’s in the News?”
Naturally, I could never be bothered to do any of this, and over time, several of my classmates came to feel the same way; the number of “What’s in the News?” presentations dropped considerably. But one morning, Miss Sonnenberg announced she was to be observed by the Board of Education the following day and entreated us to be on our best behavior. It would also help, she went on to say, if everyone was to participate in the “What’s in the News?” discussions, as it was a concept she was proud of.
I went home determined to bring in an article the next morning, and the next morning, I forgot all about it. A number of my classmates were in the same boat, but luckily a regular black market in newspaper clippings had sprung up in the cloakroom before school started. Someone had brought in an entire Metro section, and all of the class slackers were partaking of it.
Except, as a safety patrol, I arrived in the classroom after everyone else, when all of the good articles were taken. Flipping through the holey newsprint, I quickly tore out the only thing remaining and ran to my desk. The observers filed in on schedule and we enthusiastically launched into “What’s in the News?” To make Miss Sonnenberg look good, we students fell all over ourselves to make a good impression with our articles and enthusiasm. When she asked for volunteers to present, every hand in the room went up, including mine.
I was selected.
I pushed my chair back.
I stood up.
Everyone leaned forward in rapt attention as I began to read . . . the obituaries.
As I type this, an upholstered creature squats behind me, spreading over half of my living room. No, Goblin did not get a new dress; my new sofa was delivered this morning. My first impression was that it is so big! But actually, the room is just small, something I never before noticed, since it never had any furniture in it. It is not quite as I imagined, but I suppose nothing ever is.
By the strangest coincidence, another important delivery is occurring today. No, Goblin is not having puppies; my new computer is coming by FedEx. Not just any computer, the Macintosh G5 dual 2.0 Ghz, currently the most powerful computer in the world and certain to become my new best friend.
When Rob comes in tonight, he will find me and G5 sprawled on the new sofa in our underwear, a bowl of popcorn between us, watching “The West Wing.” Or maybe porn. I’ll let G5 decide when he gets here.
Update: It was “Judge Judy.”
Rob had a concert of his songs last night. Ordinarily, I would have trumpeted this from the rooftops beforehand in an effort to pack the house, but it actually sold out a week ago. There was even a waiting list for those unlucky enough not to RSVP in time, poor devils.
The show went off without a hitch, and it was breathtaking. The first half featured the best of Rob’s more lighthearted and wacky songs, performed by Lisa Howard, Natalie Moore, Courtney Morris, David Ranson, and Jonathan Rayson (remember these names, because they will be in lights before too long). The second half was a selection of songs from Vanishing Point, performed by two actresses whose names are already in lights: Alison Fraser and Julia Murney. Emily Skinner was supposed to be in it also, but she was in a car accident, so Courtney and Natalie split her role between the two of them. This was all absolutely mesmerizing.
After the show, an old friend of Rob’s, whom I had not yet met, came up to me and said, “I know you’re Rob’s other half. I sat behind you and saw you looking adoringly over at him through the whole show!”
Which is true, and if someone identified Rob in that manner someday, I would not complain.
Perhaps all of this is too much information, but I am so proud of my brilliant musical genius of a boyfriend. I’ll be my usual cynical self tomorrow.
Yesterday morning, I woke up at an unholy hour, convinced that no one loves me. The reason for the first part was that Rob and I had signed up for a day-long meditation workshop that began at eight o’clock in the morning. The reason for the second part was that, at that point, only four of the hundred ten people who had visited this journal on Friday had seen fit to leave a one-word comment as requested (scroll down if you don’t know what I’m talking about).
So I guess four people love me, or perhaps only three, as one of the comments referred to me as “bilious.”
But it doesn’t matter, because I went to the workshop, and now I love the whole universe, and I suppose that’s enough love for anybody, reciprocated or not. The workshop was White Tantric Yoga, and it was extraordinary. Somewhere over a hundred people attended, and we all had to wear white clothes and white head coverings, so I finally got to wear a turban! Well, it was more of a bandanna than a turban, but I looked quite smashing in it, as did Rob in his. All of the partners faced each other, so Rob and I each got to spend a great deal of time noting the other’s smashing appearance in a turban . . . although that thought admittedly drifted further from the center of my consciousness in light of subsequent events. Namely, hours of meditative chanting accompanied by intertwined bodies in rhythmic motion. Each meditation was sixty-two minutes long, except for one short one that was thirty-one minutes long. I have never been able to meditate for even a half hour before, much less four times in a row for over an hour each, but it helped to be in a room full of chanting, white-clad people doing the same thing, let me tell you.
The day is largely a blur, and I suspect I spent much of it in an altered state, although I felt normal enough most of the time. I actually went into deeper trances at least twice, and it’s quite interesting to find that one can lose awareness of one’s body and surroundings. Of course, that’s how I got through high school and countless boring workdays since then, but it’s always eerie to be jolted back into consciousness while your body is moving and saying things of its own volition.
Of course, leave it to me to get muddled. At one point, while everyone was chanting “wahe guru” (which means something like “the ecstasy of consciousness”), I fell into a daze and emerged to find myself saying, “What kangaroo?” At another point, I managed to transform “humee hum brahm hum” (“we are we, and we are God”) into “How now, brown cow?”
But on the whole, it was a very powerful experience. Although, really, I might have been exaggerating to suggest that it was powerful enough to get me to love the whole universe, but there are certainly parts of it that I dislike less than I did.
This comes directly from my friend Michelle’s LiveJournal:
“Meme of vanity. Or also curiosity. Feel free to be brutal.
“Sum up your thoughts about me in one word and leave it in a comment. Then put this on your [blog, if you have one] to see what everyone else thinks of you.”
So . . . go ahead. I can take it. Enough about politics. Today, it’s all about me, me, me!
There is a squirrel we know named Friendly Squirrel Half-Tail. Friendly Squirrel Half-Tail lives in Central Park. We see him just about every time we go, and we recognize him because of, you know, that half-a-tail thing.
It’s funny . . . I don’t recognize people I see every day, I wouldn’t recognize a celebrity on the street if he or she bit me on the face, but I recognize an individual rodent. He doesn’t even have to bite me on the face.
Not that he would; he is, as you might expect from his name, quite amiable. Usually squirrels run away from Goblin, but this one comes toward us. “Hello, hello!” he says. “Happy to see you!” That last is sometimes less intelligible, uttering it as he does while leaping from between my dog’s jaws as they snap shut.
What happened to the other half of his tail is not really a mystery for the ages.
Last night, Rob and I saw The Station Agent, a wonderful movie about a train buff, Fin, who inherits a disused depot station from an old friend, sets up housekeeping there, and begins forming meaningful friendships despite his desire to be left alone. Fin is a dwarf, and we saw the film with my friend David, who is also a dwarf. (I am aware the more correct term is “little person,” but it is also more nebulous.)
David, an actor, was jealous of the guy who got to play the main character. He said that the motion picture accurately and touchingly portrayed events he has to deal with every day, and it would have been a great opportunity to take an interesting, dramatic role rather than have to always be the comic relief.
I confess it was uncomfortable to sit there with him and witness such indignities on the screen, knowing he was seeing them as someone who had suffered them. Afterward, we went out to have drinks and discuss the movie, and he said that we would be surprised what assumptions people make about him just because of how he looks. “People who don’t know me say things like, ‘I can tell you’re a great guy,’” he said. Considering no one has ever concluded the same thing about me, one would think I would not find that so awful, but it was actually the most terrible and oppressive thing I had ever heard. How dare people assume someone is a great guy when they don’t know a thing about him!
Then, he and Rob talked about musical theater for the rest of the time, effectively putting the kibosh on any further insights.
So my meaningful life lesson from The Station Agent is that musical theater is an insidious threat to civilized conversation.
And now for a complete change of pace.
At the recommendation of our friend Richard, who transcribes television programs for TLC, Rob and I caught an episode of “For Better or For Worse” the other day. At first, I thought it was some sort of terrible, sad joke, but it turned out to be terrible, sad reality.
The premise is that the friends and family of an affianced couple come together to plan their wedding for a mere $5,000, provided by the producers. From this fund must be purchased the venue, the décor, the cake, the reception, the entertainment, and the bride’s and groom’s attire . . . and every single element is kept secret from the happy couple until the moment the wedding is to commence. The resulting pandemonium is overseen and directed by a professional wedding planner.
In the episode we watched, the friends and mothers of a young couple planned a Malibu beach wedding with a Hawaiian theme. The friends voted to dress the bride in a white bikini, which as one might imagine, conserved a great deal of money from the dress budget. The bathing suit and matching sarong cost $179. The bride’s monstrous mother, however, egged on by the groom’s mother, did not “want to see my baby married in no bathing suit,” so she sneaked out and bought a $200 gown that she felt was more worthy of her offspring.
The professional planner ultimately sneaked the dress back to store for a refund, but the scene in which the mother triumphantly revealed the polyester fruit of her secret wedding-gown plot is perhaps the single greatest moment ever to grace a television screen.
Just for comparison sake, the group had a box of flowers airlifted in from Hawaii for $750.
Happy Marriage Protection Week, everyone!
My first long-term boyfriend, Erich, came to town this weekend, with his current partner, Alex. Regular readers of this site are already acquainted with Alex, who guest-blogged for me while I was in Costa Rica. (Faustus in particular became quite enamored of him, and they were able to meet in person last night. A good time was had by all.)
This morning, after brunch, Rob and I were walking with Erich and Alex at a street fair, and Erich came up and put his arm over my shoulders in a friendly way. “Do you miss me?” I asked him.
“Not really,” he said, and quickly followed that with, “A little.”
“I don’t miss you, either,” I told him. “It’s okay.”
And it was.
Erich and I were together for almost five years when I was young and impressionable. We moved to Chicago together and broke up when his job took him to San Diego (I moved back to Baltimore). If we had stayed together, we would have celebrated our tenth anniversary this past May.
I love Erich dearly, but I am glad we did not stay together. I like him and Alex as a couple, and of course, I am rather fond of my current relationship. I found out a while ago that, although we did not actually meet until four years later, Rob was staying just a few doors down from us during our last months together in Chicago. I told Erich that the other day, and he said, “It must have been fate, then.”
I think it was.
Every time I see Erich, I forgive him a little more for things that happened while we were in a relationship, but I also realize that I did not forgive him as much as I thought I had the last time I saw him. Lord knows, I have transgressions of my own to atone for, and one day, all of this will probably even out.
I am glad we are friends.
Thought for the Day: Matthew Shepard died five years ago today. (When I posted about this a few days ago, I indicated that today was the anniversary of his attack, but I misremembered; he actually died in the hospital five days after his brutal assault on 7 October.) Like the attacks on September Eleventh inspired a great deal of patriotic fervor because they could have happened to any American, I think the Matthew Shepard murder brought a lot of gay people together because we recognized the universality of the sort of hatred involved. It could have happened to any of us naïve and eager enough to become involved with the wrong people at the wrong time.
Republican jackasses nationwide are using this coming week as a way of distracting the country from their disastrous policies by trying to unify everyone against same-sex marriage. The most politically correct of them pretend that this is nothing against gays, they are just trying to defend the sacred institution of marriage itself, but this justification is nebulous and inarguable. This is actually a campaign to increase the bigoted atmosphere that led to Matthew’s demise (as well as thousands of less-publicized hate crimes per year) and literally and officially reduce American gays to second-class citizens in their own country.
Don’t let this happen. Whether you are gay or straight, it is a dangerous precedent and an evil thing to do.
Learn about the Democratic presidential candidates and their positions on these issues (they are all pretty good; I think Lieberman is the worst, which is not surprising, but even he is a million times better than our National Embarrassment).
Do something, before it is too late.
This was my week to write about politics. Unfortunately, I could not post anything yesterday because I went to work for the first time in almost three years.
I would say that half of the people I know with regular careers (i.e. outside the theater) have been laid off during the administration of our National Embarrassment. Surprisingly, given the record number of jobs lost during the current “presidency,” I have not been unemployed for all of that time (although I was laid off from my last job when my department was largely eliminated). I have been gainfully self-employed. So what I should have written is that yesterday was the first day in almost three years that I went to work in an office: that of the Ladies’ Home Journal, which employs my dear friend Jeanette in their promotions office.
Guess which National Embarrassment posed with his wife on the cover of that magazine recently. It is actually a nice picture-he can be vaguely pleasant looking when not wearing his usual “smirking chimpanzee” expression-but I had to look at him all day long, and therefore I had to think about him, and therefore I had to work hard to contain my righteous fury while also struggling to perform what was already a difficult job.
Oh well. At least, unlike millions of Americans, I had a job yesterday.
Rob and Goblin and I have a new ritual. Given Goblin’s addiction to chasing squirrels and her general inability to get anywhere near them, we came up with a plan that is working quite well. Rob now goes ahead to lure the squirrels into the open by tossing them peanuts. Then, when they’re vulnerable, Goblin and I pounce, and the squirrels are lucky to escape with their lives from the jaws of the ferocious beast.
This got me to thinking about Republicans. I have read a couple of studies lately that reveal that the most ardent supporters of our National Embarrassment, as a bloc, are not the people who benefit most from his policies, but rather the people who are actually hurt the most: blue-collar white men. No one is quite certain why this is (apparently, no one thought to ask the blue-collar white men), but the theories are that they have been swindled into believing not only that the “President” likes them and takes them seriously (which is probably true to an extent), but that he is some sort of hero that they can look up to (which is true to the extent that I can sell you the Brooklyn Bridge).
The hero aspect, you may have noticed, is getting a great deal of play in the press: his tough cowboy talk about terrorists, his movie set of a Texas ranch, his staged landing on an aircraft carrier wearing a flight suit. Never mind that he comes from a family of millionaires, bought the ranch a few years ago in an effort to look like a rugged Texan, and skipped out of the Vietnam war by getting an Air National Guard posting and then going AWOL. None of this has any bearing on the fantasy world that brings us the fearless George W. Bush flight-suited action figure, or the fearsome George W. Bush bronze bust, which raises our chickenhawk commander-in-chief to the level of Caesar.
The other explanation for this masochistic blue-collar support is actually more insidious. George W.Bush, in responding to the concerns of these people, earns their support by throwing them the peanuts of his scripted rhetoric. Distracted, they do not notice the slobbering Boston terrier on the other side of the tree, waiting to devour them.
This isn’t going to be my most brilliant or sparkling post ever, but I can’t write about politics without writing about my father, whose views on the subject, for as long as I can remember, have been diametrically opposed to my own. We actually get along rather well despite the fact that he is a defense contractor and a devout Catholic who worships Jesus and Rush Limbo with equal gusto; I am a gay creative professional who voted for Ralph Nader.
Let’s call the whole thing off.
Seriously, we are on very good terms, but we argue a lot because we like to bait each other. Perhaps I inherited my love of righteous argumentation directly from him. I think he respects my opinions but feels they’re misguided. They aren’t, of course. They’re based upon verifiable facts, while his are based upon whatever figment of imagination the conservative talk show hosts are attempting to pass off as reality that day.
You can see that there is no middle ground.
Our debates probably shake me up a lot more than they do him. As soon as one begins (usually over email), I develop a tactical insomnia and lie awake all night thinking about how I will respond to his latest outrageous assertion. My condition of generalized anxiety increases to the point that I can barely unclench my jaw or fists. All my life, my father has been the most intelligent and moral person I knew. It is devastating to my system to challenge his authority, even though I know he’s wrong. Or maybe he’s not exactly wrong . . . maybe the paradigm he inhabits simply has no bearing on the real world. I blame this on the disregard for facts that culminated in (and now flows from) the administration of our National Embarrassment.
It’s funny . . . we vehemently disagree about so much (including the superiority of Apple computers, which I wasn’t even aware was debatable), but I still look up to him and want him to be proud of me. He is a great father, a wonderful and generous person, and his example has taught me so much in life. Maybe his ultimate achievement is that he helped me become intelligent enough to confront him on these issues.
Or maybe he wishes he drowned me at birth. One never knows.
I did say I was going to write about politics this week, but I only have time for a quickie right now.
Our National Embarrassment (as one political blogger has referred to George W. Bush) has decided to commemorate 12 October, the anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s violent and lonely death, in a unique way. Namely, he has declared it the first day of the new Marriage Protection Week.
For those of you with the memory of fruit flies, Matthew Shepard was the young gay man who, in 1998, was brutally beaten and tied to a desolate fence to die on a freezing Wyoming night. His murder electrified the compassionate community into calling for the addition of sexual orientation into hate crime legislation.
Five years later, the “President” is leading the charge to increase the atmosphere of hatred and intolerance once again. To distract us all from the disaster he has created in the Middle East and the ruinous state of the American economy, he will be making “protecting” the institution of marriage from the influence of wicked homosexuals a cornerstone of his upcoming campaign.
If you have not already signed this petition, please take a moment to do so now.
There is another petition here that will be sent directly to our National Embarrassment. Not that it will do any good, but let’s impress upon him that not everyone is as stupid as he is.
This is my second post for the day. Scroll down to read about my glamorous social life.
As promised, here is my last column. Although it is my favorite, it apparently did not get published after all. I am very sad about this.
State of Mind: Column Three
In Manhattan, there’s one Golden Rule, and it ain’t pretty: you snooze, you lose. Losing in this city generally means waiting. The wait is often eternal for subway trains, tables in chic restaurants, and picking up your coffee at Starbucks. The worst thing of all is waiting in line for tickets. New York is a theatrical city. At any given moment, there are a thousand plays, movies, and special events going on. With our population of eight million, that means an average of 7,999 people have arrived before me and are waiting in line to get in.
A case in point was last Sunday, when I overslept by three hours. Not only did I miss my yoga class, I was also running late to see the Dalai Lama, who was speaking in Central Park at noon. My partner and I had planned to arrive early and eat a civilized and leisurely picnic lunch while we waited for His Holiness to take the stage. Instead, out of breath and clutching peanut butter sandwiches, we arrived at 11:55 to encounter the longest line in the history of the universe. It snaked around the park and uptown as far as the eye could see. We later found out that 65,000 people attended the speech. We went to the movies instead. We lost our chance for enlightenment, but at least the line was a little shorter.
We were luckier over the summer, when we sacrificed a great deal of snoozing in order to gain tickets to the annual outdoor Shakespeare performance in Central Park. Awakening at five o’clock in the morning, we stumbled down to the theater and spread our blanket on the sidewalk. We were third in line. By noon, there were hundreds of people behind us, and the scene had transformed into a typical New York bazaar, complete with circulating petitions, dramatic know-it-alls, and a flautist on roller skates playing the greatest hits of Celene Dion. And every few minutes, someone from the back of the line would wander forward and ask, “What time did yooze get here?”
“Five o’clock,” we’d say. You snooze, you lose, we’d think. We got second-row seats.
To be a New Yorker, it helps to be patient, but none of us are. We wait in long lines as a matter of course; if it occurs to us, we even bring along items to distract ourselves. We have our books and newspapers and cell phones and CD players. In line for the Shakespeare play, I had my laptop computer, three books, a magazine, and two grocery bags full of snacks. But we are always hyper-aware of our surroundings, counting the moments until the tickets are distributed, and making sure no one cuts ahead of us in the queue.
Actually, New York lines tend to be very fair and democratic places because we aren’t afraid to stand up for ourselves. Rather like the old Soviet bread lines, except we’re waiting for something that’s actually important. You know, theater tickets.
Today, I met someone named Crash. As a trained botanist, he made a house call to examine Shamu Butterpot, P.I., who is apparently living and healthy after all. Who knew? If you are a plant and start turning brown and shedding leaves, I think it is natural that people worry you are dying. The sad diagnosis was that my other (older) plant is not so lucky. Not being as glamorous as Shamu, it does not have a name, which is perhaps why it has been so droopy lately.
That, and the overwatering and everything.
Crash is a delightful boy and my new friend. I have been so friendly lately, I could just die. And since every action has an equal and opposite reaction, someone just might.
This evening, my former boyfriend’s sister came to town with her husband and new baby. Although Michael and I broke up two years ago, I still consider Margaret and Sam to be dear family. This was the first time I met baby Ben, who has the most powerful set of lungs ever to evolve in this plane of existence. Lauri and I (and Rob, for a while) babysat Ben while his parents went out to dinner. To soothe him, I went through every song in my repertoire, including the themes from “The Dukes of Hazzard,” “The Jeffersons,” and “WKRP in Cincinnati.”
He was not amused.
I wonder if Crash would have been.
Note to self: find this out next time.
Two days ago, I met MAK. This is notable because we had never met before, and we had to report in advance what we would be wearing so we would recognize each other. He had said he would be wearing only boxer briefs, but that is another story and, as it happens, a lie.
Anyway, I told him I was getting a haircut that morning, and that if I did not like how it came out, I would be wearing a baseball cap. (My only baseball cap is black with a white Apple logo on it. This is not crucial to the story, but I will take any opportunity to link to Apple.) As the morning progressed, I did not actually feel like getting a haircut, but I went through with it anyway because I said I was going to. I have nothing if not my integrity.
My stylist was a French woman named Celine. Though she presumably spoke to me in English, I could not understand a thickly accented word she said (except possibly for “scalp”). So while she chattered on with her funny talk, I felt free to let my gaze wander, which turned out to be a mistake because I noticed something that completely freaked me out. Although I am not sure I could convey the exact scene here, I shall attempt to do so. I am nothing if not your faithful correspondent.
In the salon I went to, some of the stations were set up in the middle of the room against freestanding walls: that is, a narrow wall with mirrors on both sides, so two stylists could work against it, one per side. Celine had one of those stations, so as I was getting my hair cut facing the mirrored wall, I could hear someone getting his or her hair cut on the other side of the wall, facing toward me. Get it?
But the mirrors were not floor-to-ceiling . . . they began only halfway up the wall. Below the mirror was a narrow shelf, and below the shelf was a wide hole, through which, if one looked, one could see the legs of the person getting his or her hair cut on the other side of the wall. Except, not paying very much attention at first, I had assumed it was a full-length mirror, bisected by a shelf. Everyone getting their hair cut was wearing a full-length black drape, so looking at the wall, I could see upper half in the mirror, and underneath, a set of black-draped legs that I had assumed were a reflection of my own.
Until they moved.
Perhaps I was just tired, but my first thought was, “How come I didn’t just feel my legs move?” Then they moved again, and I was pretty sure my own legs had not. Convinced I was going mad, overcome with horror and fascination, I stared at the “reflected” legs until they moved yet again. Actually, they stood up and walked away. One would think this would be pretty definitive, but believe it or not, that was not what convinced me that the legs were not my own. It was because I finally noticed that they were wearing red socks, and I was pretty sure I was not wearing red socks because red really is not my color (I am more of an autumn).
Despite everything, I loved the haircut and, therefore, was not wearing a baseball cap with an Apple logo on it when I met MAK, which is fine because he was not wearing the promised boxer briefs. Well, he may well have been wearing boxer briefs under his regular pants, but we did not get to know each other that well.
It was odd, actually, because while we were meeting for the first time in person, we have been exchanging emails and reading each other’s weblogs for some time. We did not have to explain very much about our lives, and we picked up on each other’s references. It was a lovely evening with a new haircut and a new friend.
But especially the new haircut.
Oh, and one more thing: Apple.
Note: I will post my last column tomorrow. It is my favorite of those I wrote because I finally seem to be hitting my stride. This coming week, I think I will be writing about politics, so visit if you dare.
Early rumors had the new Macintosh operating system, OS X 10.3, being released today. It would have been symbolic: 10.3, 10/3/2003. Get it?
But it wasn’t. It just went gold master a day or two ago, and it’s now expected to ship toward the end of this month.
I’m devastated, of course, as I expect any rational-thinking person to be. As a consolation prize, I am posting the second “State of Mind.” (Those who missed the first can scroll down.)
State of Mind
When I first moved to New York City, someone told me that it takes nine months to really get acclimated to it. At the time, I thought he meant memorizing the subway routes (something I still haven’t managed), but the hardest thing turned out to be the people. They were rude, they were loud, and they were everywhere. More people lived within a block of my apartment than in my entire hometown, and there was no escaping them. I could hear them walking around upstairs, their televisions blaring downstairs, their dogs barking next door, and their car horns blasting on the street . . . all while I was trying to sleep. I dodged them on the sidewalks, waited in long lines of them at the store, and was shoved against them in the subways. I was always surrounded, never alone, and sometimes convinced that I was going mad.
Then nine months passed, and right on schedule, I loved it. The population seemed less like a noisy tide than an energetic current; the unimaginable number of inhabitants seemed less overwhelming than empowering. Imagine losing yourself in a crowd, besieged by millions of people and yet having utter privacy. That is the grand paradox of New York, where we discuss intimate details in crowded restaurants and shriek secrets into cell phones as we walk down the street, confident that no one will notice or care.
With overpopulation comes anonymity.
And with anonymity comes freedom. Not only the freedom to be yourself, but the freedom to be more yourself than you ever have been before. In Baltimore, where I used to live, people are crazy but think they are perfectly normal (this is what gives John Waters so much fodder for his movies). In New York, people who are perfectly normal act crazy. Or rather, we behave the way the rest of the world secretly behaves in the privacy of their homes, but we do it in public. We talk to ourselves, display unusual eating habits, throw elaborate tantrums, dress in odd costumes, perform extraordinary rituals, and let our personality quirks run wild.
No one thinks this is unusual because we all do it: New Yorkers treat the entire city as if it is their own living room. We know that no one knows who we are or would dare call us to task. Usually, nobody pays any attention at all. In the midst of millions, we have the luxury of behaving as if we are completely alone and the courtesy to allow everyone else to do the same; the ensuing chaos is an etiquette nightmare and resembles a circus of mind-numbing proportions, but it amuses the tourists if no one else.
What it comes down to is this. When all you have is crowds, you can either get lost in them or stand out in them, marching to the beat of your own drum. It is the beat of so many different drummers that gives New York its energy, its power, and its unique rhythm.
That’s why I love it.
You’re probably not wondering why my blogging has been lighter than usual lately, but I will tell you anyway. I’ve been otherwise occupied. Whatever he’s been doing, thank god he’s been keeping his opinions to himself, you’re probably thinking.
A few weeks ago, an editor friend of mine commissioned me to write a column for his weekly newspaper, a task that has occasionally distracted me from my duties to everyone’s favorite Upside-down Hippopotamus. I had written three columns and was working on my fourth when my friend called me yesterday afternoon and told me not to bother. He had been laid off from his job, and since he was the one who had championed my weekly masterpiece, I was being laid off, too . . . by proxy.
My column was called “State of Mind” and was about life in New York City. It was limited to five hundred words, which is not very much at all, so I decided to start off writing about life in general and get more specific about my own madcap adventures as I went along. I’m probably not the greatest person to write about New York City, but considering my audience was a bunch of people who had never been out of Tennessee, I suppose my efforts were sufficient.
I’ve decided to post the three columns I actually finished here over the next couple of days. The first one appeared right after 11 September, so that theme is mentioned.
Writing a regular newspaper or magazine column is actually a major dream of mine, so maybe I will get another chance soon. Until then, I give you “State of Mind” . . .
State of Mind: Column One
When people from the rest of the country find out I live in New York City, they invariably ask what it was life was like here on September 11, 2001. Lately, the question has shifted to “What did you do during the blackout?” I can’t answer either of these questions to their satisfaction. On September 11, 2001, I was vacationing in Ottawa, the capital city of Canada. During the Great Blackout of 2003, I was vacationing in Las Vegas, a city that is never dark. I suppose the message I am inadvertently spreading is that, in order to maintain one’s sanity while living in New York City (and I am sane . . . I think), one needs to leave it often, or at least during epic disasters.
People are less interested, but two years later, I can still vividly recall what it was like upon my return home on the night of September 14, 2001. Driving up the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, I saw lower Manhattan across the East River. The burning rubble sent up a haze, glowing in the floodlamps, that wreathed the surviving buildings like the atmosphere of an alien planet. It smelled like nothing I can describe. At that point, there was still the hope of discovering survivors, and I prayed for them so hard I almost drove off the road. Days later, that hope evaporated, but my prayers didn’t. I didn’t know who I was praying to or what I was praying for, but I wandered around in a perpetual daze and burst into tears at the sight of every photocopied “Missing” poster. Those were the worst of times, made even more dreadful when the politicians swooped in to capitalize upon our tragedy. And though the world changed in an instant, right on our doorstep, New Yorkers held together.
People ask me what it’s like to live in New York City amidst catastrophe, but no one seems to wonder what it’s like the rest of the time. Perhaps, from their hours of studying television programs such as “Friends” and “NYPD Blue,” they think they already know. This is rather like me characterizing the entire South based upon what I learned on “The Dukes of Hazzard,” a position I have been known to adopt. But if I can come to accept that the skies south of Maryland are not alive with leaping cars and screeched “yee-haws,” perhaps I can convince others that everyday life in America’s most amazing city does not exactly follow the script of “Seinfeld.”
New Yorkers often pretend that the rest of the country doesn’t exist, and in fact, there are those of us who could not exist anywhere else and would probably burst into flames if they tried. I have lived in and visited many parts of the country and know that we’re no better or worse than anywhere else . . . just different. Often astonishingly different. Over the next few weeks, I hope to introduce you to what it’s really like here when everything’s going all right.
David is a writer and graphic designer living in New York City.
Fifteen years ago, I worked in the consumer electronics section of a major department store. My girlfriend at the time was an Irish lass named Sorca, who worked in the housewares section. Our manager was a demanding and appallingly artificial woman named Dale, who went around calling everyone “poopsie.”
I realize that this anecdote contains elements you will find difficult to believe: first, that I had a girlfriend at all, and second, that I allowed myself to be called “poopsie” on a regular basis. As for the latter, at least I had a modicum of revenge.
Sorca (who was as brilliantly evil as I was) and I came up with a code name for Dale: likening her to Freddy Krueger, a creature she rather resembled in appearance and temperament, we dubbed her “Fredina.”
Over the time we worked together, Fredina’s legend grew. We imagined her lurking amongst the merchandise after hours, or popping out of the stock rooms to the dismay of any poor cashiers working alone. First she would make them work a strenuous unpaid overtime, then she would disembowel them. The last word these unfortunate souls would hear would of course be poopsie.
We even wrote and illustrated a novella called “The Night of Fredina,” which documented this mythology.
This all happened when I was between sixteen and seventeen years old, which may help explain some of the details further, but it has disturbing implications. Half a lifetime ago, I was able to hold down a job, go to school full time, maintain a relationship and some sort of family life, and still find time to do a great deal of writing on the side. If I recall correctly, I even had a very active social life.