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Incensed

I always have to shop for other people on my birthday. On Saturday night, as I lugged armloads of shopping bags from the car to the house, a crazy man approached me and asked if I could spell incense.

“I-N-C-E-N-S-E.”

“Uh, yeah, um, sure, whatever,” he said. “But can you spell incense?”

“Wasn’t that right? I-N-C-E-N-S-E?” My bags were unwieldy and slipping out of my hands, and I wasn’t in the mood for games.

“Yes, yes, that’s very good. OK.” The man seemed as if he were looking for any excuse to get away, and quickly . . . an attitude I recognized because it precisely mirrored my own. Something inside him made one last try, however. He sniffed the air and said, “Can you smell it or not?”

“Smell it? Smell what?”

“Incense! I’ve smelled it all the way down the block.”

When we got that all cleared up, I went inside and watched the episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” in which Tasha Yar is killed by a tar beast and Captain Picard takes revenge for the loss of his dear friend by giving it a stern lecture. After Counselor Troi psychoanalyzes it, natch.

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The Pits and the Pendulum

The hands on the Grandfather Clock of Doom, Uh, I Mean, Time have come full circle again. Tomorrow is my birthday, a momentous occasion I would feel infinitely worse about if I had a moment to spare for self-pity. It’s not every year I turn twenty-three, after all. (Although I believe I did last year, as well . . . even with a weblog, it’s hard to keep track). I’m not feeling very birthdayish. I’m not feeling much of anything, truth be known. There is stuff to do, and I’m doing it. There is also stuff to do that I’m not doing, and stuff that I’ve asked others to do that I will secretly redo in my own special way when they aren’t looking. There is stuff that calls my cell phone in the morning and stuff that invades my dreams at night.

How are you?

Last night, in the Whole Foods personal-care aisle, I ended up jostling an African-American woman for space in front of the natural deodorants. I apologized and ducked out of her way, saying, “I somehow don’t think we’re going for the same product.”

“You never know,” she said. I was going for a spicy-fresh masculine scent that didn’t leave me smelling like Pine Sol, and the ice broken between us, I got her feedback on my options. Together we chose my new aroma for the new year, coming soon to an armpit near you.

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By Jove!

Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I appear to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, and limp and lifeless hair. Perhaps this would only be of interest to my biographers because the rest of you are getting tired of me mythologizing my mental state. One day, you will be able to read about Zeus and Jupiter and My Mental State all in one book by Joseph Campbell. I will be so proud that all of my campaigning has paid off, and then I will turn you into a heifer or a pine cone.

And blah blah blah and whoop de do. What I really want to write about is a holiday party I went to last Saturday. I actually went to two holiday parties, the first a staid gathering that I had to leave early to go back to work, and the second a punk-rock bacchanal featuring a deafening pageant of “A Christmas Carol.” The former was thrown by my ex-boyfriend, and the latter by the denizens of the Cider House,* with whom I am connected through my dear friend Cara.

Cara and her gang are some of my younger friends, whose antics I don’t often have the energy or favorable circumstances to participate in. Further, many of my employees happened to be there, so the moment I walked in, I was treated as some sort of elder statesman by everyone but Cara, who gave me a warm hug and dragged me onto the dance floor to gyrate to the tangled chords and flashing lights of a noise band that happened to be performing in her basement. Another band followed, during whose set I drank a sludgy punch that tasted like bathtub gin and looked like nuclear waste.

And then came the pageant, written and starred in by Cara, who stole the show as a moderately intoxicated Scrooge. There were more people in the performance than watching it, and the frequent carols, more shrieked than sung, transformed the crowded basement into a sweaty mosh pit of holiday doom. The final song–presided over by a giant, menacing angler fish–was unrecognizable as any earthly sound, much less “Joy to the World.”

It was pure genius, as well as one of the only times I’ve felt truly alive in months.

 

* Which, apparently, rules.

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Ooooooooooooooooooo!

There are those of you who are wondering if I am alive, but the jury is still out on that one. I could be a ghost, and it would serve you right. Actually, I probably am a ghost because I am a very haunting individual. There was a ghost story I used to read when I was a kid. I don’t remember the title, only that it was about a group of trick-or-treaters who found a spirit amongst them. It wore a blue cape and sang a song: “I am me / And I’ve been granted / A strange, strange power / For I’m enchanted!”

That’s precisely how I feel . . . minus the blue cape, the power, and the enchantment.

(All right, I’m lying about the cape.)

So my business is open. It’s not booming, but it’s steadily increasing. I think my employees feel bad for me, that it’s not an instant success, but if it had been an instant success, I would probably be hiding in the mop closet right about now. For a year, the only thing that kept me going was the vision of having my dear friend Natalie Douglas sing at the opening, and now that this has gloriously come to pass, I feel as if my store has had a benediction of jazz and color. Nothing can go wrong now . . . it can only go right slowly, which is exactly where I need to be.
Where I don’t need to be is working sixteen hours a day, and I’m trying to stop this. My average this week is about twelve, and I had the audacity not to go in at all today, even though I had planned to up until the last moment.

Today, I am lounging around eating homemade shortbread cookies and thinking about going to a movie. This is so scandalous I can barely stand to write it. What I forgot to tell you is that I’m expecting a phone call any moment, telling me that my business has gone up in a puff of smoke because I was not present to hold things together with the force of my eroding will.

In other news, there is no other news. I just hope I remember how to post a blog entry, as I will feel awfully foolish if I’m the only one reading this.