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The New Thirty

Saturday was Rob’s fortieth birthday, and although I spent most of the day shivering and damp at an Earth Day festival at which my attendance was unavoidable, I tried to make the rest of the weekend as special for him as possible. That night, after I dried off, I took him to one of the city’s most prestigious restaurants, and yesterday, I presented an array of options for spending the afternoon. He chose to visit North Point State Park, a sprawling patch of land along the Chesapeake Bay a few miles outside of Baltimore City. I had never heard of it before researching unique local offerings this week, but its web site boasted the “ruins” of an Edwardian-era amusement park, which turned out on closer inspection to be a few reconstructed features surrounded by picnic tables. We did, however, see a few building foundations submerged in a thick forest of scrub trees, and we walked the length of a long pier and stared out at the bay. It was peaceful and attractive, and although blown out of proportion in promotional literature, was not notable for much besides being an oasis of green in an industrial suburb where warehouses and female revues mingle along the roadways. Later that night, we saw August Wilson’s last play, Radio Golf, which was a breathtaking work of art, although Rob’s enjoyment of it was marred by his smoldering feud with a woman with a foghorn voice who clearly meant to bleat her commentary through the entire production before he shushed her.

It was a lovely weekend, punctuated by thunderstorms and dazzling bursts of sunlight, as though the universe could not make up its mind how it felt about Rob entering his fifth decade on earth. But forty is the new thirty, as they say (or, at least, as Rob says), and his next forty years promises to be a fiesta of crumbs, open cabinet doors, dazzling music, well-deserved fame, TiVo, and life with a devoted husband and an immortal Boston terrier who love him very much.

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Ambition: It Ain’t a River in Egypt

I got up early today and yesterday, too. I get up early most days, but that’s when I work on stuff for my business because it’s the only time I can get anything done. Today and yesterday, however, I got up early to work on my book.

I didn’t get very far either time: I needed to reread the 150-odd pages I have already written and get back into the feel of things. What I read so far is pretty good, and I can’t believe I abandoned it for so long. There have been many things to do in the rest of my life, however, and getting my business up and running has been chief among these. My business is still not up and running, really, but it’s much closer. Things have been falling into place with startling ease in the past week, and yesterday, after I finished writing (or preparing to write), I got about a week’s worth of work done in one afternoon.

My husband’s mother’s boyfriend’s sister, Holly, who is also a writer but a famous one, said that I am throwing barriers up to getting my real writing done. The working for money part is fine, she advised, but all of the other obligations I take on have got to fall by the wayside if I ever want to accomplish anything in life. I hope she doesn’t mean going to the gym, because I’m about to start going to the gym again. It’s the only way to injure myself sufficiently that I spend all my free time at the rolfer and the acupuncture trying to heal the unspeakable pain that wracks my body. That oughta eat up all my spare time.

Oh, and then there’s this blog. And my other blog. And my other other blog, the secret one I haven’t started posting yet.

Either I’ve got to get up earlier still or stop going to bed altogether.

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Tooth Truths

Yesterday I went to the dentist. This is a new kind of dentist where they actually care about you, but that didn’t make the experience much easier. They stuck a camera in my mouth so I could see what my teeth look like up close: they look like an asteroid field. It’s actually a wonder I have any teeth left at all. Through the wonders of an exotic and incurable anxiety disorder, I have ground them into a fine powder. Sadly, I chewed through all of the dental appliances I have been prescribed to address these problems over the years. I am like a piranha. My aunt was the dentist’s assistant and kept telling me how I take after her with my oral and coronary problems. For once, I’d like to take after someone’s physical benefits. If my teeth or heart don’t explode when I’m not looking, my health is generally all right, but I don’t have a single bodily feature that anyone would write home about. On the other hand, my prodigious mental abilities could knock a satellite out of orbit; I used to think I inherited this from my father before I discovered he was a fan of Rush Limbaugh, that radio monster whose bellicose mendacity is transparent to kindergarteners and dandelions.

I just had a flashback to a time when I went to a deli with my father, or it may have been with the door-to-door salesman who kidnapped me that time. I think it was in a strip mall. That was back when I had teeth and they were more or less white.

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Close Encounters of the Good Kind

I was flossing my teeth this morning when the church bells across the street started chiming a hymn of resurrection. “Oranges and lemons,” they sang to the tune of the aliens’ theme song in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Or-AN-ges, le-MONS! Or-AN-ges, le-MONS! Which is a coincidence because those are the precise ingredients I added to the Easter cupcakes Rob baked this morning. The bells are possibly in league with the NSA, spying on my traitorous kitchen, where we brew up meatloaf with a side dish of insurrection. The flossing was because I have a dentist appointment tomorrow, my first in almost six years. I figured I should not be mortified by having my gums spurt blood the instant he looks at them. The pressure is on even higher because my aunt is an assistant in this particular office, and I suspect I am in for a mouthful of dental work up to and including pulling out all my teeth and starting fresh.

At least it would be easier to floss.

Later, I took Goblin for her promenade around the neighborhood so she could water all the flowers. We encountered a family playing an ersatz version of four-square with a tennis ball, and as we watched, a couple of black kids came over to watch. “Would you guys like to play?” the mother asked in a South African accent.

The kids looked both pleased and reluctant. “We don’t know how.”

“It’s easy, just watch for a moment and you’ll pick it up.”

Goblin and I watched for a moment, too.

On this gorgeous spring day, bright and clear, warm of air and heart, it’s difficult to believe anything is wrong with the world. Just my teeth.

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The Bad News

There’s something wrong with my heart, I think, besides those mysterious panicky twinges that come and go like a karma chameleon. I refer to a heavy, regretful pain of the sort that arises when I learn of secret American plans to nuke Iran or when people don’t believe I’m close, personal friends with Frenzy Lohan, Roller Rink Habitué.

There is a homeless man who has been hanging out at my business for months. Early in his ensconcement, I asked my employees for their thoughts on what, if anything, should be done about this. While I have nothing against the homeless, and indeed have been feeding and shuttling them around town for years, there is something to be said for maintaining control over an interaction where the other person is actively taking advantage of your good nature. My employees’ natures being somewhat gooder and less jaded than my own, they decided that the most we should do is universally enforce a set of standards, such as “no sleeping” or “no disturbing others in any way,” upon all of our customers. At the time, I agreed with (and even architected the language of) this approach. Discriminating against or dehumanizing any person or group of people is the worst anathema to me, and the ideal situation would be to craft an official policy of my business in line with my lifetime of trying to help others.

Only, of course, our friend casually ignored every request. When startled from sleep or told not to consume stacks of outside food at our tables, he would say, “OK,” leave, and return the next day and do the precise same thing. I had hoped that, once the cold weather broke, the problem would solve itself, and he would move on, but this did not happen in quite the way I envisioned. He moved on, certainly: from a table in the back of the dining area to the comfortable couch we put in the front of the dining area. Recently, two different people told me that the first thing they noticed upon entering my business for the first time was a homeless man sleeping on that couch. The next day, my assistant manager asked my permission to throw him out for good: the homeless man had been clipping his fingernails (I hope they were his fingernails) and leaving the remnants scattered about. This must have been shortly after his snoring disturbed everyone in the vicinity.

“Do it,” I said.

I feel bad, though. My heart aches, from knowing what I’ve done and not knowing the results of it. Have I generated bad karma for myself or my business? Will I go to hell for being less kind than I should have to someone in need? Of course, I’m not a Hindu or a Christian, but I think these questions somehow weigh on me more than they would on real Hindus or Christians.

More, though, I worry about the homeless man. Where will he go? How will he survive? Will someone else help him?

I’m not stupid. I know that many homeless people have developed a certain way they engage the world to survive that involves taking advantage of people. I know I have fallen for some of these schemes in the past, and I probably will again in the future, mostly because I don’t care if someone is going to buy a cup of coffee or a bottle of booze with the money I buy him. It’s not mine to dictate that choice . . . I will accumulate whatever good comes from helping someone no matter what the other person does with that help. But I’ll also accumulate the bad. Once, for example, a person who came to my door asking for money broke in the window the next day while I was at work.

I’ll also accumulate the bad that results from not helping someone, I suppose. As I’m exposed to more and more people in the context of my new business, this will undoubtedly be a larger and larger group.

I just hope there’s some way to accumulate some good, as well.

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The Good News

For my second husband, I have my eye on the sign-language interpreter for the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus. My current husband, who arranged and orchestrated their three best numbers in last night’s Lincoln Center concert, ain’t nothing to sneeze at, either. The weeklong visit of his family culminated in a whirlwind trip to New York to experience the fruits of his hard work reverberating off the walls of Avery Fisher Hall. No pun intended, Joan Rivers, and for the record, nobody there wanted to do your hair.

I love you, New York in the springtime, with your Gay Men’s Chorus concerts and your coat-check thieves and your multiple allergens. I love you, too, Rob, with your incomparable talent and your sweetness and your zany family.

And just you wait, sign-language interpreter.

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Are Made of This

Last night, I dreamed that Q transformed me into a bell rope. This was not very nice of him, but at least he gave me a nice little tassel on the end. According to my most recent data, bell ropes usually end in a loop with a woolen bit called a sally provided for better grip.

I was a special bell rope.