Tuesday, March 24, 2015


I passed a getting older signpost today. My grandmother is dying and I'm taking to acting like everything is normal: going to work, eating dinner, chit chatting. Adults do this. I'm an adult.

I tried my old standbys: eating too much. I ended up getting sugar free froyo and a Greek salad big enough to wear. I bought a chocolate bar just b/c it was for charity and it sits unopened in my car. My other go to in times of stress is spending money. But I only spent $38 on two dresses and I looked for and used coupons. Not precisely the carefree, careless experience that used to bring me such comfort. I am too old to self-destruct in a frenzy of food and wasted money; I'll likely end up just crumbling apart like gluten free bread. I'm going to try getting drunk but I don't get out of work until 9pm and then I have to drive home which takes about an hour. By the end of my drive, I'll just want to take off my bra and go to sleep so I fully expect that to fail as well.

Prudence dictates I should talk about how I'm feeling but what is there to say? My grandmother is dying after a long illness of fading away right in front of us. There's no way to poeticize that. In the last few weeks, my conversations with my mother and father and grandfather and sister have been a rotating roster of rarely used words, words that taken out of context sound beautiful: hospice, palliate, ease, sleep, alleviate, relieve, let go. Context is everything. When you put them all together, they only mean one thing.

The sun is out and it is warmer than it has been in months. I've assigned a personality to the weather today, the day when we stop giving her medication: oblivious and spiteful and inappropriate. If I were writing this story, the sky would be a heavy handed metaphor to all the insignificance of the characters. They'd feel a damp chill on their skin and a dreaded rumble of thunder in the sky. If I were writing this story, this wouldn't be a plot.

I don't really know what to do with myself. So I'm putting this on the internet.

Friday, March 20, 2015

A Blanket of Lettuce and Feta Cheese

I think, after 38 years of walking around and observing (translation: living), I have honed in on what would make up my ideal life. Or at the very least, a few key essential components that would have to be in place if I were to have any hope of coasting through the absurdity of the human experience with any semblance of purpose. Naturally I'd have to include volunteerism and the occasional travel time from one place to the next (on a train or bus or with someone else driving me and I will not compromise on that). Anyway, I record them here for the glory of all posterity:

  1. Two hours of uninterrupted reading, without exception, every morning with a cat on my lap, followed by
  2. One hour of truly productive writing, also in the morning (I don't mind doing these things in the wee hours)
  3. Some form of exercise that doesn't make me want to sleep immediately afterwards (if you are reading this and have any suggestions and/or insights about whether or not such a thing is possible, please share in the comments) followed by
  4. A perfect shower. I'm still working out what this will include however, the following adjectives will be involved somehow: pounding, scented, functional, massage-y. I AM still talking about a shower or so I tell myself.
  5. French press coffee with another hour of late morning reading. (I don't THINK I've run out of morning yet.) For this section of reading, I'd prefer a magazine or newspaper or some poetry.
  6. Brunch or lunch with a friend or family member or six. I'd like for all of my relationships to consist of a perpetual feeling of catching up and checking in; I want to always be learning something new about people I know everything about already.
  7. Watching a film, preferably alone in a theater surrounded by empty and plush seats. I like being alone, with the knowledge that other people could be there. You know, if they wanted to.
  8. More writing, a few hours in the early to late afternoon. I'm neither a morning or night person but an afternoon person. 
  9. Dinner. Mediterranean food with little variation. I'll die clutching a bowl of olives, pita bread, avocados while smothered in hummus and tucked into a blanket of lettuce and feta cheese. (Side note: I should really come up with an ideal death list.) Again, this meal would be with a group of people. Think of the dinner scene in "Before Midnight" which I include at the end of this post for your entertainment below. A long leisurely lunch in warm climate with no where to go and nothing to do but talk about love and the future and the only things that actually matter to everyone and the luxury to do so. 
  10. Guess how I'd round out and finish up my day! Go on. 

"We appear and we disappear."

Reading over this list of essentials, it occurs to me that I've described a vacation. I hate that life has to be the inverse of what it should be: work all the time with short breaks in between. When I am queen, we will turn that inside out, by decree of me. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Bernadette Peters in "The Jerk"

For absolutely no other reason than the closing of my job today due to inclement weather, I have whittled away the afternoon watching DVDs. I just finished watching the 1979 classic "The Jerk" and  while I have always and will always have the hot 'n' tots for Steve Martin in a big way (something about a hilariously funny, smart musician, writer, painter and art collector does it to me every time) I find myself with a crush on Bernadette Peters and her outfits. From the heart shaped sunglasses:

To her beginner's knife throwing, Indian sari inspired costume:

The 1940s-ish first date at the carnival outfit:

The randomly placed be-jewel on her fancy dinner dress as she avoids looking at the snails on her plate (and that HAIR):

Her jaunty travel cap when she brings Navin's family to his homeless spot on the stairs:

And of course her sailor's cap and jacket during the cutest recorded duet in film history:

The film was made in 1979 and apart from the iconic disco scene, it looks like it belongs in 1940. Or maybe that's just Bernadette Peters and her kewpie doll looks.

Actually there is one indication that this was filmed in the late 70s.

I wonder what ever became of that carnival train hijacking child....

Monday, March 2, 2015

Observable universe

I've been quiet on this blog awhile, it's true. I don't have an excuse. I haven't been traveling or writing other things, haven't been in a new relationship or dealing with some crisis or pending deadline. I've just been in what I like to call "absorption mode." I'm taking it all in, as I usually do. However, much like weight loss, my information absorption becomes slower and more laborious as I get older and it also makes me out of breath at inconvenient times.

I'm finding that lately I need time away from blinking lights and clicking keyboards to digest my thoughts and maybe that is what is finally going to turn me old: not solely my exhaustion at being unable to focus (that is also a plight of the young 'uns, after all) but my undaunted desire to focus. I want thoughts and images and words to last longer than they seem to be allowed to these days. Does anyone under the age of 20 want that too? It seems like the world has been hyper for their whole lives.

Lately my commute has allowed me time to walk in and around and through the winter scenes of NYC and Long Island. I find myself regarding my own observable corner of the universe from a distance, like so many View-Master scenes through the two inches of my face I can leave uncovered. I navigate the city sidewalks and their utterly random ice patches with what I can only describe as gingerly panic. (It is a hallmark of older age to be so afraid of slipping on ice that one is willing to leave one's home 40 minutes earlier than necessary just to ensure that there is ample time to walk slowly.) I have not, as of this writing, succumb to the ice everywhere, despite my will to live slowly being frozen out of me. But slipping and breaking some essential part of my body feels like a credible looming threat, some political directive spoken aloud from some armed country overseas. The Ice will take me out before it melts in a pathetic mutually assured destruction. I'll probably go down with a strangled croak.

I don't really feel a part of any one place lately. Being the resident part timer at my two jobs and being the temporary inhabitant of my sister's 2nd bedroom has given me the habits of someone who knows her time is temporary. I suppose those with Buddhist leanings would call that a good thing. And in a way I feel like it is a good thing. Getting too attached to temporal things always ends in heartbreak after all. Add to that winter. Winter has that alienating effect on me. I'm an outside observer by nature and it is the position I am most comfortable in but even I have a threshold that every year, February does its damnedest to breach.

And though happens every year around this time, it always surprises me when I get reminded of it, regardless of where I am or what I'm doing. For example, I went to a concert lastWednesday night at this small venue in Brooklyn. The stage was lit from behind with colorful gels and flashing, epilepsy inducing light patterns. I stood in the back and as I watched the person on stage fiddle with this and that I had the clanging notion I was nobody nobody nobody... sorry, but that song is appropriate. Anyway, I had this sense that I was watching a play in one of those black box theaters, for which I was the sole audience member. All of the bouncing heads in silhouette in front of me seemed for a moment to be two dimensional props. I couldn't see anyone's face. The performer was hunched over and I couldn't see his face either. I fell into a reverie, feeling right smack in the middle of things and feeling not quite there or anywhere at the same time.

Winter, thy name is dissociation.

That's really the crux of what's been going on with me lately. Just tooling around, bundled up, not really here, not really there.

Oh, I learned how to ride a bike. So there's that. I'm ripe and old and ridin' a bike. There's got to be a poem in there somewhere...

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Original derivative

As I drove to work in the crunchy slush of one recent morning, I was listening to NPR. I generally do when I'm white knuckling through the icy beaded curtain of sleet and snow and rain; the soft drone comforts me and invariably, I learn something. I hate driving with a pulsating throb so I will take any opportunity to either learn something new concurrently or practice my singing (along). When the report finished (it was about the biggest donors to the most recent election...Chevron was #3...speaks volumes) the reporter signed off. "I'm Brooke Gladstone and this is On the Media."

It occurred to me how lyrical her name was when she said it out loud. Actually all the names of the reporters on NPR have pretty fantastic names: Kai Ryssdal, Scott Simon, Audie Cornish, Guy Raz (hummuna hummuna), Shelley Hassman Kadish, Sylvia Poggioli...seriously you could go on and on and on! So I decided that I was going to write a whole essay about this seeming phenomenon. Was it something about NPR in particular that drew fascinatingly named people? Are these pseudonyms? A job requirement? I felt gung ho about this idea, inspired and motivated to do some writing while answering reference questions at the desk. I was going to get to the bottom of this perplexing array of musical names. "Something to write about and research!", I thought. "Surely NO ONE ELSE has ever noticed this and certainly NO ONE will have written about it!"


I am the original derivative. Or at least I feel that way many times in my life. The idea of originality seems too abstract to me lately. Who am I kidding? It has always seemed like a bit of an abstract concept. Can I be blamed for feeling this way? Most things are just other things, rearranged. I feel like I have a firm grasp on when things are done to death, or OVER.

"Shell art is OVER!"

It's just the flip side I need to tune in to.

So we are about six weeks into this year. I guess we are really doing this, huh?  I'm surrounded by piles of dirty snow, most of it concealing cars that have been in hibernation since that first storm a few weeks ago. Winter is doing what it does best to my brain, and that is to stretch and bend time so that it seems infinite and eternal. My work shifts, like the month of February, appear to have no end whatsoever. Speaking of which, I have to go help someone do a project while simultaneously murdering the Spanish language with my ineptitude. I guess my way of speaking Spanish is original....

Friday, January 23, 2015

That stuff comes later

When, at some point in the not too distant future, I am going to pen a self-help manual for higher ups across all industries and title it: How To Conduct an Interview. I don't know if the market is saturated in this arena but I suspect not since my interviewing experiences, at least as of late, have proven to be almost unbelievably unprofessional and ineffectual. (With exceptions of course...but those are anomalies.)

Based on recent interview, I'd start out the book by suggesting the following steps:

Step 1: Make eye contact. I spent a little over an hour talking "to" someone who was staring at the desk in front of him and/or the wall behind me. Unfortunately for both of us, he was describing the worst job on earth. As a result, it was like watching a one man play about someone describing how paint dries.

Step 2: Ask questions about the person your are interviewing. As I said before, the interview lasted MORE than an hour and I think I discussed my background and qualifications for roughly five minutes. Five minutes that were, each time I imparted new information, interrupted with some irrelevant fact and/or procedure explanation for the prospective job. Which leads me to Step 3.

Step 3: An interview is not a training session. Look, I get that you are short staffed and you need to fill the position fairly quickly. Your harried, hurried appearance posture and language indicates volumes of explanations that, frankly, are at home in the "cons" section of a candidate's list to take a job. But this hour and change during which I meet you to discuss the possibility of working for you is not the time to show me how to log into your various systems or the step by step explanation of how you place orders or deal with difficult students. Like a new relationship, you should keep in mind that timeless mantra to keep the relationship fresh: that stuff comes later. (That's the phrase that is sweeping the nation, right?)

Also, the venue of a recent interview, and I know this is through no fault of the institution nor of my interviewer at all but is something totally noticeable, noteworthy and unfortunate: the office smelled like cheeseburgers.

Anyway, enough of job interview bullshit. I've saturated my brain with it and honestly, if I had my druthers and the accompanying laziness required, I would just take a damn break from job searching and job applying and job interviewing. However, when I think about giving up and/or in I think of that Bright Eyes lyric: I'd rather be working for a paycheck than waiting to win the lottery.

The search continues. It freakin continues.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Adventures in empathy

We've completed a full two weeks of this year already. Perhaps "completed" is not the correct word. Perhaps "pounded", "ground down into dust", "thrown a thick globule of black mist in every single direction, obscuring our view of a way forward, through the dark nights of the soul." Or maybe it's just me.

I mean, looking over the first two weeks of this year on a global scale, one walks away with the notion that the world is a fuck stew, a hot glob in a scalding pot slowly coming to a violent boil, the kind that explodes all over your stove range and sometimes the floor. I doubt this is different from other years; as a species, we always cook from the inside out. It just feels worse this year. I suppose because a bunch of shit happened right at the start, when we were all still hung over, painfully celebrating the notion that all the shit from last year was over, we'd been fed through the grinder but we came out the other end.

Two weeks is a blip to me but I think about the people directly ensnared by the still flailing tail of the monster that was last year and the Parisians who are now marching or wandering the streets full of anger and fear and uncertainty and how like an eternity two weeks must seem to them. I know how it feels to walk out into a city full of hollow eyed people, afraid of your own shadow, uncertain of what to think, feeling the earth has been thrown off its axis just enough to make the days seem physically nauseating. It happened here in NYC. People have more and faster ways to shout about it now, surely, but I get it. I get that it feels like you live in a haunted house, always waiting for the moment when someone or something jumps out at you. And when you feel that, the most empathetic, comforting you can hear (even if it doesn't feel like it at the time) is that it will pass. It really will.

Looking over the first two weeks of this year on a personal scale, things are decidedly less dire, but no less strange than other years of my life. Nothing terrible or outstanding has happened. I've worked a lot at my part time jobs out of sheer necessity and desperation. I went out dancing and didn't come home until 5 a.m. one Saturday. I've taken a civil service test wherein my Spanish speaking abilities were tested (because civil service is forever trying, and failing, to effectively quantify communication skills), felt cold more often than comfortable, been rejected (over the course of 2 weeks!) by five separate potential jobs, learned the literal meanings of heuristic and pusillanimous (kind of cannot wait to use these words in conversation) and done a lot of reading and writing. I've also done a lot of listening: to others, to library patrons, to coworkers, to my body, to my brain. I wanted to open my eyes and my ears this year and I wanted to pursue adventure and empathy and adventures in empathy. If things keep up at this pace, there will be no shortage of chances to do so.

I think the world is in a perpetual state of recovery mode. As such, we would do well to take the advice of many of the most effective recovery programs: one day at a time.

To tomorrow...