Friday, March 29, 2013

Blame the ping pong for this one

Yesterday morning, against most odds, I headed west for a yoga class that began at 6 am. I make no bones about it; I am a morning person. There are few things better to me than the crisp, clean, quiet air of an early spring or early autumn morning. Yesterday the moon was still out in big and bright and full roundness. I caught a glimpse of its reflection on that small runt of a lake that I pass daily on my way to somewhere else and for once I could actually say that in that early morning stillness, it actually looked beautiful. The moon: making ugly things look idyllic by reflecting the light of the sun. Someone should stitch that on a pillow.

I love driving under only one circumstance: I am alone on a road in the early morning hours when there is still the occasional streetlight on and everything feels just on the brink of waking up.The possibilities are still so infinite. Only then can I relax into driving; when I can't tell what is ahead. Then again, doing anything at that time of day is pretty good to me. I suppose I feel like I'm seeing and doing things no one else is around to see or do. It can be a little lonely but it makes me feel unique. It is lonique.

In attendance for the yoga class were the pregnant instructor and three other women. One of them was quickly revealed to be the female Woody Allen. Not in appearance, she was very tall and graceful in her movements with very long and thick chestnut brown hair. But her mannerisms were such that I had the thought that she might be doing an impersonation. The instructor asked her about why she hadn't been to class in awhile and she told everyone present that (and please read this in a Woody Allen voice) "Uh...y'know, well, well I had an eye problem. Not a detached retina or anything but my doctor said I needed to stay home and you know, no yoga for me." I wanted to hug her, or at least talk about Russian novels.

I didn't want to like the yogi. She is pregnant which really just means she will not teach the class for much longer. I get too attached to the yogis; they tap into something with me. The last time I had a pregnant yogi teach me something she went off and disappeared forever. I mean children and blessings and busy mothers and blah blah but stay with me! Anyway, I ended up liking her very much. She had a playlist for the class that reminded me of being 19, which was one of my favorite ages. The fact that the class was heavy on the hip openers probably contributed to the elation I felt afterwards. If you don't practice hip openers, you definitely should. I don't know the specifics or even if there is anything to it in a scientific or spiritual sense but when you stretch out your hip joints, something happens to your mood. It happens to me every time. Try it, then report back to me if I'm alone in that.

During the class I also had a very random revelation about the recent film adaptation of Anna Karenina, which starred Keira Knightley. I saw it a few days ago and didn't really think much of it but just then I realized that I understand 100% of what it was aiming for in style and narration but that there was an essential piece missing and I just can't pinpoint what it is.  It probably doesn't matter much. I have no clue why that popped into my head during yoga but I liked reflecting on something and then understanding its intention but not liking the end result and appreciating it for what it is anyway.

Today is a short day tacked on to the end of a short week for me and there isn't much to do. I knew I wanted to blog today to feel slightly productive but I had writer's block so I left my office and took a walk. The library held only one student. One student who is always here and whom I have nicknamed "1940s pilot" but that's only because he is dashing, incredibly good looking and looks like he would have been an air force hero in the second world war. Only because of that. Anyway, whenever I find myself in a wander of this building, I'm always struck by how jagged and awkward and grey and sterile it feels. There is something almost M.C. Escher about it, its randomly placed staircases, its dead end hallways with strange double glass doors that you can't really walk through without moving to another floor.

A dramatic recreation of my workplace. I'm the one with the basket.
Despite the fact that I have worked here for almost five years, there are nooks I have never seen and rooms and doors that lead to mystery places. There are never opened doors that have labels like "JC-C" or "PA-12" and if I thought any deeper about it, I'm sure I could decipher the dna of the school but I find that I just don't care. However, when there are no (or one) students here, I like to walk around hallways and deserted classrooms. This morning I had a hankering for a snack from the machine in the student lounge which is in the basement of the building. Since it was completely deserted I ventured a little further back into the basement than I normally do and ended up inside a large room that was pitch black. When I found the light switch (by feeling up the wall) I wasn't surprised to find myself facing this:

I kid of course. What I actually did find was a few ping pong tables and some randomly placed office cubbies stuffed with ephemera and random objects like unblown balloons and unsharpened pencils. There was a whole aura of "un" about it frankly; not much fun in the student lounge but it is after all, a law school. How does one blow off the steam of torts? Well, if my discovery teaches us anything, you can use random cubbies and ping pong to feel better.

Anyway, having nothing better to do an on an unofficial break I picked up one of the ping pong paddles and proceeded to do bounce the ball off it for about 10 minutes, thinking about what to blog about today. And frankly, I'd rather blame the ping pong paddle inside the musty basement of this huge and sharpened building with more corners than windows for the poor quality of this blog post. Actually, I feel totally relieved in the confession and feel no need to continue with this charade. It is time for a glass of wine.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Chicken Thief

I saw you. You didn't think I did, but I don't wear enormous glasses for nothing. I suspect you think that you got away unnoticed. But if that was what you wanted then and what you might want in the future, might I suggest you wear something other than black socks with Birkenstocks and long, electric blue shorts lousy with high school gym class memories? Because that's why I saw you over by the healthy breads. You had two loaves in your hairy hands, one with flax seeds and one without. Some ladies were chatting away about which Muppets character to put on a child's cake for their 1st birthday party and aside from thinking how it really doesn't matter because when it comes to 1st birthday parties they are almost invariably for the parents and grandparents since the one year old child will have fun if you put them in an empty cardboard box with a ball of crumpled foil I also thought "why the hell is this man wearing that?" I grabbed the bread I wanted, and went off to find mint extract, a task that took so much effort and time that, had I not ended up behind you in the line to check out, I would not have seen what you did. I would have utterly forgotten you.

But our paths did cross again. You had a moderate amount of stuff in your cart and it is a hobby of mine to notice everything, particularly at supermarkets, so I took casual note of the items you placed on the dirty rubber belt as it inched forward, squeaking as though it were in pain. You had a strange array of health foods: soy cheese, fake chicken nuggets, kohlrabi bulbs, apricots, craft beer and kale chips. You had opted for the seedless bread, tsk. Aside from that and the soy cheese, it could have been my own cart. However, there was one item at the bottom of your cart that was half hidden under some old wrinkled circulars, those crumpled throwaways that I'm positive will be all that's left when the zombie apocalypse comes. It was a package of raw chicken. At first I thought it was odd that you'd be buying both real chicken and the fake stuff but maybe, unlike me, you shop for other people. Then I thought for a second that you had forgotten it was in your cart because there you were, whistling something indiscernible while the dotty cashier walked away in the middle of ringing you up to say hi to a friend at the back of the line in that Long Island accent that always breaks through my brain like a spoon through filmed over pudding. But you just stood there whistling and smiling, holding on to the cart with one hand like it was a small child you were paying no attention to but still keeping tabs on. And when the cashier came back, uttering apologies and clicking up your total with her glossy pink fingernails you said "oh that's no problem" so nicely that I wanted you to get away with it. I wanted you to be hard up for cash and feel the thrill of being able to make a chicken dinner with stolen chicken that in some strange, covert way you earned by being such a lackadaisical thief. Something kept me silent and I don't know what it was, making it either a complete lack of morality or a complete faith that you somehow needed to have that chicken but couldn't afford it or my total disregard for the fact that you easily dropped $40 on gourmet food items, of which the pack of chicken would have been the cheapest; I just can't know.

What I do know is that as I paid for my flaxseeded bread and my mint extract, I thought about whether or not to feel any guilt. I thought about whether or not me not saying anything meant I could be found culpable in a court of law or whether or not there was a statute in New York State law that pertained only to the larceny of poultry products. The ditzy cashier smiled at me and I looked away, unable to focus my thoughts on anything. By the time I exited the automatic glass doors of the supermarket I had half decided to assume you had simply forgotten the chicken was in your cart which would have made me, at worst, inconsiderate to not remind you and at best as absentminded as the cashier. And I could have gotten away with that thought. If it weren't for your presence two cars down from mine.

You drove an Infiniti. I saw you. You stood with the back door open, loading your granola groceries into the car and you paused at the chicken and I thought "now he'll notice his mistake". I just knew I'd see you take the chicken back into the store and sheepishly apologize and pay. But I saw you instead hold the chicken in your hands and chuckle. You chuckled.  It started to drizzle right then. You put the hot goods in right on the seat of your car next to an empty toddler's car seat and you lightly slammed the door shut and took your black socked foot and kicked your cart into a jalopy next to you. And then you drove out of the parking lot. No, you fled the scene in your fancy car with your hoity-toity foods and your stolen chicken.

I got in my car and sat staring at your tail lights. So much I don't know about your life or your reasons for doing what you did. I only know you that you are someone's dad, you have terrible taste in clothing, you will not experience the benefits of flax seeds in your bread and at one time, you stole a package of raw chicken, after paying for a box of fake chicken and I didn't say anything.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

My brain is an Adult Continuing Education Catalog

I have yet to surrender my Facebook as I talked about in my last post. I did however relinquish my Twitter account, am this close to getting rid of Pinterest and I actually cleaned out a large amount of the over one hundred zillion email messages I have amassed in my yahoo email account over the last 15 or so years. Wait, can 15 years be the correct guesstimate of time? I suppose it could since I remember emailing people about Y2Kand how totally bananas it all was (I do actually think I used the word "bananas"), so I suppose it was closer to 13 years. Damn. Anyway, it has been a spring cleaning of sorts. After this season of Mad Men comes and goes, I'm ditching cable and my DVR. I don't need the distractions. I need to create and absorb and not mindlessly watch shit on TV. I like the idea of knowing that what I'm watching is something I've sought out and not just something that happens to be on at any given time.

I've been  hatching all sorts of plans for my future and, as per my usual Modus Operandi, I am all over the freaking place. The only way I am going to be able to live my life as I want to is if I live 98 years and if,during that time, scientists figure out a way to put more hours in one day. Anyway, one of my latest schemes (and it may or may not have been implanted into my subconscious by a wine fueled discussion I had with my friend Marianne the other night) is to write an eBook that is not of very good quality (under a nom de plume, natch) and sell the crap out of it. In my very extensive and thorough research of what eBooks are the big sellers*, I realized that sex is the key. 50 Shades of Grey could not have sold so many copies if it hadn't been, and I use this term with GREAT hesitation, sexy. Do you think anyone would have given a shit if the story they had read had been about an abusive asshole falling for a complete, lip biting idiot had there not been vaginal balls or whatever else in the sam hell went on in that book? No. No they would not have. Most people "in the know" realize that there is now and always was a huge market for erotic fiction and the eBook onslaught of the recent past has made this the money maker. It is so easily accessible and affordable and, thanks to eReaders and iPhones and other devices that have the second initial capitalized, no one has to feel publicly shamed for reading such fare as "Thong on Fire" or "With This Collar"; they can keep that shame like the rest of us have been doing for  years, in the underwear drawer.

If I were intending to write something good, I assume I'd be intimidated. Romance writing takes skill. Erotica writing takes skill. If one's aim is to write a good story, I'm pretty sure in any genre it would take some level of skill. If your aim is to just write for money then it can't really be that hard. (Again, I refer to 50 Shades of Bleh) For the purposes of research, I recently downloaded an erotic book onto my iPhone. I picked at random and by price point, paying little to no attention to the synopsis provided. My ebook cost $3.99 and it is, improbably enough, about a race of aliens that kidnap women from a vacation resort in order to understand humans through having sex with them. (Because that has worked really well for humans, understanding each other through copulation.) Yes,  you read that synopsis correctly. I have not been able to read more than about a page and a half without laughing right out loud. It is in no way a sexy book. It has sex in it, yes. But when the main character, an alien is uttering made up words in an alien language during coitus, you laugh and then you email your friends about it and then you start thinking about how you need to clip your toenails. THAT is the book I want to sell many copies of because a)it would take me no effort to write it and b) I'd have enough money to quit at least one of my jobs to have more time to write things that don't have to be hidden in an underwear drawer.

But that's just a "plan" in its nascent stage. I have other plans. For example, I want to get certified as a yoga instructor. Nevermind that I don't have the thousands of dollars to go to yoga training nor the time to even take regular yoga classes. Forget that I can't do headstands or anything involving having the lower part of my body elevated over the upper part of my body. Forget ALL of that. My "plan" is to teach yoga to earn extra money and get in shape. Yeah, that's going to happen. Hey maybe I can somehow combine plan A and plan A.5???

I have also lately been flipping to the back of my brain's equivalent of an adult continuing education catalog to the "personal enrichment" section and have been formulating plans to improve both my Spanish and French, to learn to make sushi at home, to learn more than the two chords on the ukulele that I know, to rewatch the entire Mad Men seasons 1-5 for the fourth time, to read from cover to cover "The People's History of the United States", to watch every Billy Wilder film consecutively, to listen to the following albums in their entirety in the safety found behind my closed bedroom door just like back when I used to have time to do such things:

the new David Bowie
the new My Bloody Valentine
the new Atoms for Peace
the new Fiona Apple
the new Rufus Wainwright
insert new band that everyone likes and I should listen to.

Are you beginning to see why I need to live until I'm 98? Maybe you all should start emailing me advice on how to extend my lifespan and how to maximize that 40 minutes of free time I have between coming home from work and crashing into deep, deathlike sleep. I could use the advice.

*I did no research whatsoever.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

On Facebook dieting and a pointless anecdote including fatty steak, indigestion, nightmares and a mystery cocktail

Facebook diets are like most regular diets: they do not work. I am an expert at dieting. None of them work in the long term and none of them will ever truly work. I'm surprised I even keep trying or anyone even keeps trying. And lately, after deciding late one night that I was going to go on a Facebook diet of sorts for one full week and lasting a total and I say this with no exaggeration whatsoever, a total of two hours without checking it, I think I have enough information and empirical data to confirm that Facebook diets don't work. For me. I have friends who have abandoned Facebook, though truth be told, they are few and far between. They just woke up one day and said "You know what? Facebook blows." and then they quit and never looked back. I equate them to the person who used to weigh something like 400 pounds and woke up one day and said "You know what? Being fat blows" and they lost a bunch of weight and never looked back. How many stories like that are out there? Less than the ones that end with looking back and going back to old habits. A lot less.

The main result of my foray, albeit brief, was the knowledge that I am on Facebook way more often than I originally thought and that sincerely needs to stop. But it won't. Because Facebook diets don't work. And apparently, neither do I.

At this very moment, por ejemplo, I am updating this blog instead of doing what I trekked outside of my apartment to this crowded cafe to do: work on my writing and freelance job search. A brief stint in my apartment solicited nothing more than a strong desire to tidy my neglected space with a vacuum and some Ajax for two hours so I thought getting out into the sunlight would help. A perfunctory gaze out to the main room of the brick and wooden cafe with its packed tables and steam machine sounds was quite enough to alert me to the fact that my brain is elsewhere today. For example, it is trying to ignore the leather clad bikers seated to the right of me, two couples that are talking to each other nervously even though they all appear to have been together for awhile. I don't know what I expect from spending a few hours in a space filled with people. Normally I can tune out the glut of voices chatting inanely in the background; it is usually a comfort to me, like the city person I was born to be. But today I'm on overdrive and hyper aware. Like a freakin windup toy.  I'm going to ignore that I had four cups of coffee today as I'm positive that has nothing to do with anything.

That it is my only day off for the next 12 days might also have something to do with it. Is it sad that I sometimes assuage my anxieties about not having a day off for the next 12 days by focusing on those select and precious times that I don't have to work two jobs? Days like that are practically interchangeable with a trip to Aruba. Is anyone else that I know bored of hearing me talk about how I don't have any time to ever do anything because I have two jobs? I know I am.

Yesterday I went out to dinner with my parents and my brother. We had the misfortune of dealing with one of the worst hostesses currently employed. Though I've never worked as a hostess, I imagine that it is both stressful and takes patience, people skills and the ability to guesstimate within a reasonable margin of error how long the wait for a table is going to be. Call me crazy. Anyway, yesterday as we stood at the podium and asked how long the wait for a table for four would be, she slowly turned her head and appeared to be counting all the people in the restaurant and then concluding that analysis with "Yeah, I don't really know." This was interrupted by a waitress carrying a tray full of beer bottles tripping on nothing whatsoever and dropping all of the beer on the floor, all over my dress and leg and all over the pant leg of my stepdad. It was an accident, ok. Accidents happen. However, as the waitress was attempting to clean up while offering a plethora of flustered apologies, the hostess basically stood there for a minute or two then started to wipe the floor before offering any of us napkins to wipe our clothes with and while she was doing this she said "Yeah it is going to be a long wait for a table so..." as if to say "Ok, you can leave now." Eventually, that is what we did. We went up the street to an Asian restaurant that my brother and I liked but my stepfather strongly disliked for their fatty steak and my mother disliked because she had stomach pains and nightmares following the meal. I don't know what the point is in relating this on this blog except that it was one of life's annoying little incidents and sometimes it is a relief to relive things to someone else. So thanks for wasting time with me.

After dinner my brother came over to hang out for the evening. We went to my favorite local bar where we drank liquor and talked and talked, much like I do when my sister comes to visit. I was in the mood to be surprised and asked the bartender to just make me anything with vodka in it. One of those drinks was this refreshing, delicious strawberry concoction that was so frightfully good that I neglected to find out what precisely was in it and I'll have travel back there on God's good humor to ask for that "berry vodka thing from that night". I taste success!

If I told you that on our way out of my apartment complex to the bar last night we ran into a bearded guy who is a friend of mine that I see every now and again and that he was on his way home from work and that in his hands he was carrying two DVDs of Carl Theodor Dreyer films, what would you say? I'm not ascribing a meaning or method to the universe or anything. I just sometimes think I'm getting messages and meaning from the universe.

I digress. The whole point of this blog post is that it has no point and was written, posted and edited for the sole purpose of distracting me from working. Like W before me, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

Friday, March 1, 2013

February, Adieu

The short, cold days of February are now history. Already it stays bright out until late evening and though it happens every single year at the exact same time of the year and will until this planet inevitably implodes, I never get used to all that warm promise and hope it augurs.  New Year's Day should really be the first day of spring, when life really does begin. Anyway, February barely registered a blip in my life, mostly because so much time was lost indoors thanks to an early blizzard. In fact it seems that now we are at the end of the month, my memories of February are in a sort of white out inside my brain; I can see shapes of the things I did this month but only blurry ones. It seems all so Impressionistic. In a very cold way. Truth be told, I haven't been feeling my best so most of the time I spent distracting myself doing stuff. Luckily that falls in line with my New Year's resolution to not waste my time this year.

I know I did a lot of yoga this month. I did a few different kinds: Vinyasa, Kundalini, Restorative and something I never tried before called "Yin" yoga. Well I did not take a full class of it but rather there were some poses incorporated in a hip openers class I took late one Friday night. Oh yes and I took a hip openers class by candlelight on a Friday night. I don't want to say it was the best thing ever but it might have been the best thing ever.

I also watched movies, big shocker there. Here's February's list.

The Defiant Ones (1958)
The Central Park Five (2012)
Delirious (2006)
Queen of Versailles (2012)
Sex and the Single Girl (1964)
The Boston Strangler (1968)
Shakespeare in Love (1998)
MST3k: The Beatniks (1993)
Watching the Detectives (2007)
Punk: The Early Years (2003)
Rust and Bone (2012)
A Room with a View (1986)
The Sessions (2012)
Robot and Frank (2012)
Celeste and Jesse Forever (2012)
How to Survive a Plague (2012)
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Casual Sex? (1988)
Flakes (2007)
For a Good Time Call...(2012)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
Skyfall (2012)
The Heartbreak Kid (1971)
Searching for Sugar Man (2012)
Farewell, My Queen (2012)

Looking back on that list, I'd have to say my favorite one was Rust and Bone and my least favorite one was The Heartbreak Kid. What a stinker and I'm disappointed in Charles Grodin. I wonder if that has been said out loud in the last 20 years.

Speaking of movies, the theater where I volunteer had their first annual Oscars party, complete with red carpet, fancy dresses and all the free wine you could stomach if you happened to, say, volunteer to man the wine table. It was a fun experience but actually a lot of work. It was helpful to be able to wear a sparkly headband and a fancy dress. I'll be volunteering there for as long as I live where I live, which will be for the foreseeable future.

I also got to see Jeff Mangum in concert thanks to my concert buddy, Lorraine. The show was in Poughkeepsie and it made for a nice overnight trip, especially considering I need a real vacation very badly. The concert was remarkable. I am always awed by musicians who can sit on an otherwise bare stage with one instrument and their voice and command attention. There were moments you could hear a pin drop. And that must have made him uncomfortable because he asked the audience to sing along during nearly every song, (something that usually annoys me) but it felt like we were all in one big bedroom, singing along to our favorite song. Those are always the best live shows. Side note: Poughkeepsie is full of hipster boys with beards. Who knew?

I spent some good times with Lauren over dirty martinis and 90s cover bands. I spent a lot of time writing and debating whether or not to share it with anyone or this blog or anywhere else. The debate is ongoing.

I have nothing else to report from February. The sky only fell in Russia. A light grey cloud followed me around a bit but my efforts at distraction worked for the most part. How was your February?