Love & Birth
In It Happened One Night, an older gentleman picks up the hitchhiking Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert.
He asks them if they would like something to eat. When they say no thanks, the man sings: "Young people in love are never hungry."
When Brian and I first fell in love, we lost our appetites. Sometimes, looking down at our untouched meals, we would smile goofily at each other and sing "Young people in love are never hungry...."
I remember sitting in the kitchen of the apartment Brian was renting for the summer. We would sit for hours and talk and I when I could work up any desire to eat, I would snack on hummus with carrots and baby spinach. It was fresh and light and cool and healthy. At the time, it seemed like the food of love.
This afternoon, while sitting at my desk, I had hummus with carrots and baby spinach for lunch. It no longer seemed like the food of love. Mostly, it made me feel bloated.
But the memory was still sweet. And though I don't believe in romance, I believe in the memory of the food of love.
Late last week, a friend of mine gave birth to a baby girl. This baby was very cute and didn't even look like a tiny Ed Koch.
On Saturday, we'll be in New Hampshire for another friend's wedding.
These are nice things, and I am happy to be able to participate in such festive lifecycle events. We need them.
Birth, death, love, and hummus. In life, we need them all.
We went to a funeral this weekend.
A woman with whom I used to work—a very precious woman—her young son died. He was not yet three. A freak accident. The family had been in limbo for two weeks, the young boy's condition not improving.
When Brian's mother was sick, and we were all going through our own pain, this same woman always said the right things to me. Not ignoring things. Never wishing that my mother-in-law would get better, something that had become an impossibility—and yet, people would pronounce such platitudes like obligations, like their language possessed no other words for this kind of intense and active grief. This woman would just hug me and say that she knew I was hurting, she knew how hard it was, she was praying for me....
When Brian's mom went into hospice, a number of her close friends completely disappeared. It hurt more, because they were supposed to be adults, and even though we were in our late 20s, it still felt unjust. My parents said that I shouldn't hold a grudge, that some people have difficultly dealing with the subject of death. Still, it seemed wrong and selfish to me that they should deny Meryl's children comforting words and deeds because their own fear of death was too great.
Now, how could I not go to the funeral, how could I not offer my support?
This former coworker of mine is Orthodox, and her community is expansive. During the service, the rabbi said that we cannot know the reason for the death of one so small, so there is no sense in questioning it.
I found something comforting these words. I see how important it is to have a language for death, a protocol for mourning. Some days I wish I had more faith. I see how important it can be in times of great tragedy. And faith provides a protocol for grief. The entire community knows the drill, understands their role in it.
It's true, though. We cannot begin to question these things. Because there are no good answers. How could there be?
The Health Department has been cracking down.
After that whole Taco Bell rat fiasco, the Health Department has been cracking down on many of the City's eating establishments. Health Department closing ran like a rash through our neighborhood, one restaurant closing down after another. One small patisserie seems to have got it worse than others.
We walked by the store only to discover it had been closed multiple times in the last few months. Posted on the glass was a wide variety of reading material. Here is what it looked like:
In other news, our friend Dave, who had traveled to Paris on business, but had his luggage misplaced and had to wear the same pants for four days, finally got his luggage back. I imagine that his ability to network might have been impeded by his lack of clothing and toiletries. But he seems to be taking things in stride. He recently wrote us this dispatch:
No foie gras, no escargots, but lots of absinthe. As they say in Frahnsay, absinthe makes the mouth grow louder!Good luck to you Dave. And may you and your luggage never again be parted.
Also: Happy Birthday, Brian's sister!
We had a very busy weekend.
On Saturday morning, Brian and I made our semi-annual trip to the gym. Then met up with my cousin in Red Hook for her husband's surprise birthday bar crawl.
From there, we came back to P-Slope to meet a group of friends for dinner. Somewhere along the way, we received a phone call from our friend Dave. He lives in Clearwater, Florida, and was on his way to Paris for business. He was supposed to make a connecting flight in Newark, but due to weather conditions, was going to miss it.
So a little after 1 am, we received our surprise houseguest.
Dave was with us for a mere 16 hours, but it was a wonderful, action packed 16 hours, during which time we schlepped him out to a ball field at FDR Park, Katz's Deli for lunch, Yonah Schimmel's for egg creams, and the Super Hero Store in Park Slope. You would have never known that Dave was working on about 4 hours of sleep, that he didn't have a change of clothes or a toiletry to his name, and that he was traveling to Paris for the first time in his life with a high possibility (that became a reality) that his luggage would not be there to meet him.
I, on the other hand, got tired and cranky just thinking about it.
We were on the F train headed into Manhattan. We were running a little late. The F was being re-routed to the express track. Brian said, "Great! We're skipping three stops."
I said, "Yeah, but the train is running at half-speed."
Dave looked at Brian and me and smiled. He said, "Optimist. Pessimist. For Brian, the glass is half full. For Deb, it's half empty. For me ... it's half evaporated."
It hit me like an articulated bus. I'm a pessimist. I don't trust movies with happy endings. I hate books that end in a wedding. I dislike when people tell me how well their lives are going. I enjoy strife and chaos and schadenfreude. My favorite director is John Waters and my favorite writer is James Joyce.
In my own defense, though, strife and chaos and schadenfreude are a good deal meatier. Who wants to read a book about happy people living fulfilling lives? Don't you get to know a character best when the metaphysical sh*t hits the fan?
And what ridiculousness is this to have a story about two pretty people who fall in love and marry at the end. Jane Austin, you're a nice lady and all, but its obvious you were never married (ouch!), because that's when the drama begins.
So what I'm trying to say is: I had a very pleasant weekend filled interesting activities and time spent with good friends and family and the man that I love. And a lot of self-doubt.
I mistyped the word "itinerary"
And Microsoft Word asked if I had meant "Intermarry".
It was a bright, sticky Saturday morning.
The sunlight was coming in hot and humid. I was sitting at the computer, mired in my own code. Brian was sitting on the blue futon reading work things. That's when we heard the music.
"You hear that?" Brian said
I stopped and listened. "The Ice Cream Man?"
"No," Brian said, "The Knife Sharpening Man...."
"The Knife Sharpening Man. He rides around in a little red truck and plays that music. He has signs on the side of the truck advertising his services. Haven't you seen him?"
I hadn't. But, as fate would have it, he pulled up and double-parked in front of our building. He was talking to our downstairs neighbor, who was having a stoop sale.
I decided that this was exactly what we needed. We had a set of old knives that had been left to me by an old roommate (that's right, Dawn, I still have 'em). The two biggest knives were dull enough that they were hardly any good, unless you wanted to kill a tomato in the slowest and most painful way possible.
I changed my pants, grabbed the knives and my wallet, and ran downstairs. It was like ordering ice cream, but instead, I brandished my large dull knives and said, "How much to sharpen these?"
The Knife Sharpening Man was an older gentleman, the kind of man who looks distinguished, except for the hair growing out of his ears. He squinted his eyes and said, "Ten bucks."
I made a small yelp. A little more than I thought it would be. But one was paying for the convenience. The Knife Sharpening Man was coming to me. I tried to smile like I thought that sounded like a fine price and handed over my big knives.
The first knife he appeared to work on for a long time. Over and over, he held the blade against the spinny wheel sharpener. Then he would lift it up and examine it. Touch it with his finger. And back to the spinny wheel. My upstairs neighbor walked by. He asked what I was doing. I told him I was getting my knives sharpened. He said he'd been meaning to take his into the city to get them sharped too. He asked me the cost, and when I told him, he said, "I guess you're paying for the convenience."
When I turned around, the Knife Sharpening Man handed me back both knives. I hadn't been turned away too long, so I immediately became suspicious that he hadn't even worked on the second. I handed over the money, and as I walked up the stairs and back to my apartment, I noticed that the first seemed only a hair's breadth sharper than it had been before. The second seemed exactly the same.
I told Brian this. I said, "Maybe I was being unrealistic in thinking that an elderly man in a converted ice cream truck would be able to sharpen these things into Ginsu knives. But still .... Ten dollars."
This evening, I decided to have a bagel for dinner. A nice, tough, New York bagel I had bought on the Upper West Side, because I can't seem to get good bagels in Park Slope. As an experiment, I took out big knife number two. It was a nice, crusty bagel. But I could barely get the knife through the skin. I had to work it back and forth like a saw, and even still, the bagel was getting squashed. When finished, my bagel looked like a victim of torture, crushed, lopsided, ragged at the edges. Ten dollars. Huh.
Summer is for short-sleeve shirts, hefeweizen, and ... photo booths?
Our friend Brad turned thirty recently, and we celebrated is oldening at LIC Bar in Long Island City. The bar had a garden area in the back, a nice folksy feeling inside, and, of all things, a photo booth.
I have been walking around the city for almost six years now muttering to myself about how difficult it is to find of photo booth here. Three years ago we finally found one at the Penn Station Kmart, but after ten minutes of hoping and fidgeting and kicking, we were forced to face cold, hard reality: It was out of order. I was devastated.
But here we were in Long Island City, at a bar we had actually been to a couple of times before, the photo booth sitting quietly in a corner, so unassuming that a number of people mistook it for broken.
But it wasn't.
A fellow bar compatriot said, "Whoa. Three bucks. That seems kind of steep."
I calmly responded, "Oh, shut up! Do you know how difficult it is to find a photo booth in New York City!?!"
So the queen of the self-portraits and her goods-sport husband chalked up the money and sat for four shots of random bliss.
LIC Bar.... Who knew?
Like many modern office workers, I like to conduct long email exchanges with people sitting right behind me.
A coworker remarked (by email) that when one thought about it, this was downright odd.
I replied (by email) flippantly that it was "very postmodern" of us.
My coworker turned around and said, "But what comes after that?"
"What?" I said.
"What comes after post-modernism? Thereís modernism. And then post-modernism. Whatís next?
This set off an office-wide debate. One of the problems was that none of us could really get a good handle on what post-modernism actually was to be able to know that what we were doing now was different, thereby giving us a hint at what it should be called.
The best we could come up with was "post-post-modernism", which seems to be the name equivalent of emailing back and forth with the person sitting right behind you.
I decided to ask my friend Sam, because he was Valedictorian of his high school class, and because heís a bit of a know-it-all.
I called Sam at work and said, "So what the hell comes after post-modernism?"
He said, "I donít know.... Reality TV?"
"Really." I said. "You're supposed to know these kinds of things."
"Thatís as far as we got in school."
"I know. Me too."
I guess itís as good an answer as any. Let me know if you have a any better ideas. But until then, we are in the post-post-modernist era of Reality TV.
I bought a black skirt.
This was back in December. I got it at the Syms downtown for $30 (a significant mark-down). It consists of black tulle over a thin black cotton slip, with a belt of black corduroy around the waist. It looks a little late-80s, but I like it.
Recently, I wore my black tulle skirt and I thought I looked rather smart. During the day, I found myself chatting with a near-stranger. Immediately following a conversational pause, she said, "I really like your skirt."
"Thank you," I said, smiling and making a "this old thing?" face.
"I really do. It's great looking. You know, I'm really into recycling too. I love old things, and I love finding ways to make them new again."
I stopped smiling. This was not the first time someone had mistaken an outfit composed of newly bought garments for something I had to dive and rummage for out of a Good Will bin. This woman was complimenting me on a skirt she thought I had sewn together from odd bits of used clothing. But I had bought it new. And had been under the impression that it looked the part until that moment.
I felt a little self conscience after this conversation. But not as self conscience as I felt an hour later when I was walking down the street, and an woman came up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder.
"You're skirt..." she said, and I honestly thought she was going to compliment it. But instead, she said, "It's all pulled up in the back. I could see your bottom."
Horror of horrors! The tulle was still down, but the cotton slip had crept up as I walked and was now bunched and clumped, reveling areas I had assumed were safely covered.
The rest of the day I spent occasionally tugging at my skirt to make sure it was covering what it should. And I was relatively successful until the end of the day, at which time I left the office with my head full of errands. Moments after stepping onto the sidewalk, a random woman came running up to me, saying, "MISS! MISS!"
Again, with my head in my own thoughts, I thought she was frantic for directions. But then I heard, "You're skirt!" and I knew what this was about.
Maybe it was the static caused by the specific combination of my stockings and the skirt. Or maybe no one had before had the decency to let me know that, wearing this skirt, I looked like a loose-moralled bag lady with a revealed hindquarter.
I swear I've gotten real compliments on it before. People have said they liked the skirt. They have understood it was a new and bought item. Still, I think I'll give it a rest for a little while.
DebCentral goes to Albany.
On Wednesday, some of the Habitat gang went up to Albany to lobby for a New York State Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
MomCentral, who is a Florida State Rep, gave testimony, and DebCentral read it. This was tons of fun.
I took some pictures. They looked like this:
I think everyone should get involved in politics. Because it gives one an outlet to do public speaking, to be heard, to be in the spotlight for a moment, but unlike community theater, one doesn't have to sing or dance or wear unnatural pancake makeup.