Time Spent in Knots
Brian has been working very long hours.
He went into work on both Saturday and Sunday of last week, and he's come home after midnight twice this week. His inability to leave the office had been a slow creep that has turned into a full sprint.
Though I don't see him very much anymore, when I do, we are often bickering.
I think this is because I need a life.
I have friends. I have hobbies. But I started thinking I should be spending less time just waiting around for Brian to come home, and more time with those friends. Maybe I needed another hobby too.
That's when Knitting found me.
I had always thought of knitting as uptight. It was something for grandmas and yuppie girls and people who wore kitten appliques on their over-sized sweaters. There was something intrinsically feminine about it. And like baking and ballet, I had rejected it.
But I was alone and feeling low. Knitting walked in. I was weak. The night was long. It said it would help me pass the time. So I picked up the needles.
At first, my knitting was like my yoga practice, pained and noisy. I was hopelessly awkward and uncoordinated. My mind was anything but quiet. I was helped along by my boss and my friend Karen, who is a bit of a knitting maven. This was encouraging, but then I would work on my knitting on the subway, and frumpy older women would randomly come up to me and try to give me pointers.
This made me angry. So I would put down my needles for a time. But then my fingers would get restless. And there knitting was. Calling me back again. That siren song of craftiness. I was knitting's hapless victim.
The first thing I made can't really be considered a scarf. It looks more like a knotted woolen turd. Like something that had been mauled by rabid rats. Like something suffering from mange. Karen took a picture of us together. Look how happy we are.
I bought some better yarn. And I had a goal of making a scarf as a gift. I needed to finish it in less than two weeks, though. A number of people told me they didn't think it could be done.
The scarf was complete in four days. Not perfect, but not too shabby.
I began work on another scarf last night. I am already a quarter finished. I delight now in the quiet moments I have alone with knitting. The two of us together. My stubby fingers working the needles. Two glasses of wine: One for me and one for knitting. Love growing like the length of a scarf. Some say it's a fad. It might be. But it's one which will keep me warm in the winter.
My sister graduated from her PsyD program over a year ago.
Since then, she done a year's worth of post-baccalaureate work and recently took her licensing and ethics tests. Because 5 years of course work and counseling wasn't enough.
Today, she received word that the last of her tests were passed. On Monday morning, she begins her practice as a licensed doctor of psychology.
If there were no conflict of interest laws, our own family might constitute the majority of her patients.
Mazel tov, Ali! May all your patients have non-threatening, non-arson-related problems.
I saw a TrannyBum on the F train.
I had been moving from car to car trying to get towards the back of the train (closest to my exit on the 7th Avenue stop). I had made my way to the second-to-last car, when I almost tripped over a baby carriage in the aisle.
I was just about to apologize to the mother, when I realized that the carriage was filled with rags, a woman's purse, an apple, and a half-drunk bottle of fruit punch. Then I looked up at the carriage's owner. And it was none other than an obviously-male person in women's clothing and make-up. Unlike the beautiful drag queens of stage and screen, this person had the dirty bloated feet of an indigent person (though his/her toe nails were painted bright pink). S/he wore a woman's sweated (in the summer) and bright purple lipstick. And it is important to note that s/he was passing the time by plucking his/her beard hair. Ugh.
Of course, like a bum, this person was carting around rags and half empty soda bottles. But like a tranny, this person had passed up the rickety shopping cart for an empty baby stroller. Amidst obvious financial want, this person had style. Of a sort.
TRANNYBUM! I almost said it out loud! Could this really be my first TrannyBum sighting?
Pluck, pluck, pluck. I was mesmerized, and yet extremely disgusted.
Of course, though the tranny part wanted a smooth, beardless face, the bum part said, "This is a perfectly legitimate public activity."
I was so astounded, I turned to the person next to me, wanting that that kind of comradeship that can only come from perfect strangers experiencing the same bizarre event.
I turned a smiled to the person next to me, a small, neatly dressed Asian girl. She smiled back. And though it was that conspiratorial smile that I had been hoping for, it occurred on a set of lips which were being obscured by horrible canker sores.
Yikes! TrannyBum! CankerSmile!
I smiled again weekly, and moved to the next car down. But not before I snapped a cameraphone picture of my TrannyBum.
TrannyBum plucking his/her TrannyBum beard
TrannyBum's creepy stroller filled with rags,
a woman's purse, an apple, and a half-empty fruit punch bottle
I brought a pair of shoes to a shoe guy.
I guess he's called a cobbler. When I was leaving his tiny lean-to of a store, he looked hard into my face, scrutinizing it. The he said, "You have beautiful eyes."
"Thank you," I said.
"Really. You do. You eyes. They most beautiful eyes."
"I love you eyes. They most beautiful eyes I ever see. I love you eyes!"
Now, I'm not trying to toot my own horn. My beautiful eyes landed me exactly one date in high school. And that guy left me for a chubby girl who regularly attended the Rocky Horror Picture Show. He came out of the closet several years later.
The few dates I had in college were with young men with whom I was too embarrassed to be seen in public. I finally fell in love with the man I would eventually marry, and though he loves my stubby troll hands, he is still a bit unsure as to the color of my eyes.
Today I went back to the shoe guy to pick up my shoes. At first, he seemed to not recognize me. But then he said, "Yes. You the one with the beautiful eyes."
"And the brown shoes," I said. "You were fixing the heels."
My beautiful eyes got me no discounts. But I was repeatedly solicited to come back again and bring him more shoes to fix. I turned to leave, and the shoe guy stuck out his hand. So I shook it. Then he leaned in to give me a kiss on the cheek. Then the other cheek. Still holding my face, he said, "If I could kiss you eyes, I would kiss you eyes. They are the most beautiful eyes. Bring them back to my store with more shoes."
Oh, gosh, I thought. What is it with me and these old-school professions? First I was felt up by a tailor, now I am being molested by a cobbler. I must have some weird secret old world charm.
In between my first and second run-in with the shoe guy, I was at home. I was trying to start a new story. I had the plot all mapped out in my head. I knew my characters pretty well, too. Only I didn't yet know their names. And how can you begin writing a story when you don't even know the main character's name?
I saw Bob was online, so I started a chat. This is how it went:
me: Robert, I am trying to start a new dumb story, but I can't think of a name for my middle-aged female character. any ideas?
Are you prepared for the arrival of 5768?
Apples and honey?
Twisty cut-off rams horn?
Nice outfit for synagogue?
What about your holiday greeting card from Deb and Brian?
That's right. Deb and Brian and getting ready to send out their Jewish New Year cards. Have you gotten a Schwartz/Geller card in years past year, but have moved since December 2006 (Dawn, I have your new address)? Have you never received a card, but would like one? Have you received a card in the past year, but have added or subtracted a family member since December of 2006 (Baby Sasha, you're covered)? Have you received a card in the past year, but would like to unsubscribe? Drop me an email and let me know.
Oh, and because of the insanely high instance of spam on the official debcentral email account, make sure to include "5768" your email subject line (or email me at my gmail account).
ps: if you are a former Museum coworker of mine and you formerly received your card by my informally leaving it on your desk on my way to the lunchroom, I will no longer be doing that. So go ahead and email me your home address. Or risk feeling unloved by the Schwartz/Gellers in 5768.
I went with Sam and his friend Val to see a double feature.
Gloria Swanson in Manhandled and Clara Bow in IT, both about roaring twenties chipper, jigging, shop girls in a quest for love and financial security by way of a good time.
I enjoyed both films, but was a little troubled that in IT, the love interest's brother Monty Montgomery (William Austen), looked startlingly like my favorite director, John Waters.
In fact, I couldn't stop thinking that the character was actually John Waters. The mood of the film completely changed for me as I waited for Clara Bow to receive a turd in a box.
See for yourself.
I'm not crazy. Am I?
I was all wet this weekend.
On Friday, we went to see The National play a free concert at the seaport. It rained. They kept stopping and starting the concert because of the rain. Brian and I had umbrellas, but we got still got wet. It was a little unpleasant, but the concert was enjoyable and the lead singer jumped around a lot and made us feel like we were seeing a good show.
I was so excited to have my bounceflash, I took out my camera and snapped some crappy-looking pictures. Here's one:
After the concert, we traveled back to Brooklyn to give Susan her belated birthday t-shirt. Then we caught up with Karen and Rich and Peter and Jen at a bar named after a bus line. I took a few more pictures. Here are two of them.
It was quite late by the time we got back home.
On Saturday, we went to my cousin's friend Heather's wedding celebration. There was a keg and Oxygen Network karaoke. We drank little and sang a little. It was fun.
We got home late on Saturday as well.
We had to be up on the early side for our friends Ella and Brett's baby naming. It was a brunch event, so we got to eat and look at a cute baby. These are two things I enjoy.
Brian stopped into work and I ran some errands. Then we met up and traveled to Central Park for Shakespeare in the Park. Sam works for the Public and had gotten us the tickets. It was raining. His family was visiting. So we stood huddled under the Delacorte Theater awning and chatted for two hours. At a little after nine, we were finally allowed in. It was drizzling still. But then it started raining harder again. After twenty minutes, a voice came over the loud speaker telling us that the performance had been canceled due to rain.
I was disappointed that after all our waiting and all our getting wet we didn't even get to see the play. I asked Sam if people ever got really angry at the theater staff when shows were rained out. He said, "Why would they? It's not our fault.
If I can't be disappointed in the Public, I guess I will have to be disappointed in god.
We got home late again, and I am very tired right now. I need another weekend to rest up from my weekend.
My birthday is in November.
I told my parents that I wanted a new digital camera for my birthday, and they said that would be fine. But they thought I should purchase it myself (they would reimburse me). This is standard fare in my family. Presents are practical and arrive without a surprise. Often, the gift-receiver picks out her own gift and purchases it.
Some people have balked at this present protocol. But I prefer it. Almost every time my parents tried to anticipate my fancy and surprise me, the gift exchange ended in tears.
I think my parents prefer it this way too.
Let me back up for a second. I got my old camera in November of 2002 (also a birthday present). In the last year or so, I'd been having some trouble with it -- especially in low-light situations. So I bought a new bounce flash. My original flash was a $15 number I had gotten used. Since I'm cheap, I refused to pay what I saw as needless money on a flash that advertised itself as a flash for digital cameras.
But it didn't solve my camera problems. Soon, it became apparent that the camera problems were caused by the camera. So it was time.
I didn't get around to buying the new camera (a Canon Rebel SLR) until March. I love my new camera. I think it's fabulous and it takes beautiful pictures. But the built in flash is too intense. And now this newfangled thing won't even acknowledge my non-digital flash.
So yesterday I went back to B&H and bought myself a used digital bounce flash. It cost more money than I wanted to spend, but after taking some picture, I instantly felt satisfied that I had made the right choice.
First, I took a picture of the man who sold me my used bounce flash. He looked like this:
I was so happy, I continued snapping pictures on the subway ride home. They looked like this:
Now all I need is a better lens.
My parents were in town this weekend.
It's strange. I love my parents very much, and I even get a little excited when they come to visit. But then we will be together on the bus and they will start talking to strangers, and allofasudden it's like I'm 12 again. I think I may have even said, "You guys are totally embarrassing me."
Sometimes, though, I'll be talking to strangers on a bus, and I'll see Brian squirming in that same embarrassed fashion. And then I know ... I'm becoming my parents.
Gene pools are funny things. Like groups of people all made from the same basic material. And the longer you wear the newer clothes, the more they come to resemble the older ones.
As much as I try to wear my life at a jaunty angle, it's still really just a pair of elastic waistband culottes.
On Monday, my parents and I met my aunt and her husband for dinner. My aunt mentioned that my grandfather (the mean one) wrote books, and it's from him that I got my writing talents.
I had heard of a novel he had wrote but couldn't get published. It was a tome about an army man stationed in the South Pacific during WWII and was titled "Strength In His Veins".
"It had another title, you know," my aunt said. "It was also called 'Backwash.'"
My shriek of laughter was so loud it disturbed the other patrons at the quiet Chinese restaurant.
"I don't see what's so funny." My aunt was thoroughly confused. She explained that as she understood it, backwash was that mucky water left when the tide goes out."
I said, "I know. I guess I knew that. It's just, it's a slang term. It's slang for when someone drinks a soda from a can, and then passes it to someone else. Backwash is the soda with the yucky stuff from the first person's mouth left in the can."
My family looked on horrified as if I were telling them a detailed account of a triple homicide. I tried again to explain it, and my father held up his hand. "We get it," he said.
Then my aunt said that my grandfather had written another novel. It was called something like, "The Delightful Mrs. Barrington." My aunt said it was written in the 50s, but was about a sexually liberated woman.
"GRANDPA WROTE PULP?"
"What?" my aunt seemed more confused than ever.
"He wrote pulp? He wrote sexpot stories?"
"The book was ahead of it's time. That's why he couldn't get it published."
I could see then, in the still air of the quiet Chinese restaurant, a worm hole. I could see through the worm hole, see that it went back in time to my mean grandfather before he was a mean grandfather, to a time when he was just a tyrannical parent. A man with an enormous ego who failed in literature as he had failed, would continue to fail, in business. And as much I hated him, hated the man I never really knew, I could see the pain on his face, the pain of rejection, the pain of having something you slaved over, something you loved and nurtured, your most delicate brainchild, cut down, tossed out, passed over, rejected. That feeling I knew well.
"People always told me I would make a very good writer." My aunt was half-smiling, like she was revealing a little secret.
"Do you ever write?" I asked.
"You should. You could journal. Or take one of those community workshop classes."
"No. I'm not ready for that yet." She thought a bit, and then added. "I am ... I am making lists."
"Really." I said.
I hope," she said, "I hope to one day expand. I think I'm almost ready. I want to start writing thoughts."
"Yes," I said. "Thoughts. Thoughts are good."
Brian and I moved to New York City almost exactly six years ago.
Some people dream of living in L.A., in Paris, in Tokyo, in a log cabin in the mountains. Some people move to New York City for a year or two, just to talk about the few years they lived in New York City, and then they move elsewhere and get on with their lives.
From the time my family left New York City when I was four, all I every really wanted was to move back.
I was sure that if I lived in New York City I would fit in better, have more opportunities, lead a life that was more cultured, intellectual, relevant. In New York, all my dreams might come true. Because I would be living in the center of the universe.
On August 12, 2001, Brian and I moved from Silver Spring, Maryland to Sunnyside, Queens. Brian started law school and I sat around hopelessly unemployed, painfully depressed, and financially strapped. I had just finished grad school, and had no idea what I wanted to do, aside from "be a writer", no idea what jobs were even available. I had no contacts, no network of friends. And after September 11th, the economy had completely dropped dead.
Six years later, I can say that I have lived in three of the five boroughs. I have held five different jobs at four separate institutions. I have lived through a major terrorist attack, an extensive blackout, and several subway floodings and snow storms. I have a New York driver's license and no car. I have a job in new media (which I love) and have published two short stories and one short essay.
My life is pretty swell.
Still, I know when I play "where are they now", and I hear about people from high school and college who are doctors and lawyers now, people who have bought homes and have started families, people who don't seem to be simply floating around like a 30-year-old human plankton suspended in an eternal metropolitan sleeping-away camp, I get to feeling a little bad about myself.
But then I think: But I live in New York City. This is the forever the scissors to their paper, paper to their rock.
It's not so much about setting the bar low as it is setting it at a jaunty angle.
Speaking of tornadoes . . .
The Brooklyn Cyclones are a New York Mets Class A affiliate baseball team. They play at Keyspan Park down in Coney Island, and have quite a following for a minor league team. They played the Aberdeen Ironbirds this past Sunday, and bobble head dolls of Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn Borough President, were given away.
You know we were all over that.
Brian and I have officially lived in Brooklyn for a year now -- the best borough in New York City and one of the best "former cities" in the U.S. Marty Markowitz is more than our borough's president. He's our mascot.
We organized a group of our Brooklyn-loving friends, Susan and Nicky, Oliver and Ryan, Molly, and Daniel, and converged on the park in time to ensure that we received our bobble head dolls.
I insisted that Brian and I get to the park over an hour early, which we did. But it was hot, and I wanted to sit down somewhere in the shade. There were some benches by the Carvel stand, and most of the tables were full. Except one. It had such an older woman and her many many bags. Her plastic bags were stuffed with other plastic bags, as well as endless sheaves of paper loose or bound together by rubber bands. She had crusty pink lipstick in areas that had ceased to be her lips. But other than that, she seemed clean and quiet. So we sat down.
About ten minutes later, four mid-agers strolled up. They wanted to sit down too. Two of them fitted themselves in at one table. And one squeezed in on one side of us. She looked up at the fourth and said, "But where are you going to sit?"
The fourth said, "I can sit right here (she motioned at a sliver between the bag lady's bags and us) if this lady will just move her bags."
The bag lady made a barely discernible grimace, but otherwise didn't look up. The fourth woman continued, "I'd be able to sit down if this woman weren't being so rude would move her bags...."
That ticked the bag lady off royally. She looked up, twisted up her mouth, and said, "I've been sitting here all day. How dare you come over to me and tell me to move my things."
"Lady," said the fourth woman, "You're hogging the whole goddamn table. I guess you don't have no manners."
"At least I'm not a FAT HORSE like you."
"Hey, lady. Watch your mouth."
"No. YOU watch your big fat mouth. You big fat horse. Get the f*ck away, you f*cking fat freak."
"How dare you talk to me that way."
"How dare you come up and tell me to move. I've been at this table all day. Just move your fat ass the f*ck away from me, you fat horse."
"Watch you're language, lady. Don't curse in front of me."
"I can curse if I want to, you big fat ass bitch. Move you're fat ass the hell away from me."
"I see you're all alone here. Sitting at that table all alone. I feel bad for you. But I know why you're all alone. It's cause you're such a mean bitter old woman."
Well, I'd rather be alone than to be a FAT HORSE like YOU!"
Brian and I had purchased those giant ball park sodas, and we were now hiding behind them. I don't know if I've seen anyone over 70 curse like that.
Neither one of the women would back down. The fourth woman (who wasn't skinny), kept telling the bag lady how bad she felt that she was so old and bitter and alone, and the bag lady kept spewing spicy hot vitriol. When we weren't hiding well enough, the bag lady caught our eyes. She said, "Alone? That bitch thinks I'm all alone in this world. Well, let me tell you: I have three kids and four grandkids and a greatgrandbaby and . . . and I bet that lady didn't even pay for her ticket. She probably works for Keyspan. And let me tell you about Keyspan, those lying sons of bitches...."
Eventually, this was all settled because the bag lady lit up a cigarette and was told by security that to smoke she had to leave the table and stand in the corner. Now she hated the security people too. They all began to argue, and that's when Brian and I slunk away.
The moral of the story: Never tell a bum he's being rude for taking up an entire park bench. And NEVER demand that a bag lady move her bags.
Here are a couple pictures from Sunday:
All that is needed to bring the City to its knees is a nice rain storm.
I was awakened around 5:45 this morning by the rain. It was zesty outside, coming down hard, with bursts of lightening lighting the room, followed immediately by tremendous cracks of thunder. This went on for about a half hour. Maybe less. In an hour, the rain had ceased completely.
Brian left for work first. I left about a half-hour later.
I figured the rain would cause some subway delays. I wasn't shocked to see the platform packed with people. Sweltering is a word. I could see rivulets of sweat trickling from the brows of fellow commuters. There were no announcements. I heard someone say that the R train (the next nearest train) was out of service.
After 15 minutes, an F train arrived. It was completely packed. No one on the platform even attempted to get on. It passed. We waited another 10 minutes for the next train. It was packed too. It passed. We waited. Then three more trains in relatively short succession. Then almost a half hour went by before we saw another train. Packed. Still no announcement.
The crowd on the platform had thinned, people getting disgruntled and leaving. Two more trains came and went before one arrived that I could squeeze onto. I had been waiting on the platform for an hour and fifteen minutes.
When I got off the train, I called Brian. My commute had been over an hour and a half long. He had similar problems. His had been about an hour.
When I arrived at work, the office was quiet. I apologized to my boss for my lateness. The F train was messed up because of the storm. The F train was apparently one of the better trains. People continued to trickle in during the day. A number of them had walked to work. Two people tried driving, and it had taken them three hours. One woman had been in transit for four hours. Another woman took six hours to get to work. The Lexington line had been completely shut down due to flooding. Many of the West Side trains were running limited service if at all. I was told by one coworker that the R Train was one of the only trains that had been running normally. People who had taken buses were packed together as the buses crawled downtown. If you could get on a bus.
Sure, it's fun to suffer in extreme weather as the entire commuter system of a crowded pulsating city is tied up because of a rain storm. Thousands of people swelteringly hot subway platforms, in packed buses, walking down steamy streets in the 92 degree heat. With all this talk of terrorism, it's nice to know that a little act of God still goes a long way.
I feel a profound sadness in my heart.
Since I found out about Jenny's brother's sudden death, pleasant, funny, weird things, everyday things, work, play things, have happened to me, and I have thought about writing about them, but someplace in my soul I have been carrying around the awful senseless, randomness of it all and the specter of Jenny's pain.
On Thursday, a coworker repeated to me a funny story. She was laughing and looking at me expectantly. But I couldn't really hear her. All I could say was, "It's just so horrible."
Her eyes grew wide and confused, and when I realized what I had said, I backtracked, bumbling, trying for a response that would seem more germane. I was able to eek out a smile and to cobble together something that didn't make me sound like a total freak.
Still. It's just so horrible.
I want to tell everyone about my weekend, about our interactions with the crazy bag lady at the minor league baseball game. But for now, I want to simply say that it's just so horrible, because those are the words that have been smeared across my lips for almost a week now.
We're thinking about you, Jenny.
Brian had heard of Performance and added it to our Netflix queue.
The film, released in 1970 and staring a young Mick Jagger, is about 2/3 gangster movie, 1/3 trippy late-60s psychedelic romp. I did not have high hopes for this film.
The first 30 minutes passed at an inanely slow pace, and made me feel like the inside of my eyeballs were itchy. I also missed about a quarter of the dialogue, because the cockney accents were so thick.
But then Mick Jagger is introduced, looking like a young, feminine, sensual Lily Tomlin, and the pace picks up rapidly.
Sure, there's sex and drugs, drugs, drugs, a lot of extreme close-ups, quick cutting, music, and wigs. But there's something else there too.
By the time the movie ended, Brian and I were both surprised to find it had completely won us over. I'm still not sure how it happened.
Performance had the makings of a movie I could hate, like one long self-indulgently looped Ann-Margaret-rolling-around-in-beans-from-Tommy. But under the mirrors and black eyeliner, this film has something genuine and disarming at its core. I'm still confused as to why I responded the way I did.
And we also thought we saw a quick cut showing Mick kissing a dude!
On a completely different note, HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALI!