Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year, 2010!

I just rang in 2010 (alone, with a bottle of Freixenet, after working on my Joan website -- not depressing at all!) watching Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin on CNN, and got goosebumps watching the people in Times Square and listening to Frank's "New York, New York"!

When I was little, my mom would always let me stay up 'til midnight on New Year's Eve, with a glass of champagne, and we'd always watch "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve" live from NYC; Dick's age/illness prevent him from hosting any longer, but... the beautiful, beautiful city remains.

When I was little, I always dreamed about actually being in Times Square on New Year's Eve... Now that I'm 44 and have lived here for the past 3 New Year's Eves, there's some reality that has set in: If you venture to Times Square for the year-end celebration, you're then crunched in with a million people for hours, unable to leave the area or go to the bathroom... Hate to admit it, but, given the hard-core reality... For the past 3 years, I've still just been watching the Times Square festivities on TV! (Some things are best left for the young and/or hardy tourists.) :)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Long Lost

While I was home over Christmas, I was looking through old photo albums and at the family tree. I knew I'd had a sister that had died before me shortly after her birth. But I'd never thought about when her birthday was. In my life, I've found myself constantly attracted for some reason to either Scorpio women, or to women born during the Aquarius/Pisces cusp (late February). While at home, I just discovered that my dead older sister was born during the latter time frame. (I know the exact date/year, and it's a bizarre coincidence that it almost nearly matched someone I used to be in love with.)

Is there such a thing as free will, or are we actually bound by patterns?

End of 2009: New Bookshelf!

So much for not being grateful for small things! I was just walking to the beer-store and on the way came across a small 3-tiered book-shelf that someone had set out for the trash pick-up tomorrow. My apartment is sparsely furnished, and I immediately had to stop and lug the thing home before continuing with my beer trek.

Since I've been unable to buy many items of furniture for my apartment in the past 2 years, I've been genuinely excited whenever I've found stuff set along the curb that I was able to cart home and use: A black night-side table. A narrow bookcase to set my small bedroom TV up on (with shelves for a DVD player and knick-knacks below). Shelves for my shoes in my closet. And now this one! For ages, I've wanted a credenza by my front door, just to place my bag and keys on when I got home. And my books are overflowing, so I could place it by my desk for that use, too.

Believe it or not, it's actually fun for me to think about! :)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Reason for the Season

One of my Facebook Friends actually just posted this:

"They may want to take Christ out of Christmas, but they can never take Christ out of me. If you are proud to be a Christian and are not ashamed of Christ, then post this as your status for 1 day as a light to the world. Most people will be ashamed or scared to do this. ** Jesus is the reason for the season! **"

Now, I don't want to go around starting fights with my newfound Facebook Friends, but...I was so flabbergasted by the above that I had to respond there. Pointing out that "Christmas" didn't start out being called that, but was, rather, initially a pagan holiday designed to give ancient folk an excuse to feast during the shortest, coldest, most miserable day of the year (the Winter Solstice, December 21).

Once Christianity became more popular, Christians invented a birthdate for Jesus Christ (December 25, which scholars almost universally acknowledge is not the actual birthdate of Christ), and incorporated many of the local pagan customs into their newly created holiday. (The tree, worshipfully decorated and lit, which is the holiday centerpiece today of most homes, is completely a pagan holdover.)

And then there's "Saint Nick"/Santa Claus. I haven't done research into his origins. Judging by the "Saint," though, I assume that the concept of the Jolly Old Elf flying around the world delivering gifts somehow has its origins in the Church. (Though, with the "magical elf" part, I suspect there are also pagan roots to this, too.)

In short: Jesus AIN'T AT ALL the "reason for the season"!

Recognition

Your horoscope for December 20, 2009
There is a great chance that incredible luck will befall you, STEPHANIE, but it is important to realize that nothing will come without hard work on your part. Don't just sit back and expect someone else to hand you the treasure chest. You have the map in your hand, so start following it. Once you get started, you may realize that you are much closer to the "X" than you think. It is up to you to make the journey, but keep in mind that there is a great deal of help for you along the way.

Your horoscope for December 19, 2009
You may be a bit confused by your heart, STEPHANIE. For some reason, you may find that it is not beating as steadily as usual. It may become extremely frustrating for you when you can't grab a tight rein on your emotions. This internal conflict is a signal that there is a lesson for you to learn. Perhaps your heart knows something that your conscious mind has not yet realized.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?

By Nancy Wilson. The best version of this song I've ever heard.

The Merriest

Circa 1960 home footage holiday party with June Christy's "The Merriest."

YouTube wouldn't let me directly embed this video here, but above is the link. Great song, and happy party! :)

p.s. My Christmas CDs are really putting me in a good mood. I have only a few, but they're good ones, just the right blend of swing and holiday spirit:
Christmas with the Rat Pack
Christmas on the Town (two discs)
Christmas Cocktails (discs one and two)
Elvis "If Every Day Were Like Christmas"

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Lyrics to "The Merriest" by June Christy

Merry Christmas!

I'd like to fix this bag of tricks
and hand it out with a fleeting greeting:

Smiles for the frowners
Salutes to the uppers
Boosts for the downers
May the day be the bowl of cherriest
And to all, the Merriest!

Hope you swing during the season
Hope your days go great
Hope you find plenty of reasons all year long to celebrate

Sun for the mopers
A laugh for the criers
Luck for the hopers
To the strange and the ordinariest
Me to you, the Merriest!

Thoughts for the musers
A cheer for the winners
Breaks for the losers
To the beats and the debonariest
Greetings like the Merriest!

Hope there's oil under your rosevine
Hope you get that raise
Hope you hope everything goes fine
the next 300 and some odd days

Friends for the loners
A Song for the singers
Grins for the groaners
make the day the nothing can compariest
have the most, the merriest!

Congratulations, Houston!

The first openly gay mayor of a major US city. And in Texas!

Houston Chronicle story.

I hadn't even heard of Parker until a few weeks ago.

S., from Houston, writing on her blog that she wouldn't vote for a lesbian made me wonder what the hell she was talking about! (Thought she was being oblique as usual.)

I finally figured out that Houston had a gay woman headed to the mayoral run-off. Wasn't too hopeful about her chances -- running against a black candidate in a city with a large black population, having to deal with all of the anti-gay right-wingers and the big business faction that had backed someone else. Looks like common sense (she had the best, by far, record of serving the city) won out!

Now, if the city would just do something about their water and hair quality...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Baby, It's Cold Outside and Thanks

Just got home from working 47.5 hours this week -- 7 days of work in a row! Thank you, god, for the work!!!!! More to come next week! (all adding up to January 1 rent...almost there)

And thanks, also, for the great deli across the street from the office. Usually quickie restaurants run by Chinese folk are crappy. (Seriously -- have you ever eaten at a "Tex-Mex" place run by Chinese people? OK then.) But... this Chinese-run place has GREAT roast beef and chicken and fish and salad bar...I've been eating very healthily and happily all week (for the first time in 6 months).

Also found a $10 bill lying on the street tonight while walking to my bus! (According to god, should have given it away, but...went and used it for beer instead. But, hey, the homeless person I'd have given it to would have just done the same...All the karma evens out, right??) ;p

And now...at home listening to Christmas CDs: "Christmas with the Rat Pack" and "Christmas on the Town." Dean's "Baby It's Cold Outside" has to be one of my favorite winter-time songs ever!

It was a good week, and today was a good day. Manhattan's absolutely beautiful in winter. Thank you for letting me be here!!!!!


Future New Yorkers! (circa 1978)




Me and Jody, future New Yorkers, winners of Azle Junior High's Clash Day! :)

Thanks to Jody for finding me on Facebook and sending me this picture. Notice the second picture above: Jody -- TO THIS DAY -- keeps a reminder of our triumph by his printer! :)

(Thanks also to my mom for the hat, gloves, and left shoe that I'm certain helped assure my sweet victory.)

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Christmas Magic

Your horoscope for December 9, 2009
Love is in the air for you, STEPHANIE. Think of yourself as a sprite skipping through the forest and offering your magic to all the creatures you encounter. You will be rewarded handsomely because you have so many things to offer. Spread your love far and wide. You will find yourself skipping from place to place and person to person, picking up smiles of pleasure from others. Put your worries aside for a while. There is every reason to be happy. Laughter is what keeps you young.

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Oh. My. God. I am probably the least sprite-like, least happiness-bringing, least love-spreading person in the world right now!! That horoscope for my Good Twin cracked me up! ;p

I have a fairly heavy emotional nature to begin with, and these past months of unemployment and constant worry have weighed down my spirit in relation to others into burdensome albatross-like proportions. Ugh.

And...this year I'm not even into Christmas! I have always been a real "Christmas person." For instance, in years past I would buy several boxes of Christmas cards and spend a whole evening picking out which was EXACTLY APPROPRIATE for the person I was sending it to. I'd spend weeks planning on EXACTLY THE RIGHT GIFT for people. I'd spend a whole evening decorating my house, complete with a mini-tree and door wreath and garlands strung over inside doorways. And, since living in the NYC area, I would wander around gaping at the pretty lights and the skating rinks and the interesting, fun goods at the outdoor booths of the local merchants set up in parks around the city. It was fairy-tale-ish for me.

This year, I'm not horribly depressed about Christmas (I could never be "horribly depressed" about Christmas; it's too warmly magical -- I say that unironically), it's just that I'm feeling very FLAT about Christmas. I don't have money to buy anyone anything, so that pleasure of planning and shopping is gone. And when I go home to Texas for a few days, it's with the knowledge that within a month I might have to move right back there (and also that I can't buy a nice outfit and get a great haircut to try to impress the folks who haven't seen me in a year). It's a bummer, man.

On the positive side, though, I did get a week-long work gig this week. At a mega-company that really knows how to deck their halls! 20-foot-tall sparkly wreaths, 15-foot-tall heaps of fake presents in the lobby. Again, I'm not being sarcastic -- the stuff really looks pretty! I really enjoy walking in and out of the building! And, since I get off at midnight each night, the company pays for a car to take me home. I feel quite glamorous! Whenever I walk out of the beautiful lobby to my awaiting coach each evening, I almost nod at the passing tourists, pretending that I'm a well-dressed financier who's just put in a hard 12-hour-day and made tons of money...now tired, but "good" tired...being driven home to my Upper East Side apartment. Fantasizing lifts this wannabe-sprite's spirits.

Oh, but last night the real me, the anti-sprite, kicked in: When I got in the car, the friendly driver gazed out through the windshield at all the bright lights of Times Square and said pleasantly to me, "It's Christmas." Mean Elf me replied, "What? Oh. It would be a better Christmas if I had a job." He didn't speak to me after that! So much for my "skipping through the forest and offering my magic to all the creatures I encounter"!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Hanker Chef

People who absolutely cannot spell are somewhat fascinating to me. I just was browsing on eBay for Joan Crawford things and came across someone selling a "Joan Crawford Hanker Chef."

A "hanker chef"!

The "fascinating" part for me comes into play when I start thinking about the life of someone who would spell "handkerchief" publicly that way...

(1) Have they never, ever read a book? (Admittedly, it's a tricky word to spell; I don't remember how I first learned it, but it was somewhere back in early grade school, when it kept popping up over and over again in various school texts. Eventually, at a young age, I picked up on how to spell it. Reinforced over the years by seeing the word again and again in numerous books.)
(2) Surely, when they were writing out their eBay ad, they had an inkling that they weren't spelling the word correctly, that certainly the word wasn't "hanker chef." Did they think to consult a dictionary? Did they not have a dictionary in their house?

Another thing that I came across recently (also in Joan-world) was "cold slaw." I was doing a Joan Crawford book review for an Amazon page, and someone there had accused Joan of throwing "COLD slaw" at a dinner guest. I wrote my review, and countered their claim of "COLE slaw" throwing -- correcting the spelling, thinking maybe there was just a typo on their part. But no, they came right on back with their COLD slaw!

My absolute pet peeve remains the mother of former Miami Heat basketball star "Anfernee Hardaway." My brother claims that I'm racist for thinking that Anfernee's mother simply didn't know how to spell "Anthony." Racist, Schmacist, I don't care! I'll bet you a million dollars that Hardaway's mom had heard the name "Anthony" but had no clue how to spell it, and so wrote down "Anfernee" on the birth certificate! (Same with player/coach "ISIAH Thomas" -- If you're going to name your kids biblically...then check your bible! It's ISAIAH, goddammit! Which reminds me of the story behind Oprah Winfrey's name: She herself said that she was named after the biblical character "Orpah" -- only her mom misspelled it "Oprah"!) :)

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Facebook friends

You know what I like about Facebook? If you're prone to wild spurts of fancy like I always have been, you might have imagined various dramatic "fates" awaiting your high school or college classmates or old crushes; but Facebook calms you down, makes you feel better about yourself in that, once you get back in touch with the sundry people from your past, the vast majority of them are simply going about their business nowadays. The popular kids in high school that you envied, or had crushes on, are housewives or balding insurance salesmen or realtors. The "glamorous folk" in your poetry classes whom you thought, when you were 19, would be famous are wives or librarians or community college teachers. Some people that you once judged as hopeless are now as put together, or much moreso, than yourself.

Back in my club days, I carried around a decidedly sinister view of the world, which I've also been garnering from watching too much TV lately while unemployed -- "sinister" as in: a feeling that the world is controlled by the awful, soul-deadening, depth-less opinions of uber-rich party girls/housewives and shallow gay party boys, and if you didn't conform to THEIR standards, then you were lacking and mocked... Well, gee, wonder why I felt like that! Maybe 'cause the Worlds o' Club and TV ARE INDEED controlled by said demographics!

Facebook proves life ain't like that. (And NYC, also, proves the same daily. There's so MUCH here! All walks of life, all types of people. The botoxed are a tiny minority. The beautiful women here might have something to say. The gay men are more likely to be interesting MEN, not just stereotypical "club boys." I can't get over how SANE a place this is, all around, for the most part.)

I probably wrote all of the above because I was just thinking of an acquaintance from high school who recently contacted me via Facebook. In high school, I remember being in advanced classes with him; I remember his serious expression and straight blond bangs; I remember his being part of the Timberlake "rich kids crowd"; I remember that he had a severe stutter at that time, and that once, at a school English-class outing, he asked me to order his food for him because he was embarrassed to stutter in front of the fast-food clerk. And, as he just reminded me, I now remember the "Clash Day" contest he and I won together in junior high -- prizes for who could intentionally wear the most mismatched clothes! (Photo to come, he promises!)

He's now a good-looking, successful designer dividing his time between NYC and a western state, with a long-term successful relationship with a good-looking older man. And, for some reason, he thought of me enough to contact me... Perhaps he remembered a fellow high-school odd-ball. He was from the "good" crowd, but he stuttered... I was pretty and smart, but I was often depressed and "weird"... Or, maybe his contacting me is just the innate "gaydar" acting up! :) Gay Azle-ites in New York City! :)

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Curious George!



When you're unemployed, you get to scout out lots of formerly unexplored TV show re-runs. I will always, ALWAYS HATE "Three's Company" and "Who's the Boss" and "Full House" and "Sex and the City" however much they're shown and re-shown.

However... CURIOUS GEORGE rules! :) I normally avoid watching cartoons. Even adult cartoons that I know are funny after watching a few times, like "King of the Hill" and "The Simpsons" and "South Park." I don't know why. I just don't particularly enjoy watching them (though I'm gaining a penchant for "King of the Hill").

But Curious George... I just discovered this PBS show aimed at 4-year-olds last week and now... I cannot get enough of George! He's too incredibly cute; I can't stand it!

Other new-found TV favorites that I never would have discovered had I been gainfully employed: "The Office"; "18 Kids and Counting" (those Duggers -- freakishly religious, but also freakishly NICE to the point of fascination); "Everybody Loves Raymond."

Not Drinking and Taco Bell


It's amazing how much you can get done on a day after not drinking anything! This morning I woke up at 7am, immediately got online and sent out 5 resumes, then made an appointment with yet another temp agency.

After that:
Did dishes
Did laundry
Hand-washed 2 bras and 2 shirts
Took 2 bags of old clothes to the local thrift store
Walked to the Hudson to see the NYC skyline
Craved Taco Bell, took a bus there, then walked the 3 miles home

The Taco Bell sauce packets have been bugging me for years now, though. A few years ago, they started putting "sayings" on the packets. Trying to be "edgy," but falling far short. For instance, here's what sauce I got today: "Help! I can't tell where I am. It's dark and I can hear laughing." And "Will you scratch my back?". And "Ahhh...We meet again."

Is "Help! I can't tell where I am. It's dark and I can hear laughing" really appropriate for a taco-sauce packet? Do they want me to feel angst while I eat my 99-cent taco? Or do they want me to feel that I'm "dark" and "hip" for eating at Taco Bell? What 19-year-old geek-boys did they hire to write this stuff? (What's next: McDonald's printing on their Happy Meals boxes: "Hello, little girl, I'm watching you"?)

Monday, November 30, 2009

$1063.26

I'm completely amazed and stunned by that amount. 2 weeks ago, I, in desperation, begged Joan Crawford fans, readers of the "Best of Everything" website, for contributions to help me stay in New York, to help me pay my rent... And they responded with over $1000 and tons of spiritually, psychologically helpful "you GO girl"-type of good, powerful wishes ...

WOW. I can't even begin to say how grateful I am for everything... the kindness of their thoughts... and the utter kindness of their donating anything to me. Even donations from some people who are themselves unemployed, or from teenaged kids who still live at home with their parents...

My Joan site really has meant something to them since 2004. And they're now literally paying it back. Revealing, I think, the true character of all of us Joan fans: Support for hard work, acceptance of admitted weakness, support for a dream...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for everything.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanks also for this "Bad Romance"

a la Lady Gaga:

"I want your love
And I want your revenge
You and me could write a bad romance..."

This song makes me wish I were back in my club days again!



Oh-oh-oh-oh-oooh!
Oh-oh-oh-oooh-oh-oh-oh!
Caught in a bad romance
Oh-oh-oh-oh-oooh!
Oh-oh-oh-oooh-oh-oh-oh!
Caught in a bad romance
Rah rah ah-ah-ah!
Ro mah ro-mah-mah
Gaga Ooh-la-la!
Want your bad romance

Rah rah ah-ah-ah!
Ro mah ro-mah-mah
Gaga Ooh-la-la!
Want your bad romance

I want your ugly
I want your disease
I want your everything
As long as it’s free
I want your love
Love-love-love
I want your love

I want your drama
The touch of your hand
I want your leather-studded kiss in the sand
I want your love
Love-love-love
I want your love
Love-love-love
I want your love

You know that I want you
And you know that I need you
I want it bad
Your bad romance

I want your loving
And I want your revenge
You and me could write a bad romance
(Oh-oh-oh-oh-oooh!)
I want your loving
All your love is revenge
You and me could write a bad romance

Oh-oh-oh-oh-oooh!
Oh-oh-oh-oooh-oh-oh-oh!
Caught in a bad romance

Oh-oh-oh-oh-oooh!
Oh-oh-oh-oooh-oh-oh-oh!
Caught in a bad romance

Rah rah ah-ah-ah!
Ro mah ro-mah-mah
Gaga Ooh-la-la!
Want your bad romance

I want your horror
I want your design
‘Cause you’re a criminal
As long as you're mine
I want your love
Love-love-love
I want your love, uhh

I want your psycho
Your vertigo stick
Want you in my room
When your baby is sick
I want your love
Love-love-love
I want your love
Love-love-love
I want your love

You know that I want you
And you know that I need you
(‘Cause I’m a freak bitch, baby!)
I want it bad
Your bad romance

I want your loving
And I want your revenge
You and me could write a bad romance
(Oh-oh-oh-oh-oooh!)
I want your loving
All your love is revenge
You and me could write a bad romance

Oh-oh-oh-oh-oooh!
Oh-oh-oh-oooh-oh-oh-oh!
Caught in a bad romance

Oh-oh-oh-oh-oooh!
Oh-oh-oh-oooh-oh-oh-oh!
Caught in a bad romance

Rah rah ah-ah-ah!
Ro mah ro-mah-mah
Gaga Ooh-la-la!
Want your bad romance

Walk-walk fashion baby
Work it
move that bitch crazy
Walk-walk fashion baby
Work it
move that bitch crazy
Walk-walk fashion baby
Work it
move that bitch crazy
Walk-walk fashion baby
Work it
I’m a freak bitch baby

I want your love
And I want your revenge
I want your love
I don’t wanna be friends

J'veux ton amour
Et je veux ton revenge
J'veux ton amour
I don't wanna be friends

Oh-oh-oh-oh-oooh!
(I don't wanna be friends)
Oh-oh-oooh-oh-oh!
Caught in a bad romance

(I don't wanna be friends)
Oh-oh-oh-oh-oooh!
Oh-oh-oooh-oh-oh!
(Want your bad romance)
Caught in a bad romance
(Want your bad romance)

I want your loving
I want your revenge
You and me could write a bad romance
(Oh-oh-oh-oh-oooh!)
I want your loving
All your love is revenge
You and me could write a bad romance

Oh-oh-oh-oh-oooh!
(Want your bad romance)
Oh-oh-oooh-oh-oh!
Caught in a bad romance
(Want your bad romance)
Oh-oh-oh-oh-oooh!
(Want your bad romance)
Oh-oh-oooh-oh-oh!
Caught in a bad romance

Rah rah ah-ah-ah!
Ro mah ro-mah-mah
Gaga Ooh-la-la!
Want your bad romance

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving '09

This year has been sparse, but I'm thankful for:

My mom's generosity.
The generosity of Joan Fans this past month.
My health (not mental health, surely, but physical!).
My quiet apartment with nice landlords.
The Cowboys and Longhorns games on today! (yearly traditions to watch; enjoyable even by myself)

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Speaking of "thanks" in general, and karma:

Years ago, in the maudlin doldrums, I remember thinking about Sylvia Plath and what her karmic punishment might have been for killing herself, for not being grateful for what she had. I came up with the perfect wicked scenario: She would be reincarnated as ME -- a poet, but not as talented as she had been; smart, but not as brilliant or as well-educated (state schools vs. Smith/Cambridge); and not as lucky in love (she bitched about Ted, but...I've been cheated on WITHOUT the benefit of someone brilliant and sexy to live with for 7 years!). The girl didn't recognize how lucky she actually was.

As for me today: Gee, back in Austin when I had a job and a car and friends and a family to be with on Thanksgiving, did I appreciate it? NO, not enough. Though I still don't think I made the wrong decision in moving to NYC. If I could only get situated job-wise here, I definitely don't mind not having a car; and seeing my family only once a year, at Christmas, isn't too bad, though I do wish I could see my nephews a lot more... As for friends: well, once you start working at a place regularly, and start having a regular income so you can spend money on going out, you start to make friends and start to go out! So...while I think I was partially ungrateful for my life in Austin, there's still something up here in NYC that my soul NEEDED to try for.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Plastic Bat / White Cat, Windshield / Bug

Your horoscope for November 25, 2009

Love is coming your way, STEPHANIE, and you are likely to be more passionate than usual. Be careful, however, for your enthusiasm for the object of your desire may go a bit overboard at this time. It is quite possible that you have an unrealistic view of the situation. It also could be that someone is leading you on, making you think something that isn't necessarily completely true.


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[I may be by born nature constantly hopeful and romantic, but I ain't stoooopid. I remember last year around this time going over the same stuff with the same person; I remember the past 44 years. Everything is mostly utterly arbitrary. Surface stuff that others respond to/react to because of their own pasts, innate inclinations. Hardly anything about YOU.]

Let the below remain a real-life lesson to me about "how life goes":

PLASTIC BAT: Age 6, Iowa Park, Texas: Next-door neighbor Al Aceves (dad mocked him as stupid, mom wondered why I helped Mrs. Aceves take in her groceries, but never helped her) organized a softball game for all of the neighborhood kids/teens: "Go get your bats and gloves and meet me back here." I was 6, I was excited, I ran to get the only softball equipment I knew of: my plastic bat. All the kids arrived back in Aceves's front yard. He checked out all of the equipment that all of us had brought, then told me: "Can't use that plastic bat." I was a crushed 6-year-old. I can still see me standing there sadly holding my plastic bat while all of the older kids walked away to play without me.

WHITE CAT: Age 20, Austin, Texas: My first poetry class. There were some stunning heavy-hitters there, and I turned out to be one of them. But there were also many people who didn't write so well. One was a girl who wrote things like "White cat, sitting on my rug, I wonder what you think..." I pitied her and utterly ignored her, while simultaneously, shallowly triumphing in my own glory of being, for once, "one of the good ones."

As the song goes: "Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mean Cripples

Today I saw a feel-good ad on TV that showed a retarded girl being crowned prom queen. Everyone in the shallow, teenaged crowd wildly beamed with whitened teeth and applauded themselves for being so saccharinely warm-hearted.

For some reason, the smarminess of the ad ticked me off. And I also started wondering: What if that retarded girl were a real bitch? (I have no experience with retarded people; but on TV they're ALWAYS portrayed as good-natured and lovable. Are any of them in real life just plain intentionally mean, just like some people in any other group? Or does Down's Syndrome automatically override the "bitchy" gene?)

Which all flashed me back to my junior high and high school years, to a little Crippled Bitch named Amy. I don't remember what exactly was wrong with her physically -- something debilitating that had shrunken and twisted her limbs. She could still use her arms and hands, but not her legs, so she was always in a wheelchair. She wasn't, though, one of those cripples who can't speak correctly or who writhes around and so is embarrassing; rather, she was smart and from the best neighborhood in town, and so had teacher support and a "posse" of 3 smug future-banker-wives types and the one guy in school everyone thought was gay (even though in 1977 small-town-Texas, we 6th graders really didn't know what "gay" was; we just talked amongst ourselves about whether the guy was a guy or a girl -- he had a neutral name, so no one could really tell! He went on in high school to become the first male mascot.)

Amy was a mean little bitch!

Our bad blood started in 6th grade, when we were both up for the same part in a school play. I can't remember the play or the part now, but in try-outs, I was better than her, and everybody knew it. A teacher even took me aside after my audition and asked if I wanted to try out for a different part; I knew this meant that she was going to give that part to Amy. I really, really wanted to be in the play, but I was stubborn, and told her "no." I wanted THAT part. My friends even begged me to just give in and take another part so we could have fun together. "NO." I, of course, didn't get the part I wanted; didn't get to be in the play (though the latter was my own stubborn fault).

In 7th and 8th grades, Amy had an annual summer "Snoopy Party" at the pool at her house, making it a point to hand out invitations publicly, so everybody would know who exactly was receiving the "honor" of being invited. Only the "loser" kids (bad students, cheap or stinky clothes, budding druggies) were not invited. I was pretty, well-groomed, an A-student, played sports, had a group of friends who were all invited. The little crippled bitch didn't invite me either year!

Once in high school, Amy and Her Cripple Cadre took over the Student Council. In Senior Year, the Council met to discuss the theme of the prom that year. The vast majority of the group voted for one theme; Amy and the Cadre wanted another. And managed to maneuver the parliamentary procedures so that, after 3 or 4 votes, they ended up getting exactly what they wanted! Their manipulations were outrageous (though perfectly legal), and no one intervened to stop them, or even seemed to be angry about what they'd just done. I was Editor of the school paper, and wrote an editorial about what I'd just witnessed -- something about "the letter versus the spirit of the law," blah-blah-blah. I was hoping for an uproar of some sort amongst both those on the Council who'd wanted the more popular theme and the general school population. Nothing. Except even more of a cold shoulder from the Cadre.

Further along in Senior Year, the Mean Crippled Bitch struck again. It was the time of year when teachers in our home-rooms were taking nominations for things like "Most Beautiful," "Most School Spirited," etc. Once the nominees were chosen, the whole school would then vote on the winners, which would appear in our yearbook at the end of the year. One of my close friends was in home-room with Amy (though I wasn't) when the teacher asked for nominations for "Most Likely to Succeed." When I was nominated, Amy piped up with, "Yeah, most likely to succeed...at DRUGS!" My friend dutifully reported how everyone laughed; my name didn't move forward.

Now, in hindsight, I suppose they were right! I didn't ultimately become too successful! But that's not the point. At that time, while I did wear John Lennon and anti-military T-shirts to school and walked around with a surly expression on my face -- I was also Editor of the school paper; I was a National Merit Scholar Semi-Finalist (the only one in our school; and we had only one Finalist, as well); I'd come in 2nd in STATE in UIL editorial writing; I'd won the academic awards in English for all 4 years; I'd won an essay contest sponsored by our local Congressman; I was active in school activities. I was fully qualified to be nominated... SANS bitchy sarcasm! :)

As for drugs... at that point, I'd never even seen a joint, much less any harder stuff; never drank; and had maybe smoked 4 cigarettes in my life. And the biggest irony is: AMY HERSELF WAS A REGULAR SECRET POT SMOKER!!!!!!! While I was mainly friends with the school nerds (paper staff, band members, science/math team kids), I also had a few smart "thug" friends -- one of whom had on several occasions provided Little Miss Cripple with joints and had smoked with her!!!

Oh, I was boiling mad. And, at the time, too darn wimpy to confront her. (One doesn't confront Little Crippled Chicks.) Over the past nearly-30 years, I've continued to have fantasies about what I should have done: We had an English class together; I've fantasized about marching up to her, saying firmly and sternly, "I need to speak to you in the hall." If she refused, I would then start my chastising tirade loudly in front of the whole class: "How DARE you accuse me of taking drugs! I've never taken anything in my entire life! And YOU, YOU'RE the one who smokes pot regularly, you hypocrite! How DARE you!"

(Whew! That felt good!) :) :)

God, but that bitch was pretty much the representative of everything that I considered awful/evil then, and still consider awful/evil now: Getting favored not because she was more talented but because she was crippled; publicly not inviting people to her parties; manipulating rules to get her way; the hypocrisy of publicly and FALSELY dissing people for an action that she herself was participating in.

Though I do have two softer memories of her...

(1) She and I were both in a drama class together in 9th grade and were performing a one-act play in front of a school assembly. We had one scene together, just the two of us, with rapid-fire, angry lines of dialogue back-and-forth. In the middle of the scene, she froze completely... We were two feet apart; I could see the panic and pleading in her eyes... When I realized what was happening, I pretended that her character wasn't answering me deliberately, and went on with my lines as a speech, as if my character were angry with hers for deliberately not responding. It worked. It saved her scrawny, wheelchair-bound ass! ;p Afterwards, backstage, she was big enough to thank me, and to ask me for a hug... I felt very close to her then. (You'd've thought she would've remembered that nice moment in Senior Year!)

(2) The friend who'd sold Amy pot told me that, once, while they were smoking, she'd revealed how sad she was that she was in a wheelchair; how she'd always wanted a boyfriend but didn't think she'd ever have one because of her condition...

The last thing I ever heard about her: One of my friends roomed with her at TCU their freshman year of college. My friend, L., was, probably still is, one of the nicest people in the world. But years later told me that, as Amy's roommate, she somehow became responsible for carrying her to the bathroom, and doing numerous other personal chores that ultimately became simply too much to handle. After the first year, they didn't room together again. (Don't know what happened to Amy after that. L. was gay briefly, later married a man who despised gay people, had kids with him; I'm assuming she's still kept her secret from him all these years.)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Empire State of Mind



"The city never sleeps better slip you an Ambien..."

[Jay-Z]
yeah
Yeah I'm out that Brooklyn.
Now I'm down in Tribeca.
Right next to DeNiro
But I'll be hood forever
I'm the new Sinatra
And since I made it here
I can make it anywhere
(Yeah they love me everywhere)
I used to cop in Harlem
All of my Dominicanos (Hey yo)
Right there off of Broadway
Brought me back to that McDonalds
Took it to my stash spot
560 State Street
Catch me in the kitchen like Simmons whipping Pastry
Cruising down 8th street
Off-white Lexus
Driving so slow
(but BK, it's from Texas!!)
Me I'm out that BedStuy
Home of that boy Biggie
now I live on Billboard
and I brought my boys with me
Say what up to Ta-ta
Still sipping Mai Tais
Sitting courtside
Knicks and Nets give me high-5
Nigga, I be Spiked out
I could trip a referee
...tell by my attitude that I'm MOST DEFINITELY FROM...

[Alicia Keys]
New York!!!!
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of,
There's nothing you can’t do,
Now you're in New York!!!
These streets will make you feel brand new,
the lights will inspire you,
Let's hear it for New York, New York, New York


[Jay-Z]
I made you hot nigga,
Catch me at the X with OG at a Yankee game,
shit I made the Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can,
you should know I bleed Blue, but I ain't a crip tho,
but I got a gang of niggas walking with my clique though,
welcome to the melting pot,
corners where we selling rocks,
Afrika bambaataa shit,
home of the hip hop,
yellow cab, gypsy cab, dollar cab, holla back,
for foreigners it ain't fitted act like they forgot how to act,
8 million stories out there and they're naked,
city it's a pity half of y’all won’t make it,
me I gotta plug a special and I got it made,
If Jeezy's payin LeBron, I’m paying Dwayne Wade,
3 dice cee-lo
3 card marley,
Labor Day parade, rest in peace Bob Marley,
Statue of Liberty, long live the World Trade,
long live the king yo,
I’m from the Empire State thats…

[Alicia Keys]
In New York!!!!
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of,
There's nothing you can’t do,
Now you're in New York!!!
These streets will make you feel brand new,
the lights will inspire you,
Let's hear it for New York, New York, New York

Welcome to the bright light..

[Jay-Z]
Lights is blinding,
girls need blinders
so they can step out of bounds quick,
the side lines is blind with casualties,
who sip the lite casually, then gradually become worse,
don’t bite the apple Eve,
caught up in the in crowd,
now you're in-style,
and in the winter gets cold en vogue with your skin out,
the city of sin is a pity on a whim.
good girls gone bad, the city's filled with them,
Mommy took a bus trip and now she got her bust out,
everybody ride her, just like a bus route,
Hail Mary to the city your a Virgin,
and Jesus can’t save you life starts when the church ends,
came here for school, graduated to the high life,
ball players, rap stars, addicted to the limelight,
MDMA got you feeling like a champion,
the city never sleeps better slip you a Ambien

[Alicia Keys]
New York!!!!
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of,
There's nothing you can’t do,
Now you're in New York!!!
These streets will make you feel brand new,
the lights will inspire you,
Let's hear it for New York, New York, New York

[Alicia Keys]
One hand in the air for the big city,
Street lights, big dreams all looking pretty,
no place in the World that can compare,
Put your lighters in the air, everybody say yeaaahh
come on, come,
yeah,

[Alicia Keys]
New York!!!!
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of,
There's nothing you can’t do,
Now you're in New York!!!
These streets will make you feel brand new,
the lights will inspire you,
Let's hear it for New York, New York, New York

[End]

Did I just get a reprieve??????

Lord almighty, I'm dreaming.

1) Did a temp employer from 2 years ago just e-mail me and ask if I was available for a project that runs through January?

2) Did the woman whose very soul I feel (!) just mention "Leo" (me!) alongside her usual "Virgo" on her blog?

3) Did Joan Crawford fans just contribute money for my December rent because they knew how much I loved Joan and how much time I'd devoted to the website over the past 5 years without ever asking for anything, and because I told them how much I sincerely loved New York and begged them for donations to the website so I wouldn't have to leave just yet?

YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

THANK YOU, GOD, FOR EVERYTHING --- for this brief reprieve, for the chance to stay, if even for a little while, in the oh-so-beautiful city that I'm in love with. (And thank you, also, for Sandra's beautiful spirit, for her innate ability to forgive.)

We'll see what happens. We'll see. I am so overflowing with gratitude right now. Just took a walk to the Hudson at 11pm and looked at the NYC skyline and cried with gratitude. There was no one around, so I also said out loud a couple of things: "Thank you, god, for letting me be here. Thank you. Thank you." and "Thank you, New York, for letting me be here and letting me look at you. You are sooooooooooo pretty."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Yes, it's sexist.

Hey, Obama's also a controversial cutie -- why doesn't Newsweek run a cover pic of him shirtless playing basketball, hmmm? Because it would be disrespectful, that's why.

Just as it's disrespectful to run this photo of Palin in her shorts on the cover of an alleged NEWS magazine. (A shot Newsweek stole from "Runner's World" magazine.)

Ironically, the below quote accompanied Palin's "Runner's World" article:

"It doesn't matter your background, your demographics, your race, your political
affiliation, it's such a uniting, healthy, fun, awesome activity. It cracks me up going to some running event and seeing some dude who campaigned so hard against me, or a lady who's been blogging some mean comments about me. But we're all there together and we're smiling and we're having a good time because we're going to do something healthy and active. We need more of that."

The idiotic, overtly biased behavior of the corporately intertwined Newsweek/NBC/MSNBC ever since the 2008 Presidential campaign is every bit as bad as that of the right-wing Fox network, on the other end of the political spectrum. In fact, while I still can't stomach Glenn Beck's drama, it's now come to the point where I, a life-long Democrat, would much rather watch the relatively sane Bill O'Reilly on Fox rather than the overtly insane, snarky, asshole Keith Olbermann on MSNBC any day of the week.


RE: "Swim at your own risk"

She forgets this Leo's love of water signs. (p.s. The below poem, part of my 1995 thesis, used to be titled "Of Luonnotar" -- pretentiously -- after a Nordic sea goddess. I think the new title is now "Swim At Your Own Risk.")

------------------------------------------------------------

There is something left unsaid: for wounding eyes
a cut of silence bled for washing clean.
In frequent deep, voices unwed; lone
divers careless in this wet sky,
a stroke above the clouds that part their waves to meet god.

She swims to this sign: a glass-winged girl
heaven-sent, stirring sluggish soil
and flooding deaf horizons with the brook's gurgle,
a babble academy loosing its flow,
dismissing what may shatter stone.

There is no fear of drowning, no caution at the water's edge.
All is safe, she will say, in sinking to the sea below.

Monday, November 16, 2009

East Texas Me-Ma

My grandma, Me-Ma, on my father's side lived in a trailer in East Texas. While my parents were still married, we'd visit her maybe twice a year. My mom was German and always kept me very well-groomed, so I was a favorite with Me-Ma among the cousins, just because I looked cleaner than the "scruffy little locals"! :)

One time during one summer, when I was 8 or so, my parents let me stay with Me-Ma for a whole week by myself. On the surface, I don't remember that much about my stay, except for getting to scrounge through her costume jewelry box, and running errands with her. (And, in the car, her mildly chastising me for reciting "Beans, beans, a musical fruit, the more you eat 'em, the more you toot.")

But once I got home, I remember crying and crying and crying. My parents asked and asked me what was wrong, and all I could say then was that I missed Me-Ma... What I missed about her, what was so different from my own home, was that she was kind to me. Not that she bought me things or anything, but rather that she listened when I talked and had conversations with me; she showed me things; she took me around with her. She made me feel like a normal person. I hadn't had that at home. And discovering it, and then losing it, hurt awfully. I was 8 and I was momentarily utterly heartbroken.

Jobs

I was looking on craigslist for jobs tonight. Found one for $7 an hour; one for
$8 an hour; one for $10 an hour.

Let's see: At 40 hours a week, before taxes, that would be... $1120 a month; $1280 a month; $1600 a month.

This is what's being offered for a copy editor in New York City? I made $7, $8, and $10 an hour in Austin, back before I'd ever even gotten my Bachelor's Degree, doing shit jobs.

My rent now, for a modest place outside of NYC, is $1550.

How is it expected that a grown woman in NYC can live on $1120 or $1600 a month?

You stupid, stupid, AWFUL motherfuckers.

Lack of Mentors

I've never had any mentor, anybody I could turn to for life/career advice.

When I got to UT in '83 at age 18, I was a lost kid. Nobody helped me. Several professors/grad students offered me an "A" in their classes if I would "have coffee with them" regularly. I kid thee not. Three times I was overtly offered this: specifically, an "A" if I'd see the professor/grad student socially. I was shocked, I didn't think the professors/grad students were attractive, and I said "no" each time.

Was THAT bullshit my chance at having a mentor?

I never had a professor take an interest in me. I loved the 3 poetry classes that I took with David Wevill, and I know that my poetry was good... But I don't think Wevill particularly liked me, and, come to think of it, I don't think he helped anyone else, even his favorites, get anything published. Why not, Wevill? You lazy fuck. Too much trouble?

I do dislike Wevill for his laziness. After his own personal success in the early '60s, the man gave up. Got his tenure, and then promptly gave up, never helping anyone else, even though that minor effort wouldn't have hurt him a bit. I have very little respect for him, though I did think he was a good teacher.

As I write this, at age 44, I'm melancholy: Wishing I'd had a mom or dad that guided me emotionally; wishing that when I'd gotten to college I'd had someone to guide me intellectually. I've had to raise myself and educate myself, and I think I've been sloppy and haphazard about it.

Damage, by Josephine Hart

"Damaged people are dangerous. They know they can survive."

Whenever the movie came out, I remember talking about it with my boss. She thought it was surreal, extreme. I thought it was ultra-real and horrible and frightening, based on my past experience. I envied her ability to look at it serenely, from a distance.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Monday, November 09, 2009

Brain Sex Test

A couple of days ago, I caught a couple of seconds of the "Dr. Oz" show (he's one of Oprah's acolytes who's now got his own show), and the topic was, "What type of woman are you?" (nurturing, organizing, etc.) One thing he mentioned, that I'd never heard of before, was that, thanks to the testosterone we're exposed to in the womb, most men have ring fingers that are longer than their index (pointer) fingers; while, among women, either the two fingers are relatively equal in length, or the index finger is slightly longer.

Well, of course, I immediately looked at my hands: longer ring fingers! Manly! Actually, I'm not that manly. While I'm mentally competitive, and especially competitive with men (thanks to a childhood of being told that women were inferior, as well as being well aware that I was smarter than most of the boys in my classes while they got touted for being smarter, except in head-to-head competitions with me), I'm actually extremely sensitive to my surroundings and to others' psyches, which is considered a "female" trait. (Though, my often-intentional ignoring of others' states of mind because I find them irrational or unfair is perhaps rather masculine and cold. And, to this day, I remain extremely proud of the fact that I stopped believing in the Bible practically the second that I read there that women were to be subservient to men. I was 15. Even at that young age, I recognized utter illogical bullshit when I saw it, despite its utter hold on our culture.)

Anyhow, childhood traumas/mental triumphs aside, after I saw the "Dr. Oz" show, I got curious about the "ring-finger/testosterone thing." And came across this BBC "Brain Sex" test.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody/sex/articles/testosterone.shtml

For me, it turned out to be pretty generic and inconclusive, despite my longer ring fingers. I scored in the "50" percentile, which is what the average "female brain" scored. (Though, in the "Eyes" section -- reading the emotions of 15 pairs of eyes -- I got every one right! Very female of me. I liked that one. Proud to know that I can spot dead, blank eyes when I see 'em.)

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Pictured: Me and Daddy, 1965



Happy memories that I have of my Daddy:

(1) When I was little, still wetting my bed (4 or 5?)... If I woke up in the night and I'd wet the bed, I'd call out for Daddy, because he wouldn't get mad. If, on the other hand, I woke up in the night and hadn't wet the bed and just wanted a drink of water or something, I'd call out for Mommy. I knew that Daddy was the nicer, less-judgmental one!
(2) When I was 5 or 6 or so... When my Daddy came home from work, he smelled, in a GOOD way. I was a little freak -- I always asked for my Daddy's musky T-shirt to take to bed with me, and I'd sleep with his T-shirts.
(3) At 10 or 11, going to the Air Force-base swimming pool. (Though NOT the time that we drove there playing "The Sweat Game"--windows of the car rolled up in the Texas heat, suffering/sweating utterly, to see who would give in first and ask for the air-conditioning -- I was as stubborn as he was. Only to find that the pool was closed that day!) I loved riding on his back in the water. I also liked other base-things, like pinball and bowling.
(4) Staying up late and watching movies.
(5) Taking a Reader's Digest word-test with him, and scoring higher, and him not getting mad.
(5) Post-divorce: As a college student, showing him poems by Plath and Sexton. (He found Plath "angry" and liked Sexton.)

I also appreciate the family myth (told to me by my mother) that in 1968, when we lived in South Carolina: The day Martin Luther King was shot, my father stayed up all night sitting by the door with a rifle, just in case "angry Negroes" came to white neighborhoods seeking revenge. In 2009, this sounds crazy, but in 1968, many Southerners, especially in South Carolina, really did fear this as a possibility. I do honor my father's sitting-up-with-the-rifle-all-night 1968 protectiveness of his family.

Congratulations, Yankees! / Sweat-pants!

Their 27th world championship, the most in any sport!

I must say, I seem to be a good-luck charm wherever I go... :) When I lived in San Fran in '94-'95, the dread Cowboy-rivals, the 49ers, won the Super Bowl. And while I've been living in NY, the NFC East Cowboy-rivals, the Giants, won the Super Bowl. And now this! :)

I didn't grow up as any sort of baseball fan, Texas or otherwise, so I can now be genuinely happy for my new home-town team, the Yankees! (Football-wise, though, I can NEVER be a Giants fan, since they're in the exact-same division as the Cowboys.)

p.s. I was in a happy mood this afternoon -- went and got a cheap ($28) but good Jersey haircut; then, on my 40-block walk home, stopped at a sporting-goods store and bought a $15 pair of sweat-pants, which also made me happy, having lived with 2 crappy, decrepit pair of sweat-pants for after-work-comfortwear for the past 5-or-more years. (The receipt from the sporting-goods store, and a sign in the window, said, "If the Yankees win the World Series, this location will open at 5 am the following day." It makes me happy to think that Yankee fans will be so excited that they'll be at the store at 5 am!)

Monday, November 02, 2009

Paparazzi/Lady Gaga

I can't get this song out of my head. I dreamt it last night, woke up hearing it, have been walking around with it all day...

Sorry to say, I don't find Gaga physically sexy in the least; despite her overt, constant "men-men-men, but I'm also bi" verbal and video proclamations of her ravenous sexuality, she seems, in actuality, much more like a dorky guy who becomes fabulous only when in drag. (For instance, check out the opening scenes of this long version of the video; they're supposed to be erotic, but to me seem only awkward. Despite all of her accoutrements, she's guy-stiff, doesn't at all move like a woman.)

But, as a performer and conceptualist, she's very mentally interesting! I started catching the tail-end of the video on MTV a couple of weeks ago, where a smirking, black-cupid-lipped Gaga is poisoning her boyfriend... I was first interested in the plot and the visuals, then... the catchiness of the song itself took over! (I also now find myself internally stuttering on about "mymymymymymymymypokerface"...)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

No More Crying

The John Lennon song "I Know (I Know)," from the 1973 "Mind Games" album.

Since Lennon's death in 1980, there have been many sets of his music released. I've never found "I Know" on any of them. Thanks, finally, to YouTube.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Five Easy Pieces

A month or so ago, I wrote about one weekend I spent lying in bed doing nothing but watching TV. It was initially depressing, of course, but at one point a string of fluffy "feel-good" movies started coming on on various channels, and I ended up getting in a pretty good mood. (I remember one was "Serendipity," another "Harvey Girls"...)

A couple of nights ago, the exact OPPOSITE happened: I actually wasn't depressed at all, and then, on TCM, came the Big Downer "Five Easy Pieces" (with Jack Nicholson, Karen Black, Susan Anspach). Jesus!

I'd seen it years and years ago, and loooooved it: the intensity, the "its ugly truthfulness about human/societal relations," etc. etc. But way back when I first saw it, I was just a kid and not stuck in the same sort of quagmire that Nicholson's character's in... Back then, I could watch the misery disinterestedly, as "art." (And, boy, did I feel grown up and voyeuristic getting to see what I felt/knew were real adults with real angst not connecting with each other.)

Watching it this time, I still admired the truthfulness of it. But I certainly wasn't a kid, removed from its harsh realities, which made it pretty depressing viewing.

Nicholson's character first appears as a working-class guy -- drinking, fucking, bowling, working in an oil-field. But he's annoyed most of the time. By his guffawing drinking buddy; by his idiotic fucks (one is Sally Struthers, of all people!); and especially by his simpering live-in girlfriend (Black), whose overt neediness and constant playing of Tammy Wynette records around the house drive him nuts. (The film's credits open to "Stand By Your Man," and "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" and a couple of other of her songs are also featured. I was torn -- I love Tammy Wynette! But the movie programmed me to cringe whenever one of her songs came on, because I knew that Black was about to act in an embarrassing fashion.)

On the surface, the above sounds like a comedy. Done today, it would be. But as is, everything was kind of painful to watch. Nicholson's no better than his buddy: He makes the same dumb jokes, participates in the same mindless activities. Nicholson's no better than his fucks: He's just as bored and light-weight-sleazy as they are. He's no better than his girlfriend: He might have the upper hand in the relationship because he's clearly not in love with her, but she is also, despite her clinginess, portrayed as a genuinely loving person, while Nicholson's behavior toward her is often unnecessarily harsh and cruel.

With these initial scenes, you might think: "Well, Nicholson's mean, but maybe he's just a restless, sensitive soul. He just needs to get away from these yahoos and he'll be fine..." A-ha! Here comes the plot instigator: He finds out that his father has had a stroke, and guilt propels him to return home, which he's apparently been away from for years (without anyone there knowing his whereabouts).

When he gets back home, we learn that he's from a very wealthy family, that he used to be a talented classical pianist (oh, so THAT's why so anti-Tammy...)And that he hated/hates his pretentious, pseudo-intellectual upper-crust family/friends just as much as he hates the working-class companions in his new life.

His brother's wife (Anspach) is one glimmer of hope for him -- she's a free spirit, too: smart, nice, insightful, a pianist herself, AND she fucks him (all good qualities). But she's also self-aware and realistic: Despite their sex and conversation, she's happy with her life. And he's obviously not. No, aside from the fucking, she doesn't want to be with him. Why on earth would she want to run off and be with someone who hates himself?

In a film made today, at this point Jack would now turn on the devilish, boyish charm and win the girl over, convincing her to dump her staid life and run off into the Great Unknown with him (while assuring us viewers with a wink that he's not mean any more, that this wonderful woman has brought out his "real" self). But this is an adult, realistic movie, made in 1970, and Anspach is exactly right: Nicholson's a desperate, not-very-emotionally-attractive mess. And he's ultimately left to his own devices.

Funnily, in a grim way, his path at the end of the film had been suggested earlier by a verbose anti-society lesbian hitchhiker that he and Black picked up while driving to his family's home. The hitchhiker had been as annoying in her own cliche-ridden "society sucks" way as had Black in her "stand-by-your-man" vapidity, yet... something about what she was blathering on about obviously stuck in his mind... She had, after all, applauded his denigration of a literal-minded roadside waitress...

You know, after writing the above, I'm not so depressed about the film after all... I think when I was watching it (at 4am) a couple of nights ago, I had no emotional shield up. I was seeing myself in almost every character. I often feel extremely dissatisfied and judgmental, like Nicholson, but I also saw how ugly he was acting and how unlovable he was. I saw how annoying Black was, but also realized that I sometimes act just as clingily and don't censor myself when I find myself repulsing people with my enthusiasms. I saw myself in the angry, annoyingly grim hitchhiker. And in the smug, condescending "intellectual" expounding at length during a get-together at the family home.

Whew! What a mirror!

Stepping back a bit, though: Sure, I'm unpleasant in many ways. For a film to make me think about my own behavior and life (for a film to make anyone think about their own behavior and life) is a real artistic accomplishment. This movie wasn't didactic, though. While it did portray Tammy-fans in a bad light, it also shone the same dark light on the opposite end of the spectrum. And on the in-betweens, like the hitchhiker (although the latter was, ultimately, the source of a slightly enlightening, glimmer).

"Five Easy Pieces," now that I think about it more, reminds me of one movie that I've long put on my "Top Twenty Favorites" list: "Naked," directed by Mike Leigh. David Thewlis's character was a complete loser, on the one hand; yet, at the end as he was hobbling off down the street and rejecting the figurative hand of hope that had been held out to him, a loser completely true to himself.

A loser terribly triumphant.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Happy Birthday, Sylvia Plath

THE TIMES ARE TIDY

Unlucky the hero born
In this province of the stuck record
Where the most watchful cooks go jobless
And the mayor's rĂ´tisserie turns
Round of its own accord. There's no career in the venture
Of riding against the lizard,
Himself withered these latter-days
To leaf-size from lack of action:
History's beaten the hazard.The last crone got burnt up
More than eight decades back
With the love-hot herb, the talking cat,
But the children are better for it,
The cow milks cream an inch thick.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

People can be nice

Thanks to "JH" for sending the below message to this blog. (She'd written in response to an angry post of a couple of days ago that I've now deleted.)

"I have kept up w/your blog since your big move. While NYC is a wonderful place, (I live in TX and visit NYC twice a year) it has changed you. You used to sound happier, even when you were bitching about people. You now sound so miserable and depressed.

Based on your writing, I am sure you have a lot of lovely qualities. You need to get back to where you were. Beautiful city or not, you aren't the same person as when you moved there. I really wish I could help as it is difficult sometimes to read. You need to get out and make new friends that aren't associated w/your past. If someone writes something scathing, you need to get past it. It only makes your heart heavier.

I wish you the best and I hope you are able to go back to work soon.

Concerned stranger"

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This is really a kind thing to send along.

And it did make me think, "HAS NYC changed me for the worse? AM I a different, more miserable person?" (I especially liked: "You used to sound happier, even when you were bitching about people.") :)

I can't really agree that it's NYC that's making me miserable, though. There's a general sense of exhilaration in the city that I really enjoy being around. And I like the people in general and the weather specifically much better.

It's just...
(1) the damn economy! Not having income, being in that limbo, is scary and depressing. I can't go anywhere, I can't buy anything. It's basically a life of watching TV, being on the computer, and walking around. Which gets old after a month or so.
And (2) I think, JH, that you did have a good point about making new friends not associated with my past. Sandra, the woman I've been bitching about for the past year, is definitely associated with a very bad time in my past: when I was 20, not yet out of the closet, secretly in love with her back then... And then she "shows back up" in my life 23 years later, sometimes really into me, sometimes "hating gay women." All of the emotional shit that I've been through with her over the past year hearkened me right back to when I was a miserable, closeted 20-year-old. Not to mention pulling me emotionally back to Texas, where I don't want to physically be any longer. I've been unable to concentrate fully on my life up here -- where I do physically want to be -- because I've been constantly thinking about her in Texas.

This past year has been really, really hard. Wish me luck with finding a job up here. That's going to solve a whole lot of mental problems.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Pursuit of Happiness

Just read the below column in the NYTimes by a woman my age (44). It's basically about giving up, and about being envious of a 12-year-old!

I found certain things in the column to be true: At age 12, there is certainly a sense of "limitless possibilities" open to you. A false sense, in this case, I might grouse. Most likely, the below-mentioned daughter of this New York Times columnist, a daughter who is already (obnoxiously -- at age 12?!) going off for "conferences in Washington," is going to be, at 44, exactly like her mother: Married-with-children, earning $85,000 a year at a cushy city job, living in Connecticut or someplace, probably bemoaning upper-middle-class life (either privately with her privileged friends or, god forbid, in a public forum where she expects sympathy).

And then there's the quote: "It’s just that urgency that goes, in early middle age. 'All that yearning and anguish and passion had been replaced by a steady pulse of pleasure and satisfaction and occasional irritation, and this seemed to be a happy exchange; if there had been times in her life when she had been more elated, there had never been a time when things had been more constant,' Emma Morley, one of the two narrators of the British writer David Nicholls’s recent novel, 'One Day,' reflects, as life and love come together for her at age 38. 'What is there to care so much about?' she continues, '… everything had evened out and settled down and life was lived against a general background of comfort, satisfaction and familiarity.'"

Well, bully for those staid, privileged women for whom the above is true... But... that state certainly ain't the case for THIS 44-year-old. I'm wondering where my own "steady pulse of pleasure and satisfaction" and "general background of comfort, satisfaction and familiarity" are! As yet non-existent, perhaps by choice. The search goes on for me.

For instance: When I left Austin for NYC in 2007, I was 41, had a good-paying job, a car, a comfortable, coolly-furnished house (albeit a rental)... And gave it all up to throw myself into a strange city with nothing because I was bored to death where I was. Peggy Lee's "Is that all there is?" was the refrain in my head at the time. I wanted to be mentally challenged; I wanted to learn new things, see new things. Inspired, perhaps, by the opening paragraphs of our country's Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness..." (How utterly audacious and unusual is it to include the goal of "the pursuit of happiness" in a political document/blueprint for a nation!)

It seems to me that Judith Warner (the columnist below), on the other hand, has completely given up. In her own mind, her life is over. No more happiness or intensity. Her remaining subdued thrills being to (1)live through her daughter's "conferences"; and (2) watch her husband dance/sing boyishly. According to her, she's got nothing.

Jobless as I am at the moment, I feel sorry for her and her lack of imagination and future.

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Column by Judith Warner in the New York Times (10/15/09)


It was one of those moments that really should be meaningless. Julia and I were in the car, listening to the soundtrack of the new remake of the movie “Fame.” We were both singing along to the title track; I was grousing lightly to myself about the impudence of anyone’s even attempting to remake the 1980 Irene Cara song, when suddenly I heard Julia’s voice, stronger and more confident than mine: “I’m gonna live forever. I’m gonna learn how to fly. (High.)”

And one of those all-too-frequent choke-in-the-throat feelings came over me.

This was her song now. Not mine.

The sense of limitless possibility: hers. Vaulting ambition: hers. Anticipation, excitement, discovery, intensity: all hers.

It is a strange thing to have a 12-year-old — that is to say, a child who is coming out of the family cocoon and starting to make a life for herself out in the world. Up to a point, of course. Julia isn’t yet going to college, or getting a job.

But on the day in question we were on our way home from shopping for clothes for a conference that she was going to attend in Washington. She was going to live in a dorm. Carry her own Advil. Dress in “office casual” clothes, the defining and finding of which had obsessed me, successfully channeling all my anxiety about her going away to be a mini-conventioneer among strangers. Until, of course, the clothes were found.

I kept coming back to one skirt, turning it in my hands and studying it. If I didn’t own it now, I was sure I had owned one very much like it in the past.

“I could wear this,” I said, holding it in front of me, and picturing it a size or three larger.

“But promise me you won’t,” she said, with desperate urgency.

It’s just that urgency that goes, in early middle age. “All that yearning and anguish and passion had been replaced by a steady pulse of pleasure and satisfaction and occasional irritation, and this seemed to be a happy exchange; if there had been times in her life when she had been more elated, there had never been a time when things had been more constant,” Emma Morley, one of the two narrators of the British writer David Nicholls’s recent novel, “One Day,” reflects, as life and love come together for her at age 38. “What is there to care so much about?” she continues, “… everything had evened out and settled down and life was lived against a general background of comfort, satisfaction and familiarity.”

This is a turning point in the book. Happiness — elusive for so long — has been achieved.

And then, three pages later, Emma dies.

This is the cruelty of middle age, I find: just when things have gotten good — really, really, consistently good — I have become aware that they will end.

“It’s the circle of life,” a friend said, semi-tearfully to me the other day, still recovering from her choke-in-the-throat experience of having received a note from her daughter’s fourth grade teachers warning that, soon enough, the precious 9-year-olds in their care would need to start to wear deodorant.

“Changes are coming.” She was still choking up over it. Puberty was on the horizon for her daughter; menopause for her.

We always say “circle,” but to be perfectly honest, I now see the passage of time more as a kind of bell curve. Years of ascension, soaring anticipation, followed by a plateau — which is not so bad, really — and then, no way to sugar coat this: a rather precipitous decline.

You are not supposed to think this, much less say it. A decline? Never!

Fifty is the new 30, after all; and 70 is the new 15, and 40 — well, the forties are just so fabulous that they can’t even be considered middle age. Even if they do happen to fall right smack in the middle of what, despite our best efforts, is still a limited human lifespan.

Susan Jacoby, the author of “The Age of American Unreason,” among other books, found herself, a year or so ago, attending a panel at the World Science Festival in New York City called “Ninety is the new Fifty,” and is now writing a book on the “delusion” she says we all have “that age is something that can be defied.” Her focus is on how the baby boom generation faces old age: “if we do everything right, we’re not going to get old or sad. It’s part of the belief that a positive attitude can fix everything and you’re not going to die.”

Yet the stirrings of mortality, and our fears of facing it, she acknowledges, can start much earlier. “The forties are a kind of deadline,” she told me.

My life, I’ve often told my girls, feels in these years as if I am constantly about to take a giant math test. Even so, I’d much rather be 44 than 14, as I was when “Fame” was first released. And 14 was already worlds better than 12.(“The seventh and eighth grades were for me, and for every single good and interesting person I’ve ever known, what the writers of the Bible meant when they used the words hell and the pit,” Anne Lamott wrote, in “Operating Instructions.” “Seventh and eighth grades were a place into which one descended… . One was no longer just some kid. One was suddenly a Diane Arbus character. It was springtime, for Hitler, and Germany.”)

There are trade-offs: intensity versus contentment, exaltation versus peace. And perhaps the best exchange of all: you trade in an idea of yourself for a reality that, if nothing else, can make you laugh.

Our family shared a ride to school and work the other day, and in the car we listened, of course, to “Fame.” I parked, and Max walked the girls to the front door of the school. Suddenly, spontaneously, he burst into song.

His shouts of “Fame!” were accompanied by sideways leaps and expansive arm gestures that I, from across the street, could recognize as disco-era choreography.

The girls scuttled off with record speed. The other children, and most of the parents, averted their eyes.

Yet one mother, tired-looking, with a baby in a stroller, kept turning back for more. One more glance, one more giggle. She walked off, laughing still, and shaking her head.

She may have made some kind of comment to her baby as she passed by me in the car; I couldn’t hear it. The music was turned up too loud.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

9.8%

Unemployment in the US hit 9.8% yesterday. It's the highest it's been in 26 years. 1983. The year I graduated from high school.

I've never in my life had to deal with this before. Up until now, the longest I'd ever been without a job was one month. I saw a poll a few weeks ago saying that something like 57% of those unemployed were "traumatized" by not having work. Sorry that I couldn't be one of those stalwart 43%; on the contrary, I'm very traumatized.

I've got a Masters degree. I've got 10 years of experience as a copy editor. I've sent out over 50 resumes to every conceivable job site in the NYC/NJ area.

While Unemployment checks have been tiding me over for the past 4 months, they've been paying my rent and utilities, and very little else. I have not been able to do anything since May, except maybe "splurge" on a $6 hamburger/fries plate every other week, and a haircut every 6 weeks. My apartment looks like shit. I look like shit. I did buy a cheap pair of shoes last week, but prior to that, the last time I bought any clothes was a couple of sweaters last Christmas.

This really sucks.

Scandalous males

Scandalous males are in the news lately, and the subject of discussion on both the Joan-board and among my Facebook friends. I thought I'd just go ahead and get all of my opinions out right here:

Jon Gosselin: A mere day or so after the producers of "Jon and Kate + 8" announced that the show's name would be changed to "Kate + 8" and Jon given a minimal role, Jon then announces that being on camera is bad for his kids and he forbids it. What a blatantly self-serving asshole.

David Letterman: While single, he had sex with adult females who worked for him. So what?

Roman Polanski: He had sex with a 13-year-old girl, after giving her drugs and alcohol. Allegedly consensual, after her own mother brought her over to his house. I kept thinking of the days of slavery: Back in the day, warring tribes in Africa would capture and sell the defeated to the white guys. Did that make it right? Similarly, if one's mother offers one up to someone else for sex, even if a famous director, does that make it right? Shouldn't the director have said no? If the girl had been 16 or 17, it would be a gray area for me. But 13? You don't have sex with 13-year-olds. Period. Put the creepy pedophile in jail.

John Phillips: Daughter Mackenzie Phillips says she and her father had sex numerous times over a 10-year period, usually while on drugs. The first time was a complete violation on the father's part, drugs or not. But after that? Why did Mackenzie continue to have sex with him, as an adult, over the next TEN YEARS? She wasn't a helpless child in his care. The violations occurred between the ages of 18 and 28. Ridiculous. Both John Phillips and Mackenzie Phillips are ridiculous.

Tardy for the Party

Kim's incredibly catchy song from Real Housewives - Hotlanta! Thanks to Kandi and her engineering friends for whipping this sucker into great shape! I love it! :)

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Wow... Thank you for the hope.

After writing my below (sad) blog entry, I checked my Joan-site e-mail, and found the following message:


"It's ______ again, and I was just thinking about you. I know you've had an extremely difficult year with your work situation and everything. I just want to tell you that everything is going to be changing for you by the end of October of this year.
I've studied astrology for many years, and over the last year you've had many work difficulties because the planet Saturn is in Pisces, and it is opposing all of your Virgo planets at the moment. This aspect will be ending, and things will look bright in your life again. So just hang in there."

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RE: "everything changing by the end of October"? Coincidentally (?) that's when my New Jersey Unemployment Insurance runs out, and the deadline I've given myself to give notice here and move back to Texas (though I don't want to) if I haven't found a job...

HOPE! :) Thank you! :)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Haunted / Really Bad Year(s)

Last night during my 12, or whatever it was, hours of sleep, at one point I was dreaming and found myself upstairs in an old 3-story house (which I'd had one or two dreams about before). I started to open a door to a room I'd been in before. But this time, the air inside the room was very, very dense. Not only grayish to look at, but also very HEAVY, where I could barely push the door open. I finally got the door open to where I could see in, but all of the air was pushing back at me, and every cell in my body was telling me, "You don't want to go in there. It's haunted." I felt every bit of whatever was haunting that room and backed out. And immediately woke up, utterly spooked...

The feeling reminded me of one other instance: Back in '91, during a time of going to sleep every night drunk and crying while in the long process of losing my first girlfriend... One night, at one point I'd just fallen asleep, and suddenly felt a dark, dark presence in the room; I don't know if I heard an "outside observer" speaking, or if I just felt this, but something told me: "It wants to get inside you." I immediately woke up, sat up in utter horror. And turned on all the lights in my house. And sat up awake for the rest of the night, lights blazing, not daring to move until the sun came up.

That was the only time in my life where I ever actually felt an evil spirit. Though last night's dream came somewhat close, it wasn't quite the same.

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I was just now thinking: 2009 has got to be one of the worst years of my life! It started out coming home from a Christmas where I couldn't afford to buy anyone presents (unlike the year before, when I'd had a good job and had neat NYC-related gifts for everyone), and after not meeting up with someone I'd been hoping to meet up with. And I'd left my cat Gracie home alone for 5 or 6 days; plenty of food and water, but she was never the same after that. Almost immediately, she started to get sick; the awful deterioration went on for months until she died April 15. In February '09, my boss told me that after my 6-month contract was up May 17, the company couldn't afford to keep me on. So that was hanging over me, the unemployment stress and uncertainty continuing to this day. Then there's been the hurtful, murky stuff with S. all year until now. It's ALL been very, very murky and unpleasant. A lot of extreme heaviness and sadness.

Other bad years: 1984, 1991, 1996-99. And by "bad," I don't mean that the year was one of "change," which can be scary but still exciting, but rather one (or several) of utter STAGNATION and nothingness and deadness.

'84: My second year at UT. Back home, my first love Ginny'd found a new "best friend," but that summer we tried to reconnect...only, the new "friend" had to be included whenever I wanted to do anything with Ginny, and Ginny had started to talk just like the girl...just a big emotional mess. And my mother and I fought constantly. I ended up "running away from home" (at age 19) after 6 weeks in Azle, then spent the rest of the summer in a one-room-green-shag-carpet apartment in Austin, drinking a lot of wine and listening to Simon and Garfunkel and writing lots of morose poetry. That fall, couldn't concentrate at all in school, almost flunked out. At one point in the fall, Ginny and "friend" showed up, to sell tapes they'd stolen from the Fort Worth record store where Ginny worked. The Austin store called the cops on them. Ginny got in legal trouble; her father blamed ME. Ginny, I figured out later, had told him that I suggested she steal the tapes and bring them to Austin (which I certainly had not). Just as, when he once found cigarettes in her car, she told him they were mine (they were not). I was madly in love at the time, but have to admit now that she was really a shitty person.

'91: I wasn't in school, had a low-paying job, nothing going on. Final break-up year with first girlfriend after 3 years. The breaking up went on forever. One lowlight: We'd planned on spending the 4th of July weekend together. At the last minute, though, she said she had to go to her sister's place in Gonzalez for some family function. I'd been there with her before, so was disappointed not to be asked to go along. But, OK, it was a family thing; I wasn't mad, just disappointed. HOWEVER... the girlfriend was kind of a local Austin "celeb" on the club scene. She'd get blurbs written about her in the "Chronicle" and other smaller club/gay 'zines. And, a week or so after the 4th of July, lo and behold: there was a little article, complete with photo, about her and her bevy of 16-year-old punk chicks at some club party IN AUSTIN on the 4th of July weekend! Busted! While it felt a little good to be vindicated in my utter distrust of her, it mainly felt like shit to actually know the truth. September of this year was our final breakup (well, until 2000). With a lot of shitty feelings all year.

'96 - '99: I got my Master's from SF State in December '05. Hated SF, was very lonely, couldn't wait to get back to Austin after 2 years away, where I thought the following all awaited me: My two very close girlfriends of 9 years; my friend Jerry, whom I always went to see bands with; my writer's group (with my good friend Brian; as co-editors, we'd put out 3 lit magazines in Austin before I'd left); my (male) lover, whom I'd been seeing for 8 months before I left.

Well, within 6 months of my return: Both best girlfriends moved out of town with their boyfriends. Jerry moved back to San Antonio. Brian got accepted to grad school at Johns Hopkins. My lover stood me up at what was to have been our reunion, and I never saw him again. Seriously, all within 6 months. I was devastated by all of the losses, and basically went on a drinking binge that lasted for 4 years. Compounding the misery, I couldn't find a decent job, and ended up working at the same low-paying library job that I'd had before grad school. (I'd thought that having a Master's would immediately open all kinds of doors... Nope.)

2009 ranks right down there. Can't quite figure out which has been the worst! Maybe '96 - '99.

I'll always have Ring-Dings

There's a deli near my house where I don't go very often 'cause the food isn't very good, and it takes forever to get anything made. (Even though it's run by a huge Arabic family, with a mom, a dad, two kids, various cousins, every time I go, it seems there's only ONE person minding the shop. They'll start to make my sandwich, then a customer will come in and they wait on him, then back to the sandwich, then to another customer, etc. etc. It's always about 20 minutes for me to get my food.)

But, still, I'll go there maybe once a month; the mom always remembers me and my (un)employment situation! Today, when I stopped in for a greasy burger and fries, she was ringing me up and asked if I'd found a job yet... Nope. She shook her head sympathetically and then threw a package of Ring-Dings into my bag: "Here. These will make you feel better."

Ah, the kindness of strangers! :)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Big Hug

People hug all the time. Mostly they don't mean it, they just barely touch. I'm not a hugger. I try to avoid hugging most of the time, 'cause it's usually phony.

One hug in my life that I really felt, where I remember actually deeply feeling the other person's body, spirit, sadness... my friend Kathy, in the summer of '88. We'd been friends in Austin and this hug was to say goodbye because she was going back to Fort Worth for the summer.

Earlier that spring: I will never forget how fucked up we were one night, crashing in her apartment. At some point, I guess it was the next morning, we both needed to brush our teeth. I didn't have my toothbrush with me, and was prepared to do without... but Kath offered me her own toothbrush. She offered me her own toothbrush.

Years later, I also remember the fun time we had going to watch "Chicago"... and loving it so much we had to immediately afterwards stop off at the WalMart, or whatever it was, to buy the soundtrack CD, and then go home to her apt to listen AND DANCE to it over and over and over and over and over... (Thanks to Kathy's husband for being so nice and patient with us!) :)

Other things over the years: When I was feeling sick and isolated, she brought me a surprise McDonald's meal. When I didn't have a car, she took me for groceries. One birthday, when I didn't have anybody to share it with, she came over with movies and pizza. (The latter two long after she was married and lived way out in the country, far away from an easy jaunt to my house.)

I miss Kathy a lot.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Only in New York: Bluegrass and Gilbert Gottfried

For days I've been lying about the Weehawken house again, but this morning leapt out of bed after having an invigorating dream about selling deli sandwiches from a cart. In the dream, at first I was just standing in front of the cart, mumbling things aloud off the menu posted on the side, stumbling along, nobody really paying attention to me. Finally, I just started yelling energetically, "Hot pastrami! Get your hot pastrami sandwiches right here! Try 'em! They're delicious!" And all of a sudden, there was a long line of people!

I woke up right after that, thinking immediately, "Time to get into the City!" And I did! (What's funny: after re-reading the below, much of what actually happened to me while I walked around sounds like I was still asleep and dreaming!)

I must've walked 10 miles today. First, to and halfway across the Brooklyn Bridge, then up past City Hall/Gracie Mansion, and then to Hester/Mulberry streets (which used to be the heart of the tenement district but is now lined with blocks and blocks of crowded, expensive cafes, and all the interesting tenements boringly yuppified). At one point, I stopped at a store to buy candles, and gave the clerk a $20. He had to call his manager so she could witness the fact that he was receiving CASH! At first, I thought he was trying to be funny, but no: He said that hardly anybody pays with cash any more, so it's store policy that there has to be a managerial witness to make sure the clerks don't pocket the money!

There were dozens of blocks of street fairs going on today, too, with tons of earrings and cool T's and things to look at. Here's something that put me in a GREAT mood: I was browsing at one earring stand, and 3 Puerto Rican teenaged girls a couple of feet away started whispering loudly to each other and staring at me. I kind of glanced over at them, then looked behind me to see who they were looking at. And then one of them took MY picture with her phone! I looked at her, surprised, and she asked me, "Are you somebody? I've seen you before." I laughed, and shook my head "No" and went back to looking at earrings...and then she took more pictures of me before I walked off! Who the heck did she think I was?? (My best claim to pseudo-fame remains: While I was on vacation in NYC in 2005 or so, I was standing in Columbus Circle trying to figure out directions and a 40-ish woman in a business suit came up to me and asked if I was Nicole Kidman!!! I stress the "woman in a business suit" part because, no, it wasn't some crazy homeless guy asking!) :) :)

After that ego boost, I kept heading North, stopping for a street vendor's gyro/rice/salad plate and settling down at a public cafe table near Madison Square Park. I was momentarily disgruntled when some idiot cheerily asked if he could share my tiny table. ("Sure." I wanted to point out to him that there were other empty tables really close by, but instead just started scarfing down my food so I could escape. Luckily, he got a phone-call so I didn't have to make conversation with him.) While eating, I could see a big crowd gathered at the park and hear music that sounded kind of like the Dixie Chicks. Curious, I ate even faster so I could go see what was going on over there...

Not the Dixie Chicks, but rather "Sierra Hull & Highway 111," a bluegrass/country group, playing a free show. (I'd never heard of them, but apparently Hull is some kind of bluegrass/mandolin wunderkind, which I learned after getting home and looking her up online.)

Their music reminded me of Austin and Texas music, and I started getting goosebumps (like the time a Tejano band in full regalia played for money on my subway car) and tapping my toe and bobbing my head... When I caught myself tapping and bobbing, I at first stopped myself self-consciously: "Gawd, everyone's gonna think I'm a hick!" But then I looked around me: the whole crowd of over 500 New Yorkers was full of toe tappers and head bobbers! Well-dressed middle-aged and old couples, young hipsters, Japanese and German and Icelandic tourists, 30-somethings with baby strollers whose toddlers were dancing around in front of the stage (just like at millions of outdoor Austin shows I'd gone to). I had to bite my lip several times to stop from getting teary, the vibe was so good! Hard to explain, but while I watched the show I was so full of love for New York and New Yorkers, loving them for getting into the good country music and enjoying themselves.

And then, the icing on the NYC cake: Standing just to my right, a 50-something unshaven gray-stubbled man and his younger blonde wife had two kids with them. The man was watching a baby in the stroller while the wife chased around their toddler, who kept dancing closer and closer to the stage... I was smiling at the toddler trying to escape and kept watching the parents to see what they'd do... Then I noticed that the man looked very familiar: short, VERY squinty eyes... He was wearing a baseball cap that had "Comedy Central" in small letters on the back. When I saw the "Comedy Central," it clicked: the comedian Gilbert Gottfried! Nooooooooooo. I looked secretly again and again. Oh, yes! I was standing next to Gilbert Gottfried, of all odd people, at a free outdoor bluegrass show in the heart of New York City. (And I was happy to see him with a family! Every time I've seen him on TV over the years, the thought has always crossed my mind: "Oh my god, he is so weird and annoying. Who would have sex with him?")

(Just to make sure it was really him, once I got home, I checked his Wikipedia page. Sure 'nuff, he has two kids, one born in 2007, one in 2009. Then I looked up his wife Dara Kravitz's photo --- see below. It was them! I had to do the same "research" the time I spotted Elvis Costello and wife Diana Krall walking a twin stroller around Union Square last year, after not believing who I'd just seen.)

What a wonderfully dream-like place, even when you're awake! :)