Thursday, April 30, 2009

Here's a real (albeit semi-drunk) couple.

I love George and Tammy together. (FYI: At the end of the song, when Tammy breaks into "George is lying there with Janet on his mind"---"Lying Here With Linda On My Mind" is a Conway Twitty hit, and "Janet" is the name of George Jones's...lawn-mower. There's a famous story in country circles: One night George wanted to go get likkered up and Tammy said no and hid his car keys. Not to be deterred, he hopped on "Janet" and puttered to the nearest liquor store.)

The POST giveth, the POST taketh away


Goddammit, can't there be just ONE nice thing left in the world, for pete's sake? Thanks, NYPOST, for bursting my happy bubble about Jon and Kate Gosselin of "Jon & Kate Plus 8"!

POST article
US WEEKLY article

Last spring, when I was last unemployed, I was hanging around the house a whole lot with nothing to do and got hooked on TLC's "Jon & Kate Plus 8." The reality show was rather annoyingly over-wholesome, but still nice. (Jon and Kate Gosselin had had fertility treatments and had given birth to sextuplets. They already had twin girls, hence the "8." The show's just a feel-good look at their daily lives with the 8 kids.)

For some reason, it was interesting to me to see how all the kids got fed, how the family arranged sleeping quarters, how they all went to DisneyWorld or attended local parades or celebrated Valentine's Day, etc.

Yes, Kate was/is overbearing and an anal control-freak. I cringed the time she was yelling at Jon at the top of her lungs in a WalMart... And the time when Jon was riding bikes in the driveway with some of the kids and then on a whim took off by himself down the block: "JON!!! JON!!!! Get back here!!!!!!!!!!" [to kids] "Daddy's leaving us." At the latter, I kind of thought, "Gee, you're being obnoxious, Kate. Let the man ride his bike!" A sentiment echoed months later on a segment of E!'s "The Soup," when the host played yet another clip of Kate bitchin' at Jon, then announced a new (fake) show, "Jon Minus 9."

But, in the grand scheme of TV things, I also thought Kate was attractive and wry and funny. And Jon, cute and laid back and patient. Both seemed sane, and good with the kids, at least on camera.

And now the POST reports that Jon's out getting drunk at 2am with a woman he calls "Babe" while his wife's on a book tour for..."Eight Little Faces" of all things??

This is just TERRIBLE news! Can't something just be NICE for once?

I realize how silly it is to expect something from people on a reality TV show... but... damn! I kind of had hopes for the family!

They weren't some creepy religious freaks who just wouldn't stop having kids, like on the "20 Kids and Counting" show, or whatever it's called (also on TLC); they weren't sleazy, like the "Octomom"'s story is...

What's next? Susan Boyle plucking her eyebrows and having liposuction??

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I'll always have THE POST



I may have no cat, no job (as of next month), no girlfriend, no car, no cute spring clothes...but I'll ALWAYS have the joyously insane NYPost! :)

To the left are two Post covers that made me laugh so hard that I had to put them up on my wall at work at the time. "Bronx Zoo Fires Animals!" from last Friday; Hillary/Bam from the March '08 primary season.

RE the "Animals" head: I was reading that Post issue at work last Friday when my office-mate asked innocently: "I haven't seen the news today. Anything important going on?" I, deadpan, held up the front page headline.

This POST talk also reminds me of last Christmas, when I took issues of various NYC papers and magazines to my mom's: My mom picked up a copy of the POST and was browsing through it. After a few minutes, I heard her grumble: "I don't see what's so scandalous about 'Page Six.'"

"Page Six" is the famous gossip column that the POST runs... Back in the olden days, the column did indeed used to appear on the actual page 6 of the paper, but has since migrated to some random page further on (while keeping the same "Page Six" heading). Mom had been looking at some innocuous national news that happened to be on page 6 of the paper. (Hee-hee!)

Monday, April 27, 2009

All sexed up and nowhere to go

It must have been around '86 when I tried desperately to get into Professor Sprague's "How to Write About American Culture" class at UT-Austin.

He was notoriously "from the East" and a real "old-school tough guy." He was 50-something with a gravelly voice. He greased his hair and wore long sideburns, a la aging establishment hipster-wannabes circa 1975. He wore tweed suits with starched shirts, and big gold cufflinks, and he smelled of cigar smoke. (Today I'd probably find him sexy. When I was 20, though, I was terrified.)

His classes were small, 10 or 12. I signed up officially, no guarantee of admittance; then I dropped off a few of my essays at his office, and then called his office answering machine and left messages and begged. I got in.

I was 20 or so. I lasted maybe 3 classes. It was probably during the 3rd class that he asked me something directly. Can't at all remember the question, but do remember how flustered and inarticulate I was, how he impatiently passed me over. After that very session, a classmate named Carol and I were standing around chatting. Sprague came out of the classroom, stopped in front of both of us, accompanied by two male toadies, and said: "We're going for a few drinks. Do you want to come...CAROL?"

What the fuck was the point of THAT humiliation? Did I, a silly, nervous 20-year-old who couldn't articulate in class, really deserve THAT intentional slight? (Carol, to her credit, turned him down and stayed there talking to me.) I dropped the class immediately, completely embarrassed and humiliated.

Cut to about 7 years later. I was coming down the stairs of the UT grad library where I worked, I suppose looking better and blonder and carrying myself much more confidently than when I was 20, and I ran into... Le Sprague.

We made eye contact and he then physically stopped me, touching my arm: "Weren't you in one of my classes?"
Me: "Yes, your American Culture class a few years ago."
Sprague: "How are you? What are you doing now?"
Me: "I'm applying for grad schools."
Sprague (now holding onto my arm, looking into my eyes intensely): "If you ever need anything... If you need a recommendation, just come and see me."

No, I didn't go see him. (I supposed I didn't "need anything.") Interesting to me, though, the tiny bit of karma played out there.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

"It's Only Make Believe"/"Hello Darlin'"

Despite all the talk of "watching the stars," "pondering the Egyptians," "deciphering poetry and art" et al, sometimes just listening to Conway Twitty hits the spot.



The mystery of connection

I came across the below quote from Tom Robbins in a book called "Love" that I found in the art library at work. I've never really seen the concept of "the mystery" pinpointed quite like this. As soon as I read "...the romance of ancient pyramids and distant stars are means of making contact with the mystery..." a light went off for me.

In a blog post a few days ago, I mentioned how watching hours of space exploration shows on PBS last Sunday hearkened me back to my kid-days of lying outside and watching the stars, and how the shows cheered me out of a sad mood I'd been in for weeks. What I was doing when I was kid was attempting to commune with "the mystery" and getting a glimpse of it.

And I actually did used to ponder the ancient Egypians' lives in the same way. (Unfortunately, once I saw a massive Egyptian exhibit at the Met here in NYC a couple of years ago, some of the mystery faded! Aside from the mystery-inducing sarcophagi, the vast number of merely junky trinkets and everyday things like shopping lists and graffiti displayed pretty much dimmed the glamour. I'd used to think the Egyptians were "hooked into" some special relationship with the cosmos, but nah. In their everyday lives, they were just as trivial as we are today. And the fact that they had grave-robbers ransacking the tombs made me realize that the society wasn't as a whole any more spiritual than any society.)

Aside from the Means to the Mystery that Robbins mentions below, for me personally, poetry (both reading and writing) and movies and some novels and rock'n'roll have also provided access at various times. I remember a couple of rare occasions when I personally had written something so on-spot, so close to the Mystery that I literally got goosebumps and physically got down on my knees to thank whatever spirit had entered me... Similarly, sometimes when I read a certain poem of Plath's or Eliot's or Yeats's or Rilke's or cummings's, I'll have the same reaction --- they've touched something completely extraordinary, struck the exact chord that allows you the reader, also, to see at the very core of things, which you may not have been able to do alone, without their guidance.

Or, with rock'n'roll: For instance, for me, "The Wall," which I listened to constantly at the height of my depression in '84/'85, remains for me the very epitome of expressing artistically being utterly lost, both personally and societally. And the very fact that Waters had managed to transcend his own depression and translate it into such a brilliant work to share with others was astounding and beautiful for me to witness. Even as it was making me cry (both for myself and for him/his persona in the songs and movie), I understood that by naming/touching the discord, Waters was helping us to move beyond it, as with a disease diagnosis.

Or, on the lighter side: I love the Beatles because (aside from the murky, scary "Sgt. Pepper") beneath the surface of often-great compositions, they also have an underlying pure energy of hopefulness and happiness and sanity that connects with that part in myself that WANTS to be more at the forefront... (The Stones ROCK more and are probably the better band, but... they're just a band.)

I could go on with examples from various art forms, but what I'm trying to get at, as Robbins does below, is how important it is for anyone to be able to sometimes get in contact with the Mystery, with the core. We're so far removed today from being able to go to our local Shaman and talk to him/her around the campfire and have that core conjured up for us. Yet we still crave that access, and try to get it in whatever way we can: Love, sex, art, drugs. Substitute shamans.

The key to remember, though, as Robbins says, is that "it is contrary to the nature of the mystery to stand still. Yet it is always there." Meaning, for the drug addict for instance, that while heroin, say, had indeed offered up a sense of bliss on occasion early on, the mistake comes in going back and back to that source for the mystery once it has passed on. If you do, it's just become a hurtful, non-magical addiction. Or a love gone: The mistake comes in going back and back to that source for the mystery once it has passed on. A hurtful, non-magical obsession.

The mystery "is always there," somewhere, in glimpses, never standing still, rarely (though sometimes) to be found at the same source. I just re-read "Siddhartha" recently, in my desperate attempt to find some peace of mind. I came away comforted by the river image: Always flowing, always changing, but still always the same...

-----------------------------------------------------
from "Still Life with Woodpecker" by Tom Robbins

"When the mystery of the connection goes, love goes. It's that simple. This suggests that it isn't love that is so important to us but the mystery itself. The love connection may be merely a device to put us in contact with the mystery, and we long for love to last so that the ecstasy of being near the mystery will last. It is contrary to the nature of the mystery to stand still. Yet it's always there, somewhere, a world on the other side of the mirror (or the Camel pack), a promise in the next pair of eyes that smile at us. We glimpse it when we stand still.

The romance of new love, the romance of solitude, the romance of objecthood, the romance of ancient pyramids and distant stars are means of making contact with the mystery. When it comes to perpetuating it, however, I got no advice. But I can and will remind you of two of the most important facts I know:

(1) Everything is part of it.
(2) It's never too late to have a happy childhood."

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

Thursday, April 23, 2009

e.e. cummings

On this evening in April:

"...nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing..."

I love.

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

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
by E. E. Cummings

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

Monday, April 20, 2009

Girl

Joel Osteen Saved My Life! (part 2)

http://www.ny1.com/content/top_stories/96917/minister-joel-osteen-to-bless-yankee-stadium/Default.aspx?ap=1&Flash

Ooops! He did it again! Again...just kidding! (But check out the above link: "Osteen to bless Yankee Stadium and bring hope to the Bronx"! ;p Holy---so to speak---crap!)

But I did end up accidentally catching him for a second Sunday night in a row last night at the end of an extremely horrible week. Seriously, the last time I felt as bad as I did last week was back in September 2001 when I found out Julie was a man!

He's not a profound man by any stretch (Osteen, not Julie, that is!) but he's a cheerful fellow and has a knack for telling little everyday-life tales that make me, at least, feel a little better. Last week's "lesson" was, if you're feeling buried, think of it more like "planted," like a seed, rather than "buried." Okey-doke!

This week's was, if you're feeling low, don't bitch at god but rather thank "him" (my quotes, not Osteen's) for things he's done in the past and will do in the future... Turns out I'd already been doing that, check. And I'm starting to see a pattern in Osteen: He's good about focusing on daily irritations and trying to get you to trick yourself out of being irritated. Then he relates a story about himself, this time about an annoying security guy at the airport who yelled at him when he didn't open his carry-on bag quickly enough, and the patience that Osteen had to find. It's pleasant, low-key stuff. Not challenging, but still mildly comforting.

So anyway, I'm not going to start seeking out his show, but I am nicely surprised that I'm able to watch him and get in a better mood as opposed to immediately mocking him.

What really got me in a better mood Sunday, though, was the series of PBS shows that come on late-night, all about the Universe... One show was talking about light years and time travel. Even as a kid, when I lived out in the country and could actually see stars every night, I would lie outside and look up and think about the fact that the light that I was seeing from THAT star, or THAT one, left it however many thousands or millions of years ago, and I'm just now seeing it, and the star itself might not even exist any more... And the show really blew my mind by pointing out that someone with a telescope could be watching OUR sun and/or planetary system right now and --- get this! --- they could be looking at what's going on on Earth 10,000 years ago or something! They could be looking at our PAST, which is their PRESENT... I can only just barely grasp that concept, that the past here might be happening right now for an observer thousands of light years away, for whom the information is only now arriving...

Another interesting concept discussed: The so-called "dark matter" that makes up the greatest percentage of the Universe -- It's invisible, but it exerts its own force. What the heck is it? Scientists don't know. A couple of years ago, my sister-in-law and I also happened to be watching a show talking about dark matter, and we both looked at each other and said, basically at the same time: "It's souls." Even back when I was a teenager, I used to think about the scientific truth that "energy cannot be created or destroyed; it just changes form." So then, I'd wonder, what happens to people's life-energy when they die? Then just a few years ago, I started hearing mainstream science shows and magazine articles talking about said "dark matter" that has scientists puzzled. Call me crazy, but "souls"/"life energy" makes perfect (well, intuitive) sense to me! :)

At any rate, all of the television talk about the Universe and its mysteries last night was interesting to think about as I went to sleep, and even more uplifting than Joel Osteen's calm in the face of his belligerent airport security man!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Too Quiet

It's too quiet around my apartment. As I mentioned, Grace died early Wednesday morning, and I kept her body with me until Thursday, when I took her to be cremated after work... Today, Friday, is the first time in 10 years that I've come home to a place without her. No one to say "hi" to, no one to feed IMMEDIATELY... I just lay down on my bed and cried and cried. And then made it worse on myself by remembering how sometimes when I'd be lying there, she liked to sneak up to the foot of the bed and then LEAP up on me with a triumphant "MEH," usually scaring me half to death!

I of course knew she wasn't here any more, but still I went from room to room, checking out all the spots where she might've been: behind the TV, on the couch, on the papers next to my computer, on the papers by the front door, on top of my sweater in the dressing room, on the rug in the kitchen, on a shelf high up in the pantry, curled up on my bed, curled up in my sock drawer if I'd left it open...

It was weird this morning, too. No loud morning "MIAO!" ("milk, please!") in my face as soon as the alarm went off. No one sitting outside the bathroom door listening to the water of my shower, then jumping in the tub afterwards to check out the water droplets left over, then going to sleep on the bathroom rug and looking at me reproachfully whenever I stepped over her and turned on the annoying, loud hair-dryer and she had to--HEAVY SIGH--MOVE.

And who the heck is going to help me fold laundry and make my bed now on laundry day??

I had no idea it was going to be this bad. I wasn't ready yet. I miss petting her and talking to her. I always told her she was my best friend, and I meant it. Where are you, honey?????????

Thursday, April 16, 2009

RIP Gracie: 1999 - April 15, 2009

I never knew her birthday! I got her when she was half-grown from my neighbors at an apartment complex in Austin. One day they'd left their front door open for a while, and she came on in and sat down on their couch and just looked at them calmly. They decided to keep her, but then unfortunately, she started terrorizing their other cat, which they didn't think was fair. (Bad girl!) And since she'd already been hopping over from their balcony to mine to explore MY apartment, they wondered if I wanted her... Of course I did!! The early pictures I took of her are back home in my photo-albums (the old-fashioned kind), so I can't reproduce them here now, but I remember scenes of her burrowing into my dresser-drawers and poking her head out from under underwear; then, later, at my house, jumping on top of one of my stereo speakers to pose prettily next to the framed Joan Crawford poster I had up on my wall...

The three shots below are of her in Weehawken. September '07 and two from May '08. (I feel sad that she didn't live long enough to see one more spring, to be strong enough to jump up and sit in an open window and feel warm sunshine and fresh air on her fur just one more time...)

She was a good cat, not a complainer, but I think she missed being able to go outside. Back in Austin, she was an indoor/outdoor cat. I'd let her out in the morning when I'd go to work, then she'd be waiting on the front porch for me when I got home. She'd come inside and eat, hang out for a while, then ask to be let out again. In the evenings she'd ask to be in and out several times, then would come in and sleep with me at night.

Here in NYC, then Joisey, in the 4 places I've lived in 2 years, she was: (1) 5 months: Trapped indoors, surrounded by 6 or 7 other cats, several aggressive. She barely could leave my room. (2) 6 weeks: Trapped indoors, but felt free to roam the apartment, since the only other beast there was an old basset hound who couldn't see very well. (3) 5 months: No other pets in the house, but a drug-addled, manic roommate who kept grabbing at her, even when she was under my bed, asking, "Why doesn't she like me?" She did get to go out in the garden a few times, though, but only when I was there to watch her. (4) 1 year, 1-1/2 months: My current apartment. All to herself. Big and airy, with nice windows to look out of and birds and squirrels to watch... but only watch. It's an upstairs apt., and I couldn't ever let her out to play and explore.

I always thought she'd live to be 17. For some reason, "17" stands out as what I thought. Maybe because I've known 3 cats who have lived to be that old. And Grace was always very healthy and rambunctious. When she first got sick, I'd tell her, "Just give me 7 more years, honey. I'll get you a yard, I promise." I think probably the stress of all the moves in the past 2 years, and the inability to go out, did indeed shorten her life by years. But, like I said, she very rarely complained about anything. (Except, over the years, getting in her carrier to go to the vet. Jesus! The trauma of having to chase her over the whole house and scoop her up from under beds and couches and then having to practically stuff her into the carrier! I dreaded vet visits!) She was good on the plane to New York (and at the airport, when personnel had to take her out of the carrier to check for hidden explosives or whatever!); she dealt as well as possible with the hostile cats and the druggy roomie; she wouldn't cry to go outside once we moved to my current place. She was always very calm about whatever crazy situation I'd thrust her into.

When I went to bed around 1 a.m. Wednesday morning of the 15th, she was still alive. I had some sweaters to hand-wash lying on the floor at the foot of my bed, and she was curled up amongst those. When my alarm went off at 7 a.m. that morning and I got up, I saw that she'd dragged herself to the kitchen, where she was stretched out on the rug in front of the sink. Half on her back, body contorted, eyes open, mouth open. It looked like a spasm of pain had wracked her body before she died. (She wasn't a curled-up, peaceful-looking kitty in death.) I didn't hear her cry out if she did.

I didn't go into work Wednesday. I left an early message for my boss, then called some local vets to find out about cremation. I set an appointment for that afternoon, but couldn't leave her just yet and cancelled. At first I was scared to touch her, so I just left her as she lay in the kitchen, then got back into bed, where I stayed for the rest of the day and slept and slept, and dreamt of cats.

My first set of dreams was disturbing: Cats with dilated eyes that I'd pet, thinking they were dead, only to have them stir when I touched them... And then a more peaceful second dream: I had a bag full of white kittens. And every time I'd open the bag to peer in, one or two would keep popping out and fall gently into a drawer below. I'd try to stop them from getting out, but they'd keep squirming out! There'd be 3 or 4 white kittens, then one of those adult flat-faced long-haired cats, also white, would appear, and it would also pop out into the drawer...then more white kittens... I remember worrying, "What am I going to do with all of these babies? Who will take them and give them homes?" There was a young boy, maybe 8 years old, who took 2 of them...

I'm not going to sit here and say "Gracie's been reincarnated! Her spirit was passing into those white cats!" But the white-cat dream made me feel happy. Like... Gracie's cat spirit had passed into those new little white cats.

When I woke up in the evening, I wasn't scared to touch her any more. I said "Goodbye, Honey." I petted her one last time behind her ears, and under her chin, and I stroked her belly and down her back to the tip of her tail. And, though she didn't really like to have her paws touched, I had to pet her paws one last time -- Like Hemingway's Cuban cats, she had an extra thumb on her front paws.

And I looked carefully at her pretty fur: Tiger-striped AND leopard-spotted on her belly, and her top-coat gray with odd light-beige patches here and there. (My mom once asked me, "Did you put bleach on her?") And her pretty face: Chubby cheeks; full, fine whiskers that her Austin vet always complimented every time he saw her. (I couldn't see her pretty, smart green eyes any more, since they had, in death, become all frozen black pupil.)

And finally, after this, late Wednesday I was able to pick her up and place her in the cardboard box that I'd take her to get cremated in the next day. I left the top of the box open, though, just in case.

There was a stack of papers here near my computer where she'd always flop down for a visit of an hour or so every evening, just to be close before going off and being private for the next few hours until I went to bed (when she'd jump up and sleep with me). As I write this, I keep looking to my left, half-expecting to see her round the corner for her visit. And I look and I say back to her now, "Hi BehBeh. Come here and say 'hi' to me. Pretty Girl."



Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Deathbed

My cat Gracie is a beautiful example of "Grace Under Pressure," so to speak. She can barely move now, hasn't been eating in a week. BUT here's a neat thing... Tonight I sat down next to her and was stroking her while singing all of our songs: "Gracie, the Gracie-Cat...", "Knee-high to a beehive," "Honey-bee, oh the Honey-bee"... OK, dorky stuff like that. In the past, she loved my singing, would, upon hearing, dramatically flop down on her back with her paws up so I could then pet her belly, after which she'd be in "pleasure-mode" and start to lick her paw and clean her face with it... She's been so weak and sickly lately that she hasn't been able to groom herself; I've had to clean her eyes for her, with warm-wet paper towels... But tonight, when I was petting her, she reeeeeeeaaaaaallllllly struggled to roll over on her back for the first time in weeks... It must've hurt her, but she did it. And so I was able to stroke her belly, like I used to. And then she reverted to her old self for just a second, and licked her paw and swiped at her face with it several times... Seeing that, I had a brief flicker of hope ("she's not dying!"), but then she collapsed from the effort.

My beautiful friend who used to bring me bird-hearts!

Lindsay Lohan's eHarmony Profile

Just in from the folks at "Funny or Die"... (Hey, $400 in the bank and 20,000 Marlboro Miles? With that, Lindsay and I could get a pool table AND matching Marlboro jackets! My Dream Girl!) :)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Joel Osteen Saved My Life!


OK, noooooo he di'int! (If Joel Osteen ever actually saves my life, please just shoot me!)

However: I was feeling so low late Sunday night that I actually did start paying attention to what televangelist Osteen had to say! Now, I didn't go to bed with him on, but when I woke up in the wee hours, he was on whatever channel I'd left on the TV, and I did start listening...

What I learned was: I'm not "buried." I'm "planted." I may currently feel like I'm dead and buried (kind of like Osteen's daughter's pet rabbit), but in reality, I'm like the seed under the packed, dark, trodden-on soil, just waiting to blossom.

You know, usually I would have laughed at the corniness of that analogy. But on Sunday night, I was very much in the mood for someone, anyone to say something positive. And it wasn't totally bullshit. The concept does have its possibilities. Thanks, Joel Osteen. Despite your cheesy, glossy mullet and cheesier mean, flight-attendant-fighting blonde wife, you actually helped me a bit! (Not "SAVED MY LIFE" mind you, but..."helped me a bit.") :)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Roger Miller - England Swings (1965)



I was both hurt and annoyed whenever I first posted the Miller song "King of the Road" months ago for someone I liked, and then she turned around and re-sent it to someone else. I learned a lesson.

Here's another Miller song that makes me happy, "England Swings." Just for myself. (And dig those groovy dancers in the background!) :)

Deathshead Revisited

I've only seen one being die in person. In August of '88, my two best friends asked me to leave Austin and come live with them in Fort Worth. Their mother had been diagnosed with cancer a few months earlier, but they didn't know she was dying. We all lived in the same apartment. She died in September, after having been in Arizona for treatment, then being flown back to Fort Worth to die. The below poem isn't kind, but it's indicative of the horror that I felt as a witness to her chaotic death.


DEATHSHEAD REVISITED

day breaks
down in dirt defined as
coffins closing clods of
dun in fingers clenched to
intertwine each windowful of sun into some
heat-sustaining seed of distance
shrivelled from a bloom outlasting
blazing tubes endured through rippled
pain-illuminated rooms but still no clue
to what is now a baying bitch
by moon-sucked beach each
ebb-spawned cure beyond her
bed of water's streamlined
reach

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Death watch for my cat Gracie

Grace has been sick since January 11. I marked it on my calendar. She'd be wobbly and not eating for a week or so, then snap back. This went on for a couple of months.

As of mid-March, she's been on a steady decline, no "snapping back." She won't eat. I've been buying "people" tuna, and cans of sardines to try to feed her. And the highest-end cat food. She'll take a bite or two, then nothing. She's wasting away. She can barely walk. Her whole left side and paws are swollen up; she drags herself around the apartment, from her new sleeping place behind the TV, to my sweater on the floor in the spare room, to the kitchen where her food is.

It broke my heart last night when I went to sleep on the sofa and she tried to jump up with me, as she always had before. No way she could make it. I stroked her and told her I was so sorry... She's still got her habits. She still wants to sleep next to me. She still meows/croaks in the morning when my alarm goes off. She still tries to act excited when I get home from work, though she doesn't eat the food she used to be excited about getting.

I don't know what to do. Well, yes, I guess I do. Pet her while I can, and then I've got to adjust myself, plan on where to take her to get cremated. (In Texas, I could just bury her in my backyard.)

10 years with this cat. My best friend, who came to New York from Texas with me.

"eyes once the color of spring leaves
now black, death-dilated"

I am so sad.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Elie Wiesel: "I was fifteen years old"

from Elie Wiesel's "Night":

[Jews from Auschwitz are being transported into Germany as the Allies advance. Local Germans on the side of the road sometimes throw pieces of bread into the passing train cars. Wiesel witnesses an old man who manages to grab a piece of bread.]

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"He collapsed. His fist was still clenched around a small piece. He tried to carry it to his mouth. But [his son] threw himself upon him and snatched it. The old man again whispered something, let out a rattle, and died amid the general indifference. His son searched him, took the bread, and began to devour it. He was not able to get very far. Two men had seen and hurled themselves upon him. Others joined in. When they withdrew, next to me were two corpses, side by side, the father and the son.

I was fifteen years old."

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When I myself was 15, I was mourning the death of John Lennon and willing myself to die so that I could be reincarnated back to 1965 or so, the height of Beatlemania, when I just KNEW I'd be happy.

My parents had just gotten divorced the year before. Dad was driving by the house constantly, showing up creepily at 2am or so, sometimes banging on the back door, sometimes silently peering in windows, sometimes sleeping in his car in the driveway. Since we lived out in the country, a "rural route" address, the cops were always slow (or never) to arrive whenever called. And when they did show up, they said to my mother: "His name's on the mailbox. He must live here. What's the complaint?"

When I was 15, I was a nervous, horrified wreck of a child.

I was reading Wiesel's book "Night" on the bus home today, and when I came to "I was fifteen years old" I started crying. Not loud or anything, for people around me to notice, but still. It was one of the saddest things I've ever read. I felt ashamed for being traumatized by a creepy dad peering in a window, sleeping in the drive. Wiesel at 15, on the other hand, was in a cattle-car in winter with his own father, watching him die, watching family members kill each other for a scrap of bread...

My personal "traumas" are minor, so minor.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

NYC Weirdness Level UP: Part 2

RE "Part 1," see my April 5 post below RE two homeless guys "accosting" me as if I were a black gypsy or something! :)

Part 2: Today, at the same corner where I met the earlier guys. It was about 7:15 am, I was standing there chatting with a co-worker who was also waiting for the company bus. And I was getting in my last cigarette before the hour-long bus-ride when a street-guy appeared and asked me for a cig.
"That'll be $10," I said as I handed him one. "You know prices just went up." (Seriously -- a pack now costs around $7 up here.)
[Ha-ha at the joke, etc. Then he looked at the cig, approved of it being a Marlboro:] "Just like John Wayne."
"Yeah," I said, "but look what happened to him. He died of cancer."
"He did not."
"He did too!"
"He did not!"
"No, for real, he died of cancer."
"He did not die of cancer."
"I swear to you he died of cancer!"
"Did not. Anyway, what's your name? I'm Marco." [we shake hands]
"Hi, Marco. I'm Stephanie. And he really did die of cancer. I'm going to look it up online. Be here tomorrow and I'll show you the proof!"
"I'll be here! Thanks!" [Marco walks off pleasantly]

OK, it'll be funny if he really does turn up in the same spot again. My co-worker joked that it might turn into the "stray kitten syndrome," with the guy showing up at the same time every day since I'd "fed" him a cigarette once! :) And, darn it, I don't have proof of the cause of John Wayne's demise to give him, since my printer's broken. Here's a site, though, that proves it...dammit, Marco!

John Wayne Cancer Institute

p.s. A sidenote: I feel terrible, but after I shook hands with Marco, whose hands WERE really filthy-looking, I worried aloud about germs. Luckily my co-worker actually had some hand-sanitizer with him. I'd of course heard of such a product before, but I'd never used it and had to have the process explained to me... It really was miraculously quick-drying and non-harsh on the skin! Apologies to Marco for doubting his cleanliness! (But wait... He doubted my knowledge of John Wayne. So we're even.)

Monday, April 06, 2009

Happy News Day

I feel like I've been in a huge funk for at least the past 2 weeks now, probably more like the past month or more, due to the impending demise of my job and my inability to get along with someone I really do like a lot.

But, ya know, you can only walk around feeling crappy for so long before a day with some nice things hits ya! In chronological order:

(1) 7am. I live in Weehawken, in Jersey just across the Hudson from NYC. When I first moved here a year or so ago in 2008, the "gypsy buses" taking you into the city cost $2.00. After a few months, the price went up to $2.50. A minor hike, but still...enough to bum you out at a time when EVERYTHING seems to be going up... Today, though, as I disembarked in Manhattan: Was handing the driver my usual $2.50, and he gave me back my change: "That's not the price any more." I looked at him, puzzled, thinking, "Jesus! Now it's $3 and I'm going to hold up the line while I fish around for the extra dollar..." Turned out... the price went BACK DOWN TO $2.00! :)

(2) Noon. Watching TV during lunch at work, saw the scroll at the bottom of MSNBC, something like "Sallie Mae to stop outsourcing and re-add 2,000 jobs to US in 18 months..." WHAT?! This doesn't affect me personally, since I have no connection with, or desire to work for, the Sallie Mae student loan corp., but... Philosophically, what a great development! All I've been hearing for the past 5 years or so is the "trend" of US companies to outsource jobs overseas because it's cheaper. (The traitors! I've always been utterly irked by this. I'm not a protectionist, yet the whole unfettered free-trade philosophy of Bush had gone utterly too far, at the extreme expense of US workers. I've witnessed this personally in the publishing field, with many quality-control jobs being farmed out to India, for example. And coming back haphazardly done and having to be re-done by ME, such an oh-so-expensive American worker.) And now to see a headline about US companies bringing their jobs back home to the US?! Some fairness and sanity in policy! It felt good to see a company do the right thing.
Sallie Mae to add 2,000 jobs to US in 18 months

(3) 7pm. Trolling around job boards. The pickins being slim lately, not expecting to see much. But, lo and behold, a job asking for an experienced copy editor with an English degree AND experience writing and editing for the web... I almost physically raised my hand: "Me, ME!" And the job is in CHELSEA! (After 2 years in this area, my 2 absolute favorite parts of Manhattan are Chelsea and Union Square.) Now, they're probably going to get 1,000 applicants. And so I'm not expecting anything. BUT... I'm darn qualified. And I can now DREAM about being back in the city again! AND in Chelsea!

(4) 8pm. Seems like my-girlfriend-Lindsay and Sam Ronson have broken up, allegedly "for good." Locks changed, et al. Boo-hoo! I did enjoy this blurb from USWeekly: "On her Twitter page, Lohan posted to Ronson: PLEASE leave me ALONE. and stop staying in the room below me, you've woken me and my mother up. go to bed. keep cheating u win." Actually, I think they made a cute couple. I'm just jealous of Ronson, is all. Because of my schadenfreude, this does indeed count as part of MY "good day"! :) (Another dream: Walking around in Chelsea during my lunch hour, stumbling upon a solo Lindsay desperately in need of a cigarette... I am THERE!) :)

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Death Epidemic USA

I got a lighthearted e-mail last night from an overseas reader of my Joan Crawford website, telling me about a Joan-owned fur coat and outfit that his boyfriend had just given him.

He signed off, though, on a more ominous note: "And be careful out there. The USA is getting a bit dangerous."

I was a bit puzzled at first as to what he meant. When I read the latest news this morning, though, then went on to note other recent mass killings:

4/5: Just in from Washington state. A dad shot his 5 kids to death last night.
4/4: Pittsburgh. Gunman kills 3 police officers responding to domestic dispute.
4/3: Binghamton, NY. Gunman kills 13 at immigration center.
3/29: North Carolina. Gunman kills 8 at senior center.
3/29: Santa Clara, CA. Gunman kills 5 relatives.
3/21: Oakland, CA. Gunman kills 4 police officers.
3/10: Alabama. Gunman kills 10, including mother and 4 relatives.

This has all happened in the last 3-1/2 weeks. As far as I'm aware, the US has never, ever seen anywhere near this number of mass killings in so short a time. Sadly, I'm used to hearing about one or two such occurrences per YEAR, maybe. But... 7 mass shooting sprees in 3-1/2 weeks?? No one in any media outlet seems to have yet attempted to analyze this epidemic.

Of course it all has something to do with the horrible economy, and job losses. (Unemployment just reached 8.5%, the highest rate since 1983, when I was a senior in high school.) Unemployment is an extreme stressor, as I'm just discovering for the first time in my adult life. When my project job ends in May, I'll be eligible for enough unemployment benefits to cover my rent only. I have no family or friends in this area that I can move in with. I have no mate to pay my bills for me. I spend probably 90% of my waking-day thinking, "What am I going to do? No, really -- WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?" (Yes, knowing that my current job is ending in May, I've been applying for other jobs. No one is hiring.) It's a very grim, hopeless feeling. My level of angst, though, is probably only currently on the "headache/canker sore/pulling-on-a-hangnail" level. I have no home or car or family to lose. I've got a dying cat to take care of, but once she's gone, I'll be free to move to a cheaper place. I don't like having a roommate, but I'll get a roommate, if need be. I'm used to not having much. I'll survive (without shooting anybody).

But I'm a weird, solitary case. What about those who actually are losing their homes, cars, and families? As the past 3-1/2 weeks have indicated, there's something disturbing in the air that some people aren't finding ways to personally escape. I've heard this current political/economic climate referred to as a "paradigm change." Yes, definitely. Now I'm old enough to realize the very real, frightening consequences of that.

Weird side-note: I moved to NYC in February 2007. Never had a single problem on the streets. Just last week, though, I had a couple of creepy "Taxi Driver"-type incidents happen to me within a 2-minute span. (1) A homeless guy actually GRABS me: "Read my palm, read my palm, do something, TELL ME!" After I jerked loose from him, I turned the corner, and (2) then another homeless guy walks past me, then turns around and stops and says to me: "I HATE you fucking 'African-Americans.' You African-Americans living in projects. Who the FUCK do you think you're fooling?" Huh? I don't look black. I'm a middle-aged white woman, with blonde hair. Why was he telling me all of this? I stared back at the guy with a "what the hell" look, and he turned and walked on, still muttering.

These two encounters were, of course, pretty harmless, just weird. It's just that... I'm aware of the "weirdness level" having increased a lot lately to varying extents, both personally, and on my streets, and in the nation.

Ciao, Chelsea Styles

I just found out today that my beloved Chelsea Styles hair salon will be closing this June. After 39 years! See the below link to read about my initial impressions of visiting the salon when I first moved to NYC in early 2007.
April 2007 blog entry and photos
A rocky beginning, but I soon became a welcome regular. The salon will always be part of my early memories of moving to NYC. And to think I was a part of such a real piece of Chelsea history!

Friday, April 03, 2009

In the future, whenever I'm thinking I'm overly...

...sensitive and peevish, I shall happily recall the below quote from this week's "New Yorker," which proves that someone is indeed more peevish than me (from the article "A Nervous Splendor: The Wittgenstein family had a genius for misery"):

"Bad temper and extreme nervous tension were endemic in the family. One day, when Paul was practicing at one of the seven grand pianos in their winter home, the Palais Wittgenstein, he leaped up and shouted at his brother Ludwig in the room next door, 'I cannot play when you are in the house, as I feel your skepticism seeping towards me from under the door!'"

I'm going to have to memorize that line and use it on someone! :)