Tuesday, October 31, 2006

For Halloween, Some Treats

A few things you can be happy are true:

- Gary Sinise is in a band called "The Lt. Dan Band."

- Co-op City in the Bronx is the largest cooperative housing project in the country. It's been there since the early seventies. Before Co-op City existed, the land was used for a short lived amusement park called Freedomland U.S.A., which paid tribute to the great eras of great American cities. They reinacted the great Chicago fire and the great San Franciso earthquake daily (and greatly). When the park was losing money barely a year after it opened (wait, disasters aren't fun?), the owners decided they had to appeal to teenagers to boost business. In order to do so they added rollercoasters, daily fireworks shows, and a wax figure Last Supper tableau.

- From a letter written by Julia Child's huband, Paul Child: "Now & again a flash of the non-cooking Julie lights up the scene briefly, as it did the day before yesterday when with her bare fingers, she snatched a set of cannellini out of the pot of boiling water with the cry, 'Wow! These damn things are as hot as a stiff cock.'"

- Certain White House employees believe the iconic American building is haunted by the ghost of former First Lady Mamie Eisenhower. Kitchen staff, with whom she notoriously feuded, often wake to find the kitchen reorganized to Mamie's specifications though Secret Service saw no one come or go.

Request Challenge 2: Hey, Remember?

I’m not sure whether it’s the chicken or the egg in the philosophical adage of my life, but I tend to see myself as a character in some sort of narrative. I am also melodramatic and kind of sentimental. See? Which came first?

Either way, if you’ve met me you’re a character. Font size on the marquee may vary, but everyone gets a credit—even if it’s just “Unconscious Kid At Annex #4.” Even people I’ve never truly met are characters, and my thoughts about them begin with a “Meanwhile…” and an abrupt camera cut to wherever my virtual co-stars may live.

I’m supposed to talk about someone I haven’t thought of in a while, but the truth is I’m basically always thinking about people I’ve met and haven’t seen in years. It’s purely in the interest of narrative cohesion that I have to know how the lacrosse player I loved in high school turned out, and therefore google old yearbook names well into the wee hours of the morning. Is he a doctor? Is he a teacher? Is he bald? Do I care? These are important plot points for later development. Not because my crushes endure with all the staying power of Cher. Just plot.

There was a specific request to talk about the Hot Dad, my commuting crossword buddy of yore, but I’ve sadly got nothing to report. I never saw him again after I stopped taking the Metro-North, but this doesn’t stop me from thinking about him in the afternoons on the way home via F train. The subways aren’t just bereft of camaraderie. They’re openly hostile. Try striking up a friendship when you’re sitting between someone mouthing words from a tiny prayer book and a Yuppie With New Yorker (YwNY…can we pronounce this “whiney?” Please?).

This is a challenge, though. Who haven’t I thought about in a while?

I don’t know what this says about me, but former Secretary of State Warren Christopher is the first to come to mind.

Maybe this is why I don’t make friends on the train.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Request Challenge 1: P-----s

Imagine playing a C on a piano. Now imagine playing C# at the same time. A minor second is dissonant, and that's the first thing you figure out the first time you fuck around on a keyboard. Now. Imagine a pale, hairy old man, wearing nothing but an untied bathrobe and some dirty socks sitting on the piano bench, breathing through his mouth, legs akimbo, plumbing damp and dangling, picking his ear with one hand and pound a minor second with the other.

That's how I hear the word "panties."

There are combinations of phonemes that are obviously gross. Mung. Bubo. Those are horrible words. Even if "bubo" actually meant "attractive man who makes delicious brownies and lives in the money tree in my backyard," it would still be an ugly word. Ditto for the word I hate more than any other word, which is a word my grandmother used to use, and which was really completely secret outside my immediate family until I told it to a class of seventh graders to drive home a poetry lesson on Gertrude Stein and the importance of sound in poetry.

What I won't do for the children.

My point is that "panties" doesn't quite fall into that category. The "ies" suffix on the end of anything makes my butt clench a little, but I can say "floaties" or "boobies" without much of a problem. "Panties" is horrible on another level because it has nothing but embarrassing connotations. It's horrible in the way that fifth grade sex-ed is horrible, when your teacher is trying extraordinarily hard to be chipper and upbeat and honest about how blood is one day going to exit your vagina of its own accord, and she opens a pad and slaps it right on her knee, on top of her stretch pants, and says "Look! You just stick it right in your panties!"

But for real, that's the first thing I think of. Mrs. P and maxi wings fluttering on her thigh.

And then there's the diminutive sense to the word which seems gross to me. Men don't wear "panties." They, in fact wear "boxers." For Christ's sake. Women get the word "panties" for their underwear, but men get the word for a man who beats another man to pulp? If men get "boxers," I'm going to start calling mine "assassins," or "ninjas" or something.

I've got to do laundry--I'm down to my last pair of Lizzy Bordens.

I don't call my bras "shirties," so I'm not calling anything "panties." Can we just agree on saying "underwear" and call it a day? And work on finding me a bubo to marry?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

NYC Sexy Honies

It is imperative that I let the world know what happens on "Brooklyn Free Speech TV" on Saturday at 2:30 in the morning.

Our public access channel never fails to disappoint. Most of the programming, though, is indulgent soapbox preaching, whether it be for Jesus or against the Atlantic Yards development. What makes it great is the likelihood that the talking head is a little unbalanced, regardless of the subject.

But then "The NYC Sexy Honies" comes on.

So far as I can tell, it's sort of a corrupt cop drama. Filmed with a camcorder. Starring three of what I presume to be "sexy honies," one young, one old, and one pasty white, all trashy to a degree I cannot yet find words to express. Right now they're playing Twister in their underwear in front of a TV playing porn. Before this, they confiscated money from a couple of counterfeiters, and then they rolled arond in it on a bed for, honestly, about seven minutes. The old one stuck her ass in the camera and wiped it with a fake fake bill.

Now the old one is doing the dishes in her underwear and lamenting her inability to pay her credit card bill. And now her boyfriend is "punishing" her for her "$5,000 phone bill, I mean credit card bill" by spanking her. Well, actually he's still just stroking her ass. I assume spanking is going to follow suit.

Check. With a ping-pong paddle.

I thought the "Free Speech TV" tagline was just a marketing ploy to make public access seem a little sexier. I had no idea how literally correct I was.

Zoom in on the ass, continued spanking. And now that his hand is actually moving into her underwear, I'm going to exercise my right to silence their free speech via remote control and Comedy Central. But for real, it's times like this when I question my ability to discern reality from weird Freudian dream, and wonder if I didn't actually go to bed hours ago.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Call Up the Request Line

I'm taking requests. 500 words on a topic of your choosing. Request anonymously if you like. No holds barred.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Freak Out

Last weekend I went pumpkin picking with Kai, my brother, and my parents. In accordance with the law, we piled into my parent's enormous van the moment the leaves were yellow enough to be considered scenic and came back loaded with gourds and mums aplenty. I guess if you really stop to think about it, it's sort of moronic to drive from Brooklyn to Westchester to rural Connecticut to buy a vegetable whose sole purpose is to sit on my desk and be orange.

But also, fuck you.

I like Halloween, but moreso in theory than in practice. I like ghosts, skeletons, bats (from afar), and horror (in moderation), but real life Halloween doesn't ever have anything to do with any of that. Real life Halloween is for people who like torturously small candy bars and Sexy Noun Syndrome (documented last year here, and this year here). What do you do in the 31st if you secretly sort of believe Ouija boards and tarot cards, and you're goth enough to move into a new apartment that faces a graveyard? Go to work, maybe go to a party, and then go to sleep totally unhaunted, that's what.

I particularly like witches. I watched Hocus Pocus last weekend to get in the Halloweeny mood, and, while Bette Midler and Kathy Najimy aren't exactly the pinnacle of what the black arts have to offer someone in search of a good scare, and it sort of did the trick. I've got witches on the brain. All this week at work, during lunch, I've been reading the Malleus Maleficarum because 1. I am a loser, and 2. I was hoping it would be creepy.

The result is actually 3. Fodder for this theory I'm developing and 4. Hysterical. Right down to the translation of the name: The Witch Hammer. What? Really? That's not a wrestler? Or a screamo girl band?

[Sidenote: Should it be? I could get on this right now.]

To explain, the Malleus Maleficarum is the document produced by a certain faction of the Catholic church in 1486 which became, basically, the handbook for the Inquisition. In a series of questions and answers it nails down exactly how you can identify a witch (in short: suspect anything with a vagina), how one comes to be possessed by a demon, and how to try and sentence such a woman. It's also the ultimate resource for answers to age old questions like "Whether Witches may work some Prestidigitory Illusion so that the Male Organ appears to be entirely removed and separate from the Body."

I'm not all that far into it, because it's the kind of writing that take a while to digest. The arcane, sort of philosophical style reads like a Rubik's cube, especially when you're trying to answer work related e-mail at the same time. However, there are standout gems like the following:
What else is woman but foe to friendship, an unescapable punishment, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, a domestic danger, a delectable detriment, an evil of nature, painted with fair colors?
I mean, come on. That's so fantastic I want it tattooed across my face. A desirable calamity. Honestly, if someone ever described me as "a desirable calamity," I would be so thrilled I"d pee. That's precisely what I aspire to be. I just didn't have the right phrase for it. Thanks, Catholicism!

Lately, I've been doing more thinking than is probably normal about circus freaks. I recently Netflixed the 1932 film "Freaks," which is a bizarre movie that cast real sideshow performers in an over the (big) top circus love story/revenge tale.

[A circus midget, Hans, leaves his midget fiance, Frieda, for full-sized trapeze artist Cleopatra, who's just using him for his money. The two are married and at the reception the whole freak crew attempts to initiate her into their circle by drinking from a communal glass of wine and chanting "One of us, one of us, gooble gobble, gooble gobble, we accept her, we accept her." Cleopatra loses her shit insults them, tries to poison Hans, and, when the freaks figure out her nefarious plan, ends up as some half chicken/half woman in a sideshow.]

[Also, I think it's fantastic that the pair of conjoined twins in the movie were "the Hilton Sisters" in real life.]

But anyway, I've been thinking about who makes it as a freak. Tiny, powerless men. Bearded, masculine women. Siamese twins: same gendered pairs bound to each other for life.

Back to the Malleus Maleficarum for a second. There's not that much to laugh about once you get a few questions into it. I was surprised how angry a six-hundred year old document could make me, but, as it turns out, blaming male impotence on women's allegiance to the devil is a boiling point I didn't know I had. The M.M. reads like a Freudian anxiety attack, or a medieval midlife crisis. Witches are the cause for impotence, for infidelity, for loss of faith, and sin, and your stillborn baby. Your cow dies? Totally a witch. And witches, my friend, are scary with a capital S.

Here's my theory: everything we're afraid of, freaks and witches and probably ghosts and maybe Joan Rivers's face, is because some guy, like, seven hundred years ago, just couldn't get it up.

Just Grand

Grandparents--if you've got them, call them and tell them I love them. That you love them too, if you want, I don't care.

I no longer have any grandparents to slip me a Vicks or worry when they hear about crime in the greater metropolitan area. I started off my life with three, which is already one less than the standard issue. My paternal grandfather died when my dad was fourteen, so I never met him. Which is a shame because he had a weird middle name (Quintano) and lived through Pearl Harbor, which is something I would’ve liked to hear about.

My other grandfather, Andrew, checked out when I was in fourth grade. This feels like a very long time, and, counting up the years since, I guess it is. What I remember most about him now was that he was extremely tall and sounded sort of like Archie Bunker when he talked. Both perceptions may be somewhat skewed. I was approximately four foot nothing when he died, making everyone extremely tall, and cumulatively over the years I’ve probably spent more time with Carroll O’Conner than I did with my grandfather.

This left me with two grandmothers, Katharine and Maria, and I was named after both of them. They couldn’t have been less alike if one was a dude. Katharine was a hellion in a pink pantsuit, passing judgment loudly whether sitting in her dining room or at the Ground Round. Her moods were a sine curve. Her repertoire ranged from depressed martyr to bubbly “Golden Girls” enthusiast. She taught me how to play Pick-Up Sticks and that game with the dots where you have to make squares, but also once told me she knew I wanted her to die (actually, I can’t remember whether she said “die” or “suffer”) because I wouldn’t give her an aspirin.

That last episode came after she had a stroke and was living in our house. My parents were out for the evening and I wasn’t supposed to give her any medicine outside the bunch of pills she was already taking. After almost a year of increasing dementia, she got a spot in this incredible nursing home in an old Victorian mansion, where she lived out her days crying and her nights screaming. This is depressing, but at least it only lasted a few months.

Maria looked like a Norfin® Troll and complained about nothing. She smiled constantly, and mostly without her dentures. She bought us presents we didn’t want and had a one-bedroom apartment with no less than four candy dishes. She died while I was in college. I swore off eating root beer barrels. I think I’ve mostly kept true to my word; I remember putting one in my mouth, but spitting it out.

Maria had an eerily accurate sixth sense. She could pick winning lottery numbers but never bought a ticket. She made bland Italian food in abundance, into which my brothers and I would spoon overflowing mounds of salt and romano cheese when her back was turned. She had a big TV and she used worked in a factory that manufactured aerosol valves. Mainly, I took her for granted.

After my grandfather died, going out with “the grandmas” became a day to simultaneously anticipate and dread. I mostly lumped them together into one irritable, generous, slow, moody person with indigestion, and I regret not distinguishing their characteristics while they were still alive. Katharine was the one most likely to inspect my crooked teeth in the middle of a community production of Nunsense. Maria was the one who might describe the progress of the “bubble” in her esophagus until she belched. Katharine was secretly sad. Maria was heartbreakingly content. Both were fascinating in ways I didn’t notice until recently, which is just fucking great now that it’s too late to do a goddamn thing about it.

Anyway, the reason I’m even thinking about my dead grandparents is that the other day, walking down Prospect Avenue, I passed an apartment building that smelled exactly like Maria’s. It’s a smell particular to any building where old Italians live, and the only way I can describe it to list its likely ingredients: frying meatballs, coffee, tomatoes, oregano, and something sweet like pound cake. I wasn’t expecting to hit a cloud of it and when I did, it choked me up.

Then a little further down the block I passed a six or seven year old kid walking with his grandpa. The grandfather was sort of an eccentric guy with a big beard and a real live parrot on his shoulder, but the combined effect made him seem like a children’s show host, not a weird homeless guy. The duo was trucking along the like Prospect Avenue is some big adventure.

This is the point at which I cried, but not because I was so touched, or anything. I cried because I’m selfish and I was jealous. I want grandparents again. I also cried because I’m guilty of not thinking enough of them when they were alive. Most of the time I remember what they were like, what Katharine’s stuffing and Maria’s chicken soup tasted like (sausage and hot water, respectively), but stop short of remembering how many times I rolled my eyes behind their backs, or how much I looked forward to the twenty bucks they might slip me on Easter. I wish they could’ve stuck around to know me post-adolescence, which is what I’ve chosen to blame for appreciating them less than I should have. It may not be the whole truth, but otherwise I’d cry whenever I saw anyone over the age of seventy.

When you call your grandparents to tell them I love them, also tell them I’m sorry for being a fourteen-year-old jerk. You can get in on the apology too, if you like. Whatever.

Notes and Errata

I have a really long post that I wrote at home and finished except for the last paragraph, but I forgot to e-mail it to myself so I can’t put it up. It’s a good one, too—freaks and witches and some stuff about the Inquisition. But you can’t read it yet. Because I left it at home. Like trigonometry homework. Except this I actually did.

I wanted to post something in the meantime, so I'm just going to cut and paste from a notebook I've recently started keeping. It’s not quite a journal, because that’s too high pressure, and also too horrible if I lose it, which, given the track record with my wallet lately (two losses in two weeks) is all but guaranteed. It’s just a place to write shit down. To do lists, books I want to read, albums I want to listen to, urgent doodles, and the occasional pseudo-journal entry. The book might end up a journal in the end, but for now it’s working as is.

Anyway, here are the greatest hits of Stuff I Thought Was Important Enough to Write Down Over the Last Week That’s Not Too Embarrassing.

-I’m sitting in Starbucks, and there’s a guy in the corner making a sales pitch. Again. He was here yesterday trying to enlist participants in a scheme that sounds suspicious, or at least suspiciously pyramidal. He is wearing the same shirt and tie as yesterday, working on an ancient laptop (which is making AIM noises), but selling people the line that he started a web company and bought his first house at the age of 21. I can’t believe anything he’s said so far is true, and judging by the fact that he’s back today, doing business in Starbucks, neither can anyone else. Infomercials in action!

-Craig Claiborne

-“And it should be noted that there was a defect in the formation of the first woman, since she was formed of a bent rib…which is bent as it were in a contrary direction to a man.” (From the Malleus Maleficarum)

-Why do I instantly develop a crush of gigantic proportions on any guy who speaks to me? It’s fucking Pavlovian! Ding! I’m drooling.

-Songs of 10/20/2006
Art Brut: Anything, but particularly “Emily Kane” and “My Little Brother. And “Formed a Band.” And the rest of it.
Spinto Band: “Oh Mandy”
The Rapture: “The Devil,” just for that weird noise in the middle.
The Sounds: Because I woke up with old Sounds stuck in my head, which concerns me.

-I look like an asshole today. Wrong shirt, wrong pants, no shower, rained on twice now. Maybe not “asshole.” Maybe just like shit. Something butt-related.

-The Hold Steady is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I think that if anyone ever asked me to defend why I like them, the answer would be “Because they make me feel something.” But I wouldn’t actually say that, because saying that out loud would make me a total douchebag.

-“I met hundreds and thousands of people, and none finer than the midgets and the Siamese twins and the caterpillar man and the bearded woman and the human seal with the little flippers for hands. I never asked them any embarrassing questions, and they never asked me, and God, it was a great adventure.” (Johnny Eck, a.k.a. The Half-Man, Johnny Half-Boy)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Be My +1 Tonight?

I won two tickets from Flavorpill to go see the Art Brut/Spinto Band/Tokyo Police Club show at Warsaw tonight. [They liked my answer best to the question "How would you take your band to the Top of the Pops?" I said "Add a mormon boy in eyeliner. Surefire success."] Anyway, I don't have a +1, so: Are you in New York? Are you my friend? Do you want to be? Do you want to come? Warsaw is my favorite venue, Art Brut is one of my favorite bands, "Oh Mandy" by the Spinto Band is one of my favorite songs, and Tokyo Police Club is the best live band I've seen in ages.

AND we can eat perogies right at the place. God bless Greenpoint, eh? E-mail me or post a comment or something if you want to come.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Homicides, Suicides, Accidents and Elopements

On a list of things I love, abandoned mental institutions rank high enough to justify putting me in one. A conversation with a co-worker this morning about the best places to go pumpkin picking in the tri-state area inevitably ended with me saying something like “It’s so cool! You can just walk around and look in all the buildings. But it’s not as cool as the one in Connecticut where they did the first lobotomy!”

It’s times like this when the words that manage to escape my mouth unfiltered congregate in front of me and judge me, like a class full of remedial eighth-graders, waiting for instruction on how not to fail.

At least it’s October, and Friday the 13th to boot, and I can claim the spookiness, superstition, and general ghoulishness of the day as the reason for bringing up my decidedly weird passion. The sad truth is that I would happily talk about abandoned mental institutions on any Friday, or any day at all, but I’m still the newest of my co-workers and perhaps it’s best not to turn on the crazy light just yet.

I think I love old asylums because I hate Halloween-style haunted houses. I hate them for the same reason I hate magicians: they function on my basic biological impulses and the assumption that I am stupid. I jumped because you were screaming and running at me, you know? Not because I think you’re a ghost, a fact confirmed by having seen your mask at the mall.

But an old nuthouse? That’s perfectly creepy. It was creepy when it was full of crazies, because, you know, there but for the grace of God, and so forth. It’s creepy now that it’s empty, because hey, what’s that in the shadow over there? And it’s supremely creepy when you consider there’s a cemetery on the premises where they buried abandoned crazies, who could maybe seek revenge from the beyond the grave as robed, slippered, unstable apparitions.

Being startled is no fun, but getting the chills is fantastic.

The institution in question is the Harlem Valley State Hospital in Wingdale, New York, a monstrous campus in the middle of nowhere that stretches down both sides of a deserted highway. I saw the place for the first time as a kid after buying pumpkins at a farm nearby, and eerie quiet is the thing I remember best. The sun was setting, the place was silent, my parents were talking about mental patients, and seeds were germinating in my brain that eventually flowered into a deep love for horror movies, Lifetime movies, the abnormal chapter of my Intro to Psych textbook, and also a brief period between sixth and seventh grade where I read every V.C. Andrews novel I could buy used for a quarter.

Lest I leave my office this evening without completely alienating the person I face for eight hours a day, I googled the hospital to see if I could find pictures to show my co-worker. No luck on current photographs (besides the one that inaugurated this very blog), but I did manage to find the 1926 Board of Directors Annual Report for the State of New York.

The fact that someone bothered to transcribe this and post it on the internet is both a comfort and a worry—thank God there are other people like me who want to read antique mental reports, but, you know, watch out, there are people out there who spend their time reading antique mental reports.

Anyway, this was my favorite part:

There were no homicides or suicides during this year. There were eight accidents—three of which resulted in fractures. One, the fourth metacarpal bone of the hand, another a fracture of the left wrist, and the third was a fracture of the right ulna. Thee other accidents were of a minor nature. A number of minor injuries to employees have been reported to the State Compensation Bureau.

There were five elopements during the year. Two of these patients were found shortly after their escape and returned to the hospital. The other three were not located and were placed on parole for a period of six months.

World peace, schmorld peace. The kind of thing I pray for is that the book of my life warrants a title as fantastic as “Homicides, Suicides, Accidents and Elopements.”

I kept hoping there would be a footnote or and endnote or something to flesh out the elopements, since the only thing more fascinating than lunatics are the people who spring lunatics from asylums to marry them, but, sadly, this is all I get. The report moves on to discuss the unusually high turnover rate among the staff. They cite “unsatisfactory living conditions” as the cause, but you can’t convince me it wasn’t something much more diabolical. Like schizophrenic killers, or ghosts, or, hope against all hope, the ghosts of schizophrenic killers.

Happy Friday the 13th, guys and ghouls. To celebrate, I, for one, intend to elope with a bipoltergeist.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

First Impressions

The butcher knife and the dead flowers still wrapped in cellophane were what really got me wondering about the former tenants of my apartment. Brad found the knife wedged in our fence. The world's gothest bouquet was extracted from a garden plot in the backyard deep enough to contain tree roots, and therefore deep enough to hide all kinds of horrible things, like bodies, or even worse, parts of bodies, the very kinds of things one might want to pay one's respects to with a bouquet of roses after one severs them with the knife they keep hidden in the fence for just such an occasion.

Also, they smoked menthols and appear to have lived on individual-serving bags of snack food.

The signs of evil abound.

Friday, October 06, 2006


Living in a new apartment brings with it a number of challenges. Where’s my deodorant? Where’s that cooler of frozen food I packed? It’s two-thirty in the morning, what the fuck is that creepy noise? Where the cute boys at?

(Answers: In my purse, turning nightmarish in the basement, probably ghosts, the enduring mystery of my life.)

Tiny cases that require just a little bit of sleuthing (or hiding under the covers, as in the Case of the Weird Nighttime Footsteps Outside) aren’t a problem. In fact, they’re kind of fun. The strangest side effect of packing up my entire life and redistributing it on new shelves has been the degree to which I feel like Sherlock Holmes while doing it. Retracing my thought pattern through ten tightly packed boxes to successfully track down the clean pants I knew I shoved somewhere feels like a brilliant deduction.

It’s all detective work and MacGuyver-style pragmatism after a move. Track down some toilet paper! There isn’t any? Turkey napkins from last Thanksgiving are, if my theory is correct, dear Watson, in the box with the forks, dish soap, and chicken bullion.

Paying more attention to my belongings and surroundings in my new place has given the rest of my day at work a significantly more investigative flair. I noticed that a guy on my floor who normally wears crisply ironed khakis and short sleeve button-downs is hiding a pair of beat-up Doc Martens under the pressed hems of his pants. Aside from making me fall in love with him a smidge, the information adds a new folder to a dossier I didn’t know my brain was keeping. A smoking habit, a tiny Disney tattoo, a craving for red meat during a certain time of the month: all are clues I’ve discovered at the office this week and put away for later examination in my mental registry of possible suspects.

Suspects for what? Exactly.

I’m sure not everyone in my life is hiding a secret identity or a history of nefarious deeds, but it’s hard not to reconsider everything when even my belongings are foreign to me, popping up in weird places and looking diffferent in my new room. Until I’ve tracked down each of my fifteen high school and college journals in my boxes and they’re safely stowed on my new shelves, I’m keeping a metaphysical magnifying glass to my eye and an imaginary pipe between my teeth.

The Cacace Detective Agency, specializing in fiction and unreality. No case too invented in my own ridiculous head.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

'Til Putrescence Do Us Part

There’s an article in today’s NYT about minghun, a practice in certain remote provinces of China by parents of deceased, unmarried adult sons. Should a bachelor meet his maker before he meets his match, custom dictates that his parents purchase the corpse of a similarly single deceased woman to bury by his side, effectively marrying them in death to ensure he is coupled in the afterlife. Corpse brides don’t come cheap, either. A family may be asked fork over the equivalent of the girl’s dowry just to have her body relocated to the son’s gravesite.

If family can’t afford a dead wife for their dead son, in some villages they’ll construct a human-sized effigy of a wife (effiGF? effiance?) from straw and bury the figure in the adjacent plot.

I am twenty-four years old and hopefully a good many years away from my demise. Of course, being plucked off the earth under some bizarre circumstance is always a possibility, and I suppose it is important to plan for one’s future. Who knows if tomorrow I’ll be crushed by a chunk of frozen pee falling from passing 747? Poisoned by an improperly cooked Crave Case of White Castle slyders? Trampled by a pack of enthusiastic kids at the Annex during “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley?

Given these uncertainties, I’ve become aware how important it is to get my ducks in a row and present guidelines to my family and friends should they ever receive an offer to marry my deceased person to that of a deceased eligible male.

First and foremost, I’m worth at least a hundred grand. I don’t get out of my grave for less than a hundred grand. If you’re going exhume my body in a state of decay that is probably very unattractive just to fix me up on a blind date, I’d like to know that my value is tied to my (former) personality and not the integrity of my organs (or lack thereof).

Second, there are certain qualities I’m looking for in a dead husband. Is he good-looking? Does he have a sense of humor? Good personal hygiene? Does he own his plot or rent? Please do your homework. Don’t just dead marry me off to any dead bachelor.

Third, it is important you discuss with his family their intentions about dead grandchildren. Given certain biological factors, I will have achieved maximum thinness about a year into my relationship with my dead husband. Being comprised then of only bones and enjoying my new, Kate Moss-like sveltness, I am probably not going to be itching to balloon up again with all that dead baby weight. Dead children are not a priority. Please communicate this to my deads-in-law.

Lastly, I would like a posthumousprenuptual agreement to state that, should any person on the following list come to be buried in an adjacent plot to my marriage grave, I am effectively and immediately deadvorced and free to dead date: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gael Garcia Bernal, and basically any lead singer of any indie dance rock band active between 2000 A.D. and 2006 A.D.

Other than that, I leave my dead happiness in your living, breathing hands. I trust that you won’t play with my decomposing heart, because if I end up dead married to a big old loser, I will haunt you like a hurricane. Rest (in peace) assured.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Don't Make A Sound, Just Move Out!

I think the greatest words of relief in the English language, and possibly the most overlooked, are "I'm home." My house is the Earth to my pointlessly orbiting moon, the big rock right in the middle of my daily ricochet around in space and back again.

There came a point during the last few weeks of furious phone calls to Brooklyn realtors when I realized how acutely afraid I was of not finding an apartment before my mandatory move out date. I was standing in the middle of a weird smelling, shitty apartment in South Williamsburg with a broker named Joel. Joel was youngish, gayish, wearing a yarmulke, and eager to leave our appointment because Rosh Hashanah was beginning. Standing next to the displaced closet parked in the middle of the tiny living room, Joel tried to sell me on the idea that the neighborhood was "very European." He also promised me the landlord would install hardwood floors if I was willing to pay the bargain price of $100 more in rent per month for the duration of my lease.

The fact that I actually began to haggle with him in my head was the breaking point. "Puerto Rico," I thought, "while not in Europe, is a lovely tropical destination. And what's a hundred bucks a month? Besides, you know, $1,200 dollars a year?"

That's what desperation sounds like.

New York real estate brokers reside on the absolute bottom of the humanity barrel. People who sell stolen organs on the black market. People who test blush in puppies' eyes. Rachel Ray. These are people I would rather deal with than ever talk to a broker again in my life. The idea that someone of my means must pay an individual approximately three thousand dollars to unlock a door and gesture toward obvious architectural elements ("Bedroom. Bedroom. Living room. Notice the floor.") requires an adjective I do not believe currently exists. It's fucked, is what it is, but that isn't even the half of it.

Eyefucked. Knifefucked. I don't know. Someone get on this.

The broker Brad and I wound up with wasn't even that bad. In fact, when it turned out we had a problem with our new locks, the office dispatched a task force of three dudes to either muscle a open a door or sufficiently intimidate the previous tenant into coughing up working keys. This was kind of them. But considering the fact that they earned three thousand dollars for what added up to about ninety minutes of work, they should've been replacing the locks with gold fixtures carved in our likenesses. They should've been carrying the heavy shit this weekend, not Brad and Jake and my dad. They should be carrying me to the subway right now.

On a bed.
Covered in afghans they knitted.
In colors of my choosing.

I suppose what you pay for is peace of mind. When the alternative is putting your stuff in storage (which you can't afford) and moving into your little brother's room (and back into a commute you can't afford), you write your broker a check like writing zeros is your hobby. It purchased the ability to unclench my fists and sleep, finally knowing where I would be laying my head in a week.

It is a good place; it's big, it's got a backyard, it's in a great neighborhood, and I have real windows with real light in my room. I no longer live within earshot (as well as gunshot, I suppose) of a correctional facility. My neighbors are the quietest around; gigantic, beautiful Greenwood cemetary is directly across the street. I bought a new quilt yesterday and slept in it last night, relieved. A little broke, a little sore, and a lot more sure that moving is my most hated thing to do, but relieved nonetheless.
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