Wednesday, November 29, 2006

And They'll Continue Singing It Forever Just Because

My life has been very repetitive lately.

My life has been very, very repetitive lately.

I haven't done anything once. I’m not just knitting, an activity that's in and of itself repetitious--I've knit five scarves in the past two weeks. Yesterday at work I changed the salutation on a letter nineteen times, printed nineteen copies, transferred all nineteen to letterhead, stuffed nineteen envelopes, added nineteen bound galleys of a book I'm working on, and shipped all nineteen via UPS. I’ve switched off between the same two pairs of pants for a week—black jeans, blue jeans, black jeans, blue jeans.

Knit, purl, knit, purl.

Lasagna for dinner the other night. Cook the noodles, layer the ricotta, the beef, the sauce, the mozzarella, the noodles, the ricotta, and so forth. Realize I have another pan. Cook the noodles, layer the ricotta, repeat, repeat. Eat for dinner three nights in a row.

Even the weird things that happen to me happen over and over. I’ve seen something like three or four three-legged dogs in the past month. What?

It’s probably true that bad things happen in threes, or at least that you look for two more when something terrible happens to you. But once you hit numero tres the streak is over, whether it’s ended by cosmic fate or subconscious impulse. But what do you do when mundane things happen in infinities?

I had decided to take the zen approach to things, use my boring life as a self-centering, touchy-feely, metaphysical project. Get on the F. Count the stops. Go to work. Get on the F. Count the stops backwards. Ohm. This was until my subway ride home yesterday when a family got on with a baby in a stroller. They parked the kid right across from me. Everything was normal enough until I actually looked at the baby.

This child—there was something going on with this child. It looked like your standard issue baby girl, even falling on the adorable side of the spectrum given the number of waves and smiles she was getting from adjacent passengers with out-of-control biological clocks. But unlike any regular baby she wouldn’t wave, or smile back, or cry. Or look away, which was the creepiest part. It was sort of funny to watch this stone-faced baby win staredown after staredown with giggling adults, who, after a few minutes, would awkwardly stop waggling their fingers at her and speaking in falsetto coos because they felt stupid.

Eventually the little robot locked eyes on me. I smiled, she didn’t. I looked back down at my book. She kept staring. I looked over at her again and frowned. She did nothing. I tried smiling again. Stare.

It was at this point that I realized one of two things were possible. One, this was the calmest baby in the world, and that perhaps I could learn some kind of lesson from this little infant Buddha. What’s more Zen than a baby calmly rolling through the inevitably boring events of her baby life? My mom drags me on her errands; I dig it. People wave at me on the subway; they’re all the same. Drink a bottle, burp it up, drink a bottle, burp it up.

Obviously, the other option was that this child could read minds and understood that people smiling at babies are probably thinking things like, oh, say, “This guy sitting next to me is cute and is paying attention to this baby so maybe I should wave at the baby,” or “You are a creepy baby stop looking at me you creep.”

Given the two choices, I went with the latter (duh), locked eyes with the baby (still staring at me like a weirdo) and engaged in some serious psychic warfare until her mom distracted her with a bag of Cheerios. She looked away and stuck her little fingers in the bag, but I swear turned back to me, chewing slowly with her four teeth, leaned all the way around the woman who got on at Jay Street and was now standing between us, and gave me the patented This isn’t over… glare.

Bad things may come in threes, and boring things may come in a never-ending stream, but realizing you are thinking “CUT IT THE FUCK OUT” to a baby you suspect can read your mind is a one-time wake-up call.

This afternoon on my lunch break, I left Starbucks early and walked north on Madison for the first time.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Why I Love Network News

Medical Correspondant: ...and some women have actually asked to have their pinky toes removed entirely so they can fit in their heels. Be warned, though: even a toe-slimming procedure will cost you about a grand. Back to you.

Anchor 1: What a shame, women deforming themselves just to fit into shoes.

Anchor 2: And look what were we just talking about! [Referring to piece on a body image documentary aired earlier in broadcast.]

Medical Correspondant: Well, that was...before.

Pop Pop, Fizz Fizz. Oh, What a Relief It Is.

I'm home sick today. There is maybe, remotely, just barely the possibility that I was well enough to go in to work, and it seems whatever deity rules over morality and electronics has seen fit to punish my truancy by blowing the one fuse in my apartment that powers the TV, the cable box, the DVD player, and, oddly, the bathroom light.

I dutifully opened the fusebox and flipped some switches. I managed to turn everything in my house off and then back on. Except for the TV, the cable box, the DVD player and, oddly, the bathroom light.

You grow up; you work in an office; the powers that be say, "Hey, we're going to pay you to sniffle or puke, but only five times a year, okay?" I guess this is pretty fair, especially when I take into account the fact that my shoes were probably made by toddlers working for pennies eighty hours a week in another hemisphere to save toward dysentery meds. Maybe this is why, even though I'm handed free time off on a platter as long as I cough into the phone when I claim I can't come in, I feel guilty when I take a sick day and I'm not actually infected with something. I mean, I won attendance awards in grade school. I don't usually fake sick.

Somewhere after graduating college though, probably about the same time when I realized that summer vacation was permanently and heart-breakingly gone for life, I began to have days that could only be medicated by never removing my comforter from around my head. I'm not saying it's normal, but I am saying it's very important for me, on certain occasions, to stay in my pajamas for thirty-six hours with a blanket pulled up around my face babooshka-style, watching daytime television and eating grilled cheese. This is what I did today.

Minus the television, because, as discussed, I've been smited.

I guess this counts as sick, doesn't it? I've been having a cruddy time of it lately, and while a doctor may not see anything scientifically valid about the powers of a Target Bed in a Bag, I maintain that I have absorbed some sort of restorative antibody directly through my head. Tomorrow I'll be able to leave the house. Right now, though, I think I might look for a flashlight so I can read under the covers the best way.

And maybe do some research about how to placate the Sick Day Television Police God. If you can lure Santa to your house with cookies and milk, maybe I'll tithe a Swanson Salisbury steak microwave dinner and hope I wake up to cable.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Request Challenge 5: What's Your Na-aame? (What's Your Name?) Who's Your Daddy? (Who's Your Daddy?)

What am I going to name my future children? Foster and Ward.

No, really. Right now I'm far from positive I ever want kids, but maybe some biological alarm clock is ticking in my ovaries and some, like, Tuesday morning on the subway, my pelvis will ring and I'll really, really want to have a kid. Currently I just want a dog, and even that I'm holding off on because I don't think I can adequately take care of it. A baby carries with it six thousand times more responsibility than a dog.

And pesky legal penalties for forgetting to feed it. Oh, LAWS.

Inoculations and proper nutrition and breastfeeding are the horrible parts of thinking about children. Names, however, are fun. I'd be lying if I said I never thought about what I'd name a baby if I had one. I'm not crazy about my name (although it could be worse -- I could be a Cathy. That "C" is seriously the last straw. If I was a Cathy I might as well just pull on the stretch pants and embrace my future as a shoe-shopping, bathing-suit-hating, bonbon-eating divorcee), so I'd like to give any hypothetical children a name I thought was really cool.

So, for a girl: Eloise, after the protagonist of my all-time favorite book by Kay Thompson. For a boy: Johnny, middle name Dixon, after the coolest nerd hero ever, from a series of books I loved in third grade. Does anyone else remember The Mummy, The Will, and The Crypt? Or the Curse of the Blue Figurine? No? You just remember romping in the sunlight during the summer? Instead of spending your two months off trying to complete the library's 100 book reading challenge twice?

Dorks.

To Investigate the Haunted Attic, Turn to Page 37.

It may have been the effects of drinking a lot of coffee right before going out, but last night on the way to Movida my stomach was in knots.

I prefer to think that caffeine is not the driving factor of my feelings like something's gonna happen, because 1. who wants their premonitions to be purely chemical? and 2. I don't get feeling that every day. If coffee alone could manufacture butterflies, I would live on the very edge of my seat from nine to five, Monday through Friday, when I am so full of office-brewed coffee my blood tastes like a cafe au lait.

Cafe au sang? Whatever.

I've gotten that same "holy shit, somethings gonna happen" feeling for years, like a restless leg syndrome of the heart. You know that commercial? With the people going on about the devestating effects of RLS how the creepy crawlies and pins and needles in their legs won't let them sleep? That's it, except it's my whole life, and for no good reason to boot. I passed these stupid nights sleeplessly and slowly in my room when I was a teenager. Infomercials as my soundtrack, the sun coming up through the stained glass coloring book pages scotch-taped to my windows, I'd fill hour after manic hour only to discover my jitters were rarely a symptom of an actually thrilling night. Most of the time I'd just be eight mortifying love poems lamer by the time the butterflies disappeared. Or, like, so excited to wear the purse I spent eight hours making from my childhood She-Ra sheets.

Crafts are a poor subsitute for real teenage excitement, but they'll do in a pinch.

It's been a long time since I've felt so sure that something Very Important was happening somewhere, but it happened last night. My hands were in fists and my guts were on vibrate as Brad drove us over the Manhattan bridge to the same places we go every Saturday.

And, of course, butterflies or no, last night was every Saturday. The same hellos and kisses on the cheek, the same songs, the same kids, although that's why I like Saturdays. But when your entire gastrointestinal system is positive that something gigantic is supposed to happen to you, it's a little bit of a letdown to just have a good night. Good is good, but it's not enormous. Or earth-shattering.

Or mindblowing! Or life-changing! Or making-out-with-a-big-ol'-grade-A-hot-dude-esque! Exclamation! There were no exclamations!

I've written about this before, this feeling I have that there are multiple mes because life works like a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. Just because I decide to follow the weird noise into the cave doesn't mean the me that chooses to turn around and go back to the picnic is erased from the book. My restless heart syndrome is just further proof that there's another me out there hitting a critical point in the story I don't know.

Scratching off the last number on a winning lottery ticket, biting into the best veal parmigiana ever.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

This Is All I Have to Say About Request Challenge 4

Now is an opportune time to write about this because directly across my apartment, in front of the stove, Brad is reinacting Thriller.

I say "stop the Thriller."

He immediately ceases performing the Zombie-MJ-patended-lunge-to-the-side-and-shimmy-up, cocks his head to the side, and looks at me like I am crazy.

"Whaaaaat," he says, "are you talking about?"

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Would You Like Goo With That?

I was using Wikipedia at work to research everything celebrating a 25th anniversary in the next four years (because, yet again, these the the kind of open-ended tasks that you are required to complete when you have "Assistant" anywhere in your title) when my neighboring co-worker asked what time the McDonald's downstairs stops serving breakfast. A quick Wikipedia search confirmed you'll have to quash your McGriddle cravings after 10:30 (12:00 on weekends).

It also revealed these horrible regional variants and discontinued items that appear(ed) on McDonald's menus around the country and worldwide:

Hulaburger

Featured a slice of pineapple instead of meat. Originally intended for Roman Catholics who were not allowed to eat meat on Fridays. It flopped when it was test-marketed in 1963.

McStuffin

Pocket sandwich available with various fillings. Horrible only for its name.

Pasta Zoo Happy Meal
(Australia only)
10 Pasta pieces with Zoo Goo (Cheese), Italian sauce, pair of small plastic tongs, a toy, and a milk drink with a 'Sipaah' flavoured straw.

Also, here are some possibly racist international menu items, apparently created by pairing any sort of ethnic historic role with "burger:"
Maharaja Mac (India)
Samurai Pork Burger (Thailand)
Shogun Burger (Hong Kong)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

On Gravity

As usual, last night I walked behind several Park Slope couples with dogs from the subway to the Chinese joint where I picked up my dinner. These people seem to be the primary population of my neighborhood. Couples in earth tones, scarves, thick-rimmed glasses, the guy with hair that’s maybe a little long, the girl with hair that’s a little short, or else very, very long, and one of them holding a leash with a curious golden retriever on the end. They’ve always got big dogs, like, farm-caliber hounds whose size betrays the enormous amount of square footage the couple must call home. Sometimes these couples have strollers too, with rosy-cheeked Gap babies bundled inside, but a baby’s the line across which my envy fizzles. A dog, a boyfriend, these are things I would pay for if they would just open a suitable boutique on 7th Avenue that sold both (and maybe some fine cheeses?).

I remember very vividly this particular moment in fourth grade that I have never once told anyone about because it's both embarrassing and pathetic, but which I honestly recall at least once every few weeks, today being one of those days. I had a horrible crush in this kid named Brian, who was the first person ever to pass me a note during class.

[It said something about feeding a subsitute teacher to a dinosaur, and poor Ms. Burkenblit, I apologize for that now. You were actually very kind and to this day I enjoy saying your last name. Though you never saw it, my response about you being so old you probably knew dinosaurs personally was unwarranted, and reveals an unsavory side of my character that might cheerfully throw a senior citizen down a well in the pursuit of love.]

Anyway, I really liked Brian a lot for a few months, which is saying a lot for being, I don’t know, ten years old? At the apex of my crush my class took an overnight field trip to some kind of outdoor education center farm complex, where we learned orienteering and slept in a big lodge with snakes in glass cages, all in the name of character-building.

My teachers were a couple of wonderful aging hippies, so there was some mandatory fireside singing before bed. I was sitting near Brian, which was really a stroke of luck considering the fifty kids in my class, and the ten or so parent chaperones who sat like pillars among us and easily could have obstructed my view. We were singing Bob Dylan (see, hippies) and I remember taking off my enormous brown plastic eyeglasses and hiding them in my fist. I refolded the collar of my red plaid flannel, which I had ordered straight from the LL Bean men’s collection, and I tightened my low, nerdy ponytail. I looked at the fire and sang earnestly and loudly and did my best not to lisp around teeth that had not yet been realigned by years of orthodontic work.

It’s at that point that I actually remember thinking to myself “Well, this is it. I’m lit by firelight, I’ve got my glasses off, I’m wearing my best shirt, I have a huge crush on Brian, and he’s right there. He’s going to look at me. This is the most romantic moment of my entire life.” I tried to gaze beautifully into the fire for the duration of “The Times They Are A-Changin’” and for those three minutes completely reveled in the feeling of my all time number one crush to date admiring me in the middle of a big barn in the woods, in October, surrounded by trees shedding orange leaves down past the windows.

Of course, when the song was over, I looked up and he had been joking with his friend Brendan the entire time. My fantastic romantic moment had been a completely solitary one, and I felt like an absolute jerk.

Since then, I’ve mostly filled that same role as my own unwitting target audience and admirer for similar efforts--haircuts, painted nails, days when I bother to put on eyeliner before leaving the house, perfume, leg-shaving. Brian moved to another country at the end of the school year, and there’s an endless string of boys after him who I would get sick at the thought of, though none of them ever seem to think anything of how hard I’m trying by the fire, or how very much I would like them to come sit next to me while we sing “Heal the World.” Maybe it’s a good, humbling lesson to learn when you’re a kid--that you can’t assume someone’s thinking about you, and that you can’t presume your liking a boy means anything at all for the boy.

It sounds insane to be able to trace all this back to one instant, but I swear it’s true. A chaperone flipped the fluorescent lights back on, they started to snuff out the fire, Brian chattered with Brendan, and I realized (in not so many words) how discrete people are from each other. Thinking about it still makes me feel like a soap bubble caught in a different updraft than the ones blown before it, whole, and solitary, and drifting off.

I see a lot of couples day-to-day now, many of them the dog walkers in my neighborhood. There are also the married co-workers, the happy boys, the many girls I know who move casually between guys and, like the elements at the end of the periodic table, exist in couple state for only a brief time. These are people with gravity, and knowing so many makes me feel acutely more alone in space when eating sesame chicken on the floor of my apartment, flipping through channels, checking my e-mail, checking my e-mail, checking my e-mail, looking at my phone, and realizing, when I look at the time, that I haven’t had a reason to say anything out loud in hours.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Request Challenge 3: No, No, No, I Won't Do That

There's irony and there's bad taste, and I feel like the two have been blurred in the interest of increasing the world's supply of socially acceptable vintage concert tees. There are only so many extant Ramones shirts on eBay. Wave the flag of irony and you can Paypal the shit out of Journey, GnR, Jefferson Starship, etc., and still look relevant at the indie show of your choice. Everybody wins.

Except for me, because people think I'm joking when I say I like Meatloaf. I'm not, like, at all. I seriously like Meatloaf and I seriously listen to the extended 13-minute version of "I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)" on the subway. There is a certain wrinkle or lobe or something in my brain that directly responds to soaring rock ballads, and IWDAFL(BIWDT) is the pacifier for its constant crying. The 'Loaf/female vocalist combination is tried and true. There's intense guitar. There are revving engine noises. The song manages to fit "godforsaken town" and "holy water" and "screwing around" and "it all" turning to "dust" into one verse. Plus, the female vocals provide an excellent chance for me to sing along really, really, really, really, really dramatically.

The song has a video that actually features Meatloaf as a beast.

The entire goddamn thing, the whole shebang, the gods of sex and drums and rock and roll and all, is the most perfect example of rock camp I've ever heard. Like, put down your cheesedog, throw up your Bic, stand up in the fourth tier of Shea stadium great.

Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me,” is a horse of a different color. The two songs cover the same territory in certain vital ways: karaokeability; frequency and intensity of break-downs; vague and/or confusing allusions to “it” and “that” and “things I’d never do again”; common references to “dust,” “fantasies,” and “nights” that are “carved in ice” or with “wind so cold.”

But Meatloaf’s drama is one that best enjoyed in a parking lot with a Natty Light. Celine’s is more the Hershey’s Pot o’ Gold and sweatpants variety. Each has its charm, but I think prefer my heartache boozy if I’m going to live it vicariously through the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.

In some way, Meatloaf’s covering “It’s All Coming Back to Me” seems sort of inevitable. Bonbons/Lifetime lady is sort of the natural counterpart to Beergut/Arena Rock guy, isn’t she?

But Beergut always beats Bonbons. Metaphorically and, you know, probably literally when dinner’s not finished.

Post-Halloween Personals Are the Very Best

-To the Pirate that I was kissing in Capitale?
-mulcahy's halloween party-cute bumble bee looking 4 adorable navy boy
-Chelsey, Gretel is looking for you!
-tall blonde in red pirate costume....shiver me timbers!!!!
-Ghost Buster Gals in the Parade
-bansheee at the flavor pill party
-Alex from Clockwork Orange Looking for Alex(a)
-Boozed "cop" walking up 2nd av from cock/urge
-after the parade - 17th st/8th ave -guy in just briefs/glitter
-Skeleton Mike - High Street, A/C train, Halloween
-i was the asian bunny
-Seeking Dracula
-Robin, the boy wonder...you got some legs and...!
-To the MERMAID with the FISH STUCK to her ASS
-To whoever was dressed up as Woodstock from Peanuts and got tackled on 7th and 28th
-You: Mia Wallace hair, Saw III bag, weird brown thing on stick
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