Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Saturdays on Another Planet

Last Saturday night sort of sounds like a Lewis Carroll riddle. How is a guido not a guido? When is a sneaker like a puddle of blood?

Why is a raven like a writing desk?

A guido is not a guido when he’s actually Israeli. He may break the ice by sitting on your friend’s lap, placing her hands over his bulging, bosomy pectoral muscles and flexing them in time to Sean Paul (“Ssshh,” he’ll respond when you ask what he’s doing. “Sssh.”), but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a law student with a genuine interest transgender politics. It does mean, however, that he will break your conversation about the books you’re editing at work to yell things like Pop that pussy! at a girl dancing a few feet away. It also means that his shirt appears painted on and reads “Looks Better Naked” on the back.

But it doesn’t mean that he won’t readily admit guido style is gay bar style. Personal theorem #7583 confirmed.

A sneaker is like a puddle of blood when it’s attached to a foot sticking out of a shadowy gas station back room, and the door is locked, and all the lights are on, and all the signs say the establishment is 24-hours, and your friend has been leaning on her car horn for a few minutes, and you’re beginning to think something deeply disturbing has gone down. Fortunately the foot will wiggle and the man attached to it will emerge from his paid slumber before you finish dialing the number for the local police department, but until that moment, a sneaker on a lifeless foot is equally suspicious as a few carnelian drops leading around some dark corner.

[For what it’s worth, I just googled the raven/writing desk riddle and aside from several answers given by a veteran puzzle solver (because Poe wrote on both; because the notes for which they are noted are not noted for being musical notes), Lewis Carroll himself said: “…Enquiries have been so often addressed to me, as to whether any answer to the Hatter’s Riddle can be imagined, that I may as well put on record here what seems to me to be a fairly appropriate answer, viz: ‘Because it can produce a few notes, tho they are very flat…” But he goes on to confirm the riddle was supposed to have no answer at all (duh). Thanks again, Straight Dope!]

Maybe Mercury was in retrograde, or maybe mercury had contaminated the New York drinking supply, but either way Saturday night was like a page torn from one book and glued into another at random. Sometimes taking the train from the city to where I grew up is nothing more than a change of scenery. On Saturday night, I might as well have hopped into a blender. All the elements of normalcy were frapped into a weird smoothie of recognizable ingredients yielding bizarre flavors: here is someone I’ve known my entire life living out an episode of “My So-Called Life”; here is me sleeping on the couch of a person with whom I’ve hung out only a handful of times; here is an actual, intentional hunt for guidos and here is me sitting backseat for the ride. Here is a conversation with a guy whose accent is so thick it took me two times to understand that he was, indeed, asking me whether or not I like Journey.

Here is me wondering exactly how other people can pick that up just by looking at me.

I at least once a day I wish for something to completely shake up the routine of going to work, going home, and rarely seeing an unfamiliar face. Then, though, when it happens, I spend a Sunday recuperating like I’d taken a fall and some how bruised my entire life.

I think I’d rather be black and blue than bored.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Tie Your Napkin 'round Your Neck, Cherie, And We'll Provide the Rest

For various reasons, I’ve gone home to my parents’ house twice in the past two weeks. The first, Thanksgiving, was non-negotiable. The second was to pick up a pair of glasses I’d ordered the week before—glasses that I am, by the way, ecstatic about, although I don’t think anyone’s noticed the difference besides me.

I took the train up the second time and my dad and I drove directly from the station to get my specs. It was hard to rationalize a two-hour train ride for a ten-minute visit to the optometrist so I bummed around the house until I’d earned up enough visiting time to justify the trip back to Brooklyn. It was a quiet day. One brother was away at college and the other was out working on some group report for Social Studies, I think.

I spent most of my time in the kitchen talking to my mother. My father dozed on the couch in front of a football game. I ate boiled kielbasa for dinner. I flipped through the Sunday Daily News, a paper I haven’t opened since I moved out. It was, in most respects, typical of any Sunday I’d ever spent there growing up, until my mother offered me a piece of cake, took out party plates and a pie server, and offered to make coffee.

I, I realized, was a Guest.

My new status may qualify me to dry my hands on the seasonally embroidered towels in the bathroom or sit on the couch in the Good Living Room, but have I lost the right to steal entire bags of pasta from the pantry? Guests bring pastry and bottles of wine. I tend to bring my own weight in dirty laundry.

I pay bills, I write checks, I file taxes, and I have health insurance. I am legally permitted to operate a motor vehicle or ingest alcoholic beverages.

On the other hand, I am afraid to answer the telephone, I cannot tell time, I have the love life of an eight year old, and I ate a chocolate turkey for dinner last night.

The spectrum that runs from kid to grown-up is one that’s always been very clear to me when I am planting other people somewhere along its length. Your dad pays your credit card bills? Baby. You’ve been living on your own since you were eighteen? Big-time adult. Can’t go see a movie alone? Child. Knows how much to tip your mail carrier for Christmas? Not just grown-up. Classy grown-up. But I am perpetually my own gray area, which is probably the sign of a personality disorder, but let’s not get into details. I react to the stupid situations of my life at once as a thirteen-year-old and a thirty-five-year-old and a seventy-year-old. This produces a crisis for decisions as simple as what to buy from the vending machine at work (“Pepsi!” “Diet Pepsi!” “What, no Cranberry Juice Cocktail? When I was a girl there used to be a fruit juice machine at my dad’s firehouse and it was only fifty cents!”)

When handed cake from a silver pie server on a dessert plate by the woman who once deemed me too immature to be able to handle “You Can’t Do That On Television,” I’m so paralyzed by the left-fieldness of my own age that even my individual brains can’t figure out what to do. Thirteen feels like she’s sneaking into an R-rated movie, but also like when she realized she was too old to watch Nickelodeon anymore. Thirty-five would love a cup of coffee and to gossip about work, but has a niggling guilt about eating seven hundred empty calories before bed.

Seventy loves those plates, and thinks that at this point she can get away with belching at the table. Excuse her.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A Love Poem

[On the occasion of today's NYC health department decision.]

Upon a many midnight dreary
As I wandered weak and weary,
Stumbling from the subway on toward bed,
Forgetting cal’ries, I’d think “So, what?”
And I’d stop to get a donut
Frosted brilliant pink and sprinkl-ed.

Or better yet, on tired evenings
When from the office I was leaving
And returning to an empty Frigidaire,
I could stop and get some moo shu,
Crab rangoon and deep fried tofu,
And extra pork lo mein for me to share.

My dearest trans fats have been banished
And I’m destined to sleep famished,
Or worse yet, filled with flax and mesclun greens.
You can’t love a heart of romaine,
But, despite the risk of ptomaine,
My soul stirs at the name “Crunchwrap Supreme.”

I’ll eat veggies and drink juice and
Remember French fry bags translucent—
Gone like Krispy Kremes after the crack down.
A valentine is usually pink,
And roses are red, but I think
The color of true love is golden brown.

(P.S. Happy 400th post to me.)
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