Friday, November 2, 2012

November's cold chain made of wet boots and rain.

With Sandy's abrupt and intense arrival early this week, it has taken me several days to put a name to what it is I've had lately.  Then I remembered: I believe it's called down time.  After working more hours than I can count since the start of September, I was surprised at how quickly I adjusted to working from home in my pajamas.  There's really nothing quite like it, and the rest of corporate America could take a cue from the drawstring pajama pant.

The fact that I'm writing a blog post at all signifies just how remarkably lucky I am to have power, Internet, an un-flooded apartment and all of my belongings.  Lucky, blessed, protected - you name it, I'm an example of it.  Despite a few moments of flickering power during the storm, my roommates, friends and I sat laughing and talking during one of the worst storms New York has ever seen.  Sure my visiting friend, Kristi, got stuck here for a few days past her intended departure date, but it was nothing that a quick drive to Philadelphia couldn't fix.  She was happy to get home to her family, and I was happy I didn't wreck the rental car on my way back into Brooklyn.  I could write a really, really long post about the devastation being covered on the news or the debate over whether or not the marathon should still take place, but as many of you know, I get awkward during serious moments and confrontation.  Tragedy makes me laugh nervously (remind me to tell the story of a man explaining how he tragically lost his hand and my subsequent grin).  On the same token, any form of debate leads me to suddenly find my nail beds super interesting while I inch toward the nearest exit.  Because I'm awkward, allow me to move onto other topics.  Please know that in my heart of hearts, I am deeply thankful to be safe and pray for a quick recovery for all affected by (that bitch) Sandy.

This all brings me to discuss some really important things: stuff that annoys me.  With down time comes reflection - personal reflection (should I volunteer?  should I get more layers?  why are my jeans so tight?), reflection on things that make me happy (kids in costume, New York in the fall, Kristi's extended stay), and the type of reflection that takes up most of my time: stuff I just don't understand.  The list of things I don't get is really extensive - those tiny annoyances that make you look around bewildered, wondering if you're the only person who sees the 5-month-old baby inside Walmart at 1:00 am (without socks on).  People get annoyed by different things, which I realize.  For example, I know a few people who are devastated when they are seated at a table instead of a booth.  This holds no bearing over my emotional life, but I've seen it rip other people apart in a matter of minutes.  So as I list the things I don't understand, feel free to disagree with me.  Or better yet, feel free to explain them to me.  I will gladly accept your input, but I can't promise that I won't be further annoyed by it.

1. Multivitamins 

Do they work or don't they?  Are they worth the $14.00 I'm about to spend on them?  What happens if I take one marketed toward men?  Why are there so many types?  WHAT'S IN THEM?  Kami White-Waden recently coerced me into purchasing several healthy things, one of which was a bottle of multivitamins.  I had not purchased such a thing since becoming an adult after an unfortunate vitamin overdose I experienced as a 12-year-old.  I don't think anyone doubts that kids do stupid things, and I was no different or better than other kids.  My dad, being the holistic advocate that he is, has forever kept 1,293 types of vitamins in his bathroom.  Wanting to head into puberty as healthy as possible, I utilized a Sunday afternoon to take one of everything I saw in that cabinet.  Yes I was an idiot, but I never fully recovered and therefore have considered all vitamins to be the devil's tablets ever since.  I'm nauseated thinking about it.  But I like life enough to prolong it with moderate health, so I am willing to try multivitamins as an adult.  Have any of you googled "what multivitamin should I take as a girl?" because it only leads to heartache.  The healthy people of the world seem to be immersed in an ongoing debate over whether or not vitamins work at all, and a few fanatics (kale eaters, flax seed snorters) get really heated.  All of my research has led to further confusion, and for now I'm content to simply eat a vegetable every now and again.

2.  Three-dimensional sonogram pictures

I can already feel the push back on this one.  "You're not a mom!" they'll say.  And they are right.  But I do have eyes, ladies, and the 3D sonogram photos just plain freak me out.  I'm not going to get into the sonogram-photos-on-Facebook debate because that's an entirely different battle that I don't have the multivitamin-induced energy to fight.  So I'm going to pretend that my experience with 3DSPs has nothing to do with Facebook at all.  Are babies incredible?  Yes.  Are babies tiny miracles?  Absolutely.  I was a full-time infant teacher and am still a friend to babies the world over.  But let's be honest.  A baby's face smashed up against its host uterus is not Christmas card material.  It's not even material at all - it's quite frightening.  That image is for the mom, dad, grandma on the mom's side, and the sonogram technician.  When I come up against a 3DSP, I can't help but think of Davey and Goliath, and no one wants that.  In addition, my initial response to every image I've seen is total fear that something is wrong with the fetus.  Everything looks pliable and bendy- just floating there in sepia-tinted placenta.  Moms, I love you dearly.  I think you and your baby are amazing.  But when you show me your 3DSP, my smile will be fake.

3.  Public speaking

Why can't everything be done over email?  What ever happened to avoiding each other?  And most importantly, why must I speak in front of groups, ever?  Public speaking is to me what seagulls are to the town of Bodega Bay in The Birds.  Something that I can't fully escape but quietly avoid by being really still.  My job requires that I speak publicly to my students quite a bit, and I'm actually okay at it.  It's what happens internally that concerns me on a more than regular basis.  First, I can hear my heartbeat in my ears.  This makes coherent thinking more difficult than usual.  Second, I get super splotchy on my neck, chest and face.  It's not just that I get flushed - it's that I get all pinky-red in weird places.  It's like a map of the United States surfaces along my collar bones, but maybe only the swing states are visible from the back of the room.  I stay splotchy for several hours after speaking, even if I'm not nervous at all prior to speaking.  We're talking involuntary biology happening here, and I don't appreciate it.  Thirdly, I have little to no control over my eye contact.  For the most part, I avoid everyone and look awkwardly at inanimate objects in the room: A/C units, water bottles, windows.  This is while I'm speaking.  I'm looking out the window while I'm speaking.  If I do somehow connect with an audience member, it's usually just that - one member.  There's one poor soul that has to endure my unbroken gaze for my entire presentation.  And to that person, I am very sorry.

4.  Jamie Lee-Curtis

What is happening to Jamie Lee-Curtis?  I mean, does anyone out there know why she is on my TV so much?  I feel like I interact more with her than I do everyone that I care about combined.  She's always there  eating yogurt after yogurt.  I know what she looks like when she rolls out of bed to eat yogurt.  I know what she looks like when she eats her post-workout yogurt.  I know what she looks like sitting in her kitchen eating yogurt.  1. No one eats 3 Activia yogurts per day.  That seems wildly excessive, expensive and unnecessary.  2.  Why is Jamie so passionate about it?  This is a woman who has gone from A Fish Called Wanda to Christmas with the Kranks to openly discussing her digestion on TV.  That career sequence marks a downward path, lateral at best.   Is she that hard up for cash?  3.  I can't take it anymore.  She's everywhere, and I find it more concerning than the outcome of the election.  Someone stop her.

5.  People who immediately stand when the plane lands

Where are they going?  Or more importantly, where do they think they are going?  Every plane I have ever been on follows a predictable sequence: fly, land, taxi, stop, wait for the accordion door, wait inexplicably, allow people off.  And every plane I have ever been on has a predictable population of travelers who stand with lightening speed the SECOND the plane touches ground.  I'm always impressed with their quickness and watch with envy as these people undo their seat belt with just one hand.  But my awe quickly turns to perplexity and then annoyance as I realize that the person who was just seated abnormally close to me is now standing abnormally close to me with their crotch in my face.  Do they not realize that we have some waiting to do?  Are they that desperate to exit the plane and run to baggage claim - where they will wait some more?  The really fun people like to stand and then wrestle down their baggage while everyone is still smushed together.  I've come dangerously close to the business end of a concussion when suitcases swing down around me, and it's almost enough to convert me into an insta-stander on my next flight.  But then I remember that it is ridiculous, so I just sit back, relax, and close my eyes to all the crotches surrounding me.

There is plenty more where those came from, but I think that's enough for today!  If anyone has answers to the topics above, please send them my way.  I would love to put to rest the issue of Jamie Lee-Curtis.  Until then, stay happy, warm and thankful you aren't the person I'm staring at while public speaking.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Lessons from A Christmas Story

I tend to attract certain types of people.  These types include the elderly, young children, and guys who are total weirdos.  I don't mean that these are the only people who like me.  I simply mean that members from these populations have a unique way of finding me and clinging.  This has been the case my entire life, especially as far as the last group goes, and I've never quite been able to shake them.

I love that children take to me easily, so I don't feel the need to expand much on that.  It has made my job as a teacher and perpetual babysitter much easier.  I like to think it is some irresistible, pure-hearted character trait that draws children to me, but many times I think that children simply recognize me as someone who probably keeps twizzlers nearby.

Elderly people find me in public spaces like airports, coffee shops, and libraries.  "Ah, went with the Americano I see.  heh.  Never did take to the taste of expresso myself.  What's your name, little lady?"  And so begins a conversation with LeRoy.  I find that old men are a unique combination of confidence and oblivion, and this allows them to talk to anyone without reservation.  They are for the most part totally harmless, so I don't mind the LeRoys of the world.  They are just lonely and looking for someone to listen to them for a few minutes.  I can do that.  What gets exhausting is when an elderly person starts a conversation and then expects audience participation.

A perfect example of this is a situation with a neighbor I had growing up.  He lived several houses down and was known for his meticulous yard and terrifying disposition.  Since children categorize adults based on how the adult treats them, the kids in our hood designated this man to a category for which the word 'butt' was used in several creative ways.  As I got older and more well read, I internally referred to him as Mr. Bumble from Oliver Twist.  I made a habit of running really quickly past his house because I knew he sat and waited for vulnerable children to skip by.  Should I be so unlucky to lose a sandal or stop for a quick cartwheel, he would immediately come outside to accuse me of stealing his newspaper.

One unfortunate day I was passing by alone, and as usual, I geared up to make a run for it.  However I was also eating Fun Dip, and as usual, food won out in the end.  Running caused the colored sugar to bounce out of the packet, so I adjusted by holding the packet out in front of me while taking lunge-like steps past Bumble's house.  A solitary lunging sugar addict was an easy target, and I wasn't even to his mailbox before I saw his robe in my peripheral.

B: "Stop!  Stop, young lady. STOP.  Do you have mah newspaper?  Kids are out here ever'day taking mah newspaper.  Is it you?"
T:  "No sir.  I don't read the newspaper."
B:  "That don't mean you didn't steal it!  Kids steal ever'thing.  Runnin' round here in shorts and taking mah newspaper.  What's in your mouth?"
T:  "A sugar stick.  It dips into this sugar.  [quick demo]  And then you eat it.  I don't have your paper."
B:  "Who the hell gave you sugar?  The same person who took mah paper?"

It was at this point that I realized Bumble and I had crossed the line into actual conversation.  I didn't know how it happened, and I didn't appreciate it, but there we were nonetheless.

T: "No sir.  I don't know who took your newspaper, but maybe you need to renew your subscription.  My dad-"
B: "Nah nah nah, don't get smart.  My subscription's fine.  It's you and your friends, I know.  Listen, girl.  I need you to find out who's takin' mah paper.  Can you do that for me?  Can you keep watch ever'day and get to the bottom of this?"

Sigh.  I desperately wanted to get away from Bumble in his bathrobe.  I was running late for a Babysitters Club meeting at Rachel P.'s house, and frankly I didn't want anyone seeing me getting chatty with our neighborhood's Mr. Wilson.  I already had a reputation for being too amicable with adults, and I was anxious to spend that summer exploring my rebellious side by emulating Gia, Stephanie's bad-girl friend on Full House.

T:  [nod] "Sure.  I'll keep a lookout." [backing away]
B:  "Well, now wait, see." [pulls me closer by the shoulder] "I really need your help.  Ever' mornin' I need you out here watchin' my yard.  I'll look from inside, and you look from out.  Then you report to me ever'day about what you see.  You understand?  Startin' tomorrow."

The word unstable passed through my mind, and I was prepared to do anything to remove myself from his property.  How did I get to this place?  Bumble hated children.  And now he had me by the shoulder, and we were co-conspiring against my friends.  I never wanted to talk to this man let alone formulate a plan that involved work on my end.  "He's probably just looking for a friend," Rachel P.'s mom said to us that day. "You girls should do the right thing and spend a little time with the man."
I nodded respectfully, but I certainly did not share her Tuesdays with Morrie sentiment.  Bumble outmatched me in every way: height, weight, speaking volume, eyebrow thickness.  It seemed much more reasonable that an adult spend time with a mean elderly neighbor, but even Mrs. P. had referred to him as "the man."  She didn't know his name, and therefore we as kids knew that we couldn't really be held responsible for continuing to avoid him.

I did watch his yard the following two mornings.  As I suspected, I never saw a newspaper, and no funny business occurred during my shifts.  I spent the better part of those mornings memorizing the lyrics to En Vogue's "Free Your Mind" and practicing block letters with sidewalk chalk.  After day two I simply waited until my parents finished reading the newspaper and would then sprint to his front door and drop it on the porch.  I knew he watched me do this, but he never came out to yell at me, and I considered this a great success.   I don't know if it was my use of the word "sir," my obvious fear, or my stupidity for lunging past his house alone that led Bumble to trust me, but our exchange that summer sealed my fate as a magnet for old people for years to come.

The final and most problematic group of people who find and approach me are the male weirdos.  The unbalanced.  The socially inept.  The crazies.  The odd birds.  The misfits.  The outsiders.  Choose any name you like!  A rose by any other name still stalks you from ages twelve to fifteen.  At this point you may be thinking I sound insensitive.  But that is where you are wrong.  I am too sensitive, and that is precisely why socially awkward guys from all walks of life continue to seek out my company.  I know this is not a romantic example, but think back to the scene in A Christmas Story where Ralphie and his younger brother, Randy, are standing in line to see Santa.

Kid in aviation goggles: "I like the Wizard of Oz."
Ralphie: "Yeah."
Goggles: "I like the tin man."
Ralphie: "Uh huh." [takes a step away from Goggles, pulling his brother with him]

Ralphie = me.  Goggles = every boy who has liked me, ever.

Let's begin in seventh grade with Mike.  Seventh grade was our first year of junior high, and several elementary schools fed into Bedford Junior High, home of the Broncos.  Mike came from a different elementary school but found me during our first day at BJH because we had the same homeroom teacher and math teacher - a occurrence that AMAZED Mike, as he reminded me daily.  I learned early on that Mike didn't trust anyone, and he was especially wary of lockers.  He carried everything with him at all times. All of his books were stacked on top of each other with a pencil holder at the top.  He was a little thing, and I immediately felt sorry for him.  "Wow, that looks heavy" I told him on the first day.  I don't know what Mike heard me say, but he would spend the next two years running after me in the hallway to show me photos of his cat.

In eighth grade, Brian entered my life quickly and unassuming, like acne.  One day he was just...there -  standing by my locker and convinced that I needed a daily update on how large his biceps were getting.  I spent fourth period as a library aide, which essentially meant that for all three lunch periods, I sat as a receptionist to all of the kids who wandered into the library instead of having a place to sit at lunch.  So many awkward, gangly boys giggling around the science section, fighting over a book on female anatomy.  Brian followed me each day as I made the rounds and put books away, and I had to pause frequently to raise my eyebrows in awe of his arm muscles.  He did most of the talking, and the fact that he spit frequently only made me more apt to let him near me.  This is probably the only time he ever gets to talk.  Just deal with it.  And don't forget to tell him not to yell out your name in front of everyone during the pep rally tomorrow.  "Watch when I flex like this."

Also in eighth grade (clearly a big year for me), Chris got my number.  Chris spent the majority of his academic career in ISS: In School Suspension.  (my first bad boy!)  ISS was an alternative school that housed kids who received detention more than three times in a semester.  I always feared it, but after several conversations with Chris, it honestly sounded amazing.  Kids in ISS got their work done in silence during the morning.  In the afternoon, they could read, write, or sleep until it was time to go home.  What the hell? Working in a quiet environment without distraction and the constant fear of judgement over not having any new jeans from the Gap?   At first I tried to avoid his phone calls, but he called so frequently and was so polite to my mom that she eventually forced me to talk to him regularly.  "He's in ISS, I'll have you know.  AND I think he has a tattoo," I would whisper-yell at my mom as she handed me the cordless.

A turning point for Chris and me came when he "officially" asked me out.  He spent the first part of the conversation telling me about his pets.

C:  "My gerbil died two days ago."
T:  "I'm very sorry; that's sad."
C:  "Nah.  S'alright.  I fed it some rat poison stuff I found in my uncle's shed the other day.  So I kinda knew the thing would die.  It was pretty badass."
T:  "....."
C:  "So I was thinking you would probably go out with me."
T:  "No thanks, but thank you though.  Thanks a lot for asking, but no."
C:  "It's because I'm black, isn't it?  You're so racist."

Here is where I took offense.  He murdered his gerbil, and he thought my main take-away from our conversation was his race?  His being black had nothing to do with it, and I thought about writing a note explaining my feelings.  Something like:

Dear Chris, 
I don't want to go out with you, but not because you're black.  Don't take it personally because I tend to shy away from any guy with sociopathic leanings.
Your friend,

In the end, I gently stopped taking his calls altogether and hoped he would meet a nice girl at his alternative school.  The following summer I received several letters in the mail from Mike.  Yes, seventh grade Mike. Enclosed in each letter was a short update (I'm writing to you from the campsite I set up in my Grandma's backyard) and pages from a 1993 calendar with pictures of kittens.  (This is what my cat looked like when I first got him - now he's bigger).  

Fast forward to high school when a member of the wrestling team took to me in a sufficiently creepy way. This guy would drive past my house several times each night, sometimes stopping to leave a note on my windshield.

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Dr. Pepper is sweet
and so are you

He lived in a duplex behind a nearby strip mall, and one night as I left the bookstore, he caught me on my way to the car.  "Come with me real quick to my backyard."  (red flag #1)  "It's real close, come on."  I followed him through an opening in his fence and for the first time noticed how dark it was getting. "I better get back home soon," I said nervously as he got out a flashlight.  (red flag #2)  "I just wanna show you somethin."  He shined the light on a large piece of wood where he had pasted Dr. Pepper labels from old bottles in a seemingly random fashion.  Upon further inspection, I saw that the labels actually formed the silhouette of a female.   "That's you in your cheerleading uniform.  Cool, huh?"
Okay, shit was getting real now.  I nodded and all but sprinted from his backyard and back to my car.

I'll stop there because I think you get the picture.  If there was a guy who was weird, borderline psychotic, prone to spitting, or inordinately attached to animals within twenty miles, he found me.

What brought on this long-winded remembrance of things past?  There are two reasons, and the first is that I need to point out that nothing has changed.  I'm consistently surprised that it does not matter how old I get or in which city I live; this is simply the way it is.  A few days ago when walking up the stairs of the subway exit near my apartment, a man in a lab coat walked right up to me.  "You heading home?"  Caught off guard, I nodded and then cringed.  You idiot, I thought to myself.  Every after school special in the history of forever taught you to say that you are walking to the police station.  To pick up your boyfriend and four older brothers.  You're supposed to say they work there and also teach karate to new members of the force.  But it was too late.  Lab Coat walked with me for two long blocks with the simple explanation of: "I knew you would want me to hang out with you for awhile."

I'm always interested to know what is it that leads all these people to this conclusion.  And to the conclusion that I really want to see your arm muscles and your cats.  That I'm into Dr. Pepper and your lab coat.

Lastly, I need every reader out there to know that when I inevitably turn up missing, there are several explanations you can weed out.  If I am off the grid for more than three days, please know that I am not backpacking through Europe or on the Vaudeville circuit.  I am not off having a fabulous affair with a coffee distributor from Bogota.  I'm not even stalking Tom Waits.  While these are all things I would love to be doing, I assure you that you can mark these items off the list.  In reality, I will probably be tied up in a basement somewhere.  Another male weirdo will have brought out my compassionate side with his speech problem.  He will have talked me into coming to see his three-legged puppy, and he's now driving me to a desolate ranch in Arizona.

While there is also the smaller chance that I am holed up with LeRoy talking about The Great War, more than likely you will find me in or around Chris's uncle's shed in Fort Worth, Texas.  As a matter of fact, check there first.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Calling from the Funhouse

There are many places I like to avoid.  Renaissance fairs.  The back of those white rapey vans that have no windows.  Classrooms with calculus happening in them.  But one place that proves difficult to avoid and has haunted me for years is the women's dressing room.  Several factors contribute to my aversion, and I mostly blame florescent lighting.  I had a recent run in with the dressing room in Macy's, and my experience there did more than remind me of the virtues of online shopping.  Even so, I went willingly into the dressing room then, and I imagine I will continue doing so for many years to come.  Why?  Because I am a girl, and we are crazy.

I needed a dress for an event at work.  When I say need, I'm openly lying.  I have a talent for ignoring the mental images of perfectly wearable clothes already hanging in my closet, and I will tell myself, "you don't have anything."  This is a lie that always works, and this day is no different.  I leave work on a Monday evening and hop on a train to herald square.  On the ride over, I continue my internal conversation with, "this is going to be a good, easy experience."  This is a lie that never works, and this day is no different.  However, at this point in the shopping experience, anxiety is usually dulled by the hope of new, pretty clothes, and I'm always surprised that I never learn that hope is kind of stupid.  Yes, it momentarily suppresses the inevitable spiral into insanity.  But it's like watching the preview for The Way We Were but then having to actually sit through Deuce Bigelow, Male Gigolo.  Or rather, hope is the floor with all the beautiful dresses on display, leading to the inevitable carpeted closets covered in mirrors.

Don't get me wrong, there are things that I love to shop for!  I'm a great jeans shopper.  I can spot a good jacket or blazer easily, and this is mostly because I don't try any self-trickery when shopping for these items.  I'm not stupid and I have eyes, so I know what looks presentable on me when it comes to pants and jackets.  I am not sure where the disintegration of my faculties happens exactly, but when it comes to the genre of dresses, I completely lose all knowledge of self.  I still know what looks presentable on someone with my body type (no ass, linebacker shoulders) and my body size, but my awareness and my actions do not cooperate on dress shopping day.  And this only leads to a breakdown that occurs inside the suffocating walls of the dressing room.

When dress shopping, I tend to take several laps around the floor to weed out the areas I don't need to thoroughly navigate.  These include Mother of the Bride dress/jacket combos, the entire juniors section (which I sadly have never really been able to utilize - even as a junior) and QuinceaƱera dresses.  Usually at this point, I feel good that I've narrowed it down, and I can move to the next phase which I call "delusion leads to poor choices."  Because department stores don't usually put a limit on the number of items you can squeeze into the dressing room with you, I will literally collect up to 18 dresses to try on.  I feel there is safety in numbers, though typically about one of the eighteen dresses is a reasonable choice for my body. But as we've established, I pretend to have a different body on dress day.  But wait!  Don't you hate trying on clothes in the dressing room?  (Yes!)  Then why so many?  (I'm crazy, remember?!).  I also think the sheer amount of fabric I carry with me serves as a buffer between myself and the mirrors - there's an obvious pattern I follow of delaying the inevitable.  Let me have my routine.

Casually carrying 8-9 hangers on each hand like it's no big deal, I nod at the Macy's employee guarding the entrance to the dressing room.  I have the usual urge to run away, but I can't, so I instead focus my energy on assessing the emotional state of the woman assigned to work  in my personal hell.  I have found that approaching dressing room workers (and retail workers in general) requires finesse because they are often just as volatile and dangerous as the rooms they stand in front of.  Who would voluntarily work inside the space where half the women who enter leave there completely shattered and the other half haven't yet mastered the art of getting a shirt back onto its hanger?  These employees are masochists posing as sadists, and I never know whether to feel sorry for them or write them off as simply mean.  I do fear them though, and I regard them carefully, assuming there's a personality disorder to contend with.

The saleslady's name is Maureen, and she nods back at me and then points to her right.  "Over there in the back.  Hang your clothes UP when you're done.  Then you bring them here to ME."  I realize this speech is necessary for the women in the second group I mentioned before, but I always feel somewhat insulted when I'm not recognized as one of the women in the first group.  My eyes are pleading with them, "I do not want any trouble.  I can hang clothes up.  I'm just afraid of what's about to happen in there."  I walk back to my assigned closet and hope to Jesus that Maureen is not the type of dressing room employee that checks on her customers.

When I said before that dressing rooms have haunted me for years, I really meant that.  More frequently than I like to admit, I will sit and think about the absurdity of their design.  Tiny rooms with no air.  Two hooks to accommodate 18 hangers.  1 to 3 suspended mirrors.  And the mystery that has plagued women since the industrial revolution: florescent effing lighting.  I don't care if you are 9 or 87, tiny or large, Republican or Democrat, happy or unhappy - no one looks good under (under! shining down!) florescent lighting.  I cannot imagine a semi-intelligent girl with a marketing degree pitching to Macy's: "We keep the lighting!  But we change the carpet to taupe.  And turn the music up louder!  LOUDER!  The shoppers, they like it!"  So instead I imagine men with cigars sitting around a table laughing at women and saying things like, "Florescent lights!  That'll teach them to stay home and cook instead of spending all our money on dangerously high-hemmed skirts, heh heh."  [this is seriously what I imagine].  It's the only explanation, and it kind of works.

I sigh and smash together all of the dresses onto the two hooks provided.  As I stand with my eyes closed, preparing myself for destruction, there is a knock on my door, and I overreact with an audible gasp.  Damn it, Maureen.  She's a checker.  "Everything okay?"  "Yep!  All good."  She is fast - too fast.  I haven't even faced the mirrors to do the initial self-assessment in my bra and underwear yet.  (a ritual of mine that lasts under twenty seconds but has consequences that last for years).  With each failed attempt at the fun, trendy, flowy dresses I foolishly chose, the sadder and sweatier me begins to emerge.  Perhaps if this me were around all the time, I wouldn't be in this mess!  I'd stay inside and accept the fate of being the mom in What's Eating Gilbert Grape?  What's so bad about a good mu-mu?!  But sad me is still being upstaged by hopeful me -- the me who still pretends to be in a disney movie and is waiting on the birds to fly in and drop Belle's yellow gown over my tiny frame.

About halfway through my insane dress choices, Maureen comes back around to check on me.  I am more stressed at this point but also less surprised by her appearance. "Everything okay?"  I can't answer right away because there is royal blue fabric pressing down on my diaphragm.  I manage a "mmm hmmmm" and after a pause, I know that Maureen knows.  She knows I am standing in the corner, hair in a knot, mascara running under my eyes while I fight my way out of yet another dress.  When she asks, "You need anything?  Another size in something?" I recognize this as employee code for I know you, girl.  I can hear your ribcage collapsing under the strain of the zipper.  Stop fighting with that size 6 BCBG dress, idiot, and allow me to direct your attention to the simpler, more forgiving fabrics fashioned by Jones New York.  I enter into defensive mode and snap back with a quick "no thanks!"  I feel like she can see me through the window-blinds that act as a door, and I am aware that I probably look insane -- huddled against the wall like a neurotic cobra. "You sure?  We're slow right now, so I can help you."
Is. she. kidding. Me?  "I'm sure, thank you" [gasp for air].  I am spiraling, and it is going to get worse before it gets better.

I tear out of the cute, flirty BCBG dress that, when placed on my body, looks like it was draped over an oversized locker.  I look at feral me in the mirror, and I recognize that I am approaching a crossroads.  I seemingly have two options:

1. allow disney me to take over, adopt a positive attitude, and continue with the torture fun of finding a new dress!
2. take the well-worn path of sadder me, hang up my clothes for Maureen, and officially cross over to the group of weirdos who sob uncontrollably on the subway.

Who am I fooling?  Even disney me has given up on Belle's gown and is in the process of settling for the scene from The Little Mermaid where Ariel relies on the seagull to fashion a dress out of burlap and rope.
And yet, I haven't considered that there could be an option number 3: grab a dress that has more than a 50% chance of fitting, buy it, and go home to watch Ellen because who cares?  This is an event for work where you will be working.  You will be wearing a lanyard and pointing people toward the bathrooms.  Just pick a dress.
I suddenly love this carefree, wiser, more mature me.  Look who's growing up?  Then it hits me: maybe I'm not that crazy!  Maybe I am no longer crippled by full-length mirrors and harsh lighting.  But given that three minutes ago, I was prepared to strike the saleslady who probably just wants to go home and make soup, I decide that I'm probably still crazy, but I should seize this moment of buoyancy and get the hell out of the store.  Flushed, hot, emotionally unstable and tired, I all but run out of the dressing room with a farewell nod to Maureen.  

I can breathe again!  With two dress choices in tow, I know full well that one dress fits well and requires a large amount of my money.  The other dress does not zip up all the way (which is the softer way of saying it is too freakin tight), but it is from the sale rack.  I ask the lady behind the register to check the price on the sale dress.  Not wanting to be bothered with walking a few feet (which I totally get), she says, "Oh.  I don't know.  Let's say fifty dollars."  Done.  Sold.  Never mind that it's too small.  "I'll make it work!" I think as I exit Macy's.   I shift my energy from hating dressing rooms to finding a way to fit into my new dress.  A new dress!  I did it!  I feel relieved and completely sane.

Later in the evening, I call my dear friends, the Wadens, to say goodnight to their girls.  I tell Taylor, the four-year-old, that I have a new dress.  "Can I see it?"  Luckily it is bedtime, so I don't have to explain that maybe one day she too will be just crazy enough to buy clothes that don't fit in order to avoid time spent in  tortuous, clausterphobic cubicles with funhouse mirrors.  "Goodnight, Taylor! I love you."

Steve gets on while Kami does bedtime, and he feigns interest in my news:
S: "So you have a new dress?"
T: "Yes.  But it doesn't technically fit yet."
S: "What does that mean - yet?"
T: "It's too small.  Won't zip up.  Yet."
S: (not satisfied with my monosyllables) "Why don't you just, you know.  Get a bigger size?"


T: (exercising patience) "That's not how it works.  I will force my body to go down a size before I would ever go up a size, Steve."
S: "I...don't understand."
T: "I know...I don't really either."
S: "Here's Kam."

K: "You got a dress!"
T: "Yes!  Yay!  It won't zip up all the way yet."
K: "Oh okay."
T: "Steve told me to go up a size."
K: "Oh god.  I'm sorry."

We shared a knowing silence that people with penises really don't get it.  But as I told Steve, I don't really get it either.  I'm not fooled by the moment of semi-sanity that got me up and out of Macy's that day.  It could have just as easily gone in the opposite direction.  Unless you are currently the most infantile Victoria's Secret model, you've probably had to do the hop-hop-shake-shimmy in and/or out of a dress before.  I have simply taken this predicament to a pathological level.

I did get into the dress for the event.  It was a small act of Congress to get it on, and I imagine that had anyone been unfortunate enough to witness me wrestling myself into the dress, it would have been like watching a live birth.   Totally gross but also kind of like witnessing a miracle.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Of Mice and No Men

Things are pretty bleak.  I'm healthy and all - physically at least, and I'm not in crisis per se, but since returning from winter break, life has quickly gone from an episode of Hope and Gloria to Dr. Zhivago.   You might be wondering why this is so.  Seasonal blues?  Maybe.  Stress at work?  Not really.  I'm unreasonably theatrical?  Yes, but the distressed state of my life does correlate to specific happenings, which are ongoing and worth complaining about.

Bliss and I returned from Texas over a month ago to find that we now share the apartment with creatures.  Mice, to be specific.  Tiny, baby, disgusting mice that have the audacity to show themselves at all hours of the day.  Not having dealt much with indoor rodents (I never envied my friends who were allowed to have hamsters), I always imagined mice to be sort of like burglars in the hours they kept.  People who break and enter generally wait to get their work done until the inhabitants are gone or blissfully unconscious.  It's common courtesy to quietly ransack a house at night, allowing the subsequent horror of home violation to be diffused by the natural light of morning.  Mice, I have found, do not honor the code.

After two days of horrifying observation, Bliss and I felt confident that two baby mice had taken up residence in the apartment during our absence.  Not ones to go without placing blame, we naturally decided to hold the lady we are renting from solely responsible.  Given that she is currently living in Israel and has been for the last two years, we could do nothing but shake our fists at the Middle East and yell like lunatics any time one of the  mice made an appearance.  Picture for a moment the uncontrolled screams of, say, Marion Crane in Psycho.  This is comparable to the scene Bliss and I were now living except that Marion toned it down a little.  Never have I moved so sprightly to a sofa or cursed so loudly toward the holy land.
Clearly it was time for murder.

It turns out there is no humane way to kill a mouse.  Wanting to be clear on our choices, research told us exactly what we already knew: that our collective hate-vibes probably wouldn't do the trick.  We discussed briefly the idea of asking our neighbors for insight.  Surely they had experience in this area?  But since the upstairs neighbors spend their evenings playing what we call "furniture hockey" and the downstairs lady is straight out of a Fellini film, Bliss and I decided it would be best to tackle this on our own.  Our options  included traps that snapped down on the mice, the traps that glued them in place, or obtaining a cat.  We gave the last option no consideration at all.  The first option made me think of all the Tom and Jerry episodes I watched as a kid, and therefore, it seemed too tame.  I didn't want to cartoon-kill these mice.  I wanted them to be real-life dead.  This left option number two: gluing the mice to plastic.  I do realize that this option does not kill a mouse immediately.  I also realize that there are many people who see this option as cruel.  In fact, it might be the least humane way to solve our problem.  But luckily Bliss and I had already adopted a "by any means necessary" strategy, so there was no way we were getting dragged down by mercy or compassion.  Plus, we had practice operating in this mindset at our Lubbock house, where wolf spiders became the target.  For those of you who know anything about me, you know that I would rather summer in a communist work camp than come within twenty miles of a visible spider.  With a phobia held dear since childhood, I spent my time in that house visiting Daniel, an employee in the gardening section at the Walmart on 4th street.  Daniel introduced me to Bengal roach spray, and for that entire year, I all but wore it as perfume.  Bengal spray effectively killed anything that crawled past me, and I took to sleeping with it that summer.  (With the lights on.  If a spider has it in its agenda to crawl near me at night, I'm sure as hell going to see it doing so -- and then kill it before it can).

Back to the present and current overreaction: since Bliss silently shook her head at my fear of harmless spiders, I was relieved to find us both on the same page when it came to harmless rodents.  That page being utter terror leading to rage leading to annihilation.  Four glue traps and one block of cheddar later, we went about our Saturday with the false confidence of people who don't have vermin living in their space.  "That's done!" we thought with a high-five.  "Oh look!  Empire Records is on."  

I suppose I gave no thought at all as to what would happen next.  I knew the mice wouldn't immediately die, maybe, but the traps alone served as a buffer between us and them.  It was a way of telling them, "okay.  You're in here now.  But if you want to stay, you're going to have to die."  And that was enough for that day.  I suppose I also thought that because tiny mice have even tinier brains, both of them would be overwhelmed with the tantalizing scent of processed cheese and fight over each other as they scrambled toward their respective death trays.  I gave them each twenty four hours to perish, and I felt happy with that timeline.  We would have our apartment back and could stop sprinting through the kitchen and vibing Israel.

As almost every good medical examiner knows, with death comes disposal, and that was the next quandary of this situation.  Bliss and I were relieved and appalled to find that one of the mice did in fact glue itself to a tray in the middle of the night -- relieved because it's what we wanted and appalled because there's really no getting used to a live mouse being cemented to a trap under the couch in your living room.  We heard the mouse squeaking before we actually saw it, and that was sad for a few seconds.  I turned on a light and bent down carefully to get a look and quickly wished I never had.  Shrieking as though the mouse had a gun, I jerked backward and hyperventilated.  "What's happening?"  Bliss asked me while hopping in place, careful to only let each of her feet touch the ground for .2 seconds at a time.  "It's trapped!  It's trapped, but it's moving!"  Sure enough, the mouse (no doubt in an attempt to get away from my screams) was dragging the glued half of its body toward the exit.  This scenario terrified me for more than one reason, but Bliss remained calm.  "Surely it can't get too far" she reasoned, and the best option proved to be isolating the mouse in the living room by shoving towels under the door.  "Deal with it tomorrow" became our new strategy, and we went to bed.

Tomorrow became today, and Bliss conveniently left for work very early that morning. Unable to get ready with a dead mouse nearby, I unconvincingly told myself I could handle this alone and equipped myself with three pairs of winter gloves and a broom.  I will spare you the majority of the disposal details -- let's just say that the mouse was not as dead as one would have hoped, and let's also say that this surprise led me to hurl the mouse tray across the room (discus-style).  After my initial scream and collapse to the floor, I sat whimpering in the opposite corner of the living room, shaking my head and repeating the word "no" out loud.  This lasted several minutes, giving me some time to replace the guilt I felt over slamming the mouse into the wall with anger at the creature's apparent immortality.  Not only did we have mice, but the trick candle version at that!  Recovering to the point of standing, I suddenly hoped that the other mouse was watching.  "That's right!" I said to the living room.  "You come into this apartment, and you'll probably get thrown into a wall!"  Hoping my insanity passed instead for confidence, I continued my speech while working on an action plan for getting the glued mouse out from behind the TV stand.  Several false starts later, I finally did complete the disposal process.  Exit Mouse One.  

I'm almost tempted to tweak the details and write a fictional version of these events where both mice went to join Old Yeller on the same day.  That would be a good story with a happy ending.  But as I said, life has become a relentless, never ending black-and-white film where, in the place of a Bolshevik revolution, Mouse Two takes over our lives.  

So rather than change the details, let me close out this entry with a picture of what we have been up against since early January:

Since the first mouse's demise, Mouse Two has carried out an intricate system of psychological warfare.  After my threatening speech to M2 during the disposal, I went from feeling triumphant to wondering if the surviving mouse did hear me and would now come into my room at night to eat my eyes.  I gave up sleeping to figure out an effective way to kill M2 as scenes from the film Willard played themselves out in my mind.  Over the following weeks, we found the traps to be completely useless against M2.  Not only is the glue skillfully avoided, but Bliss and I often wake up to find that the traps themselves have been moved out of the way, and the food we placed there is gone.   After observing this twice, I determined that M2 is most assuredly a female.  She is resourceful, cunning, careful and like any girl, she prefers to seek revenge through mental torment, as opposed to physical aggression.  I no longer fear her killing me in the night because it is public knowledge that she is wearing me down just as effectively in the waking hours.  We won't hear from her for days, and as we slip into a false state of mouse-free living, she will provoke a panic attack by running (in broad daylight) from under the stove to the radiator in the living room.  It's here behind that radiator that she has truly proved her staying power -- because it is in this wall that she has worked tirelessly for weeks on what can only be tenement housing.  Even now, as I lose sleep to her influence, I hear M2 inside the wall, redecorating.  I imagine her smugly creating apartment spaces for her entire mouse posse.  We killed her mate, and now she is leasing out our apartment to her closest friends and relatives.  Now, we haven't seen the other mice moving in yet, but it's only a matter of time.  Killing M1 only proved the futility of fighting.  All we can do now is wait for March, when we will officially give the apartment to M2 and move to a new place.  

A small part of me still wants to see M2 join her lover, but she's smarter than me, faster, and she definitely gets more sleep.  Forget it, Jake.  It's Chinatown.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Dance Magic Dance

This is a serious city, and the people in it are serious.  Serious about their work.  Serious about their apartments.  Serious about getting to the train.  People walk with purpose here, and anyone left lollygagging through midtown is either mowed down or evangelized.  I knew all of this prior to moving here, but even so, nothing prepared me for the seriousness that is 80s dance night.

I thought I had been prepping my entire life for an event like this, but even I (a girl who spent her formative years rehearsing choreography to Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl”) was a mere amateur compared to the superfreaks who gathered in the east village that night.  When my friends Holly, Mallory and I arrived at the Pyramid club, the place was only half full.  Most were grouped up front at the bar, and although a drink or two was of necessity (so we thought) to make our dancing debut, the smoke machines and compelling sounds of Human League drew us quickly toward the back of the club.

We arrived early enough in the night to witness what I now call “the core group”  — the committed dancers who exist in their own dimension and find themselves completely lost in movement and time.  Engrossed as they were, the core group seemed to forget that a girl in the third dimension holding a beverage is not only quite real, but can spill said beverage and register pain when knocked from behind.  I clearly had two choices: live that night as a wall flower and risk severe injury OR join the core group and risk severe injury.  Luckily I had already made this choice at the age of seven, when I first choreographed a lyrical dance to Janet’s “Let’s Wait Awhile.”  It was time to move onto the floor and scope out the individuals who made up our new tribe. Frightening at first and inspiring ten minutes later, the core group consisted of everyone and everything you might expect from devoted 80s dancers.  As Holly, Mallory and I timidly began swaying and looking around, the smoke cleared and faces began to emerge through the fog.

The first dancer to change my life that night was a man bearing an uncanny resemblance to Bill Gates.  Uniformed in a black suit with shiny lapels, I immediately took notice of his intensity.  Whether it was his moves or the pained expression he wore that first drew me in I can’t be sure, but I could not pull my gaze away from this man.  Bill moved with an effortless fluidity that captivated me and several other onlookers...then suddenly, his smoothness was interrupted by a full-body spasm, and Bill doubled over as if someone (or perhaps everyone) had knocked the wind out of him.  Throwing his arms out wide and resurfacing from the blow, Bill’s face told the sad story of a man beaten down by society — and the only feasible cure seemed to be throwing his head back and nodding as he shifted his weight from one foot to the other.  Michael Jackson sang over us, and it was clear that the kid was not Bill's son, and he was offended that anyone might think so.

I realized this was going to be an incredible night, and I celebrated with a few consecutive 360-degree twirls.  When my eyes re-focused, I spotted my next muse: the Lady in Red.  Red hair, red dress, red gloves.  Despite the bold statement of her appearance, LIR drifted more subtly onto the scene, moving in her own direction against the wall behind Bill Gates.  I van-halen-jumped my way around Bill to get a closer look, and I saw LIR marching in place with jazz hands above her head.  In contrast to Bill, LIR smiled cheerfully at no one in particular.  Her eyes often followed the movement of either her hands or her legs, depending on her head placement.  I quickly adopted a few of her moves myself and turned to face Holly and Mallory with a new confidence.  I found that all of us had gained strength from the core group, and as the 80s planets continued to align for us, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” came on.  We couldn’t have stopped if we tried.

With no exchange of words, our sub-group naturally began to drift toward the stage at the back of the room.  On our way, we encountered our first couple.  The woman, draped in black pleather, leapt gracefully around her date in hasty, circular motions.  Had they not very clearly been together, I would have thought the man had accidentally wandered into the club thinking it was his daughter’s middle school volleyball game.  Wearing pleated dockers and a braided belt, this man moved astonishingly well and even managed what looked like a backward version of the running man.  Soft Cell jammed in the background, and the couple intensely held each other’s gaze as Pleather circled Dockers in perfect alignment with his arm, which was extended and moving so as to represent a sprinkler.  It came as no surprise when the man turned toward me, gyrated up in his khakis and squawked in my face like a bird.  My response?  A flap of my own wings  followed by a shimmy down into a lunge.  He responded with a solemn nod, and that was all I needed to make my way directly toward the stage.

By now I had foregone all traces of irony and fully embraced these people as my own.  I felt liberated by the seriousness with which the core group approached the 80s, and I concentrated on my dance moves with the mirrored respect of those around me.  It was amazing how positive the collective energy of the room was, so imagine our surprise when Bill Gates rolled past us on the floor, clearly in a fist fight with another dancer.  The group simultaneously paused to watch as Bill smacked a guy wearing a Led Zeppelin tank top across the face.  “Hey hey hey!” Mallory yelled toward the men, but her intervention was unnecessary.  A tiny man, no bigger than Data from The Goonies, hopped from the stage to break up the dispute.  This was clearly the moment he had been waiting for backstage, and his speedy success at pulling the men a part shocked us all.  Led Zeppelin shouted one last insult at Bill Gates, and Data removed Bill from the party.  The dancing immediately resumed.  It was so…80s.

My lifelong passion for spastic dancing fully emerged when the DJ (finally) played Blondie’s “Heart of Glass.” Holly, Mallory and I had officially made it to the foot of the stage, and our talents were on full display for the room.  Because we were right next to a speaker and engulfed in smoke, I didn’t notice until it was too late that the three of us had been surrounded by Spanish men.  They moved in quickly, giving us almost no time to navigate an escape.  Mine was a blur of spiked hair and large white teeth, and I could barely make out his attempts at conversation.  “I come to you from Spain!  You live in here!?  New York?!”  Refusing to be distracted from my moves, I nodded as I leveraged his upper body to do a side kick.  He continued to try and talk, and I grew annoyed that he couldn’t see how serious this was.  This was not the venue for random conversation.  This was Depeche Mode’s “A Question of Time.”  And his had run out.  “I’m gonna go blahdiblah!” I yelled and pointed toward the bar.  He yelled back something equally incoherent, and I moved quickly through the crowd so as to lose this guy.  Halfway through the room, I realized that I wasn’t so much losing the Spaniard as I was leaving him for Holly to deal with.   But this was the 80s!  I’d make it up to her later with a makeover montage in the likeness of Ami Dolenz in She's Out of Control. 

I decided to break from dancing long enough to use the restroom, and for no reason I recall, I assumed the bathroom to be downstairs.  I followed a couple of guys down a dark staircase, and when reaching the basement floor, I encountered not a ladies' room, but rather a sub-party of goth dancers jumping up and down to dark wave electro music.  So many questions would later register in my head regarding these facts, but at the time it seemed completely normal for dancers of gothic nature to be partying in the same space as dancers whirling around to “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”  I turned to go back upstairs but stopped when I noticed a guy (wearing only a plaid skirt) pointing at me.  Given my recent experience upstairs, I recognized this gesture to mean "let's dance" in core group lingo.  My response was immediate, and plaid-skirt-guy ushered me to the dance floor.  How many times in life would I have the chance to dance with a bald, half-naked man in the basement of a Manhattan club?  "It's the 80s!" I told myself and made a mental note to ask him how he went about perfecting his liquid eyeliner.

For people who have a penchant for non-conformism, gothic dancers sure do enjoy moving in unison.  In fact, it was difficult to pull out one individual from the crowd to evaluate.  I looked back at Plaid Guy and shouted over the blaring sound "what band is this?!"  "Potomac Biter!" he yelled.  (I would later research this and find that I think he actually said Atomic Spider).  "They're really schnapps token!" he told me.  I nodded and pretended that I understood what he said.  I began to long for upstairs.  It's not that I don't appreciate industrial rock or that uniform sway-stomping (my own term) isn't fun.  I found that I actually have a knack for gothic movement, but I lacked the heart.  Potomac Biter didn't inspire me in the same way that Belinda Carlilse always could.  I looked at the solemn faces around me and decided to leave the basement for good.  With a final fist pump toward my new friend, I said goodbye to the melancholy dancers and went back upstairs in time to hear Prince's "When Doves Cry."  I walked with purpose back to the front.  It was time to get serious.

Side note:

Bliss and I have officially been visited FOUR times now...first by Brenda back in August, then the Waden clan, then Holly came in from Illinois, and most recently, Carrie and Stacy came in town!  All of the visits were amazing, and if you don't see your name on that list, go ahead and book your ticket please.

Friday, September 16, 2011

You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby

Do you ever meet a person and immediately recognize that they are going to dislike you?  Do you ever have to interact with this person on a daily basis?  And have you ever made it your life’s goal to win this person over?  If you are living a parallel life to mine, the answer to all three questions is yes.  And if you’re anything like me, these three scenarios might make you a little sad, a little tired and more than a little desperate.  To clarify, I don’t need this person to like me in a can’t-we-all-get-along-and-look-at-rainbows-Mariah-Carey-style sort of way.  It’s that I need them to like me because this person is the security officer guarding the entrance to my workplace.

I will refer to her as “Sugar” because since my first day on campus, she has had a large box of sugar babies resting on the podium next to her swivel chair.  She eats them one right after the other, and her constant practice has given her the impressive ability to talk to and glare at me without any interference from the candy. They don’t seem to get stuck in her teeth, and I find this extraordinarily intimidating.  Equally intimidating is the pitch of her voice, which resonates somewhere between the likes of Lorne Greene and Barry White.  While her uniform is fairly standard, the pant legs are tucked into combat boots, which I find to be excessive.  And while you may have a picture of what Sugar looks like in your head by now, let me just include (for fun) that she is absolutely stunning.  She looks like Diana Ross -- post-Supremes but before the Eaten Alive album.

The jury is still out on why Sugar dislikes me after eight weeks of working in this building.  I didn’t want to immediately assume that her scary presence and annoyed attitude were specific to me, and the hopeful part of my mind resolved in those first few days that this was simply her disposition.  Yet I couldn't help but notice her shift in attitude when Professor G. and Professor L. walked in before me one Monday.  She was almost friendly to them and even attempted a smile.  "What the hell?" I thought as I crawled past her and entered the elevator.  I stood behind G. and L. and wondered what they had that I didn't.  I definitely smell better than they do.  I heard one of them pronounce the word affidavit like "affidavid."  Twice.  So why are all of Sugar's hate vibes directed at me?

Well, we got off to a rocky start when for two weeks straight, I had no valid identification with which to enter the College of Education. I needed the Dean to sign off on a document verifying my employment, and the Dean was on vacation.  This meant that every morning, Sugar would demand to see ID, and every morning I would stumble through my explanation of how the Dean was in the Florida keys and therefore I had no way of validating my presence in the building.  Apparently not one to miss the details, Sugar never let me off the hook by showing me any recognition.  Instead, she greeted me as though she had never seen me before or heard my ridiculous speech.  Some days I tried to throw in helpful phrases to jog her memory.  Ones like "similar to last week" or "as you'll remember from yesterday" but her eyes gave nothing away.  Her angry and bored expression stayed consistent, as did my terrified and shamed expression.

I eventually obtained an ID, but it didn't improve things on the Sugar front.  It turns out she was not just annoyed with my lack of identification, but with my existence as well.  To everyone who walks in the building, she mutters the same "ID please" each time.  To me, she more barks: "CAN. I. SEE. YOUR. I. DEEEE. PLEASE."  I bought some sugar babies for her one evening to give to her the following morning.  But I chickened out when entering the building and ended up eating the candy at my computer during my lunch break.  I now stabilize my anxiety by pretending that Sugar and I are actually best friends, but she overcompensates in her unkindness toward me so that other people aren't jealous of our exclusive friendship.  In my mind, we laugh everyday at how increasingly loud she gets each morning while drinking cappuccinos together in the Student Center.  The Sugar I know and love doesn't even like her security uniform; she prefers to wear floral prints on the weekends -- which are spent playing tennis and volunteering in local nursing homes.  Best Friend Sugar isn't scary at all, and that's what makes passing by Real Sugar each morning feasible. 

Sugar doesn't like me, and I suspect it has something to do with street credit.  Or lack thereof.  I don't mean street cred in a Spike Lee film sort of way, but more in that I am new, and it shows.   I haven't earned a place here yet, and so this could be considered my due-paying period.  It goes beyond the workplace too -- when I miss a train, get splashed by a cab driving past, get lost for the zillionth time, or am reminded that I have no furniture, it becomes clear once again: this is what scratch is.  Starting over, turning a page, beginning a new chapter, taking a leap...all those flowery statements (painted onto signs and sold at Hobby Lobby) that essentially mean: everything has changed, and you have no idea what is going to happen next.  There are two ways to interpret that thought, and my own interpretation vacillates between both ways depending on the day.  I'm hopeful to get through the due-paying period and establish what I consider to be "a life" here.  But I also think back to what Stacy Johnson said to me many times in regard to how we (as adults) handle children.  She says that we so often want to see children reach the next level of skill or development that we don't always see the value in their current stage. 

I have thought about applying this thought to my own life, but it is easier for me to see the value in baby's first steps.  I'm not one to be inspirational (to anyone, least of all to myself); however I suppose I am going to attempt to see the value in the due-paying period.  The value in my lack of street cred.  In my lack of knowledge.  In my lack of a bed frame.  And I look forward to the day that Sugar no longer views me as an outsider, and I can enter the building without wishing I had easy access to Xanax.


Bliss and I survived hurricane Irene and moved out of H's place...not a moment too soon!  We wonder how H  is liking the visibility of her floors and the lack of human DNA in her fridge.  Probably took some adjusting to when she arrived home.

We now live down the street (quite literally one avenue north) in another sublet.  We left Lucifer and arrived to meet Zoe: the renter's dog.  Sigh.  WHAT is with all the pets?  The apartment is great though -- bigger and without hedgehog mobiles. 

I love my job!!!  It's overwhelming currently (I thought the 12+ hour days would end when I left the CDRC?  Silly), but each time I go into the preschools we partner with, I see the kids and am reminded why all the craziness is worth it. 

I'm so excited about experiencing fall here -- it's already much cooler outside, making my daily pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks seem justified.  Bliss and I can't wait to put pumpkins on our stoop (we are eight).  And then we'll carve them with Taylor and Samantha when the Wadens come to visit over Halloween!!!! :-) 

On that note, plan a trip and come visit us.  Soon! 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

August is by far the worst month of the year.  I've thought this every August of my existence, and I started saying it out loud at least twenty years ago.  Some people like to remind me of some "positive" things about this month (like the birthdays that fall in August), expecting me to retract my statement, but I never do.  My own birthday is in March, and I'm not all that fond of that month either.  August birthdays are fine, and I bet some fun partying happens when those birthdays come along, but all I can think of is those who have gone before me and given birth in August and my hatred is reinforced on their behalf.  Why do I hate August so much, you ask?  Because it's so...August.

There are very few redeeming qualities about August; in fact, I'm having trouble thinking of one.  Well, school supply shopping can be fun.  But that only applies to fourth graders and their parents.  For me, August has always marked the end of life-giving things like vacation and breathable air.  August in New York is better than August in Texas -- I will say that.  The soul-killing heat only comes sporadically, and it only truly kills my soul when people on the subway forget about August-blockers like showering and deodorant.  But still, even in New York I can feel August closing in on the population like an planet-sized greenhouse.  It is when Mother Nature takes her own vacation and forgets to turn off the heater before leaving the house.  Everything is stagnant and parching, and yet we all go about our business as if life is still good.

There are two sides to my August coin this year.  As I said before, August in New York is better.  1. because it is New York and 2. because it rains here.  In fact, the other night as Bliss and I returned home from a neighborhood pub, it was raining so hard that I had to remove my shoes and wade barefoot through the streets of Brooklyn.  By the time we got to the apartment, my teeth were chattering.  In August.  Some of you might think, "well then what the hell is there to complain about?  We're on day 4392 of 100 degree weather."  I anticipated this response, and you're right.  There's nothing to complain about.  Except that it's August, and complaining is what I spend this month doing.

On the other side of the aforementioned coin, August 2011 is sucking the life out of me just as vehemently as every year before because in addition to time standing still and the maddening heat, nearly all of the people I love are far far away from me.  That's right; I'm in full-fledged withdrawal from the people I left behind.  Or at least the ones I really like.  Was my decision to move here a mistake?  Of course not -- the opposite is true.  But when a crappy month like August comes along, it's increasingly difficult to notice the wonderment of the city around you and all the easier to look at surrounding strangers with disdain.  Amidst all the fabulous food, bookstores, architecture and music, there are people.  An abundance of people.  People that I don't know and therefore cannot share my animosity toward August with.  Just the other day I was standing on the subway platform waiting for the train and sweating through my cardigan.  Looking up, I attempted to share a knowing look with a nearby stranger, and this person avoided eye contact.  This happens everyday, and I do it myself everyday, but because it's August and I can't think straight long enough to remember social cues, it really bugged me.  "Well that's just fine," I thought as I moved away from the stranger's excess body heat.  And it hit me.  At that moment, I would have traded an August in Texas for a hug from one of the children from my class.  I realize it might be difficult from the outside of my head to see the connection between these two things, but something clicked then, and I missed my kids so much that it was hard to breathe.  The hot, underground air didn't help of course, and I added "unbearable separation from those I love" to my anti-August list.

I'm ready for September.  I do recognize that September is often just as stifling as August, but at least by then there's hope for relief from hell's flames.  September seems to encourage us with a "hey. There there.  I know it's still hot, but it'll be over soon.  Why don't you watch a football game or pick an apple to take your mind off things?"  August just hits me in the face everyday and sends the clear message: "it is hot, and it always will be.  Let me prove it by killing all your plants."  And this year it has expanded the message to include: "and on that note, the holidays will never arrive, and heat stroke will befall you before you get to see the people you love."

I'm mad because it's August.  I'm sad because I miss my friends and family (big and little).  I still heart NY, but I heart you all, too.  Have a snow cone and know that you're missed.