Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Cap'n Crunch Thinks You're Too Cheery

So even though I’m not even close to finished whining about it and I don’t have a really good alternative subject all mapped out, I’ve decided that stories about my recent vacation must come to a timely end. This is partly because I’ve been scanning my brain for another interesting story that was also not too embarrassing given that I am very vulnerable to parent/work exposure on this blog, and it just wasn’t working out.

I still have plenty of non work/parent friendly stories, mind you, but alas, they do me no good given the above. I also realized that seven of my thirteen posts so far have been about that trip. Mind you, I started my blog on July 8th, so there hasn’t been a lot of time to talk about the other things going on in my life, but still, I’m beginning to feel a little bit like that weirdo cousin you’ve got who insists on showing you ALL of his pictures from his trip to Prague, which feature nearly forty shots of the airplane wing alone!

So here I am, about to Change The Subject. Not to anything very interesting, you understand, but here comes a Change Of Subject nonetheless, like it or not, it’s my blog not yours, neener neener.

I am not a fan of waking up.

Being awake, sure, I’m all for that. It’s very difficult to have any fun if you’re asleep. It’s really a major bummer that we have to piss away a third of our lives in such a fashion. I could see an eighth or so. That would be fair. Maybe a full night every once in awhile, like if you’ve been going through a fraternity hazing for the past week. But a third on a regular basis? That’s a pretty massive slice of our time that could be used for much more productive activity. Imagine all we could do if we didn't need so much sleep. At the very least we could have a lot more sex.

Anyway, being awake = good thing. Usually. But the whole waking-up process kind of sucks. I’m not a fan (most insomniacs aren’t), even when I’m waking up in order to do something fun.

Ways To Make My Waking Up Process More Fun, Should You Be So Inclined:

-Announce to me in a loud but not oppressive voice that I have 1) won the lottery, 2) a totally spontaneous date with Johnny Depp tonight, 3) an unscheduled day off from work, 4) a bucket of roses outside my door along with a very mysterious card, 5) suddenly become blessed with perfect pitch overnight, 6) a publisher on the phone who’s very interested in my book, or 7) had a flask of Harry Potter’s Felix Felicis potion delivered overnight, good for 24 hours only. All of these would be good, one a day might be nice. Don’t be afraid to add your own! Variation and creativity are important in the relationship I assume we have if you’re concerned about making my mornings a happier place to be.

-Configure some kind of contraption that enables me to shower in bed. Nothing like a nice hot shower to wake up. This one would be good on weekends only, particularly in combo with rainy weather. During the week, I shower at night. It’s a good rule. It’s been working.

-Place a cute puppy on my chest. It will have to be a toy puppy (the breed, not the stuffed animal), or else I will get very sick and allergic and I’ll stay like that all day and then I’ll want to murder you. Also, you have to take the puppy away at some point. I don’t want to keep it. And make sure it doesn’t pee on me. You know what, maybe it should be a stuffed animal after all.

-Give me an elaborate breakfast in bed. I’m a vegetarian who loves sausage. See if you can go ahead and reconcile those two. In the event of success, I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always.

-Tickle me. There is definitely a right and wrong way to do this, and the wrong way will leave you counting in base nine. It should not be attempted by amateurs.

-Do something funny, like dance a jig, or put on something funny. A comedy show, a favorite silly song, a strategically placed smiley face, etc. Anything that encourages audience participation, i.e. me getting up, is a good way to go.

So there you have it. LS-specific tips of the trade. If you are not a fan of the disturbingly regular occurrence we like to call dawn either, well, then I guess we’re both up the creek, because I sure as hell would never be alert enough in the morning to attempt any of this.

Monday, July 28, 2008

How My Cynicism Took A Hit

There are moments in life that you just wish you could take back. The moment when you were at a party and said, “Sure, I’d love to try heroin,” for example. Or the time you decided it would be cool to play with fire on the living room floor. Or the one where you so unwisely decided to be honest on the subject of pants, specifically, the effect a certain pair had on a loved one’s bum. Seemingly simple moments like these can really rock your world when they take a turn for the worse. Sometimes they can impact your whole life, and they can always be traced back to that one moment when you were an idiot.

“If I could turn back time,” you think to yourself. “If I could find a way… I’d take back those words that hurt you. You’d stay.”

Well, I had one of those moments on Saturday. The day I was scheduled to leave. At this point, all of my major limbs were still present and I did not appear to have sustained brain damage so I basically considered myself off the nasty-vacation-consequences hook.

Obviously, I spoke far, far too soon.

I was in San Francisco, kipping at my business partner’s apartment. His lady friend, aka my sister, was there as well. (We all slept in one bed, like a pile of puppies. We thought this would be fun. It was just as cute and innuendo-laden as you’re imagining. And yes, there was a tickle fight.)

All three of us woke up at an hour in the morning which is undesirable if one was awake until the wee hours of the same morning. (I got zero sleep last week. Zilch. None.) BP’s roommate and his girlfriend were still sleeping, like normal people. So even though we had all planned to go out together, we elected to leave without them. My plane left at 3:30; we couldn’t risk them sleeping until 2:40. Hungry, we were.

So off we jaunted to a nearby breakfast place. Because it was a Saturday and this was a place that did not feature rats sitting openly on the register counting change, it was jam packed. We put our name down and went for a little stroll in the park nearby. Well, “park” in the sense that it had a few trees and also some sand. That’s basically it. There were also some big cement blocks. Benches for various sized arses? Modern art? No way to tell. We used them to play the lava game.

If you didn’t play this when you were a child, you obviously turned into a vicious killer and I didn’t realize that incarcerated criminals had Internet access, what a use of our tax dollars, good grief, etc, but I’ll explain anyway—it’s a game where you leapfrog across various playground equipment and do not touch the sand, which has magically turned into lava and will boil you up. (If you are getting the idea that the three of us have the collective maturity of a six year old, you are wrong. We have the collective maturity of a four year old.)

Anyway, this was big fun until I realized that it was not easy to jump a four foot gap while heaving a heavy purse (actually it wasn’t advisable for persons of our advanced ages to begin with; we’re lucky we didn’t break our necks!) and I…


…set down my purse.

Okay. So at first glance, this doesn’t seem like that big a deal. People set down purses all the time, and if they have their wits about them to the extent that they pick them up again at some point, everything is fine. I did not. We set off to breakfast, I was conspicuously missing a purse, and I was nary the wiser until about twenty minutes later, halfway through a plate of delicious French toast.

“Oh no,” I said, dropping my fork as I realized my grave error (only, I might add, because I was looking for a pen). “Oh no. Ohhhhh nooooo.”

“What’s the matter?”

“I left my purse at the park,” I murmured, face in hands as I had a painful flashback to the moment at which I gently set the poor purse on the ground, defenseless against attack.

“Gotta run,” I said, and I did. I ran back to the park as fast as my busted knee would allow. It hadn’t been that long. I held out hope that no bum had noticed my purse yet. After all, this is the same purse I’ve left in a couple of locations in New York City, retrieving it a few minutes later with no harm done. I wanted to believe that somehow, this purse had secured itself against my stupidity with some kind of Unscrupulous-Taker Invincibility.

But it was gone.

I didn’t panic. It’s not like I had anything important in that purse. Just my wallet (containing two major credit cards, some cash, all of my identification, some photos, and a few checks), two of my nicest necklaces, my apartment keys (main set and spare), two of my favorite books, my brand new iPod (that I had listened to for all of thirty minutes), an umbrella, a thin airline-issued blanket, my glasses, a few of my business cards, and my flight itinerary.

Oh, did I mention my plane was scheduled to leave in three hours?

Of course, I called to cancel my credit cards immediately. The lady on the other end of the line who had an uncomfortable amount of control over my financial well-being (do you ever pause to think about the fact that these people have the ability to just cancel your major credit cards whenever the whim strikes?) told me kindly that there was no fraudulent activity since the night before, when I had last used the card.

Good sign, for sure. A bum would probably have bought a hot meal, at the very least, right away. I canceled the cards and the checks and hung up. By that time, my sister and BP had rejoined me in the park, and the three of us kicked around the possibilities for a few minutes. We began to postulate about the possibility of a Kind Soul finding my purse, and what this Kind Soul would have done. Go to the police? Try to contact me? To the best of my knowledge, my cell phone number was not written on anything in my purse. At most, a Kind Soul could call my work line (which is listed on my business card) and I would be able to sort this out on Monday.

“I guess I better go file a police report,” I said. BP offered to drive me to the police station. I called my mother on the way, and she came to my aid as quickly as you would expect a mother who’s watched her kid get into all kinds of dumbass situations over the years to do. Because I no longer possessed photo ID, we weren’t sure I’d be able to get on the plane. So in addition to bringing me about $200 to tide me over until my new cards arrived, she also brought my birth certificate.

What would we do without mommies?

I called the airline and spoke to a woman who sounded delightfully unfazed by my plight. She told that if I came with a copy of the police report and was prepared to be strip searched, I could board the plane. So I filled out the police report and told my mom to meet us at the airport. We briefly returned to BP’s apartment to grab the rest of my stuff (which I stapled to my forearms in an effort to not lose anything else) and then set out for the airport.

Except for taking about an hour longer than normal, the security process wasn’t so bad. This is probably because I was doing my utmost to look cute, innocent, and safe (my guns were in plain view the entire time, and I think that helped everyone felt secure). Apparently lack of photo ID for a variety of reasons happens a lot, so they have ways to get you on the plane regardless.

My mother waited while this was happening in the event that something went wrong and we had to go home and figure out how long it would take for me to return to New York via camel. She wasn’t allowed in with me, but the guards were very nice and talked to her while I was walking through an obstacle course of security. On occasion, I caught her eye and she smiled encouragingly. If she was busy regaling the guards with tales of my past idiocy, she didn’t let on. Thanks, Mom!

I managed to arrive at the gate about an hour before my flight left, in total defiance of the laws of physics, so I set myself the task of figuring out where I would stay that night. My keys had been in the purse, and I thought—crazy I know—that my superintendent might not take kindly to me buzzing him in the middle of the night to let me in with no prior warning. So I called him and explained the situation via voicemail so he would not be without said warning. I didn’t think it would be a problem—an inconvenience, sure, but who’s going to let a 22 year old girl wander the streets of New York alone at night when she’s just returning from a long trip and has a lot of luggage with her? I wouldn’t. Especially if all I had to do to prevent this was wake up long enough to buzz her in and hand her a set of keys.

However, some tiny little wise part of me was screaming “Backup plan! Backup plan!” and since this was the tiny little wise part of me I so foolishly ignored earlier when it told me not to put my purse down, I’d really regret it, I decided to go ahead with this round of advice. I called three of my friends in New York, all of whom are the kind of people that you can call up and say, “Hey, I’m in a jam, can I crash with you tonight?” The first two didn’t answer. On the third, I struck gold. My ex, who lives in Long Island, agreed to help me out if I needed a place to stay. I got on the plane and tried to forget about the entire ordeal. The in-flight movie was Horton Hears A Who.

I turned my phone back on as we taxied to the gate, and found a wonderful surprise on my voicemail. My mother, practically giddy, excitedly proclaimed that my Kind Soul had materialized in the form of not one, but two men who found my purse in the park completely intact and had been trying desperately to find me ever since! I understand that their pooch did the actual finding via the Puppy Nose, so I hereby rescind all the bad things I’ve ever said about dogs.

I still can’t bring myself to joke about this part. It’s one thing to find a purse and turn it into the police, or make a halfhearted dig through it for a cell phone. That’s what a normal Kind Soul would do. But these two? They went way beyond that. Because of the area of town our lava park was in, they were extremely worried when they found my purse with nothing missing. They figured that discovery would be followed by another—my body. With that happy thought in mind, they went through the park looking for any sign of me (given how quickly I realized my purse was missing, we probably missed each other by moments only), and when they didn’t find any, they went through my purse looking for a way to find me.

They spotted my business card right away, and left a message on my work line, which as you recall was the very outer limit of what I would have expected of a Kind Soul. But when that didn’t work, they continued combing the purse and discovered a check I hadn’t yet cashed. They called the check-writer, a friend of mine from an online message board, and asked if she knew how to contact me. Frantic, my friend (who unfortunately had only my email, not my cell phone number) posted a message on the board asking if anyone else had my cell phone number or knew how to reach my family. A massive group effort was mobilizing to find me even as I was on my way back to New York. I did not find any of this out until later.

I can’t joke about this properly because I’m still too touched by the number of people that went so far out of their way to find and help me (in the case of my two purse-finding heroes and a number of my message board friends, they did this for a virtual stranger). My mom, my sister, and my BP did everything they could to assist me—helped me look for the purse, drove me to the police station and then the airport, spotted me money, and most importantly, helped me stay calm and maintain a sense of humor. BP, especially, was keen on reminding me that nothing irreplaceable had been taken. I still had my cell phone, for example.

And I’d be remiss not to mention my ex, who picked me up from my neighborhood at close to two in the morning because my super flat-out refused to let me in after 12:30, a deadline I had no chance of meeting given that my plane touched down at 11:30 and the distance from the airport to my apartment at that time of night takes two hours to travel, minimum. At first, I was a little mad about this. When I called him, I hadn't yet reached my ex (or anyone else). It was late, I was exhausted and, despite the happy ending in California, unbelievably stressed out. I was approaching frantic when I told him that I had nowhere else to go that night if he didn't let me in. His response? "That's really not my problem. I'm not a round the clock super."

Way to have some compassion for a girl in a tough fix, Mr. McLazy.

But it worked out fine regardless. My ex picked me up and brought my back to his house, where we fell into bed in an daze of utter exhaustion. It had been a long, long night. We woke up five hours later so he could take me home and I could grab my keys from Mr. McLazy. (I have to say, though my ex and I have obviously had our differences in the past, he is one of the few people in New York I can count on to be there for me when I need him, and the other night he was the only one.)

I am no longer angry at Mr. McLazy (although I will never forget the fact that he wouldn’t help me, just as I’ll never forget the people who went out of their way to do so). After all, I have karma to rebuild, as I’m sure this little event has completely depleted my supply. Besides, with so many things going my way, I don’t want to get greedy.

I’m very grateful to everyone who was there for me, and particularly to my Kind Souls. I know it was just a purse, but despite that, they searched for me until they found me, a complete stranger. No one can ask for more than that. I am also proud of myself. A year ago, a situation like this would have totally destroyed me (at the very least there would have been a lot of tears and panicking). As it was, I stayed calm, canceled my cards as fast as possible, and was able to gain some immediate perspective (nothing irreplaceable had been taken, it was just stuff, I still had my phone thank God, etc). There's a mantra I employ when these things happen-- "Stress occurs when the mind resists what is." A year ago I would have been crippled by emotion and basically unable to just deal.

Yay for personal growth.

Maybe my purse really IS covered by an Unscrupulous-Taker Invincibility. Maybe it's like the Sorcerer's Stone, and you can only take it if you don't intend to use it.

Or maybe I am just really, really lucky.

How We Nearly Died

While driving to Nevada, my mother and I stopped at a Starbucks. (I was happy to see those good franchise people haven’t lost their sense of purpose—believe me when I say we could not have been in a much more remote location without actually taking leave of the planet, and yet there it was, the big green and white sign we’ve all come to love, shining like a beacon of hope over the lonely highway of Lots and Lots of Miles to Go Before I Can Get A Freaking Nap.) Once ordered, we adjourned to the car to enjoy our overpriced sugar surges. As we were chatting amiably, I happened to glance at the windshield (it being right there and all). And I noticed something a teensy bit out of the ordinary.

“Hey, Mom, what’s wrong with your windshield?”

“What do you mean? OH MY GOD!”

The crack—well, it wasn’t a crack, that’s a misnomer. Perhaps “canyon made out of sparkly glass” would do better to capture the spirit of the thing. It was about two feet long, horizontal, right about eye level, looked distinctly like the work of a flying rock with a major vendetta, and had certainly not been there before.

“Wow, do you think the windshield will shatter?” I asked conversationally.

“If another rock hits us, it will,” my mom said, staring worriedly at the glass. “We shouldn’t drive with it like this, but we’re eight billion miles away from anywhere right now.” (I’m paraphrasing a little; my mother doesn’t employ hyperbole with the same fondness and regularity that I do.)

“Well, we’ll just have to keep going then. Unless you want to call road service?” I recall posing this question with a certain degree of unwarranted perkiness. Apparently I have a finely honed appreciation for proximity to danger and death.

My mom hesitated. “I guess so. We’ll have to get it replaced as soon as we’re in Nevada.”

“So we just have to get through another couple hundred miles of interstate highways full of big, perilous trucks and we’ll be home free! Good luck with that.”

My mother chose not to dignify my smart-ass remarks. In any case, I would have happily driven the car myself. I happen to be a wonderful driver, and I miss greatly being out on the open road (plus, cars do much to minimize one’s proximity to smelly, creepy people, unlike subways).

But she never lets me drive her car. Something about me not being on the insurance anymore. Like that matters.

Anyway, we hit the open road with a modicum of trepidation (“[Lady Snark], if the window shatters it’s going to be really loud and scary, so try not to panic.”). Sunglasses were donned. Phone calls were made. Fortunately, getting people to agree to things over the phone by way of pretending to be someone else (in this case, my mom) is a specialty of mine. In a short time I had arranged for our windshield to be repaired upon arrival.

Meanwhile, my mom was driving. Quite well, I might add. Kept us very clear of vicious rocks. She only made one tiny mistake that nearly got us both killed. Focused as she was on the state of the windshield (we could actually see the crack growing as we drove), she was attempting to stay away from big rigs at all costs—good decision, for sure, under the circumstances. However, it led to a situation where centering her attention on attempting to pass a big rig caused her to not notice that the lane was ending, and rather rapidly at that.

Not being the driver, I had no excuse for not noticing that our little stretch of road was ending as suddenly as a cliff. The copilot is there to be that extra set of eyes, that auxiliary pair of observatory senses. I feel really bad about this and all, but when you get right down to it, I’ve never had great observatory skills (you could easily stalk and kill me if such was your evil wont; I wouldn’t necessarily notice anything amiss until the machete was hovering over my head, and even then, I might assume you were a friend of mine playing a funny joke). Plus I was reading at the time.

However, she managed to swerve in time to avoid certain death. We were practically thrust up against the big rig, so if we were ever to get hit by Vicious Rock #2, that would have been the time. This did not happen. We made it to our final destination without actually meeting our Final Destination. The windshield was replaced the following morning, though naturally not anywhere near the time frame we were promised, which caused me to miss a party back in San Francisco.

I considered this a great loss, though my liver probably didn’t mind.

I Haz Returned.

Cue scary music. Granted, not that scary. Except when I attempt to sing, I am a threat to no one.

I returned to New York late Saturday night. I returned to my apartment on Sunday morning. And believe you me, those two events did not like each other. They did everything they could do to stay as far apart as possible. They acted like bitter divorced parents, the kind whose split involved cheating (stone cold sober and with multiple genders), lying (about the parentage of the children involved) and violence (the house is still cordoned off with police tape, neighbors refuse to speak with the police, etc). Thus, they never want to share a continent again. And I, the product of their questionable sexual morals, was trying to get them back together again. I succeeded in the end, but at my peril and long before I was finished questioning whether it was worth it. Other people live in Penn Station, after all, and I do have a reasonably healthy immune system.

This trip will definitely be going down in the annals of travel history. It had everything: drama, narrow escapes, Silly String. It also lasted a really long time. Most vacations are too short, yes? This one entered some sort of wormhole. I was in California and/or traveling for at least a month (the kind of month where you have mono and all events play like a fever dream) and now I’m back “in the groove,” enjoying the cold familiarity of the pre-9 AM hour (two temperatures in this office: “Ice Ice Baby” and “Pleased To Meet You, Lucifer”).

The definitive lack of activity in my upcoming life (for approximately eleven days, at which time the whole crazy train starts all over again) is something I’m looking forward to with enthusiasm bordering on obscenity. Sure, I have to work and all, but on my beat, this month and the one after it are technically referred to as “a really, really slow time.” Anyway, as has been noted, I enjoy my work. So what I’m facing here is kind of like a vacation for the mind.

Don’t misunderstand me. I had, in the main, a very good time in California. Fresh air, good people, not a subway in sight, a distinct lack of sobriety, sometimes for days at a time—what’s not to love? It’s just that it was insane. And the traveling? Not fun. I remember when getting on a plane was an exciting adventure. Now it is, shall we say, not that.

Anyway, besides being a lot of fun and leaving me with fewer functioning knees than I started with, this vacation was very blog-worthy. It kind of makes me sad that I wasn’t writing as I went along, while the events were still fresh* in my mind.

*Even when they were, you probably wouldn’t have gotten an account with an accuracy worthy of the New York Times or anything, so really, you’re not missing a lot.

Had I been a bit more “on top of things” and possibly consumed fewer margaritas, I might have had the stamina to relate some of the more exciting events sooner, i.e., within shouting distance of when they actually happened. As it is, you will be getting a random hodgepodge of memories, probably one per entry until I get bored.

Something to look forward to!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Party, Pain, Party, Pain, Agony, Party, Pain

In summary, that's been my vacation so far.

I arrived in California ahead of schedule, which naturally would never have happened at a time when I could arrange a slightly earlier pickup. My 400 pound bag and I enjoyed a nice evening stroll around the airport while waiting for my friend to pick us up.

Eventually we made our way to a club, which we entered for free since we "knew a guy." The atmosphere was like a petri dish of swarming humanity which would normally have sent me straight into panic-attack hell but was okay this particular time, mainly because I was tipsy. I was dancing and having a great time, and at one point I was dancing with a boy. So far, no cause for alarm (unless one is Amish, which I am not). This boy decided he wanted to show off how manly and strong he was, so he lifted me over his head and started to bounce me up and down.

I'm not morbidly obese or anything, but I'm no pixie either, so I was a little bit concerned that maybe I would falldowngoboom at some point during the proceedings. However, my fears seemed to be unfounded. The boy had me hovering over the swarm for well over a minute, everyone was cheering him on, I was the center of attention, etc. All was well.

Then he started to lower me to the (cement) floor of the club, which was covered by a blue carpet about the same thickness as a Wheat Thin. This was when bad things started to happen. His hand slipped, I fell, and landed knee-first on the club floor, ending the pain-free portion of the evening.

At first, the noise of the club and the adrenaline in my system prevented the pain from reaching my central nervous system. The boy helped me up, and I was actually starting to dance again when it hit me like an express train and I crumbled like a Jenga tower. (Don't mix these metaphors at home.)

My friends helped me over to a couch, where my knee rapidly swelled to the size of a softball. We left soon after, agreeing that it was not our night, in the sense that it had involved injuries. I normally have a pretty high pain tolerance (comes from years and years of being a clumsy oaf) but this one was particularly difficult (and by difficult I mean "whine-worthy"), inasmuch as the pressure of a blanket or a blue jean leg was enough to make me shriek in agony.

I also managed to get myself badly sunburnt (in a really cute patchwork pattern) and bash the knee again, this time with no one but myself to blame. We were at something like the fourteenth party since arrival, I hadn't been sober since I stepped off the plane, and I decided it would be a good idea to do a handstand against a wall. In a skirt. In a (futile) effort to regain my dignity, I immediately pulled out of the handstand. Only, I was sort of drunk, and I didn't do it right. I fell sideways and in the process, bashed my bad knee into an outdoor air conditioning vent. The screaming that ensued was more in keeping with the spirit of a knifepoint mugging at 3 am.

So my left knee, which wasn't in great shape to begin with and hasn't been for years, owing to an old gymnastics injury, is currently a particularly egregious mixture of black, brown, red, purple, and yellow. At this point my leg thinks it did something to anger me and is tiptoeing around in an effort to not upset me further. Another little tap and I'm pretty sure it will shatter like an Easter egg.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Pack Heavy

Actually, that phrase doesn’t really come close to describing what I am about to inflict on my back and shoulders via The Overloaded Duffel Bag. The journey from my Queens apartment to my Manhattan office this morning was a warning. The kind of warning that brings to mind the scene in a horror movie when the heroine hears a really spooky thud and crunch coming from the attic. And of course, instead of getting away from the noise and out of the house like a normal person, the heroine beats a path to the attic stairs like an Olympic sprinter. And all the while you’re rolling your eyes at the heroine and thinking, “Well, sure, go right on up there, you dumbshit. That’s a brilliant idea! Obviously whatever’s up there wants to make friends! You’re so screwed.”

Am I going to heed that well-phrased warning? Of course not. Not only am I not going to remove anything from my bag, I am going to carry my bag on the plane if I can. Since my bag's weight class is somewhere between “kangaroo” and “Smartcar,” they may not allow this. I have to be prepared to accept this distressing possibility, which will naturally mean that I might as well have left my bag home to begin with and spared my lumbar system; now I’ll never see it again.

This is the dilemma in which airlines leave us in regards to bags.

Rock: They tack on some ridiculous surcharge ($420, isn’t it?) to check a bag that they won’t let us carry on even if it is a perfectly acceptable size and checking it means that it’s just as likely to end up in Egypt as not. This is great if Egypt is your destination, but it isn't mine tonight.

Hard Place: You can carry it on if you like, but if you’ve stuffed all your earthly possessions in there, good luck shoving it into the overhead compartment in a timely manner. (“Timely manner,” in this case, refers to the golden period of time before the people behind you in the aisle grow exasperated and resort to violence. Usually girls can count on about six seconds of golden time, but because I carry bribe money, I have on occasion been known to score ten.)

Harder Place: Oh, you might think you’re being clever by not packing anything, just setting out for a nice month-long sojourn in Disneyworld, expecting that you’ll buy a Mickey Mouse T-shirt when you arrive and everything will be fine. However, you are wrong. Upon arrival you will be presented with a bag that you did not check. It contains clothing. A charge of $2,300 will automatically be applied to your credit card, but hey, you’ve got threads! Really ugly ones! That you’d never wear under any other circumstances! Should’ve just packed your own bag in the first place! That is the message here from your friendly neighborhood airline! This is their idea of a “public service.” Little known fact.

So what is in this lovely bag of mine that’s causing it to bear a distinct resemblance to bricks both in weight and in effect of being dashed against my back over and over? Um, not that much. Enough to cause me sorrow, though.

-Some clothing. Not that much; it’s only a bloody week.

-Little Book of Everything (record of my life which I keep in a black journal and update daily). Last time, I was smart and left this monstrosity at home, electing to write the entries on a few sheets of paper and transcribe them later. This time, I forgot.

-External hard drive, iPod, phone charger, and two laptops. Obviously, the weight distribution favors the last item on that list the way a seesaw favors a chubby child. Why do I need both of my laptops? Because I am a technological idiot. I need my dad to help me sort out the mysteries of Transferring Old Laptop Stuff Onto New Laptop. Woe unto me if I do not get this finished while I’m in California.

-Gifts for my mother and sister, both of whom are celebrating another year of me in their lives. Or, you know, their birthday.

-Flight pillow. Only as necessary as cabin pressurization.

Speaking of that, I am exhausted. I deliberately stayed up late last night so as to make myself sleepy. The idea was that I would board the plane, pass out, and wake up five hours later on the opposite coast completely refreshed and ready to party like a rock star.

What was I thinking? First of all, I never sleep on planes. Second of all, I managed to catch an earlier flight which, assuming I make it, will contain large numbers of people who are not at all sleepy, since it’s the middle of the afternoon and all. Third of all, only if you were blind, deaf, and had never heard the term "rock star" could you mistake me for being one.

I am stupid, and I’m cranky, and I’m virtually guaranteed to wake up tomorrow in agony. On the plus side, I’m almost on vacation! The magic words that wash away all hurts and pains.

Posting might be a bit light for the week; I’ll try to write as much as possible, but I will be busy (see previous entry). According to some blogging websites I’ve read, when you have a blog and you miss even one day it is the worst sin you can ever commit out of all the sins in the world, especially if your blog is new. And to my four regular readers, three of whom I’ll be seeing this week, I do deeply apologize.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

It's Normal To Want A Post-Vacay Stiff Drink, Right?

Well, it’s only one more sleep until I embark on the most batshit crazy week I’ve enjoyed in many years. Not that my previous vacations have broken rejuvenation ground or anything. One of the many problems with living thousands of miles (not at all within desirable walking distance) from one’s family is that “vacation time” is a bit of a misnomer. Rarely does one actually go on what could accurately be termed a vacation. It’s more like, hey, I am a fairly ordinary person and as such, I have a family that doesn’t suck too much and sometimes it is nice to hang out with them as though I were still an everyday member of said family, but unfortunately I only get two or three chances a year to do this.

So there’s often a lot going on during my trips home. A lot of driving, flying, more driving, more flying, drinking and then flying (don’t judge; you’ve got your coping mechanisms, I’ve got mine). And as insane as it all is, generally speaking I do enjoy it. Because one of the upsides of living thousands of miles from one’s family and not going home that often is that they actually get a chance to miss you, and when you come home a lot of attention is often foisted on you. Especially if you moved away to the “big city” and have somehow not been killed yet. That’s impressive to small-town folk.

But this week I am pushing myself to the very outer limits of what I can take, whirling dervish-wise. My schedule for next week breaks down something like this:

Friday Night: Arrive in San Francisco somewhere between 9 and 11:30 pm, depending on whether or not I can get a standby flight (please, God, please). Get picked up by a new friend who is driving all the way from Sacramento to come get me. She is a very cool chick that so far I have only corresponded with (somewhat obsessively) through email, phone, and instant messenger. At this point, I’m reasonably sure she’s not a serial killer but you never can tell. Just adds to the excitement.

Friday Night, Part Two: We meet my sister and a few hundred of her most intimate friends at some sort of club in downtown SF. Depending on how sleepy said new friend and I are, we might join in the dancing and merriment that is sure to be going on, or we might fall asleep over our gin and tonics. At some point, at least eight of us retire to my sister’s two-bedroom apartment in Berkeley and subsequently fall down go boom, so deeply slumbering we might actually be comatose.

Saturday: To celebrate my sister’s twenty-third birthday (yikes-we’re-getting-old!) and the birthdays of some of her fellow July-baby friends, there is some sort of all-day party going on. I’m not sure what form it will take but it will no doubt involve the beach, a ton of people I don’t know, and a lot of social lubricant (alcohol). Good times shall be had by all. Or else.

Sunday: Aforementioned new friend and I will head to Sacramento to hang out at her place and party with a mutual friend. ANF and I are also writing partners and we’re trying to get some of our articles published at present, so we’ll no doubt be working on that as well.

Monday Afternoon/Evening: At some point, my mom will swing by and pick me up from ANF’s place in Sacramento en route to Nevada. That’s where her family lives, and the two of us plan to make a brief visit because I hardly ever see these people and I’m not very sure at all that I’ll make it back for Christmas. This is kind of where the party stops. Temporarily; don’t get scared.

Tuesday Afternoon/Evening: We drive back to California, most likely picking up my sister in Berkeley on the way. Return to parent’s condo in Pleasanton. Pet the parrot. Fall asleep.

Wednesday: My sister and I are hanging out all day causing trouble, as is our wont. We hardly ever see each other and have all kinds of nefarious activities planned. We have to make up for lost time!

Thursday: Hanging out with parental units, who I also hardly ever see. Shall have a break in nefarious activities. My parents are law-abiding citizens. Wouldn’t be right to corrupt them.

Friday Morning: At some point, I’ll return to San Francisco or Berkeley. Hang out with my sister while we wait for her boyfriend to get off work. Her boyfriend also happens to be my business partner, and we’ve got tons of skirmishy details to work out regarding our mutual enterprise that have been on hold for awhile now. We plan to work more or less until I leave the following day.

Saturday: My flight leaves at three, so I’ll be hanging out with Business Partner in SF until it’s time to go.

Saturday afternoon/evening: I fly home and French-kiss my welcome mat.

Sunday: I wager I’ll be asleep most of the day.

That’s the simplistic, couldn’t-possibly-go-wrong plan! So let it be written, so let it be done! For awhile I was trying to figure out how to factor in a side trip to Las Vegas to see another good buddy who moved away from New York about half a year ago (jerk). I figured I’d be in Nevada already, what’s a little 400+ mile side trip? That’s when my mom stepped in, from whom I inherited basically nothing of use except my dazzling smile (thanks, Mom!) and who therefore has a much, much better (read: more realistic) sense of direction than I do. She explained to me, very kindly (my mother received at least 8 more helpings of kind than the average person, which most definitely includes me) that a side trip to Las Vegas was not a good plan unless I managed to get the time traveling machine in working order before tomorrow.

So I let that idea go.

I think my sanity is going to take a severe enough beating as it is.

I’m really looking forward to this whole thing, though. Really! Ha ha!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

It Was Reading Material. I Hope.

Yesterday, I found a romance novel in the bathroom stall at work.

About this, I had questions.

Don’t get me wrong; I’ve seen some strange things in bathroom stalls in my day. Jewelry, cell phones, wallets (I could have really cleaned up if I had less severe moral scruples), underwear on one memorable and disgusting occasion (it’s polite to throw your underwear away when you’re done using it, not leave it for someone else to clean up. Everyone knows that). Even the occasional newspaper or magazine.

But a book? In particular, that book? I am befuddled.

It was a run-of-the-mill romance novel, perhaps a bit tamer than most (and I am only judging by the cover here; that particular genre has never been my shot of vodka, not that you’re going to know about anyway). It was just a guy and girl, hand drawn and not particularly well, dancing what might have been a waltz or the hokey pokey. Impossible to tell (who does the cover art for these things? First graders?).

Of course, being a curious sort, I quickly fanned through the book searching for $5 bill bookmarks or pressed roses or handwritten notes in the margins. I found nothing, not even an incriminating name scribbled into the jacket. So, I read the back flap.

It was so unmemorable that I cannot remember the title (I think it was something like “Marriage: Is Love Necessary?”) and obviously I don’t remember the names, but the plot went more or less like this. A woman we’ll call Marguerite wanted to have a baby but couldn’t because her main squeeze didn’t want any so when her boss (we’ll call him Darren Stormholder) proposed marriage and promised her a kid (I’m sure a money-back guarantee was involved, though it didn’t explicitly state this), Marguerite went along with it even though she didn’t love Darren Stormholder.

Wow. That’s high drama there. Or at least it would be if it wasn’t every other woman’s story for the century preceding this one.

I’m sure we can all guess what happens from there. The “loveless” marriage turns passionate in a hurry because everyone involved is so outstanding in bed that their respective minds blow up like atom bombs. Then there’s A Complication. Maybe in the form of the old boyfriend coming back in a fit of jealous rage. Maybe Marguerite is infertile (bummer). Or maybe they decide they don’t want kids after all, because it would interfere with their sexual marathons. Or maybe she finds out that Darren was married to someone else all along! There’s just no end to the possibility for intrigue here.

But in the end, of course, they’ll fall desperately into one another’s arms again and go off to cuddle their newborn, or learn to dance the jitterbug. Those are the only two possible endings.

So what I’m wondering is, why and how did this book come by its unfortunate fate in the loo? Who brought it in? Was it someone I know? Can I tease them? Were they reading it over their lunch break, perched on the toilet with a PB&J in their lap, reliving their misfit high school days? Because we’ve got perfectly nice weather outside, Ms. or Mrs. Reading-Romance-In-The-Bathroom. In fact, the weather’s been a shockingly good sport this summer—not too hot, and not too cold, which can’t possibly last much longer. You don’t need to be reading in the impersonal, uncomfortable bathroom.

Perhaps it was something to read while she was, well, uh, you know—doing what you do. Which I sort of thought was the point of graffiti, but what do I know? The more pressing question is, how did she manage to leave it behind? Surely it caught her eye when she was doing the once-over to make sure she didn’t leave anything behind in the stall, like her sunglasses or keys or false teeth? (Everyone does this, right?) Besides, wasn't she reading it?

I can see why they wouldn’t have wanted to read it, say, in the company break room. That’s just not the kind of impression you want to give the president and the CEO of the company (who naturally would choose that day to eat with the minions in a show of unity and team spirit). But still, you didn’t have to choose the bathroom. Yuck, first of all. Second, have you never heard of the old “bring a copy of War and Peace and hold it up with the romance novel behind it so everyone thinks you’re reading a classic and concentrating very hard because you do not ever appear to turn any pages”?

Third, did I just imagine this or is bringing reading material into the bathroom kind of a “guy thing”? I’m not talking about at home, behind closed doors. That’s your business (seriously, stop talking—I don’t want to know). I mean at work. As I said, I’ve seen the occasional magazine or newspaper, but that’s usually been at airports where you could imagine it falling out of someone’s bag, or possibly they were just really absorbed in their pre-torture reading in an attempt to distract themselves from their upcoming walk-on role in Hostel. Which is legitimate. But a book? That implies a commitment. Quite apart from the subject matter, what were you doing in the bathroom that took so long?

You know what, I’d rather you didn’t answer that. A new and horribly disturbing possibility has dawned on me that I would much prefer not to ever think about again. I'll just stay the hell out of that stall from now on.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Come Fly With Me

Or don’t, if you know what’s good for you.

Not because of me, naturally. I happen to be a wonderful traveling companion, full of lively stories and, I’m not one to brag, but a pretty extreme willingness to sing every role in whole Broadway soundtracks. A few hours on a plane, train, boat, or futuristic flying car with me and you will be wondering why it’s taken you so long to quit your job and kidnap me so we can spend the rest of our lives on a road trip together. Either that, or you’ll be crying out for heavy prescription drugs.

No, the reason you’d want to avoid accompanying me on my fabulous vacation to California which commences on Friday has more to do with the fact that I live in (I might have mentioned this) New York. So in order to get to California, I have to take a plane. Yes, I’m aware that I could have walked—I’d be a few thousand bucks richer right now (airline prices are crazy!), and the exercise would do me good.

The minor downside is that I would never reach California. More likely, I’d end up in New Orleans (I hear they’re throwing a pretty decent block party in February, which is about when I’d arrive, so this wouldn’t be a total waste). I have a horrible sense of direction. Really bad. As in, if you ever want to kill me and make it look like an accident, all you have to do is drop me off with a ten-mile supply of water in a desert which has a town ten miles away, and a town a hundred miles away. I guarantee, I’ll find a way to head toward the town a hundred miles away (even if there are signs, runway lights, a yellow brick road, and a host of angels pointing in the direction of the ten-mile town), and consequently die of thirst.

So a plane to California is definitely the way to go. You may not know this, but New York is world-famous for making air travel an experience in pleasure second only to having a root canal performed without anesthetic, by Satan, as bamboo shoots are stuck under your toenails and a screen above your head is playing reruns of Full House at a volume loud enough to drown out your screams.

Half the time the planes don’t even take off. This might not seem fair, seeing as how you cashed out your 401k to pay for your ticket, but just bear in mind that it’s highly inadvisable to walk up to an airline employee and ask for an explanation, even if you are flying home to give your brother a kidney and there’s not too much time left, according to the guy holding the shiny sharp thing. The airline employees get very testy when you ask them picky questions like “Excuse me, but how much longer until our plane arrives, please?” They don’t know. What’s more, they don’t give a shit. It is certainly not their problem, the plane will show up whenever it damn well pleases and that might not be for a week but that is okay because it is—got this?—not their problem.

Yes, patience is a virtue when you’re waiting at one of NYC’s finest airports. In my particular case, that airport is Newark. Granted, that’s not quite in NYC—it’s not even in New York—but it’s considered one of the Big Three nonetheless, and in this situation, it was the only one that I could leave from without actually parting with an appendage to pay for my ticket.

But just because Newark is in New Jersey, that does not make it any less fun! No sir. As a matter of fact, I hold few memories in such warm regard as last New Year’s Eve, when I arrived in New Jersey about seven minutes before midnight. Now, I realize that New Year’s Eve is a BIG DEAL. I have never quite figured out why—the world has a birthday just like you and me and Jesus and it doesn’t really seem like such a shocking occurrence to me but every single time it happens there’s the exact same amount of pageantry and wide-eyed wonder. But I ask you, did every single person exiting that plane need to stop walking—in that little accordion thing you enter and exit the plane on, for which the correct term escapes me at the moment—to count down the seconds until the new year? I couldn’t possibly have been the only person with claustrophobia in that environment, right?

I swear, I even heard a champagne cork pop. Great idea—let’s add alcohol to the situation.

And it only got worse when we managed to burst into the terminal as one.

Personally, I think the best way to celebrate New Year’s Eve—or the Fourth of July, or Arbor Day—is by staying home, preferably with a good buddy or two, and drinking heavily. That way, nobody gets hurt, nobody has to drive, and nobody gets into a really unwise disagreement with the fat guy smooshing them at the bar who forgot to put on deodorant.

But I seem to be in the minority here. Apparently airports are where the party is AT, because at least a tenth of New York’s colorful population was there to greet the homecomers at Newark. I was one of the few solitary souls littered sadly across the landscape of happy couples, bulging suitcases, and about six thousand crying kids whose bedtimes were so far in the past that their current state of alertness could only have been achieved with amphetamines.

Here’s the best part. JFK is only about a ten-minute train ride from my apartment. For that reason, I find it the most pleasurable to have dealings with, out of the Big Three. Of course, that judgment is roughly equal to saying I’d rather watch my puppy die than lose my job right after having my first kid or experience the plague of locusts, so take it with a grain of salt. But insofar as it is closer to my apartment (by far) than La Guardia or Newark, the torture sessions do tend to be shorter.

So needless to say, I can almost never get flights in or out of JFK. When the stars align and my karma is all built up and I can get a flight from there, it’s like a big, shiny, unexpected Christmas present. It’s actually such an effective one that I beg my family to take back any actual Christmas presents they might have bought for me and give them to poor children instead, that I might experience this wonderful gift again in my lifetime.

Newark is, by contrast, the furthest airport from my apartment. I don’t mind this so much on Friday, because I’ll be leaving from work, and my office is so close to Grand Central that I could practically leap out a window and land on it (if I had any sense of direction whatsoever, which I don’t, we’ve discussed this—more likely, I’d land in Maryland). But next Saturday, when I come back, I am once again going to be arriving at midnight. Which means I won’t see my lovely apartment until the wee hours of the morning. This might not be such a bad thing, since said apartment will no doubt have been completely overtaken by roaches in my weeklong absence.

The great thing is, I never consider any of this when booking my flights. I always say to myself, “Well, it’s $838 cheaper to do it this way, I’ll find a way to make it work.” All I ever think about is money. Never do I pause to consider the plight of my poor, jet-lagged self arriving alone in New Jersey on a rainy night (well, I don’t know if it’ll be raining but it makes it sound sadder) faced with the prospect of returning home with bags in which a couple of dwarves have stowed away, judging by their weight.

And in the end, I always pay the price.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Bigger Punk Than I

Me: Hello, Writer’s Block! Good morning! I’d like to shake your hand and tell you how good it is that you’re here on this fine Monday morning not even a week after I started my brand-new blog!

Writer’s Block: Well, thanks. I’m happy to be here.

Me: Now, this blog is, let me just go ahead and say it again, brand new and I am really, really happy to have you here upstaging me before I’ve even had a chance to get my bid in, so I just wanted to thank you heartily for coming here and now I have so let’s move the hell on. Since it’s new, I don’t think my readers are very familiar with you yet. Why don’t you tell them a little about yourself?

WB: Certainly. Well, I hail from Death (of Creativity) Valley and I still have some family there. I think you know my brother Badjoke and my sister Cliché?

Me: We’ve met.

WB: Did you just twitch? Might want to see someone about that. Anyway, I don’t make it back there to see them too often. I’m all over the place these days. I was recently fired from my job and since I’m broke and unemployed and have nothing better to do, I decided to trail along after you for awhile. You haven’t been making that easy for me.

Me: No.

WB: I liked the police tape and the chalk outline in your last apartment. Along with the really, really overdone blood message on the wall. Nice touch. If a bit amateurish.

Me: Well, thanks. I am new at this dodging-the-forces-of-evil thing, you know.

WB: Right. So anyway, I don’t have a job—

Me: What were you doing before?

WB: (sighing heavily) If you must know, I was hired by the producers of Gilmore Girls to hang out with their writers near the end of Season Six.

Me: Why?

WB: (rolling eyes) Because everyone was sick of the Lorelai-Luke drama. Actually, sick of Lorelai in general. Plus they weren’t getting in enough time with their families, or their personal trainers for that matter. Spare tires everywhere, you wouldn’t believe how disgusting a tube top can look on—

Me: I get it, thanks.

WB: So they really wanted the show to end, but they couldn’t just end with everyone breaking up and unhappy because omigod, so they had to end it another way.

Me: Let me just get this straight. You agreed to cause a really long and horribly protracted seventh season that was not even a tenth as good as the previous six so that ratings would go down and they’d be forced to take the show off the air?

WB: Correct.

Me: Nice, Writer’s Block. What, did you kick the dog too?

WB: What dog?

Me: Never mind. So your job ended…

WB: Right. And like I said, I was broke. Bastards stiffed me. Something about the ending being “too happy,” which, as you remember, is the complete opposite what they were trying to avoid. I swear, you can’t win with these people.

Me: Let’s move on to the part about me. Shall we?

WB: So anyway, that’s when I started trailing you.

Me: So that would have been around May 15, 2007?

WB: You know an awful lot about the show.

Me: I have Google. Also, bite me. May 15, 2007? That was right around the time I was finishing up my Great American Novel and then I had to stop, burn it in a bonfire, and gnash my teeth until they were half gone. See? (Bares teeth) I haven’t been able to sink my teeth into anything since. Your work?

WB: (blushes) Don’t thank me. I was glad to do it.

Me: Why don’t you come here and say that to my face?!

WB: Well, if I did, you wouldn’t be able to describe it anyway.

Something happened after that little exchange but I currently find myself without the words to depict it.

Leave me your own personal, tried-and-true methods of {verb}ing this evil {adjective}ing {noun}, and I’ll see what I can do about implementing them.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Who Wants To Marry A Mermaid?

Initial Thoughts on The Little Mermaid:

Parents should be given a medal. Just think about how many times you forced them to endure this tripe as a little kid. If you're a girl, that is. I don't know too many boys who were obsessed with little mermaids. (Not that there would be anything wrong with that.)

-That being said, Disney music flat-out owns. I was surprised and pleased to find that "Under the Sea" has the same affect on me at least 15 years later that it did back then-- namely, it makes me want to quit my job and go live under the sea (of course I had a job at age 7, didn't you?). Yes, the lack of breathable oxygen would be an issue, but I feel that could be overcome if I had my own hot crustacean band to conduct.

-If it's really she who holds her tongue that gets her man, I am well and truly screwed.

Character Analysis:

Ursula-- So here's my theory: Ursula is Triton's bitter ex-wife who he left because he wanted someone who was less evil and also not purple and tentacled (which: he doesn't really have a leg to stand on there, given that he is half fish himself). Now she's living off alimony and growing more bitter by the day under the influence of her pet eels. And like all bitter ex-wives, she uses custody of the kids as a weapon against Daddy. Well, I can't fault her. It's a very effective strategy, provided you are not one of those poor unfortunate souls plagued with pesky ethics.

Eric-- Gay. No question. Bisexual at a minimum. How could he not be? Until he met Ariel he'd clearly spent his formative youth entirely in the company of horny sailors (specifically an older dude named Grimsby who obviously has the hots for him. Oh sure, he says he wants Eric to be happily married to the right girl but it cannot be denied that he was crazy enough about Eric to procure a larger-than-life statue of him. While he was on a ship in the middle of the ocean. Now me, I'm kind of wondering how Grimbsy managed the feat. Was it delivered by Fedex?) Eric is definitely a nice guy though. Real humanitarian. Not every guy who finds a beautiful, nearly nude girl on the beach would stop to help her. And it was pretty cool the way he fought and killed Ursula when she blew up to nearly 500 times his size. Most guys would have decided that the girl was too high-maintenance at that point and bailed out. (Especially if they were gay.)

King Triton-- It's kind of hard not to like the old softy, even if he is a rather shortsighted sea king and the best that can be said of his parenting skills is that he named his daughters well. You can't blame him for being clueless; he's a single father of a mess of teenage girls, and a lot of people in his place would commit suicide, myself included, so he deserves props for sticking it out. I have a harder time forgiving his blatant missteps as king. Doesn't he understand that by letting Ariel marry a land prince, he's extending his power and influence beyond the sea? That's about the best you could expect of a baby daughter who is so severely lacking in common sense.

Sebastian-- I blame his crustacean parents. With a name like Horatio Felonious Ignacious Crustaceous Sebastian!, you couldn't help but be incredibly pretentious. Classic whiny has-been, though he clearly cares about Ariel at least as much as keeping his job, which is nice. Methinks Triton asked Sebastian to keep an eye on Ariel so he would stop burrowing in his flowing white beard. Yuck.

This is why minors aren't legally held to contracts they sign-- because they never read them. Ariel, honey, here's a hint-- if you need to close your eyes while you're signing something, probably not the best idea to be signing it. Also, if you have to pass a "garden" that looks like a scene from Dante on the way into someone's house, maybe that's someone you don't need to be visiting. I have no patience for the best of teenagers, but princesses are an especially irritating breed. Her character drastically improved when she lost her voice. By the way, why didn't she just write a note to the prince explaining what happened? Seems like that would have been the obvious move. Also, she could have done with a few more details about this bargain with Ursula... whether she'd have her voice back after the three days in the event of success, for example.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

First Line of Defense

A bit of background regarding my apartment, about which I plan to whine a lot in this entry:

When I returned to New York after my three month respite, my life was, in the main, not going too well. I was broke, I had just lost one of my best friends in a warlike fallout (hence the move), I was far away from home, sick of being nomadic and directionless, and I had lost my copy of Charlie & The Chocolate Factory.

Never did find that.

I really feel like Johnny Depp could have helped me through that difficult time.

Oh well.

I had, however, just started dating someone who lived in New York. (Side note: if you ever want to go through a really emotionally confusing experience, fall life-changingly in love with someone while your life is crashing down around your ears; it’s lots of fun trying to reconcile the happy-puppy feelings of a new relationship and the deep desire to kill everyone around you.)

Because I left Pennsylvania in rather a hurry (battle, retreat, surrender), I did not have the time or the funds to secure living arrangements in the city. To the general dismay of everyone involved, I moved in with my boyfriend. Only temporarily, for a couple of weeks until I got on my feet. And I certainly did stay a couple of weeks, provided you define “a couple” as “seven.”

I was not at all happy about this, except in the sense that I would have otherwise been on the street. The idea was that I would find a job and an apartment, hopefully in that order, and get quickly settled in the city. The apartment… not so much. The job part, however, went beautifully. For reasons surpassing understanding, a couple of days after my arrival, I managed to get interviewed—and hired—by the same company I work for today. It’s a fantastic job; I love it, I have zero major complaints about it, and I’m not just saying that because I’m writing this at work.

That job was a bright spot and a blessing to a degree I really can’t convey through words (I can convey it through interpretive dance, but you wouldn't be able to see that since this is a blog) and I was profoundly grateful to have it, because the subsequent Epic Apartment Hunt of 2007 was so deliriously stressful (both for me and the boyfriend) that had it been accompanied by an equally difficult job search, I wouldn’t have necessarily made it through with both of my original eyeballs.

To make a long (you have no idea) story short, the boyfriend and I did eventually find an apartment for me, after weeks of work and dozens of disappointments. It’s a nice place; reasonably quiet and free of obvious bloodstains, which was really all I wanted at that point. I still live there, and until now it has been a near-problem-free place to live. Sure, it’s not as close to Manhattan as it could be, and sure, the guy above me answered the door with no pants one time (and he wasn't one you'd want to see pantsless under any circumstances), and sure, I have to spray the cockroach poison (to which building up a tolerance is apparently possible) a little more often than I’d like, but believe me, compared to some of the crack houses and brothels I passed on before I found it, it’s Three Ponds. Welcome to New York City real estate.

Anyway, as you may know, it is summer. In summer the weather can be a bit warmer than is desirable by anyone who did not grow up in the Middle East. This wouldn’t be a problem, except that practically no one who lives in the outer boroughs of New York owns an air conditioner despite the fact that temperatures regularly hit the triple digits. Why? Lots of reasons. We care a lot about the environment around here, for one. Don’t want to contribute to pollution. Heh. Also, they make electric bills shoot up like a desperate junkie. Perhaps “torpedo” would do better to capture the spirit of the process.

This is my third summer in NYC. During the first one, I did not get an air conditioner. Food came in higher on the priority list, for some reason. When the second came around, I could technically afford it but my near-total monetary focus at the time was on eradicating my student loan debt. I was only a couple of months away from that happy day of freedom and unwilling to postpone it just to keep myself temperature-controlled. I tried to be all “tough girl” about my lack of cold airy goodness (I don’t NEED an air conditioner! I already got through one summer without it!) but it should be noted that I spent an inordinate amount of time at work that summer.

Now I definitely could, if I were so inclined, easily pick up a unit and run it to my little heart’s content with no noticeable financial impact. But I have not yet done so. Why? I don't think it's been that hot so far. Some people disagree with me. But here it is, July, and so far it's been much more “steam bath” than “Hell’s waiting room.” Which is okay with me. And since I’ll be out of town for three out of the next five weeks, it doesn’t make sense to me to buy one now. By the time I return in mid-August, the summer will be practically over and there’ll be a full year standing between me and this debate yet again.

In the meantime, though it has been pleasantly warm during the day, the only way I can comfortable sleep at night without resorting to filling a sleeping bag with ice is by keeping my window open.

Here comes The Issue.

There’s a fire escape outside my window. And it has occurred to me once or twice that if, say, a serial killer or a rapist felt inclined to visit, leaving that window open is just about equal to leaving a love note for the fella. I feel much more secure when the window is shut and locked, and my blinds drawn such that they cannot see me lying there like a defenseless kitten.

I used to sleep right next to the window, however, and that was okay. I think it had something to do with a picture I had in my mind of hearing “something funny” and leaping up just in time to startle the serial killer/rapist enough that he would stumble backwards and fall off my fire escape.

I’m five stories up, so this would probably mean the end of him bothering me.

However, a few weeks ago, my bed decided that it didn’t want to be friends with me anymore. In fact, it decided it hated me. Not sure what I did to offend it, but it must have been bad because I woke up one morning with the following cheerful greeting to the day on my lips:


My back can no longer tolerate the bed on which I formerly slept. It makes me wake up feeling like someone spent the night beating my back with golf drivers while I, inexplicably, slept. To some extent, this is understandable. My “bed” is actually a sofa bed, and it was never really meant to be slept on every night. I got it for aesthetic reasons, not because I thought it looked particularly comfy. This was a very stupid decision, but it did take more than a year to catch up to me. Which completely justifies it, in my mind.

So no more couch/bed for me. Fortunately, I have an alternative: my extremely comfortable leather couch. So for the past week or so, that’s where I’ve been sleeping.

This is good for my back, but problematic in all other ways. Because of the placement of the couch, I am no longer in a position to observe someone coming in through my window before they are actually in the apartment, which was unlikely to begin with given that I have slept through earthquakes, shootings, and cats getting it on. Sound sleeper, me. So it was always dubious that I’d notice someone entering my apartment through the fire escape even if I were sleeping on the fire escape, but now that I’m clear across the room, there's no chance. By the time I notice there’s someone in here with me, I’ll probably have been cut up into little pieces.

Thinking about all this has caused me to have a tiny bit of trouble sleeping. My panicked mind has been nudging me awake every few minutes to squint at the window through my non-contact-covered pupils to make sure there’s no one there yet. This has not made for what you might call “good sleep.”

It might occur to you, if you are one of those “sensible” types, that I could just switch the positioning to the couch and the bed. Well, actually, it occurred to me too. And I did. But my apartment is pretty small, and switching those two pieces of furniture made it look unacceptably cluttered in here. So I changed it back and decided to learn to live with it. Or not, as the case may be.

If you’re getting the idea that my apartment looking nice is more important to me than staying alive, well, yeah. And don't give me that concerned expression. If you are really that afraid for my safety, you could always hire me a bodyguard.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Ode to New York

Did you ever have a really important date come along that you just completely forgot about? Mom’s birthday, perhaps, or her seven-year-sober celebration? Well, don’t feel bad. We all do it. Those of us with memories that make an Alzheimer’s patient look like a spelling bee finalist, that is. I, in fact, did it last Friday. You would think that the fact that this particular date-stamp in my life happens to fall on a national holiday would aid me in my quest for memorial. You would be wrong, though, and I’ll forgive you this time because unless you know me personally, you are not yet familiar with the charming Swiss-cheese nature of my memory, as well as my many other quirks.

So what date did I completely forget about? Fortunately, it’s not important to anyone but me. No one got upset because I didn’t buy a Baskin Robbins ice cream cake like I was supposed to that time when I did forget my mom’s birthday (sorry about that again, Mom… I subsequently had your ejection-from-the-womb date tattooed into my arm so that would never happen again… both because I love you and because Dad’s anger at his dimwit daughter was terrible to behold).

On July 4, 2006, I moved to New York City.

Wow, all that buildup and that’s it? That’s the date you forgot after assigning it completely arbitrary importance? Could you, Lady Snark, possibly get any more pretentious and self-involved? Yes, yes, and, probably, yes. Human arrogance, particularly my own, knows no bounds.

It’s even less impressive than it sounds, because I only stayed until November. Then I left, ostensibly for good. I returned the following February. And I’ve been here ever since, tossing aside my nomadic existence for a life of stability, structure, and approximately eight million subway rides. So it wasn’t even an unbroken two years. Still, when you reunite with your extremely volatile lover who you hate at least half the time and who can’t even seem to remember your name but who you can’t seem to live without anyway, you don’t count those icky three months when you were apart.

I don’t, at least. And neither should you.

So yes: NYC and me, 2 year anniversary. That could almost be the start of a really annoying pop song.

In that time, I have learned to appreciate some of the finer things in life: the merits of the Subway Rat versus the Apartment Mouse; the positive energy that only comes from giving all of one’s cash to a homeless person lest they hurl what you have to hope are masticated bits of a Ho-Ho at you; the haunting, beautiful sound of an approaching train and the attendant high or low that determines the course of your remaining day, which is based on whether or not it’s the train you need; the pleasure of knowing that your apartment costs more, per square foot, than the Taj Mahal. I have also learned some important bits of “street wisdom: how to tell if a sidewalk-vendor gyro contains the special ingredients that are going to make you desperately ill; how to go home drunker than any human should ever be without getting mugged or shot; why it’s a good idea to avoid getting in the middle of drug altercations; the complete and utter recklessness of getting on the subway without a distracting form of entertainment, such as a book, an iPod, or a recreational substance.

But the most important thing I have learned is that people here are just like people everywhere else: mostly nice, some mental problems. Yes, perhaps we New Yorkers have a few extra degrees of spice in our saucy, but that’s just the outer shell; that’s what we want you to see. Underneath, we’re just as vulnerable, afraid, and anxious as anyone else. More, actually, seeing as there is a very severe “lack of personal space” issue in this city, which tends to make certain people rather cranky. Mainly the ones that carry guns.

Getting back to the whole New-York-as-lover thing, seriously, you’ve never met such a player in your life. Sexless, ageless, faceless (unless you consider the face of Lady Liberty to be the face of New York, which, personally, I don’t—she needs to work on her “haughty face” a bit more, and being a statue, her progress on this front is prohibitively slow), you might think New York wouldn’t get much play. You’d be wrong again, however. It turns out that having no discernible body (being, as it is, a city) gives one an air of mystery, of power, of allure that regular human players can only aspire to.

I know what I’m talking about here. I fell for New York when I was just a wee lass, more of a Little Snark than a Lady Snark. I had never even been here. I lived in California (a place to which, strangely, many New Yorkers aspire to move). I had no family connections nor any apparent link to this place that has managed to tie me down for more than a year now. All I knew was that I wanted to live here. I wanted to be one of the impossibly cool people strolling down Fifth Avenue in the morning, looking beautiful and important.

As it was conceived, so it was done. Sort of. My fantasies of living here, shockingly, did not turn out to exactly be on speaking terms with reality. New York’s draw lies mainly in its possibilities. Everyone wants to come here, and mostly everyone wants that because they have an idea in their mind about instantly becoming famous one way or another—writing, singing, politics, stripping. The problem is that a good 99% of the people who entertain these delusions are not in any way equipped to, I don’t know, make them happen.

Thus: New York is tough. It might be bustling, important, in demand, and, for lack of a better term, “glittery” but it is not what you might call a grandmotherly, welcoming place. It’s more of a “Lead, follow, or get out of the way” place. It is also very often a boring place, unless you happen to have scads of money. You may have been lusting after New York since you were eligible for recess and smiley face stickers, but that does not mean that New York was lusting for you in return. New York doesn’t have a clue who you are, even if you live here. It seems insulting, but if you had 8.2 million lovers to keep track of, you’d struggle a bit on the name-recall thing too.

I imagine God has this problem, on a somewhat larger scale.

So over time, a healthy relationship with New York City runs something like this:

Phase One: Lust. Undying, devotional lust. I’d do anything to have you kind of lust. This is what gets you to the city in the first place. As discussed, New York does not return this sentiment in any way, shape, or form. It’s entire response to your adolescent dedication is, and I quote, “OK.”

Phase Two: Greed. Upon arrival, everything seems possible. Exciting. New. The average infatuated new city-dweller suddenly envisions all of his or her dreams coming true, and begins to visualize the ensuing power, money, and attractive naked friends of the opposite sex. If you ever get a chance to actually watch this happen, it’s well worth a few minutes of your time. It’s especially entertaining to see the pupils of their eyes contract into tiny dollar signs. You can’t blame them, though. There’s something about this city that makes you want to gobble it up, which in fact brings us to…

Phase Three: Gluttony. Here’s what you need to know about this city. It has a lot of food. And a lot of it is very good. Just as much of it is very bad. During Phase Three, the newly minted New Yorker is probably dead broke and trying to scrape a bohemian living “to support his art” working as a waiter in a high class Manhattan restaurant. What does this mean? It means that he is constantly around very good food, and all he can afford is very bad food. Thank God the owner gets a tax deduction for those staff meals, huh?

Phase Four: Envy. Suddenly, everyone seems to have a better deal than you. All your friends start succeeding. Your roommate brings home a gorgeous new boyfriend, and you can’t help but be incredibly jealous even if you are a straight male. This is the definite stage of disillusionment, for most New Yorkers. If you happen to come across someone who is clearly in this stage, be nice to them. For your own sake as well as theirs. Something about having all your dreams smash into little pieces around your head has a tendency to make a person edgy.

Phase Five: Sloth. This is the inevitable, and necessary, step to recovery. This is the part where you tell New York to fuck off, you don’t care about any of it anymore. New York’s response to this is, and I quote, “OK.” There’s a lot of misery in this phase. Lots of drinking beer and eating chips and staring at the TV and contemplating how you could have been so colossally, criminally stupid and wondering if you have yet hit the perfect storm of sufficient cash and lack of pride that will allow you to get your sorry butt on a Greyhound and go crying home to Mom and Dad, who did warn you against this great adventure to begin with. “You’ll end up a broke, sad bum” was their exact warning and damn, it sucks when our parents are right.

Phase Six: Wrath. Lots of people don’t make it to this stage. The Sloth Phase is very powerful. Live with it long enough, though, and it begins to crystallize into a powerful rage. “I’m better than this! I didn’t leave my family, friends, and everything I knew just to be a bum on the couch! I could have done that back home!” is the common phrase. “Damn it, New York, I’ll show you yet! I’ll be more successful than you could’ve ever imagined! I’ll make you remember my name!” See if you can guess New York’s response to this.

Phase Seven: Pride. Ah, pride. Assuming the anger described in phase six spurs you to action instead of just hanging out in your apartment like an impotent bully, you can usually look forward to a carefully measured dollop of success. This happens only after you adjust your expectations of what your life here should consist of. When you trade in the gorgeous Soho loft fantasy for your plain, no-frills, apathetic-landlord digs. When you let go of the idea that triumph should come without any sort of work on your part and also be accompanied by trumpets and front-page articles featuring your face.

When you do this, there’ll be a night when you see New York’s essence pass by you on the street (usually in the form of white, toxic smoke billowing prettily up from a subway grating). And you will smile shyly, wave at this ethereal lover/place for which you have turned your entire life upside down and gotten no love in return. And an amazing thing will happen. New York will look at you, give you the cool head-nod… and smile back.

It seems like a small reward for your months of toil. But that cool head-nod means that you’re in. You’ve made it, for whatever it’s worth. It might not be much, but it’s enough, against all reason, to make you content.

After all, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.

And it might even smell better.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Agony, Ecstasy, Peanuts

Some people think that writing a blog is, like, easy.

Some people are wrong. And stupid. Some are also bald and smelly.

Writing a blog is hard work; hard, oft-unpleasant, usually unpaid work that people only do in an attempt to stave off the realization that they are attention whores of the first degree. So needless to say, half the time it's an exercise in enduring failure on a massive scale (well, not massive exactly; if you're "not much of a writer," only three or four people will ever read your blog, and they'll drop out in short order if you can't come up with a more interesting topic than the color and consistency of Baby's First Poop). It tends to involve much glaring at a (blank) "Create Post" page and muttering to oneself about the futility of the process and, by extension, life itself. (No one ever even READS THIS SHIT! I might as well die. Et cetera.) Very frustrating.

And my past attempts at a blog have been kind of like that. Actually, they've been that. Minus the copious mentioning of Baby's First Poop. I try to avoid topics that are obviously boring and/or nasty (and if you're wondering how it is that anyone can mention the color of that particular nascent bodily function more than once, well, lucky you... believe me when I tell you that it's possible). Plus I don't have a baby.

However, I believe I have discovered my problem. My "weak link." My kryptonite. My undoing. My downfall. My pretty boy after a year of celibacy. As it were.

I've been far, FAR too serious.

In general, I mean, not just in Blogland. Really, this is a big problem. In my daily life, I have often been told that I tend to look and act VERY solemn. Grave. Scare children, and so forth. And frankly, I have no idea where this comes from because underneath my funeral-director exterior I am one bubbly, happy, well-adjusted, cheerful member of the human race. In point of fact, I am actually one of the most merry people you could ever hope to have the pleasure of meeting.

(Pause for laughter.)

Okay! Okay! It was JUST A JOKE!

(Laughter continues, raucous.)

That's enough laughing, now.

(Geez, is it that bad?)

Anyway, I've thought long and hard about this (and a very emotional and soul-probing sixteen minutes that was, let me tell you) and I have definitely decided that the time has come to (sigh) Lighten Up. Loosen my Relentless Maturity belt a few notches. Really, just because life is not a box of chocolates and bad things always happen in threes and the wettest day of the year always comes when you've forgotten your umbrella and cliches are an unfortunate and common fixture of daily life much like the chickenpox was somewhat of a fad in second grade, that does NOT mean that we should dwell on negativity every waking moment. We have our sleeping moments, after all.

So here it is, My Point: I want to begin a journey today, right here, right now (July 9th, 2008 at 9:26 pm, Eastern Standard Time, in case you were curious) toward a jollier me. Less Rabbit, more Tigger, that's what I need in my life. I wish to write a lighthearted blog in which I attempt to be funny, probably aided by heavy plagiarism of the blog which inspired this ambitious project and an online thesaurus (what, you thought I came up with a word like nascent all by my lonesome? Aw, you flatter me).

And I don't work well under pressure. Well, sometimes I work well under pressure. A lot of times. Actually, I do my best work under pressure. Look, here's where I'm going with this: I'm not going to share this blog with anyone until I'm convinced that it has hit acceptably funny levels of snark. Then I will share it with everyone I know, starting with my loved ones and ending with the adoring public/devoted following which should rapidly develop.

Hence: If you are reading this, I've decided (and really, I'm the best possible judge of this, being not in any way biased) that it's funny! Isn't that great? Why are you shaking your heads in a manner that clearly denotes your opinion of my pathetic assessment of my own wit?! Throw me a bone here! You're a loved one of mine! Or a member of my adoring public/devoted following! Either way, hadn't you better be a little nicer to me?

Anyway, I would like to be the author of a Funny Blog. Wish me luck. Wishing me failure is very mean.

Lady Snark, at your service. Yes, I accept tax-deductible donations.