24 Hour Good Luck Taxi Cab Company

car2Dear friends,

I’ve had a lot on my mind these past few weeks.

The writing’s on the wall.

Christmas candy and wreaths are on display at the dollar store and the weather, as contrary as it is, is leaning stronger in one direction than the other. Even the sun rains down warm golden hues, like the skin of a perfectly cooked turkey. Restless Autumn breathes in green and breathes out reds, yellows, and browns. Summer’s over and the year is tumbling towards its end.

For me, time, destiny, and desire are at odds with each other, and I find myself lost in the labyrinth of life, where nothing seems to change, even if everything is different.

My study of dating rituals across the country has been stymied twice in the past two months. My Nebraska trip blocked by an angry madman in Chicago and the fires he set. I cancelled my Maryland trip for the more personal reasons of exhaustion and apathy. The cool blows in every night and lingers until morning. And I, buried deep in the down comfort corners of my little home, am lulled to sleep by its song.

Last night as I lay in bed listening to my dog’s whistling snores, I wondered if it’s time for me to move on. I’ve dated from shore to shore for three years and still, 24 states loom large, their dating cultures just beyond my reach. Rent, work, and dog bones have hindered my ambition. Perhaps it is time for me to bring this story to an end.

A good friend once said, “the years go by and we just don’t die, and so we keep getting older and older.” Time is a ticking clock and I have many other stories to tell.

I fell asleep. And in my sleep I dreamt.

There was a doorway on a side street on an island much like Manhattan. The streets and alleys were washed in endless gradients of grey. Above the dream doorway was a sign that flashed “24 hour good luck cab company.” Just beyond the dark grey exterior and the light grey bricks, just through the door, was another door. That door was open, too. There was a desk. And a phone. A red wall. A praying mantis leaned its elbows on the counter, reading a book.

I suspected I was witnessing a moment I was not supposed to see. I stepped inside.

“Where to,” said the bug.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“A lovely destination. One of my favorites.”

And then, as it is with dreams, I was sitting in the backseat of a taxicab. The driver was a ladybug, as fat as could be. It’s belly pressed up against the steering wheel, its girth taking up most of the front seat. A tooth pick hung from the corner of his lips. He winked when he talked.

We drove through the dull and dreary landscape, over hills, and around traffic circles.

Then, the landscape changed. High rises and street lamps gave way to hills and valleys of jagged edges, at once as beautiful as snow and as frail as fallen leaves.

“Where are we,” I asked, leaning forward on the seat. The back edge of his wing tickled my fingers.

“We’re passing through the Valley of White Noise. It’s always been a vast area, but lately it’s grown even larger, wider, longer. See over there -” He pointed into the distance, where what looked like mountains emerged from a melting fog. “Those are new. The landscape’s shifting.” He slowed the car.

“It’s a coral reef made from words,” I gasped. “Used words.”

He smiled, winked, and nodded. “Do you want to see your corner?”

“I have real estate in the Valley of White Noise?”

He nodded. “Almost everyone does. Some cover more territory than others.”

I shuddered and shook my head. “I don’t want to see,” I said. “I don’t want to know.”

“What don’t you want to know,” he asked.

“I don’t want to know what I don’t want to know anymore,” I cried. “I don’t want to hear what I don’t want to hear. I don’t want to see what I don’t want to see. And I don’t want to see where my words, thoughts, ideas go to die.”

He shifted his toothpick from one side of his mouth to the other. “That is a problem,” he said. “But since you know you don’t want to know what you don’t want to know, I would submit that you are closer to facing what you don’t want to know then you might realize.”

To which I answered, “my brain hurts.”

“The best cure for your affliction,” he said, “to ask to see what it is you don’t want to know.” He paused for emphasis. “It’s likely that your fate is bigger than your dreams.”

With that, I awoke. It was the early hours of the morning. My dog lay on her side, still snoring, still dreaming. I stirred her from her sleep, stirred myself from my sleep, stumbled into my shoes and sleepy dog and sleepy human, together, walked out of the apartment and into the world.

The city streets were shaking themselves awake, one garbage truck, one livery cab, one school bus at a time. Step by step, we stirred to life together.

I recently wrote a personal statement for a project I’m proposing. In it, I talk about story-telling. There was a time I thought it a frivolous use of one’s energy. I struggled with this thought, as telling stories is the only thing I’ve ever really, really want to do. I’ve since changed my mind. I say in my essay, though it’s not an original thought, bears repeating over and over again:

“Here’s one thing I’ve learned, working as I have: no matter the medium, we story-tellers need to be brave enough to take the responsibility of voicing our visions and humble enough to present them to an audience of one, for if we touch one life, change one paradigm, help one person, we’ve changed the world.”

And with that, I’ve decided to place this blog on a hiatus, maybe forever, or maybe until something interesting, something important, or something worth adding to The Valley of White Noise, occurs. This may or may not include ukulele, backflips, a trip to Thailand, tea with an elephant, congress with a whale, strange dreams, a couple more dates in a couple more states, and, if I’m very, very lucky, a move to Hawaii.

In the meantime, keep an eye out for my upcoming project The Book of Diva, be kind to Santa Claus, and eat lots of cookies.

almost always,

Amy

diva 3

Fuck You, Litter Lady, Fuck You

December 10

I have a problem.

I love Christmas.

I love the lights. I love the smells. I love how happy everyone pretends to be. I love it so much that I’m already thinking about it. I love it so much, I’m willing to skip over Hallowe’en and Thanksgiving in order to set up the little white tinsel tree at work.

Also, I love my dog so much, it’s stupid.

***

When I was six, or somewhere around there, my mother pulled me aside and explained to me that Santa Claus doesn’t exist.

I believe this is a right of passage for every Jewish American kid. The first indication that you’re not like other children, that you have a secret knowledge not all youngsters are privy to. That that special day of family and food, opening presents, and singing nice songs about jingling bells and a flying fat man, are for other people. And not for you.

“Don’t tell the other children,” she warned.

I held the secret of Santa Claus deep in the chambers of my heart, locked away in a strong box, deeply saddened by the absence of that great man.

Though, for a few years, I did try to sneak him cookies. Just in case.

How I wished he would stop by and say hello.

I never spoke of him. Not a single word. Until one day, decades later, the pull became too great and I commenced writing a holiday script.

It’s called Repo Santa.

I believe it’s one of my finest works.

***

I have another problem.

Plastic shopping bags.

Though those troublesome wastes of petroleum have their uses – household garbage, namely, if you don’t keep a handle on them, they multiply like kangaroos.

Other ways to cull the plastic bag collection: abandon them at the dog run for other bag-trodden dog owner to use, wrap presents, create insulation, make art, stuff pillows.

Even if you’re determined, as I am, to avoid the plastic shopping bag situation, they find you at your weakest points and insinuate themselves back into your life.

With one comes another. And another. And another. They’re unstoppable.

***

It happened like this:

My plastic bag collection was at a dramatic low. On one hand, I was triumphant, having put to re-use the last of my plastic bags. On the other hand, I now had a different problem to solve. I had no disposable vessels in which to deposit my trash, send it down the garbage shoot and out of my life.

I mentioned my dilemma at work. And, well, someone had more plastic bags in the trunk of their car than they knew what to do with.

– I’ll take a few, I said.

– I’ll bring you an entire bag. They are taking over my car.

– Just a few will get me by, I said.

The next day, she gave me with bodaciously overloaded yellow plastic shopping bag full of bags.

I hung my head and said:

– Thank you.

***

December 13

***

I decided to keep the bag of bags under my desk at work. I’d whittle the collection down week to week, taking what only what was needed.

Furthermore, I developed a plastic bag plan.

I would use the plastic bags for the good of all mankind. Each morning, when I walked my dog, I would fill one plastic bag with litter.

I had my limits, of course. I wouldn’t pick up anything that would give a disease, for instance. I would be a ninja super-hero litter lady – as cool as the Guatemalan woman in my neighborhood who collects cans very morning in her fedora, but in secret.

It wasn’t hard at first. During the summer, my dog and I wake up with the sun. The streets are quiet. I didn’t want anyone to see.

I had my spots – a tree well that, for some reason, collects bottles and candy wrappers, the ramp into the park, where I can pluck cups and cans from the ledges without anyone noticing, and the bushes and beaches by the river, where a Schlitz beer loving band of merry-makers likes to leave their mark.

The plastic bag plan was going gangbusters.

But, summer’s ended. The sun rises later. And when we walk, we walk while children go to school, adults leave for work, and superintendents sweep the sidewalks. For a while, I persevered in the open, for all to see, my yellow plastic shopping bag swinging from my wrist.

But eventually, I lost heart.

***

I explain my tragic defeat to Nikki.

She doesn’t understand.

– You know how people are, I say.

– Nope.

– Someone will get mad at me for picking up trash. And then they’ll circle me until someone throws a rotten tomato at my head and yells “fuck you, litter lady, fuck you.”

– That’s what I would do.

– “Who do you think you are,” they’d taunt. They’d think I was some snooty person telling them how to live. Insist that they like their litter just where it is. If they didn’t want the litter there, they would put it in the trash. A poet among them will say that kicking through trash is the urban equivalent of the crunching of dried leaves in autumn. I have to do it in ninja-style or not at all.

– Or maybe the bag idea would go viral.

I shake my head.

– I don’t want to be famous. I just like picking up trash.

***

In my holiday script, Santa Claus (NIck) is semi-retired in South Florida, the elf jobs have been shipped overseas, Mrs. Claus is running overseas operations. and many, though not all, of the stateside elves work at Rudemart Department Store stocking shelves.

It’s nearly Christmas, Santa’s slightly depressed. His sleigh goes missing off the streets of his gated community. He goes to find it. An innocent in a big bad world, he teams up with Duke Roughstone, the rightful heir to the Rudemart corporation who lost his controlling share to his brother during a game of Mousetrap when he was eight, to become a home appliance repo-man on a pre-holiday repo-race. The prize, a share of Rudemart stock, will tilt ownership of the store back to Duke.

Santa’s unique skill set ( i.e. he’s a whiz at packing and getting in and out of tight spaces) is an asset to the job. but when he finds out that he’s been conned, that he’s ruining a lot of people’s Christmases by repossessing their toaster ovens, he loses heart.

In the end, it all works out. Everyone gets their appliances back. Christmas is saved.

It’s a holiday story after all.

And I love Christmas.

Also, I love my dog so much it’s stupid.

December 19.1

36 Hours Out of Omaha; or things to do when your plane doesn’t fly

IMG_2065Saturday:

5 a.m.: Wake up and roll out of bed. Meet a car on your stoop to drive you to that pimple on the face of the FAA, LaGuardia Airport. Get lost a few different ways before entering airport. Secure your ticket to Omaha. You’re on your way!

6 a.m. Endure the early morning assault of angry fluorescents as you make your way through the highly dysfunctional security lines where angry, post-pubescent TSA employees treat you with unique indifference and disdain. Witness their peevish attitudes of antipathy mixed with apathy – second only to the extraordinarily mean and petty elder TSA employees in Chicago.

If a fish rots from the head down, as they say. LaGuardia airport’s fish head clearly decomposed years ago

6:30 a.m.: Just past the often overwhelmed Dunkin’ Donuts kiosk in Terminal B, find the gateways to the only good reason to come to LaGuardia Airport – Southwest Airlines. Notice that the lines have stalled. Sit by the gate entrance and listed for flight delay information. Ask the nice lady with the microphone what you should do should you miss your connection. Peruse the New York Times article: “36 hours in Omaha,” circle points of interest, and plan the day ahead, despite sinking suspicion that the next 36 hours will be spent someplace else.

7:12 a.m.: Check flight status. Eavesdrop on conversation between airline employee and mysterious decision-maker and/or messenger type on other end of her phone. Ascertain that nothing this morning is going as planned for almost every person there, and relish in the metaphorical one-ness of all of humanity stuck in a dingy, dirty, smelly, ugly airport.

7:14 a.m.: Speak to a customer representative at service desk. Ask representative if you can change flight to San Francisco. Marvel at the dissatisfied couple yelling at the customer service employees for the policies of the FAA, given that planes are grounded not out of some strange conspiracy to keep them from their daughter’s wedding, but rather because some asshole tried to burn down a radar facility while trying to slit his own throat. Lose compassion for couple, as they are cantankerous and self-entitled. And because husband sports long hair and a comb over.

Surrender to being stranded at home.

7:26 a.m.: Walk way from the gate. Should a fellow customer ask why you are leaving, as cancellation has not yet been announced, tell them you are going apple picking.

8:15 a.m.: Arrive home, confirm for personal edification that flight has been canceled.

Take a nap.

10:45 a.m.: Get a good cup of coffee at Cafe Bunni  (213 Pinehurst Avenue), and treat yourself and friend to spinach croissants and cappuccinos. Sit on bench outside, and run into friend who has recently become a father and his baby daughter. Ogle baby, catch up with friend. Run into another friend who has recently become a father. Repeat.

11:17 a.m.: Agree to drive north with friend who has not recently become a father, but does have a car, to a surprise location.

Enjoy beginnings of fall foliage lining the Saw-Mill River Parkway as you co-author the beginnings of what is sure to be a Pulitzer Prize winning a novel (excerpt below).

12:30 p.m.: Arrive at Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome. Find seat in field and watch antique airplane air show. Consider the history of flight, from their Curtiss Pusher Model D to their DeHavilland DH.82 Tiger Moth. Marvel at the poetry of stunt flying and admire shiny planes do what they were built to do. Fly.

Enjoys tales of Manhattan resident and plane enthusiast who built a life-size plane model in his New York City studio apartment. Wonder if people in Omaha are having as much fun as you.

4:30 p.m.: Meander through the historic Kensico Cemetery (273 Lakeview Ave, Valhalla, NY). Perhaps you will be lucky enough to catch a Korean funereal with marching band from afar. Read tombstone names and dates. Wonder at the lives lived and the stories buried under their grounds.

6 p.m.: Arrive back home. Eat an apple with peanut butter, take a bath in your own bathtub, read in bed, and fall asleep earlier than is proper.

IMG_2040

Sunday:

8 a.m.: Splurge on another expensive coffee drink at fancy cafe.

Run into dog walking buddy, buy her coffee and pet her dog as she regales you with stories about New York in the eighties. Luxuriate in the last gasps of summer. People watch.

10 a.m.: Enjoy second coffee while plotting a new project at the outdoor tables of 181 Cabrini (181st St. and Cabrini Avenue). Sit at table with yellow pad and until a random friend passes by and joins you.

10:45 a.m.: Drunk brunch at 181 Cabrini with random friend. Explain new project while inhaling spicy and intriguing (despite disappointing olive garnishes) Bloody Marys.

Eat bacon.

Drink coffee.

2 p.m. Attend a Broadway show (Cabaret) on account of your exceptionally talented friend performing in a principal role. Blubber at all the right points because you forget that she is anyone but the character she portrays. She’s that good.

4:45 p.m. Wander through the backstage of theater trying to find an exit after visiting friend.

6 p.m. Arrive home. Pet happy dog, eat a pear, drink beer. Explain to pet-sitting/ delivering friend the presence of potatoes with faces in the refrigerator. Wonder if anyone in Omaha has potatoes with faces in their refrigerator.

Read in bed.

Remind yourself never to cry over a missed flight.

***

Excerpt from my co-authored soon be award-winning novel, Drive North:

There I was; I though I was gonna die. Between the burger, the pizza, the apple pie, though I only ate three slices, and the mango, which seemed like a good idea at the time, my stomach was in knots.

My stomach. It’s always been a barometer for my emotional well-being, regardless of what I eat. So, sitting backstage, waiting to perform my spoon dance in front of thousands of people for a chance to be on national t.v. and change my life seemed, in that moment, like a VERY BAD IDEA.

The competition was fierce, though I knew no one possessed the special skills that I have with moving cutlery and flatware. Still, competing against a contortionist who I’ve seen slide a twenty-six inch kiebalsa down her throat and back up again whole was daunting.The other guys, the card trick magician, the jello-juggler, the clown who made funny noises with his body parts, they didn’t faze me a bit. But Mitsy, in her gold lame ball gown and six inch heels, was invincible.

Aside from the sound of jello slapping the floor the room was silent, the tension thick. the kid who tap-danced on his hands and knees had just taken his bow. In two acts, I would be up.

How I wished I hadn’t eaten that mango…

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Vertically Inclined

IMG_0986

Obi threw out his back dead-lifting an opera singer at a rehearsal for that not-for profit, union-busting Succubus of an institution where art goes to die. Sunday morning finds him supine on the hardwood floor of his apartment, soul searching, instead of drinking coffee with me. Just when I need him the most.

No one to talk to, nothing important to do, a little too much time on my hands, I harass my dog with rambunctious displays of affection until she hides under the bed.

As summer makes a speedy exit and my dog eyes me with distrust, I’m left to rattle around in the house of my imagination, and I’m pulled towards the attic where memories live. I’m tempted to dig through boxes, handle clues, and search for Where It All Began.

The task is more than useless. It’s problematic.

First of all, no life can be reduced to a single “it.” Rather, life’s a series of “its.” Like an “it” tree. All the “its,” attach by overpowering magnetic force, spawn like an endless display of flowers and buds, or cling to fine filaments of spider silk.

The attic of memories looks suspiciously like the attic of the house I grew up in. It’s an unfinished crawl space with boards laid across the beams from one end to the other. The room is stuffy and hot, no matter the season, and packed with dusty old toys, suitcases of ancient gloves and hats, and haunting portraits of people I assume are relatives, though no one could ever tell me who they were.

In the attic of memories in the house of imagination, boxes are crammed with impressions, recollections, remembrances, and dreams. All it takes is a thought, fleeting feeling, a turn of a phrase for that fucking attic door to tumble open.

Why the hell was Obi dead-lifting an opera singer? You’d think he would have learned a thing or two when he was cast to perform naked yoga at that opera at BAM. I call him to tell him so. He doesn’t pick up.

What I most want to talk to Obi about were the instructions a recent date presented to me should I decide to break up with him. He gave his guidance on our first date, which leads me to believe there might be a second date. And a third, and maybe a fourth. We might even date beyond the point where changing one’s phone number or moving out of town is a sufficient strategy for breaking up.

As I tend to locate the exit doors to all my relationships prior to take off, knowing how things should end before they begin strangely comforting.

The instructions:

If and when I decide to break up with him, all I need to do is make him a perfectly seasoned, nicely breaded, baked until golden brown, topped with melted mozzarella and a subtly nuance tomato sauce, zucchini parmesan.

They say the way into a man’s heart is his stomach. I guess it’s also the way out.

When he says this, the attic trap blows open and a certain box, rattled by the wind calls to me.

I have history with zucchini.

My father was a city boy. He grew up on the lower east side of Manhattan, decades before it was a desirable neighborhood. The only vegetables he knew were pickles, black olives, and over-cooked peas. It wasn’t until he was well in thirties, installed in a house in the suburbs with a wife and children and an ample lawn, that he decided to have a vegetable garden.

In this garden, with the help of his reluctant daughters, he grew carrots, sugar snap peas, tomatoes, radishes, corn, and zucchini.

I don’t know if you know about zucchini and how it grows, but it grows. And grows. And grows. If you don’t take the zucchini off the vine, it grows. Perhaps he believed the length of his zucchini a testament to his green thumb. His zucchini grew to mythic proportions. tall as a six-year-old child, as durable as a baseball bat, as fat as boa constrictor. The zucchini grew big enough to eat us.

My mother, a terrible cook, incorporated zucchini in every meal. She baked zucchini bread so heavy and moist that it soaked through our lunch bags. Then there was stuffed zucchini, zucchini pasta, zucchini crudite, zucchini boats, zucchini casserole, and soggy zucchini parmesan.

My father, a terrible cook, stewed the leftover zucchini. He bought a freezer to store it in.

Winter, spring, summer, and fall, zucchini plagued my family. Even after my father died, my mother and I worked through the rubbery, frozen zucchini my father left behind. It was when I left for college, that my mother finally tossed the remaining leftovers and gave the freezer away.

Breaking up zucchini style makes perfect sense to me.

But, what are my break-up instructions? I have none. I think I should figure something out. Something easy. Something fun.

Break up by zucchini doesn’t work for me, as I’ve healed relationship with the melon. I don’t know any other foods that would prompt me to end a relationship, no matter how bland.

I look to the bookcase and pull the dating reference tome “How to Succeed With Women,” by Ron Louis and David Copeland.

Chapter 13 in “How to Succeed With Women” offers a comprehensive overview on how to break up. This counter advice is woefully omitted in the their lauded follow-up book “How to Succeed With Men.” No matter. I’m well prepared to break up with someone via zucchini. All I’ll need to do is a little food shopping, a little food preparation, and turn on the oven. What I need is to figure out the easiest, nicest, most pleasant way for someone to break up with me.

They instruct on the pre-work for a breakup:

* Don’t date a woman for more than a month.

* Get all your things out of her apartment first.

* Make sure she doesn’t view you as a long term man.

* Don’t plan events with her in advance.

* Don’t be the perfect boyfriend.

All helpful hints, but I lack imagination when it comes to the actual event. The rest of the chapter is no help.

I try Obi again. He picks up.

He’s still supine, but bored with soul searching. I read him the break-up chapter.

“Thoughts?”

“Asparagus,” he says.

“I like asparagus.”

“When I was young, my mother made us harvest wild asparagus from the graveyard. I can’t even look at it without thinking about dead people.”

“I don’t have those issues.”

“Yeah. Definitely asparagus.”

I guess everyone’s got their thing.20140914_084300

Mysteries

hudson water towerMiles’s mustache went missing.

It leapt from the precarious perch of the tip of my finger and twirled through the air. I feared it fell into the dark nether regions between wall and floor. But I dutifully searched for that brown patch of fake facial hair on the black floors and carpets of a dimly lit backstage until I needed to be somewhere else.

“Mustache down,” I called to the stage left crew.

“If you find a mustache, it’s mine,” I hurled upstage.

“We lost one,” I confessed to my crew.

And finally, I broke the news to Miles.

“It’s a mystery,” an actress exclaimed with dramatic flair. She set out to find it, convinced it was riding on the hem of a skirt or the bottom of a shoe.

“We’ll discover it attached to a rocks glass on stage,” suggested another.

“It’s on the wheel of a moving set piece,” my associate stated, having been in this position before.

“I’m sure it will turn up,” I said, ever calm in the face of catastrophe. Between you and me, I was not convinced that this would be the case.

That was Thursday,

***

On Saturday, there was the wedding. It is at a farm outside of Hudson, New York. Hudson’s one of those river towns with good coffee and art galleries that make you think small town life is perfectly designed to fit one’s ethics into one’s way of life. By all appearances, it is an open-minded city-dwellers utopia… if you don’t scratch the surface too hard.

Some are moved by mountains, others the beach. As for me, I’ve been romanced by rivers, streams, oceans, bays, and sounds my entire life. Of them all, mighty Hudson River has claimed the biggest piece of my heart.

They say home is where the heart is. My heart is trapped inside my body. It goes wherever I go. As I wander the streets and galleries of Hudson, I conclude that so long as there’s good coffee and interesting people, a warm place to sleep, hot chocolate in the winter, flowers in the spring, and beauty somewhere along the way, my heart and I will hold the energy of the Hudson close, no matter where we wake up.

The wedding escapes the rain. Towards the end of the night, when the skies weep, they’re tears of joy.

An old actor once told me, “success is about being at the right bus stop at the right time and getting on the bus.”

Our friends look at each other like they can’t believe how fucking lucky they are to have found each other at the exact right time, at the exact right bus stop, with the exact right bus fare in their pockets. At least a few us marvel at the coincidence that they were also traveling to the exact same destination.

January 14

***

Wandering the aisles at Target at 10 p.m. on a Sunday night is like roaming a beach in the wake of a terrible storm.

The path of Sunday afternoon’s tempest is clear. The doll’s clothes section is decimated, pens and notebooks laid to waste. Women’s bags, all sizes have been torn from their hooks with violent haste. Swathes of missing mascara, and only mascara, amplify shining shelves of white nothing. And bath towels of all colors are strewn across the floor.

Band-aids, antiseptic, toothpaste, and mints survived, unscathed. Hundreds of pounds of M&M’s lay sleeping on the corridors of candy. And washing detergents stand in perfect order, like little soldiers ready to march.

Scores of employees set out to repair the damage of the passing storm. Their numbers finally overwhelm the drizzling of consumers who step through the electric doors, even though they know that tomorrow, it all begins again.

***

Monday morning, a potential love interest, the same one who almost killed me five times on a scramble up the cliffs of the Hudson, only to redeem himself by saving my life six times and buying me an ice cream, brings me a book – “Walks and Rambles in Westchester and Fairfield Counties.”

“Read the first sentence,” he says. “Read it out loud.”

“Shall I start with the introduction to this 1986 edition?” He nods, I read. “‘… this is not a book of hikes, but a book of gentle walks…’

He smiles and raises his eyebrows. i pause and peer at him over the pages.

“A lot of things have changed since 1986,” I say.

“Go on.”

“‘They are offered with the hope that they will refresh your spirit as they increase your knowledge of the natural world…'”

“Why to you have so many potatoes” he asks.

“I’m making a movie.”

“That’s what I figured.”

Later, we’re driving to some town along the Hudson that has good coffee with my dog in the backseat scratching for crumbs. We’ll pretend we’re the interesting people who live there. I tell him about the wedding. About how I painted my toenails (and thus parts of my toes) red, as I felt it only fitting for a celebration of love. About the horses and apple trees in the yard. About how Chuck wept in his napkin when he watched his guests dancing. How his husband held his hand under the table. How Sebastian put his arm around his pregnant wife’s shoulder and kissed the top of her head. How guest after guest spoke of the blossoming in their own lives, their hopeful pursuits of love, art, career, and life. And, how everyone there was happy to be happy for someone else on a day where love trumped politics and the rain held off until just the right moment. When I stood in the field, the raindrops were soft and clean and bled through my skin and into my heart.

He pulls the car into a lot. We walk across the street, up a path, across a field, and sit under his favorite tree.

Maybe I should’ve fibbed about the potatoes.

On the other hand, love me, love all of me. Or get out of the way.

***

But what of the mystery of Miles’ missing mustache? I left you hanging.

I was the culprit of my own caper.

It leapt from my finger, twirled through the air and landed on the elbow of my brown sweater. It rode in comfort through the rest of the show, until the sweater retired for the evening on a hook by the door.

The mustache wanted to see the world.

During the night, it grew scared, a lone mustache in a room full of wigs. It crawled off my sweater, onto my desk, and penned a note, in hopes of finding its way back home.

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I would do that, too

April 14

At work, and in life, I  am often considered the model of temperance. I prefer little things. Small dogs, small cars, small problems. I strive for a life of minimal impact, and, to that end, I eat mostly, but not all, things that grow from the ground or drop down from the branches of trees.

Though there are times that I imbibe one martini more than proper, or polish off a pound of potato chips in a single hour, or dive face first into vat of ice cream, I do these things in the privacy of my own home, or with my more irreverent associates who are aware of my darker side, and thus cement my reputation of perfect calm, unwavering judgement, and classical harmony in an otherwise mixed up, muddled up, tangled up world.

Which is why my recent confession to a work associate, whispered by the water cooler, causing her to reel backwards and seek support from the peeling paint of the stairwell railings.

“I’ve been eating a lot of cookies,” I say.

She, breathless, intones, “really? You?”

“I’m not usually attracted to cookies,” I explain, “but I worked with a shaman weeks ago and she advised me to set up an ancestral altar. With rum, water, a shell, and sweets as an offering. Thus, the cookies.” I look sheepishly at my empty hands as if I am holding crumbs. “I buy the ancestors a variety of cookies. I don’t want them to get bored. Who knows what sweets are available to them, wherever they are? I eat the left-overs with my coffee in the morning after I wake them up with a lit candle.  After all, who likes to eat alone?”

“I see,” she says, regaining her composure.

“It’s because of my sister,” I say. “One night in Iceland, she scrutinized me with a scientific stare across the kitchen table and said, ‘you’re not the same. Something is askew.’ She’s the reason I emailed the shaman. She’s the reason I’m eating so many cookies.

“It’s true. I have been edgy, sensitive, out of sorts. She suggested I speak with someone. But I don’t like talking.”

“Ahh,” says my work associate, “I see.”

“My aversion to talk therapy has roots over twenty years old, when, at college, the therapist I was seeing skipped all but one of our appointments. Years later, I tried again with a therapist who liked to spin.

“‘Stand by the door,’ she’d say, and I would. She was six foot tall. Opened wide, her arms touched the walls of the office. She would spin in that tiny room like a grotesque fairy. There were times I ducked to avoid being mauled by her spindly fingers. She’d stop suddenly, her arms bent in the shape of a tree in winter. Then, she’d tap me on the forehead three times. I’d sit and we’d resume talking.

“I considered her suspect from the start, but I wanted to see what would happen next.

“Every moment is a twisted knot, breathing, growing, groaning under the weight of our thoughts. If you find the right end and pull, sometimes you can find a beginning and a loose end before it ravels around itself again.

“I sat in the dark the night my sister said that thing to me, and searched the internet for answers.”

“And…”

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“It started well before the email I sent to the shaman or the email she sent back, that diagnosed me with a fractured soul. Before that conversation with my sister. I could blame the punk who punched me on a train ride home last February, but if I blame him, I must also blame the friend I was visiting that evening. And if I blame that friend, I should also lay blame of this ancestral cookie orgy of the friend who introduced me to that friend. Which means I must also place responsibility on the person who introduced me to the person who introduced me to the person who introduced me to the person I was visiting prior to being punched in the face.

“If you stop to think about it, goes as far back as my birth, his birth, their birth, and yours. Or maybe even farther than that. My story begins the moment we all set out on the crash course we call life on earth.

“Needless to say, this cookie situation goes deep.

“I see,” she says.

“I want to give my ancestors a range of culinary experiences, To date, we’ve shared: lemon wafers, ginger snaps, dark chocolate, an oatmeal cookie, apricot hamantaschen, and cinnamon rugelach.”

My associate nods her approval.

“They like rum the best. Straight up.”

A few minutes later, in the controlled chaos of a dimly lit backstage, my associate makes a suggestion. Recalling her youth, she tells me that in order to avoid eating sweets, her mother bought treats for her children that she, herself, would never eat.

“Thus,” confides my work associate, “the disproportionate amount of Malomars and Little Debbie Coconut Cakes I was subjected to as a child.”

“Did she give you Sno-balls, too,” I ask, my heart melting for my dear friend.

“I don’t remember.”

I refuse to offer my ancestors Ho-Hos and Twinkies, those mysterious apparitions who might live in a place where cookies are as rare as titanium and as precious as gold.

I am at the end of a long and wide line of humans who have given me something, a part of themselves. When we share our morning coffee and cookies, I wonder if they are satisfied with me, the end result of their efforts. Though I have two other sisters, and a young niece and nephew, we are all cut in different directions from the same cloth. But the mix is unique. I am me, with my small life and my small dog and my affinity for ginger cookies.

These thoughts swirl around me, up to the fly rail, and maybe beyond the hanging blacks and stage lights. Music playing and people talking, the only point of stillness is me.

For a moment, I’m desperate to ask someone outside of me who I am. Do I look more like a Russian peasant or German gentry? But there’s more than that, I’m glued together by generations of teachers, musicians, artists, and scholars.

“Maybe I’m just a cookie-pusher in the ancestral realm.”

“Offer fruit,” my associate suggests.

“I would do that, too,” I say, “but for the flies.”

This morning, we finished the bag ginger snaps. The last lemon wafer is stale, that banana walnut muffin is hard as a rock.

Tomorrow morning, I decide, I will treat us to French macarons.

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Excerpts from Islandia

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Dear Diary,

today, I endeavored to conduct experiments with ice cream. Namely, I sought to either prove or debunk the myth that it is impossible to be unhappy while standing behind an ice cream cone. As I have no intellectual attachment to the results of my query, and found myself unhappy, yet perusing the ice cream flavors at a shop in Reykjavik, I remembered the old adage and decided to test it through self-observation.

It was my birthday, a day that is full of mirth for many, but not for me. When I was young, around age seven, my birthday wires were crossed and instead of enjoying the day, I dreaded it instead. Mind you, the day before is fine and the day after is always sunny. Call it a quirk of character, or a flaw. Call it what you will.

Mankind is a walking, talking contradiction and our innermost thoughts elude us, even in plain sight.

I had every intention to conduct my experiment with vanilla, a solid flavor. A good vanilla, is like the sublime quietude of the mind while the mind’s body sits on a rock by a babbling stream and listens. Unlike its cheeky cohort, chocolate, vanilla is weighty with nuance, subtlety, and poise.

However, cherry-vanilla is very nearly the hardest ice cream flavor of all to pass up.

And so, I conducted my test on a two scoop cone of cherry vanilla on a bright Saturday evening in Reykjavik, Iceland. I cannot recall the flavors E chose, she mixed, but as it was not E’s birthday, nor was she sad, angered, or in any way put out, her emotional response to her ice cream cone is a moot point.

And thus, I learned that, yes, it is possible to be sad while eating an ice cream cone, but ice cream, particularly in the form of a cone, but it is equally impossible not to feel silly about feeling sad while eating an ice cream cone.

In short, cherry vanilla ice cream definitely takes the edge off.

***

I once had an awkward conversation with a friend who loves rocks above all else.

It went something like this:

He said, “rocks are the most powerful element of nature.”

I said, “no element is more or less powerful than any other.”

He said, “rocks are the strongest.”

I said, “everything works together.”

He said, “rocks crush things.”

I said, “I don’t think you know what you’re talking about.”

He said, “rocks are cool.”

I said, “do you want some ice cream?”

***

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“We are walking on the bottom of an ocean,” I say to E as we explore an open field surrounded by flat-topped mountains.

It’s true. Once upon a time, the ocean covered the land where we were walking. Fish swam, sea plants grew. But, the oceans pushed their ways through to cover dry land, and rearranged the continents.

Why the oceans and waterways moved, I don’t know. Perhaps change was in order? Perhaps the water wanted a new view? Curiosity? Boredom? Or maybe they drifted over while they were dreaming.

At any rate, it happened. The ocean, with help from the other elements, moved itself from one place to the next.

Rocks are strong and trees are smart. Fire is transformative. Air sees everything and ether carries the news.

But water has the ability to break up continents and wear away the sharps edges of rocks. It shape shift with or without the help of fire, and travels through land and sky.

And yet, if it were agreed in a conversation between all the elements that water trumps them all, I’m pretty sure water would shrug his shoulders and say, “come on, guys. Without you, I’m nothing.”

***

Dear Diary,

I have a theory. One that I dare not tell E, as she is a scientist and I am a dreamer and my dreams make her quake with irrational fits of indulgent logic and spurts of rationality.

Today Eleanor pointed out how Icelanders seem to have an elemental geographic understanding of the island upon which they live. The landscape changes within the course of one’s life. Earthquakes open volcanic steam vents on the sides of mountains, lakes move, and mud pits boil. It’s as if Iceland is the engine room for the planet.

While we were exploring a cave, our guide pointed out that the water dripping from the cave ceiling took five thousand years to become a free-falling drop of water. It is the drinking water of the country, filtered by layers and layers of rock, lava, and earth. This water tastes fresh and clean, despite the fact that it took five thousand years and a specific set of circumstances for that particular drop of water to where it does after all that time.

Hearing this, I began to suspect that water has a very different experience with time than I do.

And then I saw that when time and water work side by side, they are invincible.

I started to wonder if time might be another expression of water.

If so, earth is not only the water planet. It is the time planet as well.

Time, like water, can cascade, drip, evaporate, erode, flood, swirl, wriggle, and stand still, depending on its intentions.

And we, humans, travel through time with every breath we take, every step, every blink, and every heart beat.

Time swirls around us and changes us with the patience of a drip of water finding its way to the center of the earth.

Like water, it has the power to change the landscapes.

Time and water possess infinite reserves of patience.

I am more convinced, every day, that this planet we live on is a time machine.

***

During the ice cream experiment, a few minutes in, I was yanked into my future.

It’s my eightieth birthday and I am similarly employed in considering the emotional implications of a cherry-vanilla ice cream cone. try as i might to ignore the day and it’s relevance, a well-intentioned friend who enjoys her birthday remembers it is mine.

And my eighty-year-old memory boomerangs back to the memory of me conducting my ice cream and emotions experiment in Iceland in that moment with my sister. I see, if I learned anything from the trip, other than being a stone or a tree or a mountain or an animal on the water planet is an exercise in adaptability, is that life is an expression of time.

And I finally understand that, no matter what my mood is, or where I find myself, I’d be a fool not to eat ice cream, even on a dreary day.

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Islandia; a Teeny Adventure of Extraordinary Implications

A Slightly Fictionalized Account of a Very True Story.

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CONTENTS:

Chapter 1In which two sisters, Eleanor and Amelia, endeavor to travel to a far off land for a nature vacation full of hikes, caves, and searching for whales.

~ Taken by the Northern Lights, Amelia proposes a quick get-away to Iceland in the winter. Eleanor, having dreamed of visiting Iceland, suggests a lengthier sojourn. The sisters agree on a summer trip, during which they have no hope, whatsoever, of encountering the magical, midnight, arctic light show.

Chapter 2: In which Eleanor arrives in Reykjavik as Amelia wastes the bulk of her pre-flight afternoon with a number of unsuccessful attempts to purchase wee wee pads.

~ Arriving a full day ahead of her sister, Eleanor engages in a free city tour, enjoys the city botanical garden, and eats fish in chips, and leisurely learns the city. Amelia arrives at midnight on a cloudy evening, where the sky only hints at darkness. Per Eleanor’s instruction, she walks up the hill, towards the church, and miraculously finds her way.

~ Upon her arrival, Eleanor and Amelia eat cheese.

Chapter 3: In which the sisters hop on a bus, explore a cave, and bathe in a Very Famous Pool.

~ Ever considerate and concerned for her sister’s potential jet lag, Eleanor plans a day of lava cave explorations and bathing at the world-famous Blue Lagoon, where every Icelandic tourist is required to visit upon their arrival.

~ Unbeknownst to Eleanor, Amelia has nightmares about squeezing through tight crevices high off the ground. Amelia scoffs at her fear and squeezes through a dark, tight crevice high off the ground in order to enjoy the mysterious beauty of a lava cave.

~ After an epic battle with an electronic locker, the sisters relax in the unnaturally blue water of the Blue Lagoon with mud on their faces. They enjoy an extended dip in the geothermal hotspot.

~ Later that night, Eleanor and Amelia eat cheese.

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Chapter 4: In which Eleanor and Amelia climb a Very Steep Hill.

~ Faced with a cloudy day, Eleanor and Amelia take a city bus to Mosfellspaer to hike what Eleanor describes as a Gentle Granny Hike.

~ Not trusting their navigational skills or the trail marker that leads over a jagged precipice and down a steep mountainside, they ask a granny who is picking blueberries on the side of the hill withe her grandchild for directions to the road. She points them towards the jagged precipice.

~ Amelia almost dies from traversing steep inclines, sudden drops, and trails littered with rolling pebbles while jet-lagged.

Chapter 4: In which the sisters enjoy a morning of culture and learning at the Icelandic Phallological Museum before flying North to the wilds Akureyri and beyond.

~ Always looking to improve their minds, the sisters visit the impressive display of mammalian penises and penis bone samples before lunching on cheese in the domestic airport parking lot.

~ The sisters pick up their rental car from the Akureryi airport. Amelia almost dies from stick-shift shock.

~ Amelia teaches herself how to drive stick-shift in fifteen minutes in the airport parking lot, recalling a single standard transmission driving lesson twenty years ago on a rural road. The sister find themselves in a perilous loop, driving around and around a traffic circle as The Lady of the GPS nearly explodes with rage.

~ The sisters get lost.

~ The sisters get found.

~ The sisters dine with a Swiss German couple in the dining room of a house in the middle of nowhere, and spend the night in a camper van enveloped by a pink sky and a wooly storm.

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Chapter 5: In which the sisters walk in the rain.

~ Amelia and Eleanor drive to Husavik. Amelia conducts experiments with the car’s windshield wipers.

~ The sisters check into their hotel and set off on a path to visit a pair of giant lakes. Eleanor is well equipped with a pair of plastic pants. Amelia almost dies from being wet.

~ Though they follow the path, they never reach the lakes.

~ Eleanor and Amelia eat Icelandic pizza. With cheese.

Chapter 7: In which Eleanor and Amelia journey to Lake Myvatn, explore an Ice Cave, and find a pond.

~ As Amelia endeavors to conquer parking the car without stalling out, the sisters journey inland to Lake Myvatn. A crisp morning, their socks and shoes still damp from the previous day’s events, they retreat from the frigid morning air into a boutique hotel to drink coffee prior to their tour.

~ Eleanor is well prepared for variations in weather with fleece, gloves, and plastic pants. Amelia, having spent her last days at home taking care that her dog had doggie treats and squeaky toys, is ill-prepared for thirty degree weather, rain, sunshine, and wind.

~ A dashing tour guide drives the sisters across barren lava fields to the ice cave. Amelia almost dies from being cold and faces another literal nightmare: being birthed, face first, out of a tight spot into a dark, dark cave below.

~ Amelia buys a sweater from a charity shop and states boldly to the women behind the counter that “now she can go anywhere.” The women give her a pack of flatbread. She heretofore refers to said sweater as “the magic sweater,” for it keeps her warm and dry.

~ The sisters follow a path and find the lake. Her gloves soaked through, Eleanor acts out the meeting of the European and American tectonic plates while wearing socks for mittens.

Chapter 8: In which the sisters brave the elements and traverse the Asbergi Canyons in all directions.

~ Eleanor and Amelia venture once more into the unknown, walk a lot, and eat cheese.

~ They visit a green lake and waterfall. Amelia attempts to etch the image into her memory, where she will have it forever. Eleanor, ever logical, takes pictures instead.

~ Amelia almost dies from a panic attack after she face another literal nightmare: rope- climbing a straight incline with nothing but air between her and the ground below.

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Chapter 8: In which the sisters set out to see a whale and Eleanor almost dies from diesel inhalation.

Chapter 9: In which the triumphant sisters return to Reykjavik, observe boiling pits of mud, waterfalls, bathe in a river, brave tourists, and nearly lose a shoe.

Chapter 10: In which the sisters say goodbye.

Epilogue: In which Amelia, in an effort to incorporate the outdoors into her urban life, goes hiking with a potential love interest, gets stuck dangling off the side of the cliff, and almost dies five times and Eleanor takes a nice bike ride through Berlin.

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Real Dating Advice

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Concerned as I was by a friend’s comment that I seem to be writing a dating blog in which there is no dating going on, I reached out to my very wise, very insightful fellow blogger, Ann St. Vincent (annstvincent.com) for advice. I thought her response to my query worth sharing with you.

Amy, my dear,

You can spend hours, if not days, trolling blogs and websites extolling all kinds of advice on how to date, how men are douchebags and women are hard to please.

It’s overwhelming, frankly, and not very helpful.

I never particularly thought of myself as adventurous or brave…but now being on the other side of a marital split, people seem compelled to:

a) tell me the state of their own marriage,

b) tell me how they live vicariously through me and my sexy adventures,

and c) tell me I’m super brave, and they are wowed by my ability to make a tough decision and move on without a lot of the baggage that comes with it.

I never particularly thought about myself this way. But I realized I do have a habit of breaking things down, figuring out the root cause of my issues, coming up with a plan, and then executing the plan. It doesn’t always work, but then I repeat the process.

When you asked me to write this guest blog, I really had to think about the key things I’ve learned that in my opinion, have given me the cohones to start dating and move toward the life I’ve always wanted.
This first draft of this was almost 2,000 words and outlined a whole number of things which I think leads to dating success. I think you may have found it a bit overwhelming. But then I realized my philosophy all boils down to one key principle:

DON’T TAKE THINGS TOO SERIOUSLY.

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I will break it down for you.

Step One: In order to date, you first have to think yourself worthy. We spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about whether we are too fat, not muscular enough, if our nails look pretty, if our hair is right, if we are too old, etcetera. I know you understand this, Amy, given your theatre background.
Literally. Think of all the industries that would instantly go out of business if we decided we were happy with our bodies and ourselves. So…if you can learn to not take any of that shit too seriously, you are off to a very good start.

Case in point. I do not have a small butt, even for a 5’10” woman. I’m not too pleased about this fact, and I try to eat well and exercise, but at the end of the day, I had to realize that for every large ass, there are plenty of men who will appreciate it. Some have even worshipped it (their words).
So? I try not to take my ass seriously anymore. Confidence is far more important.

Step Two: When it comes to deciding whether others are worthy of dating us, we also spend a crazy amount of time obsessing. What kind of job do they have, are they “right” for us, do they want / not want children, how fit, how tall, how smart, how rich.

It’s no wonder women complain that there are no men out there (I actually wrote a whole post on this after getting tired of all the blogs with this complaint). It makes sense to do some thinking about what you need (which is very different from what you want. Know the difference).

Tip: if your list fills a page, it’s too long. Think about the top few things. No more than that.
Here are mine:

1. Someone whose intellect I respect

2. Must be kind

3. Need to keenly enjoy affection and sex

4. They have to have something they are passionate about (work or hobby)

5. Good communicator: mean what they say, say what they mean Oh, and if they want their own biological child, or if they are married / in a relationship, it’s a non-starter. I don’t even bother…because it will just end badly.

Okay, but back to the fun stuff. Once you figure out the few things that are your non-negotiables, everyone else is fair game!! I went on a date with a crazy Russian-Persian dude that wastotally not what I thought my type would be. We had a great time. I went on a date with a plumber who turned out to be the best-dressed of any man I’ve gone out with yet.

Now, neither of these worked out in the long run, but since I don’t take myself that seriously, I walked away unscathed.

So try it.
What’s the worst thing that can happen?

Okay…don’t answer that.

At the very least, you have stories with which to regale your friends.

This also extends to women who have complicated rules for whether they respond to a guy. One girlfriend once complained she wasn’t going out on any dates. Turns out she had all these rules about type (see above) and also about what a guy had to say online if she was going to respond to them. Once she dumped that rule, presto – dates!

Step Three: Be a fun date. Remember dating? It’s supposed to be fun. When I became single, I was horrified to realize a “dating coach” is an actual profession. Sweet God. Is this what it’s come to?
Don’t ever do that, Amy. Call me first!!

I decided right then and there to just have some fun. You have to be willing to put yourself out there, reach out to people you are interested in, talk to cops who pull you over for speeding tickets (yup, I did that), and have enough self-confidence to roll with it when you don’t hear back from someone, or they don’t respond in kind.

People can be assholes. Take that as fact and then you will be delighted when you hear back, or when someone is normal and decent and interested. Just be yourself. There’s a expression I love: “be yourself…just be your bestself”.

The reality is if you try to be anyone else, you’re going to fail. It’s like interviewing for jobs…you should be interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. If they don’t like you for who you are, then you shouldn’t be dating them anyway.

This is a tough one. Of course we all want to be wanted. Rejection, even from someone you didn’t particularly want anyway, still stings. But, if you have fun with it, always have a few people you are talking to, realize they are doing the same thing? It will serve you well.

You always have the option of focussing on one person, it might make it all a bit better.
Final Step…(Optional): Continue to write your blog so you have a place to put all your horrific stories of bad and weird dates. It will amuse your married friends to no end.

If you follow this advice, you are guaranteed to have a whole bunch of great stories.
Don’t take yourself or dating too seriously, and you will relearn how fun it can be.

Who knows, you might even find happiness somewhere along the way.

yours very truly,

Ann

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