No Trees Touch the Sky

IMG_2713There is construction, or deconstruction going on outside my apartment. I live in the back of the building, where I’ve become accustomed to a version of quiet only found in New York City. The back of my building meets with the backs of five or six other buildings, forming an echoing alleyway a block long. Each building had a character of its very own. One hosts a yearly Latino birthday bash, a drunk guy who sometimes blares salsa from his bedroom window lives in another. An opera singer plagues the alleyway with hours of warm-ups and trills resides somewhere here, and a saxophone player just moved in. Once upon a time, two sisters lived in the apartment across from my bedroom window, spitting distance from my fire escape. The zaftig elder cooked naked in the kitchen, her breasts pendulous over the hot stove. The two would scream and fight for days at a time, breaking only to eat. They moved out and were replaced by a respectable young couple who put up curtain. New York City zen.

But now, on the fortnight of my departure, I wake up to the beeping, pounding, boulder crushing noises in the back of my building. From early morning until the evening, when I leave for work, the rubble rubbles, the rocks rock, the workers work, the trucks truck, and I sit at my desk and stare at my computer and try my hardest to think. But there is no room for thought. My brain is full of noise.

They are deconstructing a retaining wall that collapsed two years ago. It’s taken them a while, mostly because the building owner didn’t want to assume responsibility for the collapse. For two years, I’ve had the alleyway view of a beautiful tree growing sideways, a torn, blue, plastic tarp, insufficient in preventing further collapse, and rusting metal beams holding the bits of wall that had not yet collapsed in place. Decay and entropy. I’ve watched it grow.

It’s important to note that it is because of this situation that my apartment was burglarized. The the only access to the alleyway is through my building’s. Our security gate was taken down to make room for big machines and for two years, my co-op board sued the other buildings affected to replace the gate, instead of replacing it first and then suing for payment later. Sometimes, people are dumb.

Maybe I’m not being fair.

What I’m trying to say is: I have feelings about this entire situation.

Mostly, I feel like New York is projectile vomiting me into the next state.

New York City has a reigning deity. I don’t know her name, but she is clearly a cousin of Hawaii’s Pele, for whom it is sport to bash her inhabitants on the rocks to see what they are made of.

This Spirit of New York is as fickle, lovely, and as delicately cruel as Pele. She’ll whip you around by your pinky finger, turn your hair grey before your very eyes, whisper in your ears in the silence between evangelical sermons, the shuffling stories of the desperate and lonely spare changers, and the “show time” kids swinging on poles and spinning on their heads in the cramped confines of a crowded subway car.

What does she whisper? It depends. Sometimes its a love song. Sometimes a secret. She can be kind. Gentle in places. Sometimes, she likes a little finesses, a bit of subtlety, style. But then, you’ll see her stride down the red carpet like an over-processed peacock. She’ll play in the grass, swim in the river, wink from between high building like grass pushing through cracks in the sidewalk. What she doesn’t want you to see is that she’s really a small island, at the mercy of nature, trampled upon daily and weighed down by steel, concrete, and nine million different dreams.

When you break up with her, one of two things happen. Either you run into every person you’ve ever slept with, the parade of exes, or she acts like an asshole.

Clearly, she’s going with the latter strategy with me.

Accompanying the din of the deconstruction of the retaining wall that ate my computer, are songs from the musical I’ve been working on, which rage through my head.

When it’s quiet in the alleyway, in the dead of night, machinery, opera singers, and drunken deejays tucked safely in bed, songs from the show carry on, in no particular order, ear worms eat holes in my brain, and lyrics mate with my own personal melodic questions.

The fortune from my last fortune cookie read: “German proverb: No trees touch the sky.” I toss. I wonder. What happened to the guy who used to write fortune cookies? Is he in poor health? I turn. Who is this new guy? Why does he know German proverbs? Has he run out of Chinese proverbs? It seems impossible. Did no one train him in the uncanny art of sending the right fortune into the hands of the person who needs it most? Did he know about the sideways tree behind my apartment that was chopped down when they started clearing out the collapse?

Namely, how can I get the songs from this musical out of my head?

And, why the thought of buying a car be more stressful than the thought of buying a house?

And how the hell am I going to use up my ten pass to the Russian Turkish baths in two weeks time?

And why is my Chinese fortune cookie quoting German proverbs?

The breeze from the alleyway brushes against my bare arms like a thousand tiny feathers. My dog sighs and lays her chin on my thigh. I give up on sleep and hum along with the show tunes instead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buzz

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Buzz (noun): a low, vibrating, humming sound, as of bees, machinery, or people talking.

Listen, you would be like this, too, if you were in my shoes. Under-slept, over-caffeinated, your brain pumping thoughts out by the millions while your body, curls itself into a ball on the C & J bus to New Hampshire, Trying our best to quell an imminent and long lasting bout of car sickness, or bus sickness, as the case may be. Maybe motion sickness is a better term, since the churning, burning, turning of your stomach matches the motions of your mind.

There’s the hum of the tires on the road. The hum of canned air. The hum of the bubbling carbonation of a coke, my latest effort to quell the rocking beast.  The hum of my thoughts, a fully fueled choir singing in my head. Buzzing.

It’s my day off, the first of many, and I am lurching towards New Hampshire to look for a place to live.

Last Sunday was my last official day at work. It was much like any other Sunday, except that a few people said goodbye. My replacement, Heather, witnessed one last time my enviable bedside manner, my mustache taping techniques, and a few more jokes. After work, instead of everyone scattering into their own interesting lives for the evening and a day, a few work friends came out for a drink to a bar that serves blue cheese stuffed olives in their drinks. Also, my desk was clean, clear, and in order for the first time in three years.

The bus has a stash of Pop Corners, all different flavors, and a Kuerig coffee maker on  the bus, by the way. Complimentary snacks.

“It feels so final this time,” says my company manager before the show. This might be the last time we ever speak. She’s referring to the previous times I’ve left the show, and returned – once in 2008 to seek my fortune in Los Angeles, then, a few months later when I filled in for a month in Melbourne, and again on June 14, when I left after submitting my four weeks notice. This past Sunday rounds me up to two official resignations with two additional departures, all documented on paper or in emails, all signed by me.

Buzz (idiom): have /get a buzz on, Slang. to be slightly intoxicated.

Hazel planned the drinking thing. She invited the people. We sat up and down a long rectangular table and they toasted me. I sat at the very end of the table, closest to the door, in case I had the urge to run.

Hazel wanted to treat me and I wanted to treat Nicci which mucked the whole treating thing up. Janet, Sweet Mary, Kurtis, and Michelle left enough for me, Hazel, and Nicci, all of whom were aiming to pay for each other. The surplus was passed along to the waitress, as neither Hazel nor I are particularly good at counting after a couple of vodka and blue cheese stuffed olive cocktails.

Monday, I was free! I went to the DMV to pick up a motorcycle driving license manual. I discovered in going for the DMV that it had moved. So I found the new DMV, a shiny space with a canned female voice robotically directing the foot traffic and lines, fitting her words together in such a way that you know she doesn’t understand a bit of what she’s saying. Even so, she keeps the lines moving.

I went to the movies, too, a rarity for me, on this first day off. So did a gaggle of twenty rowdy camp kids and their camp counselors, who took up the first twenty rows of the theater. I sat in the back, well aware of the likelihood of getting pelted in the head with Skittles, should I choose to seat myself at the front of the theater.

I also:

1. signed over power of attorney to my lawyer

2. unloaded the top shelf of my bedroom closet

3. thought about buying bins and boxes

4. and, ate bad sushi with my fingers before the movie began

Shit’s getting really real.

Buzz (noun, slang): a feeling of intense enthusiasm, excitement, or exhilaration.

The C & J bus to Portsmouth also offers complimentary Yoplait yogurt, many different flavors, bottled water, raisins, and almonds. Even though the rest room is so tiny that you can barely fall down as the back of the bus lurches from side to side and smells an unnatural mix of air freshener and human waste, it is very cozy.

They say that living well is the best revenge. And so, on Tuesday, a day in which I previously had blocked out to do nothing in particular ended up with me exacting my revenge on the asshole who walked into my apartment a couple of months ago, without even asking, and took my stuff. Including, of course, my computer with my copy of Final Cut Pro 7. Since my short film was accepted into the Sidewalk Film Festival in Birmingham, Alabama (if you’re in the neighborhood, stop by), I decided that I would in no way, allow my dearth of tools prevent my film from showing. And so, I rented a computer and polished my film until my brain stopped working, as evident by my inability at the end the end of the day to exit the elevator when it got to the lobby. I rode it up and down twice.

Please don’t tell anyone I did that.

I guess the thing is, what I’m trying to say, is that the bus isn’t so bad, if you don’t try to read and remember to look out the window every once in a while. If you loosen your personal embargo against Coca Cola and sip it slowly until it coats your stomach, if you grab onto the corners as the bus twists and turns, because even if the journey’s making you nauseous, at least you’re moving.

Buzz (verb): to tell or spread (a rumor, gossip, etc.) secretively.

The aim is to have the best midlife crisis ever. Aside from a little motion sickness, a couple of detours, and a some traffic, I think I’m headed that way.

Remember to sit at the back of the movie theater when children with candy outnumber adults, to read the driving manual thoroughly, to enjoy snacks you might not normally eat when they are offered, and live well, whether or not you’re doing it out of revenge.

What I like best about the journey, besides the scenery, the buzz, the excitement of starting new but still a little worn in, are the snacks.

4000

IMG_2659Below is a brief history lesson. I’ll try to keep it interesting. There will be no tests.

On Wednesday, July 12, 2015, the Broadway juggernaut Jersey Boys played its 4000th performance. That’s 500 weeks, eight shows a week, with one day off each week. The Broadway company has spent nearly ten years etching the simplified, musicalized, and ever so slightly fictionalized account of the unlikely birth and death of the Four Seasons. Even by today’s standards, it’s a sharp musical. The script is tight, the stage choreography, tight. The music, tight.

The producers brought a hug cake to the theater Wednesday between shows. Actually, they brought four cakes. One in the shape of a 4, and three in the shape of 0’s. The actors wore t-shirts commemorating the event and smiled of the cake as a Broadway promotional website photographer snapped their pictures.

There’s an adage you might’ve heard, especially if you’ve spent any time in the theater. It is important to note that there are many exceptions to the rule.

It goes like this:

Question: How do you make an actor unhappy?

Answer: Give them a job.

To this well-heeled joke, I propose an addendum:

Question: How do you make an actor happy?

Answer: Give them cake and a photo op.

This 4000th performance (and the ones that follow) represent a triumph for our production company, a group that produces more original works than revivals, and sometimes takes chances on questionable material, just because they like it. In 2005, they poured their last resources into this little show, with its cast of unknowns, and discovered after the first preview that they had a hit on their hands.

Jersey Boys has outrun Mary Poppins, Hairspray, My Fair Lady, Hello Dolly, Fiddler on the Roof, and 42nd Street during its lengthy run, and is fast on the heels of Miss Saigon. As the show coasts towards its ten year anniversary, ten years of world history, its lodged in the personal history of hundreds of thousands of theater goers as well as the actors, front of house, and backstage crew that make it happen every night. The August Wilson Theater has witnessed ten years of marriages, babies, dogs, cats, and deaths. I can’t help but feel a touch sentimental as I inch towards the door, an invisible cog in a very big wheel. A part of theatrical history.

When I accepted my position at the show the first time, when it was new, I told a friend that Jersey Boys would be the last show I supervised on. I left three years after the opening, and after a brief, and unsuccessful stint in Los Angeles, I supervised and ran, I don’t know, maybe seven or eight shows. And then I returned to Jersey Boys, and never say never, but it looks like I was right all along. It looks like Jersey Boys will be the last Broadway show I supervise.

There was a time, when I was in college, that I believed with all my heart that I would be happy doing anything in a theater. I’d be happy to carry a sword on stage, happy to build a set, to sweep between the audience seats, happy to take out the trash. Theater’s been good to me. Broadway’s been good to me, but this is no longer the case.

Still, it’s hard not to be sentimental.

Plus which, I know it ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings.

End of lesson.

***

Question: When do you leave for New Hampshire?

Answer: I don’t know. Sometime in August.

Question: Where are you living?

Answer: I don’t know.

***

Imagine this: I’m biking through the gentle hills of Limbo. The scenery is spectacular, at once riddled with reference to the past, and colored with hope for the future. It’s the landscape of my life in watercolor.

In LImbo, the past and present unfold on either side of the quiet road. In the distance is a wide vista with rolling hills. By my bike wheels, are mini forests, full micro-flora and fauna, a fractals of the bigger picture. The trees bend and shake their leaves. There’s no rush in Limbo. In fact, the more you push, the slower you go, the longer Limbo Road becomes. May as well enjoy the scenery.

In my bike basket, I have a pair of scissors, a needle and thread, a towel, a small dog, a toothbrush, and a pair of reading glasses I’m still afraid to wear. I used to have a sandwich as well, but the dog ate it.

Th scissors are for cutting ribbons, that quaint practice of politicians and local business magnates symbolically opening up their store, their mining operation, a new monument for business. The needle and thread are for sewing up previously cut ribbon so that as I leave, someone else has the honor of cutting the ribbon int heir own way.

On the left, I’m coasting by the last ten years. Past my return to Jersey Boys after a four-year hiatus, back on the train to Los Angeles, where I tried on a life that didn’t quite fit, back past the Tony awards, to the first performances when the show was stopped night after night by a wall of applause. Now I’m passing the invited dress rehearsal, the ten out of twelves, the final run through at the rehearsal studio, the meet and greet of the little show that may or may not make it. For me, it was another job. An interesting job. An exciting job. But, I didn’t have much to lose.

Even so, I think there’s an opportunity here to come up with a new adage, on that works for the backstage crew I’ve worked with longest and know the best. It goes like this:

Question: How do you make a crew person happy?

Answer: Give them a job.

Question: How do you make them even happier?

Answer: Give them a day off, a piece of cake, and a bottle of wine.
***

Long story short, ‘m watching the last ten years in reverse as my dog rifles through my purse, which is also int he bike basket, I’m waving goodbye to the strange, amorphous, quietly generous, sometimes turbulent, often loving family called Jersey Boys. In another six days, I’m going to stand up on the pedals, and yell from the handle bars, “so long! Maybe I’ll see you on the next one. And thanks for all the laughs”

Limbo can be cool, if you have a nice set of wheels.

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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

If

IMG_0007We found a bird on the sidewalk. One wing splayed out to the side. His eyes fluttered open, then closed. We knelt beside him; I ran a finger down his heaving chest. We protected him from a curious dog and an oblivious human foot. We figured he was dying and wondered if we should intervene, if we could save his life, or at least provide a soft, safe place for him to pass.

Obi pushed the bird’s wing back in towards his body. I lifted him into Obi’s cupped hands. The bird didn’t struggle. He didn’t move. We walked up the block together and that’s where we parted. I went to work. Obi carried the bird to his apartment.

There was something about how that bird looked at us, turning its head from me to Obi and back again. He had no fear and no hope. He surrendered into the warmth of a stranger’s hand as if it was the obvious, the only, thing to do. In a battle between fate and free-will, he surrendered to that which was bigger than him, and kinder than the panting sidewalks and angry cars of Manhattan.

Before the bird, we were drinking coffee, talking about the fine filaments in the spiderweb of life and how we both appreciate the journey we’re on even if we somewhat dread our endlessly impending arrival into the Land of Outcome. We wondered what if we were to discover the Land of Outcome is nothing like how the brochures describe it.

Life is like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, we agreed, except once you make a choice and turn the pages, you can only go back to page one and try something different in your imagination.

This somewhat depressed the both of us, so we drank more coffee.

And then, I tried to make him feel better by deconstructing advice someone once gave to me.

Years ago, I was bartender in a fancy boutique hotel. The hotel was a lesson in chaos theory. I don’t know how the bricks stayed put with the disastrous happenings inside. The veneer had a high polish. Any strangers looking in could only see a reflection of themselves. But, on the other side of the pristine facade, the truth hid in plain sight. The place was a train wreck. The managers ran and hid when there was an issue that needed attending to, the cooks were drunks, the customers were drunks, the bellhops – drunks. The front desk people were embezzling thousands of dollars, and we, the servers of ostentatious inefficiency, kept everyone fat, happy, and willfully ignorant.

I quit that job three times with a carefully worded letters of resignation. They kept putting me on the schedule. I kept showing up. I was hypnotized by the specter of responsibility. And I was curious to see what would happen next.

At that time, I thought I knew what success looked like. I was itching for it. And though my imagined success rested on the shoulders of others, I thought somehow, I was driving the car.

My work friend, a beautiful wounded bird of a woman, had been a model in the eighties. She insisted that beauty was a curse. To me, her scars were elegant, beguiling, and mysterious.

I was driven, ambitious, and determined. I wanted what I wanted – and believed if I wanted it hard enough and long enough, I’d have it, no matter the cost. I was speeding down the highway with no map, no clear destination. Just me behind the wheel, foot on the gas, driving like my fender was on fire.

On a night filled with drunk Japanese businessmen drinking single malt scotch like it was Coca Cola, we hid half-eaten platters of sushi and bottles of beers in the back room to eat and drink when the party ended and the place was ours again.

Later, while sipping beers on the hotel balcony, she said, “take the back seat.”

Bad advice, I thought. Terrible suggestion. I didn’t like it one bit.

Turns out, my co-worker’s advice wasn’t a suggestion.

Turns out, I wasn’t driving the car back then. I’m not driving now. And I never have.

Turns out I don’t even have a driver’s license.

“What she was really telling me,” I said to Obi, “was ‘stop being a back seat driver.’ No one likes a back seat driver. And if you stop to think about it, it’s not your car to begin with, but a borrowed vehicle.”

“A borrowed vehicle that’s taking you places you may or may not want to go.”

“Yes.”

“If I’m not driving the car and I don’t get to tell the car where go, or how fast, or the shortest route – why am I even a passenger?”

“You help pay for gas.”

In a noble attempt to change the subject, Obi then launched into a story about he nearly sustained a career ending injury at work. “It was bad,” he pouted, “there’s not even a mark to show for it.

“No one believes you?”

“Nope.”

“They’re assholes,” I said.

“But their car ride’s much faster than mine.”

“I’d rather the scenic route. Even if it is slow, at least it’s never boring.”

I called Obi a couple of hours after we parted to check up on the bird. It was sitting on the window sill, alert and peaceful.

“He hasn’t moved since we got here,” he said. “I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Probably he just needs time to heal.”

“You’re a good person,” I said.

“No, I’m not. But I can tell when something needs a little bit of help.”

“Give him water,” I said, “in a little dish. Or on a rag” I was thinking that if this little bird lived, he might turn things around for Obi. They could become best friends. The bird could teach Obi about the joys of riding in the back seat in the car ride of life.

And if the bird died at least it died protected, in warmth and safety.

When I was twelve or nine or some such age, I held a crow in my lap as it died. I didn’t know what to do, so I sang in lullabies and rocked it for an hour or two. And just before its final breath, there was a surge of energy. Its beak opened, its wings spread, its head arched, and it tried to fly.

After we talked, Obi took the bird to his building courtyard. The bird rested in his palm for a minute or two, then flew to the fire escape. And then it flew away.

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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…

IMG_2073

Middle Earth

April 11

There’s a man I see at night on the subway platform. He rides the same train I do. He stands under five feet, his back is hunched, and his head stooped forward. He’s Chinese, with a wide, kind face. His nose points towards the ground. He pulls a suitcase on wheels nearly as large as he is. He’s hard to miss.

He looks like he’s an alchemist, a wizard of some sort. Like someone from some place close by, but very far away. Where, perhaps, he is capable of great power and commands great respect.

This little old man ambles with his suitcase to the bottom of the first set of stairs in the underground lair of the our subway station. Some kind soul will carry his suitcase up the stairs. He rides the tired escalator to the turnstiles. Once on the upper level, another passerby will carry his suitcase up the second and third flight of stairs, into the starry night. I’ve seen it happen hundred of times.

I’ve known since the first time I saw him, that it will one day be my turn to carry his suitcase. And at that time, I’ll have to make a choice, either abandon my sometimes suffocating shyness and take his suitcase, or rush on by.

I ask my neighbor if she’s ever seen him. Her eyes widen and laughs.

“I saw him for the first time yesterday,” she says. “He was going into the station.”

“He looks like he’s from middle earth.”

She nods. “He does.”

“I carried his suitcase for him yesterday,” I tell her. “It was my turn.”

“I carried his suitcase, yesterday, too,” she says.

“I think he’s magic,” I say.

“I was smiling about him the entire day,” she says.

“His suitcase was light.”

“I don’t think there was anything in it at all.”

“When we stepped outside, the mean man from the paper shop, the one who never smiles, ran out to give him a newspaper.”

“He commands respect,” she says.

“Where does he come from?”

“Where does he go?”

“Middle earth,” we say to each other.

And we marvel at the little man, with a quiet presence, who never asks for anything, but accepts everything… who gives to all an opportunity to carry his suitcase.

“Who is he?”

“Someone must know.”

***

February 7It’s pumpkin flavor season,. I’m happy about that. I’m driving down a road I’ve driven down many times before with a fancy coffee warming my hands. The leaves haven’t yet changed, but the air smells like fall. Like its trying to seduce me into believing that cold weather is quaint and cozy, like pumpkin pie.

My friend is driving. I’m shotgun. We’re not talking much, for no other reason than the windows are open and the trees are still green and the thoughts in his head don’t match the thoughts in mine.

I’m thinking about what the old man carries in his suitcase. My friend, apparently, is thinking about strawberry ice cream.

“Do you like it?”

“Not at all,” I say. The very thought of strawberry ice cream makes me squirm.

“I guess you’re not an alien, then,” he concludes.

“What’s strawberry ice cream have to do with that,” I ask.

“Aliens like strawberry ice cream.”

He’s so matter of fact and nods with authority. I suppose, since he’s been around, that there is a chance he is correct. Someone out there likes strawberry ice cream, I’m surmise.

“Which aliens,” I ask. “There’s more than one sort.”

He shrugs, which lends authenticity to his claim. There’s nothing more convincing than someone who admits to the limits of their knowledge.

“There are people who sit in their RVs in the desert and wait for aliens. They all have strawberry ice cream in their coolers.”

“Alright,” I say, “this is where that strategy could go all wrong. First, why would someone try to attract an alien from outer space, not knowing what that alien’s about?”

“I don’t know. To say they met one?”

“That’s like putting out bear bait so you can get a picture with one attacking you. Second, different aliens, I would assume, enjoy different things. The strawberry ice cream aliens, clearly can’t get strawberry ice cream on their own planet. But wouldn’t it stand to reason, that some aliens might consider human brain a delicacy? And maybe, just maybe, the ones who seem all warm and fuzzy are the ones who like to dine on human flesh. And the ones you want to run from because they’re oozing slime are actually kind, witty conversationalist, and great at parties.”

“Did E.T. like strawberry ice cream?”

“No. Third, who says aliens and other-worldly life comes from out there?” I point to the sky. “Maybe some use inter-dimensional time travel, or ride sounds waves. Some are probably so small we can’t even see them. So what happens if you attract an alien you can’t see who can suck things through the molecular walls of plastic that are cooling your strawberry ice cream and eats it all before you can share it with the other people out in the desert bored out of their heads, waiting for aliens with their strawberry ice cream. Also, it would be good to know if they like good strawberry ice cream, or bad strawberry ice cream. Gourmet, or, you know, chemical.”

“You are very passionate about this,” he says.

I don’t tell him, because I know he won’t believe me, my profound shyness is the fourth reason I would never try to attract aliens for dessert in the desert. I’m no good at parties. I shudder at networking events. I cringe at bars when someone smiles at me. What if I found myself face to face with an alien and had nothing to say? What then? Would anyone ever believe me?

***

Per the man from middle earth, with his empty suitcase rattling down the subway platform, I wonder what sort of things he likes and what he transports every night in that suitcase of his.

“Maybe the suitcase has a few odds and ends he doesn’t need. He carries it to give us an opportunity to help him. For his blessings and good will,” says my neighbor

“He said he liked my scarf,” I said. “And asked me if it was going to rain.”

“When I saw him, his shirt wasn’t buttoned properly,” she says. “He was one button off. I told him so.”

This question of aliens and strawberry ice cream seems absurd. Especially, when such beautiful poetry exists amongst humankind.

That’s the fifth reason why attracting aliens from outer space is something I just don’t care to do.

December 15

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.

mustache

 

The Happy Hookers and Heroin Club

January 21

I didn’t mean for things to start and end like this. Sitting at my desk at midnight, writing to you. Tapping away far into the early morning light, where life takes on a dreamlike quality. Until it’s time to work again. And then it becomes a nightmare.

I’ve had a few stress dreams in the past weeks, the kind where you’re trying to get somewhere, usually work, and everything gets in the way. You’re moving through air as thick as sand, the car won’t start, a long-lost friend needs your advice, and the toast takes three hours instead of minutes to burn.

But in my dreams, as I’m waiting for the toast to burn, or for the car to turn over, I stop. I grasp that I’m never going to make it to work if I keep repeating the same action. And then, by some miracle, instead of slogging through, I tell my long-lost friend to call me later. I ditch the car and hitch a ride. I push the air together into dunes and climb over instead of through them. Even if slow, I finally progress and know I’m on my way.

Life is sometimes unbearably slow. The wheels of change are rusty and old. The gears clunky and stubborn. But it keeps going – a slow churning machine lubricated by fast and loose ideas.

***

My head’s swimming in the prophecies of the six psychics I accidentally saw last year.

One told me: “you’re not happy. You think you’re happy. But you’re not. You’re numb. You won’t be happy until you open yourself up to love.”

The next said that the royal family would be speaking my name. “It sounds crazy, I know. You’re gonna work in 3D filmmaking. But you need a better computer first.”

The third asked why I didn’t hire the first psychic to heal me. “A woman, just like me, wanted to help. You didn’t let her.” I simply stated that it was because I didn’t trust her.

The fourth proclaimed that I would be moving in a month and hugely successful soon after. “That sounds nice,” I said, “but I just don’t see it happening.”

“It’s happening,” she said. “I’m not making this shit up.”

The fifth, my biggest mistake, recommended I get a nice office job.

And the last told me everything was going to be okay.

***

Yesterday, I bought 48 rolls of toilet paper.

I didn’t mean to do it. It was an impulse purchase. It just sort of happened.

I was sitting at my desk, thinking about how much I hate buying toilet paper. Watching the last roll dwindle sheet by blessed sheet. I find it hard to motivate myself to buy it unless it’s nearing on emergency purchasing. It’s a slog to bring the canvas bag up the hill to the bodega that sometimes has sales on toilet paper.

Once there, past the aisles of olives, peanut butter, and Jiffy Pop popcorn, I reach up to a pack carton of toilet paper, nudge one roll out of the stack and catch the tumbling five that follow. I balance eight rolls in two arms down the other aisle of the store: frozen pierogis, ice cream, and cans and cans of creamed chicken soup… an unforgiving cycle.

I wondered how much toilet paper I’d need to purchase to get free shipping.

I searched the internet for answers and found toiletpaperworld.com, a website devoted to toilet paper. Though they sell other disposable paper goods, they are serious about  their toilet paper collection. I bought a case.

My late night toilet paper buying excursions are over.

The only thing is, where do I store 48 rolls of toilet paper in a six-hundred square foot apartment?

December 14

***

I’ve been wanting something to give, to move out of the city, to live a simpler life.

Now I’m worried that I have created a subconscious obstacle in my attempts to alter my day-to-day existence by erecting a wall of toilet paper. Is the toilet paper a means to keep me anchored to this familiar existence? If I have opportunity to exit this phase of my life and move into the next, will I leave the toilet paper behind? Or will I take it with me?

On one hand, I feel safe.

But I can’t help but wonder if there are motivations behind my motivation.

What would the queen say?

***

My friend Paul and I sit in his kitchen. I drink iced tea. He drinks white wine. Having been in the art world since the seventies, Paul is a consummate story-teller with a thousand beautiful stories to tell. Sometimes I ask him tell to tell me a story he’s told before because I like how he tells them.

Today, amidst my toilet paper turmoil, he’s telling a whole slew of new stories.

As he works his way through the bottle, his words hitch together, his pitch broadens, he sings and laughs and sometimes sheds a tear.

When I stand, he grabs my arm.

“I’m starting up the Happy Hookers and Heroin club again. I’d like you to be a member.”

He knows I don’t know what he’s talking about. but he also knows I’ll say:

“Okay.”

He exhales. “Years ago my friend Bill and I decided to start a fund. Everyone chips in. When one of us is about to go, the others will hire two prostitutes and buy a bag of heroin. First, you have your swan song, and then they shoot you up and away you go…”

“I always hoped for a shaman with a rattle to sing prayers over me,” I say.

“You’ll save squillions on hospital bills. And have a good time doing it.”

Prostitutes aren’t really my thing, but I don’t want to let him down. “You have a point,” I say.

I never did tell him about my forthcoming forty-eight rolls of toilet paper before I left.

***

I forgot to mention the seventh psychic.

Last Sunday, a lady pulled my arm as I was entering a store. She was walking out.

“I’m getting very strong information about you. I need to tell you something. I want to read you.”

“No, thank you,” I said. I walked away even though I really wanted to know what she had to say. That was before the bulk toilet paper buying incident.

Maybe she knew.

I decided after psychic six, that life with a little bit of mystery mixed in is much more fun than knowing all the answers.

Especially when you don’t know the questions.

***

The Happy Hooker and Heroin Club is the second club I’ve ever been invited to join.

I said yes.

August 19