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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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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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

Mineola

IMG_1370I’ve spotted the Handsome Man three times since the beginning of spring, when we witnessed a kick-boxing jogger deliver a one-two punch and a series of roundhouse kicks to every tree and flagpole that crossed his path.

The first time was two days after the event.

My dog and I are perched on the rocks by the elevated park terrace. The Handsome Man side-stretches by the benches while his yawn.

“Hey.” He calls me over.

“Hi,” I say. I dig deep for something clever to say.

“Remember that guy who was punching trees?”

“Uh huh.”

“He showed up the next day with his arm in a cast. But still punching trees.”

I laugh so hard, I nearly topple down the rocks. Grabbing onto the iron railing saves me from a bloody, unattractive end on the craggy rocks.

“You okay?”

“I don’t understand anything anymore,” I say. A simple fact, punctuated by my dog’s perfunctory love affair with an empty burger wrapper.

He recedes back towards the benches and lifts one graceful arm to the sky as Sadie spots a pigeon on the path below and pulls me away in a frenzied dash. For an eight pound dog, she’s a powerhouse of misspent energy.

Sissy Sesco and her fluffy dog stand at the bottom of the stairs. Sissy’s a tiny girl with a big heart that’s off-set with a wicked way of looking at the world. She’s part sex kitten, part sexy librarian, and part gluten-free baker. She dresses her shih tzu in pink sweaters and rhinestone. She’s the type of person you won’t find anywhere but here.

“The Handsome Man just talked to me,” I blurt.

“Oh,” she says.

“He must be an environmentalist,” I say. “The kind who takes in orphaned baby squirrels and would live in the branches of a tree to prevent it from being cut down.”

“Really.”

“He’s probably written a memoir about his life.”

A week later, he’s sashaying from corner to corner of his elevated perch in his hiking boots and shorts. His sinewy muscles flex and bend, crushing every pebble, every errant blade of grass that pokes up between the slate tiles.

“The Handsome Man is sashaying,” I tell Sissy.

“Oh,” she says with raised eyebrow.

“I suspect he is practicing a Tibetan dance that will usher a new era of peace. I thought it best to let him be.”

My dog has this way of kneeling in supplication to dead and dried out worms. With her chest to the ground, she lovingly caresses the worm with her cheek. She’s doing this now as Sissy’s dainty dog watches.

“Really,”

“His dance might be our salvation.”

We turn towards the terrace in time to see him twirl.

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After four weeks or so, I give up hope of spotting the Handsome Man again until fall. Sadie and I up and out when the sun rises; the Handsome Man apparently has black out blinds, a habit formed, no doubt, by many a midnight sun encountered on his adventures hiking through the Alaskan interior.

But Wednesday morning, while my dog growls at a plastic bag, I see a head bob up, then down, then up again on that magical stone veranda. We finesse our way towards the rocks and bobbing head. It is the Handsome Man intent on a series of pliés.

As we make our way down the rocks to the path below, he emerges from his morning exercise just as Sadie spots Sissy and dog across the lawn. In a singular moment of unbridled joy, she pulls away from my grip and bounds through the grass towards them.

Did Handsome Man seen my dog’s athletic charge? Her endearing smile? Her brazen embracing of life’s simple pleasures? Does he see her as a part of me? I dare to peek as he descends the stairs with his dogs. A woman follows. A beautiful woman with flowing hair and a porcelain complexion . A slender frame. Perfectly painted toe nails.

I have this theory that different people, at different points in their life, experience life through different story genres. Some live in the land of hour-long television dramas, others exist in a bubble of bad melodrama. One guy I know leads a cross-genre life of high camp and absurdist satire, best illustrated by the time a ceramic Fu Dog toppled from a high shelf at an art opening and landed on his foot. Sissy’s life is a mixture of “Sex in the City” and “Saved By the Bell.”

The Handsome Man and his woman pause across the way. He offers me a withering smile and a small wave. And even though I don’t know him, my heart drops just a tiny bit.

My life-genre wavers between a surrealist performance piece with romantic comedy elements. Without the romance.

“The Handsome Man’s with a beautiful woman.”

“Oh,” says Sissy. And then, “I see.”

The couple saunters across the lawn.

Sissy cocks her head to one side and narrows her eyes. “She’s wearing heals at seven a.m. in a park,” she says.

Maybe he’s a wildlife photographer. Or a travel writer. And she’s his muse.

My neighbor’s sitting on the stoop of our building. I tell her about the Handsome Man.

“Next time I see him, I’m going to ask him who he is.”

“He’s probably an accountant,” she says.

“An accountant  who practices hiking boot ballet?”

“Or a manager at a hedge fund. Or a mortgage broker.”

“Really?”

We sit side by side in a shrinking patch of shade and watch the world pass by. First comes the woman who carries a gallon of bleach whenever she walks her perfect miniature poodle. Then the ancient Italian lady whose hair is a puffball of perfection and her eyelids black with liner. The nutty professor whose hair blows sideways even if there is no wind. The hipster who dresses in suits and curls the long edges of his mustache with wax. A mean little old lady from the neighborhood who pretends to be nice, despite her forked tongue and insatiable appetite for chaos.

“You’d never find any of these characters in Mineola,” my neighbor says.

“Who lives in Mineola?”

“Married people.”

I wonder what my life would look like if I were there instead of here. “If I were in Mineola, I’d probably run the bingo tournament.”

She shades her eyes and glances my way.

A kid screams at his mother across the street and I wonder what happens when people obtain what they dream of their whole lives only to discover they don’t really want what they wished for.

“You’re best not knowing what the Good Looking Guy does.”

“Handsome Man.”

“Whichever.”

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