Friday, July 20, 2007

Maid in Manhattan

Okay, Brooklyn, but whatever.

So I hired a cleaning service to get the sublet spick and span before Anita comes back on Sunday, and this maid has turned out to be a major pain in my ass.

She's now in her (pay-by-the) fifth hour of cleaning, and has done 1 room. When I went down to open the door for her, she eyed the five flights askance and announced that she wouldn't be able to carry her suitcase of supplies upstairs. So I did it. And yes, it weighed like 20 pounds. Good thing, though, as I still made it five minutes ahead of her, and she was wheezing and winded by the time she made it.

"Are you going to the store?" she asked me after about an hour.

"Why, do you need me to get you something?" I asked, thinking she needed some cleaning supplies or something.

"Yeah, a slice of cheese pizza and a soda," she said.

"Um, okay," I said, with a sinking feeling.

"And when you get the pizza, make sure to put on plenty of hot pepper. And cheese. And oregano. And garlic.

"So, all the toppings," I summarized. "Okay. And what kind of soda?"

She specified Pepsi. And lunched, one assumes on the clock. Certainly on my dime.

"Do you smoke cigarettes?" she demanded after another hour.

"Why, do you want one?" I asked. "I have Camel Lights."

"I only smoke Menthols," she said. "Here's three dollars. Get me a lucy of Newports. It's my birthday."

I forebore mentioning that it's hard to come by "lucys" of anything outside of Europe or neighborhoods full of black people, and dutifully fetched the cigarettes. And a cupcake, since it's her birthday.

Now she's eating and smoking. And we're listening to KissFM.

Do I still have to tip her? Is $40 enough?

Love Actually

Well, not 'love' exactly, but certainly love life. I've been seeing a little bit of a guy who's very caught up in Confederate-General-in-Big-Sur-style schemes, which I can get behind. At first his cheapness irritated me, but then I got totally into it and we had the cheapest date ever the other day: a sixpack of PBR and $4 worth of fried dumplings in that park in Chinatown where all the old men play Go. We have agreed that we are both too raw to want to be in a relationship, which my friend Mike describes as 'a level of emotional maturity I can't relate to at all.' Since most of his 'relationships' seem to involve chicks he picks up at the laundromat, and since he was dressed like some kind of Israeli on vacation when he said it, I'm not surprised.

He has given me very good life advice, though. We've agreed I need to tone down my sharpness when meeting men.

"Well, at least I'm never boring," I said.
"Yeah, that's never really been a priority for me," he replied.


"I couldn't be friends with someone who didn't despise himself, at least a little."

Richard used to say that. I'm calling him 'Richard' now, exclusively. It's a little confusing, when I say something like, 'Richard and I used to go there..." or, "When Richard and I were in London..." in a way that's not at all bitter.

In retrospect, maybe it was a red flag, his love for the self-loathing. Hind-sight, as they say, is 20/20. But then, I don't even know what my real prescription is, only that the left eye is so much worse than the right that when anyone tries on my glasses they always scream and make a big deal out of it. In fact, whenever anyone wants to try them on (which they do, a lot, because the frames are so huge) I have to institute the condition, "only if you promise not to scream about how bad my eyes are. It's the contrast between the two that's so dramatic." And then they agree, but they always exclaim anyway. I guess it must be fairly dramatic. I don't know. I have no head for numbers.

I also don't like loaning my glasses out because the lenses are generally filthy. I don't know why; it seems to me I rub them on my skirt about twenty times a day. Richard said I touch the glass when I push them up the bridge of my nose, and I suppose my fingers tend to have a lot of butter on them, just as my buttons are always loose and my blouses stained and my heels worn and my shoes scuffed within hours of buying them. I've learned not to bother buying myself anything really good; the violence of my possession is very democratic. I can destroy a $500 dress as easily as I can something cheap from a teen store, and with remarkable dispatch. I have a certain tendency to throw things onto the floor, even if they're brand new and very fine. That's no comment on the garments; somehow I need to degrade things in order to feel comfortable with them, I suppose. It's not just clothes, either: books are grubby and tattered; CDs scratched beyond recognition, if not cracked;jewelry broken; any manicure is destroyed within moments. This last is mostly beacuse I need to root around in my purse quite a bit to find anything, and that's sort of the epicenter of the chaos, a sort of morass of junk and papers which is all covered with a mysterious and uniform layer of grime. "An ancient steak, a cactus, and a parliament of fowls," Richard would say.

Ar first people are amused by the chaos of my purse and the execrable condition of bills in my wallet, but I hate it about myself. It's impossible to fight the chaos; it's my natural state; but it's hard to live with, really. When I saw the therapist, she said it was to compensate for the rigid control I imposed on the rest of my life, the wages of being a "people pleaser," which left my muscles bunched with tension, my head pounding, and my body aching with exhaustion every night. I liked that theory, but as I was pretty sure she was an idiot, and had a lot of Joy-of-Sex style women's tomes in her waiting room, I didn't take it much to heart.

I always suspected that the therapist thought I was sexually repressed, and that this was the great issue. She also worried about my self-image.

"Well," I told her early on, "I guess if I had to put it into words, I think of myself as being like a dwarf. A hunchbacked dwarf. Syphilitic, with one of those silver noses."

"Well, most of these people are extremely conventional and not very smart," said my father afterwards. "Did you try to make her laugh?"

I said I had.

"I always did that, too. Once I sang the lyrics "Dog food is the king" to the tune of "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." We are not a family that is easily understood."

Brevity is the soul of wit, said the petticoat to the camisole

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Kind of petty: told the owner of the local pizzeria about what gk4 (his real name, sorta) did, and Anthony declared that he is no longer welcome there. Couldn't resist including this information in an email which ostensibly dealt with the few remaining logistic loose ends of our relationship. Know full well it'll cut him to the quick. I feel like a worm, although I guess some scorned babes are more psychotic still.

Full, hot day: after we woke up, got a coffee at d'Amico and walked Court Street. Then took the subway to the Strand, did a little walking tour of the village (more on this later), had a burger at Corner Bistro, went to the Merchant's House Museum, walked the East Village, watched soccer for an hour, watched the beginning of the Met game at Tom and Jerry, met Raha and Tom for Vietnamese, had a cocktail at Milk and Honey (more on this later), and then came home by way of the Community Bookstore, where I bought 2 Graham Greenes, plus The Artist's Way, because Liz had just been telling me to "even if it sounds cheesy" and there was a used copy right by the register. The fridge was fixed, but the landlady (more likely her brother) had taken the liberty of closing all the windows and gates. No doubt I'll get holy heck from them about it, plus it was like an oven when we walked in.

Postcard from Eloise, featuring illustration of Warm Springs, VA:

"Just had a lovely soak in this 18th c. bathhouse that T. Jefferson built in the lukewarm, rather sulfurous water. Sadly, drinking the water is no longer encouraged. By FAR the best part of the experience were the modest bathing dresses issued by a rather mammy-ish woman: cotton calico, cheerfully patterned and adorned with rick-rack and a single button fastening on the shoulder! Inexplicably, NONE of the women in the Ladies' Bathhouse had chosen to wear this darling garment, and were attired in bikinis instead! Fortunately a large group of probable female Civil War enthusiasts arrived and gamely put them on, so I was no longer alone in my modesty. James reported that the atmosphere in the Men's Batthouse was decidedly SEEDIER and that were were some definite lurkers/oglers of the type more commonly associated with batthouses..."

At the top is a little illustration, labeled "Modest Bathing Costume."

Friday, July 6, 2007

Alone Again (Naturally)

In a little while from now,
If I'm not feeling any less sour.
I promised myself, to treat myself,
And visit a nearby tower ..........
And climbing to the top,
Would throw myself off,
In an effort to, make clear to whoever,
What it's like when your shattered .......
Left standing in a lurch,
In a church with people saying .....
My God, that's tough, she stood him up,
No point in us remaining .......
I may as well go home,
As I did on my own,
Alone again, naturally.

To think that only yesterday,
I was cheerful, bright and gay.
Looking forward to, and who wouldn’t do,
The role I was about to play.
But as if to knock me down,
Reality came around,
And without so much as a mere touch,
Cut me into little pieces.
Leaving me to doubt, all about God and His mercy,
Oh, if He really does exist,
Why did He desert me?
And in my hour of need,
I truely am, indeed,
Alone again, naturally.
So, the fridge is broken. The light works, but it's really warm and everything's gone off and smells horrible
(it's hot here.) I'm stuck here until 5 waiting for a repairman, which I always secretly enjoy anyway.

I'm supposed to get a drink with some girlfriends at 4, pending repairman's arrival. Don't know if I have the nerve for girl-power yet, though. Besides, what if he and his poor new girlfriend are around? (There are a limited number of options around here; but then, maybe she lives in a different neighborhood and he's giving me a wide berth. That would be much better.)

(Oh dear, just realized I'm listening to "Alone Again (Naturally)", quite unintentionally, I assure you. )

My dear married friends arrive this evening; I'll try to pull myself out of my slump before they do! Bought flowers and cleaned etc. Found scrubbing the batthub very cathartic, even though it's kind of permanently stained and never exactly glows. I thought we could get a pizza at Lucali and then maybe walk the promenade. Charlie may join; he's been very attentive as there's some concern I may throw myself off the nearest bridge (Brooklyn), which is my preferred method of auto-offing. Well, at least the refrigerator repairman's keeping me alive until five.

Here is what I am wearing:
-royal blue jersey sundress patterned with white birds, given to me when a hole was discovered.
-light brown espadrilled, bought in the sale (have to pay for 'em, forgot when I learned about the new girlfriend and left the store early)
-little gold airplane-charm necklace, which I usually avoid as the girl from One Girl Cookies also wears it, even if she is very nice and has promised to bring me a "naked Sadie" butter cookie without any coconut on the top.

Here is what I ate today:
-iced coffee (they were out of the coffee ice cube but I explained that I didn't mind for reasons stated here before)
-one of those square jelly donuts from the Doughnut Plant, made with apricot jam today!

Get this: I'd been smoking a little bit from stress, but when I wen to my bag I disocvered that while I was at home my mother seems to have confiscated the Camels from my purse and replaced them with a pack of candy cigarettes. Well played, madam.


So I just learned that all the while, "Struan" has had a new girlfriend, while continuing to lean on me for emotional support, calling Charlie to help him move, sending me internet links etc., then falling so silent that I was worried he'd harmed himself.

Here's how bad it was: the other day I was feeling so lonely, and we'd been having such good conversations, that I asked him if he'd think of getting back together. He ddin't say no; but when I called him the next morning he was with a girl.

Then he emailed me: "That wasn't a date; it was the woman I've been seeing for the past month. I really care about you want you in my life am sorry I broke your heart (ed: paraphrased). I'm sorry to do this in an email, but call me and I'll give you as much time as you want."

Thank God I'm not married to him. The worst of it is, he doesn't think he's done a thing; just that I'm so fragile and broken-hearted that I can't handle his replacing me within weeks after an 8-year relationship and an engagement.

As Charlie says, "the worst part is, he's just turned out to be a run-of-the-mill dick."

Of course no one wants anything to do with him and, Charlie again, "he's made a messy bed." There are a lot of folks hereabouts who are going to be crossing the street to avoid him.

I was so distraught that I had to leave the shop early. Felt like I might finally be broken. But I'm not; about three o'clock, in J. Crew, I felt as though a weight had been lifted off my shoulders: I don't need this! I don't need to be cheated on and lied to and rejected and manipulated! He saw me through some tough times and he's got his moments, but at the end of the day I deserve much better.

It started to rain hard. I went back into the bar to get that swell umbrella. The bartender said I should read this Freud essay that helped him get through his divorce and, oh, enter into an affair with him. I said I'd think about it.

Missed Connections Boy wrote me yesterday asking me to go to the Philharmonic next Wed. Again, I'll think about it.

After all: it's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new life for me. And I'm feeling good (ish.)

Monday, July 2, 2007

Missed Connections

Was meant to have dinner with John, but didn't have my phone and so didn't know he was held up with some 'clients' and so left and missed him entirely. Now have ten messages from him and when I spoke to him he was very melancholy and meaningful and made me just as glad to have missed him, especially as tomorrow is his birthday. Felt wretched and so agreed to watch fireworks from some mogul's roof on Wednesday. Also, must find a nice gift; he gave me a first edition of Noblesse Oblige and a bottle of Pol Roger. Maybe I'll make him a cake, as by dint of careful hinting I've learned he likes yellow cake with chocolate frosting and strawberry jam between the layers. That would be warm and friendly but not, I hope, romantic. Oh, dear. For the world's unlikeliest femme fatale, I'm managing to hurt a lot of fellas these days.

(Suspect I'll erase that bit if I ever tell anyone about the blog.)

Liz and I had loads of refills to do after the sale weekend. Were worked off our feet, as we're already pretty busy with our usual regimen of reading the Post aloud, working out choreography to different songs on the playlist, and exulting over whatever point I've recently scored over that bartender.

Must write that womanizer I know and get a copy of Volume I of collected Paris Review interviews, as I'm dying to mark it up. Dot. Parker's is one of the smartest things you've ever seen; she gets facile on politics but otherwise, jinx, it's fine. Hate petitioning Jim about this sort of thing as he's so peculiar with women and loves having the upper hand and will deliberately wait several days to respond and then I'll just be able to sense the smirk through the computer - but when all's said and done he's got a swell soul, and I'd love a gratis book. Especially as I know just what a cinch it is to stick something in a manilla and dump it in an outbox in that place.

Now it's nearly ten, but I don't think that's too late for cold Chinese. Do you?

Sunday, July 1, 2007

"It is a happy talent to know how to play."

Or so says my fortune cookie. It also told me how to say September: Jiu-yue. The other cookie that came with my meal (chicken with eggplant, string beans and brown rice, from the Lichee Nut) told me how to say pork (Zhu-ru) which is more useful.

I think I do know how to play, and it is indeed a happy talent.

We're having the summer sale at the shop and it's total mayhem. After things wound down yesterday I took a walk to Dumbo along Smith Street, and discovered both an ancient convent and a Romanesque firehouse. Also passed a crummy toy store and was thrilled by this miniature plastic farm set in the window. Studied it for a long time, and resolved to come back and buy it, before realizing that I already own it.

The concert we were seeing didn't start until 10:30, and Charlie and I had talked about getting some dinner beforehand. When I phoned him, though (10 times) he didn't pick up, then finally told me he was in New Jersey. I felt a bit lonely but mostly because I'd eaten nothing but a yogurt drink all day. Hated everyone and was near despair. Told myself firmly it was blood sugar. So, with an eye to comparing it to its Brooklyn competition, I went to the Australian meat pie place on 1st and 1st and got a plain beef pie. It was bigger than that at DUB; didn't care for the crust as well, but it filled me up very nicely, and I was soon back in good form.

Also felt well dressed, which never hurts. Sasha had planned my outfit, as we were going to see Baby Dayliner play and there was some strong feeling amongst my bosses at the store (Sasha and Dean) that I needed to snare BD as a boyfriend. While I was pretty sure this was beyond my powers (as I've never been one of those who knows everyone in the music scene, and dates them) I obligingly donned my 80s-style silk Deborah Sweeney dress with the birds on it, and boots. Looked very fine.

Much good it did me; sat on a bench with a junkie and two bums (one passed out) for the next hour and a half, reading the Village Voice by the light of an American Apparel sign.

Rendez-vous'd with Charlie and Bevin, who are the sorts of people who know folks in bands, at the venue. The place was absolutely packed! Went to get a drink and some gent, past his first youth, said, "I'd move for you, but I need to lean on the bar, for my lower back." A few moments later I heard him exclaim, "Japanese poetry? You arty motherfucker!"

Took refuge in a sort of alcove; was shoved from behind and who should I find myself regarding but Baby Dayliner himself! "Sorry," said he. Texted Sasha at once.

For some reason the crowd was exceedingly lame and I was quickly in a terrible mood and started muttering about how much I hate live shows, which in the moment I fully believed. Equal parts Murray Hill dbs and dorks who kept shouting asinine things at the opening band's members to prove they knew them. One loud and bouncing girl in front of me was so objectionable that I was considering covertly punching her, when her companion turned around, was someone I knew, hugged me, and introduced the one I wanted to punch as Rachel. Found this so galling that I abandoned Charlie and Bevin for the back of the room.

Was scowling and muttering my way across the room when I ran smack into my boss, Sasha, who'd been galvanizeed by my text and had dragged Dean out of bed. This put me in an altogether better mood and when Baby Dayliner came on, he was so terrific, the performance so virtuoso, that I didn't even mind when Charlie pulled one of his vague disappearing acts to rendez-vous with some friends at a bar a few blocks away. Fully restored my faith in live shows, largely because BD's recorded accompaniment left no room for banter whatsoever, and because we play his music so incessantly in the store that I had the rare luxury of knowing all the songs. Was very dashing and modest.

No doubt, it's an unusual show. Said one friend. "Is this a joke? No, jokes are funny, and this is awesome."

After the show, lots of silly girls surrounded BD and, while I did rather want to make him my boyfriend, if only for Sasha and Dean's sakes, I simply couldn't bring myself to join them.

"What if, as your boss, I order you to talk to him?" said Sasha excitedly. Finally, Charlie (who had materialized)and I approached him. I was shaking like a leaf, and could barely bring myself to shake his hand and mutter that I'd enjoyed the set. I did feel sure, however, that we shared a moment of intense eye contact, although more than likely he just possesses the happy skill of being able to look at omeone when he meets them.

There was some sort of party then at a nearby bar and, while I was terrified, it turned out to have a dancefloor and 60s music and some guy who kept coming over and saying "how about a dance?!" with whom I frugged and twisted a few times. When we left he was still dancing wildly, by himself.

Went home and dropped by the bar to return the umbrella. Had some semi-hostile banter with the bartender, which may or may not have involved my saying, "spare me your sordid cliches" andd his talking about Fassbinder.

When I got home, felt emboldened to email Baby Dayliner's myspace page - briefly, don't worry - to say that I couldn't remember enjoying a show more (true) and that I was "the gal in the big specs." Also true.

So get this: when I got home this evening there was a message in my inbox:

"I remember you. Thanks so much for coming to the show! Glad you enoyed it, bless yoru heart. BD."