Thursday, March 5, 2015

Bernadette Peters in "The Jerk"

For absolutely no other reason than the closing of my job today due to inclement weather, I have whittled away the afternoon watching DVDs. I just finished watching the 1979 classic "The Jerk" and  while I have always and will always have the hot 'n' tots for Steve Martin in a big way (something about a hilariously funny, smart musician, writer, painter and art collector does it to me every time) I find myself with a crush on Bernadette Peters and her outfits. From the heart shaped sunglasses:

To her beginner's knife throwing, Indian sari inspired costume:

The 1940s-ish first date at the carnival outfit:

The randomly placed be-jewel on her fancy dinner dress as she avoids looking at the snails on her plate (and that HAIR):

Her jaunty travel cap when she brings Navin's family to his homeless spot on the stairs:

And of course her sailor's cap and jacket during the cutest recorded duet in film history:

The film was made in 1979 and apart from the iconic disco scene, it looks like it belongs in 1940. Or maybe that's just Bernadette Peters and her kewpie doll looks.

Actually there is one indication that this was filmed in the late 70s.

I wonder what ever became of that carnival train hijacking child....

Monday, March 2, 2015

Observable universe

I've been quiet on this blog awhile, it's true. I don't have an excuse. I haven't been traveling or writing other things, haven't been in a new relationship or dealing with some crisis or pending deadline. I've just been in what I like to call "absorption mode." I'm taking it all in, as I usually do. However, much like weight loss, my information absorption becomes slower and more laborious as I get older and it also makes me out of breath at inconvenient times.

I'm finding that lately I need time away from blinking lights and clicking keyboards to digest my thoughts and maybe that is what is finally going to turn me old: not solely my exhaustion at being unable to focus (that is also a plight of the young 'uns, after all) but my undaunted desire to focus. I want thoughts and images and words to last longer than they seem to be allowed to these days. Does anyone under the age of 20 want that too? It seems like the world has been hyper for their whole lives.

Lately my commute has allowed me time to walk in and around and through the winter scenes of NYC and Long Island. I find myself regarding my own observable corner of the universe from a distance, like so many View-Master scenes through the two inches of my face I can leave uncovered. I navigate the city sidewalks and their utterly random ice patches with what I can only describe as gingerly panic. (It is a hallmark of older age to be so afraid of slipping on ice that one is willing to leave one's home 40 minutes earlier than necessary just to ensure that there is ample time to walk slowly.) I have not, as of this writing, succumb to the ice everywhere, despite my will to live slowly being frozen out of me. But slipping and breaking some essential part of my body feels like a credible looming threat, some political directive spoken aloud from some armed country overseas. The Ice will take me out before it melts in a pathetic mutually assured destruction. I'll probably go down with a strangled croak.

I don't really feel a part of any one place lately. Being the resident part timer at my two jobs and being the temporary inhabitant of my sister's 2nd bedroom has given me the habits of someone who knows her time is temporary. I suppose those with Buddhist leanings would call that a good thing. And in a way I feel like it is a good thing. Getting too attached to temporal things always ends in heartbreak after all. Add to that winter. Winter has that alienating effect on me. I'm an outside observer by nature and it is the position I am most comfortable in but even I have a threshold that every year, February does its damnedest to breach.

And though happens every year around this time, it always surprises me when I get reminded of it, regardless of where I am or what I'm doing. For example, I went to a concert lastWednesday night at this small venue in Brooklyn. The stage was lit from behind with colorful gels and flashing, epilepsy inducing light patterns. I stood in the back and as I watched the person on stage fiddle with this and that I had the clanging notion I was nobody nobody nobody... sorry, but that song is appropriate. Anyway, I had this sense that I was watching a play in one of those black box theaters, for which I was the sole audience member. All of the bouncing heads in silhouette in front of me seemed for a moment to be two dimensional props. I couldn't see anyone's face. The performer was hunched over and I couldn't see his face either. I fell into a reverie, feeling right smack in the middle of things and feeling not quite there or anywhere at the same time.

Winter, thy name is dissociation.

That's really the crux of what's been going on with me lately. Just tooling around, bundled up, not really here, not really there.

Oh, I learned how to ride a bike. So there's that. I'm ripe and old and ridin' a bike. There's got to be a poem in there somewhere...

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Original derivative

As I drove to work in the crunchy slush of one recent morning, I was listening to NPR. I generally do when I'm white knuckling through the icy beaded curtain of sleet and snow and rain; the soft drone comforts me and invariably, I learn something. I hate driving with a pulsating throb so I will take any opportunity to either learn something new concurrently or practice my singing (along). When the report finished (it was about the biggest donors to the most recent election...Chevron was #3...speaks volumes) the reporter signed off. "I'm Brooke Gladstone and this is On the Media."

It occurred to me how lyrical her name was when she said it out loud. Actually all the names of the reporters on NPR have pretty fantastic names: Kai Ryssdal, Scott Simon, Audie Cornish, Guy Raz (hummuna hummuna), Shelley Hassman Kadish, Sylvia Poggioli...seriously you could go on and on and on! So I decided that I was going to write a whole essay about this seeming phenomenon. Was it something about NPR in particular that drew fascinatingly named people? Are these pseudonyms? A job requirement? I felt gung ho about this idea, inspired and motivated to do some writing while answering reference questions at the desk. I was going to get to the bottom of this perplexing array of musical names. "Something to write about and research!", I thought. "Surely NO ONE ELSE has ever noticed this and certainly NO ONE will have written about it!"


I am the original derivative. Or at least I feel that way many times in my life. The idea of originality seems too abstract to me lately. Who am I kidding? It has always seemed like a bit of an abstract concept. Can I be blamed for feeling this way? Most things are just other things, rearranged. I feel like I have a firm grasp on when things are done to death, or OVER.

"Shell art is OVER!"

It's just the flip side I need to tune in to.

So we are about six weeks into this year. I guess we are really doing this, huh?  I'm surrounded by piles of dirty snow, most of it concealing cars that have been in hibernation since that first storm a few weeks ago. Winter is doing what it does best to my brain, and that is to stretch and bend time so that it seems infinite and eternal. My work shifts, like the month of February, appear to have no end whatsoever. Speaking of which, I have to go help someone do a project while simultaneously murdering the Spanish language with my ineptitude. I guess my way of speaking Spanish is original....

Friday, January 23, 2015

That stuff comes later

When, at some point in the not too distant future, I am going to pen a self-help manual for higher ups across all industries and title it: How To Conduct an Interview. I don't know if the market is saturated in this arena but I suspect not since my interviewing experiences, at least as of late, have proven to be almost unbelievably unprofessional and ineffectual. (With exceptions of course...but those are anomalies.)

Based on recent interview, I'd start out the book by suggesting the following steps:

Step 1: Make eye contact. I spent a little over an hour talking "to" someone who was staring at the desk in front of him and/or the wall behind me. Unfortunately for both of us, he was describing the worst job on earth. As a result, it was like watching a one man play about someone describing how paint dries.

Step 2: Ask questions about the person your are interviewing. As I said before, the interview lasted MORE than an hour and I think I discussed my background and qualifications for roughly five minutes. Five minutes that were, each time I imparted new information, interrupted with some irrelevant fact and/or procedure explanation for the prospective job. Which leads me to Step 3.

Step 3: An interview is not a training session. Look, I get that you are short staffed and you need to fill the position fairly quickly. Your harried, hurried appearance posture and language indicates volumes of explanations that, frankly, are at home in the "cons" section of a candidate's list to take a job. But this hour and change during which I meet you to discuss the possibility of working for you is not the time to show me how to log into your various systems or the step by step explanation of how you place orders or deal with difficult students. Like a new relationship, you should keep in mind that timeless mantra to keep the relationship fresh: that stuff comes later. (That's the phrase that is sweeping the nation, right?)

Also, the venue of a recent interview, and I know this is through no fault of the institution nor of my interviewer at all but is something totally noticeable, noteworthy and unfortunate: the office smelled like cheeseburgers.

Anyway, enough of job interview bullshit. I've saturated my brain with it and honestly, if I had my druthers and the accompanying laziness required, I would just take a damn break from job searching and job applying and job interviewing. However, when I think about giving up and/or in I think of that Bright Eyes lyric: I'd rather be working for a paycheck than waiting to win the lottery.

The search continues. It freakin continues.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Adventures in empathy

We've completed a full two weeks of this year already. Perhaps "completed" is not the correct word. Perhaps "pounded", "ground down into dust", "thrown a thick globule of black mist in every single direction, obscuring our view of a way forward, through the dark nights of the soul." Or maybe it's just me.

I mean, looking over the first two weeks of this year on a global scale, one walks away with the notion that the world is a fuck stew, a hot glob in a scalding pot slowly coming to a violent boil, the kind that explodes all over your stove range and sometimes the floor. I doubt this is different from other years; as a species, we always cook from the inside out. It just feels worse this year. I suppose because a bunch of shit happened right at the start, when we were all still hung over, painfully celebrating the notion that all the shit from last year was over, we'd been fed through the grinder but we came out the other end.

Two weeks is a blip to me but I think about the people directly ensnared by the still flailing tail of the monster that was last year and the Parisians who are now marching or wandering the streets full of anger and fear and uncertainty and how like an eternity two weeks must seem to them. I know how it feels to walk out into a city full of hollow eyed people, afraid of your own shadow, uncertain of what to think, feeling the earth has been thrown off its axis just enough to make the days seem physically nauseating. It happened here in NYC. People have more and faster ways to shout about it now, surely, but I get it. I get that it feels like you live in a haunted house, always waiting for the moment when someone or something jumps out at you. And when you feel that, the most empathetic, comforting you can hear (even if it doesn't feel like it at the time) is that it will pass. It really will.

Looking over the first two weeks of this year on a personal scale, things are decidedly less dire, but no less strange than other years of my life. Nothing terrible or outstanding has happened. I've worked a lot at my part time jobs out of sheer necessity and desperation. I went out dancing and didn't come home until 5 a.m. one Saturday. I've taken a civil service test wherein my Spanish speaking abilities were tested (because civil service is forever trying, and failing, to effectively quantify communication skills), felt cold more often than comfortable, been rejected (over the course of 2 weeks!) by five separate potential jobs, learned the literal meanings of heuristic and pusillanimous (kind of cannot wait to use these words in conversation) and done a lot of reading and writing. I've also done a lot of listening: to others, to library patrons, to coworkers, to my body, to my brain. I wanted to open my eyes and my ears this year and I wanted to pursue adventure and empathy and adventures in empathy. If things keep up at this pace, there will be no shortage of chances to do so.

I think the world is in a perpetual state of recovery mode. As such, we would do well to take the advice of many of the most effective recovery programs: one day at a time.

To tomorrow...

Thursday, January 1, 2015

End of this year at loooonnnggg laaaast.

Time again for my year end meme. If you had a great year, good for you! You fared better than 98% of the rest of the planet! If you had a bad year, take heart, it is over.

1. What did you do in 2014 that you'd never done before?
I visited the Dominican Republic, Philadelphia, took an actual bike riding lesson(s), got called for federal jury doody, got laid off from a job and subsequently interviewed for more jobs than I ever have in my life.

2. Did you keep your New Year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I did not make any and did not accomplish anything particularly spectacular. I have a truckload of resolutions for next year and I'm going to do them all.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
No but 2015 is going to be very, very busy year. ;)

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No and I'm grateful.

5. What countries did you visit?
Dominican Republic and assorted cities in the U.S. It was not a big year for travel.

6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?
A stable, full time job and an apartment in NYC.

7. What date from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
This entire year will be etched upon my memory, however, May 28, the day I got laid off from my job of 6 years. Afterward, with a tear stained face, I sat in my car eating an ice cream cone and a homeless person walked up to my car to ask for change, which I gave to her and then told her how I just got laid off to which she replied, "That really sucks, don't cry into your ice cream, though. It probably cost a lot."

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Adding sugar to lemon water. Not quite lemonade but not quite lemon juice.

9. What was your biggest failure?

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nothing notable whatsoever.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Concert tickets to all three Arcade Fire shows I saw this year.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Almost everyone I know personally has come up against one personal trial or another and all have handled it beautifully and gracefully. That's all we can expect from ourselves and each other. (Same as last year and probably will be true until my life ends, and beyond.)

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
It happened years ago but the Bush administration and their tacit approval of torturing prisoners and subsequently every single person who sees nothing wrong with that.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Rent. Moving. Booze. Food. Concerts.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Arcade Fire in August, traveling with my family in July

16. What song will always remind you of 2013?
"I Just Might" by Ryan Adams since I probably listened to it 700 times in a two week span. Ghosts dwell in the streets from a hit and run...

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
happier or sadder? a little sadder
thinner or fatter? the same
richer or poorer? poorer

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Traveling, writing, yoga

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Worrying about the future. It takes so much time and energy from the present. (Same as last year. Same worry, same regret)

20. How did I spend Christmas?
Eating, drinking being happy with the family. (same as it ever was.)

22. Did you fall in love in 2014?

23. How many one-night stands?
Do I count the orgies? Then 56.

24. What was your favorite TV program?
Mad Men, as it has been and ever shall be, world without end, amen. (same as last year) However, props to Kroll Show, Parenthood and Bob's Burgers which always, always lifts my mood.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
No. Hate is still a waste of time.

26. What was the best book you read?
Again, need to mention a few: Wolf in White Van, How to Build a Girl, One More Thing, Little Failure.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Due to many of my old favorite bands releasing new material this year, I'd have to say that musically, it was a rediscovering more than a year of discovery for me.

28. What did you want and get?
 Some clarity, some perspective and to get to live in the city again.

30. What was your favorite film of this year?
Hands down it was "Only Lovers Left Alive". I am officially obsessed with it. A very, very close second is "The Grand Budapest Hotel."

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
38...time keeps creeping, through the neighborhood...
I worked on my birthday this year, it falling on a totally normal Tuesday. I was blessed with doing a lot of really great stuff on the days surrounding my birthday including seeing Cabaret on Broadway and eating a lot of good food.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Job security.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?
Same as it ever was. And, this cannot be stressed enough, THRILLED that the 90s are back in fashion.

34. What kept you sane?
 Honestly? Wine. and Whine. and the close friends and family i have...same as last year, and the year before that.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I'm going to have to go with Russell Brand.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Don't even get me started. Toward the end there it was a veritable blitzkrieg of things to be stirred about.

37. Who did you miss?
Old friends who live far away!

38. Who was the best new person you met?
I meet pretty remarkable people every year.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014:
It is essential to be able to move and flow with life. It is a current that you cannot control, no matter how tightly you hang on. Life becomes infinitely easier if you move with it instead of resisting it.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
Spent more time contemplating this lyric than I care to admit.

 Lying in the bed at night
Feeling like I'm somebody else
My thoughts inside my head get lost inside the haunted house
Everyone I used to know left their dreams by the door
I accidentally kick 'em that's how I can tell you're still not sure

"My Wrecking Ball" Ryan Adams

Sunday, December 28, 2014


I emerge this morning, a mostly quiet Sunday during that gray limbo between Christmas and New Year's when generally the engine revs but doesn't start and the pilot flame flickers but doesn't quite ignite,with a mandate...from myself. It is a familiar one, a tried and failed and tried again, ad infinitum, one. This mandate is very, very specific and it is this: DO STUFF. I realize everyone experiences the desire for self improvement at this time of year (though generally it is reserved for after the bacchanalia of New Year's Eve and the shame spiraling of New Year's Day) but frankly, what's a few days early? Maybe I'm finally coming down from the white sugar high of the last few weeks. Maybe it is the nauseating tumult of the past year. Maybe it is the general disconnect I've felt acutely in my recent, overstimulated, kinetic, frenetic, uncertain and unquiet life. Maybe I've been listening too much to the human thesaurus that is Russell Brand. I cannot say for certain. But I decided right after Christmas that I needed to do stuff.

And stuff is an all-encompassing term that describes the overwhelming amount of ways I can find to spend my time. I have this vague notion that there are people who are perpetually bored or who choose voluntarily to do nothing all or most of the time. And while I earnestly feel both that doing nothing is a valuable non-thingto do (or to not do) once in awhile for recharging purposes and that people need to hitch their own personal wagons to their own stars, doing nothing as a hobby or even a regularly scheduled activity is my own private anathema and the Do Stuff Mandate (DSM) will never want for activities. It is really just a matter of being organized about it. In this, I will need guidance. I will need a plan, a spreadsheet, a timer, some bottled get up and go. (Metaphorically, not the 90s college staple of Vivarin or amphetamines. Relax, people!) I long to never again feel the oozing malaise of being is a terrible feeling to me. I think I want to spend the rest of my life avoiding that feeling and since the rest of my life begins at the end of this sentence, I suppose now is a good a time as any.

I just discovered, via the innocent although mentally pernicious practice of cyber...not stalking so much as curiosity ...cyber curiosity, yes...that an ex-whatever of mine finally took all his talk about moving and becoming an artist to full fruition. He literally moved across the world and became an artist. People don't do that, they just dream it. I mean, right? Sure, people change all the time but I could not get this guy to return a text and he worked in the same menial job for at least five years, all the while talking about doing all the stuff but meandering through his days in a seeming zig zag pattern. Yet there he is. Putting aside my surprise, I am truly happy for him as I usually am when someone catapults his life toward the horizon where he's always longingly gazed. Also, I internalize everything. Hence, the do stuff mandate.

So yeah. Do stuff. I sort of snuffed out my own plan this morning when I couldn't muster the will to get up early enough to go to five dollar yoga. However, I'm being kind to myself and acknowledging the fact that I did not fritter away the morning lying about watching episodes of I Survived... or falling in and out of dreamless sleep. I have exercised my brain which falls under the general umbrella of having done "something" and really, isn't that the point of life? Wouldn't it be a good gravestone etching: Here she lies....she did something. Actually after rereading that out loud, it becomes clear that it would all depend on how sarcastic the person reading the gravestone was and in what tone it was read; it could easily be interpreted as a vague question instead of the intended deep, albeit brief, profundity. Honestly, I'm not willing to lie down underneath a potentially ridiculous quotation for eternity, are you?

Ok, I gotta go do stuff bye.