The Kitten, The Clock

posted in: Confessions, Luv, New York City | 48
This is an actual kitten, not a puppet. Photo: Wikipedia.

 

 

So I have this kitten puppet.

It’s wonderful. It’s a small-sized hand puppet (as opposed to a large hand puppet or a finger puppet.)

The fur is soft. The paws are perfectly shaped so that when you put the puppet on your hand and make it clap, the gesture is so darling you’ll just die. The kitten’s eyes are shiny; the ears are in the perfect place. I’m a sucker for animal hand puppets in general, but I’m telling you: This is a good one.

How did I come to have this sensational kitten puppet? Well, I bought it. When I lived in the East Village in NYC with Yuri, I passed the toy store on 9th St. and Avenue B and it was in the window display. The moment that kitty caught my eye, I went in and I bought it, partly because I loved her and partly because I was in love and partly because the person I was in love with called me “Kitten.” So this kitten puppet, which cost 13.99 plus tax, represented a lot of things when I lived in New York with Yuri three-ish years back.

Do you remember that? When I lived in New York with Yuri? I do.

In fact, I remember living in New York with Yuri every time I come across this little puppet, which happens from time to time because I don’t know what to do with her. I don’t know where to put her because — and I know this might come as a surprise to many of you — I don’t have a large puppet collection display case where I display my large puppet collection because I don’t have a large puppet collection. I have one kitten puppet. (Okay, okay: I do have a couple other puppets, and of course there’s Pendennis, but I swear I am an adult with a broken dishwasher, not an adult with a large plush toy, puppets, stuffed animal collection … and perhaps I’ve got it all wrong.)

Anyway, I am not a person who holds onto many material things. I’m not a hoarder. I’m a non-hoarder. I’m so much a non-hoarder, I have made mistakes in the past in getting rid of things too soon or without enough thought. (Remind me someday to tell you about throwing letters from my father into the fireplace.) But I’ve held onto this kitten puppet because she’s so adorable and it’s a puppet! And I might not have a puppet collection but I do advise anyone to have a puppet or two on hand for emergencies. But of course I have another reason to hang onto it.

I was Kitten. And he was Yuri. And he is far away and I am far away and that chapter is over. But it was real. And it was real important. It mattered, it changed at least two lives; it was love. Letting go of this puppet is weirdly hard for me. I’ve gotten rid of so much stuff in the past three years: Why not this little cat?

So I need some advice. I’m doing spring/post-school cleaning and I found her again, in a drawer. Before she went into the drawer she had been in a basket. Before the basket, I had her on a shelf. There’s no puppet display case and there’s no way I’m going to stow her away in a shoebox only to find her 10 years from now and have a Proust moment that destroys me completely.

Give her to a child, right? To enjoy? But what about … What about love?

It’s a Heckuva Town.

Puppies playing in pet shop window. Note photographer reflected in mirror. Photo: Her
Puppies playing in pet shop window. Note photographer reflected in mirror. Photo: Her

The death of Prince sidelined the follow-up to my trip to NYC. I’m happy to report that I had the most wonderful day.

Well, it was wonderful once I was not in the act of waking up at 3:30am. That was uncomfortable. But once I was vertical, the day glided along like it was on rails. Since I was going to New York City and coming home within a matter of hours, I needed no luggage. I took my Jim Shore patchwork shopper (autographed, because he’s a good pal of mine and you betch’yer buttons I’m name-dropping) which easily held my laptop and all my personal effects; I also carried a modest totebag with a quilt, a book, and some Small Wonders swag for the people at the recording studio. Do you know the glory of walking into an airport and going straight to security with no stop at the ticket counter, no luggage check? It’s intoxicating. And I’m TSA Pre-Check, too, so it was me, an electronic boarding pass and a prayer, baby. Que bella.

When I landed at LaGuardia, I had time before I was to meet my sister for lunch, so I took public transportation into Manhattan. Why not? I had time and I had no luggage. Had that not been the case, I’m sure I’d have taken a taxi. But I was footloose! Fancy! Free! The sun was shining, the temperature was perfect: 69-degrees and all sunshine. I was a woman with time on her hands.

The bus took me to a train; after that train there was to be another to get to my sister’s office. But I bailed on the train transfer and got out at 63rd and Lexington in order to walk the remaining thirty blocks to Hannah. Thirty?! Yeah, sure. City blocks in Manhattan are short and pure entertainment.

I saw puppies playing in the window of a pet shop (see above.) I saw a tiny cemetery, restful and serene, stuck between two buildings; I saw a two different girls wearing tiny hats, so that must be the new thing; there was a man in a suit that I know cost more than most people make in a month or more; bodegas, murals, homeless, worker bees, dogs, babies. Muppets. Ballerinas. Unicorns.

The time I spent with my sister was like, soul good. We needed a good cup of coffee and that’s precisely what we had. If that was the only thing I was in New York to do, that would have been worth every penny. And the guest spot on the Good Life Project podcast went great, I think. I got choked up at the end, so it was certainly something. (The episode I’ll be on won’t air for several months; I’ll let you know when it goes up.) After the show, I headed back to the train and bus combo; I got to the airport with no issue. Walked onto the plane. Back in time for dinner.

New York, you’re all right. Your spring flowers up against all that graffiti looked so good to me yesterday, I came quite close to missing you. Chicago says hi.

 

Day Tripping + The Good Life Project

NYC, 1932. View from the Empire State Building Observatory. Photo: Wikipedia
NYC, 1932. View from the Empire State Building Observatory. Photo: Wikipedia

A few months ago, an alarmingly attractive and discerning young lady named Lindsay contacted me and asked me if I would like to fly to New York City and be a guest on something called The Good Life Podcast. I immediately said yes and then asked her what that was.

The Good Life Project is comprised of a number of ambitious (and successful) initiatives created by Jonathan Fields, a writer and entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to living a good one. It appears that Jonathan has discovered that living a good life means helping other people live a good one, too. So, Fields has spent his life traveling around the world, launching big projects aimed at inspiring, connecting, pushing, enlightening, and generally helping people figure out how to feel and do better in a world that seems to punish us in all sorts of new and exciting ways on a regular basis.

Lindsay — who I’ve not yet had the pleasure to meet but who is clearly a winsome and nimble and possessing of good genes — is a PaperGirl reader and that’s how all this came about. Actually, she also used to watch me in the Neo ensemble here in Chicago; she said her dad saw my one-woman show and still talks about it. If Lindsay had asked me just to come over and hang out with her and her dad, I would’ve done that, too. Going to NYC tomorrow is pretty fancy, though, so that’s nice.

Some businesspeople in this world do in-and-out trips all the time: they fly into Atlanta from Cleveland for a lunch meeting then fly back in time for dinner. I’ve done a same-day trip maybe once before in my life; tomorrow will make it two. It worked out this way because there is an appointment on Thursday here at home that I can’t move, but the truth is that I am not interested in staying longer in New York City.

It’s too much, still. Because Yuri, who was a big part of my life and always will be. Because it saw most of my 34th year of life. And the air when I left, the rain that day — I’ll never forget it and that’s too bad.

There are 350k subscribers to The Good Life Project podcast, so I admit I’m a little nervous about doing the show. That’s 700k ears. Jonathan wants to ask me about quilting and writing and writing about quilting and if I get to have some tea in the studio with me, it should all be just fine. I’ll be sure to let you know when my episode is posted. I’ll also let you know how it felt to feel the pavement in shoes that haven’t walked on it, yet.

See you in the morning, Manhattan.

Swinging From Metal Vines.

The 11 train, NYC Metro. Image: Wikipedia
The 11 train, NYC Metro. Image: Wikipedia

There was a time not so very long ago when I had moved to Washington, that I figured out a few slick subway train transfers within the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which is called “WMATA” for short, which sound’s like something Tony Spaghetti’s big brother says to the pipsqueak who’s lookin’ at him funny:

“Ey, yew! Yeah, yew, kid. You keep lookin’ at me and my brotha like that, I’ma wamata ya right in ya gavone face. Capishe?”

Anyway, there I am in Washington, and I’m stepping out from the Red Line to Shady Grove to the Gallery Place/Chinatown station because I need to transfer to the Green; you can catch the Green Line there, as well as the Yellow Line. As I did that, I recalled how I know the NYC Metro 6 line pretty well and the Q, and that I used to take the 1 train up to the Upper West Side to get to The Yarn Company to sew because there was no room to sew in the tiny, tiny, I-hate-you tiny apartment I was living in with Yuri.

A few weeks after the WMATA moment, thinking deeply about two cities’ subway systems, I was in Chicago for a weekend and, wow, I know the train system here like the back of my hand, which, after at least thirty years (do two-year-olds consider the backs of their hands?) I know pretty well.

All these train maps in my head and the solid knowledge I have of navigating them came together and I felt like a monkey swinging from one big vine. Shoop! The L train in Manhattan that crosses the Lower East Side over to the west side. Shoop! Down from Cleveland Park in DC to get the Orange Line to Eastern Market. And then, that first, peaceful ride on Chicago’s Orange Line to go to Midway to catch a flight, knowing I’d be coming back on the same tracks.

The other day, though, I went down into the lower level of the Chase building because I thought there was a post office down there; I realized when I couldn’t find the post office that I was thinking of a post office in the basement of a building in Penn Quarter in DC. That was weird.

At The Chicago Botanical Garden, Early April

Me and a little dude with a tail.
Me and a little dude with a tail, Chicago Botanical Garden, 2015. Photo: Yuri

Yuri was in Chicago over the weekend, also.

We spent time together on Monday. After work tasks were complete, he took me to the Chicago Botanical Garden to walk, to talk, and remember each other for awhile.

The Chicago Botanical Garden is a world-class joint. Hordes descend upon the place in warmer months but somehow milling among thousands of people doesn’t feel bad at the Botanical Gardens; it feels communal. English gardens, Japanese gardens, fields of field flowers, a glassy pond, sculptures big and small — if it’s green and cultivated you want, green and cultivated you shall have and there’s a great cafe for when you’re exhausted from walking and have pollen all over your shirt. It’s also free to get in.

Yuri and I walked through the grounds arm in arm. We did this because we care about each other a great deal but we were also freezing cold. Nothing has bloomed, yet; there were a few brave shoots poking up here and there, but not many. All the plants are waiting, checking final items off the pre-production list before the big launch.The greenhouses were thriving — greenhouses do that — so when we were almost too cold to be having fun, we found a greenhouse and slipped in to warm up. Tip: if you’re feeling disconnected from nature, pop yourself into a balmy, breathing greenhouse. You’ll get fixed right up.

We had fun together. We got soup and a glass of wine at the cafe. We argued. I cried. We laughed. Walking on the main promenade under the cold, grey sky, Yuri picked me up and spun me around and I hollered, “No! Don’t! Yuri, stop!” but it was okay. New York, we have both decided, seems like a dream. It’s a trite thing to say, but damned if I know how else to describe it. The East Village? Really? Manhattan? But when? I know why — passion, risk, love, adventure — but as to the how, I couldn’t tell you if you put a Rhododendron ferrugineum to my neck.

Yuri and I aren’t together, but we’ll always be together because of New York, because of Chicago, because of that day in the garden, I guess. When do you stop being connected to a soul?

That picture up top is one of a series Yuri took of me being a mom to a hunk of bronze.

The Invisible Time: On Aging

Publicity still from "Advanced Style," a documentary by Ari Seth Cohen, 2014.
Publicity still from “Advanced Style,” a documentary by Ari Seth Cohen, 2014.

Yesterday in New York City, before I had to go to the airport for my flight home to D.C., I had lunch with my friend Anita at Fred’s, the restaurant inside Barneys on the Upper West Side. I’ve been to the Fred’s in Chicago several times and hard as it is to admit, New York Fred’s is better. And by “better” I mean the people-watching is better. The black-clad waiters weaved through the place like a pack of minks, slipping in and around everything that was moving, which was everything inside the restaurant: people, trays, wine bottles, large amounts of money, etc. There were sets of friends having wine and gourmet snacks, small and large families eating lunch. There can be no doubt: Fred’s is a restaurant for the well-heeled (or spies like me) and there’s a lot to observe. The accessories alone!

It was a good place to have lunch, what with my extremely good news yesterday. I wore my fur coat. Anita looked smart, as usual. She’s been a New Yorker for many decades and she is of that city in all sorts of ways: artistic, shrewd, streetwise, and honestly slightly weary (in a charming way, of course.) We were seated and I ordered a glass of pinot noir and a hamburger; it’s a zeroed-out choice, as the cholesterol in the meat is zapped by the red wine’s flavonoids or whatever they are for lord’s sake.

Somehow the conversation turned to age. At thirty-five, I look at age quite differently than when I was twenty-five, obviously. Anita, being sixty or so, looks at it in her way, and what she had to say about her age was fascinating and depressing, though it ends well. Sort of.

“I’ve come through the period of time when I was invisible,” Anita said, cutting a piece of her omelette. “It’s strange, because as a woman, you’re invisible for a long time and then suddenly you’re an old lady.”

“Woah,” I said, and the rest of my life flashed before my eyes. There may have been a purple hat involved.

“See, when you’re in your fifties, more or less, you become invisible in society. It was amazing how no men would hold the door for me for a long time. Women would push past me. I was a persona non grata, really. Doors would literally close in my face. But then I turned sixty and now everything is much better. Because people see me as an old lady and the courtesy is back. Doors are held for me every time. People smile. It’s great.”

A forkful of salad was frozen halfway to my open mouth. In my peripheral vision, I saw a girl of seven or so in a black velvet holiday dress with a big red bow in her hair. She had the most beautiful, milk-and rose-colored skin of any child I had ever seen. The best soap, the best lotion, the best bath in the world is money.

“Oh, Anita. That’s…fascinating,” I said. “I’m glad the invisible period is over. How long did it last?”

“About nine years.”

When I turned thirty-three, I played around with saying I was thirty-two. I just liked thirty-two better. But I cut it out pretty quickly. It’s lying, for one thing, which is not okay. And for another thing, I earned thirty-three. The year before that was hard and great and hard and great and why on earth would I erase it.

It ought not to be invisible.

Point A, Meet Point B.

The kitchen and dining room of my new home.
The kitchen and dining room of my new home.

NEW YORK

“The moving gods giveth, the moving gods taketh away.”
– A cold, wet me @ 6:08am

Several weeks ago, when I moved out of the apartment Yuri and I shared, my sister and I loaded and re-loaded a hand-truck with boxes and hoisted duffel bags over our shoulders. We schlepped my stuff six blocks or so, from the sad and quickly emptying unit at 2nd Ave. and St. Mark’s to Nan’s place at Ave. A and E. 11th. Back and forth, back and forth we went till the job was done, sister pack mules. Every time I move (and I seem to have a knack for doing it all the time lately) I am reminded why some people find a place to settle and commence growing moss. Moving is like… Well, imagine if you had to put all the things in your house into boxes — absolutely everything. Then imagine you had to carry all those (heavy) boxes out of your house, and load them into a vehicle. And then imagine you have to take those (heavy) boxes out of the vehicle, carry them into a new house, and then unpack everything! Ha! It’s like, “No way! That would never happen!” and “That doesn’t even make sense! All your belongings?? In boxes?? Please. How would you know where anything was?”

Moving is kinda like that.

When we moved my things to Nan’s, we had good weather and were grateful for it. But the moving gods are fickle. Around 5:00 this morning, a cold, hard rain began to pelt Manhattan. This was unfortunate, as our plan was to load everything into the kidnapper van at 6:00 sharp. Nan had jury duty today and had a limited window to help me. Moving quickly, pre-dawn, we got the van loaded in about 40 minutes. Just as we were finishing up and I was wondering what to do with the van until it was time to leave several hours later, a parking spot opened up and I successfully parallel parked the beast for the second time in two days.

It rained all the way till the New Jersey Turnpike; a driving, hard rain, washing the roads in water that was clearly trying to be ice. In New York, even the rain is a hustler.

D.C.

When I got to Washington, D.C., I swear, the sun broke through the clouds for the first time all day. The rain stopped. I found my street. I got the keys from the lockbox. I stepped inside…and positively squealed with delight. There’s an upstairs and a downstairs! There’s a fireplace! There’s a big, long table in the dining room that has already been converted to my sewing table! Sure, the upstairs is just the bedroom, the fireplace isn’t functional, and my dining room is small now that I have appropriated it as my sewing studio, but I couldn’t possibly be happier.

I unloaded the entire kidnapper van all by myself in about an hour. Pure adrenaline.

There is nothing easy about ruthlessly, relentlessly dedicating yourself to the pursuit of happiness. You will cut your dry fingers on cardboard boxes, you will get mud on your boots and your jeans, you will say goodbye to people at airports and, over time, you will misplace or break everything that is possible to break or misplace.

When you sit down, though — when it’s finally time to sit down and you make a cup of tea with honey — that’s when, just for a minute, it stops being so damned hard.

On Models In New York City.

posted in: Fashion, New York City | 1
If a fashion magazine raises a barn in the woods and no one is there to photograph it, does it still shelter livestock?
If a fashion magazine raises a barn in the woods and no one is there to photograph it, does it still shelter livestock?

High-fashion runway models are strange-looking creatures, indeed.

I am not criticizing these women. They came out looking how they look and no one should be made to feel bad for how they look, even if some of us get taunted in school and some of us end up with Ford Modeling contracts worth millions, all by luck of the draw. No, I don’t wish to make anyone feel bad, but I see models around this town, frequently around Union Square (there must be an agency over there, the area is so thick with tall, bony women in platform boots and stocking caps) and I’m here to tell you: they are a kind of physical oddity. Spotting one is like spotting a cat with six toes or a parakeet with a second tail; you look, you look again, and as you walk away, you think, “Woah! Weird!”

My mailbox plops out Vogue to me each month. I don’t know why. I have never subscribed to Vogue. I like to think they send it to me because there’s some roster in the sky listing All The Editors In America and down in the “Q’s,” I’m there. Probably I accidentally clicked a “Gift With Purchase” when I made a dinner reservation or something and that’s why I get it. My feelings toward fashion magazines these days could best be described as cold, but sometimes I flip through Vogue, anyway. There on the pages are the women I see around town. (I’m not saying I run into Joan Smalls or Karlie Kloss at the store; I see who I think are probably models. They all buy bananas and sparkling water, by the way.)

To look dewy, lithe, and fierce in a picture means to be gangly, stick-like, and strikingly angular in real life. In order to have a leg that is deemed worthy of plastering on a billboard a half-mile wide in Soho, you need to have a leg that is about as big around as your six-year-old niece’s wrist, assuming your niece is small-boned and physically active. My point is that to look even somewhat normal in fashion pictures, you have to look abnormal in person. More than abnormal. What is more than abnormal? Hypoabnormal. Hyperabnormalis.

They look like aliens, okay?? I’ve been trying to avoid saying that, but they look like bizarre, insect-like aliens who wear mostly black and have expensive cell phones. Don’t believe the lies!

Take heart, ladies. I know the fashion spread voodoo. I, too, have looked at fashion spreads and thought, “Wow, she looks so good in that outfit; I must lose weight.” But you are not (and I am not) an insect alien. If either of us were, we would know it. And we would be working as models in New York. They have a secret society, I think, so we would’ve been contacted by now.

Just be happy you’re healthy, if you’re healthy. If you’re not, see a doctor. Make those biscuits from yesterday either way and then eat them.

**Note: The picture in today’s post is from Vogue Italia. They used the Amish people as inspiration for their shoot. I found this so ridiculous when I saw it, the rotation of the Earth slowed for a moment.

My Funny Valentine.

posted in: Day In The Life, Luv, New York City | 5
On point, except that I'm not blonde.
That’s about right, except that I’m not blonde.

If I’ve ever had to handle anything delicately, it would be this.

With heavy hearts on both sides, Yuri and I are taking a break. I don’t know how long the break will be, I don’t know if the break will be a K.O. punch. It would be tacky (and weird) to go into specific details at this time as to why the split is occurring, so I’ll speak in general terms and hope that does it.

There’s not hostility between us. We’ve gone there, but neither of us are mean. We’re just sad, really. Lives sidle up next to each other and how sweet it is when they do. If those two lives start taking divergent paths, a decision must be made. Do you tie a cord to one another and charge one direction, tied, choosing which way seems best? Maybe you tie the cord and make it stretch, stretch, stretch to accommodate the two of you trekking in opposite directions. Or perhaps you cut it, figuring that’s the best way to head out into the world. Maybe it’s just pruning we’re doing. Maybe not.

I won’t go on about how marvelous this person is, how sweet he sleeps. I won’t dive deep into his singular style or how dearly I love him. If you read this blog with any regularity, you either know I do (love him) or have read that between the lines. Yuri loves me a lot, too, and he would tell you why, if you asked him. Going on and on about this mutual admiration would beg the question, “Well, what’s the problem, then?”

It’s that cord problem. It’s in the details.

The lump in my throat and this odd tightness in my chest and my eyes filling up with water dictate that I need to stop typing. I may need a doctor. Yuri and me, breaking. New York and me, never meant to be. What’s a girl to do?

Next up: The Options.

No Dream, No Good: Why I’m Leaving New York

posted in: New York City, Rant | 6
New York served 54.3 million tourists in 2013. Photo: Wikipedia.
New York served 54.3 million tourists in 2013. Some of these people live here, though. Photo: Wikipedia.

I have tried, but it is plain: I cannot live in New York City.

Instead of falling in love with this place — my plan from the start — I have grown to resent it and am itching to leave. The itching could be bedbugs, but I don’t think so.*

New York City doesn’t care what I think of it, of course. New York didn’t notice when I arrived and it has stayed utterly ambivalent toward me since. Anything I have to say about New York will fall on the millions of deaf ears here, which is part of my problem with this place: aren’t two deaf ears enough? Not for New York.

For the past few months, I have been doing research. I’ve been watching interviews and reading essays and op-ed pieces by people who say New York is dead. I realize this is not a good strategy if your goal is to fall in love with a place, but when I hit Month Four and began feeling outright hostility toward the city, I launched my gloomy search. I had to find out if other people didn’t get it, if other people here were walking around perpetually sour like me. The things I liked about New York when I would visit my sister over the past fourteen years were there, but the bottom dropped out entirely when I had my own mailing address. Why?

I had a feeling my problem had to do with the way New York is now, in 2014; perhaps I might’ve had a different experience with a different version of New York. Maybe it would’ve been perfect for me in the weird and dangerous 1970s, or the wild and dangerous Jazz Age. Maybe I would’ve done better as a New Amsterdam colonist, scouring my washtub. It’s a bad skier who blames the slopes, but I’m blaming the slopes on this one: I don’t think New York in 2014 is so fantastic. The research I did showed me I am not alone in feeling this way. I’m in a crowd, in fact, which is annoyingly appropriate.

If you adore New York or if you’ve already made up your mind that I’m a weenie who just couldn’t hack it, I hope you’ll stay with me. I agree that there are valid arguments supporting New York as awesome and I’m perfectly willing to grant you that I’m a weenie.

But first.

Fran Lebowitz (lifelong New Yorker, cultural Cassandra, personal hero) has plenty to say about 2014 New York being awful. For years, she’s been watching her city turn from the intellectual and artistic capitol of the world into a theme park. (I think Lebowitz was the first to make the New-York-as-Disney Park analogy and it’s a little worn, okay, but it fits too well to ignore.) Former mayor Bloomberg — a billionaire, remember — had a goal when he took office. He wanted to increase tourism and commerce in his city. To do that, he had to make it a kinder, gentler version of itself. The safer folks felt New York was, the more of them would come here, which would bring in money. Bloomberg served three terms (he changed the term-limit law to make that possible), and thus had years to work on his New York Beautification Project. And indeed, the place is Disney-fied. You must wait in lines for everything you want to do. Extras are never included in your ticket price. Grand, sparkly attractions replace smaller, older rides because they photograph way better and push ticket prices up. And it seems that, like the planters and fences at Disneyland, everything in New York these days is rounded, never sharp, for liability reasons.

And then there’s the matter of housing. If you tried to rent a one-bedroom apartment on Main Street U.S.A. in Disneyland, in the shadow of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, I reckon it would probably cost you about $4000/month. They don’t rent apartments on Main Street in Disneyland, as far as I know, but if they did, that’s probably what they’d go for. And this is what it costs in New York for a one-bedroom, give or take several hundreds of dollars, depending on how good (read: sneaky) your broker is. If you want to live cheaper in Disneyland, you’ll need to find a room for rent way out in Toontown (a.k.a. Jersey City) or maybe further than that. Maybe just hit the parking lot and skip the broker and your silly visions of Main Street altogether.

But here’s the thing. All that can be fine. It is fine for millions of people (at least a few hundred thousand) because they have a dream. They have a dream of making it in New York or they simply want to be in New York to escape a life they couldn’t stand. That’s great — and that dream is the crucial. It is the key; it is precisely what allows the young man to squeeze into the subway at rush hour, what zeros out the rage of the woman who sees that the checkout line at Trader Joe’s begins at the door of the Trader Joe’s. You gotta want to be in New York real, real bad to put up with the bullsh-t and if you do, it can work for you. In summation: to live in step with New York, it would seem that you need either lots of money or a dream so dear you don’t care about living with four roommates in Toontown.

Well, I ain’t got Bloomberg money and I ain’t got no dream, New York. I’m gonna have to dip.

I came here for an adventure, and I’ve had one. But I can’t stay. It’s wrong for me. I never felt like I had to make it in New York City to Feel Whole. I feel more or less pleasant at least half the time in other places, but I grit my teeth and steel my face when I’m “home,” which, admittedly, isn’t that often. Perhaps I haven’t bonded with New York because I haven’t been in New York enough, but try telling that to the part of me who almost started yelling at someone on the street the other day. A woman was trying to open the door to her garden apartment on a really hairy section of St. Mark’s. There was garbage that had caught in the doorway and on the cement steps leading down. She had a baby in a stroller with her. I saw the baby and the woman and the trash and the crappy doorknob to the basement apartment that she couldn’t get into and I had to stop myself from screaming, “Have you lost your mind?? Get that child out of here! Are you insane? This place is filthy!”

There’s more to the story. More reasons why I have to leave. Where shall I go? Ah, now that is a very good question. But I think I’ve said enough for now.

*I do not have bedbugs. Yet.

Apologies.

posted in: New York City | 0
Times Square, 2005. There's more of it, now.
Times Square, 2005. There’s more of it, now.

New York City chewed me up and spit me out today. I was rendered incapable of doing anything right and made everything already confusing more confusing. As I walked across Lafayette this afternoon, I thought, “I think this kind of day falls under the Murphy’s Law thing, where everything that could go wrong, does,” and then I thought, “No, I think this day falls under Bad Days.”

Everything will be fine. The certifiably insane man on the corner of 10th and 1st Ave who sings “Under The Boardwalk” at the top of his lungs over and over and over again? He’s giving me hope.

Meet Mickey.

posted in: Day In The Life, New York City | 1
Keep smiling, mouse. Your time shall come. Photo: Wikipedia
Keep smiling, mouse. Your time shall come. Photo: Wikipedia

We have a mouse.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “No, Mary Fons. You live in New York City. What you have is a rat.” But I assure you, we have a mouse. If it were a rat, I would not be writing this from inside the apartment because I would be in Toledo.

About a month ago, I was here, minding my owns and zip! The ol’ peripheral vision registered a tiny off-black dot moving extremely fast across the parquet floor. When you see a mouse for the first time, you don’t think you have. Reason scolds fact into thinking it imagined something. I guess if you walked into a small, windowless room and flipped on a light switch, if there was a mouse in there, you’d see it. But when there are rugs, table legs, and adult-onset exhaustion in the mix — and you aren’t used to seeing mice — you just go back to your book.

“I think I saw a mouse,” I said to Yuri several days later. My peripheral vision had caught the fast-moving off-black blur again. Fool me once, mouse, shame on you. Fool me twice…well, you’re not gonna fool me again.

“Naw,” Yuri said.

A few days later, I came home from a business trip. With wide eyes, Yuri told me about the astonishingly nimble, light-footed mouse that had been keeping him company while I was gone.

“That little sucker moves fast,” he said, he told me how he was up and working into the wee hours several nights in a row and saw the mouse once each night, lasering from one side of the apartment to the other. I said we should get some traps or ask my sister if we could borrow her cat. My sister’s cat was born sometime during the Jurassic Period; we opted for traps.

And we named him Mickey, naturally. We’re tell ourselves we’re battling just Mickey, but sure, that’s naive. Where there is one mouse, there are many; where there is one critter that can steal the cheese from the trap without getting caught, there are legions of them, all in Cheese College, learning the trades while stupid humans ask each other if maybe chocolate will work, or peanut butter.

Earlier today, Yuri said, “Mickey. Just like a woman. Can’t live with ‘im, can’t live without ‘im.”

This made zero sense. In no way did this make sense on any level. Sometimes this man tries out idioms just for fun, just to say them. He’s curious and provocative and I smacked my forehead and shook my head, lamenting this.

But he sets the traps.

Chill + Sky

Harvesting grapes, from a book created in the 14th century. People like wine!
Harvesting grapes, from a book created in the 14th century. These people have never heard of a pumpkin spice latte.

Q: What do autumn and a New York City fashion model have in common?

A: They real chilly.

Today feels like fall has arrived and also like my first day in one place in about a month; this is probably because fall has arrived and it is my first day in one place in about a month. My September saw Georgia, Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida; if you count the layovers, throw in Michigan and Tennessee, too.

My friend Bari said something the other day that made me laugh out loud. She said, “Your life seems kind of glamorous, Mar, jetting off here and there.” But glamour has something to do with someone carrying your luggage, I think, and cooking (or at least fetching) your food. As it happens, I am very much in charge of my own suitcase(es) and am the only person making myself almond meal cookies and broiled fish. But perception is everything and I love the idea that while I’m hauling my quilt-laden suitcase around the country, someone out there thinks I’m special enough to have “people” to do it for me.

Of course, the month contained disaster, too. “The Atlanta Incident,” as we might call it, didn’t just bring me low physically; it shook my confidence down, too. I don’t much like looking into the future and seeing it obscured by shadowy shapes of emergency rooms in faraway towns; I don’t like seeing blood in places it ought not to be (and I’ll let you figure that one out on your own.) Should I have cancelled September and come home? Should I have cancelled even my New York Adventure and gone home home, to Chicago, in the name of equilibrium? As my condo is presently rented, that would be difficult. No, stopping everything would be far more disruptive than just continuing; besides, my Midwestern work ethic is as stubborn as the cows so it’s no use to tell me to call in sick unless I’m half dead. Which is always possible.

I’m off to the Seattle area next week to lecture with Mom, then it’s back to Florida again. Yuri is peeved that I’m leaving again so soon, but I keep telling him that these trips are planned at least a year in advance, in most cases, and that there’s very little I can do. When I come back, I will commence the tests that my Chicago doctor recommended I have and Yuri will hold my hand through those. The only thing good about hospital tests is that I have to actually be in town for them.

Today it rained and the ground was soaked;
In autumn, chill and sky are yoked
And fall complaints of average kind: 
Ailing body, troubled mind.

List: 10 Things I’m Going To Do When I Get Back To New York City

I frequently google image search "kitten in a pocket" or "kitten in a sock." And I can do that from anywhere.
I frequently google image search “kitten in a pocket” or “kitten in a sock.” And I can do that from anywhere.

1. Make Yuri dinner.
Before I left for Atlanta, I made food for Yuri and packed it lovingly into labeled containers and stacked it all in the freezer. I’m sure he’s gone through it all by now and has moved onto Operation: Chipotle Every Day. (My darling!!)

2. Make Yuri breakfast. 
When we first began living in sin, I wowed this man with my oatmeal-making skills. “Do you like oatmeal?” I asked him. He said that he didn’t, exactly, but that he knew how good it was for him, so he could choke it down. Not a ringing endorsement for oatmeal, but then, he had never had my oatmeal. When I served up piping hot organic oats with real cream, slivered almonds, dried blueberries and a scoop of soft brown sugar, well. Yuri likes oatmeal, now.

3. Make Yuri laugh. 

4. Do an Aztec Mud Mask.
Yuri has this jar of weird “Aztec” clay powder that you mix with (smelly) vinegar and smear all over your face. It hardens in 15 minutes and when you wash it off, you have skin smooth as a baby’s for at least five minutes.

5. Get a glass of wine with my sister Nan at Bar Veloce.
Bar Veloce only serves wine and beer (and small sandwiches?? I can’t remember.) It’s kinda snobby but also kinda great, and you know all the wine is fresh. It better be, sister, at those prices!

6. See my NYC doctors and make sure they’re talking to my Chicago doctors.

7. Go to a live taping of an Intelligence Squared Debate!!
It’s not happening till November, but I am already wiggling. Google “Intelligence Squared Debates” and read all about it. Then look at the debate for November 13th. Andrew Solomon is of my favorite authors of all time and is possibly one of the smartest people alive and writing today — and he’s a freaking panelist that night. Live IQ2 and Andrew Solomon on the same night? The topic is less important than the event itself. Andrew Solomon could be debating whether quinoa is a seed or a grain and I’d be riveted. I will be in wannabe-intellectual, academiac heaven that night and I can’t wait.

8. Sew. 

9. Catch Mickey so he doesn’t eat my quilts. 

10. Try to get my head around New York City.
Because I haven’t, yet. Not really. Confession: Every plane trip I’ve taken since June, if I could avoid it, I’ve tried to not fly through Chicago. It’s too painful. I miss her terribly. I can’t bear to see Midway Airport because Midway Airport is so close to my home, my real home, in the South Loop. I ache for Chicago, I long for her shores. When I go back to New York, I must embrace New York again, go to the monolith differently; open up anew. There’s more than enough there for me, but if I don’t want it, I’ll be tossed nothing but scraps.

Ah, Youth!

posted in: Day In The Life, Luv, New York City | 4
A still from television's Little House on the Prairie. Kids these days!
A still from television’s Little House on the Prairie. Kids these days!

Happy Labor Day.

The U.S. Department of Labor tells us that in 1887, there were five forward-thinking states that voted to observe a newfangled thing called “Labor Day.” Among those five states: New York. Perhaps that’s why everyone has been so crazy in the city this weekend; I’m sure everyone living here knows New York was an early adopter of Labor Day and the knowledge has made them drunk on power. And alcohol.

Before I get to the story about nearly stepping on two kids making out in my apartment building last night, a terrific quote from one Mr. Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners back in the early 1880s. McGuire was a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor and he is credited by many as being the first to suggest there oughtta be a day to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.”

I think that’s pretty well-said, don’t you? “Who from rude nature” and “delved and carved” are downright snazzy, son. And he’s right, too: We do behold grandeur, all over the place, all the time. If you don’t see it, you should clean your glasses.

Now, about stepping on these kids.

Several of Yuri’s friends were in New York to attend the U.S. Open and we went out with them last night. It was very, very difficult for me to wrench myself away from my sewing machine (I’m working on entering a quilt in QuiltCon this year) but I delved and carved myself into a Roberto Cavalli dress that made me feel like a real kitten and I got into the mood. I checked my diet rulebook and, to my delight, found that tequila is allowed. I had two modest servings of Don Julio on the rocks last night and nothing horrifying occurred. Good news for my guts and my brain, which was starting to feel a little “all work, no play.”

We taxied to a place. We danced. We clinked glasses with friends. We moved to another place. There was revelry. But not surprisingly, I was ready to go home before Yuri was ready. There was no drama in this. We’re reasonable people and we have different thresholds and clocks and such.

“Honey, I think I’m gonna dip!” I shouted over the boots-cats-boots-cats music throbbing through the speakers somewhere deep in the Lower East Side.

“What?” Yuri turned his ear toward me. An extremely enthusiastic Puerto Rican girl who wasn’t an inch over five feet tall careened past us and slammed into a man I hoped was her boyfriend. Splash.

“I’m gonna take off! I’ve had fun! I’m good! You stay out!” Behind me, a hand rested lightly on my waist. I realized it was not Yuri and gave the man behind me a filthy look; he retreated.

Yuri gave me a look of “I don’t want you to leave” but, being a reasonable person who knows me by now, said, “Are you sure?” and when I nodded vigorously, hugged me tight and said, “Okay, baby. Let’s get you a cab.”

When I got home, I had a dickens of a time getting the front gate open. I was at it for 10 minutes and when I finally got in the door, I was elated. It was nearly two in the morning and I was in very high heels. I was so happy, I didn’t mind that I nearly stepped on two youngsters in flagrante on the floor. Right there, on the floor of the building, at the foot of the stairs, laying on top of each other and vigorously making out, was the son of my landlord and a cute little blond gal.

“Oh! Uh, sorry,” I said, and waited for them to sort of roll out of my way. I needed to go up the stairs.

“No, we’re sorry,” said the young man, and kind of smooshed his way over to the side. I can’t verify it, but I’m guessing they had been drinking. An iPhone fell out of the girl’s pocket and I barely missed stepping on that. I’m telling you, they were lying on the floor! The landlord’s kid! And some girl who looked like she just had her sweet sixteen! A Labor Day scandal!

“Watch your phone, there,” I said, and I couldn’t help but smile as I made my way up the stairs. I thought about those kids — they were maybe college freshman-age? younger? — and how different their lives are from mine. I mean, this apartment building is really pretty amazing and the young guy, his dad owns it. In New York City. It’s huge. It’s pre-war. It’s a stunning place, with art all over the walls and vaulted ceilings. No wonder the landlord’s kid can nab the cute blondes, you know? He’s got game. My make-out sessions in high school (which totaled about four, by the way) took place in cars or cornfields. Same planet — but you know what they say about the worlds.

Enjoy your four-day work week, you crazy New Yorkers. And me, and you. Let’s all enjoy the grandeur of the week however many bodies we have to step over as we labor.

High Heels On a Bike = Remarkable?

posted in: Fashion, New York City | 4
I'm like her! Only I've got heels on and she's younger than me or uses excellent face cream. Photo: NY Transit Forums
The Citbikes of New York. I’m like this chick! Only I’ve got heels on and she’s younger than me or uses excellent face cream. Photo: NY Transit Forums

A large man with a proportionately large afro shouted to me today that I was the most amazing thing he had seen in New York City.

Let me explain.

Some time ago, I spoke of my love of the Chicago Divvy bikeshare program in its infancy; the NYC version works just the same and upon arrival I became a key-carrying member. The bikeshare system has changed the way I relate to this city and I am most grateful for it.

In years past, I was a subway-taker, like everyone else in Manhattan who doesn’t have a driver. (This is most people, though in Manhattan, Those Who Are Chauffeured must be counted.) I had to admit to myself awhile back that even though the people-watching and the idea of the subway is cool to me, the actual subway makes me claustrophobic and neurotic. At least once per ride, I think of a skyscraper sighing down into the ground the moment I’m barreling underneath it and !squish! bye-bye Mary and everyone else who just wanted to go see a movie or whatever.

The other trouble with the subway in a city so intricate as New York is that I would descend into a hole and pop up out of another hole and miss the geography of the place. It’s hard for me to get the lay of the land that way; I need to knit together the streets, the blocks, the neighborhoods. As my main mode of transport is now the Citibike, this is solved. I am understanding this place in a way I never have before. And yes, I wear a helmet. You just have to wear one.

So back to Afro Man.

I like to wear heels. I’m the shortest in my family, so I took to wearing heels years ago and now it’s just a rule. I also like to be girly and fancy. I ride my bike in heels, too. Not all of my shoes are appropriate for this, but my knockin’ around town heels are. They even have little nubbly things for traction.

As I hopped onto a Citibike to go to the store for farmer’s cheese, I swung my leg up over the saddle of my horse-slash-bike, and my be-heeled feets began to push the pedals. I went about a half a block and slowed for a car to pass when the aforementioned large man with the aforementioned large afro called out to me from the sidewalk.

“High heels on a bike!” he whistled. “That’s the most amazing thing I’ve seen in New York City so far!” He laughed and shook his head.

I laughed, too. “You haven’t seen much yet,” I called after him, and rode away.

 

 

St. Mark’s Place, NYC.

posted in: Day In The Life, New York City | 1
Exhibit A: Punk lighting cigarette.
Exhibit A: Punk lighting cigarette.

Of all the streets I’ve lived on in my life (are there ten? twelve?) St. Mark’s Place is the most colorful.

This is a street with a popular history. I’m sure 29th and 112th Street have their lore, and we all know about Broadway and Madison Ave., the hogs! But St. Mark’s hauls itself into the better-known of New York streets because of the now-famous punk scene that flourished here in the 70s. The American punk, an eye-catching animal, continues to slink around the neighborhood, reminding you of the history of the place. There has not been a real punk “scene” here for decades and decades, but some young punks (from Oregon, or Iowa, or maybe just Far Rockaway) come here just the same, still.

St. Mark’s Place is three blocks long. That’s it. The street starts (or ends, depending on which direction you’re walking) at 3rd Ave. and dead-ends at Thompkins Square Park, there at Avenue A. Manhattan streets are numbered going up after Houston St. in Lower Manhattan. If you’re walking north on, say, 3rd Ave., you cross Houston and hit 1st St., then 2nd St., and so on. If St. Mark’s were a number, it would be 8th St., followed by 9th, etc.

The street is named for nearby St. Mark’s Church In-The-Bowery (which makes me think of Stratford-Upon-Avon but is very far away from that place.) St. Mark’s Church is very old. The first incarnation of the church was a chapel built in 1660 by early New York City player Peter Stuyvesant and he is buried there, but we’re not here to talk about him. We’re here to talk about why there are so many kids with safety pins through their lips on my block. They would ask why I’m on their block, and I can appreciate that.

In 1967, Abbie Hoffman started the Youth International Party (they called themselves “yippies”) at a club on St. Mark’s and counterculture settled in (it has a tendency to do that quickly, much to the chagrin of all the counterculturists standing around.) The yippies and the hippies and their ilk needed places to hang out and party, so clubs like Electric Circus opened where Andy Warhol and Jimi Hendrix and The Velvet Underground all made art and did heroic amounts of drugs. But what to wear? A pair of shops called Trash & Vaudeville opened in the early 70s right in the middle of St. Mark’s. Debbie Harry shopped there and The Ramones, too, and the punk rock scene was really taking off because of bands like The Ramones, the Sex Pistols, and Damned In London, who were all singing and screaming and making music which, at the time, was a person had to admit was really fresh and amazing and different, even if you hated it. Which most people did.

For true punk people, the music was only legit from like, 1976 to 1979. This is what I’ve learned in researching St. Mark’s. But boy, did it have an effect. The look of the musicians was hard, all spikes and leather and neon mohawks and pierced everything. It was a look that said, “Back off” and “I am pretty sure I don’t like you already.” Mean? Scary? Revolting? Maybe a little of all that, but a) they achieved what they wanted, perception-wise, so you gotta give the kids credit and b) I’m sure many of the punks (then and now) are roly-poly little bunny-shaped sweethearts when you get to know them. Isn’t that how it works?

There are so many punks hanging out on the street this summer. Several people have told me there are more than usual. Maybe because the weather hasn’t been too bad. Maybe because there are good punk bands playing here in NYC this summer and they’ve all made the pilgrimage. Many of them are painful to look at, with sores and things. I wonder if they do have a place to go and choose not to go there or if they are as homeless as their signs say. I could ask, but I’m not sure that would be appropriate. Sometimes I put change in the cups.

Perhaps I could tell them I went as a “punk rocker” like five times for Halloween when I was a kid. That could be a good conversation starter. Or not.

New York: Where Your Twin Has Been Living Since 1985.

posted in: Day In The Life, New York City | 0
Woman on subway, NYC 1973. Photo: Erik Calonius, US National Archives.
Woman on subway, NYC 1973. Photo: Erik Calonius, US National Archives.

My Big Apple bedazzlement continues.

In 2013, the Census Bureau reported 8,405,837 million people living in New York City. If nothing about that number has changed except that me and Yuri moved here, it’s now 8,405,839. If you count my sock monkey in the number, which you should, we can get to a nicer, roundish number of 8,405,840. I’m confident Yuri, Pendennis, and moi are not the only changes to the New York City population since last year, but this is why its funny.

All of these people. There’s one of everything.

I play a little game when I’m out and about. When I see someone totally one-of-a-kind, or outlandish, or remarkable in any way (and everyone is remarkable in some way) I note their characteristics and then try to imagine imagining them. Like:

“Could there be on this earth, at this moment, a person who is a nun, around fifty years old with pink socks, a guitar, and a suitcase with a Grateful Dead sticker on it? Could that person possibly exist in this wide, wide world?”

Then I answer myself that yes, there could plausibly be such a person because in that moment when I’m asking myself, that means I am looking at a person who matches that exact description. The nun was standing in front of Penn Station the other day, waiting for a bus, I assume. Then I play some more.

“Does a person exist who has a spiderweb tattooed on his face and wears corrective shoes?”

Yes, this person lives on my block. Yuri and I call him “Spiderman” and he is frightening to behold. He is acutely homeless.

“Could there be a 4’5 Asian-American girl with a panda backpack and a tattoo of a Pac Man ghost that covers her entire leg, who is screaming at her boyfriend that she wanted peanut butter froyo, not caramel froyo, dammit Reggie????”

Yes, that argument happened about an hour ago out on St. Mark’s Place.

“Is there a male model whose girlfriend is also a model, and are they both wearing large hats and are they both wearing all denim, and are they both Serbian?”

Yep, and yep. Just another piece of the crowd on any given day.

And consider what you’re wearing. Right now, look at your outfit. Someone in New York has that exact thing on, I’m telling you. I can’t say I’ve seen them in it because of course, I can’t see you in it. But someone has it on. They might even share your name.

There’s only one you, but New York gives that concept a run for its money.

Perspective, Hard Won.

posted in: Day In The Life, New York City | 8
Public domain image from WikiCommons. Tulane cheerleaders, 2008.
Tulane cheerleaders, 2008. Image in the public domain.

The toughest thing about being in a new place is the lack of perspective.

I live in New York City and I have no perspective on this experience yet and won’t have it for some time, because that’s how perspective works.

I look back on my twelve-plus years in Chicago, I see eras. There were the First Years, the rough ones, with their questionable choices and misbehaviors (all with the best of intentions, of course.) Those years contained the Poetry Years, thank goodness, or I might not’ve survived at all. That era, with all its earnest youthful disregard gave way to a better time: the Affianced Years. That was pleasant. I had found someone I cared for deeply and was enough of an adult to pair up in a real way. My foolish choices were slashed down to (almost) nil. And I wasn’t a waitress anymore. Right before the Affianced Years began, I began to be able to make my living as a full-time writer-performer and I clung desperately to that fact. The proclamation was (and has remained) a cornerstone of my entire identity. It probably matters too much, but for me, I can’t do it any other way.

The Marriage Years immediately followed the Affianced ones (they’ll do that) and they overlapped entirely with the era known as When I Was Sick. (I was diagnosed less than a month after I walked down the aisle; surgery was a month later — to the day? — of my wedding.) But inside those years were the Best Theater Years I ever had, making art with the Neo-Futurists.

And then The Divorce. And then Downtown Me. And then I left.

Anyway, all this is to paint — mostly for myself, I have to admit — the picture of what happened back in Illinois. Broad strokes, yes, but it’s chronologically correct.

I’m in the First Years again.

And it’s great here, and I’m not the twenty-one-year-old girl (good grief!) that I was when I had my first round of First Years, but I know full well that I have a whole lot of perspective to make. I will get lost a dozen times. I will be mistaken about the character of this or that person. I will embarrass myself. I will not find my favorite shops for at least 6-12 months. There’s no way I can learn the shortcuts: I don’t even know the longcuts.

I’m not exactly bummed, but tonight, I know too much about not knowing anything at all.

On Being Naked and Sweaty In Public.

posted in: Day In The Life, New York City | 2
This photo was filed in WikiCommons under "Sweaty" for the sweaty nose of the cow. I think the picture works in every way for this post.
This photo was filed in WikiCommons under “Sweaty” for the sweaty nose of the cow. Perfect!

 

I’m all up in my Bikram yoga now that I’m mostly settled, practicing with regularity at the small-but-mighty Bikram studio on the Lower East Side. What this means is that numerous times a week — every day if I have my way — I am packed like a sardine in a can of sardines, if sardines were naked and sweaty and practicing yoga on the Lower East Side. You know, sardines could aptly be described as both naked and sweaty; alas, being dead fish, they do not practice yoga, so my little simile must only go some of the distance for us.

When I say I’m naked and sweaty and Sardinian (?), I’m talking about my state post yoga class. During the yoga, we students wear clothes* in the hot room. (For the uninitiated: Bikram yoga is a 90-minute yoga series of 26 postures and two breathing exercises practiced in a room heated to 105-degrees. And yes, you pay for this on purpose.) After class, when the very will to live has been nearly wrung out of us and we drag our taut, glowy, and utterly eviscerated carcasses out of there, that’s when it gets real.

There is no space in Manhattan. None to spare. The women’s locker/shower/changing room in the yoga studio is maybe…500 feet square? It’s small. You’ve got a bank of lockers, two shower stalls, one bathroom, and a lot of sweaty, naked women attempting to change out of sopping wet yoga togs into normal street clothes, which is tough because a) there is nowhere to bend over to get your wet leg into your jeans and b) getting a wet leg into jeans in any room is like trying to give a sick cat ear infection medicine: extremely, extremely difficult and exasperating. You want someone else to do it for you really, really bad. But no one ever will. It’s your cat. It’s your leg.

I have bumped a bare bottom with my own bare bottom. Oh, it’s true! I’ve turned my head just as a gal was exiting the shower stall and whammo! the lass’s entire self, just hey-how-are-ya, right there in my letterbox. I’m pretty cool with bodies, so none of this exactly bothers me unless I think about the fact that we are all animals, because then I think about chicken coops and pig pens and cattle shoots and that’s bad. All those animals are naked, too, so I’ll be trying to pull denim up over a wet booty (mine) and suddenly I’m having the sixth existential crisis of the day — and I usually take the noon class!

The worst, though, is when there’s zydeco music playing.

The studio is great in the way they just hit “play” on some endless music mix in the sky/on the web and you never know what you’ll get. Sometimes, you’re headed into the hot room to the dulcet tones of jock rock; sometimes you get wailing house divas. Sometimes it’s all spa music in the changing room; other times you get hip-hop. I love the variety. But once, when the class that had just been tortured was changing to leave and the next class was arriving to go into the heat, when everyone was hopping around on one foot, boobies out, sweat flinging this way and that, effing zydeco music came through the speakers and I thought I might die of shame. Surely, someone, somewhere (God?) was laughing hysterically at all this. It would be impossible to come up with a soundtrack less becoming to a roomful of naked, hopping women.

That day, I ran.

*”Clothes” is mostly right. You wears small slingshots of fabric to cover the bits and that goes for the men and the women alike. This state of underdress makes for excellent scenery or not-so-excellent scenery, depending on where you’re standing and what you’re into.

 

 

True Story Update: New York So Far

posted in: New York City | 3
Impossible, beautiful, dangerous to walk in -- just like New York! Keith Haring shoe, Nicholas Kirkwood, 2012.
Impossible, beautiful, dangerous to walk in — just like New York! Keith Haring shoe, Nicholas Kirkwood, 2012.

I had lunch with a born-and-raised, lifelong New Yorker yesterday. He asked me how I was getting along.

“You seem a little ambivalent in your blog,” he said. “I can’t tell if you’re warming to the city or not.”

We were eating sushi in a restaurant only a local would know about, one of the best sushi bars in Manhattan, as it turns out, tucked away deep in Soho. There might have been a sign on the heavy wooden door, but I didn’t see one when I pushed it open.

“Oh, I’m great! It’s great!” I chirped. “I love it here!” That’s the truth, too. In no way has my New York City life truly begun yet, but the hunk of molded clay has at least been dropped onto the wheel. It will begin to take shape, if you’ll tolerate me extending that lame clay metaphor.

But then my lunch date spooked me a little.

“But how are you doing really?” he asked, eyeing me as I put more edamame into my face. It wasn’t that he didn’t believe me when I said I was doing well, he just knew he was asking a serious question that deserved a thoughtful response.

“The pace of this place,” he said, “is not for everyone.”

Correct. I’ve known New York City to stomp, chomp, and otherwise flatten people. It does happen, absolutely, every day I’m sure, and even though there are plenty of folks who lament the glossification of New York, who say the city is a soulless shell of what it used to be, all Carrie Bradshaw and no Joe Strummer, those people probably didn’t grow up in rural Iowa like I did. Please. New York is still a killer whale. Have some imagination.

I chewed. I considered. Okay, how am I really doing? Because there are a thousand thoughts a day that pass through my brain and right now, directly related to moving here or not, all those thoughts are tagged “New York City.”

“There are moments when I feel overwhelmed,” I said, and a mini-monologue suddenly poured out, because one had been waiting, apparently.

“It’s like… So you’re on a street corner here, waiting for the light. And you look over and you see the most beautiful girl you have ever seen in your life. Right there, a supermodel, maybe the supermodel of the moment that you just saw on the cover of a magazine. And then the light changes and you’re crossing the street and you see the craziest person you have ever seen in your life. Like, in a wig, with a parakeet or something, screaming into a transistor radio. Then, an old Chinese man zips past on a bike and you smell his tobacco and it’s this wild smell, totally from another world. Then a black, mirrored car snakes through the street and you wonder, who’s in there? Jay-Z? A congressman? The Shah of Iran? Maybe all of them?

And in those moments, you realize the layers of existence here. It’s like shale. And all these people, they all have their own realities, they all have their own days, their own New York City. And the truth of that can feel like a comfort, because everyone is just like you, or you can lose your mind, because that’s too much input, too much to think about and still remember to blink.”

This answer seemed to satisfy my lunch date. That I could identify the complexity and consider it, that is maybe proof that I’m keeping my head above water. And maybe proof that I have a chance to thrive, too. We’ll see.

I rode a Citibike back home after lunch. They’re the Divvy bikes of New York!

 

5 Haiku for NYC.

posted in: Art, New York City, Poetry | 2
Taken at the 25th Annual Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival, Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, 2006. From NYC.com.
Taken at the 25th Annual Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival, Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, 2006. From NYC.com.

I made up a haiku the other day to amuse Yuri and boy, did it work. He is an almost frighteningly intelligent fellow, but he looked at me and said,

“How did you do that?”

Here now, a few haiku for New York City. They keep coming to me. I’m not saying they’re any good, but they keep coming to me.

The laundry service
Shrunk everything. So begins
The New York diet.

That man is sleeping
On a bottle of urine.
Hey, it’s a pillow.

The Lower East Side
Is a crowded crackerbox.
See what I did there?

I’m back in yoga.
Sweaty togs hang in shower.
(Yuri still loves me.)

Manhattan lemmings:
You are all completely nuts.
Now I am, too. Balls!

 

Fashion Is Fun Again! Thanks, New York City.

posted in: Fashion, New York City | 0
This was Anna Wintour's first Vogue cover. It is credited with helping to launch the "high-low mix."
This was Anna Wintour’s first Vogue cover. It is credited with helping to launch the “high-low mix.”

It was only upon finding it again that I realized I had lost a sense of fun in regard to fashion.

I love clothes. Rather than expound on why fashion is not frivolous or how different clothes make me feel like completely different people (this can be great or a nightmare) I’ll give you three of my favorite quotes on the subject from people who say it all far better than I ever will:

“Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life.”
— Bill Cunningham, New York Times fashion photographer since 1978, best known for his “street style” candid photos

“Why are people scandalized by spending money on clothes? I think there is something against fashion in the world. Everybody is so passionate about this, there’s a resistance to fashion, an idea that to love fashion is to be stupid. I think this is for two reasons. One is because clothes are very intimate. When you get dressed, you are making public your idea about yourself, and I think that embarrasses people. And two, I think that fashion is seen as women’s work. My conclusion is that because fashion touches your intimate life, it embarrasses people.”
— Miuccia Prada, from an interview in New York Magazine last year that I cut out and taped inside my closet.

“Style is a simple way of saying complicated things.”
— Jean Cocteau, 1936 and he probably wasn’t talking exactly about fashion but clearly.

In New York City, the very same sentiment that can make a person feel isolated and lonesome (“Nobody cares what I do!”) can also set her free (“Nobody cares what I do!”) That second take on it, when applied to fashion by a fashion lover, creates potential for extreme joy.

In my former downtown Chicago bachelorette life, I got pretty fancy. I knew just where to find fabulous, high-end designer clothes on the cheap. And find them I did. The tailored jacket, the well-turned high-heel, the lined, custom-fit trouser; I rocked that classy-sassy look because I wanted to, I could afford it, and I think in some small-but-probably-huge way, I needed to prove to the world that I was making good, that I had transcended my awkward, pasty Iowa self, that I was cultured and polished and that I gave a damn about art.

But in New York City, unless you live on the Upper East Side or in TriBeCa and have a record deal and/or a plastic surgery practice and/or a driver, etc., being fancy isn’t that big of a deal. It’s actually a bit outre, honestly. Here, and especially where I live in Lower Manhattan, it’s all about the high-low mix, or blending fancy pieces with vintage, super-cheap, or borrowed/begged/stolen items to create a kind of “yeah, whatever,” layered look that is exactly right. I mean, I can’t wear my Celine suit on the subway! Are you nuts?? I could sit in gum! Better to wear a pair of ripped jeans with just the Celine jacket! Ah, yes! And some bangles. And the real diamond earrings I have. And sneakers.

Discovering — remembering, perhaps — that I don’t have to search so hard for head-to-toe designer apparel has made fashion fun again. I’ve come back ’round to the truth that that a shirt from Target with pineapples on it (my new favorite shirt!) is totally acceptable and actually preferable to a discounted-but-still-pricey Alexander Wang tank top. I love pineapples! To eschew the pineapple shirt because Marni had nothing to do with it is madness.

New York, thanks. I’ll wear real Keds and fake pearls for you any day. Why, I’m wearing them now!

 

Today! The Yarn Company, 4-5pm!

posted in: New York City, Quilting, Work | 0
Keffi, The Yarn Company Mascot.
Keffi, The Yarn Company Mascot.

A lil’ reminder for NYC folk:

I’m doing a little meet n’ greet n’ shop talk talk at The Yarn Company, that lovely haven of color and fiber where I was able to sew this spring. From 4-5, I’ll be showing some quilts, talking patchwork, and generally hanging out to meet whomever feels like dropping by. Let’s do it!

I need a break from unpacking, so I will be in an EXCELLENT mood.

The Yarn Company is located at 2274 N. Broadway, upstairs. (That’s the corner of 82nd and Broadway.) Look for the totes adorbs sheep mascot, Keffi, on the sign above the door.

xo,
Mary

Place, Hold’er

posted in: New York City | 4
"You know New York, you need New York,;you know you need unique New York." (Tongue twister from a high school drama camp. )
“You know New York, you need New York, you know you need unique New York.” (Tongue twister from a high school drama camp. )

I’m composing this on my phone. A first.

I’m writing this way because I made it, I’m in the new pad in New York (!!!) but I can’t get the Internet working. I can’t possibly go find a coffee shop to sit in, though: I’m too happy to be here, too blissed out to be half-horizontal on this couch in this glorious space. 

I hadn’t seen the apartment Yuri picked out; only pictures…and it’s more wonderful here than I ever imagined.

It’s more spacious and fabulous than I dared hope for and there’s art all over the stairwell walls and secure mailboxes in the foyer and an umbrella stand in the hall and it’s quiet quiet up hereon thethird floor even though all of New York is right outside. When I walked in, I started smiling and haven’t stopped. It’s been the hours.

Yuri comes on Tuesday; he stayed behind to finish up in Chisago. We have one night here together, then I’m off to St. Louis. But soon, and for a good long while, this be the place; this is where love will grow and work will get done and cookys will be made.

If I weren’t tapping out these words on a touch screen with a stylus (excruciating, really) I’d say more about measuring my life, how I choked back a sob in the taxi to the airport today (we were on Lakeshore Drive and Chicago was impossibly beautiful and I was leaving it, leaving it), how being alone my first night here is actually just right; I might say something about how the spring night air is so sweet, coming in the window right now, it could kill me.

Good thing for the stylus.

1 2 3