Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Coughs Died About the Same Time as the Baritone...

I was recently at a hospital ward during the flu epidemic of 1918. No - wait a minute - that wasn’t it. I was actually at the Met for a performance of “L’Amour de Loin”. I guess all the coughing made me think of my years as an army nurse in the tuberculosis ward… wait a minute; I’ve never been a nurse in a tuberculosis ward! I guess I just thought I was for the two hours the opera (otherwise lovely) lasted. This was just another in a series of performances I’ve attended where the coughing is part of the show. Unstoppable, inevitable and yet mysterious, like whatever the upstairs neighbor is doing.

The coughter (to coin a new expression) falls into these various categories and seems to convey the following meanings:

Messages to the theatre at large.

Explosively loud knock-you-off-your-chair cough. Multiple times throughout the performance. Randomized.
“This is for my wife, who set up dinner with her boss and his wife and I can’t stand them and their pied a terre and his dental practice, and we had a big fight about it before we left and I’m still mad and I didn’t want to come to this pompous bloated walrus show, but my wife dragged me to it and so I’m going to make her life miserable.”

Go-to-hell-cough. If a cough can be a threat…
“I voted for Trump! Yes! I did! I’m a contrarian! I cough against the machine!”

Angry. Loud. Sharp. Cough!!!
“$150? For one ticket? You gotta be kidding me.”

COUGH. PAUSE. COUGH.
“I have a two-bedroom, two bath prewar apartment on the upper west side.”

Declarative cough. A shouted bark.
“My father coughed and his father before him. I too shall cough at the Met.”

Cough. Uh hem. Cough cough cough.
“I love show biz!”

Messages to people in nearby seats.

Throat-clear segues into surprise cough, which becomes proudly claimed.
“I don’t like these seats. And I don’t like this guy in front of me with all his opinions and his stupid laugh. Therefore I cough.”

Cough cough kaff kaff. Hmm. Hmm. Cough!
“Your arm is on my armrest.”

BLAT! COUGH!! KAW KAW!
“Don’t look at me like that, with your little hat! Why the hell do you think they put rests in the music? Sheesh.”

COUGH COUGH COUGH. Loud and wet.
“Your perfume is not making me cough, but I just don’t like it or you.”

Pathetic, realistic and wet: cough cough, cough cough.
“I’m old. Coughing is all have left – don’t take this from me!”

Public service. Ah-CHOO, COUGH, COUGH.
“This part is too quiet. It’s boring. I’ll help liven it up.”

Harumph into COUGH.
“I have power over all dominion: all that I see and sit near.”

Group Coughs

Coughing sometimes spreads like the wave at a Yankees game. One guy starts it in the upper left balcony and it segues to some moron in the middle of the mezzanine and then two guys pick it up in the orchestra but they overlapped so one of those guys has to do it again, to make sure he gets his in free and clear (this is the same guy that says a joke twice if he thinks you missed the punch line). Someone else realizes it’s a coughing-wave, so he jumps in immediately after the two clowns in the orchestra seats, and then someone wants it back in the balcony so there’s a brief coughing tug-of-war until somebody’s wife puts an elbow in his ribs.

The Upper East Side Gang of 8. Kack, Coff, Coff!
They may not have stood up to Joe McCarthy but they are sure as heck going to stand up against that soprano!

Group Cough conversation.
Slight cough: “The fix is in.” Slightly louder cough, two times: “Trump will win it, Putin guarantees.” Throat clear that degenerates into coughing: “Great. Ok, now we’ve got that nailed down, what do you guys think of this show?” Loud but respectful series of coughs: “Not bad for classical music.” Gentle cough indicating someone should end the conversation: “Yeah it’s not Pavarotti (who I saw twice) but I’ve been to worse. Signing off – COUGH-GAG-HACK!”

I started to imagine that there were coughs written into the LED supertitles.
“What kind of man would love cough cough hack me, a simple peasant…” “I love you who has come to gag caw caw hack embrace me…”

Both the baritone and the coughing died at about the same time, and the duty of coughing was done for another day. As the curtain fell and the audience lumbered crankily toward the exits, and as I paged through my program trying to figure out what I had missed, I made a note to myself to bring an entire box of cough drops the next time; not for me, and not to gently offer a neighbor who might be inclined to vocally expel his phlegm, but so I could take aim at a cougher and possibly bean him with the full Smith Brothers Cherry Cough drops experience.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

F--- That S---, You F---ing A-----!



It started with the children's-but-really-for-adults book "Go the F--- To Sleep" which was a clever and hysterically funny title for new parents who are losing their minds from lack of sleep. And now, in the American tradition of "more is better" and "beat an original idea into the creative ground" it has gotten a little out of hand. This image from the humor section of the local bookstore.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

I Don't Understand Why Everyone Is Jealous of Me! I Hate Being So Beautiful! (A Modern Love Parody)


I was 19 and gorgeous, but for me my beauty was always a curse. I know you regular people can barely comprehend this, but we who are gorgeous suffer. Terribly. As long as I can remember, I’ve been given compliments. “You’re so pretty”, an Aunt would say, meaning well. “You are adorable” would say a Grandparent. Little did they know that I hated their attention, their flattery, even though I had just asked them, “Am I the prettiest little girl ever?”

As I grew up, men cat-called me, fought over me; I hated it. I tried not to invite more than two men over at a time, but because I’m too good-looking to remember things, it happened again and again. I would let some random guy follow me home, forgetting I had a boyfriend and in fact was going to his home; as you can imagine it became awkward. But when you’re super good-looking, this is what you have to deal with. You are forced to develop coping strategies.

Time and time again, men would fight over me, and the coffee table in the living room would become the victim. Fighting men must have fallen atop of and smashed my coffee table 10 times that year. I was lucky; my parents simply kept replacing them. They asked me once to just get a wooden one or perhaps to stop inviting two men over at the same time, but I just liked those glass ones.

That year I was attending an Ivy-League school on the Upper West side which shall be unnamed, oh ok, it was Columbia, and I lived alone in a loft my parents had bought for me. It was the top floor of a renovated industrial building in Tribeca – but I hated its airiness, its numerous closets (why must there be so many of them?), its granite countertops and Miele appliances. They made me angry. I didn’t clean or cook, or shop – doing chores made me feel inexplicably sad. My empty refrigerator, cold and bright, mocked me. My friends, those few that I had, suggested, “For Pete’s sake, just go grocery shopping!” but I became clammy at the idea of all the men staring at me and lusting after my body in those places where men went, to stare at women like me, and so I could not.

Instead I ordered in. I was terribly lonely so I slept with the Chinese food delivery guy. I would throw him out afterwards – without a tip. That was the kind of person I was then. I also slept with the doorman, the guy that collected the change from the washers in the laundry room and the guy who installed my Ikea cabinets. It did no good. I continued to suffer. I hated myself for being so good-looking. People didn’t realize the burden I carried.

Even though my parents had paid my for education - my SAT scores were so high they sickened me - and gave me a generous monthly stipend, for reasons that are hard to explain, even to myself, I worked as a stripper. It was as tawdry a joint as you can imagine, and I hated the way men looked at me when I was up on the pole stripping – as if they had a right. Perhaps I didn’t need money the way that the other girls did, but I was desperate in my own way; the pain of being gorgeous was almost more than I could bear, and this seemed one way to dull the pain. My logic was the logic of an idiot, but I was only 19.

I knew that people exchanged glances behind my back when I told them in great detail about the professors who wanted to sleep with me – I hated their judgment. I felt powerless against their envy and this drove me into the arms of even more men. My loft was becoming a disaster area – the lack of my housekeeping skills and the constant fistfights between the various men that were showing up was taking its toll. I hated my need for men and theirs for me, and was ashamed and then I did it again and again. Why? I was great in bed (or so they all said; who really knew the truth?) and it made me feel validated, and yet sickened, and yet exhilarated and yet somehow sad. But happy too. But more sad than happy.

My enormous breasts were crippling – to me they were nothing more than oddly buoyant and pointed nuisances that drove men wild and so I wore a talisman that dangled into the crevasse between them, so that men, instead of crassly thinking how hot I was, would know that I also was a talented metal-smith and welded jewelry out of old fire escapes that I had sat on smoking after having sex with other men. Yes, I smoked.

After stripping I would find solace at after-hours clubs where I treated the bouncers like footmen and “forgot” to tip the bartenders and shouted loudly that “I need another drink!”. I may have come off like a giant asshole, but it was a front: I was only 19; afraid, insecure, and cowed by the men who desired me, and whose SATs were probably average at best.

I was miserable. I drank whiskey exclusively, except when I was drinking vodka or Tequila, or entire bottles of wine which I would share with the guy at the wine store who I slept with – I was simply too miserable to not ask him to come back to my apartment to sleep with me. How I hated being beautiful and sought after. Leave me alone! I would shout at the men I invited to my apartment. They looked at me as if I were nuts. I didn’t blame them. Perhaps I was.

I would often retreat to a nearby coffee shop to work on my novel – I knew I was a talented writer but my talent only made me miserable. I thought of what my creative writing instructor said to me as I left his apartment after sleeping with him, just after I stepped on one of his vintage LPs, weaving with the post-lovemaking dizziness of our 9 orgasms – all of which I hated. I apologized – rare for me (I was 19 after all), but he only said, “Jesus, what is your problem? I thought you left a half hour ago! You’re letting the air conditioning out!”

As if that was the problem.

At some point, I met Kevin. He was a musician, yet kind, yet with a lot of money, and he looked at me differently than the others. He thought I was gorgeous and hot, of course, but he also knew that I was smart – at some point during lovemaking my SAT scores had slipped out – and he was interested in my mind. We went for long walks on the promenade – I felt a need to prove to him that my long legs, which I hated, were good for something other than wrapping around him when my sexual hunger got the best of me. But he liked walking. And he liked talking. And finally, I realized that he wasn’t impressed with my beauty and wasn’t put off by my sexual insatiability or the fact that my loft had its own elevator – he saw the real me. For the first time, I was with a man who understood me, and asked nothing more from me than to listen to me play the harpsichord (I’m a talented musician as well, but he doesn’t seem too jealous) or listen to me recite my poetry for yet another slam.

Reader, I settled down with this man and now we live together in my loft. I made room for him here; it wasn’t too difficult as it’s a three bedroom so there’s plenty of room for the two of us, as well as a recording studio, a wine cellar and a room for me to paint – I’m an amateur painter with two paintings at the MOMA – and we have made a simple yet meaningful life together. Now that I have someone to share the burden of my beauty, someone who cares nothing about it, and understands that it’s not my fault I’m so hot, I have gotten a new coffee table and that’s where my coffee table book of my photos (published by Taschen) sits even as I write this.

I still suffer. I still hate the beauty that stares out at me from the wall of mirrors in the living room and in the bedroom and kitchen, and especially the recording studio, and the little one I put in the freezer, but as long as I have Kevin, and we have each other, and especially he has me, I think somehow, we’ll get by.




Friday, April 29, 2016

I Don't Understand Why No Winks?? My Profile is So Great!


What am I like? Well, let me ask myself. What are you like -- oh, sorry, I didn't know I was on the phone - sorry, I'll wait.

OK, now, let me ask you if I may: What are you like? Are you like, some kind of a stalker who won't take no for an answer? Or perhaps a person who uses an online dating service to post pictures that are 6 years old in an attempt to lure some poor schmuck to the rocks like the Sirens in that movie "Jason and the Argonauts"? Or was that Jason and the Golden Fleece? Anyway, the one that got the Oscar for best supporting Cyclops.

Or, continuing this line of questioning: are you generally a nice person who hasn't had sex since 2002 and is just a little anxious? Perhaps a combination of all three? But not a stalker really, at least that's what my friends say (except for maybe David but he's not a friend anymore, not since he sent that mass email about what he called my "problem" which was really not my problem but his which most everybody wrote me back to tell me).

Most of my friends would say I was fairly "normal", just like you probably, and I like all the same things that "normal" people like, for example: long walks on the beach with a metal detector; jumping into public fountains in a wet suit and snorkel collecting spare change; going to shows and shouting out the lyrics to all the songs along with the cast; hitting the rowing machine at the gym while singing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat", or, alternatively, “Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore”, and also making friends with guys who are bench pressing 200 lbs. right when they’re sucking in their guts for that big lift.

As you can tell from the pictures, I am in pretty good shape for someone who's 45, even though I'm not 45 and I am 37, and my friends are also 37 and I was born in 1971 or 78 (I can never remember). I like to do all the things outside my apartment that other "normal" people do, like shopping for food and toilet paper, and sometimes going to Starbucks and "having it my way" by spending twelve minutes constructing a drink out of all the adjectives they have on the overhead signs. Sometimes I like to go to Starbucks and just sit and listen to people at the other tables, and sometimes I interject my opinions in their conversations just to be friendly. Sometimes I'll join them at their table, just so I don't have to yell. Every once in a while you get a meanie who doesn't want to listen and looks at you like you're some kind of a nut, but I just usually handle that by knocking their mocha latte onto their laptop. Typically, when I come back (I like to visit Starbucks several times a day) they're gone and never return, which is OK with me! As you can tell, I am very social and a lot of fun!

So you might be thinking: why do I have all this time to go to the gym and to Starbucks, but why would you think that unless you yourself were unemployed? If you are one of those judgmental suspicious types, maybe we just aren't meant to be. You might want to ask yourself, why do I always make these negative assumptions about people? Maybe that's why you're still single and have to resort to an Internet dating service, did you ever think of that? Don't you have any friends who could fix you up? Anyway, since you're wondering and even though I don't really care what you think, I do have a job and it is fairly high-paying which allows me to be in actual semi-retirement (even at the age of 39!). But more on that later.

A typical day for me is to wake up (I don't need an alarm, usually the people pounding on my door to turn down the volume on my TV is enough to rouse me), get dressed (by myself, silly!) taking care to turn my socks and underwear inside out, then I take my medicine, and head out for breakfast. I used to go to a local diner but I found that the Episcopal Church offers such a great breakfast special which even comes with a free orange, that you'd be an idiot and a snob to pass it up. And I hate snobs! Right after breakfast I head over to Starbucks where I like to work at my job, which involves typing on my computer and looking at the screen and occasionally looking up to see who else has come in.

I have all the hobbies that "normal" people do, including working out, reading, leaning out my window and yelling "Watch out below!" and waiting to see what everyone does, and dancing. I am a great dancer and will get up and perform at the drop of a hat, or a strategically placed dollar, and I don't necessarily have to have a partner. Sometimes I just get up on the table and let loose, but not at Thanksgiving and never on the kids' table, so don't worry!

And you, what are you like? Well, you are single or you can get out of the house regularly between the hours of 2 and 5:30pm. You like to have sex but you don't always have to have the lights on, and you aren't adamant that your partner takes off all their clothes or even gets in bed with you. You are fit and healthy and willing to be tied up and left for hours on your own without complaining or wondering what the point is (sometimes I like to go shopping and you never know when the urge will hit me!). You also have your own apartment that you own and that there's no way you could get evicted no matter how many cats you had or how loud you had your TV volume turned up or if you liked to check the recycling bins for cans and bottles late at night when it really shouldn't bother people.

So I hope there's someone out there for me; I haven't had that much luck on this particular site, even though I have had a few "repeat" customers (Melvin622 if you are reading this, you can forget about me coming back out to the oil rig!), I am a real believer in that old adage, "There's someone for everyone," or is it, "As long as you don't take the bracelet off, you're not breaking parole"? I look forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

I Don't Understand How Anyone Can Cast Stones. We're All Morons At Something.



(Photo credit: the Ricky Gervais Show)
You read a lot about how stupid and greedy those people were who in the early aughts bought homes they couldn't afford with money they didn't have, resulting in bundles of "toxic" mortgages that, when they ballooned in cost, began the collapse of the house of cards it turns out the U.S.'s and in fact, the world's financial system was built upon.

Many people look askance at those who bought homes virtually without money, who perhaps bought a second home they intended to "flip" at a profit. And yes, some of these people were "greedy" and "ignorant" and blind. Perhaps many of them.

But just for one moment can we consider the path that was laid out for them by the people who permitted them to make those purchases? The banks and mortgage brokers who looked at these people's assets and paltry income and nodded sagely and then offered these hopeful buyers a new-fangled instrument called a "no-income verification" loan, which in fact was created for just these very people?

These folks (the borrowers) weren't ever in a position before to get a loan; perhaps their credit was bad, perhaps they had an erratic employment history, perhaps they simply didn't have any money beyond a modest down payment, which in some cases was dropped from the traditional 20% to 10 or even 5%, just to make it easier for people "just like them". But now, bankers, professional "money people" are telling them that yes, they can afford it! Their assets have been examined by professionals who examine assets for a living, and even though these potential buyers had little money and low-paying jobs, it turns out, there is a way they can do it! Or so they are assured.

These buyers didn't set out to buy above their means. But the truth is, in many, many cases, they didn't understand what they were getting into. Like all of us do in some aspect of our lives, they trusted the experts.

They sat down with professionals, white collar guys and gals who explained it all to them, who told them that their house would be increasing in value, that in fact, they could borrow against the increasing value of their home, that they could sell at a profit in 5 years (before the mortgage reset at a much higher rate), thereby improving their credit, giving their child a place with a yard to grow up in, finding a modicum of independence from a landlord, and finally realizing the "American Dream". And when it sounded too good to be true, and when these first time buyers doubted it themselves, these mortgage brokers patted their hands and assured them: "Look, I've been in this business for 15 years. There's never been an opportunity like this. This may be your only chance, ever, to own your own home, now's the time to get in, mortgage rates are at their historical low and real estate prices will continue to climb! In fact, you'd be a fool not to."

Who didn't buy this on some level?

In fact, in this era of specialization, who doesn't trust the professionals to lay out a path for us in some field that we don't understand, nor are expected to know all about?

Who among us hasn’t boarded a plane with the implicit belief that the pilot has flown this particular type of plane thousands of times before, and knows what to do if the plane stalls? That the wings have been de-iced by the professionals who do this every day? That the pilot’s mental health has been vetted before he was given control of a passenger plane? We all assume we're getting a pilot like the hero Sully, but the fact is, we're not, and there's not a damn thing we can do about it, because in this specialized world, you have to operate on faith. Not faith in God (although for some there's an element of that too), but faith that the people you're putting your trust in, know what they're doing.

You have to hope that the babysitter you hired is not hitting your kid when you're at work, that the bus driver who's operating your tour bus winding along those cliffs in Mexico hasn't been drinking, and that Con Edison is truly charging you for the electricity you're using. But do you really know?

How could you?

You assume the FDA will keep you from eating tainted peanut butter or spinach, but as it turns out, it doesn't. In 2008, six people lost their lives (and over 500 became ill) eating not just peanut butter from a jar, but a product that they might not even have known included peanut butter, trusting as they did that the "professionals who make these products wouldn't knowingly poison them? Trusting the professionals.

And it's not just the middle class or a group of uneducated consumers who have recently been victimized. How about the wealthiest 1% in the world who were ripped off by Bernie Madoff, trusting him, or his agents, with their life savings?

The SEC whose very existence is predicated on preventing just such crimes, and catching just such thieves, blatantly ignored 5 years worth of warnings from whistleblowers who wrote to them multiple times that Madoff's investments were a scam, that his greatest work was a giant Ponzi scheme.

And yet thousands of highly educated and sophisticated investors assumed incorrectly, naively, perhaps stupidly, based on assurances from their financial advisors that their investments were going into high yielding stock funds, even though it seemed impossible that the returns they were getting could be as high and as consistent as they were.

And it turns out, Madoff was only one of what will surely turn out to be dozens of investment crooks who have been stealing money from rich, sophisticated investors, pension funds, museums, philanthropic institutes, and Ivy League universities, all of whom had highly paid professionals on their staffs steering the money toward the "best" investments, those funds with the best returns.

Immediately after Madoff, three more massive investment thieves were uncovered: Paul Greenwood and Stephen Walsh (of the WG Trading Company) managed to steal (what seems paltry in comparison to Madoff), $667 million from mostly New York investors, (unlike Madoff who actually went global), and Mark Bloom (who ran the North Hills Fund) and who apparently learned at the knees of those two masters and in 2001, started his own theft ring.

Greenwood and Walsh ripped off Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh among other clueless, naïve, some might call "greedy, ignorant, and blind" investors. Probably unfair to well-meaning and educated board members who were making decisions based on the expertise of highly trained financial advisors.

But there is a truth in the world now that is unavoidable and that truth is that: no one can be an "expert" on everything. No one person can know everything, and so we rely on "experts" who, for whatever reason, we choose to advise us in matters we don't completely, or deeply understand. Not just financial matters, but everything. The world as it exists now means that we go to professionals for almost every repair, for every product we need, for any health care question.

When my mom was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, the oncologist and her internist sat us down and gave us the options, such as they had determined. She could get radiation only, or combine it with chemo. She could do them simultaneously or one after another. If the tumor in her throat shrank enough, they suggested she could get an operation that would cut out that part of her esophagus that was affected and yank up her stomach to attach to the part that was left. Sounded horrific.

After they laid out all the options they asked her what she'd like to do. She looked at me; I looked at her. What would she LIKE to do? She'd LIKE to go home and watch TV, and probably, knowing her, smoke. But no, the professionals had told us what options she had and she was now being asked to make a choice.

It was like Sophie's choice. How much pain do you want to endure? None of it will probably work, and you will suffer horribly with every option, but if you're very, very lucky, and beat all the odds stacked against you, it just might work. The professionals gave us the facts and we made the decision. And this is how the world works. You consult with the professionals, you make an "educated" choice, and you are the one who suffers.

Because I was the only family member with her, she looked to me to help her make the decision. I told her to take both chemo and radiation; get it over with was my thought, and see what happened. And so she did, and what happened was the combined treatment was too much for her weakened system, and within 6 weeks she suffered total organ failure and died of what seemed to have been a heart attack. I had the hospital do an autopsy because I couldn't understand what caused the heart attack, and the ultimate irony was that the tumor had actually shrunk. And so, it was the treatment that killed her. The treatment I suggested; the treatment that was one of our options and that we chose based on "professional" expertise.

So when I hear people complain about the stupidity of people, the unfathomable greed of "poor" people buying homes they can't afford, I can only dredge up that old expression: "Let he who is without sin (or in this case, guilt), cast the first stone". Or more specifically: “Let he who has not relied on the wisdom of those who ‘know better’, criticize those who did.”

Perhaps you didn't buy a home you couldn't afford, but perhaps on the advice of professionals, you invested your IRA in stock mutual funds, or perhaps you trusted your money to a brilliant investment fund that had nothing but positive returns for the last 20 years, and now your savings are decimated.

(And, oh, by the way, those "lucky" ones who pulled their money out before the scandals broke are not so lucky after all. Unfortunately for them, they were required to return the money they so cleverly pulled out of their accounts, since, as it turns out, it's not "theirs" but belongs to the Justice Department since it was not earned but simply transferred from one victim's account to another's. Soon they will be sued by the Justice Department for that money, and if they don’t have it, perhaps they’ll have to stop paying their mortgages; perhaps they’ll even have to sell their houses to earn it back.)

So those geniuses who thought they "got out just in time" or who thought they beat Madoff at his own game, and who crow at those who left their money in these non-existent funds, are just as screwed as those whose money simply vanished. Not so clever, and not so lucky after all.

So none of us are as smart as we think, and one doesn't truly know whom one can trust; with your money or your life. The only thing we can do is our best, and hope we don't stumble into the way of a thief, or simply, a wrong decision.

And finally, perhaps, we should all have a little compassion for others before we leap to judge them.

Friday, March 25, 2016

I Put My Thong On Sideways... Again.


You'd be surprised (or I suppose men would be surprised; not women who wear these things) how easy it is to do. This happens to me fairly regularly, me with my undies on sideways, and sometimes I catch it before the jeans go on, and sometimes I 'm in a hurry and don't figure it out until I get home and wonder what all the weird, pulling was down there (when I was younger, I might have gotten some sort of thrill out of it - now I am just annoyed), and then I have a good chuckle once I figure it out. I'd like to say my old boyfriend used to chuckle heartily along with me, but no; the boyfriend was always appalled at this; he thought it was inconceivable. We're no longer together.

I mean, it happens! Thongs are like this, this triangle of cloth, with three sides, three openings, and a front and a back. Geometry was the only kind of math I was good in at school, but this thing is like a really hard geometry question on a standardized test, with a misleading drawing and no multiple choices below. In the half-dark of my bedroom, in the morning, when I'm tired, every corner of the thing looks the same; every corner offers a pocket where the… goods go. Here's me, standing there at first, with all the confidence in the world, on one leg, thinking I'm getting dressed. Still on one leg, I see it's one of these inscrutable pairs (question: why is a single piece of clothing referred to as a "pair"? This query includes "pairs of pants" but not "au pairs"), of which I have a few. There are a few pairs in the drawer but not a lot, and since I only wear them for dates, or the prospect of sex, they rest, for the most part, untroubled by my hand, which is why when I pull them out, it's like, "Oh these are nice! When did I get these? How do these work?"

So OK, now I realize there's going to be some trouble ahead, so the raised leg gets lowered; I'm going to need my balance, in fact, all my faculties if I'm ever going to get these on.

The tricky ones are the ones without the identifying tag at the back (that makes it easy!), and are small and cute, like a Russian doll's headscarf, with perhaps some ruffles. Sometimes, the little ruffles go in the front and sometimes they go in the back, so here's me, turning it back and forth, back and forth, trying to figure it out.

Say I choose putting the ruffle in the front. Ok, I've made a commitment. That leaves those three holes. And you'd think it'd be obvious, the pelvis on (most) women being slightly larger than her thighs. But we're dealing with a thong here, isn't that the thing David used to slay Goliath? (And what was David doing with a pair of women's underwear? Was Goliath standing there thinking the same thing? "What the hell, Dave, where did…" THWACK!) And it's meant for war. It's meant to baffle and lull its enemy into a false sense of security by its tiny flimsy little self, cute, sweet, weak. But man, it is powerful. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

So back to the triangle. Now I've got a front, and a back (probably) and I know your ass is supposed to sort of be exposed a little in the back, so I'm thinking the back part of the material should be kind of smaller than the front… but not on this pair. This pair, every way you turn it, you have the same amount of material. You've got about one inch of material on each of the three sides and so even though I have a back and a front, I'm spinning them around and around, like a guy spinning plates, really, or like a girl trying to get into a game of Double-Dutch, trying to figure out how do I get in.

After a while, I just stop spinning, sigh and climb in anywhere, just so I can get dressed. I have, on occasion, felt that weirdness you feel (or women feel), when you've got your underwear on sideways, where you can't take quite a full step over to the dresser, because something's pulling on your… parts. Since I'm not a regular thong-wearer, sometimes I just chalk this up to: this is the way these things feel, and this tightness in the wrong (or right) places, is just part of the deal, as is feeling the material of your jeans on your bare butt and trying to remember if you put underwear on at all, since it seems nothing is coming between "you and your Calvin's" if you know what I mean.

But sometimes I have to go to the mirror and look, because it's the only way I can confirm my suspicion that all is not right with the world, or at least with my panties, which, at 6:30am in your bedroom is where your world starts.

And yes, there I am, looking unsexy, ridiculous even, with the little hanky sort of listing to the side, with the middle part really taut across my belly, and on the left side, the material kind of puckering out because I've stuck my leg in the part where the whole body is supposed to go. If you've ever seen one of those ads for weight loss where the formerly fat guy climbs into one leg of his old gigantic pants, that's sort of what this looks like.

This is not a good look. Even alone, just you, it's not a winner. When the ruffles are going kind of vertical but on a slant, instead of parallel to the floor, this is a problem. So I take 'em off and start again, and, it has happened on more than one occasion, sometimes when I put them on the second time, they're still wrong!

And that, sir, is why I was late to the meeting.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

I Don't Understand What's Going On Upstairs??


I have put my earplugs now, and I can just barely hear the sound of rocks being tumbled in a cement mixer in the apartment above, so now I can gripe. It’s noisy here. Real noisy. I recently bought my first apartment in NY.

I was living the cloistered contented life of an Upper West Sider, living in a solidly built, Pre-War building, with walls a foot thick, taking the quiet for granted, clueless and happy. But I was renting and wanted to own, and so I departed that gentle place.

After the typical tortured search, I found a place I could afford to buy, in a Post War building. My new apartment was the right size, a decent price, in a good location. Being a Post War building meant it didn't have the details of my old place – in fact it looked a little like a hospital inside – but it was immaculate and on a block I loved, and did I mention it was affordable?

The noise didn’t begin until the second month I’d been there. It was the most amazing sound: the crisp, clipped, clomp of high heels, treading down the public hallway upstairs. I sat up and did the human equivalent of cocking my ear as I heard the key upstairs inserted into the lock, the turning of tumblers, the entrance of the high heel-wearing neighbor above.

As my eyes widened (which they do, by the way, whether or not you can see the remarkable thing happening), I heard her (I assumed it was a her – I hadn’t yet gotten into the fantasizing part of this sonic experience), put her lead-lined handbag on the floor, kick off her heels – into the wall – and pound into the kitchen.

After a few minutes of quiet, I relaxed. I comforted myself with the thought that there must be some special level of humidity in the atmosphere, carrying the sound in a particularly extreme way, like how you always hear a train when it rains, or a lawnmower when it’s sunny outside, and never any other time.

An hour later, I was lying in my bed and I heard the woman above clomp into the bedroom above me, and heard her take off her high-heeled shoes again – didn’t she already take them off once?? – that I knew this would be my acoustic fate. As I lay there, now with my book on my chest, I heard her take off her shoes two or three more times, each time flipping them handily off her big toe against one wall or the other. I imagined she was seated and about to recline when I heard her get up and walk around the room WITH HER SHOES BACK ON. (With no actual visual evidence I started now to try to deduce what was going on up there. Fantasies began forming, not of the fun variety).

It was like “Ground hog’s Day” or a Stephen King novel. The shoes would not stay off her feet, and she could not stop walking around. Even more bizarrely, as I followed her path with my eyes marking my own ceiling, it seemed that she was walking on every inch of her bedroom – criss-crossing here, tossing the shoes off on this side of the room, and then the next.

Where is the bed?? I thought to myself. In every bedroom I’ve ever known, you can’t traverse the entire floor because: there’s a bed in the way.

But no matter how I tried to visualize the space above, she kept thwarting me – because she walked here, there, and everywhere, as, I assumed, she tried to shake off those horrible shoes (Manolos?) that kept re-attaching themselves to her feet!!

I finally fell into sleep (dreaming about Savion Glover trying to put out a fire) until 6am the next morning.

My eyes opened without my moving my head because I was on a certain level, still asleep. Working nights means that I sleep in, at least until 7:30am, and this particular morning, my body couldn’t believe that I had set an alarm. Only it wasn’t an alarm.

The woman upstairs gets out of bed and, yes, she already has shoes on. She must sleep in them I think. They must be sleeping stilettos. In a new state of amazement, I listen as she clomps to one edge of the room. A moment, and then I hear her pull out a Titanic-era steamer trunk from her closet, dragging it to the middle of the floor where she unzips it. (I know most steamer trunks don’t have zippers – this one apparently does). She unzips, and then she unzips some more, and then I hear the zipper chattering yet again, or in another direction, and then again she unzips, and then one last long unzipping makes me sit up in bed. This is ridiculous. How many zippers does this thing have?

But it’s the packing that gets me standing.

For apparently she is (I imagine) a shoe salesperson, and she stores her 600 shoe samples in various bedroom closets, and when she leaves each morning, she packs by yanking out pairs and throwing them across the room into the suitcase. Clomp, Bang, Clank, Whap. The banging continues, until she’s finished, and then she zips the trunk’s eleven zippers up again. Finally, she sets it upright and drags it away. Some mornings she has a limp as she drags, making the whole thing fairly sinister.

Suddenly the walls of my apartment shudder with the slamming of her door, and the world is still again. A picture tilts on the wall.

Since then, I’ve come to know her and her partner well without ever having met them or even seen them. He arrived the next night, unzipping his suitcase (!) for he too it seems, is a shoe salesman. He (apparently) sells steel-tipped work boots. Each night, when they get home, the routine is the same. They tip their suitcases onto the floor of the bedroom, spilling the shoes out into an enormous pile (there’s room because there mustn’t be a bed). And then, each takes turn putting the shoes on and clomping around the room showing each other the new product line. Sometimes he wears the heels, sometimes she wears the boots. Each time a route is completed, they ceremoniously remove the shoes and throw them against the wall.

They also (apparently) sell steel cylinders, perhaps thermoses? which they carry from the bedroom to the living room and back, dropping 4 or 5 in each direction. They may also sell aluminum pots, small dogs with unclipped toenails, cymbals, gongs, cue balls, and loose marbles.

There is occasionally an electrical motor of some kind that sounds in the bedroom. This thing is fascinating to me in its mystery. Even as I lie there at 1:30am, exhaustion tugging at my eyelids, I still muster the strength to marvel at the mystery of this sound. There’s electricity involved, simultaneously grinding, creaking and buzzing.

It must be a winch I imagine, perhaps used to lower the bed from the ceiling or tilting down from the wall, like a drawbridge. Even in my semi-conscious state, I admire their clever use of space.

Revenge is not called for since these two are blameless – this is their job (I think). Everyone needs shoes, and I get a sense they’re good at what they do, or at least they have an enormous inventory. But I can’t do nothing.

My newest idea is to start painting. Buy some Benjamin Moore white, and start rolling it on the ceiling. Just start that first layer of paint that every Pre War building started with in the early 20th century, lapping on another coat every year for the next 80 years, until my ceiling is 5 inches thick and soundproof.

By then I figure the market will have improved and I can just sell the place and go live in an Ashram. As long as it’s in a Pre-War building.