Friday, December 29, 2006

Muuuuch Better...


The painters did their job yesterday. Not the renovation I'd been planning on earlier this year, but a worthy stopgap nonetheless.

More later, as we wipe plaster dust from our internal organs and put everything back in its place.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Cold Cut Christmas

We visited my parents in Queens yesterday. In days of yore, my mother would have cooked dinner, but age and declining health have necessitated that such feasts be ordered in now.

As we were about to leave our house to head for hers, she called and said the seafood restaurant we were going to order take-out from was closed for Christmas for the first time that she could remember.

"So order in Chinese food," recalling the reliable standby in "A Christmas Story."

"They're all closed! They're Christian."

"I'll get something from Gourmet Garage and bring it there." But as I approached the store, I observed a dark storefront and nobody going in or out. Oh no...but yes. The only thing open in my entire world-renowned restaurant-heavy neighborhood was the Gristede's supermarket. I reported live via cell from their deli counter.

"Never mind," replied my mother. "The deli here is open. I can see from the window."

Once we got out to Queens, a quick recon of the neighborhood confirmed that the deli/bagel place was indeed the only venue open. So at dinnertime, my father and I set off down the boulevard in the pouring rain, me with an umbrella and he in his baseball cap with "Steamfitters Local 638" on the front. My father is still jaunty-jolly at 82 and only semi-retired, and hopefully for the sake of my mental health and anemic retirement funds, I've inherited his constitution.

At the deli, my father told me to pick out anything I wanted.

"Oh, some sliced turkey breast, I guess, and some cheese."

"That's all?" he asked, and proceeded to order about a pound of everything that was behind the counter. The deli clerks sliced and scooped, and there was soon a pile of little packages at the register; little gifts of meat, cheese and salad to be unwrapped back at the house. And before Jim and I left to go home, the leftovers were all re-wrapped and sent with us.

"Here! Here! We can always get more tomorrow." So could we, but realized the futility of refusing an offer of food from my parents. So cold-cut laden, we now have ingredients for picnic dinners for the rest of the year.

By the way, my parents really loved the little picture frames with the sculptures of the cats. They looked so much like Ashley and Chico that my mother had thought I had had them custom-made. I wasn't going to let on that I had found them at a street fair a couple of months ago, but then I figured that she would tell Wanda From Down the Hall and Bernice From Upstairs and then they would want custom-made frames, too, and then I would either have to fess up or try to find the guy again.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Okay: Awwwwwww!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Ho Ho Ho, Out It Goes

While everyone celebrates Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza, Festivus, etc., in my house we are observing the time-honored ritual called "Throwing Stuff Out Because The Painters Are Coming!"

And it's just the right time to celebrate this, too, because we're right at the beginning of Discardia.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


This artist is saving all of her cats' hair in the form of a ball.

My original cats, Pongo and Phoebe (below) lived very long lives. If I had saved all of their hair, the ball would be as large as Pluto, which, while no longer a planet, is still very, very large for a furball.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Blogging Will Be Light Today. Thinking Will Be Minimal.

I'm on deadline with a project at work, which is giving me the opportunity to master my Adobe InDesign skills. Adobe InDesign works well with Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop, and is aggravating me by having the audacity to not be QuarkXpress.

I'm creating some pie charts, so the files are named, "Two Large Pies," "Four Alternative Pies," "Three Euro Pies."

I feel as if I'm working in a pizzeria.

P.S. Pie are round. Cornbread are square.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Ashley Heidi, Chico Bitey

So now you know; I'm one of those childless pet owners who give their pets middle names.

In this case, the middle names have to do with each cat's defense mechanism, so I'm still staying close to nature.

These photos will be printed on nice photographic paper and placed into two picture frames that I bought for my parents at a street fair a couple of months ago. One has a little figurine of an orange tabby, and one has a little figurine of a silver tabby.

Yep. Truly pathetic.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Action Jackson

Today I used a free afternoon and unseasonably gorgeous weather to check out Jackson Heights, a neighborhood in northwest Queens that's begun to attract a lot of people who are being priced out of decent housing in Manhattan.

I got off the #7 elevated train at 82nd Street to find a thriving Latin immigrant community, with the smell of fried food wafting up the stairs to greet me. I strolled around 82nd Street, 37th Avenue and Roosevelt Avenue. The stores and the crowds looked like 14th Street in downtown Manhattan did a few years ago, before 14th Street turned into one long swath of Big Box stores and multi-million dollar condo lofts. The tops of several of the lower buildings had that Tudor detailing you find in a lot of major thoroughfares in Queens.

I didn't see any evidence of Exiled Manhattanites on my walk, but I did see tree-lined side street with big pre-World War Two red brick apartment buildings. The kind where you know that the apartments inside will have good strong bones and large rooms. They would also probably be three- or four-bedroom apartments with extended families: Parents, three or four kids, a cousin or two, an aunt or uncle, maybe a grandparent brought over from the old country once Dad got settled and found work in a restaurant.

These are the kind of buildings where my great-grandparents raised their families, and my grandparents, and where my parents raised their kids until I turned 13.

When I got back onto the #7 train, it was full of Asian immigrants who had gotten on at Flushing. I changed trains at 74th Street, and a bunch of immigrants from India and Pakistan got on. They would be raising the next generation of Americans in those big red brick buildings. The kids would go on to college or tech school, then get out and get jobs and look for a place of their own. And then, in a few more years, they too would be Exiled Manhattanites.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Emotional Dyslexic

I've seen a lot of stuff being written lately about Emotional Intelligence. Apparently, somebody can be brilliant and still be clueless about somebody close to them being mad or sad until they're hit over the head with a 2x4 like a mule.

I don't have that problem. Instead, I'm an Emotional Dyslexic.

A regular dyslexic person can have a high IQ but read the word "saw" for the word "was." An Emotional Dyslexic doesn't have to hold a wet finger up to the wind to note the slightest climate change, but they can wildly misinterpret what they're perceiving.

For instance, I have a friend who's been distant and cold toward me for the past couple of months. And although I'm not given to wild bursts of paranoia, lately I'm actually beginning to suspect that she's been going out of her way to avoid the slightest contact with me.

Now, what my Emotional Dyslexia is telling me is that my friend awakened one morning and finally realized that I'm the biggest loser in the world, and she's quite sensibly fleeing for her life. But that may not be the case. It may also be possible that my friend is experiencing problems of her own, and doesn't want to confide in me because she may perceive me as a talker rather than a listener.

This wouldn't be an illogical assumption. Anyone who's met me can vouch for the fact that I'm not shy about expressing what's on my mind, even if what's on my mind is whatever jerk has the audacity not to recognize how magnificent I am. But also, people who know me well know that this behavior is merely the flip side of feeling that somehow, I screwed up so royally at this business of life that I deserve whatever abuse said jerk is heaping on me, and more.

That's why, although I have a big mouth, when it comes to those I care about I'm all ears. When you share your problems with me, you're taking my ego off mine for a while, and also you're helping me to put my own insecurities in perspective and to realize that I'm only human, and so are you.

I had a conversation with my father a few weeks ago. I always want my parents to think I'm doing well, especially since they always had trepidations that as an artist and an oddball, I would end up on welfare or dead in a ditch. But on that day, I went out to a restaurant with my dad and confided in him about how disappointed I'd felt in myself lately, and how I wouldn't blame him if he were disappointed in me, too.

But it turned out that he wasn't disappointed at all, and thought that I was doing well considering some of the curves life has thrown at me for the past couple of years. And he told me about things in his long life that he didn't feel had worked out the way he'd planned. And this didn't make me think any worse of him, but it made me feel better about myself. Not better like, "Ha ha, somebody else's life sucks," but like, "Maybe I'm not such a screw-up after all, if I'm like this guy who I admire so much."

It may turn out that all my assumptions about my friend are totally off-base. And that the writing on the wall, instead of saying "I saw my friend," will say "She was my friend." Only time will tell, and I hope that when it does, I will be able to read the message.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

We Are All "That Girl"

You can watch entire episodes of "That Girl" online throughout the month of December on TVLand's web site (h/t to Danny Miller for this info.)

I hadn't seen "That Girl" in a while, but I used to watch it all the time when I was a kid. Like millions of other girls my age, I perceived it as pretty much a road map for my future: Get a really nice apartment that I would be able to afford on my income as an unemployed actress and have a really cool boyfriend who writes for a major weekly magazine. Not to mention so many clothes you never saw her in the same outfit twice.

Yet, as liberated as Ann Marie was for 1965, by the time we were out in the working world fifteen years later she was hopelessly antiquated. She didn't sleep with her boyfriend! She wore white gloves to her day job!

And she went out on dates. Those of us who moved into the apartments and had the day jobs in 1979 New York did not go out on dates, and we did not have boyfriends. "It's the guy I'm seeing's birthday," you would say, if you indeed were seeing somebody. Otherwise, you would just hang out with a bunch of people until something accidentally turned into something sexual. And then you would have to make it look as if you didn't remember his name, if you liked him more than he liked you, or if it was the other way around you would have to weigh your integrity against the possible security of having a boyfriend, at least for a month or so. Gotta keep those options open.

Marlo Thomas may have been as much of a feminist icon in the 70's as her sitcom character had been in the 60's, but not for anyone I hung out with.

So this morning, I was watching an episode of "That Girl" where Ann fills in for Donald's secretary (Secretary! See how sexist that is, we would have said in the 70's) and Donald feels so awkward at this intrusion of his personal life into his workplace that he makes the office a hell on earth for himself, Ann and his co-worker. But Ann is smart enough to know that this is because Donald has a problem, not her, and Donald is smart enough to know it too. Or at least that's what the guy wrote. Those scripts were all written by the Donald Hollingers of the world back then.

Compare and contrast this with me at about that age, with a succession of abusive bosses, being rejected by theater companies where you had to pay to get onstage, and guys who I believed when they said "We had a great relationship until you came along and ruined it," and antiquated Ann starts to look like a decent role model. You could tell that Mr. Marie (not their real name) had raised Ann with a healthy sense of self-esteem, and probably never had to shell out bucks to some Park Avenue shrink so that Ann could find out why she blamed herself for Donald's approach/avoidance issues.

Of course, women's rights had to evolve, and sexual mores as well. So we've spent the past 25 years figuring out how to have the self-regard without the white gloves and the limited career options. And we can revisit the old shows, and the old mores, to see what worked then, and what we can apply to now. And admire Ann's outfits.

BTW, we knew "That Girl" was a Jewish show, the way we knew that "The Dick Van Dyke Show" was Jewish, even if they didn't say. It was the "J" that dared not speak its name.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Christmas vs. Chanukah

Which one would win in a fight?

Actually, my husband's cousin sent this humor bit to him in an e-mail, but it's here, too. It's about the differences between Christmas and Chanukah.

This one is my favorite:
Christmas is one day, same day every year. December 25. Jews love Dec. 25th. It's another paid day off work. We go to movies and out for Chinese food, and Israeli dancing. Chanukah is 8 days. It starts the evening of the 24th of Kislev, whenever that falls. No one is ever sure. Jews never know until a non Jewish friend asks when Chanukah starts, forcing us to consult a calendar so we don't look like idiots. We all have the same calendar, provided free with a donation from either the World Jewish Congress, the kosher butcher, or the local Sinai Memorial Chapel (especially in Florida).
This is funny because when I read it I had to go look at the calendar to see when Chanukah was. It's this Friday night. Time to check for burnt-out electric menorah bulbs.

P.S. The spell check does not recognize "Chanukah."

P.P.S. God does not know how to spell "Chanukah."

Chico Waits For A Treat

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Thinking Off The Top of My Uterus

I had always thought that I quit the stand-up business because I wanted a more stable and respectable means of self-support/self-expression than spending 50 hours a week begging semi-literate promoters for a chance to ply my wit at their saloons. But according to this article in Vanity Fair, my real calling is to show my pearly horseshoe of teeth pretending to laugh at Christopher Hitchens' jokes until he falls off his barstool:
For women, reproduction is, if not the only thing, certainly the main thing. Apart from giving them a very different attitude to filth and embarrassment, it also imbues them with the kind of seriousness and solemnity at which men can only goggle....

Men are overawed, not to say terrified, by the ability of women to produce babies. (Asked by a lady intellectual to summarize the differences between the sexes, another bishop responded, "Madam, I cannot conceive.") It gives women an unchallengeable authority. And one of the earliest origins of humor that we know about is its role in the mockery of authority. Irony itself has been called "the glory of slaves." So you could argue that when men get together to be funny and do not expect women to be there, or in on the joke, they are really playing truant and implicitly conceding who is really the boss....

If I am correct about this, which I am, then the explanation for the superior funniness of men is much the same as for the inferior funniness of women. Men have to pretend, to themselves as well as to women, that they are not the servants and supplicants. Women, cunning minxes that they are, have to affect not to be the potentates....

Childbearing and rearing are the double root of all this.... As every father knows, the placenta is made up of brain cells, which migrate southward during pregnancy and take the sense of humor along with them....

There's a discussion of said article over on Althouse, with Ann leading the way:
He's trying to make me say "That's not funny" to prove his point, right? And, if I say he's pissing me off, that's just my womb making me take things seriously, right?
Yeah! It sounds like Hitch is one of those guys from third grade who think a girl with a sense of humor is somebody who's a good sport when you put something icky down her back.

Amba comments:
He sounds almost exactly like Norman Mailer a generation or two ago. The Prisoner of Sex,it may have been. Mailer basically said women didn't need brains because we had wombs, that a brain was a man's womb, or compensation for not having one, and that women would always be second-rate at creating anything with our brains because for us "reproduction is, if not the only thing, certainly the main thing."

The effect of that was to turn ambitious women, unnecessarily, against reproduction.

Hey, that's why I don't have kids!

Actually, I did feel that way about reproduction at around 16 when I first read Mailer's book, but by 15 years later I'd worked a lot of those issues out, decided guys like that were full of crap and scared of broads, and that I would darn well have a baby and be President of Show Business. I was still well within my childbearing years. Okay, can't blame Mailer.

Several people commented that it was an intelligence thing, and that women had been conditioned to hide their intelligence in order to get a guy. While it's true that many women, including me, have dumbed themselves down for some guy sometime, I've seen too many hack acts to credit the comedy field with an abundance of smarts from either gender.

I will venture forth to say that it's an anger thing, and that many women, and not a few men, have been conditioned away from anger. I mean, it's not like your mother sits you down when you're three and says, ""Now, now, Josephine, you must not express anger." It's more insidious, so that by the time you're at least provisionally an adult, you don't even recognize your anger as anger: It's you being f*cked up, you being unreasonable, you being out of control. You? You've got some nerve!

The times when my comedy wasn't working were when I hadn't gotten to the anger yet, or when I was stuck in the anger. You need to be guided by the anger, to have it behind you or under you, so that it lifts you the way a Saturn 5 rocket lifted the Apollo moon launches. And then you need the talent to guide that rocket to the moon.

Joan Rivers once wrote, "Comedy is anger, but anger is not comedy." Something that a man named Michael Richards recently found out all too well.

Bonus Round: Young comics discuss the article at jenisfamous.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

This Will Blow You Away

I can't describe this, but if you have about eight minutes, watch it.

It's work-safe.

jerome murat
Uploaded by segalier

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Hollow "Ha!"

This short story by Ann Forbes Cooper has the topic of unrequited love down nuance-perfect:
Feeling snubbed, overnight my feelings of amour turned to humiliation and a desire for revenge. My days of fawning were over. I'd play hard to get and feign indifference, thereby gaining his attention and boosting my own enigmatic allure. I began ignoring him and flirting with Charlie, the balding science fiction writer. And my next story, about an anal-retentive, narcissist writer who jogged, was clearly a thinly drawn portrait of him.

Unfortunately, such tactics backfired, producing the opposite results from those intended. His--burka-blue?-- eyes flashing, he'd savaged my efforts, embarrassing me in front of everyone. Making me doubt whether I was even meant to be, A Writer. Plus Charlie, the balding science fiction writer, started following me around devoted lamb-like.

That passage made me go "Ha!" Not a mirthful "Ha!" but one of those rueful "Ha!'s" with a underlying threnody of "been there, done that."

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Becoming Unstitched

I had the stitches removed this afternoon, and the surgery is healing well. I look like someone who's had a cold for three days, which I have, so it works out fine.

What's even more important for my self-esteem is that my squashed fat lip is back to normal. I was getting tired of telling people I was going to a costume party as Hedda Nussbaum.

The week of the lip had sent me into paroxysms of adolescent self-consciousness as intense as Marcia Brady's with her flattened proboscis. There were only two categories of people I wanted to see me: People who knew me really, really well, and people who would not be likely to ever see me again. This left me with three activities: Going to work, coming home and going shopping. I blew off a couple of social engagements that involved meeting people I "knew" from online, fearing they would henceforth connect the name "Melinda" with "That poor girl with the lip."

You may say, "Can you really be that vain and insecure? There are people going around maimed and disfigured for life and you can't deal with a few temporary lumps and bumps?" But this isn't a matter of extent; it's a matter of timing. With a loved one having a serious illness and a friend who's acting strange, I feel that it's not only the terrain of my face that's unfamiliar, but the terrain of my life...and it's not hard for me to envision waking up in a world where I'm recognized by no one.

It would be so easy to let myself get sucked into an inky whirlpool of fear, but I don't have that luxury. It's tough enough to stay afloat in this world when your arms are strong and your backstroke impeccable. So I will buy a new lipstick, grab my datebook, and go forward.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Real Reasons

I've decided to wuss out and get the apartment painted and spackled, after all.

As always, whenever I have to spend a red cent on our apartment on anything I can't take with me if we moved, I bring out all my unquestioned assumptions and cognitive dissonance for examination, the way we take all the junk off its customary resting places to either pack away or discard.

“Why bother repairing anything; it’s only a temporary place” is a good example. It’s like with the china for eight people that a relative got me in 1978, when I first moved into the apartment. The assumption then, as I wrote in my blog last March, was that I would “grow into” the eight-place-setting lifestyle the way a puppy grows into its paws and the fact that it was not yet my lifestyle meant that I was still a puppy. But I just grew into a different breed of animal: A toy dog with a toy apartment.

Cognitive dissonance is when you tell yourself something that objective reality would show is clearly not true.

Like, "why am I in the city?" To which my knee-jerk answer is usually, "Oh, the culture!" Yeah, when was the last time I went to a museum?

The real reason is the convenience to everything. Even if, on paper, a Queens neighborhood is “minutes to Manhattan!” it’s usually minutes from the time you get on the subway until it crosses the East River. And “minutes” in the sense that it’s under an hour. Sometimes the number of minutes is 59.

So don’t say "culture" unless you intend to start actually going to cultural things. Maybe what you mean is, “I’m the culture.”

Which leads to Big Hunk of Cognitive Dissonance #2: “I’m in the city because I didn’t fit into my neighborhood in Queens. Everybody was such a greaser!” This is no longer true of Queens. Now everyone is Chinese. So I still wouldn’t fit.

But I also question how well I fit into the Village, since the issue in the Village is that you fit by disappearing. When I cross Sheridan Square in the prime of the evening, it’s a sure bet that at least eighty percent of the people about to smack into me are from somewhere else.

And yet, early in the morning on the way to the subway, or mid-morning on a Saturday or Sunday bringing in the laundry or picking up some bagels, before tourists, trendsetters, hangers-out and hangers-on descend, the Village truly feels like a village, and it belongs to me and my neighbors. We'll gladly welcome you for a visit, and appreciate your boosting the economy of all the places on Bleecker that we ourselves can't afford, but it's our home. I may not have carved out the Bohemian dream I'd envisioned at 23, but every street has been colonized by the experiences of the life I've actually had.

So I'll call the painters and the hardware store and start packing away--or throwing away--all the books, papers, knick-knacks and mental trash. It'll make my surroundings more pleasant now, and I'll be in a better position to travel lightly if circumstances or opportunity prompt me to move on and set up a colony in some other place.

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