Monday, April 14, 2014

There’s No Place Like the Home of Marble Memorials, Rooftop Bars, and Really Clean Subway Stations

Some time ago, I stood in a line behind two men who knew and randomly ran into each other. "I appreciate you,” one said (in lieu of “hello”) when he first made eye contact with the other. A few minutes later, he shook the other guy’s hand and said (instead of “goodbye”), “I appreciate you.” Three of the most meaningful words you can say to another person.

Or to another place. Because I whispered those words to Washington D.C. this weekend, when I was down there for the first time in several years.

I’ve spent a summer in D.C., many of my friends have lived in D.C. at some point, I’ve had two of the best birthday bashes of my life in D.C., my family took trips to D.C. when I was growing up, and “I appreciate you” sums up my thoughts whenever I roll into town. It doesn’t feel like home, it just feels good and comfortable and I’m glad it’s there. Even though it seems smaller each time I return, when I sit in the back of someone’s car looking out the window, catching glimpses of row houses and major monuments, the insuppressible smiles that spread across my face as a kid on a family trip haven’t lost their breadth. And this past weekend, it didn’t hurt to see the cherry blossoms in peak bloom.  


Monday, April 7, 2014

Eight Reasons Why I’m Upset That Winter Is Over

*Now I have to comb my hair before greeting the general public, instead of pulling on a hat or hood as a cover-up. It’s oppressive.

*Icier coffee is pricier coffee.
*There’s an increased likelihood of getting jumped – the warmer the weather, the greater the odds of violent crime. I know I read that somewhere, sometime.
*I don’t want to sweat.
*In about 6 weeks from now, when I first begin to complain about the sweating, an acquaintance will be all, “Well, it is summer.” Yes, I know, but when this person spent the better part of November, December, January, February, and March complaining about the shivering (and less than a foot of snow), I companionably stayed quiet.
*Back to hats. The fedora has made a comeback. Tastemakers seem more brazen about throwing one on when the temperature soars above 35 degrees.
*The chirping about summer homes and time-shares in two specific locations – the Hamptons and Cape Cod - has already begun (√† la, “You’re on the Cape, right?” “No, silly, you’re thinking of my ex-in-laws and my grandfather’s new girlfriend. We’re in Sag Harbor. We are Sag Harbor”).
*My ankle boots (the “aggressive girl’s” footwear of choice, researchers report) have a way of effortlessly optimizing my posture, and I report that our posture says more about us than our shoes. As much as I adore flip-flops, I would continue wearing these boots through the spring and summer if I didn’t worry about this being a gateway to hitting the streets and beaches in fedoras.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Twelve Signs Program

My best friend’s birthday was on Saturday. Another close friend’s was the Saturday before that. My dad’s is later this week. And so on. Most of the people I’ve ever fiercely loved have been Aries.   

Having a decent working knowledge of astrology has made my life easier. I don’t put stock into daily horoscopes, but do believe the month and day we were born says a lot about our big-picture personalities and values. If I spend more than about an hour with someone I’ve just met, I ask when his or her birthday is, not because I’m promising to pay tribute to it but because it gives me a better sense of who I’m dealing with and how much longevity we have.

As part of a pickup line, an Aries once told me (a Libra) that Libras and Aries go well together. (Update: we did not. He has all of the bad Aries attributes, in addition to the bad attributes of many other zodiac signs.) Someone’s birthday falling under a certain sun sign doesn’t tell you the whole story (I’ve known flighty Virgos, codependent Aquarians, passive Leos) – you need to track down that person’s moon and rising signs to get the full scoop.  

Sun signs still mean something. It’s no coincidence that those I gravitate toward and mesh the strongest with fall under the same 3 or 4 signs; or that those I clash the ugliest with fall under the same 1 or 2 signs. I entered my birthday (month, day, and nothing more - for example, if your birthday is March 31st, type in “March 31 Birthday Astrology”) into Google, clicked on the first search result, and read a profile of people born on that day. All I need to do the next time anyone asks me to describe myself is hand over a print-out of what I pulled up. Or send the link.

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Few Words on Mickey, Minnie, Stuart Little, Chuck E. Cheese, and Their Freeloading Relatives

As of two nights ago, I keep my toilet lid down whenever the best seat in the house is not in use. All because of a sentence I read about a New Yorker who saw a rat swim up and crawl out of his.

Giving blood, public speeches, ultimatums - I have no qualms. But the sight of an indoor rodent will break me. I don’t mind them in meadows or dungeons, as these are places where they belong. They have no business roaming, unchaperoned, through buildings with mailing addresses.
I was 22 when I first saw one. I spit my gum into an uncovered trash can in my law school building and a mouse (a stocky whippersnapper), that had just been hit, jumped up like it wanted to fight me. The next time, I sat in a study carrel (in the same building) and felt something crash into my shoe. I saw another one in the first NYC apartment I rented. My super and I have gone around my current apartment to seal any conceivable opening a mouse could squeeze through. I hadn’t thought about the toilet.

In the weeks after I saw that mouse in my former living quarters, I couldn’t think or talk about anything else (having to read a proposal for work entitled “The Long Tail” didn’t help). Locals laughed and rolled their eyes. “What is it about mice you hate so much?” one realty broker asked. Another said the mice wouldn’t hurt me.  

I knew a Brooklynite who walked in on a mouse bobbing in her bowl of oatmeal. I know of an Upper West Sider who has woken up to find mice in bed with him. Others who have spotted one shrug their shoulders, set up traps, continue to whip up fragrant 3-course meals as if nothing had happened. They’re so blas√©, it’s commendable. And I have no interest in emulating their composure.

Monday, March 17, 2014

What Would You Have Done?

Of all the clips I’ve seen about the apartment buildings that exploded 6 avenues east of where I live last week, this one has stayed with me the firmest.

Someone I later mentioned this footage to said, “Well, of course. How could a person passing by not have reacted like that?” Which is fantastically naive. Put in the same proximate position, many (if not most) laypeople wouldn’t have had the impulse to help. They would have ran, not walked, in the opposite direction, away from the smoke, flames, and ruins.

If I had walked past the explosion, I think I would have responded at least somewhat charitably. But here’s something I learned long ago, something useful: hypotheticals mean nothing. You never know how you’ll react in any situation until you actually find yourself in it.

An hour earlier, the faceless and selfless voice in the video could have had a staunch reputation as a self-involved asshole.

The next time this happens, the person who’s reading this, saying “I was a lifeguard in high school and just returned from a mission trip in Honduras. I’d throw down my knapsack and get to work, rescuing trapped passengers from their cars,” could be the first bystander pushing everyone aside to more quickly head out of harm’s way and let the professionals take care of it.  

Monday, March 10, 2014

Rehashing an Old Thread

Someone I recently hung out with brought up knitting. That she knows how to do it.

It reminded me of a former teenage cashier of mine. After I took her to lunch one afternoon, she said she’d knit me a replica of the beanie she often wore on her head. “I’ll take it,” I assured her. While ringing me up a few weeks later, she asked what color I’d like. I gave her a range – carnation pink, lavender, beige, whatever else popped in my head at the time. Two years have passed, and where in the hell is my hat?
It reminded me that I would like to knit hats, gloves, and baby booties on my own. I applaud those who absent-mindedly knit on the subway, during conference calls, while listening to NPR. If I feel relaxed just watching someone knit, how much more relaxing could it be to do it myself?

I’ve never had a knack for anything related to sewing. If it hadn’t been for the cooking unit, I would have failed my mandatory junior high Home Ec classes.
Awhile back, I heard about a local yarn store’s knitting classes. It offered one for adults and one for kids between the ages of 7 and 12. My email to them hinted that I’d prefer placement in the children’s program (though even that was iffy; those 7-year-olds would sew circles around me). The person who emailed me back clearly assumed I was kidding.

The other day, I read an essay maintaining there are only two human motivators: desire and fear. The smallest and biggest decisions we make are based on one or the other. When it comes to knitting, I have both desire and fear, with the fear coming out slightly ahead.
I have many other talents I’m proud of (most of which are fueled purely by desire): keeping secrets from people I don’t trust; bringing seemingly inkless ballpoint pens back to life; scoring mint-condition Brooks Brothers shirts for $10; diagnosing (and then neutralizing) any sociopaths in my midst. There’s also my abnormally superb peripheral vision. I could go on, but won't.

Monday, March 3, 2014

My Mouth

Down at the office the week before last, I wondered about an annual meeting that tends to take place in early February. One that I begin dreading the first week of January.

This year, by the third week of February, there were no signs of it. I picked up my straight-out-of-1989 desk phone (which has no caller ID; I’m petrified every time it rings) and called a co-worker who’s usually somewhat involved with the meeting’s coordination.

“Just out of curiosity, isn’t this normally the month for…”

“Wow, you’re right, thanks for the reminder. I’ll start routing the emails about it tomorrow.”

“THIS PHONE CALL NEVER HAPPENED, THIS PHONE CALL NEVER HAPPENED, THIS PHONE CALL NEVER HAPPENED!”

Too late, the meeting got underway less than 48 hours later. With regard to impulsive speak-ups like these, I’m a veteran, welcome to my war. I’m the most talkative introvert I know. Wearing a muzzle wouldn’t be the worst tactical approach.

Conveniently enough, my dentist recently prescribed and issued me a customized nightguard, to control my teeth grinding and clenching routine. It is virtually impossible to speak clearly while it’s in. So now it doubles as a dayguard. While on the job, I tend to forget it’s in unless someone says something that absolutely necessitates a response. This lightweight powerhouse has already paid for itself.  

The less I talk, the better I plan. The less I talk, the more I move. The less I talk, the more some of what I’ve heard finally makes sense. The less I talk, the more likely I am to gaze out my window and catch the final seconds of another dazzling sunset over the 30 Rock building, the kind that no amateur photographer can faithfully capture.