Monday, September 15, 2014

That Voice from Above

After all these years, I thought I finally figured out who my upstairs neighbor is. But wrong person, mystery still unsolved, the suspense will neither kill me nor make me stronger.

We keep similar hours and I like when s/he’s home, the sounds of futzing around, soft singing, guitar strums. It’s a male voice, a tenor, that sings. I’ve heard the click-clack of high heels, a feminine footfall, twice.
I have now entered my building alongside two women who were on their way to the floor above me, not sure whether the younger and quieter one was a cross-dresser until the older of the two got in my face, pointed at Junior and accusatorily asked: “Isn’t she beautiful?”

“Mmm-hmm,” I said. They both had a gloriousness to them, unconventionally speaking, à la a con-artist duo straight out of a long-running Broadway musical – a pair up to no good, but on the cusp of belting out a detailed and catchy diddy to rationalize all the lies and manipulations.
“No one should ever discriminate against her,” Junior’s spokeswoman kept going. “It doesn’t matter what she’s wearing or who she wants to be.”

As if I had said or implied otherwise. As if I could care less whether this was a dude or a lady. I just want to know if s/he’s the guitarist, whose birthday falls on February 11th (Aquarians are notoriously creative individualists). I was home last February 11th and it’s the only time I’ve known him or her to have had anything close to a raucous gathering. Early into it, the small crowd sung happy birthday. And did not enunciate the birthday boy or girl’s first name.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Ten (G-Rated) Things I Once Swore I’d Never Do, But Have Since Done


*Join Facebook

*Count carbs

*Come down with seasonal allergies

*Forgive a non-blood relative who has wronged me

*Go back to wearing heels

*Go back to Whole Foods

*Go back to making the sign of the cross and praying

*A crossword puzzle (or part of one)

*Fall in love with an Apple product

*Become a blogger 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Summer Travel Season May Be Winding Down, But Fall/Winter/Spring Travel Is A-Comin’

We all have reputations. Like the rest of you, there are statements, attitudes, and descriptions I’m used to being on the receiving end of, by now. Commentary I get on a regular basis, reflecting other people’s assumptions of who I am/what I represent:

“You work too much.

There’s hardly anything you say behind people’s backs that you haven’t already said to their faces.

Listen, you CANNOT ever write about what I’m telling you. I guarantee you’re already thinking about it.

I can’t believe you watch Real Housewives.

Looks like you’ve been drinking….”

Almost everyone, male or female, who has ever traveled with me or lifted my luggage has exclaimed some equivalent of: “Damn girl, you pack light.”

Now that one is all true, all inoffensive, all badge of honor. Let’s call me the Anti-Diva. I can easily do two weeks away from home with nothing more than a small suitcase, a roomy over-the-shoulder carry-on number, and a modest tote bag. I won’t pack more than two pairs of shoes. I’ll wear the same cardigan and pair of jeans more than once. I’ll use that little tote I carried-on as my purse for the duration of the trip. If I see a toy that would be perfect for a youngster I’m about to spend time with, but it would take up too much space in a suitcase, I’ll say “never mind, I’ll treat him/her to something bigger and better when I get there.”

I’m over airport security. I’m over airports in general. Amtrak and coach buses too.

Post-9/11, I’ve (accidentally) taken at least three round-trip commercial flights with a box cutter in my bag and nobody stopped me; yet everything goes to hell if there’s a 4 oz. bottle of moisturizer on me. And after recently catching a 20/20 segment that confirmed my worst suspicions about how mischievous baggage handlers can get with unlocked, checked-in luggage, I will continue to err on the side of packing like a pauper.

I need to go on more car trips.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Dedicated to Those Pouring Buckets of Ice Water Over Their Heads, Without Realizing What It’s All For

On Friday, the day before my late mother’s birthday, two friends group-texted me about making a donation to the ALS Association, in memory of her name. Although they probably contributed money when I fundraised for a Walk to Defeat ALS many years ago, this is the first time they’ve donated out of nowhere. But it wasn’t totally out of nowhere, in that I knew it had something to do with the Ice Bucket Challenge.

So far, this remarkable social media-driven craze has raised more than $70 million for what has been an under-funded, under-researched death sentence. Aside from that, what do I love most about the Ice Bucket Challenge? I no longer get completely baffled looks when I use the term ALS.

“What’s your mom have?” people asked the year she was dying, and “How’d she die?” in the aftermath.

ALS,” I said, to blank faces. “Also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.”

“Oh, right,” they’d say, slightly less puzzled, having somehow heard those three words strung together before, knowing they meant something bad.

Now people get what ALS, those three letters, means. Except for the group of teenagers I ran into the other night.

“Ice bucket challenge?” I asked one, after another poured a bucket of water over yet another’s head, ice cubes cascading all over the sidewalk, to the merriment of all.

“Yeah.”

“My mom died of ALS, so thank you.”

“What’s ALS?”

After I told him, he looked so ready to cry that part of me wished I’d said nothing.

Monday, August 18, 2014

My Main Takeaway? All Cops Need to Wear Body Cams

I wouldn’t mind hitting the streets with a body cam myself. That would knock out the occasionally time-consuming burden of rooting around my bag for my phone. And then fiddling with the phone for many seconds before it’s ready to record.

Speaking of that phone, I’ve been glued to it since last Wednesday, following the chain of events in Ferguson, Missouri on Twitter. If you’ve only kept up via newspaper articles and TV news segments, you don’t know the half of it. The most thorough and up-to-date coverage is on Twitter, by way of briefings, quotes (from peaceful protesters, unruly protesters, peaceful cops, unruly cops), photos, and videos provided by on-the-ground journalists and community representatives.

I’m sleeping like someone waiting for her 9-month-pregnant best friend’s water to break. Everything else (my day job, drafting this blog post, communications having nothing to do with Ferguson) feels like a bothersome distraction from my moment-to-moment updates. The past two nights’ tweeted material has left my stomach in knots, while making me wish I stuck with journalism. 

As a campus news reporter the first two years of college, I liked year #1, tolerated year #2, and resigned not many weeks into year #3. I didn’t love my editors and most stopped speaking to me after I quit (including the one who once asked to see my inhaler, put it in her mouth, and took a puff before handing it back and strolling away, as if we knew each other like that), giving me an aggressive version of the silent treatment each time we crossed paths. But I liked interviewing people, overhearing people, recording their words, listening to explanations of why they think the way they do, sorting it all out into a narrative. That’s one way to become more capable of understanding more than one side of an issue.

The reporters risking their lives (probably for very little money) to show and tell the world what’s really happening in Ferguson have been tear gassed, threatened with assault rifles, arrested and released without charges. With respect for them all, I’ve developed a particular fondness for the front-liners I’ve mainly followed this week: the Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery, USA Today’s Yamiche Alcindor, freelance journalist Amy K. Nelson, the Huffington Post’s Ryan Reilly, and BuzzFeed’s Joel D. Anderson, who don’t look much older than 30.

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Delicate Cycle, Indeed

Not having laundry facilities in your own building is the pits. Much worse than not having a 24-hour doorman or access to a rooftop deck.

The act of doing laundry becomes a production that could transform you into a frequent hand-washer and air-dryer. It could transform you into someone who swings by T.J. Maxx for a pair of kitchen towels and 5 pieces of clearance-rack underwear, to give yourself 5 more days of not having to pull out the granny cart and push a giant bag (not unlike the one Jolly Old St. Nicholas slides down chimneys with) around the corner. Or, in my case, around a couple of corners, up an incline, and across a busy street because the laundromat around the nearest corner is too chaotic and claustrophobic for anyone’s optimal psychological well-being.

Making the trip to the laundromat is just that – like taking a trip. A journey. There’s packing involved - the detergent, reading material, lip balm, phone, chewing gum, keys, the coin purse I use exclusively for storing quarters that’s now falling apart because all of this has exhausted the poor thing too.

If it’s too hot to wear pants and my skirt has no pockets, the tube of lip balm gets shoved down my cleavage.

Image courtesy of http://openclipart.org

I taught myself how to do laundry. My mom tried teaching me before I left for college, and I didn’t watch or listen carefully (I may or may not have offered my signature, “It ain’t rocket science” line, or something close to it, as an excuse). She’s been dead 10 years this summer and I never got to ask how her machine-washed clothes smelled prettier than roses without being as overpowerfully fragrant as many other machine-washers’ finished products. It doesn't matter how much detergent I use or what brand, whether I include fabric softener and dryer sheets, whether I’m at a public machine or the private one she once used - none of my freshly washed clothes have smelled as good as hers, but every load I do gives me another chance to create a more similar scent.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Rest(?)room

A friend of a friend (legit) made the following announcement, circa 2006: “There are only two kinds of people – those who get walked in on while in the bathroom and those who do the walking in.”

I say there are three kinds: the former group; the latter group; and those who were put on this earth to represent both tribes.
There used to be a Mexican restaurant on the east side that had a $1 margarita night. That was where you could find me every Monday after work. One night, about $3 in, I made my way to the bathroom, thinking I locked the door behind me before proceeding to the toilet. After less than a minute, the music and voices from the bar grew louder, as if the music and voices had moved inside the bathroom to join me. “Oops,” said a male voice. I turned, squinting up. A burly man-child squinted down. Although he later assured me he didn’t see anything he hasn’t seen before, I haven’t been quite the same since.

And so the phobia began. Today, there are few things I dread more than using a single-occupancy public bathroom. I never trust the lock. But something as manageable as a phobia mustn’t interfere with what a girl’s gotta do.  
I have now walked in on somebody in a single-occupancy public bathroom. A handicapped bathroom, no less. How jarring to sail through an unlocked door, wonder why the overhead light is already on, and see another person turn toward you, even if that person is just using the sink and seems to enjoy the company.