Sunday, November 28, 2010

May the Cheese Be Cubed, and the Turkey Slow Cooked Rotisserie-Style

The enterprising young brother from Burkina Faso who used to work at the 99-cent store around the corner from me has just unveiled a 99-cent store of his own, across the street. He once offered to help me do my laundry back when I wandered into his/our old stomping grounds as often as possible to play with the big, black cat that lived in the aisles. But the store eventually outsourced the cat, and then it got rid of its New York Times stand, so I’ve been forced to move on.

It’s lovely to see that this guy has moved on, too. However, thus far, all his new joint has going for it is the owner’s dynamic personality and winsome smile. It’s only slightly more spacious than my bathroom and I’m getting weird excuses about why the man in charge can’t be bothered to carry Mountain Dew or extension cords. He’s revealed that his ultimate goal is to be in a position to sell “cheeses and turkey” one day. I can picture and taste it already – clearly so can he, based on the faraway look that overtook his eyes the instant he brought up the idea (in the mid-1990s, a guidance counselor at my high school advised that a personal dream is more likely to come true if you regularly envision exactly how you’d want it to play out in your head).

Since there are many other, virtually identical shops in the neighborhood, an uninitiated outsider might think this latest fledgling small business owner is setting himself up for failure. But the West African immigrant community in this several-block radius goes out of its way to take care of its own, and would never let him go down without dignity. Even the non-immigrant locals take care of good people who establish any sincere roots in the area. I see customers jovially coming in and out of his small space all the time. I stop by a couple times a week to check in about how much longer it’ll be before the cheese-and-turkey operation gets off the ground or to buy a roll of paper towels that I could get cheaper farther down the street. I’ve also volunteered to help him set up a speakeasy in the back room.

A dynamic personality and winsome smile can be the only business plan some people ever need.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Stage Flight

This past Wednesday night, I made my spoken-word debut at a coffeehouse in Brooklyn, reading aloud from an excerpted version of the first formal memoir essay I ever wrote. Even though I’ve always done it when asked, I’ve never loved public speaking. Or speaking in general – that’s why I write.

Before Wednesday, all of my public speaking experiences had involved the presentation of boring work/professional-related information. This was the first time I’ve ever recited my creative writing, which is more of a risk, particularly when it’s non-fiction material of the personal pain variety.

I haven’t been to many live performing arts events that started right on time - it caught me off guard when this one did. And I was reader #2 so (thanks to all of the subway delays that got me there later than planned) there wasn’t enough time to get buzzed up before taking the mike.

I also didn’t have any reading glasses with me. A few nights earlier (and two hours after my last posting about how I bought a pair of drug-store reading glasses that did me wrong), my real, prescription glasses irretrievably broke when they fell from the top of my head while I was dancing to the new Pink song. And I wasn’t able to get the new frames and lenses in time for the big premiere.

When it was my turn, I could feel my hands shaking for the first several minutes, but I gradually started to have a damn good time. It’s empowering (especially in front of the right audience) to deliver a proclamation, announcing who you are and why; what you’ve been through and how you’ve coped and conquered. One thing’s for sure - I’m not afraid to do this kind of thing anymore.

I’m a compulsive list-maker. I draft lists about everything – weekly tasks to complete, groceries to buy, favorite books and musicians, possible first and middle names for my future daughter. Years ago, I meticulously composed a list of things I want to do/experiences I want to have before I’m cremated. Midway down, there’s a line about wanting to give a literary reading in New York City. Being able to cross things off these lists is turning out to be so much more fun and interesting than it was to cobble them together in the first place.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Farcical Farsightedness

Although we had a good long run at the mildly-impaired stage, my vision degeneration has entered into Phase 3. My reading-glasses prescription has become a little too under-par and I’ve been avoiding making an optometry appointment for more than a year. To be sure, paying a visit to an optometrist is less stressful than going to the gynecologist or getting an annual physical, but I’m pretty sure that an out-of-pocket payment of more than $25 will be involved, and I’ve always had sketchy experiences with eye doctors. When I first needed glasses, I was treated by the harmlessly creepy father of someone I casually knew. When I first moved to New York, I went to an eye doctor who (I later learned) has had a battery of A-list celebrities under his care. This lecherous little man was one of the driving forces behind my recent policy of only seeking basic health care services from female doctors. I also got a weird vibe from the chain optical center I went to a couple of years ago, and I had been fixing to make the pair of spectacles they sold me last forever.

Per the counsel of a random acquaintance, I just bought me some $16 non-prescription reading glasses at Rite Aid. In addition to being fugly, they’re unusable - I can’t see in them. They’ve turned out to be way too strong and I wonder how much longer I have with this bloody headache. I need to take the glasses off in order to read, write, or think straight. Although taking them off initially felt like sweet freedom, they’ve been off for at least 30 minutes and I’m still heavy-headed and somewhat cross-eyed. My vision has moved into Phase 4 and now I really need to get my ass to an eye doctor - even if it’s one of the freakshow ones.

Shortcuts have never worked for me. I should have known not to take advice from someone who hasn’t been to a dentist in a decade because she thinks the radiation from the X-ray machines might kill her.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

For Colored Girls Who Support and Admire Those Who Go the Distance

I don’t care much for movies. The last one I saw in an actual theater was Slumdog Millionaire, which had to have been about 2 years ago. But every now and then, there’s a movie that looks compelling enough to spend my time and money on – like For Colored Girls. I’ve been waiting for this one for awhile and I strode into my local cineplex at 12:50 p.m. today, bursting with anticipation.

Since I’m so out of practice, when I bought my ticket from the machine, I accidentally signed up for the 2 p.m. time slot, instead of 1 p.m. Which left me with about an hour to kill before showtime. A few minutes later, as I was exiting a nearby Starbucks, I ran into one of my favorite co-workers on 125th St. She suggested that I walk down to 5th Avenue to “watch the runners.”

I forgot that it was Marathon Day in New York, and that I don’t live too far away from a section of its course. I walked over to 126th St. and 5th Avenue to stand on the sidelines and cheer the runners on until it was time to leave for the movie. Except that when it was time to leave for the movie, I wasn’t ready to go yet. This was the first time I’d ever watched people run a marathon so up close and personally, and I got into it. I spent the entire afternoon out there, never more than two feet away from the competitors. My hands are sore from clapping and my face feels numb from smiling. This year, I only knew one person who had enough guts and discipline to run this thing and, at 2:46 p.m., I had the privilege of seeing her speed by, in all her determined glory.

By the time they reached my spot, the runners had already finished at least 20 miles. Although many of them were visibly in pain, many more were in great spirits, existentially taking everything in and keeping their eyes on that prize. When I thought about what these soldiers must have gone through to reach this milestone, I started crying. But then I became too angrily distracted by the steady stream of assholic bystanders who had the audacity to fuck with these athletes’ momentum. On the 5th Avenue stretch of the marathon’s course, there are no barricades to separate the runners from the watchers. The people standing on either side of the street are virtually right up in the runners’ faces. And every few minutes, some of the watchers would suddenly sprint across 5th Avenue – AS IN DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF THE PACKS OF ONCOMING RUNNERS - to get to the other side of the street. Some wouldn’t even bother to sprint as they interfered - they would just mosey across the road, letting the exhausted, blindsided marathoners trip over them. One woman leisurely walked a stroller (that contained a live infant) in front of a massive herd of runners, and it’s miraculous that no one seemed to get seriously injured in the pile-up that ensued – although it did cause one of the runners (who had been cheerfully plodding along, in his zone) to fall to the ground and almost get trampled by the racers behind him. Most, if not all, of this wanton disrespect could have been prevented. But the NYPD was as useless as usual, enabling everything – there’s a Dunkin’ Donuts a few avenues away from where we stood, so the officers’ hearts and minds were elsewhere.

If I ever run a marathon, it can’t be in New York – it would have to be in a more civilized city. But I’ve got nothing to worry about - the only kind of marathons I’m cut out for are the ones involving hot dogs or shot glasses.