Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I’ll Show You Vintage

The only non-edible item I’ve ever bought at a flea market is a hand-carved pedestal that was meant for toilet-paper-roll storage. I use it as a nightstand.

I’m no flea-market fanatic. I’m not a member of the sizable demographic that banks on gleefully strutting away with chandeliers and antique candelabras from these places. I saw a chandelier booth at the flea market I wound up at the other day, off to the side of table upon table staffed by surly vendors hawking Pez dispensers; beat-up coin purses; dusty, broken-handled coffee pots; back issues of obscure Central European magazines. Hustlers heaped rumpled old clothing onto oversized card tables and stood back, watching hyped-up Manhattanites tear their way through. “It’s vintage, it’s vintage,” they barked.

Sizable demographics need to be tapped into.

My dad is gradually de-cluttering his suburban house. That’s sure to take some sweet time. There’s the clutter that should be thrown out vs. the pieces (my inheritance) that can be reused – after they’re each sold off to the highest bidder. The basement alone is home to a saleable stockpile. Just call it vintage, they’ll bite. Say hello to my unborn daughter’s hoity-toity college fund.

Enough with all the gently used merchandise I donate to charity. What am I, a saint? The Goodwill Industries outposts I’ve been to appear to have clutter/surplus problems of their own.  

I donated approximately 15 books to my local library last year. By the following weekend, my donations sat on a cart by the library’s front door, getting peddled out for a profit (theirs, not mine). Those books could have been added to the family flea market inventory that everyone else in the family has yet to learn of.

The second-to-last time I was back home, I found a ceramic bowl that had been boxed up in my childhood bedroom and handed it over to a friend before we left for lunch – free of charge. It’s vintage! You think Pier 1 still carries that model in stock? 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Best Workstation in the Nation

For the past 2 days, I’ve been working from home. It’s not just something I could get used to. I have gotten used to it, and think it’s a lifestyle that should become par for the course. Why do I need to go into the office for anything other than meetings and free air-conditioning?

The “home” I’ve worked from has been on a small hill that overlooks a pond. I’ve seen and heard it all from up there – photo shoots, film crews, a wedding, Shakespearean plays. Almost 9 years ago, before I relocated to New York, a thick-accented man approached me not too far from this hill, to ask for my number and whether I was a virgin. (I initially thought he was saying “Belgian,” which created a good deal of confusion for nearly a full minute.)

Yesterday’s most riveting concentration-breaking scene came in the form of a distressingly raucous argument, in a language that’s foreign to me, between a very old woman in a motorized wheelchair and her male companion. He (who might be her son but, in this time and place, could just as easily be her fiancĂ©) was doing the bulk of the yelling, teetering on the brink of getting physical. There was the real fear of her getting chucked into the pond, wheelchair and all. When she couldn’t take it any longer, she shouted something back at him and zoomed away in the chair. Whatever she said effectively put him in his place. He looked sad and scared to see her go.

The old and infirm in New York are as tough as they come. They continue to do great work in their high-pressure offices well into their seventies, when they could have retired a decade earlier; and cruise through Midtown rush-hour traffic in their wheelchairs; and slowly, but purposefully, walk their dogs, with only the company of a cane or a walker, after the sun has gone down. Discount them at your own detriment.

From my hill, I had an unobstructed view of the eastern half of the pond. I could see things the son/fiancĂ© couldn’t see from his bench down below. I bet she wanted him to think she sailed all the way home, after deciding to cut him off for good. But all she’d done was park her power-chair on the other side of the pond, where she sat still, before turning around to pick him up so they could head out together. As they exited the park, she took the lead, stopping every now and then (head held high, never looking back) to wait for her fella to catch up.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Keep the Alterations Coming

I’ve been referred to as “an observer.” As in, “life is very hard for an observer, isn’t it dear?” (The “isn’t it dear” and the question mark weren’t part of the original quote. I tossed them in for effect. And for kicks.)

One emerging observation of mine has been that a person’s general life direction tends to be established by the time s/he has hit the 30-35 age bracket, the same way a person’s general personality is thought to be formed by the age of 6. It’s not that people can’t pull a 180 after reaching the mid-thirties mark so much as they often don’t.
I’ve also been referred to as judgmental and too fond of making overgeneralizations, this sort of slander usually coming from people who may be chronologically older than me but whose practical experiences have been less checkered/more homogenous than mine have been. So this life-direction theory has been kept to myself or privately shared with the members of my inner circle. Not everyone can handle it.
Now I got back-up. According to a book that came out earlier this year, The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter – And How to Make the Most of Them Now, “80% of our defining decisions are made before we’re 35, and 70% of lifetime wage growth happens in the 1st 10 years of our careers.”
When I was 21, I turned down a potentially life-altering summer internship because it was unpaid. This was the first in a series of that decade’s defining decisions and life-altering episodes. Every day felt like an experiment. Those are the only kind of days I ever want.
I’m 1 year and 2 months away from 35. My general direction was solidified at 29 or 30, but I’ll be closing out this age bracket with a bang. Same thing with each age bracket that’s still to come.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The High Road

On the clean and cool streets of San Francisco, I needed walking directions from the Mission to the Upper Haight. They didn’t have to be good directions, just the general “turn right” or “turn left” at the next corner type of guidance.

I stopped into the nearest place of business, a Laundromat, where the only people on site were 2 young men who weren’t doing a lick of laundry. I asked the more sober of the two for directions. “I’m not sure,” he said. “He’d be the one to ask,” pointing to his associate, who was squinting and barely able to stand up. Lucy was in the sky with cubic zirconia. I wasn’t expecting someone this high to be able to speak, but he wasted no time in lunging forward, eager to make himself useful.

“Now, first of all, you shouldn’t walk because that would take you, like, a day,” his opening statement began, while he stood hunched over, with one arm down the back of his pants.

I eventually got to where I needed to be, on my wits. The farther up the Haight St. hill I hustled, the more the passers-by looked to be in contention for the blue ribbon in a Laundromat Lucy look-alike/act-alike contest. Was the boy accosting me about weed trying to buy or sell? Chances are, he didn’t know either.

First by circumstances and then by choice, I’ve spent this lifetime in the company of people who think, look, and live differently from me. But this part of town was a reminder that I haven’t had much direct exposure to the druggies.

I prefer the drunks. The drunks, I get.

The greatest drunk I know lives one floor above me, and he adores animals the way I do. You should have seen the level of care he gave his elderly dog; and the way he mourned her after she died of old age. He now has 3 or 4 cats and, in spite of all the hard liquor he reeks of at all hours of the day, he diligently leaves the air-conditioning on for them when it’s warm, while he’s out doing whatever he does when he staggers out of our building. (One of these days, I plan to follow him, no matter where it takes me. Just need to know.)

His newest cat is a charmer. She’s enormous, like something out of science fiction. I’ve seen my drunk walk her on a leash. He rescued her off the street, and she has 8 claws. He says it’s good luck. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

A Glass Half Grateful

Toward the end of my non-stop flight into Los Angeles this week, I looked down at my left thumb to catch a fresh glimpse of my new ring, but there was no silver in sight. I searched the floor and my handbag before sitting back in my seat to think deep.

Remember that scene in Home Alone when Kevin's mom is on the plane, and she suddenly realizes she left something behind?

I'd taken the ring off to wash my hands in a JFK Airport bathroom, and it probably didn't have to wait very long on the shelf above the sink before it had a taker.

I'm not just appreciative of the good stuff that happens. I consciously consider myself lucky when the less-than-good stuff didn't turn out worse. An article I skimmed last week suggested that the secret to individual happiness and success is gratitude, and that people who exclusively dwell on the negative aspects of their day or an experience can never be happy.

In the past 72 hours, I'm grateful that: the ring I lost and won't find wasn't one of the expensive or sentimental-value ones; I got to take a walk on the beach with a friend who I hadn't seen in more than a year; and even though my overrated Hollywood hotel didn't offer a complimentary breakfast, its complimentary lemonade might be the best citrus concoction I've ever tasted.

The realists, critics, and sarcasm specialists can be just as excited about being alive and well as anyone else. Sometimes more so.