Monday, October 28, 2013

What Can Happen When Some People Go for a Drive

The first unusual thing I noticed while walking up Central Park West on Friday night was how civilian-free the sidewalks were. NYPD officers and barricades were everywhere. As soon as the lady walking 10 feet ahead (the only other pedestrian in sight) breezed through an open passageway between two of the barricade gates, to get to the other side of 81st Street, an officer slammed the gates shut, right in front of me.

Five years ago, I would have made a snide comment. These days, I handle my outrage in a more dignified manner, coldly ignoring, with a faint smile, the person who has just wronged me. As far as I was concerned this cop wasn’t even there, our noses not many inches apart, subtly trying to get my attention. I had music to listen to, phone apps to fiddle with, a barricade gate to lean against, trees to stare at.

But my detainment was taking forever. Two of the officers directing this intersection’s vehicular traffic were dressed almost militarily. When I finally broke down and acknowledged the cop who’d been minding me, I got the full briefing.

“It’s for the president. He’s coming through any minute now.”

I yanked the buds out of my ears and, like twenty-first-century Ani DiFranco, wasn’t angry anymore. Obama was about to drive crosstown, through Central Park, on his way to dinner on the Upper West Side.

“Ya wanna meet him?” my cop asked, with an “I can tell you’ve had a long week and deserve a million-dollar pick-me-up” expression.

“Yeah, can I?!” All of a sudden, I adored the NYPD. This cop was a younger, jollier, Irisher version of Joe Pesci at the beginning of Home Alone, when Pesci masqueraded as a police officer. They have the same accents, the same tonal qualities.

“Nah. Not even I get to.”

I went back to snubbing him.

When you’re unexpectedly detained for more than 20 minutes, it gives you time to think about topics you might not normally dwell on for long, such as: When was the last time I got held up by a presidential motorcade, and how does Now compare to Then? It was two years ago, in Midtown. The young cop who drove an NYPD van behind Obama’s SUV had a nervously thrilled look on his face when he gingerly turned onto 7th Avenue, as if this was the most important task he’d ever carry out, fully aware he was in the thick of something not everyone can say they’ve done. He was having a deathbed-memory moment – in his final hours, should he get proper time to reflect, he’ll dredge up that drive and feel warmer.

My cop from the other night chomped on gum, and clowned around about the President of the United States having an Upper West Side-based girlfriend. When I told him I was no longer pissed about all the waiting, he said he was pissed and wanted to go home. 

Monday, October 21, 2013


Going to law school has been the most laughable decision I’ve made, so far, and I’m still upset with every person who never tried to talk me out of it. Come to think of it, nobody tried talking me out of it. My immediate family members had reactions like, “You?”; “How come?”; “Well, we certainly won’t be contributing to those bills,” but that wasn’t enough. 

At the time, it was fun assuming the next 3 years would amount to a continuation of college and getting to say, “I’m putting myself through law school,” something I said frequently because it sounded heroic, to me if not to anyone else. When 21-year-olds from middle-class backgrounds speak of paying their way through an expensive law school, take it to mean they’re nose-diving into an enormous pool of debt. Paying back a debt isn’t as gratifying as the tale of how and why you're plunging into it, and I’ve stayed relatively quiet about this later process.

My 10-year law school reunion is coming up. I have the rah-rah registration reminders to prove it. I prefer other forms of correspondence from this outfit, ones that solicit honest opinions instead of attendance or money. For instance, awhile ago, I was asked to fill out an “Alumni Attitude” survey. I eagerly complied, selecting my answers from an innovative menu of options:

How would you rate your decision to attend?  Fair

How often do you promote the school to others?  Never

Which best describes your experience as a student? Poor

What are barriers to your participation in alumni activities? Just Don’t Want To

Name a person who had a special impact on your student experience and a description of the relationship. I wrote about the guy who ran the convenience store behind my first apartment building. I went in there to buy junk food after class at least twice a week, and the uncommon warmth he radiated served as Exhibit A that not everyone in this new environment was a lost cause.

He’s the one I’m interested in crossing state lines to have a photo-happy reunion with. And I just might. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Beauty Sleep’s Unattractive Side

These past few weeks, I’ve slept like a drugged woman. That hardcore, REM-heavy sleep. Is it the reduced caffeine intake? Is my thyroid back on strike? Has someone been slipping sedatives into my jasmine tea?

I’m pretty sure the insomnia/hyposomnia will return, at least on a freelance schedule. Part of me misses it very much. Contrary to what the experts and their studies may suggest, the extra sleep has not curbed my appetite, nor has it improved my attention span, complexion, or creative juices. If anything, I’m more apathetic about what anyone says or does, and apathy is one of the worst attributes out there. An apathetic person is as atrocious as that person who constantly plays the role of devil’s advocate. (You know the type: You and your party will be seated around a table. When someone mentions Shaker Heights, Ohio or Newton, Massachusetts, you’ll say that everyone has an ex or an old family friend or a former roommate from Shaker Heights or Newton. Six out of the seven others will nod or chuckle on cue – until the Menace-to-the-Merriment suddenly says, “I’ve never known anyone from Shaker Heights or Newton,” in a hella self-righteous or put-out tone.)

REM sleep brings out the big dreams. In my waking life I’m more of a doer than a dreamer, which could be why I look down on sleep-mode dreams, good or bad. It’s obvious why the bad dreams suck. With the good dreams, when I wake up, I’m sad they weren’t real. This week, I’ve had nerve-wracking dreams about several specific people and situations. I minored in psych and have taken a dream-interpretation pseudo-seminar, so I generally understand what they mean. I half-wish I didn’t.

I also recently dreamed about getting an insane amount of backlash for wearing the suede clogs I haven’t worn since the late ‘90s, but have considered adding to my hostesswear collection this fall. Years ago, I had a dream about a co-worker of mine going on an assault-rifle rampage during a staff meeting. The next day, there was an office shooting in St. Louis. That’s why I’m now more cautious about putting on the clogs. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

That Signature Sense

Last month I trudged through six different airports and blame their duty-free supercenters for getting me back into wearing perfume, after having successfully weaned myself of the bottles for close to a decade. Inside of those brightly-lit travelers’ traps, I browsed, listened to sales proposals, eventually needed to use up about 30 euros before re-crossing my favorite ocean, and there are only so many bags of meltable Milka chocolate I’m willing to cram into a carry-on.

The aromas of the Versace perfumes, particularly the ones located on the discount rack, were intoxicating. Since then, every now and then, I’ve dabbed a drop behind each ear before stepping out. The habit doesn’t hurt, and is something I like to think Liberace might not have been able to leave home without doing.

My mom hardly ever wore perfume, and when she did it was usually a label I didn’t love. But when I picked up the heavy black bottle and sprayed some of the scent onto my fingers in the Palermo airport two weeks ago, my worries temporarily floated away. Two other bottles I sniffed took me back to my high school persona, more than merely looking at them would have. In junior high, I toted around and publicly broke big bottles of Malibu Musk, a brand that was conspicuously absent from the duty-free inventories but an odor I can still sort of call up in my head. During an uncomfortable two-day cold I came down with a few weeks ago, the main downer was not being able to smell the fresh espresso, pesto, and mountainside air, although my mood changed when I ran into and kissed a stray dog on a cobblestoned street. He resembled a dog I used to have who, after going both blind and deaf, loudly sniffed his way around and outside of the house, just as contentedly as he’d done when his eyes and ears were intact.