Monday, December 23, 2013

Free Markets, Where Are You When I Need You?

At my beloved T.J. Maxx, you can waltz in and be left to your own devices. You’re not a target. You get your personal space.

I’ll no longer enter a tiny boutique, just for browsing purposes, if I look through the windows and see that it’s empty. Been there, done that, a few too many times, having the owner latch onto me, providing a detailed history of each item I suggest looks cute, laying on the passive-aggressive guilt trip if I leave without a bag in my hand.

Retail is not my therapy.

It’s outdoor holiday market season in the city. I work a block away from one. Another market is on my route home. Each vendor’s stall is a tinier version of a tiny boutique. My strategy this year was to walk through them with my earbuds tightly in place, to keep the artisans from pouncing, to keep them clinging to the assumption that any of their stories or proposals would fall on deaf ears. I forbid myself from buying anything that couldn’t be eaten. NO MORE JEWELRY was my main market mantra.

It got off to a promising start – macaroon dealers; the smells of Korean barbecue floating through the air; beautiful hand-crafted necklaces that I glanced at but didn’t dare go near; bundled-up out-of-towners, visibly thrilled to experience Christmas in New York.

I made five seconds of eye contact with a vendor who took on a troubled expression, moving her lips enough to get me to remove one earbud. I thought she was in pain.

“Can I borrow your hand?” she asked.

The phrasing caught me off guard. Pouncing ensued. She grabbed my hand, dipped her fingertips into the waxy puddle of a small burning candle, and massaged the wax into my skin, talking up its restorative benefits.

“These would make good gifts,” I heard myself say.

“Yes,” she agreed, gently rubbing, “they would.”

“I walk through here pretty much every night,” (also untrue), “so maybe I’ll swing back by and pick a few up later.” How’s that for a proper goodbye?

She smiled. I didn't go back for the candles, but look forward to wearing my new earrings and pointer-finger ring to Christmas dinner

Monday, December 16, 2013

How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall? Book Online or Dial 212-247-7800

When a co-worker and I ordered tickets to see Handel’s Messiah at Carnegie Hall, there was much contention during the seat-selection process. I was content with sitting in the $12.50 balcony seats, but the world keeps flinging little reminders that not everyone is like me.

“You’re too good for a balcony?” I reacted. “Eva Peron wasn’t. Romeo and Juliet weren’t. I’ve sat in all different sections of theaters and auditoriums, large and small, and feel privileged just to be present.”

She said the last time she sat in a balcony she was basically almost driven to jumping off of it, and promised she would never put herself in that position again.

At one point, it got so heated I said we’d have to sit our separate ways. That I’d hit the bleachers by myself while she sat amongst those who aren’t happy unless and until they’re able to confirm the exact color of the conductor’s bow tie. In the end, the holiday spirit got the best of me, and I huffily agreed to pay the $25 (plus a $6 service fee) to sit beside my buddy.

Did I mention that she’s 71 years old?

Whenever I tell my dad about a party or an event, he loves to get a head count. “Was it well-attended?” is a question I’ve come to expect. In this case, he was surprised to hear how many empty seats there were, as Carnegie Hall was apparently a place to be when he frequented New York, decades ago. The last time I saw something there, it was equally under-attended. While my mind says $12.50 (which, for those of us who aren’t 71, is less than what it costs to catch a movie five blocks uptown) isn’t bad and wishes more locals and tourists took advantage of amounts like that, my always-up-for-a-stretch legs and arms say Hallelujah!, the more empty seats there are in front of, behind, and next to me. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Sing On, Soweto

I decorate my home very gradually and particularly, refusing to exhibit anything that wasn’t love at first sight. Several walls or sections of walls remain blank canvases until I find just the right coverage. About five weeks ago, a song came on my Brenda Fassie Pandora radio station. It was love at first sound, and the second I saw the cover of the album it’s from (The Indestructible Beat of Soweto), I knew this is the visual that belongs on the lower righthand side of the wall above my desk.

One of my bigger regrets is not having studied abroad in South Africa. One of my bigger goals is to overthrow that regret by traveling through South Africa as an older, savvier adult.

Nelson Mandela once lived in Soweto. He’s a big deal to my family, and to many other families. I taped a huge poster of him on a wall in an old room of mine. In times of disillusionment, I sometimes looked up at that poster, to help get my focus back in check.

When a Supersoul you’ve never met but have always looked up to dies of old age, the effect can be similar to when a long terminal illness takes away someone you’re close to. You know the end is coming any day and assume you’re ready for it; when that day actually comes, you’re not as emotionally prepared as you thought you’d be.  

I still haven’t found the album cover image in the size and form I’m looking for. A colorful ceramic butterfly hangs on the wall as a place-holder until it comes home to rest. 


Monday, December 2, 2013

Why Stop Now? More of What I’m Currently Pleased About

*The delicious homemade stuffing I prepared last week

*How quickly the finger I hurt while chopping ciabatta bread for the stuffing healed

*That ciabatta loaf had garlic in it, which was the stuffing’s secret weapon

*When I fell down while putting the finishing touches on the stuffing, my face hit the floor instead of the stove’s sharp edges

*Even though one quadrant of my face is a little sore when I touch it, there are no breakages or bruises

*By the looks of it, I have enough celery, onion, and herbs to make another pot of stuffing this week

*I’m not the only person I know who routinely trips, tumbles, spills, or bodily crashes this way

*This other person and I are back to living on the same coast

*She can still take business trips to NYC

*The framed close-up picture of the two of us, that I keep on display above my couch, is what first made me realize I have the same mouth as my late mother

* Telephone calls, text messaging, email, and Skype have yet to go out of style

*The photo of her toddler that she sent me last night is the perfect new wallpaper for my phone