Thursday, December 31, 2009

day of firsts

I woke up crying, fresh from a dream in which my acting teacher said working with me was a bad choice, that I was "pretty" and I was while I was okay in this one piece, I looked fat in the other. She was standing in an impressive and sunny kitchen, mixing corn and broccoli together on a large platter to entertain friends. There were a couple of older gents in the corner of the room chatting cattily, sandaled hairy old man legs crossed close. It was summer and I had just spent my whole night dreaming about walking the carnival sidewalks of the city, alone and uneasy. I was wet from a crowd of boys playing in a hydrant; my pony tail was sagging down my neck. I slipped out of her apartment, called the elevator and woke up crying.

I opened my curtains and the world was white. First snow of a new start. Last snow of an old year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

poem of the week

I have not lain with beauty all my life
telling over to myself
its most rife charms

I have not lain with beauty all my life
and lied with it as well
telling over to myself
how beauty never dies
but lies apart
among the aborigines
of art
and far above the battlefields
of love

It is above all that
oh yes
It sits upon the choicest of
Church seats
up there where art directors meet
to choose the things for immortality
And they have lain with beauty
all their lives
And they have fed on honeydew
and drunk the wines of Paradise
so that they know exactly how
a thing of beauty is a joy
forever and forever
and how it never never
quite can fade
into a money-losing nothingness

Oh no I have not lain
on Beauty Rests like this
afraid to rise at night
for fear that I might somehow miss
some movement beauty might have made

Yet I have slept with beauty
in my own weird way
and I have made a hungry scene or two
with beauty in my bed
and so spilled out another poem or two
and so spilled out another poem or two
upon the Bosch-like world

- Lawrence Ferlinghetti from A Coney Island of the Mind, 1958.

(Disclaimer: the text should be formatted differently. Find the original for proof.)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

this is what I meant to say

afternoon, new york

Today was one of those rare December days in NYC that began balmy and sunny, but got gradually colder as the day deepened—as if Winter forgot herself for a second, but managed to sneak back onstage by dusk.

I spent my glorious day off doing glorious day off things. I slept late, I made juice, I did an hour of rock n' roll yoga to the immortal noise of Bob Dylan (again, yes) and then I took myself on a Met date to catch the Robert Frank exhibit. Life altering. Holy crap. Wow.

(Kerouac said it up best when he introduced The Americans as "the grey film that caught the pink juice of human kind.")

On my way home, I was inspired to walk the intestines of Astoria, from Broadway to Ditmars on the backstreets, to reconnect to the quotidia of borough life at other subway stops, on other avenues. This is how I noticed the back swish of the temperature whip, schlepping home under the newly christened RFK bridge as the sun sucked up the last of the lingering warmth. But still it was one of those afternoons: the light hit the taller buildings like a beacon and everything seemed to sparkle just before the sun set. Love those.

I came home to heat and cooking gas for the first time since we moved in (on September fricken fifteenth). Joy to the world.

Add a [home cookied!] dinner with Em and a little late-night dancing and that's a day off well done, goddammit.

Monday, December 28, 2009

blue blue blue blue christmas

Another holiday gone. My bookshelves are swollen, my waistband is tight.

I trimmed my little tree, sang my little songs and baked my cookies. I saw the tree in Rockefeller Center, both lit and unlit, I skated at Wollman Rink and, finally, I made it to the lovely candelit Christmas Eve service at All Souls.

This was harder than I expected it to be. I did everything right this year and still, by the time breakfast was over and gifts were half-unwrapped, I was ready to crawl under a rock and cry.

My Christmas this year was found in a few harp Concerti, a string of lights in the dark and a handful of people I love but couldn't seem to get close enough to. Followed by a full-on dead-of-winter retreat into the recesses of solitude. Friday I escaped from embrace to embrace at the Ukranian, Saturday I spent at home stretching and snacking and reading on the couch (but for the lovely rainy evening out that followed), and tonight (after malai kofta and cannoli with one of the oldest and dearest) it's just me and the tree and Bob Dylan b-sides.

One more to go, folks. I may just have to tango my way into Twenty Ten—with or without a suitable escort. Because, hey . . . sometimes it is in a room full of people that we find ourselves the most alone.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

a very merry nyc

*The Pond and the Plaza.

*Wollman Rink.

*The Park at dusk.

Monday, December 21, 2009

gave thee such a tender voice

Nights lately I walk alone in the early dark, listening to choral Christmas hymns and realizing I am something of a holiday masochist. The ornament of my childhood Christmases shattered, I carry the shards of glass from year to year. I have preserved the perfect Christmas eves of Muppet movies, the sparkling mornings of cinnamon buns and der Bingle, the tree toppling with a swish and a tinkle onto the dog. I am the last keeper of those traditions. I put the playlist on repeat and fall face first into a sadness any rational woman would avoid.

Those Magnificats and O Magnums kill me every time. But, as if in defiance, I attempt to locate the same innocent hope I had processing though a candlelit chapel on a snowy night in December, closing my eyes to the suspensions and thinking it would all be okay if everyone were to just listen to Stille Nacht in the dark and try to be kind to one another.

Near the end, I was only ever forcing the point, battling for hours to surprise my miserable parents with a house full of cheer, but I never stopped believing it could work. Every year the day would lose a little of its luster, but if I could fix the harm we all did to each other with one plate of cookies and a carrot, goddamnit, I would try. Those days I would prostrate myself with tinsel and Danish butter cookies until a miniature Santa stared us down from every end table. Now, after all we have done and learned, I am stronger for the wear. I do most of my decorating on the inside.

I know my father reads this. He will say, "one so young should not sound so sad," but he must know by now this is just the way I am. A merry melancholy mess. All alone in my own head.

I was singing "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" when we got the call about his heart stopping. Nothing has been or ever will be the same. So I listen to Vespers. And each time it gets a little harder, but it would be so much worse if I didn't. Because that was when I learned privacy. That was when my heart started seeping out into my chest, past its own valves and atria and into the void. I hid a chunk of me—concrete, containable childhood me—in that chapel, surrounded by poinsettias, singing in the cold. I retreated into the music and if I don't go back to check on those missing pieces, I'm afraid I'll disappear. No matter how strong I pretend to be.

So this holiday sucks. Sad that I cannot spend it with my parents, sadder still the alternative. The only thing I can say for myself is this: I did know what I had when I had it.

I don't mean to sound ungrateful. My family, chosen and given, is healthy and well. We will all spend Christmas with people we love and everything will return to normal on December 26th. I have it fairly easy, let us not forget that. Shit could be a whole lot worse.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

holiday party, number ten

And so concludes our segment. Ten parties down . . . and bottles and bottles of red.

What can be said about an office Christmas party at our founder's loft, but that it felt like getting drunk at a museum after hours? We sat politely at clothed tables, nibbled on spiral ham and Carr's crackers and waited to make a break for the bar.

We were given meager bonuses: a nod to the recessive fiscal environs of good ole twenty oh-nine. I received a "not cashmere" scarf in pink and brown houndstooth from my Secret Santa. No music was allowed. We wandered awkwardly through the opulence and then called it a night.

Most of us made a night of it at an NYU pub on Bleecker, but I decided to walk way the hell west in the frigid, skin-ripping wind and found myself (an hour later) on a barstool in the village, sipping a glass of Refosco with D to my left. He had the charred octopus (sensational) and we closed La Nacional. I accidentally decapitated a rose somewhere between the subway turnstile and the purchasing of seltzer.

Friday was a beautiful and much needed escape from the trappings of the daylit world.

Saturday I was back at it, auditioning The Show and staying for a seasonable nibble at the Landmarc bar, watching snow blow sideways up the glass walls of the Time Warner Center. I should have gone home—I did go home. But then it was grab those shoes and trudge back to the subway platform time because—god forbid—I did not want to be that girl who missed a milonga on account of a little weather. By the time I got home, sloughing up a foot of snow on the un-plowed sidewalk before me, it was 3:30 am and the world was white and quiet but for the ice chips flying in my face.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

holiday party, number nine

In which my fearless colleagues and I lugged a whole party's worth of supplies and booze on a hand-truck over eight blocks of cobblestones and I tended bar. Donated chocolate chip cookies from Double Crown were a hit, but the trickle of pseudo-interested partygoers left much to be desired on what may have been coldest night ever.

Three parties over: the mannequin is back in her store, the leftover liquor has been locked in the storage room, and I am pooped.

I wonder: have I worked too hard? Or is this exhaustion rather a byproduct of my recent tango homecoming? (This morning may have been much easier had I gone home at 9:3o last night like any sensible, underslept adult.)

Instead, I donned my stinky, sullied dance shoes and a bag of Goldfish (Hey, a girl's gotta eat!) and headed to the milonga.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

dear santa

Because it's a tired and boring day at the office—and because Santa asked for it.

- Nespresso Aeroccino Plus.
- A Red Sox snuggie.
- A prepaid package of private lessons (any number) with Michael Nadtochi.
- Contributions to a pair of custom-made tango shoes (or, you know... a flight to Buenos Aires).
- Funky earrings from the Union Square holiday market.
- A tweed blazer with brown leather patches on the elbows (size 4?).
- Some sort of brown leather bookbag. The closer it resembles something out of Anne of Green Gables, the better. (You know, something you throw in the basket of your bicycle as you peddle along the seashore in autumn of 1890?) But if that is too complicated, I also like this one.
- An Irish cable knit sweater in one of those great colours like "oatmeal" or "white with natural fleck." Examples: A, B and C.
- Gift certificates in any denomination for Anthropologie, American Apparel or Barnes & Noble.
- Some sort of unique leather case for my iPod (I've coveted Jamie's for years now).
- Also, I kind of want a Roomba, but I think that makes me a wannabe housewife and my alma mater taught me always to subvert the dominant patriarchal hegemony.
- Books (any and all), but especially The Old Patagonian Express—Paul Theroux and The Adams Jefferson Letters—Lester Cappon, Ed.

Some of these things are awfully extravagant, so I will stress that really, I am always happy with books or the funds with which to purchase them (and sweaters . . . and socks . . . and flannel pajamas . . . and things made of dark chocolate . . . and the color grey.)

My sizes are as follows: top: XS or S, bottom: 4, dresses: 4, panties: M, bra: 36A, shoes: 10.5.

Basically, my goals for 2010 appear to include dressing like an Irish paperboy, reading voraciously and dancing tango.

holiday party, number eight

In which I catered an event for one hundred snooty SoHo philanthropists. I did this because our caterers canceled at eight that morning. I did this in under seven hours.

The menu included:

Crab cakes (with handmade remoulade and a flat leaf parsley garnish), spanikopita, mini quiche, pigs in blankets, black olive pastry puffs. A spiral ham with grain mustard, cornichons and multigrain bread points with sliced Irish cheddar. Marinated bocconcini with a grape tomato garnish. Sliced dry sausage paired with gouda. Assorted crackers. Hand-julienned crudité with white bean rosemary dip. Shrimp cocktail.

. . . and three elaborate cheeseboards, which included a triple-creme brie, aged goat with rosemary, Chaumes or Epoisses (depending on the platter), a stinky stilton, a stilton with apricot, Wensleydale with cranberries, a fresh crottin and fig ginger jam—all garnished with green grapes, red cherries, walnuts, spiraled strawberries, apricots and dried cranberries.

Then my Jedi-ninja-waitress training kicked in and I spent the three hours of the party scurrying behind guests collecting their sullied cocktail napkins and plates, teetering around on four-inch heels with a tray full of empty glasses, and replenishing dishes that had been, for lack of a better term, shithoused.

My motley crew and I had at least three job offers by the time I started laying out the cookie assortments and the rugelach.

Were it not for the last minute champagne donation, the evening's end may have found me grumpy, up to my elbows in potwash. Thanks to Costco and B-grade bubbly, I live to tell this tale.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

holiday party, number six (and seven)

In which I adventured to somewhere between Weehawken and Guttenberg, NJ on a Jitney bus with my cabaret crew, stuffed my face royally with all manner of homemade delectable nibblies, bemoaned the awkward state that is my twenties, had a glass of red and some bourbon champagne punch (genius!) and was back in the city by ten pm.

Would have been an exercise in temperance all around, had I not grabbed my tango shoes and run right back out the door for the All-Night milonga.

I will remember the xylophone cortinas, the feel of the floor beneath my suede soles, the blue predawn light, the white grey rainy morning, the clementine, the sweater that smelt like books and a passage from Theroux's The Old Patagonian Express. I dreamed it all and still I'm not awake.

(On tonight's party, there is not much to report—except to say a jolly time was had by all at Carmine's, compliments of an inexhaustible wine supply and platter after platter of hot, cheesy Italian grub. The birth of Peter and the holiday season were celebrated. I went home early, of course, to fall into bed and start The Kingdom by the Sea.)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

holiday party, number five

In which I snuck away midway through for a tango lesson and returned at 9 pm, thereby missing the awkward mingling period and cutting straight to the jovial drunkenness stage. Although, by so doing, I missed the rousing carol sing with the accompanying booklet of lyrics.

Highlights include meeting a former beauty queen news anchor from Norfolk, VA, and her tres riche escort in a plaid suit and paisley tie, the shrimp puffs, and the "part of the evening when we are allowed to put up our feet." (Courtesy of Mama W—)

Lowlights include having to herd the überdrunk Peter Pan into a cab in the wind tunnel that is 57th Street at one in the morning—and having him nearly knock over my dresser in his wasted state.

This afternoon, as I prepare for number six, I'm lying in bed watching the airplanes take off from LaGuardia and listening to Vespers (on repeat), enjoying the cold seeping through the glass of my windowpanes.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

holiday party number four

In which I used my hundred thousand dollar education to ferry rich people up five floors in the penthouse elevator at the first of three (count em, three) holiday events at work.

I also managed to pull off the hors d'oeuvres-for-dinner slash drink-mucho-vino trick again with relative success and few instances of catastrophe. Although, something tells me this is not a sustainable mode of existence, even during the holidays. I am exhausted.

Also, I managed somehow to pop a tiny blood vessel in my eye. For the next ten to fourteen days, I will have what looks to be a very festive freckle in my left sclera. Ho fricken ho.

In other news, you may have noticed a decline in the discussion of my personal life. I assure you, while things have quieted down considerably on that front (read: I am no longer giving my phone number to random aviators on the Airbus320), the sleigh is still flying. I just need to get a grip on the reindeer reins before I subject anyone else to a rehashing of my escapades.

And perhaps I strive for a little less analysis these days. Growing up was a good idea and, while it may seem counter-intuitive to the process, my first task appears to be a flying leap in the opposite direction of my best behavior. I've been a good girl for a very long time.

Maybe that never changes. But, just for now—at least until the holidays are over and we officially enter winter's naturally ascetic backswing—I'm going to cut loose a little. I'm going to muscle through this slew of holiday parties with a delphic smile and a glass of bubbly and—goddamnit—I'm gonna do it in style.

*Footnote on the picture: this represents the sole photographic evidence of last night's event. Worth a thousand words?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

holiday party number three point five

In which we made bath soap and ate potato chips.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

holiday party number three

In which our heroine ate an entire brick of gouda and a plate of cupcakes for dinner, then drank herself silly on cheap Tempranillo with the cast of her cabaret reprise.

There was a moment last night when we all realized how drastically our lives have changed since that fateful weekend in November. And we all seem to have emerged the stronger and feistier for it.

Coming in March to a piano bar near you.

Monday, December 7, 2009

christmas, go

Saturday night, I had a bottle of champagne and a mushroom cap for dinner (the first in a series of holiday parties.) Classy, right?

By Sunday, it felt like Christmas. I'm not sure if it was the wine, the cold snap, the return of the peppermint syrup to my neighborhood Starbucks (also: why does this blog read like a Starbucks commercial lately? I should be getting a kick-back here) or the plethora of light-up Santas and snowmen in Astoria.

I will blame the annual tree-trimming party, which, for the past three years running, has been the inaugural moment of my city mouse Christmas cheer. Tis the season, after all, for shrimp cocktail, champagne and chocolate cookies. And there's no place I'd rather spend it than around that twelve foot tree with the gold ribbons, listening to carols in the key of C and sharing a scotch or two. Or three.

Peter Pan and I were inspired to run right home and buy our own tree, which we purchased from a very convivial Canadian fellow in a reindeer sweater outside the Rite Aid on Ditmars.

I can safely say, now that there is a pine tree in my living room, that I am ready for Christmas. There are candles in my windows (I'm such a Yankee), Santas on the sills, old Vespers recordings on the iPod . . . if only I could bake a celebratory batch of cookies. Curse you, contractors.

Friday, December 4, 2009

helmet hair

I almost regret my decision to make my NY State residency permanent and official.

My new driver's license came in the mail last night and . . . holy god in heaven. Disaster.

I look like the bastard child of Donny Osmond and Darth Vader.

When Peter Pan saw it, his only response was, "Your head is nowhere near that round."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

il pleut

As bad as it is, the rain in New York can be quite special.

Unexpected sideways downpours (and getting caught in them), the sound of water washing down the street and into the subway, rivulets on a cab window, the flat pound of it on the East River from hundreds of feet above . . .

And then falling asleep to the swirl of it, with the wind howling around my little corner bedroom in Queens. Hardly seasonable for the first week in December, but I'll let that one slide.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

december first

Celebrated today with the first of many peppermint mochas.

It's been a slow day. Too much time for web-surfing and self-doubt.

So far the only hour to move faster than the speed of geological change was the lunch hour: genial company, brisk sunlit walk, table by the window . . . and sticking my face into a seven foot Christmas tree.