Tuesday, July 27, 2010

gotta get behind the mule in the morning and plow

I quit my job yesterday.

(Good sweet Jesus, that felt good to type.)

In light of recent circumstances (now I sound like my resignation letter), I'm soaring. I mean, I'm living out of a laundry basket, but I don't have it so bad after all, do I?

I'm having a steamy hot affair with my city before I leave her.

I slept until two on Sunday (much needed rest), then sat on the couch at the Ivory Tower watching 60 Minutes with one of my all-time favorite fellas and a G & T. I danced. I got up Monday morning, got a physical and, at four pm, gave my notice.

Then I lay on a blanket in Bryant Park and watched Monty Python's Holy Grail with about 2,500 other people eating hummus out of Whole Foods bags. I went to bed and woke up in a world with an expiration date. Crowded trains, catty bosses and that omni-pressive sense of pressure be damned.

I'm home free, Internet. Home freaking free. All that's stopping me now is me. And I feel like putting a stop to that, I'll tell ya.

support a slut

In the name of the strong woman who sent me this link, I give you the new feminism (and the hope that we may each take the liberty to fashion our own).

Friday, July 23, 2010

on cutting my losses

As it turns out, I wasn't all alone. Only mostly alone. Peter, in his infinite generosity, arranged for movers to turn up in hazard suits and help me throw the contents of our lives into cardboard boxes, one by one. I have no idea what went where—or how, or when—or in what condition, but it is done. Today at high noon, the boxes were loaded, the apartment cleared, and I walked away from the truck with nothing but my purse on my back. Just as some schmuck in a Corolla was pulling up with a spray can and a surgical mask to "treat the building."

You can't script this stuff, folks. It just happens. I walked away from a loaded moving truck, alone, and—just then, in that particular instant—the threat of rain became a reality of rain and an Amtrak rattled over the Hell Gate bridge. My cell battery died before I turned the corner.

I have gone off the grid.

In other news, I miss Peter and France so much it hurts. Now that my tenure at She Beast Enterprises, Inc. draws to an end, I'll never forgive myself for not telling her where she could stick it for denying my vacation time.

So excuse me today, world, for this little blip of melodrama. After all, what is there to do on an empty N train away from life as we know it but bawl all the way to Astoria Boulevard?

Time to go get "this too shall pass" tattooed on my forehead.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

too late to turn back now

Just got off the phone with the movers. And I quote: "Lady, I gotta tell ya, you are like, without a doubt, in the top two nicest people I've ever dealt with."

Because, apparently, when dealing with moving (third only to death and divorce on the traumatic life event ladder), most people resort to panic and blind rage.

Likely this is shock talking. I'm sure there'll be a very loud thud when I hit the ground—eventually. No money, no apartment, no bed. No job, no health insurance. And (for a few months anyway) no tango.

But for now, cool as a cucumber. Go figure.

Monday, July 19, 2010

time will do the talking

I'm sure I have plenty to say about grad school and bed bugs, and the logistical nightmare of stress NYC—that harshest of mistresses—has foisted upon me, but this morning at least, I'm having a hard time concentrating.

When my mother, bless her heart, suggested I cut and run a month early, there was a not so small part of my heart that sank at the thought of closing doors and returning keys. Giving up my pied-a-terre, however humble, means an uphill trek back to this city, whenever that may be. And leaving, regardless of when I go, means absenting myself from the metropolitan milonga scene.

My very heart sags at the thought. I choke up and a little voice in my head says, "but . . . tango is all I've got . . ." Then my hair-holding, clothes ironing mother comes back with, "Yes, honey, but you need more than that." And she's right. The whole point of my great escape is to take the time to make my daily life a bearable place, to finagle a way to do what I love for a living, and to take a few deep breaths in a place that doesn't go out of its way to assault me on my way to the grocery store. It's only for a few months, and tango will still be there to come home to. Only, then it will be gravy, not just a bandaid slapped over a soul-sucking job and a sketchy living situation.

That said, I took grateful refuge in my dancing shoes this weekend. Sleepless from infestation nightmares, I strapped those puppies on for eight hours of workshops and seven hours of social dancing. By ten pm last night, I was sure my calf muscles would crystallize from fatigue, but I went out anyway and made a night of it. I danced my way to a place where I felt no pain, and I didn't stop where my partner started. I had some of the best dances of my life.

Maybe the Universe gives you a balmy break now and then, even as it throws you every last thing you can handle, like so many stink bombs and hand grenades.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

part two: revenge of the slumlord

Recap: We're moving.

My landlord refuses to have the building treated. And if this guy "can't even afford" the $250 inspection, imagine the results of filing complaints and legal formalities to force him. We were between a rock and a hard place before, with the gas situation: if we ratted him out, he would have been fined, bankrupted, and we'd have ended up in the cold anyway, so we spent the better part of the winter bundled by a space heater, living on take-out.

Now he's threatening me.

The Bug Dog Man identified three places where Champ found traces of live bed bug scent: the mattresses, the big blue corner couch, and the front door saddle. By his estimation, given that two out of three furniture pieces in question were brand new since we moved in, our apartment is not the source of the infestation. (My guess would be the basement full of the manky used furniture my landlord collects from his unsavory contractor friends—you know, the ones who built our building without filing the gas permit or measuring the doorframes.)

My landlord is a flaming retard. He has already made the rounds and told the other tenants how "those people in apartment five brought in bedbugs to the building" (how soon we became 'those people'), and is squawking that, since no one else has been affected, it must be our fault. So he calls and he yells and I get to feel small and helpless and alone, like a good girl should.

Then again, the last conversation we had ended with me barking, "You'll be hearing from my lawyer!" (I don't actually have a lawyer, but I've always wanted to say that.)

This too shall pass. Tomorrow morning I call the fumigators. And the movers. I will pack and load everything I own into a truck, and that truck will be nuked with an odorless, colorless gas that kills everything, in all stages of life, but dead. Then I will abandon the dowry of material possessions I have accumulated in my five years of adulthood (mostly books and cookware, because—hey—this is me we're talking about here) to a storage unit in the outer boroughs. Then I will skip town like my life depended on it.

It was time to leave. A conversation with a sympathetic neighbor (the one who gave me the heads up about the whole "those people" conversation) revealed three more bullet points in the "Get Me The Fuck Out of Here" field manual:
  • First, when asked about a cockroach problem (not to mention the silverfish and centipedes), our landlord refused to arrange for an exterminator, saying "Oh those are no big deal."
  • Second, a recent incident with a neighbor's CO2 alarm revealed that all our vents are fake. They don't actually vent anywhere. So when we cook or shower, carbon monoxide and shampooey steam just blow around within the aparmtent. Staying would mean months of ceiling drilling and construction.
  • Third, the roof is cracking.
And so another chapter closes. Perhaps it was foolhardy to imagine I'd be allowed to fill a room with my all stuff and stay there for more than a year. But it appears I'm just not destined for normalcy.

Trouble is, Peter is leaving for France on Thursday. I get to do this all by myself, with a hostile and stupid landlord breathing down my neck. Times like these, a girl sure could use some back up—in the form of beefy Italian boys in muscle Ts who could help me cart and carry, and who would say things like 'ma'am' and "Don't talk that way to a lady, buddy, or I'll break your legs."

Saturday, July 17, 2010

me and whose army, part one: the uppance cometh

In which our heroine hires a beagle named Champ to ruin her day.

Nutshell: bed bugs.

Translation: life as we know it has come to a crashing end.

After forty five minutes of sobbing, I spent the afternoon sealing textiles in plastic, packing my refugee bag, lugging said bag to exile in Manhattan, then laudering and disinfecting the contents.

Now it is nigh on two am and I find myself alone on a sofa in the Ivory Tower, cursing the gods. My apartment—sorry, Peter, our apartment—was pristine. I did everything right. I dusted, I swept, I mopped. I kept up with clutter. I disinfected with certified organic nontoxic substances. And the little fuckers marched right through the front door and set up camp anyway, laughing their insect heina laughter at my hubris.

(Oh, yeah, and they bit my feet, too.)

The inspector was very kind. He smiled, I signed on the dotted line. He told me not to panic. But he also warned me not to cough up the 1500 bucks it will cost to debugify if my sorry ass landlord won't treat the building itself. Because, you see, the source is somewhere in the walls, where nothing short of a nuclear event will stop them from coming back.

Raise your hand if you saw this one coming. After all, this is the very landlord who couldn't get the heat sorted out until March, the one who had the balls to charge full rent all winter because, hell, he offered us a cinderblock space heater and a hotplate, didn't he?

There's a cheeky bit of irony here. Remember all those months I spent longing for sanctuary, for a place to call my own? I planted my tubers. They miscarried. Maybe I was never meant to lay down roots. The nomad wind has shifted, and I sink or swim by my ability to let it—all of it—go.

My acrimoniously divorced parents rarely agree on anything. But the transtextual telephone family triangle has united on this one front: We know a sign when one slaps us upside the head.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

vertigo, part one

I'm not sure what the stages of quarter life crisis are, you know, officially, but I picture them looping like bike paths, forming something like a Venn Diagram, and covering everything from acting out to outright despair. I am somewhere in the middle, drifting.

You see, I finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up. Or, at the very least, what I want to do while I do it. The trouble is, I am—as ever—ill-prepared.

Sure, my B.A. will make me look good. My GPA, once dusted for cobwebs, ought to leverage me a little. But then there are mountains to scale, the first of which being my aversion to calling myself a writer. Best clear that hurdle first. Because, after all, it is not my place to decide I don't have talent. That is why MFA programs have admissions committees. So. Yeah.

I have four months to choose a genre, write forty pages of admit-worthy material, develop a profound sense of self-discipline, spend a lot of money I don't have, mail a bunch of applications and . . . relearn algebra (that last one is giving me nightmares).

Then there are leaps to be taken, from death-defying heights. This is the part where, come September, I quit my hideous soul-snapper of a job in spectacular fashion, sublet the turret and move to Florida until my applications are mailed, sipping mojitos on the Intracoastal with my mother and (gasp) re-donning the apron of my youth. Once a waitress, always a waitress. Only this time, the job whispers to me of dizzying freedom and dignity in the form of cold, hard cash. I can answer to pigs, it's the She Beast who's got me down.

Thing is, I'm thrilled. This may be the greatest, most daring—most selfish—coup I've ever attempted. Hence, the vertigo. So I breathe. I squirm. I inhabit the liminal quagmire between decision and execution. And I try like hell to shut my ears against the persistent chorus muttering in my head, saying fool, calling wolf, calling "theatre!" in a crowded fire.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

on being of childbearing age

I've made it abundantly clear that I would like to have babies. Or, you know, a baby (singular). Someday. You know, before my ovaries pickle.

Peter Pan does not. Did not. Will not. This was the last ice cube to be Jenga-ed out of the igloo of our love.

I've seen the way he looks at infants in restaurants, at his de facto goddaughter, even at his own nephews on occasion. One squeal or whine, and a rage sprouts up in his eyes, a blind and impotent hatred coupled with the complete bafflement of someone who looks at a family and says, "Why, God, why?"

The day I stopped willing him to soften was the day I called 'time of death'. I looked at him, felt a stab of sadness not unlike pity, and said, "I'm won't try to change you, but you've got to let me go." And, since then, since our pile of ice chunks fell apart, we've never been closer.

Now I can laugh at it, watch him squirm in the face of delighted toddler laughter, watch his face fill with dread at the thought of spending more than five minutes in a closed environment with anyone under the age of twelve. We made the right call. And we're better friends for it.

He looks at me, staring wistfully at chubby feet in BABYBJORNs, and just shakes his head.

New York magazine hit the stands this week with the cover "I love my children. I hate my life" and featured an article describing parenting as All Joy and No Fun. The playboys of the social media sphere are posting and reposting this as an everlasting affirmation of their bachelorism-as-life-choice. It's their red badge of proof.

See?! Sociopsychological science proves it true! People who have children are miserable!

Right. Sure. We no longer need to breed kids for hard labor. The modern world has made it elective. But come on. I'm just getting used to the ugly truth that marriage is an antiquated institution for catlady schoolteachers such as myself. You expect me to also relinquish the dream of porch swings and prom night primpings?

I spent some time this weekend in the company of a nuclear family that would put the Kennedys to shame. The original homestead has spread to three houses whose yards converge to form a sort of compound where children and grand children and—ohmygosh, great grandchildren—wander freely, covered in grass stains and Freezer Pop residue. That, my friends, is the point.

If you read that article carefully, you will find the following quote buried on page six:

“Should you value moment-to-moment happiness more than retrospective evaluations of your life?”

There's the rub. And the fundamental difference between those of us who do and don't want kids. Me? I look forward to the day I take a backseat for what the article called the "nineteen-year grind" of parenting. (Though I'm sure my mother will relish the inevitable I-told-you-sos.) And, while I harbor no judgment for those who'd prefer to stay up front and joyriding til they're struck down by dementia and hemorrhoids, I look at Peter (looking at his nephews as if he'll burst with love) and I just shake my head.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

my geriatric weekend

I spent the Fourth of July on an alien planet of total relaxation. Eat, sleep, read. Repeat.

Morning coffee, the New York Times and berries on the porch overlooking the river, afternoons by the pool, farm stand suppers, evening ice cream cones, old movies, and long nights reading in bed as the midgies and moths hurled themselves at the window screens.

I slept more in two nights than in the previous two weeks combined. I also saw family I hadn't seen in decades, which was nice for continuity's sake and a connection to something other than the three-man caravan of my nomadic childhood. But mostly I just shut my mouth and slowed my brain, retreating into a sort of monk-like quiet and turning the Rubik's cube by cube.

Monday it was back on the road and back to business as usual. I hit the ground running in a city besieged by an ungodly heat wave: book shopping, milkshakes in Madison Square park and dancing, oh, dancing. Now here it is Wednesday-that-feels-like-Tuesday, and I'm back to square zero on the Sleep Dep scale, cursing the life choices that bring me to this Soviet-era gulag every day between the hours of 9 and 5.

But I met a boy. Or—should I say—a boy I already knew (but not well) took a bit of an interest. Contrary to established tradition, I'm withholding analysis for future developments. For now, it was nice. That's all I'm gonna say.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

the days can't be like the nights

After tango night, Midsummer Nights Swing, Lincoln Center.