Saturday, November 27, 2010

odd year, this time twenty seven

The day after Thanksgiving is often a lost one—Black Friday, a cold and cloudy day, not quite winter, not quite Christmas. The morning after.

But this year it was also my birthday, and it was one of the best.

As if Thanksgiving were not party enough (I am continually humbled by the generosity with which the Family Pan opens their doors and hearts and lives to me—year in and year out), I had a birthday to celebrate. One year closer to Spinsterdom and Cat Haggery.

So I rang it in right: went to yoga class, took myself to lunch, and had my first Peppermint Mocha of the season. I bought myself a brand new dress and a big chocolate cake and walked through the Village in the grey gloaming, enjoying the desolate peace of the city on a holiday weekend and how it smelled faintly of woodsmoke.

Then I got showered with love and spoiled rotten by just about everyone in my life. Little gifts and large gifts (all perfect) and then sixteen people at a big wooden table eating ravioli and drinking Chianti by the jug.

Then the milonga, where we ate the aforementioned cake and I was greeted by two dozen red, red roses, sent by Spumoni from five thousand miles away.

I was a little too tipsy to dance, but it was good to end the evening under the twinkle lights in the back basement Ukrainian den of iniquity all the same, surrounded by friends I would never have made were it not for my shameless addiction to Argentine tango.

If this year is any reflection on its inaugural day, I will spend it smiling, behind a veritable Great Wall of Gratitude, tickled pink by the people in my life, with full knowledge of my impossibly good luck in those things that truly matter.

So from the bones of twenty six, I make a stock. It is a scrappy broth, given my circumstances, made from bits and blobs in a rented room. And it is just what I need. So I live out of a suitcase (well, two suitcases now, if we're counting) . . . I could not be more blessed than I feel today.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

happy thanksgiving

To everyone in my life who has been a rockstar in this time of flux, to my family and friends for putting up with my transience, to the fellas who've given me such beautiful dances, to the ladies for the solidarity, and to everyone who has made me feel a little less alone, I couldn't exist without you right now and I am truly grateful for you all.

Monday, November 22, 2010

to make a very long story short

I ended things with Gatsby. Me. I did it.

I sat there in his car, after an hour of intense eye contact over injera and honey wine, and listened to yet another "I'm just not sure I can shoulder the responsibility of a relationship right now" speech.

(as visions of G.I.Q. danced in my head)

Responsibility. To answer for oneself. Golly gosh by goodness, what a burden, I thought.

You know, I'm tired, I said. I deserve someone who can be sure about me, without audition or condition. So we should just be friends.

Maybe it was reverse psychology. Advanced Maneuvers for the Captain of Industry 101: Getting Her to Let You Go. Or maybe it was merely my nascent backbone, tuned like a radio antennae to the wisest counsel of my patient, patient friends.

Either way, I have been dancing the sadness out through my tired legs, hour after midnight hour. Keeping open the tiny birdhouse in my heart for the someday love of someone worth loving.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

postgraduate postmodern poster child

As I stare down mile marker 27 on the road to Dirty Thirty, I have only this to say: Eat my dust.

I flipped the match and I still don't regret it.

Recipe for Disappearance: Sublet, suitcase, eleven hour workdays.

I used to love the moment of crawling under the comforter, preparing for sleep, running my toes along the bottom sheet, letting my body sink into soft relief from all this New York City hardness. These days, I sleep for survival. I take the bed like a tight end with the ball tucked under the elbow crook—face first in one forward assault. I sleep as fast as I can.

I am up with the birds and down with the underdogs.

Dessert: Writing sample, tango habit, yoga, boys. (In order of percentage of overall weight.)

My priorities have shifted their shit around. Two full time jobs stretch me thin from dawn until dawn, and my daily strategy is not to win the war, but to take the scrimmages one by one. Example, on Wednesday I got up at 6:30 to make an am yoga class. I listened to The Podcast while I mopped the kitchen and vacuumed the rugs. I did GRE problem sets on the PATH train to Newark.

I can very nearly eat standing up. (Translation: I am cheating death!)

I sublet in a seedy section of the Heights, living out of my suitcase. I can project neither of my two (now full-time) jobs more than a few months into the future, but I've made rent and COBRA this month and maybe, just maybe, there'll be a little something left over with which to buy Christmas gifts.

As tango now requires a rather expensive cab fare home, I spent two—count em, two—evenings (read: between the dinner hour of 10pm and the crash pad hour of 2) this week on the couch in my sweatpants, hard at work. I have a draft, albeit an imperfect one, to show for this.

Everything is a big fat mess, but for the first time in my life I feel confident making choices of myself, by myself, and for myself. I'm learning what it feels like to be in control, to change those things I can.

I've run my resume through the paper shredder. It now would seem to represent a circus performer with acrophobia and Tourette's. My internal marketing department has all but thrown up their hands and quit, the remnants of their catered lunch left on the conference table.

With every week, I look less and less like what I thought a grown up ought to be. I am like the Mets with the first quarter of the season behind them. The spectators are getting nervous. In other words: a nose dive. Or maybe a swan dive, if I can arch my arms out in time. Or—best yet—om sūryāya namaḥ, sun salutation style.

That said, quite simply, I've lost the desire to explain myself.

I may have disappeared, but I am not unhappy. I'm moving forward, up or down. I walk fast and keep the landing gear in tight. This is efficiency living and maybe I'm not happy, but also maybe I've never been happier.

My mother misunderstands and says I ought to show a little gratitude to the Universe for not letting me fall flat on my ass (as perhaps I should have done). But perhaps I have not adequately expressed the victories among all this adversity.

My friends are good ones. My family loves me. My therapist approves of me. My high school English teacher thinks I'm still worth his time. I'm rocking one towel, three socks, two pairs of jeans, my fleece jacket playing Chicken with the onslaught of winter. People matter so much more than things. I'm healthy enough to function on five hours of sleep and I know where I want to go. The same Universe that sent the plague of locusts also blew up my crash balloon. When I cut out the noise, my blessings were that much easier to count.

It is about purpose.

What good are all the jobs, all the money in the world without conviction? I'm not getting any younger. I have no wheels but this self-same junker I've been driving around for 26 years. Time to dust it off and tune it up for the next hundred thousand miles. I am approaching the point of no return and I plan to run naked through the sprinklers on the neighbors' lawn until the dicta of polite society can come up with something better than, "What about a 401k?"

Last night I danced until three, ate apple crumble with friends until four, then walked up Park Avenue to Grand Central with the hazel-eyed man who makes me remember Italian verb conjugations and says, "Sei bellissima, lo sai?"

It was nice, but it wasn't a disaster. I thank you, Universe, for that. For the lovely moment with Spumoni, sure, but mostly for leaving the pit of my stomach just exactly where it was. For letting me wake up without finding empty spaces to be filled.

Tonight I've chained myself to a desk in a nocturnal Newark industrial park, writing and eating cheddar cheese and Macintosh apples while Gatsby toils away at Big Business on the other end of the office. It may not be the most dignified way to spend a Saturday night, but the tranquil hum of the trucking lanes outside, the heating vents inside, and the clack of my own keystrokes under fluorescent light is just fine by me. I'm spending seven unadulterated hours of concentration and those hours are a gift.

His attentions are irrelevant bookends. I'm the main attraction.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

sleep is a crutch for the weak

You are a so beautiful lady . . . Why for you live this bad neighborhood? Huh? Is not good . . . No very nice. Why you no live somewhere nicer? Nice neighborhood. Huh?

This from my cab driver last night, whose services I employed to ferry me up to my new sublet in the nosebleed section (once I realized the 1 train was going to continue crawling the whole way uptown at two miles an hour). He hit every red light on Broadway, his boxy SUV clanking and wheezing, the interior construction squeaking against the body with every start and stop. I think he even slowed to catch a few just to drive up the meter.

I mean, I get it. Gatsby said the very same when he drove me home on Tuesday (read: Wednesday, 3 am). This is not a very nice neighborhood, young lady.

But Gatsby, bless his lion heart, meant it with some degree of protective concern. Cabbie Douchebag only wanted to give me grief, accept my 2o% tip and burn rubber down the block before I could get my key in the front door. You'd think if he'd been truly worried, he might have idled there to see me safely inside.

Ahem. New York is never a simple barrel of charms. (Watch for the wrist-chomping piranhas.)

Not that I have been a resident of this neighborhood long enough to discern said charms. I moved in shotgun style on Monday night and have come and go at 8 and 2 am daily. It is little more than a bed, two loquacious cats and the piano sonata I wake to on my cell alarm.

This week, I left the idylls of underemployment behind. One part time job mushroomed into two full time jobs, and I logged 44 hours in four days, plus the midday commute to Newark. I also fought off a flu with little more than Odwalla juice and Emergen-C.

The best part is, I'm so tired I can barely think. (Perchance to dwell.) My eyes are two deflated punching bags, glued to my face like a third grade art project. Were it not for my artists' masochism, I might have slept last night–but no—I went dancing.

I went dancing because Spumoni was there (two nights only, direct from Livorno!) and because I keep my promises. (That and my body begged for it—I can dance when I cannot stand.) I went dancing and it was delirium, another world's fatigue in alien legs, a dream I don't remember.

I sweat. And it was not the sweat of crowded milongas in overhot rooms; it was a fever flush, clammy and delicate, as the whole room blinked and buzzed around me.

I woke up this morning to the spareness and the rain and I was cured. Tango as bloodletting?

Highlight of the week: I am halfway to a draft.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

steel girder tightrope act

A mooch no more.

I woke up this morning with my annual malaise, after a night of restless thrashing and an eighteen hour weekend of tango. But there is no ache or sneeze I would not weather for the tanda I had last night. Or the sore soled bliss of dancing my blues away.

State of the Union, November 2010: As of tonight, I live in the nosebleed section of the Island, way up above the fray, just southeast of the Cloisters. I will miss my borrowed family very much, but not the feeling of being constantly in their way. My routine will now have to swell to accommodate three part-time jobs and a beastly commute, but I am once again paying my way, living with one of my best friends, her fiance and their feline entourage—practicing for my illustrious future as Spinster Cat Hag. I will be 27 in 25 days and I have boiled my life down to one overlarge suitcase, a backpack, a laptop and my yoga mat. I have the better part of my health and so do the people who matter to me. With the possible exception of my winter clothes and seven boxes of books in storage, I need nothing else.