Friday, December 31, 2010

inimitable anxiety disorder and all

Twenty Ten draws to a close like a roller coaster car, hitting the skids after the final drop. Soon the gates will open and we will jerk by fits and stops back to the platform. The turnstiles will snap wide and we'll exit the ride, keeping our belongings in sight and checking our pockets for just how much change we've lost.

This week—what with the blizzard and these infernal balls in the air—I've mostly been trying to confine myself to my god given boundaries of skin and bone. Notable exception: yesterday evening, when I cried for approximately an hour then threw up an entire bag of movie theatre Skittles.

But I made it. I am coasting through the twilight into Twenty Eleven. I spent a good five minutes in savasana today, taking deep ass breaths in a room full of sweat and rubber mat smell, and so have managed to loop a few new years meditations through my tortuous psyche. God grant me the serenity, etc., etc.. I am listening to gentle things of genius, played on nylon strings or steel. I am preparing my heart for opening up and staying there. Because that is my resolution this year. To shuck the oysters of my doubt and find the pearls. To silence my one woman critical chorus of 'no'. To look before I leap, then leap the further, fall the farther, and reap the fruits of my nascent courage.

I will continue to pursue joy, joy, and abject joy, even if that means I spend my entire twenty-eighth year living in this sublet and cleaning someone else's toilets. I will stretch and dance and write and see the world, one day at a time. I will listen. Because live is a an action verb. I will no longer expect "to be" "to do" and "to love" to happen to me without my first cobbling their path.
Oh Divine Master, grant that I may
not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love.
Even now, poisoned from stem to stern by my own self-destructive spin cycle, I will take a shower, shave my legs, and trot off into the bowels of my city in search of my true love.

Maybe it will be Jack, maybe not. But I will not turn up at his door tonight like a deer in headlights. I will convert these barbed wire landslides into butterflies, and radiate that little princess part of me that really just longs to see him, to wrap my arms around his cherry red jumper, smell the wool, and hold him fast.

This too shall pass. Tomorrow will dawn one way or another. He will be there or he won't. It will be a new year, another swipe at the canvas. And the snowdrift in front of my apartment will melt, maybe not tomorrow, but next week surely, and with it will disappear the purple arc of Skittle puke, evidence of the worst of me.

So cheers. To auld lang syne . . . and second chances.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

on karma

Remember the four-day date? Friday, December 19th, 6:19 pm to 7:18 pm, en route to the opera, I was stuck underground, lodged between Spring and Canal on the C train, already late for my Moonstruck fountain moment with Jack?

That unsung hour, so easily obscured by the flashboom romance that ensued, was really a microcosm of a Meg Ryan movie in which I, the heroine, joined a chorus of kvetching commuters stranded on the subway.

It went a little like this: I was sitting by the door, my big-girl heels crossed at the ankles, my Kindle in my lap. I was listening to pre-game opera on my iPod and perusing the New York Times, paying but peripheral attention to the bitching and moaning and "Come on, man" banter that is customary with gratuitous transit delays, and wincing with every stationary minute.

Eventually, I cracked, breaking the fourth wall of my anonymity to bond with my fellow New Yorkers. We all do it. In these moments the whole city is your family.

Tell me about it. I have opera tickets.

More back-and-forth. The lady at my left was hosting a birthday party in the Village, at one of those snooty bistros that don't seat incomplete parties (and don't hold tables more than fifteen minutes). The lady in front of me had left work early to get some Christmas shopping done—so much for that idea. Another was on her way to meet a friend.

You're going to the opera?

If I ever make it, I answered. The story followed. It's my first real date with this guy I'm sort of crazy about . . . and I'm supposed to meet him at the Met, by the fountain, five minutes ago . . . and he doesn't have a phone.

You would have thought I'd exposed a ring of seal-clubbing puppy-skinning crime lords. These women, with their own places to go and people to meet, were aghast. If they could have formed a human chain to crowd-surf me up the island to Lincoln Center, they would have done so immediately.

Instead, they all held their impotent cell phones in the air to search for signal. They brainstormed. They demanded to know what kind of adult male doesn't have a cellular device.

A fourth woman chimed in. I live up there. When they open the doors, we'll split a cab. We'll get you there!

Only, they (the MTA) didn't open the doors. Oblivious to our plotting, an unruly cluster of men at the front of the car had begun to heave their bulk at the door, to force it open. Two minutes later, we were free, carried along in a human torrent up and to the street. My cabmate and I darted from corner to corner until we found a cab. We cajoled our driver to brave the West Side Highway, then Bridget, new-found wingwoman extraordinaire, spent the next nine minutes calling every business she could think of abutting Lincoln Square.

Lululemon: So I have a crazy request. My friend and I—she looked over to me and winked—were just stuck on a train WITH POLICE ACTIVITY for almost an hour and she was supposed to meet her date by the fountain at seven. Can you send someone over to tell him she is on her way?

Starbucks: No, I understand that your customers come first, but this is their FIRST DATE and she was stuck underground.

Rosa Mexicano: Surely someone can just pop over and help her out? I mean . . . the subway stopped because of POLICE ACTIVITY.

Of course no one would help. It was the height of the pre-theatre rush and this is New York City, not Brigadoon, but I had to admire her temerity, her utter willingness to troubleshoot.

We pulled up behind the sky lawn at about 7:32. I tried to hand her cash, but she wouldn't have it. She nearly pushed me from the cab.

No no, my treat. You just go get your man! And, with that, she thrust her card into my hand and demanded only that I tell her how it went.

Tonight, as a positive affirmation, I sent the email. Because, really, it was an absolute success. I made it and the date was grand. If nothing else, I have that victory. And so should she.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

the girl who cried wolf, part two

I tell stories about my Scotsman, his accent ringing in my ears with the Christmas bells, his gentle eyes, his turns of phrase. Tender moments remembered from the dead of night, every little trick of eye that makes him new to me, distinguished among the other tango cads.

No one believes me.

You have all been patient . . . through Gatsby and the G.I.Q. You've followed my roller coasters from their crest to the inevitable crash. I understand. I have no better reason to believe.

Except that it is Christmas, and I am full of wine and hope and buttered breads. The New York moon hides behind the blizzard blowing in. I hide behind a dream. The quiet of this dead-leg week invites my introspection, this taking stock.

Do I not have all I'd ever ask for?

I fear what may be missing is the faith.

My Scotsman's homebound flight (on Tuesday) was canceled and set again (for Thursday). Wednesday was our stolen evening, his loft to ourselves with candles lit, Prosecco from a goblet, warmed up farmers' market apple pie. We sat on the sofa, our legs intertwined, and talked about feminism, his work, my writing, and the finer points of normative naturalism. We slow-danced to Miles Davis and stayed up til dawn.

I'll see you in a week, you wonderful creature, you, he said when he left. He kissed me as I stood on goosefleshed tippy toes, my naked legs stretched up into his candy red jumper. He was humming, scatting, bah-rum-bum-bum-ing in his delicious baritone, happy as a king.

Later, locking up and stabbing out for work, I was smiling too. Industrial Bushwick glittered in the morning sun. This man, my Jack, is smart and kind. He has treated me as a long lost Maggie Cassidy, reincarnate for a second chance.

I have no reason to doubt him, but I do.

Then again, I doubt everything. It is a matter of history. Or insanity: doing and feeling the same things over and over, expecting different results.

How long before the well of trust is dry, before we die inside? Are we born with a finite supply of wonder and the will to dream? I realized, this year, I forgot to lay out homemade cookies and a carrot stick. I had them squirreled in my suitcase in a plastic bag, but the hotel city Christmas Eve threw my bearings, and I let one more childhood moment go.

Love is like believing in Santa Claus. It is just as implausible, and therefore just as important to leave the cookies and listen for sleigh bells.

For now, he is an ocean away. I have no guarantees. But Friday will come to welcome in the newer year, his flight will land, and we'll have to wait and see.

Kerouac wrote, "It's only later you learn to lean your head in the lap of God, and rest in love."

May later come sooner than it might.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

new york bohemian underground presents: the four day date


3 pm: My first proper date with the philosopher. Simon Rattle's debut at the Met: Pelleas et Mellisande at eight. I am to meet him at seven by the fountain, for an aperitif. I think, I am Cher.

6:04 pm: On the F train to Manhattan, in wool tights and big girl heels, I listen to Christmas Adagios.

6:16 pm: Transfering to the C, I check my eye makeup. Stand clear of the closing doors, please.

6:19 pm: A screech, the train lurches, we stop.

6:47pm: Nosed two doors deep into the Spring Street station, the natives grow restless, shifting weight from foot to foot and sighing at their watches, their cell phones.

6:58 pm: Still stalled, I make a friend. We'll split a cab uptown if ever we are freed. I think of my date, there by the fountain, phoneless in the cold.

7:18 pm: A horde of rambunctious men at the front of our car busts open the subway door. We funnel out like rats, the rest behind us in the tube.

7:23 pm: I cajole the glass-half-empty cab driver: suck it up and get me to Lincoln Center. He seems to respond to the words, "big tip." It takes us five minutes to make it to Houston, but then he, reluctant, speeds up the West Side Highway in a godsent traffic reprieve.

7:32 pm: I run across the plaza, scarf trailing, fling myself into the arms of a tall and red-scarved Scotsman, who takes nothing but delight in my story and buys me Malbec.

8 pm: Curtain. We are lost in Debussy, in each other. In the crystal chandeliers at intermission.

10:16 pm: Second intermission. We share the sandwiches he has brought, gaze at women in elaborate hats.

12 am: Midnight wine and chat. He twiddles my Claddagh in his hand. I look down as he rights it, my heart no longer open to the village boys.

2:09 am: Last-called and thwarted by trains, adventures on the L to Bushwick.

4:10 am: Two cups of chamomile, kissing in the kitchen, and the flipping through of books.

4:13 am: A herd of roommates descends, across the threshold in a cloud of smoke, bearing bulging grocery bags and buoyant conversation. Cheap beer and the chopping of onions ensues. They've heard so much about me.

5:00 am: Impromptu dinner party, pasta puttanesca, the window glowing Maxfield Parrish blue. My philosopher is Jack, his roommate chef a Ginsberg if ever one I've met.

7:15 am: Bundled up in borrowed jumpers on the roof, his arms around my waist. We watch the sunrise turn the skyline salmon pink.


12:3o pm: Assembled company convenes for cucumber and cheese on bread, we squeeze six into one SUV and drive. The sun sparkles white on the world, and cold.

1:41 pm: Silent film screenings.

2:57 pm: Robert Rauschenberg at Gagosian, we stroll through Chelsea arm in arm.

4:30 pm: Back in Brooklyn, a wee snooze. He rubs my feet, I butcher Neruda en español.

1:15 am: No hot water, I commute to shower and dress again for dancing. The elevator opens at Nocturne, the world is warmer. A wink.

3:17 am: We dance the final four, his lips a benediction on my brow.


4:08 pm:
Afternoon tango practice. He welcomes me with tea.

7:30 pm: Flea markets on forgotten avenues, a boxed feast from Whole Foods salad bar, the comparing of family Christmases.

9:26 pm: Barstool of a tapas bar, coffee and the crossword, his arm around my back, his forehead to my cheek.

10:30 pm: More dancing. More winks across the room.

12:38 pm: Fancy a hot shower? he says.

1:37 am: Alan's solo venture bolognese bubbling on the stove. A bottle of Korbel, a talk about art.

3:36 am: I set an alarm for never, Pushkin stories by my Scottish furnace.


9:30 pm: A wee whiskey before the Black Swan, with Alan and his date.

10:37 pm: His hand on my knee the whole way through.

1 am: Mulled wine at a bluegrass bar. Status of the moon: still mostly white.

2:12 am: Apres gin and tater tots, the moon has gone half dark. We retrace our steps down the windy road.

3:45 am: The moon turns red. Hot apple cider, a bonfire in a garden bar, lanterns twinkling under stars.

6:30 am: We sleep, we smell of woodsmoke, that is all.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

analog barbie, part one

Eleven months and a half months ago, Peter Pan gave me a Kindle. A device I feared and loathed and have only recently come to accept as a suitable conduit for the written word.

I am still wary. It sits before me in its black leather case, looking smug—and so . . . digital.

Flip side: it carries within the power of the pdf. It can bring me The New Yorker and the New York Times on the subway, so that I may stand a snowball's chance of reading either periodical between dances—and quarter life crises.

I tell myself: no real books. Proper literature must be held between the hands, the pages felt beneath the fingers as we lose ourselves in turning them. There must be one thing left sacred. Then again, is it only a matter of time? Methinks I doth protest in vain. I have skied up the hill of my own stubbornness to find my foothold slipping.

I mean, come on people. I blog (though I shudder at the verb). I spend untold hours sifting through detritus on Facebook when I ought to be nose deep in Faulker. I've even sunk so low as to tweet (again, with the shudder).

Is it the turtle shell convenience of it all? If I thought for a moment the purity of the device's intention was to lighten the bookbag load, I might more easily forgive myself, but the intention was to sell ice trays to Eskimos . . .

By which I mean: Thank you, Peter, for this new frontier.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

because Santa inquired

My blessings being innumerable this year, I have a hard time assembling a wish list. My standard everyday desire for a boyfriend and a dog notwithstanding, I want all the usual things for Christmas: world peace, twinkle lights and peppermint hot chocolate.

This list is for everyone but my mama (who has already spoiled me rotten with mother/daughter spa services and a shocking quantity of other lovely gifts) who would insist on wrapping something for me this Christmas and needs a little inspiration. By no means do I expect anything from this list. The items included are merely suggestions. This means you.

- Funky earrings or other treasures from the Union Square holiday market.
- Flannel pajamas. (Exhibits A [cream/dog, size S] and B)
- A 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." (Exhibits A.)
- Tango shoes to replace the ones I have worn to shreds, from my friend's import boutique. (Exhibits A or B, in tan or brown satin, size 40.5, 3" heel)
- A copper heart necklace, made by my college friend Lilian Crowe.
- Music, namely good classical, opera or jazz. Or, you know, Red Letter Year, by Ani DiFranco.
- Gift certificates in any denomination to Anthropologie, American Apparel or Barnes & Noble.
- Books (any and all), but especially those pertaining to early U.S. presidents (such as The Adams Jefferson Letters and My Dearest Friend, Letters of Abigail and John Adams), anything translated from the original Russian by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky and anything by Louise DeSalvo.

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 things made of dark chocolate . . . and the color grey.)

Clothing: top: XS or S, bottom: 4, dress: 4. Unmentionables: panties: M, bra: 36A. Shoes: 10.5.

But this season is not about presents or purchases. It is about holiday cookies and/or cocktails in the company of those you love. So if you find yourself a little lean on cash, I would warmly accept nothing more than your well wishes for my grad school applications and my upcoming hadj to Buenos Aires (coming spring/summer 2011).

If you are charitably inclined, give a little to a good cause (such as Charity:Water or Kids For Tomorrow) in my name.

Wishing you all love and light at the close of Twenty Ten.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

the girl who cried wolf

Or: how, drinking my dinner, I came to a deeper understanding of tango through chicken sexing.

Boy . . . Girl . . . Boy . . . Girl . . .

B went on in his brogue to detail the phenomenology of gallus gallus domesticus sex determination, how the untrained, unscientific eye can, after a period of seeing a visual put to purported fact, just tell.

I suppose I started it when I said tango was an impossible conversation between man and woman, a six minute moment strung between two human posts, crystalline, glossy, but false. For leaders, I said, it is chess. For followers, meditation. You see what we close our eyes to. You stare, you steer, you peacock, and we are free in flight. But then I took the mallet to the chisel when I said, our objectives being disparate, the moment itself is never wholly shared.

That's when he brought up the chickens. As if to say, sure, but see . . . we are not always navigating. The shared moment can only happen with both parties present. Which means the leader must reach a place in the dance where his lead will bypass his navigational brain and he moves from inside the music. When he is no longer being told boy, girl, boy, girl, but sees a conveyor belt of chicks and just knows which is which—without knowing why. That is the moment you feel, he said.

B is a dreamboat I dared not entertain. Tall, broad chested, blue eyed boy with a lucid wit and a lovely embrace. We've sent a few pithy emails, whiled away the odd tanda or two in impromptu chat and practiced once on a Saturday morning. It is all I can do in class not to blush with his bicep beneath my palm, my eyes turn to his chest, a loveworn swatch of grey green sweater, as we dance. Then on Tuesday, with all the nonchalance in the world, he tucked his arm around my grey wool coat and steered me through frigid midtown west to the nearest pub.

Going Guinness for Guinness, it was established that I: had a rocky childhood, wear a Claddagh, enjoy whiskey and believe in God.

You do? You mean, an omnipotent paternal presence-in-the-sky, creator-of-the-Universe, judger-of-our-every-action kind of deity?

No, of course not.

Well good, that's good.

We talked about astrophysics, art and the intersection there between. We covered theism, theatre, Nietzsche, the question of monogamy and the creation of the state. Somewhere in there we talked about Dionysus—and Apollo—the finer dynamics of the lead-follow relationship, the psychics versus the scientists and how it's all the same.

And that. That is what I believe in, I said. Sharing atoms. If you and I sit here long enough, we will eventually become each other.

It takes a rare breed of man to have patience with me when I wax quixotic, and a rarer one still to suggest a walk through the cold to a deserted hotel bar for ice tinkling Negronis and another round of laughs.

You mean to say the man/woman moment of transcendence we seek in tango is nothing more than the mutual sexing of chickens?

Precisely, he said. An epiphany.

It was a fierce rout of intellectual foreplay. I am still reeling in the brain chakra, not to mention select others, far more dazzling.

At three, the lobby bar closed around us, the Ecuadorian Italian barman shooing us out with a wink and his best wishes. We traversed the marble to the glass doors and into the wall of frozen wind. He had his arm around me again, but I swear it was of necessity. It was bitter cold.

I had one hand clutching the side of his coat, the other shoved between breast buttons. He flung one arm round my shoulders and the other around my waist, walking almost sideways. We stopped for a light and he leaned down to my face as I leaned up. Behind glasses, his blue eyes twinkled with the icy air, the traffic lit intersection. My hat slipped over my eyebrows, obscuring all but my nose. He righted it, smoothed the black knit backwards off my face. The light was still red . . . and then—

I have become a girl who dares not hope, a consummate assumer of the worst. Therefore, this evening, for all its merit, must stand alone, regardless of the way he brushed my hair from my face with both his hands and said, as if laughing, I've been wanting to do this for ages. Dunno why. Just this."

I realize also that I said—and just last week—there must be something more to all this courtship and coupling. If nothing comes of this (and round these parts, we fear the worst), at least I know. This is what was missing.

Thank you, Universe, for my philosopher.

Monday, December 6, 2010

andare via

Are you playing? he asked.

He had pulled me aside at the milonga to do this, dragged his folding chair to meet mine, trapped me between his lanky knees.

Funny how the simplest phrases are the most easily misunderstood in translation. Or the most easily evaded.


I think I know what he's talking about, but the question exhausts me. How am I supposed to know what I am doing? I met him at an Irish pub last night near Grand Central, for burgers and Cokes (he doesn't drink) and we sprang through the cold to listen to music on his computer (must be a generational thing) at his hotel.

Now, hotel rooms typically bring me joy, a comfort I can't quite understand. It was all I could do not to kick my boots off and flop down on one of the two double beds, enjoying the midtown office diorama through the plate glass window. But something told me to be uneasy, even with this bookish and slight specimen from Livorno who sent me roses on my birthday.

He kissed me. And it was nice, and to be expected. But then Italian men have this charmingly lax concept of time everywhere but in the bedroom. Late to everything, but the absolute first to try and peel off the turtleneck, reach for the jeans button, all the while whispering how much they want to fare l'amore con te. And I'm no prude, but this was all moving a little too fast.

Maybe it's the new nun-like digs—the twin-sized bed, the plaid flannel sheets, the room eight by ten. Maybe it's the vows I've almost taken not to own anything or love anybody ever again. Maybe it's the man, the men, I've not quite mourned.

Maybe it's me, wanting to carry my heart like the covenant and let it fester into mystical ether that melts the faces of the infidels. I just want to wait. It has been so long since I have been seduced, properly seduced, but I remember the attendant ceremony. As in: there ought to be one.

Roses, while lovely, words, while pretty, are no substitutes for knowing it is time for your clothes to slip to the floor, when your mind and your body are in easy lockstep, racing forward into the trains colliding overhead, and it is all you can do to keep up to the tune of so many trumpets. There's a great deal of wooing and winning to be done before this may be effortless.

Hai paura? he asked. Are you scared?

Yes, I am scared.

Also my heart is tired. Also, I say to myself, you are not yet worthy.

It is okay, we have time, he says, because they know what to say to get what they want. Va bene. We can just lay here, fully clothed, our thin, girlish frames, me conscious of my boots on the white duvet.

I fall asleep. Or he does. It is comfortable. He holds me in a practiced way (they must teach Italian schoolboys to do this), one arm squeezing, the other cupping the back of my hair like a child. It is the way a predator lulls you to safety only to suck your organs through your punctured skin. And it feels nice.

Everything feels nice—the eye contact, the furtive handholding racing through intersections, and this: being in someone's arms, even when I shut my eyes and imagine those arms to be the fleshier arms of others. Even when I shut my eyes and imagine dancing with someone else. My eyes flap open in the dark and I wonder, am I only here because I like to feel?

Either way, this is not fair to him. I am undecided here, and I have to go.

Devo andare, I say. I interrupt his snore.

Ma non... dormi qui con me. Dormi qui, piccola.

But I did leave. I read myself home on the F train, picked up a pint of sorbet to soothe my newly aching throat, went to my cell and to sleep.

And tonight he asks if I am playing with him. He wrestles the colloquial and I could hedge some more, but he deserves a straight answer.

I just need to be very careful. I always dive. This time I have to wade. You understand?

He pretends to, but then it's all . . . If I return next week, I come for you . . . and: I just need to know, when I see in your eyes, what I see there, are you lying?

My eyes never lie. But that is a stupid thing to say. And what do men see there that some find so captivating and the others fury-making. The innocence, the stores of love, the deer caught in headlights. The caution crusting over the abandon. Short answer: how should I know.

Can you come with me now?

I look at him sharply as if he has asked for me to kill someone, he sees my panic, understands, and leaves. It is the gentlemanly thing to do. Okay, we go this way, bit by bit. Write to me.

Yes, I say, and he is gone. I've got the whole milonga speculating about playboy flyboy and me. Are we or aren't we? Aren't, I'm embarrassed to admit. Or relieved.

I'm in a cluster of girls telling stories. Keep different men for different things, they say, diversify.

Then Gatsby is there at the edge of the dance floor, winking. And though I've sworn him off, it's been so long since we danced that I nod and make my way to take his hand.

He has a heart shaped sweat stain on his shirt.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Saturday, December 4, 2010

from queens to kings

Ladies and gentlemen, A Room of One's Own. One twin bed, one electrical outlet, one metal bar on which to hang my hat. Above a stationer and an Italian espresso bar. On a street strung with holiday lights.

My indoctrination occurred last night, over the seemingly inconsequential purchase of a knit hat to keep my ears warm in the legitimate cold of an icy Thursday night in December. Year of our lord 2010.

Hipster Clerk: What's your zip?

Moi: 11215?

Hipster Clerk: (rapid change in demeanor to express sudden and absolute solidarity) Brooklyn. I also live in Brooklyn. You have a nice night.

Moi: Well shit, you too.

And just like that, I belong. I didn't even judge him for the obviously non-prescription strength of his thick frame glasses. Or his jaunty cap. Or his angel hair jeans.

I have made my peace with Brooklyn. Watch out, bitches. I'm one of you now.