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If it is physically possible for a boy to sit up straighter than any arrow fortunate enough to find itself offered a chair, while, at the same time, shrink down inside himself so far that even the most casual of passersby wonders if he is invertebrate and therefore should take special care not to stare or point at the boy like a rube, then that is precisely what young Fitzpatrick Q. Wetherworth, III has managed to accomplish on this, the first day of first grade, where his last name has landed him in the last seat in the last row.
Being seated in the back of the room is nothing new to Fitzpatrick Q. Wetherworth, III. It happened to him in pre-nursery school, it happened to him in nursery school, it happened to him in kindergarten, and he's resigned himself to the knowledge that it will continue well into college, doctor school, baseball player school, astronaut school, robot-maker school, famous giant lobster rock star school, and beyond! The only place it never happens is in Hebrew school, where his mother had no choice but to enroll him under Frankie Abrahams, the name that almost made it onto his birth certificate.
You and I are going to have to wait for another day, another month, to learn more about Fitzpatrick Q. Wetherworth, III a/k/a almost-Frankie Abrahams. All I could manage to convey thus far is that the quality of his posture is not consistent and he, like many little boys, dreams of becoming a variety of often far-fetched things when he grows up. You and I will have to wait for him to grow up in my noggin a bit before we learn more about him. For now, he marinates in the gummy gray goo inside my brain, like an oyster.
In one of my high school years, part of math class was devoted to "computer science". My knowledge of computers was limited to those featured in computer-dating skits on "Love, American Style", where they inhabited entire walls, dotted with multi-colored blinking lights, and produced, at long last, a rectangular punch card with the results of task. In class, we learned to program those cards by punching holes in them. Or, rather, everyone else did. "This is crap," I thought. "There's going to be a better way soon." I'm so glad I didn't waste my time. (I still got an A.)
Whenever I walk my friend's Yorkie, I feel a little bit like a sham. I feel like I am presenting myself to casual passers-by as a girl who has a Yorkie, that neighborhood people think, "Oh, there's one of those girls who has one of those little dogs. Typical." I would feel more secure in my own identity if my friend's dog were somewhat larger, a slow-moving hulk of a Mastiff or a regal German Shepherd who looked like he could sit beside me on a bench and read me passages from the non-fiction book he carries in his mouth.
I miss my grandparent's console television, housed in wood. I miss all its 956 pounds, the rounded green screen, the static electricity type of sound that accompanied the act of turning it off, and the image that would flash for a millisecond and then reduce to a pinpoint of light in the center of the screen that lingered like it didn't want to go home yet, and finally disappear. I miss hovering my hand over the screen to feel the faint electricity "fuzz". I miss the "clicker" and the clunky knobs that were sometimes difficult to turn. I miss UHF.
(Continued from yesterday, kidz)
As much as I miss the physical television itself, I miss the thrilling event of watching it. There was still an immediacy to the experience even if the shows weren't presented live. We couldn't go out and watch the show later in recorded form. We either watched it right then or not at all. We had to wait for commercials to pee. And we had no clue that one day this would change, so no doubt we didn't appreciate the experience at all. Yes, this is my version of "I walked ten miles through the snow."
I'm worried about my social anxiety. I'm fine once I actually get to a place. It's the anticipation of getting there, the preparations leading up to getting there, that gives me stomach aches. Once I've arrived wherever it is I'm going, though, I'm fine, I'm quite at ease, and I have no problem inserting myself into the activity.
Every time this happens, I tell myself, "Remember last time? You were fine! It was great!" but every time, I still worry myself into a quiet frenzy. I guess I should just laugh at it already and not worry about the worrying!
I'm not one of these people who feels most at home in her own kitchen. Other people's kitchens, yeah, where I can witness the food preparation once removed, where I can admire the patience with which other people do it. The following is stuff I still don't know even though I've called my mom countless times to ask:
Cantaloupe: Cut in half through the "little indentation" or the other way?
Potatoes: Wait for the water to boil first?
Water: Is salt mandatory before boiling?
Water: How is it possible to burn it?
Knives: Why am I allowed anywhere near them?
Why the hell I had such a crush on Mr. Natale, my ninth-grade biology teacher, is beyond me. Was it the thick reddish-brown Woody Allen hair and bushy quasi-rabbinical beard? Was it the glasses that I'm sure he was blind without? Was it the way he drew "excited electrons" on the blackboard, brandishing the chalk to create staccato dots around the cute little "e"? Was it the twin sweat stains that seeped out from under the arms of his white long-sleeve shirt and crept across his chest until they met in the center, plastered against his almost-as-white skin? Beats me.
And now, friends, Romans, countrymen, and Dave, for your entertainment, a few random free-standing haiku just for the fuku of it:
Easy cheap dinner at home
Gee, look, a tramp stamp
Get pants with a higher rise
Tacky, double dose
Open and then ditch?
Holiday card etiquette?
Must I display them?
I'm all for free speech
Loud CUNT in restaurants, though?
Keep your lips zipped, schmuck
Everything around me "talks"
Head voices? No! Phew!
JFC, you're 25!
The word "gym" mean anything?
Man from Nantucket
Haiku isn't your forum
Rhyme "fuck it" elsewhere
Dear Tenth Grade Me:
You may suck at Chemistry and write in your diary about how you fear you'll get a D (because, frankly, that's what you're getting on your tests -- for once it's not just in your head), but you're still an otherwise smart girl, right? You're still known as a "brain", aren't you? Then why oh why oh why, after your latest test in that class, did you hand the glass beaker back to Mr. Dugan with the same hand whose palm you'd painstakingly covered with formulas? Disgrace! That's what "D" stands for. Oh, and also: Duh!
Mr. Snoutbottle Rexasaurus, III, a/k/a Rex, the half-something, half-something-else, and half-something-else-else (yes, he's a dog and a half, all right!) wants you to know there's no way in hell he'll be convinced that those papers in your hand are more fascinating or delicious than the rawhide propped between his front paws, which he's been working up to perfect gumminess for at least two hours. His concession to paying attention to you is the one eyebrow raise. He encourages you to just tell the teacher he ate your stupid book report. Why does she have to know it's not the truth?
One of the buildings on our meals-on-wheels list is entered by unmarked heavy double doors that seem like they're more for freight delivery than people. Are we in the right place? Yes, we are, a grinning man behind a high desk tells us.
The doors to the individual units are perhaps three-quarters the width of ordinary doors. I imagine the rooms behind them are shallow, the people who inhabit them standing stiffly like brooms. I half expect the doors to open out, not in, for lack of room.
Some of the doors aren't numbered. Are these people really that forgotten?
In order to ensure that their employees remember what their roles are at the gym, Equinox has them wear T-shirts with a single word printed across the chest for ease of reference. Wonder why you feel compelled to count loudly to 15? Your shirt announces: TRAIN. Forget why you're wiping down a treadmill with something that smells like gluey death? Your shirt reminds you: MAINTAIN.
Equinox should offer T-shirts for its members as well. I suggest GAIN for those who barely exert themselves, COMPLAIN for the prima donnas, and INSANE for those of us who get there at 5:30 a.m.
I'm standing by the nurses' station, witnessing a thick-accented nurse/attendant/someone-in-blue-scrubs demanding to know if the patient/inmate/old-man-in-the-wheelchair wants to go downstairs for the sing-along or eat his eggplant dinner NOW. He says he doesn't care about the food, even though it's his favorite. He wants to sing with us. The blue-clad mass of impatience demands the answer at least three more times, each time not satisfied that he would rather sing than eat. I want two things right now: To smack this woman with all my might and to devour the eggplant this old man is sacrificing in order to sing.
I just read a comment on a friend's Facebook "wall" in September about an animal shelter that was closing the next day and all the animals that weren't adopted were going to be killed. The shelter was giving the animals away that day from noon until four. The thought of 4:01 and the fate of those who didn't get homes is the kind of thing that'll keep me from sleeping or that I'll think about when walking down the street and start crying in public. Oh god, all those dead paws and noses and furry bellies. I will cry forever.
Instead of leaving her bowl empty, Shana leaves two or three pieces of kibble behind, no matter what. At first I thought this was the equivalent of leaving a paultry tip for poor restaurant service rather than no tip at all, but then realized that, no, it's just a vestige of the frugality she was forced to employ during the Great Depression. How else to explain her penchant for saving rubber bands and little bits of aluminum foil, the money stuffed into her mattress, and the admirable ability to stretch a single chicken bone into a week's worth of soup?
After at least half a dozen of us waited way too long while some customer blundered through her transactions, the teller had the gall to tell us that "the computers froze". Someone asked if that meant our transactions couldn't be completed, which this numbskull confirmed.
I said ,"Well, it would've been nice if you'd TOLD us that instead of having us WASTE OUR TIME standing here. Yeah, 'The World's Most Convenient Bank' [its tagline/slogan/whatever] doesn't even have the convenience of a working computer system."
Why is it that it's always up to me to say what everyone else is thinking?
Staten Island, the fifth Beatle of the New York City boroughs, would do well to welcome hapless, windy-haired Manhattanites as they alight from the ferry bearing its name with something more enticing than a too-long walk to nothing in particular. Perhaps a pretty trinket for deciding to spend more time on the island than it takes to step a few feet to the left or the right in the terminal to join an enormous clump of blank-faced passengers eager to head back to where they came from on the next ferry out. Even the Statue of Liberty can't stifle yawns.
My friends' cat who lived in the basement (see my October 27 entry), died two weeks after I met him. On one hand, I'm so happy I met him, because I loved lounging with his spindly back beneath my hands, the escape he provided when I didn't feel like being among people, the loud motor of his purrs and the roughness of his tongue -- both fierce reminders that he still had a fierce spirit in spite of his weakened body -- but on the other, I kind of wish I didn't, because now I wouldn't feel such profound loss.
This is the first walk-up I've encountered with meals-on-wheels. "You want to take it?" my partner asks. Absolutely, I say, not only undaunted by stairs but welcoming them. I bound up four flights to hand two still-warm meals and a plastic bag containing milk and fruit to the next person on our list.
"If you want to live to be my age," the tiny man in a cardigan man says as I reach his landing, "you won't run up the stairs!"
I grin the Brooklyn Bridge.
"Oh, that smile," he says, eyes crinkling above his own, "makes it all worth it!"
I do not feel the need to fill every silence with words. Sometimes I like to leave the air space untouched, like a pristine sheet of paper in a notebook to be left free of even a few pen strokes. Let it be, rather than feel compelled -- or obligated -- to litter it with the detritus of inanity, talk that's not just small but tiny, just for the sake of saying something. Sometimes we would do well to regard the silence as a soufflé in the oven, oh so delicate, and words the heavy footfall that would collapse it.
Oprah recently announced -- tearfully, I've heard -- that after 4,000 years, her show is going off the air on September 9, 2011. I'm sure she's more than just a skosh thrilled that the end of the week falls on the 9th and not the 11th; otherwise, she'd be in fierce ratings competition with the Tenth Anniversary of 9/11.
I don't five a fig, a fuck, or anything else that flies about her show. But whatever will those hordes of revved-up-beyond-turbo Midwestern housewives and other flailing female detritus that comprise her live audience DO with their lives when it's over?
Jack was Trudy's guest for the Nazi victims program I volunteered for this month. They've known each other ten years and were dance partners until Trudy's health declined. Trudy, five years older than 79-year-old Jack, is "robbing the cradle," he says.
Ten years ago, Barbara Cole, my ballet teacher at Neighborhood Playhouse, upon witnessing my struggle to do a pirouette, said, with mock dismay, "Funny, but you LOOK like you'd know what you're doing." I preferred to take it as a compliment.
Jack teaches me the tango and cha-cha. "You're a natural!" he says. This compliment doesn't require an interpretation.
I’ll never get the appeal of what designers call "fragrance" (pause for eyeroll). I can handle it in extremely small doses, detectable only to someone almost pressed up against the wearer. When laid on with an incredibly heavy hand, so thick that you can taste the scent and feel like you could almost even chew it, I have no choice but to wonder, "Is this a substitute for actual bathing?"
In addition, I'm "sorry", but I can't help but associate patchouli with people who regard soap as an option they choose to disregard.
Just my two, um, yes, scents. (Sorry.)
The best part about being a temp -- other than not having to be part of the whole "we're sending around a card for Millicent's shower even though we all lathe her, can you contribute $10 for a hilarious gag gift and some tacky lingerie, and bring something absolutely revolting for the surprise party in the kitchen" -- were the snacks found in the desks that I'd be assigned to for the duration of the regular secretary's absence. A sleeve of unopened Saltines? Sure! A bag of Hershey's kisses? You bet! A full box of staples? Oh, bring it on!
Amazing, how some days I feel like I not only have eight arms but that each is doing double-duty, and I'm completing a variety of tasks and projects with, if not a downright smile, then some semblance of a smile on each of my four faces. Everything's all pinball bells and zaps and ricochet, points racking up faster than the national debt (hello, topical humor!), and then other days I'm lucky if I can get past the ordeal of brushing my teeth, sitting upright, remembering to pick up kitty litter at Duane Reade, and uttering a complete and coherent sentence.
Moments after my boyfriend dropped me off in front of Mt. Sinai Jewish Center two weeks ago for a volunteer project for the benefit of Nazi victims, my iPhone slipped from my hands and crashed face down onto the sidewalk. Its glass shattered with a loud and sickening crunch. I told myself, "Well, there are much worse things that could happen to a person," but even while chatting with a tiny Hungarian woman, the only member of her family to have survived Bergen-Belsen, who labored in a sugar factory after her release as an orphaned teenager, I still secretly sulked.
Last night I removed all of the keys from my computer keyboard and cleaned them individually using Windex and a yellow dusting cloth. I also cleaned the board itself. I was quite methodical in my approach, taking special care not to mix the keys in a big pile like a two-year-old would do or to lose any of them like a 46-year-old would do. (It took about an hour and a half.) If a forensic investigator had been on the scene, he would have deduced that my fingers are no stranger to molasses, motor oil, eyelashes, molten lava, and shortbread.
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