Gobsmack is more than happy to take up residence inside his
grandmother's purse. The youngest and by
far the tiniest of the kids in his family, he was always misplaced anyway. One time he was missing for three months
before his oldest brother, Smirk, said, "Hey, wait. Did we leave Gobsmack at the swim
club?" That was Thanksgiving, when
he wasn't around to swing from the wishbone at the end of the feast. So here he is, breathing in the faint camphor
scent, arms and legs wrapped around a lime sour ball candy, his cheek cool
against the satin lining.
Gobsmack is dreaming of lollipops and dragons (again!), of
licking the outspread left wing of the dragon and running down slanty streets in
terror from a grape lollipop that chases after him with open mouth, chicken
soup dripping from its fangs like blood.
Gobsmack awakens with a start to
hear someone sobbing the words,"Matzoh
ball!" and realizes it's his voice.
His momentary terror is replaced with sheepishness and he is embarrassed
about being terrified by a grape lollipop in front of the lime sour ball, who says,
"Please. You don't even want to
know what I've shouted in my sleep."
It was down to the two of us, me and Miss Mandy Pilcher-Peabody-Mankowitz-Meyer,
for the coveted title of Miss Third Grade Homeroom. Bob Bann had just beat out Dominopetito
Flores de la Playa de los Madres y Tambien Los Padres, even though he never
spoke and everyone loved "Doe," as we called the other kid.
Miss Mandy gave me one of her snooty "I
got this" looks, a fake smile on her lipglossed eight-year-old lips, and I
thought, "Bitch, please. It's
obvious they're going with whose name will fit easier in the blank on the
Victory was mine!
The assistant general manager of my gym not only appreciates
but is entertained by the email I send with various small complaints and
suggestions. He says that others have
shared similar concerns but none are as colorful as mine. In my imagination, he isn't just a gym
assistant manager but a literary agent looking for a hilarious new voice for
his 2016 roster and, when his boss asks him to supply names at the weekly
meeting, he starts to say, "I don't have --" and then a montage of my
email, swirling around in kaleidoscope fashion, fills his brain-screen.
Every night when I use my nifty corer on an apple (Pink
Lady, usually) and then slice it into eight wedges, I think the following:
1. There are people
somewhere in the world who could make very good use of that core and would be
happy to have it as a snack. Anne Frank
would have been very happy with it.
2. Does anyone else
in the world think it's so much fun to use this simple little corer?
3. I am keeping the
4. I'm a spinster librarian
circa 1962, in gray scale.
5. Apples are
The people in this crappy bar has more of an interest in beer
and cell phones, high fives and "selfies" than they do in the rhymey
tunes. Someone in front is taking a video
of your performance on her iPhone, and I hope she doesn't plan to release it to
the cold waters of YouTube where it would surely collect a host of
mean-spirited comments from people you don't know, the nicest of which will
demand you not quit your day job. I
don't know what's worse: That or the
limp applause of the scant audience of people you know.
They gathered in his father's hospital room, waiting for the
last gasps. Occasionally they would hug,
even though they weren't a family of huggers.
They would also face each other, wet-faced, silent, unable to form words. Eventually everyone managed, individually, to
whisper into the dad's ear, proclaiming love they'd never expressed much
After the funeral, over paper plates full of cold cuts and bakery
cookies, he sobs because he wasted tears on a guy who had punched the family
dog in the ribs for sitting on the sofa and done the same to him for an even
"I take pictures but I'm not a photographer. I write stuff but I'm not an author. I cook but I'm not a chef. I sing but I'm not a chanteuse. I tell jokes in my mom's kitchen but I'm not
"Entire weekends pass where I not only don't leave the
house but don't even consider it an option.
Last Thursday I bought a little light bulb at the local hardware store
and that was the biggest accomplishment of the week. And I was proud of that, without irony."
Excerpt from "Just Trying Not to Die," by Janey
I can't tell you the number of public restrooms into which
I've retreated for the express purpose of hiding in a stall and quietly sobbing,
lingering long enough to warrant the fabrication of a preemptive explanation of
"Stomach issues, oh God" that I hoped wouldn't be belied by a faintly
red nose, still damp eyes, and a smile that isn't fooling anyone. At least when this happens on a bus, you can
look out the window, anonymously tearful, with less risk of intrusion. How do you possibly articulate the Sadness of
Everything? Excerpt, "Trying Not to
Die," by Janey Grey
I often think of moving somewhere less fast-paced, less
self-conscious, less prone to posing, posturing, and self-aggrandizement. Although that kind of person probably exists everywhere
in the "First World", I think it's safe to say they're not the
majority in, say, Omaha, Nebraska, as they are here.
I'm weary of job-apologists.
Why anyone cannot just say, for example, "I do data entry,"
without being compelled to add, "But I also do stand-up!" or
"But it's only until I find something I love" is beyond me. A simple, "My job pays the bills and for
that I am happy" would suffice.
Big ol' flannel pajama bottoms, pink with depictions of
candy, and a caramel-colored tank top, both of which predate my moving into this
apartment 9-1/2 years ago, and a squishy semi-psychedelic robe that not only
called out to me but shouted in Cooper Bold at the 57th Street TJMaxx a couple
of months ago. A book on the Kindle I
finally decided didn't make me a sellout nine months ago. A one-eyed spaz-cat intermittently by my side
who entered my life four and a half months ago.
A perfect Friday night in the city I moved to 15 years ago.
So, really, what it all boiled down to was that he just wanted
someone to hear his song, even if it was just one person alone in a room,
quietly munching on nachos and reading a book -- indeed, he preferred that to a
roomful of loudmouth beer-guzzlers -- just so he'd feel like he was making a
little lyrical mark on the world. His
song was small and easy and, he fancied, quite catchy. His mark on the world didn't have to be the
equivalent of a ravenous shark's gnash.
It was more like the kiss of a ladybug.
Two dozen cans of cat food are delivered to my house. Inside the box is a two-part lidded box and semi-crumpled
length of brown paper. My cat crafts a setup
out of this stuff that includes a main house, porch, patio, and walkway, and lounges
in all three spaces, peering up at me as if to say, "Yeah, what of
it?" or simply, "And?"
This is what cats do, I know, and it's not surprising, yet
I'm all agog. I feel like one of those
horrible parents of a baby who thinks their newborn is the first ever to smile.
Her paws, she says, are made of genuine cotton balls. Pure cotton balls attached to four black
sticks. And yes, she must keep them
very, very clean because, after all her last name means "Cotton Ball"
in Yiddish. I commend her on her
dedication, industrious endeavor, and meticulous attention to detail.
She explains this to me several times a week. Patiently.
And I respond as if it's the first time she's ever enlightened me.
"You do realize you're talking for me?" she says. "I don't really talk? I mean, cats don't really talk?"
Whatever you say," I say.
This past Saturday afternoon I was in a thrift store with a
friend, an adorable bundle of charm, humor, and sparkle. We were both trying stuff on in the aisles,
as you do, over our clothes, exclaiming over some particularly fun finds. One of his was a just-below-the-knee, scoop-neck,
short-sleeve shift completely festooned with bronzy-golden sequins. He tried it on over his jeans and T-shirt. I clapped like a seal and said,
This is New York City.
Did anyone look twice? Yes. But only to smile and nod and come over to
encourage him to buy it.
This summer, posters starting popping on bus stop shelters featuring
an image of Taylor Swift and "Welcome to New York. It's been waiting for you" in a font I
imagine was supposed to look like her handwriting. Sorry, guys, but New York is not waiting for
you. New York is that multi-colored metal
merry-go-round/roundabout playground ride already spinning maniacally, and you
have to jump the fuck on at your own peril without invitation or hand-holding. Dizziness is guaranteed, but New York will
just laugh and spin faster. Maybe it'll
hold your hair when you puke, but don't count on it.
I've known you since 1980, when we worked on the school newspaper
together. I didn't know it at the time
but you were My First Gay, all feathered Kristy McNichol hair, green Izod shirt, big grin and fabulous sense
of humor. We meshed over so much
absurdity (and Dexatrim). So why oh why,
in the name of all that's holy and Liza Minelli would you not *get* my Facebook
post and choose to respond to it like a Mean Girl? I haven't seen you in 17 years, but come
on. Have you really changed that
much? What a fucking pity.
This movie better not end with the leads,
a guy and a girl, best friends, realizing, gosh, we've been in love this entire
time so no wonder it hasn't worked out with anyone else, because then I'll be
compelled to profess my love to Hysteric Bore upon his return from Dallas where
he's spending the holidays with his ... husband's family -- ohnevermind.
P.S. If the girl learns how to do a
smoky eye and the guy tousles his hair and they both become super-hot, I'll ...
clap my fins like a seal, because I'm a sucker for this shit.
So it wasn't a balloon, it was Pluto, and it wasn't that
easy to lug around, but it wasn't that hard either. I mean, you couldn't just skip along with
this thing in one hand and a Fudgsicle in the other, concentrating more on
ensuring the integrity of your mother's back on a cracked sidewalk. No, you had to hold this thing with two hands
and tug to get it to follow behind you. So
what if your mom says Pluto isn't even a planet anymore? Her back will be broken by dinnertime, and
then who'll have the last laugh?
Well, now, what is she going to do with two fresh widowers,
each asking her to be his new wife? It
wasn't supposed to happen like this.
When Lorna said her near-daily chant as she passed underneath the old brick
bridge, "putting it out there," as her best friend suggested, asking
for a fella just like Tom or Mike, her two best male friends, she was
embarrassed that the curving bricks and the slight echo bore witness to it, so she
shortened it to "Tomike, Tomike, Tomike." She blames that for the demise of both wives
instead of just one.
Whenever I read restaurant reviews on the most dubious of sources,
Yelp, and discover the place received a lower rating because of "ambiance",
I stop reading and remind myself that (1) Yelp annoys me (2) people can't be
trusted and (3) who gives a fuck what others think anyway. I mean, really, these people rave over the
cupcakes at Magnolia just because Sarah Jessica Parker may have breathed on one
Even though I appreciate groovy décor, "ambiance"
means squat to me. I only eat (not
"dine") with fabulous people, and they provide more than enough on
So much aggravation could be avoided if people would just
step aside after completing an action or transaction. You've cashed your check (because it's 1978) at
Chase and have the just-counted money in hand?
Step aside. You've visited the
ATM and have the receipt? Step
aside. You've used the escalator/elevator
and everyone who was behind you is trying to maneuver their way around your
stagnant ass? Step aside. You're at Duane Reade and been handed your
bag? Step aside. I hate to be the one to tell you, but you're not
the only person in the world, snowflake.
We don't know our oversized Irish Setter is missing until a
car pulls up and he bounds out, tongue lolling, paws flailing, fringe swinging,
ears flapping, and runs up to us in the front yard. The driver gets out and says, "I found
him running around inside the Bucks County Mall," less than a mile away. "I'm glad he was wearing tags. His mouth
might be bleeding."
We laugh at the image
of him galloping through the small mall, unattended. We thank her.
We fuss over him (the blood is ketchup).
Still, we are the shittiest dog family in town.
We used to celebrate Christmas when I was younger, complete
with wintertime scenes in the bay window and a decked-out tree and Jenga stacks
of presents. There was, I suppose,
merriment. There was food, which I
rather successfully avoided from, oh, about 1978 to 1981. Somewhere along the way the celebration
dwindled and eventually disappeared, because what did we care about Yoizel
Christmas means nothing to me. But it does for so many of you, so in that
spirit I wish you all good and groovy things.
And most of all, don't be a dick to anyone. Even tourists.
It's not enough to ride your dresser of clothing for which
you have no more use, fold the survivors, and return them to their drawers in
neat, conventional stacks. No. Now the stuff has to be manipulated into origami
and lined up on end, T-shirts and socks at attention like petty officers. This decluttering bring us not just a sense
of satisfaction but will, uh, "spark joy," as this book the sheep
have adopted as their bible insists.
No thank you. I
refuse to clutter my life with the burden of folding T-shirts with geometric
precision. At ease, damn it.
He's all, like, proud that he's managed to do something for
28 days straight, which makes it "legally", he says, a habit. I ask what it is that has kept his attention
for an entire four weeks that makes it officially a habit. He sighs and says, no, it's not "officially",
it's "legally". I count to ten
and want to unmake my bed or smoke a cigarette or say, "Well, if your
habit was to stop being a dick, you
failed," but, hey, I changed my ways 29 days ago and I'm not gonna let this
recalcitrant punk beat me.
Sorry, Maoz Vegetarian at 71st and Amsterdam, but when you
reopen soon as Maoz Falafel & Grill, adding beef and chicken and the horrid
"start with a base and PICK YOUR PROTEIN" thing to your menu, I'll be
taking my considerable falafel cravings to little Soom Soom on West 72nd near
Columbus, which recently reverted to an its original all-vegetarian menu after
pressure from the public to take chicken off the menu. (I'll just have to remember it closes at
sundown on Friday to accommodate the Sabbath. ) Yes, Maoz I will miss your
French fries, but c'est la vie.
If Julia wants to believe that the guy at the small Lexington
Avenue spice store is giving her preferential treatment just because he came
out from behind the counter and handed her a little treat three as shd browsed,
then fine. Who am I to say? Even though she read aloud from Yelp, before
leaving for the store, that this is what the guy does, she insists he reserves
a special twinkle in his eye just for her.
Later, however, she frets because as she was leaving, he said,
"Thank you, my friend."
it was more than that!
I don't need the flipping of a
calendar page to tell me to not be as much of a jackass as I was last year or
to tell me to maybe drink more water and "live in the moment". I can
do that on a random Thursday.
Someone really groovy in London
ranted about that to me yesterday, and I was so happy to have someone
articulate, in that glorious accent, exactly how I feel about it.
So, along those lines, here's to,
uh, KINDRED SPIRITS who make me feel like I'm not quite so alone in my
Oh, tourists, real New Yorkers don't do Times Square *or*
Olive Garden any day, let alone New Years Eve.
If you want a real NYC NYE experience, come to my place and we'll read
with my cat instead. Directions: Your flag-waving guide will get you to The
Building Where John Lennon Was Killed. Walk
4/10 of a mile to Trader Joe's. I'll meet
you outside and escort you to narrow-aisled Fairway instead, where you'll get stuck
behind delightful nonagenarian snails. I live a hop, skip, and jump away from there,
but you can take a cab 'cause walking is hard.