REPORT A PROBLEM
My beloved Jon Vie Pastries, perhaps my favorite place in NYC, closed its doors yesterday. I spent the money I'd saved for vacation on a freezer's worth of rugelach and almond macaroons, but today is the last time I'll smell any fresh Jon Vie. The double almond macaroon's fragrance is astonishingÃƒâ€šÃ¢â‚¬â€pure, unapologetic, high- octave marzipan and almond-extract sweetness. That scent is laden with the promise of a delicate, almost crÃƒÆ'Ã‚Â¨me-brulÃƒÆ'Ã‚Â©e shell, encasing the moistest, most pliant cake of a cookie. Cinnamon-raisin rugelach: aromatic, almost savory butter, melted into cinnamon. Chocolate rugelach: confectioner's sugar and chocolateÃƒâ€šÃ¢â‚¬â€the fragrance of bakery incarnate.
A snooty blogger dismissed the many tearful print eulogies of Jon Vie. She'd had a bad croissant many years ago, and on that one occasionÃƒâ€šÃ¢â‚¬â€she never went backÃƒâ€šÃ¢â‚¬â€found the counter person rude. That was enough for her to write, "If ever a place deserved to close, it was this one."I wrote her, as politely as I could, and described the countless delicious items I've eaten over the years. I told her about the owner's practice of gifting elderly customers with a cake every year starting at 90, of feeding the homeless and donating weekly to area synagogues.
My favorite pants are snug, no doubt from all of the Jon Vie goods I've been consuming. Above and beyond the normal consumption of white flour and white sugar, shall we say. But it's okay. It will be a struggle, a silly one of course, to actually eat those precious pounds of tasties stowed away in the freezer. My inclination is to save and saveÃƒâ€šÃ¢â‚¬â€but eventually, this stuff will go bad, get freezer-burned beyond what a little time in the oven can mend. The diminishing almond macaroons trouble me the most. Where will I again find something so flawless?
It's Tuesday morning (though barely), a time when my inclination to take a restÃƒâ€šÃ¢â‚¬â€if any day, it's my SaturdayÃƒâ€šÃ¢â‚¬â€ goes hand to hand with the inclination to rocket into the week's work. Today I have little choice but to buckle down and work. A massive editing project is due, several columns need setting up, and there's grad-school tasks to check off. I could use an almond macaroon, but they're at my house, where I haven't been since Saturday. I hit the Ritter marzipan upon waking, but somehow my stomach has not revolted. A good German, down to my digestion.
The advance of 50FtWave's CD arrived today, and it's unlike anything I've heard from Kristin Hersh in years. I played it three times over, and then played something from an early solo recording and marveled at the differences. It sleeted today, and I forgot my umbrella. I walked a mile in the cold wet. I woke up bleak and sad this morning, and I might as well blame the weather. I wake up happier when the sun is shining. Jon nudges me to invest in some full-spectrum bulbs. February and March to get through; I'll be in California soon enough.
A couple years back, our absurdist troupe concocted a chant mocking the Stalinist peaceniks. To the tune of, "hey hey, ho ho, [scourge of the month] has got to go,"it went, "March, march, chant, chant, rhetoric, rhetoric, rant rant."The idea being, they're boring; we, in our crazy costumes, are not. While that was irrefutable, I often wonder how much of the "take it to the streets"style of activism makes it past people's six-inch-thick, flame- retardant blinders. Registering that the world's on fire generally causes enough neuroses without feeling like someone actually wants you to do something about it.
Interrupted sleep and imminent bleeding have resulted in a headachey, irritable afternoon. At 4:30 a.m., the drunken fool next door threw the fire alarm. Terrified, I pulled on clothes and tore down the stairs, heart thumping in my chest. I waited in the lobby; sleepy neighbors in their nighttime get-ups poked heads out of doors, trying to gauge the danger. I figured it was a hoax, but I wasn't taking chances. Two hours and a bunch of peeved firemen later, I was back in my place, unable to sleep. Doing the dishes at 6 a.m., still wearing my winter coat.
When I arrive for my consultation with Dr. Z, I accidentally step off the elevator onto a chemotherapy ward. A woman my age is propped up in a wheelchair. She's lost all her hair; she looks blank, slack, stricken. Behind her, a woman I take to be her mother is shaking, tears streaming down her face. I can tell she's trying not to make a sound, trying to keep her daughter from catching on that she's broken down. Well done, I think. Fine going, Crane. The minutes until the elevator reappears are drops of molasses in the dead of winter.
I lost an entire day to the most wrenching, nauseating, feels-like-I'm-getting-ripped-in-two cramps that I've had probably since I was a schoolgirl. No ibuprofen on hand. We were driving when they hit, and could've stopped at any of three dozen bodegas on the route crossing the city to the Lincoln Tunnel, but I couldn't bear the thought of stoppingÃƒâ€šÃ¢â‚¬â€I just wanted to get home. Jon dug out 800-mg. ibuprofen horsepills from his wisdom-tooth removal last winter. I swallowed one with water and a few fistfuls of raisin bran, curled into a ball on his bed and slept for two hours.
When the doctors cauterized the occasional bleeder, the smell of singed flesh wafted its way in tendrils to my nose and mouth. If I concentrated on not moving, I was not concentrating on the scalpel in the open wound in my breast. If I stayed focused on staying still, I was not concentrating on the crew of men surrounding me, the crew of men oblivious to the frightened little girl into whose breast they were cutting. Doctors and surgeons who examine that first scar, invisible to most eyes these thirteen years later, are impressed. They tell me I was lucky.
Throughout my teen years, I had a terror of hunger and homelessness. After my father was murdered, my mother severed an already tenuous relationship with the outside world and chose not to go back to work. Though she was trying to affect some simulacrum of normalcy by not talking to me or my sister about the family financial situation, the end result was, I never knew if we could keep our house, or how my mother was going to put food on the table. At 12, I understood that bad things can happen unexpectedly and upend otherwise average, unremarkable existences.
The surgeon's chatty surprise had breached the strains of Dvorak. While he conferred with assistants, I raised the music, raised my chin high so as not to look. A nurse injected my right breast with more anesthetic, and my jaw locked with fury and nausea. What, after all, might a 17-year-old girl possibly have known about her body? Again and again, my fingers had located and paced the parameters of the mass in my breast. During the consultation, I informed the surgeon it was shaped like a peanut shell, and as large. He laughed. He declared, More like a pea.
I just scarfed a fistful of crackers with vegan butter, and my sinuses are all stuffy from the wheat and the oil. I'm worried that the crazy marathon yeast infection is coming back after only a month of respite. I've been eating too much sugar, too much white flour, working too much. A comfort: Were I not, maybe the yeast would not be sinking its teeth into tender flesh. Pre-bedtime call from Jon, just to say "thinking of you."Heart all a-patter. It's 1:30 a.m., no end in sight to the work, Kristin Hersh vociferating, window open in wide-open winter.
Can you make a life out of tricking yourself into momentum? I seem to be a suckerÃƒâ€šÃ¢â‚¬â€give me a slab of organic chocolate, and I'll forfeit leaving the house for days to work, and work, and work some more. I'll dangle a vacation in front of my own noseÃƒâ€šÃ¢â‚¬â€maybe it's three months away, maybe sixÃƒâ€šÃ¢â‚¬â€then six days before, I'll accept a freelance thing that'll have me working through it. A little caffeine, a lot of fear. I'm going to blink, and I'll be 60, still whining about how I haven't had a day off in six months.
When I moved, I had a Pennsylvania furniture maker custom-build a simple platform bed for me. I'd spent tens of thousands less on my condo than I'd planned, so I allowed myself the purchase of this immense wooden bed that I will have the rest of my life. The delivery guys couldn't handle it, and they dropped it before even making it into the building. They'd taken off the protective blankets, and the old, soft wood nicked. In five months, I still haven't made it by to see the furniture maker, who has some stain that will mask the damage.
Every time I see that damage, I'm incensed. The boy who dropped the bed was a whiny s.o.b. who was pissed about having to work (it was his father's business). The kid huffed and whinged throughout the process, and then demanded water and snacks upon getting the bed into my place, even pestering me to let him take a shower. This was such a major purchase for me, something that's otherwise so beautiful, and it makes me sick and furious to think of this person's disrespect for what was a cornerstone of my new home. I know these things happen.
i'm curled up in jersey city, reading all about your adventures in japan, and i keep exclaiming, "WOW!" and "NO WAY!" i was especially thrown by the mom-and-pop noodle shop with the special vending machines and food-picture buttons. surreal! since i haven't seen "lost in translation," i only have dim memories of previews from which to infer what "lost in translation" moments might be. you will be pleased to know that i too am going away. just for two weeks to SF, but hey. kate-crane- robot might break with more than five minutes of not working, but it's worth a shot.
There are writers who kvetch and whinge at the slightest perceived slight: a mis-edit, a slip-up on the fact-check. I understand. It's your words, your love and energy and care, and all the pride taken in that. If something goes wrong, or if you don't like how your editor has polished your work, it can feel devastating. That said, the sense of entitlement I've encountered with so many writers should no longer shock me, because I've now seen it so often. Submitting work to be published means submitting to your editor and to the editorial process. And dealing with it.
Calling other people "sociopath"isn't really my style. "Dumbass,""wingnut,"the occasional "nutjob."But I looked it up, and the lady downstairs is definitely a sociopath. And she's boasted on several occasions that she has a gun. This woman could put the fear of God in Satan. The screaming, the hatred, the hysterics. She'll scream for the management company to fix a leak, and then raise hell when they do it. So when she called and left a threatening message with a daisy chain of f-words on my machine, I was none too pleased. Freaked out is more like it.
In about thirty hours, I'll head to SF. It's always hard for me to go away. I don't do it very oftenÃƒâ€šÃ¢â‚¬â€it seems like only a couple months ago that I set off for my sabbatical, but it's been a full year plus a week. I've been working almost nonstop since I got back in March. I find that getting ready to travel makes me very anxious. While I'm thrilled to get away, to see friends and rest, leaving is upsetting. I start to worry, to feel distressed about being away from Jon, to feel anxious about not working.
Whenever I get some time off, I start to get sick. Relaxation equals collapse. Plus it's just so brutally, unreasonably cold outsideÃƒâ€šÃ¢â‚¬â€my body doesn't cope well with temperatures like this, which is why I planned the sabbatical for this time last year, and why I was in California the January before that. I'll sleep on the plane, I'll consume as many Chinese herbs as I can bear, I'll hope for the best. This time tomorrow, barring disaster, I'll be fine, and falling asleep on the air mattress on Church and 15th with a husky named Monkey by my side.
There's a numbness about arriving. Finally, a break. I had to bring along some work, but I'm choosing not to worry about it. The sun is out, and my plane got out an hour before the NYC blizzard. It's so warm that I have to take my tights off. I've got time at my favorite tea spot, lunch with friends, Monkey, the husky love of my life who, when I climbed into the truck, stared at me in disbelief, and then set to wriggling and shaking and climbing her seventy pounds straight up into my lap. I'm covered in fur.
When Brody and Monique pull up in the truck, Monkey is in the back with the baby. I open the door, and she stares at me, uncomprehending. I say, "Monkey, Monkey!"And then it clicks, and her whole body sets to quaking. She wriggles down along the floor, bypassing the baby seat, and clambers up into my lap. Sixty- pound, seventy-pound husky. I wrap my arms around her, am instantly coated in husky fur. This is bliss. Two friends and Monkey in sunny SF while a blizzard is raging on the East Coast. And I have two weeks to enjoy this.
There's a leak in the air mattress, and I have to reinflate it several times during the night. Since I get up to pee frequently anyway, it works out okay. Something about reclining on a partially inflated surface irritates the sciatica, so when my leg starts throbbing, I wake up, pee, then press the button that, with a "vrooooom"sound, refills the bed with air in moments. Monkey sometimes gives a start at the motor, or perhaps just at the bed around her rising up. Then I slip back under the downy covers, and she resituates herself along my torso.
I've never understood people who give their friends house keys and permit them to wander in and out as they please. Not just permit, but enjoy. Friends whose whisper tone is audible three rooms away, who romp into the house and set to shouting, knowing the baby is asleep. Sure, there must be some small jealousy factor. I walked, unknowing, into a family-close friendship that rubs my face raw in the loss of my own, an ongoing knife in the belly. I came here for a break from overwork, and instead I feel like an interloper, an outsider, a hanger- on.
I'm trying to understand it as a life lived collaboratively: my friend, his baby, his partner, her best friend. But having an extraneous person in the house every day and night? It's as if my friend has two wives. I have always enjoyed my relationship with them as a couple, but as a trio, a triad, a triumvirate? It's grating. I'm not close to the third person, so I am unable to relax, irritated about waking up to her at 7 a.m. and coming home to find her still there at 11. I don't like feeling I'm outside looking in.
There's a line in a Diane Cluck song: "Seems like this is the place where I'd like, I would like to spend the rest of my days."The beauty is in the delivery: the build-up of tip-toe to run, the lilting in between. Today, driving along Highway 1, that CD was in the car stereo, and Monkey's head was on my knee. She likes Diane Cluck. (The new 50 Ft. Wave CD had her taking cover in the back.) There were plump, rolling green hills, as distinct and majestic in their own way as mountains. We drove along the ocean.
I hadn't planned to let her off the leash, but every muscle begged me to. Serge and Brody assured me she'd be fine off the leash along the beach, but I was still nervous. The second I release the catch, she's off like a shot. She runs back, leaping, twirling, barking her head off. I realize what a trust I have with this dog. And I'm filled with joy watching her run. So fast, so hard. She returns when I call; my respect for her grows. With her current existence, if someone let me off the leash, I'd keep running.
She's got a warm home, good food, a dog walker once a day. But now that the baby's around, she may only go out once daily. And then my friends gripe if she pees or poos indoors. It's not fair to her. They want their child to grow up with a dog, but Monkey has no interest in the baby. By the time the child is old enough to be gentle with her, old enough to really interact with her, Monkey will be in her teens. I want her to move to Jersey City with me. I have the space.
We pick our way down the steep wooden stairs. They're thick with the damp of nightfall, and the dog at the end of the leash is half wild with excitement. "No tugging, husky,"I whisper. "I don't want us to slip."It's as if the setting of the sun has ushered in library quiet on this empty beach. I grip the leash and squint; ultimately, I gauge the drop from the last step to the sand by memory.
We've slipped in under the last orange circle of light. Behind us, it's full night, but before us is a gauzy brightness.
Finding dinner means a short drive to Morro Bay, about five miles down the road. There are a couple places in Cayucos proper, but I recall flawless, freshly prepared fish a few miles further south. When we walk outside, I grab the side of the car for support. I haven't seen stars in a sky for the better part of a year, and the sight strikes me dizzy. In the city, the night sky is an innocuous navy blue, pockmarked by the blips and flashes of planes and satellites; there's always a haze. Here, the sky takes one aback, disorients.
The Tip Jar