Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Quick Call Home

Mom: Hello?

Me: Hi, it's me!

Mom: Hello there! (Off) It's Patrick! Mary's here too, she's getting on the extension

Mary: Hi Sweetums!

Me: Hi! How's thee?

Mary: Just peachy.

Mom: So did thee get my package?

Me: Yes, that's what I was calling about. Thanks for my Claddagh Ring, it's beautiful.

Mom: It's probably too big, isn't it.

Me: Well, it's really nice, I may just put it on a chain around my neck. But yeah, I tried it on all my digits and they're all too small.

Mom: Er, um, well, yes, ah...

(....Did my mother just go where I think she did?)

Me: Mom... That's not a digit.

Mary: And it's not too small!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

All About Me

This is Megan.
She's a koala.
She's eating eucalyptus leaves.

(We had just been exercising in the Sheep's Meadow under a hot summer sun. I'm sweaty, red-faced, and blotchy the way you're supposed to be. She looks like she just stepped out of the shower. Maybe she's glowing. A bit. God, I hate that bitch.)

This is Jeff.
He's a clown.
He's wearing a rubber nose.
Also a hat.

(It's all right, he's a good clown, he won't hurt you. Seriously, he's really funny. Okay, okay, breathe...No no, the T shirt is a name, not an instruction...yes, I understand but- uh huh... look, he's also a great actor, and he doesn't wear the nose then. Usually. Does that help? ...All right, if you would just come over --look, will you calm down-no... no... Seriously dude, would you CHILL? Jesus Christ on a Bicycle!)

Jeff and Megan have known each other since high school in Northern Virgina (NoVA, to the cool kids, and believe me, these kids are cool), were sweethearts for a while, and managed to maintain a friendship throughout college and the years after. Well, last Tuesday the Koala and the Clown decided that their duo was too good, too right, and should be made a permanent thing. I couldn't agree more.

I've been trying all weekend to explain why this makes me so deleriously happy. The funny thing about trying to explain why you love people is it so hard to do without sounding like a Hallmark card, or just listing their fine qualities. On top of that, the entry about their engagement kept becoming all about me, and why I wanted this to happen. I don't seem to be getting anywhere though, and what the hell, it IS my blog, so here are just a few of the things that make me happy about all this.

I met Jeff doing the original play Significant Circus back in spring of 2001, and he was but one of many precious gifts I took away from that experience. I tend to treat straight men like timid woodland creatures when I first meet them, moving slowly and deliberately so as not to startle them, in the hopes that maybe eventually they'll feel safe enough to eat from my hand. Initially Jeff seemed like a prime candidate for this policy, but I soon found I was selling him short. You have to understand, in this play, while Jeff was playing a human being, I was playing a dog. A talking dog. Nor was this my first time (see, all about me...). We only had a couple of scenes together, and our characters didn't really interact much, we were usually just there as parts of crowd scenes. At one point we had stopped while the director attended to some other problem, me crouched at Jeff's feet, both of us lost in our own thoughts. It took me a few moments to notice that Jeff was petting me absent-mindedly, scritching me behind the ears... Just petting the dog. I doubt he was even conscious of it; like I said, it had been going on for some moments before I was. If that hadn't been enough, I knew we were going to be friends when he, I, and two other (hot!) actors decided to run our extremely physical, acrobatic, full-body-contact fight call in our underwear. Just 'cause. It was that kind of play.

He is one of the most disciplined, hard-working people I know, and at times I feel like he's driven, and too self-flagellating (like life in New York Theatre doesn't beat you enough). I'll tell him to lighten up periodically, yet I'm also awed by how much he gets done. Generally he's juggling roughly 493 projects at once, in three states and two countries (I'm not kidding), but even then, if you ask him to help you move, he's there. I swear, if I suddenly needed to move while he was working in Italy, he would find a way to be there that day, and still miss less than an hour's rehearsal. And you have to understand, we're talking about moving IN NEW YORK CITY. No place to park, five floor walk-ups with no elevators, doors and staircases that are too small for TV sets, let alone actual furniture... nope, he's there, and usually taking charge.

I met Megan a few years later, when she moved to New York as their relationship rekindled. As with Jeff, I initially thought she was sweet, lovely, a bit shy and reserved, a southern gal I might easily scandalize accidentally. I was just as wrong with her. While she and I haven't wrestled in our underwear (yet), I quickly learned she was actually a hot dancer, a rocker-chick with a serious Guns N' Roses fetish and several tattoos. At first I thought it odd someone like this was studying library science, but it just turned out I hadn't met enough librarians. She can drink me under the table, which granted isn't that hard these days, but she IS a lot smaller than me. Of the two of them, she's far more likely to be the one causing trouble in public, and she gets away with it because she can turn on the Bambi eyes, and just look like a sweet young thing. I adore this about her. I also adore the fact that when she's writing papers, she wears bunny ears because "they help me think." When she has her glasses on she looks like she's the librarian at the Playboy Mansion. She and I bonded when we learned each of us has a Muppet Dance (Jeff likes to make us sit on the same side of the booth in restaurants, so he can watch us do them simultaneously). Her sense of humor is often wicked, and I adore this about her too.

Then there are all the things I love about them that they have in common: their writing skill, their empathy, their ability to switch from serious to silly on a dime (and not belittle either one), their love of books, art, dance, theatre, music, good food, red wine -all the things that make for wonderful friendships and amazing conversations, but perhaps not particularly good stories. They've challenged me, supported me, and maybe best of all, helped me make my work better. I feel blessed by my time with them, hearing, being heard, loving, and being loved.

They're also both smokin' hot, and not afraid to give me smooches when I need 'em. (Which, for the record, is CONSTANTLY. Probably half the reason I went into theatre. All about me.)

The road to this point has been a long one, and what with them being human beings and all, not always easy. They were split up for a time, a few years ago. I've had good couple friends break up before (who hasn't) and knew I would have no trouble maintaining a friendship with each of them. So why was I so upset by the break-up? Sure I was sad that they were both hurting, that made sense, but this seemed like something more. Gradually I began to realize that I felt strongly that they were SUPPOSED to be together. Unlike in previous cases, I had an opinion, dare I say, an AGENDA even, in this.

I was good. I behaved. I did not breathe a word of this to either of them, because what the hell did I know, it wasn't my decision, I wasn't involved, I didn't know all the things that had come between them, and besides I know better than to advise people on much of anything but especially romance, yeah, let's look at my track record, and no one wants advice when they're in this much pain anyway, and they DEFINITELY don't need me pursuing my own AGENDA for god's sake, what kind of moron would risk alienating both his friends by meddling in their affairs like this because HE wants them to reconcile...?

(All about me.)

Nope I didn't say a thing (right, guys? I didn't, did I? I was good, right?). And I worked at picturing them with other people, starting new relationships, building different lives. They were mine, I wasn't going to lose them, and since it's all about me, that's what mattered.

BUT... I was thrilled when they reconciled, saw that if anything the bond was stronger and healthier now, maybe in some way the split had been necessary. It was good. So glad you two finally saw sense and did what I wanted, ya pinheads. (Me. All. About.) I'm sure I'm only one of many people saying this to you. Together and separately you have inspired, delighted and supported me. I hope you'll let me return the favor, whenever I can.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Frolic in the Meadow

So, it seems I'm not as good with this digital camera as I may have thought. If I'm trying to capture scenery on a day with brilliant light and diamond-sharp shadows, apparently I can manage not to fuck things up too much. If I'm trying to photograph people, or pets, however, I turn into a drooling moron. The camera insists on flashing, regardless of light or setting, and I don't know how to turn that off (if it's even possible; it must be, right?). It often doesn't really understand what I want to be focusing on, so when faced with this problem it focuses at random on an object of its own choosing. We're working on our communication, though I'll admit I don't always behave like a grown-up and will sometimes remove its batteries in a fit of pique. That doesn't seem to accomplish much, but it makes me feel better. Yes, I'm just that petty. I hate being defeated by inanimate objects.
What is my evidence for all this? See that picture above? Out of all the photos I took of Jess, Marc, the dogs (none of whom have blogs yet), the house, the train-ride, that photo there is the best one I got out of my visit to East Meadow. I mean, you can actually see who it is I'm photographing. The others, all of them, don't know what the hell happened there. Yes, I know you can look at the little screen after taking a shot, see if it came out, then try again if necessary, bite me okay? Yeah, I didn't do that. Like, ever. I blame Marc really. He made this amazing blackberry (yes blackberry) cosmo that is without a doubt the most delicious mixed drink I've ever had. Not too sweet, beautiful color, it went down like water, so I really can't be held responsible.
So, lacking the extensive photo journal I was hoping to share with you, I'll just have to tell you about my lovely day. Oh, that above is Mandy. She is of the devil, apparently. In my own defense, Jess says that effect always happens with her eyes, so again, it's not my fault. She was coming over to smooch me, by the way, not chew off my face, as it might appear. I get those looks confused a lot.
After a relaxing train-ride out (I love trains), Jess was there to pick me up at the station. The conversation started up without any awkwardness, as between familiar friends, as I guess we were by that point. At the house I was greeted by the dogs first. Bernice and Mandy were effusive and affectionate from the start, competing a bit with one another for my attention. Dodger was courtly and gracious, but made clear he was reserving judgement pending further evidence. I can respect that.
Finally I got to meet Marc as well. Both gentlemen were every bit as charming, funny and welcoming as their blogs, comments and emails had led me to expect. What I hadn't gotten to experience directly was the loving banter between them, which started up immediately. They seemed as amazed, amused and delighted with each other as if they had just met, and it was lovely to bask in.
First order of business, I requested a tour of the house. Marc had before pictures to give me a sense of how extensive their renovations had been. Jess grew up in this house, so the renovations helped to shape the house more to their tastes and needs, while also perhaps banishing a ghost or two. The home they've created is both elegant and cozy, taking advantage of some wonderful original features (black walnut trim!), and antiques from their families, combining them with beautiful new marble or granite in the kitchen and bathrooms, wonderful light fixtures, and a variety of rich, soothing colors. Throughout there were several large beautiful photographs hanging and only later did I learn that Jess had taken them. The house throughout sang of the two of them, and of their relationship. After turning to smaller bedrooms into one large one, they decided to make it the new master bedroom. Jess felt he was never going to be able to see the original as anything but his parents' room. Talk about a recipe for chastity. I would have made the same choice. Periodically one of them would point to what I thought was a small, tastefully arrayed collection, and say "sorry about the mess."
They are never, ever coming to my house.
So much of the furniture or collections (there were actual ones too) came with family stories, so one sensed the history of these two men in a way that I have rarely found with Americans. I got to hear about some of their relatives -Jess's mom and grandmother, Marc's mom- triggered perhaps by a collection of silver pieces, a surprisingly valuable couch (that narrowly missed being left on the curb) or a great old cabinet.
Jess and Marc then began preparations for dinner in the kitchen, while I sat in the living room, peeking through the large window there, sipping my cosmo, and petting any dog who stopped by to say hi. Dodger seemed to be warming up a bit. All five of them had been in Vermont over the weekend with friends, so Iwas informed the dogs were a bit more sedate than usual, due to being tired. I was comforted to hear this, since I was starting to wonder if I should be offended by the fact that Mandy had not yet lived up to her nickname -Moose- by trying to climb into my lap.
Just so you know, if you say to these gentlemen "please don't go to any trouble" what they hear is "please order gulf shrimp from a company in Texas that provides next day delivery." Jess tried to make it seem like that was all Marc's doing, but I didn't detect any evidence he had tried to stop him.
Not that I'm complaining, mind you. Jess made a delicious scampi, while Marc sauteed asparagus, and buttered garlic bread, periodically checking on the state of his cheesecake. He then topped up my drink, discreetly provided me with a tarp the size of a circus tent to deal with my drooling, and the six of us sat down to eat in the sunroom. The meal was every bit as wonderful as you're thinking it was, topped only by the company and the conversation. I learned more about Jess's parents, and regretted that I would never get to meet them. The love they shared for over forty years had clearly shaped Jess, his siblings, and the home in ways too many to count; one felt it radiating out of the walls, surrounding us with a warm, gentle glow.
Once the humans had eaten our fill, Bernice and Mandy intensified their campaign for scraps, and were rewarded with some pieces of garlic bread. Dodger has to be invited to partake, such a gentleman he is, but he didn't require too much coaxing.
Jess and I continued talking while Marc disappeared for quite a while in the kitchen, until I began to feel like we had abandoned him. "Don't worry," Jess assured me, "he would much rather we stay out here for the moment." Far be it from me to disturb an artist in process.
Eventually we retired to the living room with our cheesecake with strawberries (heaven!) and our coffee. This is the one room in the house where the dogs are not allowed. Bernice and Mandy accept this without complaint (or at least they did that night). Dodger, on the other hand, utilizes the debate of legal minutiae so popular with dogs and teenagers. He'd lie just outside the door, only his snout crossing the border into the living room, testing to see if the judges felt this honored the spirit of the law. That having gone well, he tried the reverse, placing his entire body in the living room, except for his snout, which also helped his case, since he was facing out of the room. When this began to look like he'd push too far, he also stretched both forepaws to the safe side of the border. Eventually Jess told him to leave, and he did, with no evident disgruntlement.
Perusing some of the Adonises (Adonisae?) hot guys in Jess's high school yearbook -he was the editor, so had a certain amount of say in who got multiple shots- led to a discussion of opportunities missed because we were too young, timid and closeted. This led somehow into a discussion of whether there is life after death. Trust me, in the context that jump made sense. Actually you probably can come up with your own links without much trouble, can't you. I learned about the trip they took with Marc's mom to Europe, getting her out of the country for the first time in her seventies, for what was clearly a wonderful time for all three of them. Jess says they have a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy for her sake, but occasionally she forgets, and calls him 'son'.
A phone call from a friend led us to the TV room (Oh, I neglected to mention the Bose surround sound system throughout the house!) so said friend could get Jess's expert opinion on some guns being evaluated on the Antiques Road Show. Marc suddenly thought it had been cruel to keep me in the living room, no dogs allowed, when I had come out in part to see them, but he needn't have worried. The company in both rooms had been a delight, I didn't feel deprived in the slightest. This did however give Dodger a chance to deliver his final judgement, which he did by playfully wrassling with me, biting ever so gently. Jess informed me this meant I was in.
We were all looking at early starts the next day, so I elected to get on the 9:30 train back to Penn Station. The three of us drove to the station, which meant I got to save my hugs until the very last moment with both of them. As they drove off I appreciated the fact that three rough looking guys were standing next to three fabulous young gay boys (one of them in a sequin-covered vest, a fedora, and just a touch of eye-liner) without any evident animosity. Even the 'burbs of New York tend to have a live and let live attitude most of the time.
The train arrived right on time, and after I had been riding for a bit, I thought to turn my phone back on. There was a text message and a voice message from Jess. The voice message said "Marc wanted to know if you'd made your train all right--OW. I just got hit. Okay I was worried you might have missed your train, it's the Jewish mother in me..." I called back immediately to reassure Mama, and thanked them again for a lovely day.
I was home before eleven, which gave me time to make a full report to Nicky, and to learn that my photos were for shit. I guess that just means I'm going to have to go back for another visit, after I've beaten the camera into submission-I mean learned all its fine nuances and needs. It's rough, but for you, my readers, I'm willing to make that sacrifice. No need to thank me. Its just the kind of guy I am. I'm a giver.
Thanks again, Guys, it was wonderful. It's my turn to host next, which I'll find some way to do without letting you see the state of squalor I generally live in.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Good Thoughts

I have so many things to tell you about, such as my wonderful day in East Meadow with Marc and Jess, but I got some bad news this weekend, and it feels odd and false to chirp away. I'm sure we all wonder sometimes what is too much sharing on our respective blogs, but I felt like I needed to acknowledge this.

Someone I love very much was diagnosed with cancer and is waiting to find out what his treatment options will be. He's a fairly private person, which is why I'm not naming him, or explaining our connection, but he is important to me, and to people I love, a very significant part of my chosen family.

Given how little I'm telling you about the situation, I realize it's hard to do this, but I would ask that you hold my loved one in your thoughts, prayers, meditations, or whatever practice you observe in the next few days. Maybe you'll only be able to put generalized well-wishes out in the world with this limited amount of information, but it won't do the world any harm to have generalized well-wishes, will it?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Just Friends II

She: Happy Valentine's Day!

He: Happy Valentine's Day, Sweetie!

She: What are you doing today?

He: Oh, I've got a meeting with a gallery owner! She's thinking about representing me!

She: That's great!

He: Yeah... but it sucks I have to be here on Valentine's Day.

She: Yeah. I miss you.

He: No kisses for me today.

She: Maybe you should kiss the gallery owner. She might like that.

He: I don't think that would be very professional.

She: You never know. It might close the deal.

He: Mm-hm. What are you doing tonight?

She: Oh, Patrick is making me dinner.

He: That's nice.

She: Yes. I'm bringing dessert.

He: So there might be some kisses for you tonight, huh?

She: Probably.

He: ......Patrick is gay, right?

(Me: That's right, Sparky.

At least that's what I want you to think.)

(Mmm, kiwi-scented lip balm...)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Instruments

by Rumi

Who is the luckiest in this whole orchestra? The reed.
Its mouth touches your lips to learn music.

All reeds, sugarcane especially, think only
of this chance. They sway in the canebrakes,
free in the many ways they dance.

Without you the instruments would die.
One sits close beside you. Another takes a long kiss.
The tambourine begs, Touch my skin so I can be myself.

Let me feel you enter each limb bone by bone,
that what died last night can be whole today.
Why live some soberer way, and feel you ebbing out?
I won't do it.

Either give me enough wine or leave me alone,
now that I know how it is
to be with you in constant conversation.

translated by Coleman Barks.

Thank you, my friends, virtual and not, for entering into conversation with me. Why live some soberer way...
I won't do it.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Another Good Excuse for Spinach Dip

Last night I joined Jeff and Genna at their apartment in Astoria along with several other nice folks, to celebrate Jeff's 27th birthday. Genna and I became friends in the Winter of 2001 while working on a play, and we've been friends ever since. Jeff entered the picture a few years later, but the connection was as easy and comfortable with him as it had been with her from the get-go (at least for me, I should let them speak for themselves).

Every year Genna tops her previous year's cake, and this was no exception. Made only with chocolate and eggs, it was a slice of mousse-like, fudgy goodness, garnished with red raspberries; she was heart-broken later when she realized she'd forgotten the fresh whipped cream, but frankly I think what we had was perfection itself. The cake of course followed a mountain of other goodies, including Genna's spinach dip. I'm not the only one who looks forward to this dip; late comers to the party sighed with relief when they arrived to find it had not yet run out. The dip reminded me, if I hadn't noticed it already, that Jeff and Genna have been part of every important celebration in my life for a few years now. Just in the past six months we've celebrated Thanksgiving, New Year's and now Jeff's birthday together, each time with good food, red wine, a nice mix of friends, conversations ranging widely in topic and tone, and yes, some spinach dip. We also have no qualms about creating a celebration whenever we feel the need. Having these two as part of my New York family has been a blessing, helping to root me in a place where I so often feel rootless. We may go months without seeing one another, life here being on the frantic side a lot, but when we reconnect, it's as if no time has passed. We weigh down another groaning table with goodies (even when it's just the three of us, we cook for an army), crack open another bottle of wine, and pick up where we left off with the conversation.

Happy Birthday, Pal. Thanks for sharing your celebrations, thoughts, questions, confusions, frustrations, silliness and cooking with me. My life is the richer for it.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Rush Hour Thoughts.

Okay, a little early, always nice, no need to rush... that train seems awfully full, it's a gamble, but why don't I wait for the next one? I've got the time, and maybe I can get a seat, read my book, jot some notes... he's cute. Hmm. Is he mirroring me? That's what they call it right? I'm leaning up against the wall with one leg up (Peter says it's my hustler pose; I just think of it as my 'resting my knee' pose), now this guy is doing the same. Nah, it's just a coincidence... okay he's wandering out to see if the train is coming, no luck, now he moves closer to me, takes the pose again, not meeting my eyes though.... checks for the train again, now moves even closer, mirrors me again, but I'm still not sure, not so good with the innuendo... hell, a guy pretty much has to club me over the head and drag me back to his cave by my hair before I'm really sure he wants me. Don't think this guy is going to be doing that. Just as well, I really should go to work. Daddy gots some bills.

Shit, this train is even more full than the last one, and now I have to take it to be on time. Oh well, lost that gamble. Man, it looks like we're all going to a funeral. Why is everyone wearing black? Why am I wearing black? Well, Winter coats, whaddya gonna do, they don't show the grime that much, just looking at the windows at home tells you how grimy the air is... I wonder if the landlord would clean the windows for us... I can only reach the one on the fire escape... I sure as hell ain't hanging out of a fifth floor window, not without serious mountaineering equipment... I wish I could read my book, why did I bring a hardback, they're impossible to hold... 96th street, a whole lot of people get off, maybe I'll get a seat, but it's hardly worth it, I have to transfer at Columbus Circle in five stops anyway... yeah, just keep holding the door open there, Sparky, hold up everyone else on this train, back up all the other trains, it's all about you, isn't it. Sometimes I wish they'd electrify the doors, just a little bit, give the assholes just a bit of a shock... yeah, except for the next time when I'm holding the doors open...

Wow! That is yellow! Man I feel better already. "Miss, that coat is fabulous, it just perked me up the minute you got on!" Oops. Broke the cardinal rule of Rush Hour, don't talk to strangers. Anything other than " excuse me" is a bad idea. She at least acknowledges me, if we count the nod and grunt. Come on Honey, you can't honestly be worried I was hitting on you, are you? I complimented you on your coat! I used the word 'fabulous' for god's sake! And I did it advisedly, by the way...Ah well, at least she hasn't pepper sprayed me. That would be hard to explain at work... "sorry I couldn't make it to class, I was in the hospital rinsing out my eyes after I told a woman I liked her coat"...

dear GOD, man, did you brush your teeth this morning? Look, I'm sorry, I know it's cold and sinus season, but when you're that tall, you really have to take extra care, 'cause damn... hmm... I wonder if anyone would tell me if my breath was that rank? Who in my life would be in a position to do that? It's even harder than finding someone to scrub paint off my back, I bet. How do I go about that question? Would Tommy be amenable? Kinda weird, but at least I'm not asking him to get in the shower with me, and it's not like we'd have to kiss or anything. Wow, being single has some odd pitfalls to it... Oh THANK GOD, I don't know who you are, but I'm so glad you had curry last night, that's a relief...

Oh man, are you really going to panhandle during this trip? There's no room, man, don't you see how packed we are?... I guess it's playing the odds, though I wonder how those folks make out at this hour? Do more folks get annoyed than feel sympathy, or does it all even out? When did I become such a heartless asshole? Anytime Dad is in town, he gives at least a little something to almost everyone who asks. Sure, he doesn't live here, and he makes a hell of a lot more money than me... but he also grew up much closer to that life than I ever did...Okay, sure panhandling, not the most attractive quality, the stories some of them tell are obviously lies, or at least very very old stories (seriously man, you've been 'just out of the hospital' for the eight years I've been taking this train), but come ON, are you really going to tell me begging for money is easy? Fun? The humiliation, the annoyance, the judgements, the arrests, it can't be that good a deal... still, I'm not reaching for my wallet, am I? I wouldn't even if doing so didn't risk making this guy think I was trying to feel him up. Wow, in Indiana I would never stand this close to a person unless I was ready to kiss or punch him. That old theatre chestnut, kiss or kill sure takes on a different feel in NYC. I still can't believe I can sit with my leg touching a strange man's leg and no one gets irate. Of course there are those guys who like to sit with their legs spread, taking up three potential seats, like their balls are too damn big to be squashed or something. I delight in taking the seat next to them. It's the best when there are TWO guys sitting with their legs spread, taking up five seats between them, so I can slide in between them, and scuffle around in my bag until they get uncomfortable enough to close their stupid legs and sit like normal people. What a weird form of machismo that is. It's sort of like the whole crossing the street thing. New Yorkers pride themselves on not trusting anyone, and on moving quickly, yet they will routinely throw themselves in front of moving traffic and walk slooowly, assuming that the person behind the wheel is sane, in control, a decent driver and paying attention... seems pretty damn trusting to me. "No one tells me how fast to move, bitch!" Yeah stud, you showed that car, didn't you... I guess I'm not much better though... when did I become the guy who gets pissed off at tourists in Times Square? Seriously though, do they not realize there are other people on the street? Do they HAVE to stand around in enormous bovine clumps, gawking at the scenery, making plans, consulting maps, I mean WOW, they might as well be parking an SUV in the middle of the sidewalk... but I really don't like it if anyone is walking in front of me, do I. It's like Dad when he's driving, he hates being passed, and hates being behind another driver. Even by New York standards people tell me I walk fast. In Times Square I'm just trying to get the hell out of there before I PUNCH SOME PINHEAD IN A BASEBALL CAP WHO IS STANDING IN MY WAY IN A BIG BOVINE CLUMP WITH HIS BUDDIES... Okay Patrick needs to get a grip. Patrick needs to get out of town for a bit. Patrick needs to stop referring to himself in the third person, it's creepy. Breathe, breathe... I'm really not entirely with it at 8 in the morning am I? Well, not when I'm standing smooshed up against a bunch of strangers, with all of us pretending we don't see anyone else. This is how we deal, isn't it; we create our own walls.

The coffee was a mistake, wasn't it. Every time I do it I think this ninety minute commute is too damn long! I didn't move here to be an art model, if that was my goal, I never would have left Seattle, I probably could have bought a house by now... well, close... Okay I wouldn't have bought a house, but I wouldn't be standing at 8am in the middle of a packed, stinky subway car with a whole lot of surly commuters, pretending we don't see one another... funny how I rarely see faces I find attractive at this hour. I normally love all kinds of faces, I want to sketch them, make masks of them, play characters inspired by them onstage... at this hour no one is at home in her face though. We're all somewhere else. Even me, my reflection in the window looks like nobody is home. Two holes where my eyes should be...

WOW. Are those eye brows or caterpillars? That's my future, isn't it, if I don't keep taking a weed whacker to 'em on a regular basis. Is this an Irish thing? I definitely got it from Dad. So did poor Mary, but she's staying on top of it too. Judging from some of the farmers we saw in County Sligo, I might need to shave the tip of my nose regularly one day. Some of those guys looked like they had turkey feathers growing there. And of course there's the ear-hair. Uuugh. I've not yet developed that little problem, and fortunately there are tools for dealing with it now...

Oh come ON, are you really going to preach now, buddy? I appreciate the sentiment, I suppose, I'm trying to assume you truly have my best interests at heart, but... wait for it... and there we go, the old "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" line, do they all think they're the first ones to say that? Is it just the rhyme? Why does it hold such appeal? Funny how they all talk about the importance of love until they get to this topic and they always get to this topic. Why not war, abortion, some other hot button issue, why is this the only one they ever mention? Well, along with the "one must be born again" part... I wonder if he's read the rest of Leviticus... had a cheeseburger recently there, Sparky? Shellfish? Bacon? Ya wearing an elastic waistband say? Then you can stand next to me at the stoning. I'll hold your hand if you like. If I'm going to die, I'd rather it were for some hot man-loving than for wearing a cotton/poly blend or working on the Sabbath (and which day is that anyway?)...

No, of course I'm not going to say any of this... this is not a battle I am ready to fight right now, and it wouldn't go anywhere useful before one of us had to get off the train, or somebody told us to shut the fuck up. At least that's what I'm telling myself now, because damn, I really have to piss... That's it, no more coffee until I get to the school from now on... who am I kidding, I've been saying that for two years now... Ah, sitting down, sure it's only three stops at this point, but it's still a load off...

Thank the DEAR LORD... finally... ah, air air... hadn't realized how stuffy it was down there... got twenty minutes before class, I'll be a human being by then... Good thing I love this job.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Climbing Home

I live in a five floor walk-up. What that means is, there are five floors, and no elevator. I live in the very top floor, in the very last apartment. This is the front door to the building. I've lived here over eight years now, and my name still isn't on the directory there. I recently noticed the name had been changed however; no longer did it list my predecessor as the tenant, now there are two new names. Neither of them are mine or Tommy's. I have no idea who they are. They're not anyone in the building as far as I know. I could squawk about this to the landlord, but I won't, because a) I think it's funny, and b) I like to save my calls for real emergencies, so the landlord takes me seriously when I do call. It seems to be working.
One summer I came back from a month long job in Vermont, to find that someone had painstakingly stripped the white paint off the two front doors, revealing gorgeous wood underneath. This place was built in 1909 (so says my lease) and under feet of paint there is some beautiful wood throughout the building, I'm sure. Nothing has been done to these doors except removing the paint, though I can say from experience that the thoroughness of the job is impressive. They're protected enough from the elements, I suppose; no to need any kind of varnish, or stain, but it seems silly to me to go to all that trouble, then leave the job half-done.

My camera seems to share my penchant for rich red browns, since it's taken a few liberties in recording the color of the wood here. It's lighter, more towards yellow-tan, but still nice.
The stairs are marble.  These are the first two, and since almost everyone in the building uses them to get to and from home, they show the most wear.  The first time I ever noticed worn steps like this was in an English cathedral of several hundred years' age.  The last flight to my place, not so worn.  
This is the view from the top floor, just outside my door. There have been times when the only exercise I could really count on was climbing up and down four flights of stairs.

Sometimes I'll get to the bottom, realize I've forgotten something, then debate with myself. Do I really need it? Can I just buy a replacement? Can I ignore it all together? I have on occasion left without the item in question.

Taking out the garbage and the recycling feels like an accomplishment, though we often just do it when we're on our way out anyway. Still, that involves yet one more flight of stairs, down to the bottom of the courtyard/air shaft. I'm willing to pay the cost of the stairs though. Our apartment gets bathed in light from the south, street-facing windows, but also the east, courtyard/airshaft facing windows. I spend a lot more time enjoying the light (as do my plants) than I do running up and down stairs.

I have not always informed friends of the climb they face when they come to visit me the first time. I just do all I can to make it worth the trip. Food, no small amount of liquor, it helps.
This is my front door, and the neighbors', with a fun little detail between them.  I may be wrong, but I'm pretty sure this is where a gas lamp would have gone when the building first went up.  There is one on every floor, in this same position.  
A closer look.  
This is just above the stairwell. To the left is the door to roof. I've been up there maybe six times; it's nothing special. I do like sitting under the skylight when it's raining hard though: neat sound.

There is a fire alarm lock on this door. All the tenants have keys. The super has never been able to figure out how to unlock it. He seems to need to do this at 6am on Saturdays (he's an early riser in general, and sometimes I sense a gentle disapproval of those who aren't). He's a sweet fellow, but good lord. More than once I've woken, gone out, opened it for him, shown him how to do it, then gone back to bed. I don't think he has mastered it still. I think now when they need to get up there, his son unlocks it. Lucky for him. The next time I went out to help, I wasn't going to put on any clothes.
 This is the floor just to the left of my front door, as you face it in the hallway.  I like the tile.  I didn't get a picture of some of the ceiling details.  There aren't many, but there are some.  I'll post that later.  
 This is the entrance of my apartment, as seen by Coltrane.  I had to lie completely flat to get his point of view.  He's very small.  That light at the end is coming from my room.  Doesn't it look inviting?  The dog certainly thinks so.  Please note the funny little bulge in the floor.  It is just outside the bathroom door.   You notice it underfoot if you're paying attention, and you often are because the years have not been kind to this floor.  Splinters-a-go-go. I wear slippers with soles most of the time now.  I should get a carpet, or ask the landlords to sand it, or sand it myself I suppose.  I just haven't.  
Bob is still going strong, unbroken since the morning after I set him up.  Other than topping up the water glass and shifting his feet a bit so his butt doesn't always clink on it, I've done nothing but watch him.  I still adore him.  I thought you'd want to know.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Riverside Park Walk

For the third Sunday in a row I've gone out in the afternoon to play a bit with my new digital camera.  I'm still figuring it out, since Tommy got rid of the manual years ago.  When he offered me the camera, he said he'd gotten a new one because this one was so huge and clunky.  He made it sound like it needed its own room.  I'd forgotten who I was talking too, of course.  Tommy likes to get the newest stuff whenever possible.  Newer is, by definition, better.  Okey-doke, if I get a free camera out of the deal, who's complaining?  

The setting dial has these intriguing icons.  There's a snowman standing in front of  mountain (for dealing with glare?  While skiing?), a figure standing against a black background, with a single star in the sky (okay, think I've got that one figured out), one that looks like a Roman Candle going off (?), and another one with a figure standing in front of a sunny sky.  The photos posted here were all taken with the Vogue-Lady-in-a-Sun-Hat setting.  She's fancy.  The image suggested high contrast lights and darks to me, I'm pretty pleased with the result, so I think I've figured may be right.  There needs to be more experimenting.  

I lack the technical skills to make this format let me post and comment on a lot of images at once.  In fact this format has been getting odder and more recalcitrant over time.  The spell-check no longer works, for example, and the automatic return sometimes checks out.  I think things may have worsened when I switched from Internet Explorer to Opera, so maybe there's communication difficulties.  Anyway, my point is there are a whole string of photos posted as separate entries, but are, in my mind, all one post.  I started with the first image of my walk, then realized it was going to fall at the end of the line, so I've been posting backwards after the first (last) two entries.  

The day was really brilliant.  Also surprisingly warm, almost 50.  I don't mean to rub my Canadian friends' noses in that fact.  Would it help if I said I was a little freaked out by the warmth?  

You probably all know this, but if you click on each photo, you'll get a larger, more clear image.  
I'm so very arty, don't you think?  This is at the south end of Riverside Park.  I think pigeons get a bum rap.  I know there are too many of them, but that's hardly their fault.  More than once I saw a red-tailed hawk dining on one when I walked dogs in Central Park.  I just think we need to get more hawks.  I like hawks too.  
This is the west end of 72nd Street.  I liked the contrast of old and new.  The place on the right is still under construction.  I don't know, but I assume the place on the left is no younger than 1920s, possibly turn of the 19th century.  I used to walk a pair of boxers in a building three doors down from here, and the interior was amazing.  I don't know if it is Art Deco, Art Noveau, or some other style I'm unfamiliar with, but perhaps that gives you an idea of what the inside looks like.  They still had the old metal elevator, complete with full time operator.  
I didn't move fast enough to catch the moment when this dog was playing with another dog just like him.  I think they must be Great Danes with unclipped ears.  The owners didn't seem to know each other, just two random guys on the Upper West Side keeping dogs the size of Shetland ponies in their apartments.  It was all I could do not to jump into the fray myself.  Jess, Marc, I may take you up on that invitation to come romp with your dogs soon.  I'm needing a big dog fix (they don't need to be this big).  Wrestling with Coltrane leaves a lot to be desired.  
After you've lived in New York for a while, you realize you're always living in and around scaffolding.  The city is a big bee-hive, constantly under construction.  I could call it an ant-farm instead, but I like bees,  and am not so fond of ants.  Sometimes the scaffolds go up but nothing happens.  I mean for years.  A survey conducted recently found that a surprising number of the scaffolds erected throughout Manhattan were not, in fact, actually being used.  That kills me.  This is Riverside Church, a thriving community center for the area.  I am confident they will move quickly to make the necessary renovations.  I sometimes attend a Quaker Meeting that worships here each week.  Often we're in this tower, on the tenth floor, in a beautiful room with stained glass windows, a huge Persian rug, a baby grand piano, and a small stage.  My ancestors would have plotzed.  
I am the first person ever to think of photographing his reflection in a puddle.  I'm getting new shoes tomorrow.  
Whoever is in charge needs to give me this place.  It's not like they're using it.  My first thought was to turn it into a theatre, with a small apartment for me, but it's right on Riverside Drive, overlooking the West Side Highway and some train tracks.  I doubt the roar of traffic ever fades much.  I still want it.  
I stopped here to see if I could still talk squirrel.  I remembered a few phrases, but these guys made fun of my Hoosier accent.  So then I said "this is my house, be-otch,"(rough translation) and chased them up a tree.  

I don't take off of squirrels.  
The light was so brilliant and sharp today, it created interesting compositions without me having to do anything.  
 I liked the combination of bark and finished wood.  I think the bench is teak.  I forget what the tree was, but the bark looks evergreen-y to me.  Can anyone tell with just this much information?  Cooper?  
This is the photo that almost got me run over by a surly biker.  See below.  
These next three shots are of the Boat Basin.  Some people live in these boats year 'round.  I was in a houseboat once in Seattle, and was captivated by how well designed it was; there was a surprising amount of space, and things were very well organized.  I've wanted to live in a houseboat ever since.  Then I found this place.  Imagine having Riverside Park as your front yard.  Imagine being able to say you lived in Manhattan, on a boat.  I sit at the gate of this dock periodically, bright-eyed and expectant, smiling brightly at everyone who passes through the locked gate, but so far no one has asked me to live with him.  The big brown boat is obviously a house (and I'm unconvinced as to its true sea-worthiness), but I think some of the smaller boats are homes too, since I saw two guys exchanging notes on something that sounded more residential than nautical.  What should the word be if it's a river instead of the ocean?  Is it still nautical? 

I know there is an effort to close this place down as a residential area; I just hope I get in one before that happens.  
The juxtaposition of these two signs cracked me up.  The more I thought about it, however, the more I felt like this somehow summed me up in a weird way.  Not sure what I think of that.  

For the record, I am a firm proponent of leash laws in city parks.  This is also an animal sanctuary.  
 I am the first person ever to think of photographing his own shadow.  I'm sure of it.  I'm so meta.  
 This is two blocks from my apartment.  Above is a sidewalk that goes through the north end of Riverside Park.   This lower area wasn't accessible until about a year ago, so it still feels like new territory to me.  Behind me are some community gardens, and a tattered American flag, almost just ribbons, that I found strangely disconcerting.

Another Proud Moment

As I continue learning how to use this camera, I have perhaps on occasion gotten a bit sloppy about paying attention to my surroundings. I was down near the boat basin, in Riverside park, walking along the pedestrian and bike path. Yes, pedestrian and bike. I saw an evergreen that had some fun shadows defining it, so I snapped that, then began to cross the narrow path to take a close-up, perhaps not noticing my surroundings sufficiently. It was the park for god's sake.

"Watch IT!" barked a man as he raced by on his bike, no attempt made to swerve or slow down.
Startled and angry, I yelled back "slow DOWN!"

"Fuck you," he threw over his shoulder, not slowing down.

"You give way to PEDESTRIANS, ASSHOLE!" I bellowed. Since he hadn't slowed down, he was by this point quite far away, so I needed to project a bit to assure he heard my nuanced, reasoned argument. Ah, voice lessons. All activity along the path for quite some distance came to a halt for a minute, while people figured out if I was crazy, dangerous or just very loud.

I'm forty-one years old. The biker was older than me, probably by at least a decade. I'm so glad we were able to handle this like adults.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Useful Lesson

In yet another wrinkle on the art modeling phenomenon, this past Wednesday I was hired to participate in a body-painting event. This took place at the school where I work most regularly, and was a kick-off event for a campaign focusing on ending coal use as a way to address climate change. It's part of a national drive, and some lucky winner would get $5000 for his or her design.

The first person to paint me was a body-painting expert who had been brought in to offer advice to the competitors. Things were getting off to a slow start, so the organizers asked if she'd do a demo on me. First she painted a tree on my back (she decided my chest was too furry), but once she better understood the theme of the evening, she washed me down (which sounds like a lot more fun than it was), and painted a skull shaped factory belching skull-shaped clouds into the sky, all in black and white. For some reason my camera didn't take that photo. It kept saying "drawing failed" everytime I tried to open up the thumbnail. My learning curve with this digital camera is still climbing. I wish I could show you the design, in part because it's a higher contrast image and thus easier to see, but also because it figures heavily in a learning experience I had.

The artist was finished with the second design by 7:30 or so, which meant I still had two and half hours to go before I could take my 90 minute train-ride home. So I floated around for a bit, waiting for someone else to need a body. Eventually an absolutely adorable sophomore asked me to be his canvas. He was pretty honest about his aim being winning the money, since it might make the difference between him staying in school, or having to go back to Toronto (another adorable Canadian boy; what the hell IS this with me?). He envisioned a sort of christ-figure ("and I'm Jewish, but gotta go with what sells, right?") with a small landscape beneath a big sky. Unlike the first artist, he liked my furry chest, saying it helped the cloud effect he was going for. For the record, having this handsome fellow rub me down with cold wet paint is the most action I've gotten in about two years, and I won't say I didn't enjoy it. I've interacted with this guy previously, since he's one of a small handful of students to take an interest in the models (he told me I was one of the best at the school, the little charmer) and he had even seemed a bit flirty in the past. This situation was all business-like of course, as it should be, but even that involved some hand holding (while he worked on my arms), and a moment when he dabbed dark blue paint on one of my nipples saying "gotta disguise that." He first tried incorporating my tattoo into his design, but eventually decided it had to be covered up as well, which meant some almost massage-like attention to one shoulder.

The design was sort of a diptych; he painted the back of my hands and lower arms a coal-black, so when I hunched over with my arms in front of me, the image was a blighted, burnt, distressed figure. Then when I opened up into the Christ pose, I revealed the landscape, with the sun on my left hand, and stars in a nighttime sky on my right. The photo above was taken once I got home, so the artwork on my hands is gone. I had washed them before leaving, since the school bathrooms could handle that, and I could cover everything else up with clothing.

This brings me to the useful lesson which, in the interests of service, I pass on to you. First of all, the sooner you get the stuff off you, the better. I think it starts to set up after a while. By the time I took the first of several showers, the black and white design had been on me for nearly five hours, the blue for over three. I wonder if the darker colors also set more strongly, though maybe they're just more noticeable on my skin. The real lesson though is this; if you ever decide to let someone paint your back, make sure there is someone in your life you feel comfortable asking to scrub it afterwards. I'm have always been able to reach all parts of my back with the mesh sponge, and this works fine for every day cleaning but this design required some serious scrubbing, and I wasn't able to get the right leverage. Trying to SEE my back was hard enough. After the first shower, when I discovered I had removed barely half the design, I tried using two small hand mirrors to look, but of course then there was the steam factor, and I had to put them down before I could do any serious scrubbing anyway, so I was always working blindly.

This forcibly drove home for me the fact that I am single. My roommate is a great guy, but we do NOT have this kind of relationship. Coltrane might have been willing to help, but he would need to be taller, willing to get over his dislike for getting wet, and have opposible thumbs. Maybe it would have worked if I had covered my back in bacon grease, then lay down for Coltrane to lick me, but that's the best I could come up, I'm dubious as to its effectiveness, and it was all moot now anyway. Perhaps if I'd started OUT the evening with my back covered in bacon grease, it all would have come off more easily anyway. I make a note for future reference. Here it is three days, four showers and a new scrub brush later, and there are still faint skulls on my back, and patches of blue on my chest and arms.

So, maybe after the big wrestling match-up, some nice person would be willing to help me out here. Otherwise I'll simply have to wait for the paint to wear off.

For the record, I look drunk in this picture, but it is actually exhaustion from having been up for eighteen hours, and on my feet for most of it.