Monthly Archives: November 2002

I Don’t Eat Turkey Anway, So There

So, Thanksgiving, right?


We have about three feet of snow outside this morning. I think I’m going sledding instead of participating in the usual Protestant New England Propaganda Ritual. My family is wintering in Boca and I’m not feeling particularly festive this year myself.


I tried to volunteer at some area soup kitchens, but they were all set and not accepting more people. Do you believe that? Even the homeless don’t want me.

I have to tell you people about all this racquetball I’ve been playing, but that requires a lot of typing, and the two fingers on my left hand are thoroughly damaged so I can’t. Damaged from playing racquetball, you see. Not from carving a turkey. Not from ladeling soup. From racquetball. I’ll spare you my sporting adventures till after the holiday. Besides, you’re all preparing to go eat pie with your family and all that business. You don’t have time to read my silly stories.

Go, then. Go.

Go to your warm and happy homes and sit like fat housecats by the fire.

I don’t need you to have a good Thanksgiving.

I don’t need anyone.

Not even the homeless.

Joyful Girl

When I say you sucked my brain out
the English translation
is I am in love with you
and it is no fun.

~Ani DiFranco

Today is a rainy sleeping city day. I’ve been walking the streets sad and heavy-hearted. In a brilliant move of saving grace, I slipped in a chill and cheerful Ruby mix on the walkman, featuring Stan Getz, Charlie Byrd and Chet Baker. Down in Copley Square and listening to music I would normally reserve for Saturday night in the living room is comforting and a change of auditory scenery. Everything shifted and I felt like a different person in a different place. Too much Death Cab for Cutie and the brain begins to melt.

So smiling slowly to samba, went to the library, which apparently I haven’t been to since September 2000, because I still have a book missing from then. I cringe in anticipation at library check out counters and video stores. Last month it was City Video, where I’d returned a copy of Reality Bites a month late back in ’98. But the library is such a treat. I pick up every book I want and go to the counter, and being a well-trained consumer, I instinctively reach for my wallet to pay for my purchases. Then I come to my senses and feel naughty leaving with the books tucked under my arm. It’s a needlessly guilty pleasure. I’m getting away with something — I just know it.

I’ll make up for it later in overdue fines.

The object of my eternal worship, joyful girl Ani DiFranco, is playing this weekend. It’s the show I couldn’t get tickets for. I’m thinking of hocking a kidney and going down to Avalon to see if I can score entry. The thought of not getting in after standing there all night may be too depressing for me to even bother trying. I am a total defeatress.

Everyone have a good weekend, okay? Somebody go down to the Good Life and have a Bombay Sapphire martini for me. I could use a little vicarious pleasure. Having a hard time drumming up my own.

Decaf

I’m drinking decaf. It goes against everything I believe in — namely the abuse of caffeine in mass quantities as a vehicle for brilliant thought and a quick tongue. I probably won’t do much talking today so it’s okay. But what will become of the exuberant joyful thing without her current drug of choice?
My Danish friend was over the other night, as usual he was brewing a pot of coffee at 9 PM, and demanded to know why I refused to participate in the ritual tasting of the pricey beans he was given as a parting gift from a mind-numbing party. I told him, “It makes me crazy.” This is true. I’m usually walking the edge of sanity anyway, so a good push might send me flailing down the ravine.
The decaf tastes pretty good. In fact, I wouldn’t even know the difference. Strange, compared to my quadruple shot mocha on Friday morning.
As I’m ordering my refill I wonder, is it somehow incestuous to always develop a crush on the coffee shop counter boy? It happens with me repeatedly. It’s like being sweet on your crack dealer.
And oh, Ricardo. What a trip. My CafĂ© friend Ricardo is here this morning — I haven’t seen him since September because he’s been in the hospital. He’s a 70-year-old black man, cataract-blue eyed poet, and gave me a fat manuscript to pore through about two months ago. It was actually typewritten and mimeographed — purple splotches of carbon, smelling of the third grade classroom. His poems feel like relics from another time. He writes about woman as fruit of the earth, motherwomb, moon goddess… it’s beautiful. We’re standing outside smoking a cigarette and he asks me what I do when I’m not writing, when I “play.” I tell him that among other things, I go to movies. Ricardo says he hasn’t been to the movies in 25 years.
We’re getting dinner at this Moroccan joint after Thanksgiving, when we both have money.
After all this catching up with Ricardo, I’m out of time for writing more this morning. This morning’s gem of overheard conversation comes from the wild-eyed woman leaning on the cash register waiting for her espresso. She is reciting poetry to the Rasta-capped counter guy. Staring into the back of his dredlocked head, she summons her best spoken-word drawl:

You give me gas, Tom.
You’re the reason why I take Beano every day.
Tom, you’ve got cranberries for balls.
You put me to sleep when the last thing I want to do is take a nap.

And this is why I have breakfast at the Someday.

Ode to Mr. Hill

It’s been raining for a month.

This morning it has stopped mostly.

There’s an old man outside my office building, flannel coat and window-washing squeegee on a long pole. I watch him for a minute. He is meticulous and has a system, rhythm. He shakes the stick at the soapy pavement and turns to see me standing there smoking a cigarette.

“Looks good,” I tell him.

He nods and begins changing the pole to a sponge ending.

He’s not wearing gloves, and his fingers are red and raw. “Don’t your hands get cold?” I ask him.

He shrugs. “You get used to it.”

He doesn’t know that I ask him this because I like the idea of stacking sponges and poles on a bike that I ride job to job, and then home. That I would be able to look at a shining pane of glass and know that I made this corner of the world a better place.

I guess there’s things all of us hate about our jobs but get used to.

Mine is that washing a window would benefit society more than what I’m paid to do all day.

So on my lunch hour I try to string together some words that are in some way useful, if not to anyone else, than at least to myself.

I didn’t sleep last night. My nightmares were disturbed by the quarter horses that have moved in upstairs. My landlord, who is a brilliant man, installed hardwood floors in the un-insulated empty apartment above mine and then rented it out to three students that apparently keep several polo ponies up there and host seven-chukker matches beginning at 10:00 PM. I would think that they are all obese and wear wooden clogs as well, but I have met them, and they are quite small. They use the stairs, which pass within five feet of my bed, quite frequently and with gusto. The plaster from the ceiling dusts my face all night.

Another problem is that I bought a humidifier on Saturday. I decided to invest in a hot water industrial strength one, because the air in my apartment is dry. I turned it on high, and woke up in the middle of the night strangling from nightmares about being lost in the rainforest, plaster covering my face. I turned down the relative humidity so it wasn’t raining in my room, and saw the dew on the walls. This does not help the plaster situation.

My landlord is either going to kick me out or kill me, I haven’t decided which. I don’t dare complain about the plaster, or the broken toilet, or the loud stairs, or the fact that my room doesn’t have its own heat vent, or that the wallpaper in the bathroom was exquisitely tasteful in 1974. The rent is half what I’d pay next door, and he hasn’t evicted me yet. I forgot to pay rent in October and he left me a note a month later asking me if I’d considered doing so.

He and I have a hearty list of complaints against one another that normally keeps our agitated and confrontational relationship balanced. But I think I’m tipping the scales this week.

Two summers ago I dug up a large border in the yard and planted bulbs for flowers. I tended to them carefully and watered them daily. As they began to sprout, and then grow, said landlord decided to mow the lawn, and mow the tender shoots, yanking the bulbs from their beds. And leave me a note asking why I dug up the whole front yard, and when was I going to replace it with grass? There are still dirt piles along the perimeter where weeds have begun to trail down the cement wall.

Landlord wasn’t enthusiastic about our porch makeover this past summer either, when we dragged half of the living room furniture out there and strung up lights. He kept asking when we were going to finish moving. We put him off for a while, before he proclaimed it a fire hazard. And further, he insisted, an “eyesore.” To which my roommate countered, “More so than the filthy gray vinyl siding?”

I put a finishing touch on the bathroom last night while dying my hair and frantically trying to answer the phone. The porcelain toilet and bathtub are now flaming fuchsia.

And under the no-pets rule, I currently house a fish tank, a snake, and a bunny. I thought I was getting away with having the ferrets for a year, but when I called to ask him if I could get a cat, he said, “Don’t you already have ferrets?” And I denied this, like a fat kid with chocolate all over its face denies cookie jar thievery. I think “pets” actually refers to cats and dogs, so I could argue that case.

Im sure the pantry we converted into a darkroom violates some Massachusetts Blue Law. And I suppose I should peel the rotting pumpkins off the doorstoop.

But with the fifteen different roommates I’ve had in the past four years, I’m the only one legally listed on the lease. Not sure if that works for or against me.

Anyway, the kids upstairs are going to have to chill out with the tap dancing hippos if I’m going to get anything done around here. No sleep and my mental health suffers. As well as my writing.

Which you can clearly see.

Two People, a Bridge & an Orange

“You want some of this?” he eyed me carefully, and I felt like my response would answer some larger question. His cheeks and nose were pink, blushed by sun and wind as we stood on the bridge, leaning over the edge and watching the boats trail through slowly. He could peel an orange top to bottom, easing the rind off in one continuous spiral. I’d seen him do it. But now he lifted the skin with an artist’s fingertips, pulling off small curls and dropping them down to the river. We watched them float for a minute and then sink, disappearing as fish grabbed the bright orange bits and then regurgitated them.

“No, thanks. I hate when my hands get all sticky.” He raised his eyebrow, but returned his attention to the water.

Faded brush strokes of cadmium red and azure blue still stained his fingers. “Oranges aren’t really travel food, you know. Apples, okay. You just eat it, toss the core, end of story. But oranges — you’ve got the peel, you’ve got the seeds, and the whole thing gets everywhere. Juice and stickiness between the fingers. It’s gross.”

Shrugging, he continued his methodical peeling, digging into the skin, the pieces coming off in various animal shapes. Dog. Turtle. Seagull.

“So I ran into this guy yesterday, and he said he knows you,” I offered.

A boat ducked beneath the bridge and emerged in front of us, tooting its horn in greeting. The slim speedboat was operated by two young, tan cruisers and a cooler of imported beer, the couple straight out of a J.Crew catalog; khaki brimmed hats, Item FH201 Fisherman’s Cap. Colors: sand, lagoon, forest. I imagined the product description, watching them smile in the afternoon sun, tortoiseshell sunglasses, breeze blowing pieces of hair from her loose ponytail, his suntanned nose protected by Origins oil-free SPF15.

Stylish and functional, this 100% pure cotton hat echoes visions of fisherman who used them to stow lures and shield their eyes from the glare of the water. Wrinkle resistant; packs easily. Versatile for boating on rivers, lying by the pool, or grabbing a Margarita at the local watering hole.

Seeing us hanging over the edge, they waved, blinding us with perfect white teeth.

“Where did you run into him?” he asked me finally, uneasily.

“The bike shop on Elm.”

He exhaled. “Does he work there or something?”

“I don’t think so. I mean, I went in to get a Kryptonite lock, and he was standing looking at tools behind the counter. He saw me, and he’s like, ‘Are you Jordan’s friend, the one in the paintings?’ I guess he recognized me from those strange portraits you did. Isn’t that weird, that he’d recognize me from a painting somewhere?”
“You’ve got a very distinctive look.”

“Still. Anyway, he said that you painted a mural for him recently. He’s a teacher at the middle school.”
“Was he happy with the work?”

“I don’t know. I imagine so. He didn’t say, ‘Tell that motherfucker to come fix the wall in the cafeteria’ or anything.”

He turned back toward the bridge, arms dangling, letting the carefully peeled orange roll off his hand into the river, watching it bob like a tiny buoy. The fish rushed up, boiling to the surface, jerking it about as it floated. No wonder they were so easy to catch. I doubt I’d eat the fish in this river. I read that book about the chemical dumping. Might turn my organs funny colors.

“That was a good job,” he mused. “I liked that mural. The zebras and shit. Savannah theme.”

“That was good. I mean, based on the Polaroids. You know, you should give me a tour some time. We could go to the schools and places you painted. Maybe show me the cafe downtown where those weird portraits of me are and grab some coffee.”

“Yeah. We should do that.”

November of 99

The dead leaves were piled up knee-high in the yard; nobody wanted to rake. Three cracked cement stairs leading up to the old house bore a star drawn in wet pavement, forever left at the doorstep. Curled in the window overlooking Medford St., I sat feline and smoking. The night was dripping with rain, black wool hoodie with sleeves too long — damp and scratchy, but warm.

The ledge was the perfect size for me — back braced against one window sill, feet pressed against the other. I wanted to carve my initials there out of habit, fingers finding soft wood and always wanting to leave their mark.

The air hung moist and heavy, sometimes the smell of burning wood, sometimes humid bus exhaust. You made phosphorescent drinks that night, glow-in-the-dark green and swimming with blue Curacao. Thirty-six ounces of Alien Piss and a handful of ephedrine would keep me in that window, headspinning with dreams of winter.

I smoked with my right hand to keep the cigarette safe from the rain.The windows were secured with hooks and a circular screw, but cold fingers could tear them open and fling them out, wobbling on their creaky hinges. When it was gusty, the windows would shudder and groan, sometimes yanking open and banging against the outside of the house. A few of the panes were still glass, but many had been replaced with plastic in varying stages of disrepair after violent winter storms. One, still shattered, let in a draft. Those windows were like a warning on this cool wet fall night — look what winter can do. Look.

An old leafless tree scratched the west side of the porch rhythmically, ominously. The enclosure was always filled with the stench of cloves, a cloud in the cold room, the stale stink of the day after. Butts in empty bottles of Corona turned the limes yellow and brown. You huddled around the overflowing ashtray, ankle-deep in abandoned full-color mail circulars that didn’t fit through the antique gold mail slot. Dusty, hidden treasures and trash piled up: six months of unopened mail, a cushionless white wicker lawn lounge, a unicycle, mud, countless boxes and countless bikes. The stained glass Rosetta window was cloudy, and sometimes I’d lick my finger and rub the surface gently, curious what colors were traced within the lead.

Always the soft glow of living room lights shone onto the floor of the porch, exposing cracked floorboards begging for paint, but it reminded me that when I finished my cigarette, I could crawl inside and soak up the dry warmth of a caramel-colored suede couch.