Saturday, December 20, 2003
a thinking place to quiet
i've come down with what feels like a two-ton weight in my brain, and i'm currently attributing it to exhaustion. i realized just now, while tapping my restless feet to get out of the office, that in the past twenty eight days, i've spent a whopping total of four nights by myself, keeping quiet. not that i'm complaining - since thanksgiving, then kate's visit, then a weekend home, then this week's festivities, i've been busy and happy. i have.
only, as i gear up for six days with the family next week, followed immediately by Best Friend in Whole World visiting over new year's... i need the weekend. i need the entire weekend of quiet and working and cleaning and relaxing.
so to kick things off, i'm going home. right now. i'm going to sit in the bathtub with a tumbler of bailey's on ice and sing along loudly to the record player. after that, i'm going to wrap myself in warm robes and cashmere lounge pants, drag the TV into my bedroom, and watch a movie in bed.
and then i'm going to sleep. for twelve hours. at the very least.
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Thursday, December 18, 2003
this is the beginning to the short story i excerpted here. maybe eventually the whole thing will be posted in confusing non-sequitors. wouldn't that be fun?
"Heat warps memory and reality as it does photographs, and vinyl records, and credit cards. It has an unforgiving presence, seeping into all the places you hold sacred – into your bath, between your fingers and toes, your churning and dying air conditioners. It is the heat, this summer, that is the constant to my memories. And it is on the heat that I now blame any transgressions of character or departures from sane behavior.
Houston’s heat is singular and infamous. The city has thrown an invisible plastic sheath around itself, blocking out the breeze and the relief. It has turned inwards and begun to fester, reveling in it’s own accomplishments: 95 degrees in the shade, the hottest two-month stretch in recorded history. In July, the days don’t drop below 98 for two weeks. We are a national state of emergency. Old people without loved ones or pets are dying unnoticed, like the June bugs that collapse and wither on the very leaves they chew. There are air conditioning shelters in the local elementary schools, and I sneak away to the one near my house to watch the homeless people file in. They look like oil paintings, shiny and ridged with grime and sweat. Mothers leaving their children there all day. These children are baffled by their abandonment, and the parents seem jealous to leave them in such cool decadence.
The heat does not seem to affect those of us without the clutches and trappings of the real world - for us, it means our mothers and fathers will grudgingly turn on the lawn sprinkler each afternoon for us to play in. We alternately run towards and dash away from its mechanical attacks, chig-chig-chig, as it arcs its cooling path over the piles of sweaty little bodies. Parents watch from the window, clucking at our carefree attitude towards yet another burden of circumstance that they must face.
Our house doesn’t have air conditioning. We have financial worries, my mother tells us, and so we must make do, which is nothing new, since we make do in winter as well. My mother puts our sheets in the deep freezer every night for twenty minutes before bed time, which leaves me rashy and rubbed raw in the morning. We are allowed to eat as much ice as we want, and we are supposed to mark down our eight glasses of water a day on the fridge door. I am fourteen and have no interest in water. My mother also allows us, my sister Addy and I, to remain in various states of undress since we are all girls in the house, and we often lounge around eating popsicles in old mens’ undershirts that are dingy and grey from so many bleaching runs in the washing machine. They are irreversibly stained, at the end of the summer, with the drippings of our lazy afternoons - orange, pink sherbert, and grape are our favorites."
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Wednesday, December 17, 2003
ed note: inspired by tequila mockingbird's brilliant writing, i remembered how the following episode had bothered me for days. feel free to share yours - god knows there are too many of these stories floating around.
i had spent the night carousing with a guy friend of mine. i get on the homebound subway unfortunately without a book, which is my shield of choice for rude subway intruders. with my book lifted up to my eyes, i'm practically invisible - i simply ignore anyone who tries to interrupt me.
i am without a book. this is the big problem when he moved from his seat on the other side of the car to sit in the empty seat next to me. he's hispanic, well dressed in a navy blue suit and a mildly expensive briefcase. on a full train, with classic new yorkers staring directly forward, he sits down next to me.
"hi," he says. great, i think. a talker. i flicker the briefest of smiles. anyone reading body language would scuttle away quickly. my entire torso is facing the window and i barely make eye contact. i pull my coat down to cover the flash of leg between my boots and my skirt.
"my name's robert." again, i smile wanly for two point three seconds. i am not encouraging this, i tell myself. but eyeballs that slide over someone else's body while seating half a foot away cannot be poked out in polite society. that this man has chosen, of all the women on a subway train, to mentally undress me - there's nothing i can do but move away and risk him following me.
he starts talking to me. asking me questions. i lie, of course. there's this:
"so, you live in astoria?"
"my boyfriend." (lie)
"oh, yeah? i don't see a ring."
"your boyfriend doesn't mind you going out late at night?"
"if you were my girlfriend, i wouldn't let you go out late at night without me."
at this point i just stare at him, incredulously, and sputter that, well, that's nice.
"no, seriously. he should take better care of you, you know, protect you."
kind of hard when he's imaginary. i simply say "well." and turn away again.
this is that turning point, that all women understand. where you get beyond being simply annoyed by the unwelcome intrusion and start to play out all the wrong scenarios in your head. i'm getting off at the next stop. it's midnight. what do i do? okay, i'll go into the deli if he gets off the train when i do. i'll go into the deli and that's where i'll be brave and rude. i'll say "PLEASE LEAVE ME ALONE" like our moms all taught us to do when we were five. the guy at the deli knows me. it'll be fine.
the thing is, "robert" doesn't follow me. nine out of ten of them don't. but i don't know that, sitting next to this harassing little shit on the train. and because i don't know if he's a rapist or a murderer, i don't stand up for myself. i'm not agressive. i don't turn to him and say, "would you please stop talking to me?" because i don't want to piss off the potential one-in-ten rapist. i don't want to ineffectually fight off some sleazeball in an alleyway. so i don't tell "robert" to fuck himself sideways like i should. because he might follow me and trap me in some alleyway and attack me. pure and simple. there's a mechanism in my brain that says, warning, back away slowly without inciting agression.
i hate this mechanism. i appreciate its presence. i know it's cultivated and necessary. but i still hate it. i hate that as a woman, i have to even stop and consider my personal safety when some snivelling asswipe decides to hit on me. this doesn't happen to men. men don't get undesired come-ons that make them think, "will he club me?" but women do. we have to assess some rotting fucktard's opportunity's to do us harm before we tell him to shove off. and even when, as julia did, we stand up for ourselves as best we can, there's still a chance that we're in danger. it happens. all the time. and it's not, at the risk of sounding cliched, fair.
so as i see it, the only solution is to stealthily become a black belt in the martial arts and beat the fear of god into the unlucky shitbag that tries to follow me anywhere.
that, or move into place my plan for female global domination.
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Tuesday, December 16, 2003
deedle deedle deedle digguh digguh deedle deedle dummm
when i am rolling in bling bling, i will have the following:
1. an entire cashmere wardrobe including but not limited to cashmere pajamas, cashmere blankets, cashmere hats gloves and scarves, and cashmere towels.
2. a good medium-rare sirloin and a glass of chateauneuf-du-pape every day for lunch.
3. cabs all the time.
although i am not yet rolling in the bling bling, i do own the following:
1. cashmere pajama pants.
LIFE OF LUXURY, HERE I COME.
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the prodigal blogger returns
after months of scattered silence both real and cyber, seastreet returns to the page and our stage. welcome back.
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Monday, December 15, 2003
5 am: wake up on four hours sleep. drive to new york city from rhode island, due to horrifically inclement weather prior evening. fight urge to impale self on knitting needle while groggily riding shotgun for five
11:30 am: arrive at office. fight urge to transfer impalement-desires to entire pen jar. would be a right messy clean-up, that.
12:30 pm: while attempting to point out that flying me down to texas would be costly, gaffe and say "laying me is expensive". actually, may not have been gaffe.
1:34 pm: fly into 2.5 minute murderous rage over mysterious disappearance of candy bar just purchased. discover after exactly 2.5 minutes that candy bar is actually in palm of hand and melting now.
2:20 pm: jealous of recent flurry of transatlantic phone calls not seen since the heyday of the revolutionary war [if they'd bothered to invent telephones by then], pick up phone to call old
shag pal in london, marnix. flatmate of shag pal answers phone. identifies self as george. accent irresistibly plummy. plummier than mark's. fight urge to propose marriage followed by sex and babies to complete stranger flatmate-george based solely on plummy swoony meltiness of accent. restrain self to a simple "cheers!" at end of conversation, hang up phone, and say "ms. george, haver of sex and babies with mr. george" aloud at desk. get strange looks from co-workers.
conclusion: must. get. sleep. then, promptly fly to england for multi-purpose trip of seeing friends, shagging marnix, and marrying george.
NB DO NOT POINT OUT SNAFU OF SHAGGING ONE AND MARRYING HIS FLATMATE STOP WELL AWARE STOP
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Sunday, December 14, 2003
unfade: nineteen eighty nine
the screen fades from black, a suave little trick her mother always uses with her semi-professional three ton camera that she gladly lugs all over the world, recording moments in a daughter's precious life. the screen fades up, delicate and subtle, like the mother herself.
the scene is greece, and the most cliched of greeces. the square for the unknown soldier, in the scrambling center of athens. sure, the camera sweeps the square, why not? there are miles of unused tape, miles of life and faces to be recorded onto celluloid. let's pan the square, for posterity. but it doesn't take long to zero in on a darting little shadow, a scrawny little form dashing fearlessly around the impervious marching soldiers with their silly pom-pommed feet. the changing of the guards. there she goes! and there her mother's watchful optical eye follows. but we can't see her face, til her mother's accented and disembodied voice, close to the microphone, calls her name.
she turns, as young do because they can always hear their mother's cry over the din of crowds. she skids to a stop and turns, throwing her arms in the air and smiling. we fade, again.
unfade. there she is again, standing in what can only be described as a teeming mass of pigeons. her tanned skinny arms stretch out, comtemplatively staring at the three pigeons perched there. like a true little girl, she wears a cotton white slip of a dress, hanging off her tiny body and falling to her shins. no doubt the manufacturers meant it to be knee length. no matter - she's small but feisty. jarringly, she carries a purse, a grown-up-girl's purse, that hangs all the way to her knees. the camera tightens as a pigeon descends onto her shoulderblades and stares dumbly at her golden-streaked messy brown hair, held back with a red headband. the camera tightens more. she laughs, a scratchy peal of a laugh. the camera fades.
unfade. the little girl squats amongst the dirty little sky-rats. did we say squat? it's more delicate and ladylike than that. look at her, modestly tucking her skirt between her knees! her mother must silently smile, behind the lens, at the grace her child radiates, even with that skinny frame. there she is, communing with the birds. funny, that this little girl grows up to positively hate pigeons, longing to kick them out of her way in washington square park. not here. here, she watches them almost mesmerized by their screetches and their incessant pecking at her hands. and the shoes! tiny little open-toed slides, white, with red bows at the top. bows, you'll notice, which match her red headband. remarkable.
look at that face. her glasses near slide off. glasses which, while made by christian dior, are pink and far too big for her tiny face. she chose them because they came with a free glittery barrette, and her parents have always allowed her free choice in this manner. even when the glasses are obviously too big. looking up, she beams for the camera, delighted in her mother's photographic admiration of her obvious rapport with the winged critters. fade.
unfade. a busy street that mom pans, setting the scope, always careful to give future rapt viewers a context for her little girl's early years. perhaps she imagines them shown one day, on 20/20. she always likes that barbara walters, strength against adversity, the kind of thing this mother holds in high regard. she lowers the camera to the confident little face next to her.
"what's that, pumpkin?" the camera moves to the other side of the hectic honking street, to a statue that seems to be moving forward in space, a running man in green abstraction.
"that's hermes." pumpkin pronounces it like the designer, whose perfume caleche her mother wears to perfection. subtle accent on the e. "he's the god of mischeif," she says into the screen, grinning with knowledge, "and he's a currier."
"courier," her mother corrects gently.
"courier," the little scholar nails it. this'll be great for 20/20, maybe she'll be a mythology expert or a professor, proud mama might think. "what else?"
the little girl cocks her head at the statue. yes, a professor, mom thinks. "well, it looks like it's made of trees, but it's not. it's made from plates of green glass. isn't it beatiful?" she beams.
"yes, it is."
"the greeks don't like it."
"well," corrects mom, "some of the greeks don't like it."
"that's right," she takes correction well this early in life, not so later as her father often bemoans, "some of the greeks. they think it's too modern."
she's nine! such a capable little nine year old, with her too-big glasses and her tanned skin and her messy goldened hair. so sure of herself, so happy in the moment of knowing something about this beautiful moving statue.
"let's go across the street, mommy, can we?" she smiles at the camera - these summers in greece, the camera almost becomes her mother's face, so often does she talk into its black murky lens.
"sure, pumpkin. let's go."
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