Monday, October 30, 2006

Chic! Ago!

While in Chicago, Jennifer and I had the following conversation in regard to a certain item our father provided for us after 9/11:

JEN: Do you still have your gas mask?
ME: I think so. I think it's somewhere in the closet in the Everything Room. I'm not sure. I'd feel weird throwing something like that away.
JEN: [holding a brown box with a black strap attached to it] I still have mine. I don't know what to do with it.
ME: It's not like I was going to throw it in my shoulder bag and take it to work with me every day. And it's bad now, right? Don't they go bad?
JEN: Yeah. It's bad.
ME: I guess you could use it for a costume. Like you could be Dustin Hoffman in "Outbreak."
JEN: I got it!
ME: What?
JEN: I'm going to be a Paranoid American for Halloween!
ME: Best. Idea. Ever.
JEN: I'm going to take duct tape and wrap it around my clothes!
ME: And carry around some canned goods. Like soup. And a packet of water.
JEN: And candles. We need candles.
ME: LOTS of batteries.
JEN: This is gonna work.
ME: When I was working at Real Simple, they gave us an emergency kit. You can use that.
JEN: Cool.
ME: But it's a giant fanny pack with the Real Simple logo on it. So you might just look like a paranoid Real Simple reader.
JEN: Oh. Never mind.
ME: It's a good thing you're not in your twenties. You'd have to stick the duct tape on your bare midriff.
JEN: That would hurt.

Anyway, Jen's Halloween costume is SET.

I have the rest of the week off (huzzah!), so Chicago stories and lots of random pictures showcasing the newfound use of the micro function on my camera are to come. If you're not sure this interests you, keep in mind that one of the photos has been entitled Fry Orgy.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Bring all your dreams to life. For you.

I'm heading to Chicago today. In a splendid turn of events, both characterized by luck AND repeated, diligent attempts spanning the last 25-some-odd years, Stacy won tickets on the radio to see Duran Duran. I make no bones about the fact that Duran Duran was, is, and will always be my favoritebandeverohmygawdtotally, even if Fantasy Simon Le Bon is way better than Reality Simon Le Bon. (Stacy and I watched him in action in a hotel bar last winter in Philadelphia. He's a man-ho. A hot man-ho, but a man-ho just the same.) So I'll be hanging out until Sunday with my sister Jen, her lurve Brian, and Stacy, letting my hair blow in the Windy City. I cannot wait.

What I CAN wait for, however, is the plane ride. I cannot explain it fully quite yet, but in the past few years, I've developed a crippling fear of flying. I've flown hundreds of times and I have a rough idea of how planes work. I know what turbulence is. I know that the pilot wants to get us to our destination safely just as much as we want him to get us to our destination safely. I've read Ask the Pilot on to allay my tension. This should not be an issue.

Back when I wasn't lame, I used to get a rush during takeoff. Hell, on my honeymoon alone, I racked up 11 flights (the best way to get around New Zealand is to fly) on all different kinds of planes, in all different varieties of weather, and I barely noticed the takeoff and landing of any of them. And now any time I fly, I need to pop a Xanax, close my eyes during takeoff and landing, and escape in my iPod while imagining the plane soaring over hill and dale with 30,000-foot stilts propping it up. I suck.

It's no coincidence that this inconvenient development transpired around the time I became a crappy passenger in general — a by-product of both getting older and having a sense of loss of control in certain areas of my life. For instance, if I'm not driving, I can't look ahead of me to watch where we're going. I can't allow myself to get a sense of the driver's speed, I can only look out a side window, and whenever possible, I sit behind the driver so my view is as obstructed as possible.

Now none of you want to take me anywhere. I just know it.

One place I did make it to safely? Lisa's apartment, Sunday night. She cooked a delicious dinner of butternut squash ravioli and beet/carrot/cucumber/fun-greens salad, we made ice cream, we had a dance party, we watched "Xanadu." (I pretty much ruined the dance party, though. It was, specifically, Action Dance Party, in which one person calls out an action — say, mowing the lawn — and you dance it out. Then the next person calls out an action — say, putting on lipstick — and so on. When it was my turn, the only thing I could think of was, "You're in labor!" followed by "You need an episiotomy!" Yeah, I'm so much better at Trivial Pursuit.)

But really: Ginger-flavored vanilla ice cream and Gene Kelly on roller skates. Beat that.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Notable sighting

Yesterday. 1 p.m. Flatbush Avenue and Sixth Avenue. Truck. Side of truck has painted skyline of New York City (with World Trade Center) on it. Print beneath skyline says Citi Snaxx Distributors. Spelling makes me want to gouge my eyes out. Front of truck, above driver's cab, also has print on it. Calligraphy print says My Nuts Are My Life.

Well, at least you admit it.

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Friday, October 13, 2006

PTSD 'n' Stuff

When the Detroit Tigers lose, they lose big. And they lose for a long time. And nobody goes to their games, even if they get a shiny new stadium. If the fans do go to their shiny new stadium, they get assaulted by a scoreboard that is only visible from three-quarters of the seats anyway because the stadium, while shiny, is so poorly designed that no matter where the batter stands or what time of day it is, the sun blinds him. But, like with the other Detroit sports teams, when they win, they win even bigger than they lose and the whole city rallies around them. It’s glorious. You don’t even have to be a sports fan to enjoy the party.

After beating the New York Yankees at Comerica Park on Saturday night, the Detroit Tigers ran into their plastic-shrouded locker room, grabbed bottles of champagne, and ran back onto the field to celebrate with their fans, dousing them with bubbly. It was just unbridled, euphoric happiness. And no rioting! Something for everyone! Yay! My friend Mara has heard people say the players overdid it, so maybe you have to be from Detroit to understand how completely appropriate such revelry is. Or maybe not. I thought it was perfect.

And then Yankee pitcher Cory Lidle died Wednesday when the airplane he was flying crashed into an Upper East Side apartment building. I couldn’t help thinking that if the Yankees had won, then Lidle would have been alive in Oakland. Mara said she thought the same thing. Because when something tragic happens, you think of the series of events preceding it, and even if they’re not connected to the event itself, they appear to be.

Anyway, in lighter news, my parents were in town last Friday, as were our friends from Israel. In a well-timed scheduling switcheroo, I didn’t have to work, so after a tremendous lunch with the ladies, Einat and I headed to MoMA. I hadn’t been there since I was a kid and it’s recently been completely refurbished. Aside from the verbal lashing I got from the “Starry Night” guard for momentarily touching the wall underneath the painting’s description (the only way I could read it around the giant crowd was to crouch beneath it), it was fabulous.

Einat and I wandered over to the objets d’art — things like Eames chairs and Alessi teapots — and there were walls of posters and prints. I used to work for a graphic designer named Milton Glaser, a legend in the field and a truly exceptional, kind, brilliant, patient man, and one of his posters was on display. (Actually, two: It’s a pair of Mahalia Jackson illustrations, mirror images of the same design, so MoMA had both sides opposite each other, like a reflection. Cool.) I was pleased to see it — it felt comfortable and familiar to be looking on something I’d seen around a studio for two years. And while working with Milton himself was a completely positive experience, what DID surprise me was that I didn’t feel the twinge of anger that I usually get when I think about my time at his studio — not, again, because of him, but because of the woman who thought she was my boss but really wasn’t. To protect, well, myself, really, I will refer to her forthwith as Shitwig.

Because of Shitwig, I battled a serious case of Office PTSD during and well after my tenure there. While I was Milton’s assistant, I had a recurring dream in which I would go to my usual corner bagel vendor in the morning, arrive at the studio during an in-progress meeting, walk straight up to Shitwig and pummel her over the head with my bagel. I would wake up gratified, knowing that some good was made of carb-based breakfast food.

Shitwig was an angry, bitter woman who dragged you across the pavement for the most minor slip-ups and oversights because the sense of power fed her. Yeah, one of those. She would belittle me in front of my coworkers, criticize my decisions and lifestyle, and then expect me to sit there and listen, enthralled, to stories of her sad, sad life. Our receptionist had a learning disability and Shitwig would dress her down for misspelling a word and then whisper to me that the woman was “a fucking stupid girl.” Shitwig was 63 at the time, one of those brash New Yawk biddies with a grating, asphalt smoker’s voice, and could barely walk two steps without stopping to catch her breath. She smoked at her desk regardless of her coworkers’ comfort and, you know, THE LAW, because she couldn’t go up and down the stairs once an hour to smoke outside. When I first started dating Josh, she picked up a bottle from her desk of what I thought was Renuzit air freshener but turned out to be perfume, and she doused me in it with a huge spritz-gust; I had to go on a date smelling like tarred old lady and Jean Naté.

She was losing her hair and it made me happy. (Hence, Shitwig.) She’d offer favors but always at a price: When a hurricane blew through New York, she tried to give everyone in the studio some cash in case we got stranded at home, but nobody took it because there were always strings attached to her Mother Hen acts of “kindness.” She’d approve my vacation days but then hold them over me later, even though I earned them. The day after I threw out my back while basically waitressing a major business meeting (five hours of running up and down four flights of stairs with food, coffee and files), I called Milton to tell him I wasn’t coming in because I had to go to the hospital to get checked out; she picked up the other line and barked, “WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?!?” (Three doctors, three sets of x-rays and physical therapy, that’s what, Shitwig.) After I left my job (so desperate that I gave notice without another job to go to), one of my former coworkers told me Shitwig was diagnosed with emphysema, and I was glad. I would often feel bad about feeling so virulently hateful of her: I was raised to respect my elders, and she was someone I viewed as having a dissatisfying life and who was too set in her ways to change. But then she’d say or do something so vile that it just confirmed all my misgivings. Can it really be that hard to feel sympathy for someone so pathetic?

It took at least a year and a half of distance from that place before I stopped fantasizing about telling her off (or pushing her in front of a cab) if I ever ran into her on the street. Office PTSD gets into my bloodstream and it takes me a long, long time to let it go. It’s a different kind of anger and resentment than I’ve had for other incidents in my life, maybe because with Office PTSD, you have to play the game every single day until you find another (inevitably dysfunctional) place to work. I had to leave Michigan to get over Nancy, my wackadoo coworker from my advertising job in Michigan who didn’t bathe and would bring her Federline family to work so they could make long-distance phone calls because they bought drugs with all their utility money. (Seriously. She would leave the office at a moment’s notice to go on road trips in a Winnebago with an 82-year-old nun. Before I moved, my friends Joska and Mark recorded a song for me called “Sweat and Nancy.” Sample lyrics: “Her B.O. is nuclear-powered / When was the last time she showered?”) Anyway, I avoided the entire neighborhood where Milton’s office is located for a year and a half just because I didn’t want to enter the halo of suck that Shitwig cast over the area. I admired Milton’s work around the city, but it always reminded me of Shitwig and I’d walk away with a somewhat metallic taste in my mouth. Avoidance, at that time in my life, was cathartic. But I didn’t feel the halo at all when I saw Milton’s poster last week, and now I feel all grown-up. I have evolved.

Stephanie called me a few days ago from Marblehead, Massachusetts, where my parents were visiting her during Phase 2 of the Great East Coast Adventure. (They’re back here now.) She was on her way back to her apartment while they shopped. “The weather forecast wasn’t that accurate,” she said. “See, I’m wearing a turtleneck and it’s 90.” Stephanie lives in a town where everything was built in, like, 1700, and there are stores called Pawsitively Marblehead and Marblehead Munchies. I asked her if there was a Marblehead ‘n’ Stuff; she said no, but there is a Foodies Feast.

And just because I’m feeling whiny, I hate the word loaf.

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Henry Kissinger's hairdo

While standing during the silent Amidah during Yom Kippur services on Monday, I noticed that a teenage boy near me was holding a book — and not one of the prayer variety. My eyesight is the pits, so I casually leaned over, pretending to get a prime view of the Torah, and saw that he was reading SLAUGHTER-HOUSE FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut.

“I love that book,” I whispered.

“It’s my second time reading it,” he replied.

I felt inferior to this boy on two main levels:

1. He must have been 14 years old. I’ve read SLAUGHTER-HOUSE FIVE only once, when he was an infant.
2. For each and every time I wished I’d had a book to read during services, I never had the cojones to bring one, probably because I knew my parents would kill me. The kid has balls.

My instinct — after giving him mad props — was to be a little appalled, figuring that bringing into synagogue a book that had nothing to do with the holiday was disrespectful and slightly blasphemous. But then I thought, Why? How was this boy reading Vonnegut any different than me standing there, not believing in a god of any kind and not reading the prayer book in my hands? I was at services for two reasons: to participate in the collective culture and tradition of a holiday, and more important, to say the mourner’s prayer for my grandmother, who would have wanted me to go to Yom Kippur services. I think the fact that the boy went to shul for the shared experience of a tradition is the point; how he chooses to observe it isn’t.

I have a clearly defined view of my own connection to my religion. I am absolutely a cultural Jew. I believe in the traditions and the holidays and the history and the language and the specific aspects of my personality that define me more as Jewish than as American or female or educated or brunette. I think the fact that I don’t believe in an all-powerful god doesn’t make me any less Jewish, because I think your religion (or choice to not follow one) is how you connect to it, whether you believe in God or not. (I do believe in spirit and view that as my own deity.) I like that I can go to synagogue and pick up a prayer book and read the Hebrew and respect the beauty of the alphabet and the sounds, but I choose to believe my own version of what it says because I am often uncomfortable with the direct translation. So who am I — who prays to nobody but, really, myself — to say that a 14-year-old kid can’t pray to Kurt Vonnegut? I recall a six-year stretch when I was kind of doing the same thing, especially after I read BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS. Because it’s a really good book.

Isn’t my soapbox pretty?

It’s been a festival of cupcakes at the office this week. People’s birthdays, gifts from publicists, the place reeks of butter frosting. I was told that there’s a saying that’s been passed among some staff members during gluttonous food gatherings: “I’m eating my feelings.” Says Kevin, “The statement works best without eye contact, spoken with a small voice directed into a steaming tray of carbs.” Or, in this case, cupcake carcasses. Also? Very true.

James (the one who didn’t move to L.A. — SUCK IT, JAMES WHO MOVED TO L.A.!) also moved last weekend (locally). He was reflecting on his pleasant commute, free of the NYC subway. I said that he must be getting so much reading done. He said, “I already have! I’m already halfway through DIPLOMACY by Henry Kissinger.” He said there’s a lot of “Yeah, Vietnam? That probably wasn’t such a good idea” going on, which got me thinking about regretful biographies (as opposed to regrettable biographies). On one hand, it takes a big person to admit, in print, that they were wrong, especially if they’re in possession of a sizable ego. On the other hand, “Whoops, Vietnam” is a bit troubling. It’s not like, “Whoops, my hair was really bad straight through the Nixon era.”

Or, in my case, 1987. Cuz mullet.

Happy Anniversary, Stacy and Mark!

Happy Birthday, My Mother-in-law!

Happy Birthday tomorrow, Stephanie!

Does this mean more cupcakes?

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