Archive for February, 2010

The owls are not what they seem.

February 26, 2010

About two months ago, every dream I’ve ever harbored in my tiny, tender little acorn heart was shattered when I learned that my friend Rosemary was having a Twin Peaks-themed birthday party — and I wouldn’t be able to attend.

Reasons?

1. Proximity: Rosemary lives in Little Rock, and I live in New York City.

2. Money: The projected date of said party — Friday, Feb. 19 — was only a few days after I’d be moving out of my old apartment, and I knew that there was no way I’d be able to afford a plane ticket after such a move.

3. Time: How in the world would I be able to get time off from work?

In the face of a conundrum that only Agent Cooper’s intelligence and Sheriff Harry S. Truman’s practicality could handle, I was a regular Ronette Pulaski wondering down the railroad tracks of existence — not quite a Laura Palmer sunbathing in a plastic tarp on Twin Peaks’ shores, but not that far away from it, either. Not only would I never fulfill my dream of having a valid excuse for dressing up as The Log Lady, but I didn’t know when I would see my Arkansas friends again.

But as Feb. 19 drew closer, things fell into place. Tears were shed. Phone calls were made. Security deposits were reimbursed. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln decided to somewhat conveniently have their birthdays within days of each other, thereby warranting a national holiday and, by association, a day off from work. I was giddier than Ben Horne on a Saturday night at One-Eyed Jack’s. 

And before I knew it, it was 11 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 19, I was in Little Rock, Arkansas, and I was holding a log in the trunk of a Honda Accord, waiting to surprise my friends.

Needless to say… It was uhhhhhMAAAAAAAAAYZZZZIIIIIIING!

Maddy Ferguson was really excited.

So was Lucy Moran.

Agent Cooper made an appearance…

… as did The One-Armed Man.

There were some other pretty great costumes, too. Here are three of my favorites from the night. Here’s everyone’s favorite homecoming queen/teenage prostitute, Laura Palmer, as played by co-hostess/co-birthday girl Autumn. I really liked the Best Friends necklace she added to the mix. Sadly, no one showed up as Donna Hayward. Speaking of, is Lara Flynn Boyle still alive?

This Ronette Pulaski look-alike was so committed to her costume that she rolled around in her yard to get the whole “I’ve just been drugged and attacked” vibe before coming to the party.

Two words: “COTTON BALLS!!!”

Best. Party. EVER.

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Love in the time of pizza.

February 12, 2010

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m the last person (that’s me, the one with the side ponytail) over the age of 7 in the Western Hemisphere who still enjoys Valentine’s Day. And it’s kinda starting to grate my nerves, to tell you the truth.

Look, we’ve all been heartbroken and disappointed and spent more Valentine’s Days alone than with someone. But it’s really not worth getting your panties in a twist over and promoting all this anti-Valentine’s Day propaganda.

Or if you’re going to hate on it, don’t subject the rest of us to it. A sorority sister of mine, Emily, had the right idea. As far as I know, she had no major objections to the holiday or hearing any of her other sorority sisters’ plans, just as long as everybody understood that, regardless of whether she was single or attached, there was one Valentine’s Day tradition she never missed: Watching The Silence of the Lambs on VHS.

But cannibalism aside, I say forget the nebulous origins of the holiday and its over-commercialization. What person (or woman, anyway) doesn’t love a reason to celebrate love and friends and flowers and the color pink? You’re never too old for that stuff. Two years ago, my sister Allison and I — then 28 and 23 — sat in her living room making handmade valentines for her 6-month-old daughter, her husband, our brother, our parents, my co-workers, each other, etc., etc.

I want to thank my mom, Anne, for instilling an appreciation for the holiday early on. My earliest memory of Valentine’s Day, besides the exciting trip to the grocery store to pick out valentines to hand out to my classmates, was making a homemade heart-shaped pizza with my brother (the squinter) and sister (the one with the really nice teeth).

I don’t know how the tradition got started or why we ever stopped doing it, but the more I looked at this picture and thought about what was going on in my mom’s life when it was taken, the more deeply appreciative I am of her commitment to making sure all of us kids felt loved / wore the same shade of red on Valentine’s Day.

In the mid ’80s, when the pizza photograph was taken, my mom was a lonely housewife in Davenport, Ia. My dad, Wayne, loved her, but he was more preoccupied with his career than spending time at home. Anne probably didn’t believe in love very much anymore, but I never would have known because my mom went out of her way to keep silly little traditions, like the heart-shaped pizza, alive.

A few years after the pizza photo was taken, things changed dramatically for my parents. They will tell you that God is responsible for saving their marriage, and I’ve seen the proof of that claim for the past 20 years. They’ve been married for 32 years and are more in love than ever now. They go snorkeling together and take trips and do all that stuff that we make fun of our parents for when they get to that age but really, we love it, because not everybody’s parents stay together long enough for that to happen.

I think it’s a testament to my mom’s strength of character that, in even one of the darkest times of her life, she still found a reason to spread love (through the best medium ever, pizza!) and celebrate that silly little holiday we know as Valentine’s Day.

On germs.

February 6, 2010

Outside the F train, Delancey Street.

For the past four days, I’ve been sick. It’s pretty gross, too — something between a sinus infection and a cold that I just can’t shake.

Every time I come down with what I affectionately refer to as “the consumption,” I ask myself if there’s something I could have done differently to avoid it. But in New York City, there’s only so much a person can do to fend off sickness and disease. I wash my hands frequently, and I cough into my elbow, and after that, there’s not a whole lot you can do.

One of the places this belief is clearly illustrated is in the subway. There are multiple breeds of People Waiting for the Subway: the Wall-Leaners, the Platform-Pacers and the High-School-Kids-Who-Talk-Loudly-and-Laugh-and-Shove-Their-Friends (even when everybody else is silent with either grogginess or exhaustion, depending on the time of day).

I, for one, have always been a Bench-Sitter. I’m usually carrying about 60-70 percent of my personal belongings in a collection of purses, backpacks and reusable shopping bags at all times, so I actively seek out empty bench space and relish those moments when I can rest my aching shoulders.

A few months ago, however, that all came to a screeching halt when someone informed me that you can get bed bugs from sitting on the wooden benches in subway stations.

I was crushed. If there were bed bugs on those benches, what else could be lurking on them? Lice? Rat feces? AIDS?

More importantly, which of the countless other objects I came into contact with in a typical subway station experience — support beams and turnstiles, not to mention every pole, seat and window on the actual trains — also harbored pests and microbes and fungi, all just waiting to hitch a ride on The Acorn Archive Express?

I spent many weeks trying to transition into another breed of People Waiting for the Subway, one of the ones that stay on their feet. It felt unnatural. I found myself wincing and hopping from one foot to the other, the way kids do when they have to pee really bad, until my train arrived.

One night after work, Schuyler (mentioned here) and I were waiting for the uptown D train at Broadway-Lafayette. We were talking about something when Schuyler stopped me and, as calmly and matter-of-factly as if he were stating the sky is blue, said, “That man is taking a shit on the subway tracks.” And it was true. About 50 feet away, on the other side of a column, a grown man was, as discreetly as one can in a somewhat empty New York subway station, taking a dump on the tracks.

And that’s precisely the moment I gave up — gave up on my characteristically American germaphobic tendencies, like carrying Duane Reade hand sanitizer; gave up on my belief that everyone does, or at least should, adhere to my beliefs on cleanliness, hygiene, life in general.

The fact of the matter is that it is the year 2010. I live in one of the largest cities in the world, located in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and there are still people who, when faced with the query of where to make their next bowel movement, are choosing the subway tracks over a proper bathroom. It’s definitely shocking, but all joking aside, it’s sad, too — the symptom of a much bigger disease, one that can’t be swabbed and examined in a petri dish.

In short, nothing — nowhere, really, at least in New York City — is safe from disease, poverty or ugliness. But instead of being discouraged by this realization, I’ve been liberated by it. There’s no amount of vitamins or flu shots that can save me from the inevitable bout of the creepy crud, and there’s nothing I can do to avoid the people who either take a dump on the subway tracks or just don’t fit in. So you might as well hunker down in the filth and try to deal with it. Because otherwise, you’re never going to feel at home.

I’m sitting on the wooden benches again. Even when I’m not tired, I still do it, because I can. I haven’t gotten bed bugs. I’ve also placed my hand on a pole in the train to steady myself, wiped my nose with that hand and then put it back, germs and all, on the pole (if I don’t perpetuate the rampant spread of the common cold, who will?).

Outside the subway, things are the same. I’ve completely given up on washing my hands after using Starbucks restrooms. I figure the amount of physical contact with the soap dispenser and sink fixtures required to discover that, surprise, there’s no soap and the water’s cold, just isn’t worth the effort.

I still haven’t quite learned how to deal with the elderly, the homeless or the social outcasts, but I feel like sitting down on the wooden benches that everyone has warned me against is a step in the right direction. When you walk out the door in the morning knowing that today’s just another opportunity to bolster your immune system, life gets a little less scary.