August 14, 2008. Happy Birthday, my love!
Last Wednesday, on the train to yoga at 6-something a.m., there was a guy standing in the doorway wearing a colorful tie-dye shirt. I thought it was an old school Lithuanian basketball shirt, but I haven’t seen one in years. I squinted to read the lettering, and indeed, it said, “LITHUANIA.”
I smiled. Very auspicious. My word, those shirts are about twenty years old now. When I got off, I said to the guy, “I like your shirt.”
He said, “What?” then, “Thanks,” with a smile. His accent was francophone West African, which made me smile back.
George told me the other day that Z is Nadia’s (his niece) favorite basketball player. Or was when she was two, and still lived in Cleveland. “She would say on the phone, ‘I am sad because Z is sad. The Cavs lost.’ Where is he from, anyway?” George asked.
“Žydrūnas Ilgauskas? Georgie!! He’s Lithuanian!” George has listened to my mother telling him how closely related Lithuanian and Hindi are since we were 10.
“Ohhhh. Well, I don’t think I even knew his whole name. I just knew Z.”
I see. Still, that Nadia has good taste in ball players.
That night, walking across 17th Street, we ducked into the Rubin to avoid a crazy storm. When it passed, we headed on toward Curry Hill for dosa. By the time we reached Sixth Ave, a gorgeous rainbow spread across the sky.
So many colors, morning til night. What a lovely town.
I’m more than kind of stir crazy. Fourth day of being home sick. Well, First Day I was home not sick but avoiding crowds and simply enjoying home. That night sick arrived just before Santa. Now I’m talking to myself and wondering why big dogs are so cool and little dogs are so hideous (except Daschunds. They are so cute they would never bark. Being so attractive, they don’t need to cry for attention). For example, the neighbor’s little dog that barks at all hours. 11pm? 12am? 2am? 6:30am? Acceptable? They seem to think so. My God, it’s like India. I slept from 12a-6:30a because of that mongrel’s owners. Not so much sleep for a person recovering from massive cold about to have a birthday.
Thanks for the calls and emails and stuff. I appreciate the support. I used to sing made-up songs to myself, loudly, when I was little and sick for awhile. I am just not good at staying put and doing not so much, unless I’ve made a point of it. And hey, even if I did make a point of it (the xmas quiet time), the sick part just switches it up. This was not part of the bargain.
Just when she thought it was time to relocate to tropical island, it snows. Ooooooooooooh, snow.
Saturday: Xmas. West Side Market for the citrus and seltzer. No snow.
Sunday: Whole Foods for more seltzer and stuff, 4pm. Blizzard has started. Day after Christmas. My waterproof boots are at work, so I did what my mother did when I was little. She put bread bags over her socks to make her shoes water resistant—to her feet anyway. So I got out my sneaks and plastic shopping bags (yes, I ask for plastic. I use them for trash bags. What do you use? Do you, like, buy plastic bags for trash?), wrapped my feet up, stuffed the bags under my jeans, and headed out. Day after Christmas, but no one is out shopping. No one is out at all. The few who are seem kind of grumpy and look at me strangely. Then I realize it’s because I’m grinning from ear to ear. I don’t know why, other than I sure love snow. Do you know this smile? Unwitting and huge, your spirit feels light, and there you are, in the moment, enjoying life like mad even if your nose is running and you have plastic west side market bags tied around your ankles? (And it can’t be due to something epic or cliche, like sex or a sunset.) Snow has this effect on me.
In a smaller way, so does shopping in an empty Whole Foods, which is unheard of. Beautiful. I’m not sure where everyone was. It wasn’t really that that bad out and snow is gorgeous and fun. I filled my basket with smoked salmon (oooh, protein and smooth on the throat), green & blacks maya gold (addiction), some rice (they have Lundberg. Better quality than trader joe’s), and yogurt (ditto). Oh! They have my favorite yogurt: Redwood Hill Farms Goat Milk Yogurt. Hmm. At $7 it’s not my usual choice, handsome as the goat on the label may be. But, it’s my favorite week. And I’m a goat. (My ma’s a goat. LeBron’s a goat. You get it. Sea-goats.) Yes, I’ll take it.
I bought tissues, too. Unfortunately, recycled, which are not suitable for a cold (they’re good for kitchen clean-ups though). As a result my upper lip and under-nose are like leather.
While checking out (zero line—I picked the middle line with no one in it and was called before the people on each side of me, there before I was. Snow-lover’s luck), the woman asked me if it was still coming down. She didn’t look too pleased about it, so I put on a stern face for her and said, “Yes, I’m afraid so.” You have to do this for New Yorkers, myself included, to be polite. It’s not nice to revel in your love of thunderstorms or frigid wind-chill, or, yes, blizzards, when they make everyone else’s life hell.
And if you were (or are) stuck somewhere (God forbid on the A-train in the Rockaways all night), I do feel for you. I’m not gloating. I just love snow, that’s all. Since I was a small fry, it’s been true.
More about my little trek today, but thank heavens, I’m tired and off to bed.
When I first moved into 802, an art deco building in Washington Heights, I adored the mural of the prancing maiden and her leashed—antelopes?—in the lobby. I still love them and the quaint building. But one day last summer, I walked in and saw these hideous sofas placed in front of her. It was clearly a sign: my days in 802 were numbered. Before these, there had been an equally old and musty sofa, but it was less gaudy, and the color at least matched her blouse.
As I packed to move, I heard lots of great stuff on NPR (like astrophysicist Brian May’s Bohemian rhapsody interview) that I wanted to look up and listen to again, undistracted, but didn’t have the time. When I was writing the chrissie/lebron/akron bit, I remembered the Rita Dove piece I heard on Selected Shorts: Strong Men, Stronger Women and intended include her in post (yes, she’s from Akron), but forgot. When I unpacked American Smooth I remembered. It demands a listen. (I listen to stuff when I clean. Makes it bearable.)
Dance is woven through American Smooth and it makes me wish, again, I had more time to dance and time to learn more. But I’ve barely time to do the things I’m committed to do well. It does make me sad that American culture has such little place for gathering to dance. One of the reasons, surely, why we are so fragmented.
Yesterday, I saw Barbara Ehrenreich on PBS. She mentioned her book: Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy. A nice change from her usual reportage about America becoming more and more like a third world country because of government favoritism of the wealthy and the insane wealth disparities that have resulted. (Did you know that “janitorial service” is the fastest growing job in the USA?) And because we don’t dance. My assertion, not hers. Maybe hers—I haven’t read the book yet.
My decision to finally get the internet at home so I could watch PBS (inspired, I admit, by the Circus! ads on the subway) was not misguided.
I just happened upon this line from Rita Dove, from an interview with Robert McDowell: “In African American culture, dance has always been a key element—a communal activity that soothed and united all levels.” From my travels, it seems to be that dance is something that brings people together in most cultures, save white, protestant countries. Though to be fair, some white, protestant ministers appreciated dance. Dance was a part of my Lithuanian family, though mostly in stories of days gone by. After my grandmother died, I went to a party at the Lithuanian-American club in NYC (not somewhere I generally frequent), and we danced and danced until the wee hours. At least, the older folks did. I went to a friend’s elaborate Indian wedding a few months ago, and everyone danced. What a joy!
Bolero by Rita Dove
Not the ratcheting crescendo of Ravel’s bright winds
but an older,
passion: a woman with hips who knows when to move them,
who holds nothing back
but the hurt
she takes with her as she dips, grinds, then rises sweetly into his arms again.
delicate. Not tame. Bessie Smith in a dream of younger,
(can’t you see?)
days. Restrained in the way a debutante is not, the way a bride
How everything hurts! Each upsurge onto a throbbing toe, the prolonged descent
to him (what love & heartache done to me), her body ferocious,
a grim ululation
she adores him. And he savors that adoration, this man in love
She feels his look,
and she moves, moves with him to the music in the space
spot lit across
the hardwood floor.
So much to convey I have nothing to say, really. I just don’t know how. Everything I’m doing at the moment feels very transitional and process oriented, or old hat. I’m lucky for the old hat, because it’s giving me the base to transition. Yes. I am still settling in, and yes, the move has been a ten-month process, if not longer. I find that I partly plan things (settling in) and partly go with what feels best next. On Sunday, I cleaned the cupboard under the sink quite thoroughly. I put a lamp inside so I could sweep it out properly. This kind of thing has to be done for me to settle. Some might come and go without ever noticing, but no. I have to take everything out and scrub.
Why does this matter? I find the psychology of the home fascinating. Settling in means I move the bed back and forth until it feels right. I unpack books, many boxed and unmissed for six months. I give them away. I go to the store, get a friend to take me to the store, and go to the store again. I rebuy a bookcase I sold on craigslist in March. I move the books around again. I get lectures from friends about installing blinds and keeping dirty laundry under the bed (the latter a chide about choosing such a small space. “So you are going to sleep over your dirty laundry? (This, from a non-feng shui/energy-feeling type guy, I might add.) What is this? You would pay $800 for this in south Brooklyn (read: российский Бруклин~rossiiskii Brooklyn).” “Yeah, and I’d spend three hours a day on the train. Is my time and sanity worth nothing?”
In my other spare time, when I am not in the mood to settle in, I archive. I’m on 2004, which like 2000, is a very full year because of travel. Tagging the photos can be both tedious and emotional. The other day I tagged August 8, 2004, which was one of the most amazing days of my life, one I’ve always wanted to write about, but again, never knew quite how. Tagging the 187 photos was kind of a drag, though. All all of it feels a bit removed and gone, though my epiphany that day involves a prominent theme in my life. I had dinner with a friend last night and she validated my feelings about it entirely. But for six years I’ve wondered how to explain it properly. Now that it’s pertinent, especially because I needed help with the move, that’s what I’ll tackle next. Happy weekend.
If you’ve seen any pics/news of the 1/2/3 train’s suspended service from 5:30-7:20am, you will imagine my commute to yoga. I left at 5:30a, was totally drenched even with umbrella, got on a train and froze in the a/c, then got stuck there. Service was suspended while we poor souls were all on it. And it’s not the rich folk commuting at 5:30am—though, interestingly, a lot of construction workers did have blackberries. They told us they were trying to “overcome the water obstacle” at 72nd Street. Fifteen minutes later the conductor announced that it could not be overcome, and we were going back to the last station. After waiting, of course, for the five trains that had piled in behind us to do so. Cold. A/C. Misery.
You might imagine another train was running, but we were told to take a bus. No way. There were hundreds of people on the street waiting for bus or cab. About 3 cabs out at that hour, and they were occupied. So, I walked the next 31 blocks to the studio. When I got there I realized I grabbed the wrong bag and had to practice in yesterday’s clothes, which were damp (from day-old sweat, not rain) and rank. But we bonded, sharing our horror commute stories, and sweated it out.
Good word, after seven months of “I’m moving,” I’ve moved. After 8¼ years in Washington Heights in upper Manhattan, seven of which were happily lived in an art deco building near Fort Tryon Park, I’ve moved downtown. It’s incredible. I’m still settling in. Still, of course, archiving photos. I’m just entering 2003 in the archives.
Plenty to write about re: 2010, as it was a high drama move on many counts, but instead I will settle in quietly and post an old photo of my relatively huge closet (relative to that of my new place) in my first apartment circa 1992. It was a little 3-bedroom in Rochdale Village, part of the Berkeley Co-ops. Nice light, good space, not much charm. It was just behind the now defunct Cody’s Books on Telegraph (ugh), where I spent loads of time. I lived with an excellent friend I still love to visit (she moved east as well). Decided to move to New York while in that space. Obviously full of good vibes.