Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Suzie and Joshua

My half-sister Suzie was in town from Barbados with her son, my little nephew Joshua. I picked them up and took them to Sylvia's for lunch. Then we decided to go to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, and there, basically, went all of my money. I was robbed - again - by NYC. Why are these kid-friendly events so expensive? We had to sit up in the balcony, even. All our money was not enough, apparently, to purchase a seat in the orchestra. When Santa said, "And a special 'hello' to my friends in the balcony!" I heard the implied rebuke in his voice, and I was reminded yet again that we must purchase love even from Santa. I shivered an exquisite shiver with the thought of that, up in the balcony.
Suzie and Joshua are wearing winter clothes in this picture. Suzie is wearing my hat. Of course, no one wears winter clothes in Barbados, where it is pretty much 83 degrees all the time. I haven't been to Barbados in about seven years, since my half-brother Craig got married. At the time, I had the sneaking suspicion that Joshua was crazy, as he kept making repetitive motions with his hands and playing video games and ruining the wedding. Luckily, he has turned out to be quite smart and mentally sound. He even has a little bit of my sense of humor. He made a joke about "balls," and not the kind you bounce.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Rip in the crotch

I made it all the way to work yesterday before I realized there was a rip in the crotch of my pants! Right before my meeting with Mauro. He already thinks I'm crazy. Now he will think I'm secretly homeless, to boot. (I should call my memoir "Homeless to Harper Perennial.") I loved these pants - a sort of bone-colored twill from Theory - too small when I bought them, but now loosely fitting, due to my fluctuating weight, which has fluctuated downward, happily, in recent years - and I was heartbroken. Do I get them repaired, or do I just try to find another pair just like them? (There is no pair just like them).

Of course, the rip took me back to my days at college, sophomore year, when I was taking a class with an eccentric sociology professor named ... I can't remember her name! Whoever she was, I complained to her about a similar rip then, and she told me she would repair my pants, for free. I was incredulous. A professor mending my pants? But I gave them to her. She returned them a couple of days later with a huge, bright-blue, iron-on patch attached to the outside of the pants. I stared at her. "I can't believe you just put a crazy patch on it!" I said. "You want me to look like Raggedy Andy!" She was highly amused, as was the entire Utica College faculty when I got finished with disseminating that story. But in reality, I was really grateful - my own mother probably would have just ripped the pants up to use as rags, as I wept. I felt mothered by that professor, and safe for a second, which is all I need. I wish I could remember her name ... there are very few eccentrics in the world - fewer still, eccentrics who make us feel safe - and I'd like to collect them all, at least within my memory, and keep them safe there.

I have earlier, murkier, memories of rips in crotches. My mother would take me, in these memories, to the store (Sears, or Alexanders, or somesuch), and announce that the pants had to be "STURDY IN THE CROTCH." (And "HUSKY," of course.) Luckily, these memories float in and out of my consciousness like a schooner into fog, and can't hurt me anymore.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bill's Bar & Burger

I am clearly obsessed with Bill's Bar & Burger in Rockefeller Center. I went there again yesterday with my old college classmates Vicki and Tom (Susan was supposed to join, but she believes that she is busier, even, than us. Ha!). I was wearing a flimsy blue blouse from H&M, a maroon v-neck sweater from the Gap, and Levi's jeans - surprisingly down-market today, but I don't remember whether that was on purpose or not. Maybe I was trying not to scare Tom? Who knows.

The wait was supposed to be 30-35 minutes, but the host and I have a mild flirtation going, and he got us seated in 15 minutes. That's what my ruined beauty buys me - 25 fewer minutes of wait time. (Then he gave me his card and wrote down his work mobile number so I could call ahead the next time I was coming, so he could make sure I didn't have to wait. I immediately felt the simultaneous shame and pride that arises in me when I become a regular somewhere, and the ambiguity that arises when I'm not sure if I should take the flirtation to its natural, certain-to-be-humiliating next level).

Tom was my journalism nemesis at Utica College. One year, we went to the journalism department's awards dinner, and Tom won, like, every award. Afterwards, on the drive back to the dorm, Heather asked me to sing her a song, and I sang "Maybe This Time," Sally Bowles' showstopping anthem of scorned love from "Cabaret," with its lyric, "Everybody loves a winner. So nobody love me!" Yesterday, Tom asked me why I wasn't in attendance at the most recent NYC Utica College reunion, but then blithely answered himself: "maybe it was just for award winners?" Har, har, har.

Really, I have an inferiority complex when it comes to all of my old classmates. Tom, of course, is a journalism stud who has a Pulitzer Prize-winning wife and writes for the Wall Street Journal, which he landed at after his gig at the New York fucking Times. Vicki seemingly has to fend off men just crossing the street, and has what once would have been my dream job: a corporate recruiter. (I would hire only crazy people and studs). And Susan, awash in cash, texted me recently that she was looking to buy not just an apartment, but a brownstone this year. And me? What have I become? I ask myself the same question sometimes, but then I try to eat a burger and flirt with a host.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Zoe at Burberry

I accompanied one of my authors, Zoe Heller, to her reading at Burberry on 57th Street. I sometimes don't go to my authors' events, but this one was so goofily arranged that I elected to go to make sure Zoe wasn't harangued into getting a plaid tattoo or something like that. We sat together in Burberry's "green room," and a parade of beautiful, waifish, bubbly young women and men came in and out (one by one) asking us if we needed water, champagne, magazines, to go to the bathroom, a special pen, etc. I confided in Zoe that, last year, I had handed my business card to an ugly fellow who works at Burberry, with the internal logic that an ugly fellow was my lot in life now that I'm old. That this ugly fellow, my last resort, would now, in some final, horrible irony, be my true love - teaching me a difficult but necessary lesson about the nature of love itself. Needless to say, the ugly fellow didn't call me, and, as I walked into Burberry for the event and saw him standing there, I burned with the shame of it. Burned!

Zoe is an amazing writer - I think of her in the same category as a Lynn Freed or a Mary Gaitskill. Her writing is clean and harsh at the same time, and laugh-out-loud funny. In the green room, she peeped inside the closet and found boxes of "Burberry Brit" cologne, which she cagily suggested that I abscond with. (I didn't). After the reading, she was trying to get Burberry to give me a clothing discount, as well. I was as charmed by Zoe as can be - she even shared her limo home with me. We talked about the gays, about Christmas, and about her boyfriend, who sounds cool. The night made me think of countless other wintertime nights of author readings, sudden bonding, and fresh evidence of old rejections - and, as Zoe's limo pulled off, I ran across the street to meet up with Chris, and I felt so much fondness for Chrismastime that I practically burst with the wonder of being alive. Merry Christmas to everyone! Except for the ugly fellow from Burberry. May you, sir, have as preposterous a Christmas as has ever occurred.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Dad's party

Here is my father - wearing a nice blue suit - along with my sister and her longterm boyfriend Kevin, at the party we had yesterday for my father's 90th birthday! 90 years - God bless him! He has survived multiple heart attacks, innumerable strokes, a broken hip, prostate cancer, and pneumonia. Truly, he is the One. He is immortal. At the party, when we handed him the microphone, he immediately indicated that he was "living day to day" at this point. I thought everyone would gasp in horror at his macabre assessment of his current situation, but instead, he got some "amen"'s from the crowd, and some good-natured chuckling. I was mortified, and I wanted to cut the power to his mike, but instead I stood there, sitting in my own feelings, which is something that I have learned in my own old age. My father is beloved, and his friends overlook his sometimes inappropriate sense of humor. (Truly, the apple didn't fall far from the tree in this case.)

My favorite memory of my father is from Christmas 1988, when, as a very young man, I told him that I had recently purchased a calendar for myself. (Even at that young age, I was held to strict accounting of the money I had spent - a lesson learned, but obviously forgotten as soon as I had any actual money). My father looked at me and replied, "A Chippendale's calendar?" (Even as a child, I was clearly as gay as a goose.) I looked at my father, aghast at the awkwardness of that comment. Awkward moments from an awkward father for an awkward son in an awkward world at an awkward time of year. It has taken me years and years and years to see how alike me and my father are, and still more to appreciate it.

Dear ones, may the coming year be awkward for you all ... it is through awkwardness that we learn to grow. And if you need 2011 to be a little more awkward, you can always borrow my dad.