Wednesday, November 19, 2008

It has long (recently) been my contention that with all these new-fangled ways of being in "touch" (cell phones, internet, texting, skyping, etc. etc) we are more out of touch than ever. Technology has offered us little more than more ways to avoid each other. Since the dawn of the answering machine, and then forward to beepers and the sincere hope that the person we were trying to "reach" would not actually pick up, we have perfected the art of not actually having to, nor wanting to, talk. Ever.
I've noticed, too, that when I walk along the street many people who are not actually carrying bags in both hands will, more often than not, be talking on the phone. I know that I've been compelled on more than one occasion to call someone while I was walking from one place to another just to have something to do and, also, because, tragically, we don't seem to be able to find the time during our busy days to simply sit down and converse.
One of the things I believe to be happening, as well, is that we are becoming less and less comfortable with just - well - walking down the street. I would liken it to the same kind of discomfort that one might feel walking in to a room filled with strangers.
I read a story recently, as I was riding the subway to work, by Sylvia Boorstein. It was about her grandfather and a man named Mr. Cory. Mr. Cory was a farmer who lived down the road from Sylvia's family when she was growing up. Mr. Cory and his wife of seventy years did all the work on their several acre farm and then sold the produce out of their garage. Sylvia recalled a day when she was driving over to the Cory's to pick up some produce. As she neared the garage she thought she was looking at a statue of Mr. Cory when it was, in fact, Mr. Cory himself. She writes, "...he wasn't reading or writing or sorting produce or whittling or doing anything but waiting."
Then she tells a story about her grandfather who, when he was well in to his nineties, was living in Florida in a community for elderly folks. Sylvia went to visit him and was invited to join him, after breakfast and again after lunch, for a walk around the block. "He explained to me that this was his regular regimen, his daily exercise. I said to him, "What do you think about when you walk?" He looked at me with surprise. "What do you mean, what do I think about?" he asked. "When I walk, I walk!"

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Tonight, when I looked out the window of my apartment at 8:03pm, I noticed that it was already getting dark. I'm always amazed how, during the height of Summer, it stays light out until almost 9pm.
That being said, I had a little adventure at the food co-op today. I got on the Express line, with the few things that I was buying in hand, a tiny bit aware of the nice looking guy in front of me. A couple filed in behind me and they were all love-y and in that "we're the best couple in the world and I am not all alone in this world" smug love place that we have all at some time or another felt when we're hooked up with someone. The woman put her head on her man's chest and I overheard her say "there's something you don't know about me" - to which he replied "uh oh" - and then she said, "this is my faaaaaaavorite snack", as she pointed to a barbecued seitan strip... at which point I thought to myself, 'dork'... However, I let go of my immature thoughts long enough to sneak a sideways glance at HM(handsome man) in front of me and I could have sworn that he had some "awareness" of me - and then - it happened...the line advanced to the shelf where I saw the organic maple syrup that I'd come in to buy in the first place so I bent over to grab a bottle and...farted. Yep. Not some little, tiny, silly fart like Carrie Bradshaw let rip in bed with Mr.Big but one of those honking ass-blasters that can make your own mother seem slightly repulsive. Stick your tongue out and blow really hard and that's what it sounded like... So, what did I do? I stayed bent over for a moment - I think I may have even said a few things out loud to myself - and then, in a moment's panic, I tried to replicate the sound using the sole of my sneaker. Ohhhhhh, you thought I faaaarrrrrrted???!!!! No, No, Nooooo!! It was my shoe! And then, when the only sound I could make was one that sounded like a sneaker scraping across a tile floor, I shot an accusatory glance at seitan girl!
The line was long and I had to stand there, steeping in my own humiliation, (thank god it didn't smell!) for an uncomfortably long period of time - reliving the moment every step of the way and feeling as embarrassed as the moment it happened.
As I rode my bike home I thought about it and I came up with a comforting thought - if I were dating someone and we were in that situation together, the way he handled it would tell me an awful lot about the odds of our relationship lasting. I'm not necessarily saying that I would want to be high-fived or anything (although that would be funny) but what I am saying is that humor is a necessary connection for me...and besides, what's a little fart amongst friends?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker AND tits - the seven words you can't say on television. George Carlin's death really bummed me out. I learned of it when I woke up this morning and walked in to my living room just as my mother (she's staying with me for a few days) opened the newspaper. Sometimes news of someone's passing makes me say "ohhhh, wow" and sometimes my reaction is "ohhhhh, no." This one was an "ohhhhh, no."

I saw him perform in the late 70's at the Civic Center. I went with my boyfriend at the time. We were both around 18 years old and had smoked some pot and hash right before the show...and during the show...people passed joints around like cheese puffs in those days...anyway, I was pretty high. Some of what I remember is him riffing on oxymoronic expressions like "jumbo shrimp" and "military intelligence". He talked at great length about a loaf of rye bread and how none of the slices were the same size, making the point that when we open a new loaf of rye bread we all reach into the middle of the loaf for two slices, we never just take the first two slices - but, eventually, we all end up eating the ones we avoided in the first place.

I've learned a lot, both as a person and as an artist, from the likes of George Carlin. From my perspective, art is truth. It's all about having the guts to express your truth, your experience. It's what makes things moving and funny, being willing to see ourselves, our truths, exposed.

RIP George. I am honored to have shared the planet with you.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Okay. Here's an example of Hormones Gone Wild. Today, I was sitting at my computer looking up recipes for pasta salad. I'd like to make something special and fresh and delicious to bring to a reunion I'll be attending in July (which I'll write about another time) of all my friends from my summers at the lake.
Anyway, I clicked on to Lidia Bastianich's website. She's that wonderful woman who cooks the most delicious Italian peasant food on Channel 21. I read a few recipes and then switched to another site that had recipes for the food she served the Pope when he was in New York recently. Now, I was raised Catholic but have not practiced nor subscribed to Catholicism for most, if not all, of my adult life. That being said, I read that when Lidia served the Pope beef goulash for one of his meals he said "these are my mother's flavors" and I started crying. Just a little. Not a full out cry. One of those ones that happens sometimes during a commercial. Or when I smell freshly cut grass. Mamma Mia...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Richie Smirnoff. Or, just plain Smirnoff. That's what they called him at Brownstone Car Service on Union Street where he was employed as a driver. He's one of those people I wish I'd kept in touch with somehow. He's had a profound effect on me.

It started back when I was waitressing at McFeely's on Union Street in Park Slope, Brooklyn. I may have even started bartending there by the time I'd met Richie. In any case, it was the late 80's/early 90's and I was working at McFeely's and raising my two children. I'd call Brownstone every night at the end of my shift to get a car home. I used to drive my own car but three break-ins in less than two months and stressing about being ticketed for being on the wrong side of the street (alternate side parking rules in NYC) as I crawled out of bed in the morning after a late night working left me completely disgusted and frustrated so...I sold it...for $50 to a junk dealer (it was an 82 Corolla).."uh, sorry miss, I can't give you any more than that."
"really? I have two kids to feed. Are you sure?"

The conversation between me and Vinnie, the dispatcher at Brownstone, went pretty much the same way every night -
"Hello, Brownstone."
"Hey Vinnie, it's Dawn."
"Hello doll. Ready to go home?"
"I'll have a car right outside in three minutes. How're the kids?"
"They're great, Vinnie. You?"
"Very good thank you, sweetie. You take care, alright?"
"Yep. Thanks, Vinnie."

He'd give me a "special" price and the car would be right outside the door, just like he said, in three minutes. And then, every night, as I got into the car I'd hear Vinnie on the radio dispatching the same message to the driver as the night before -
"$6, Smirnoff. $6 for Dawn. Take good care of her and make sure she gets in safe."
"10-4 Vinnie," Richie would say into the mouthpiece.

The first night I rode home in Richie's car I noticed something. It was quiet. Many of the other drivers kept their radios on, pumping out of the back speakers, tuned to the party music station. I think they thought people liked it. I didn't. I'd just come from a loud, smokey bar where every thought, word or interaction was punctuated with music. Loud music.

I sat in the back, never behind the driver so as not to make him/her uncomfortable, and made small talk for a minute or so and then sank into the seat and my thoughts. After riding with Richie for about five minutes he asked me if I would mind if he put on some soft music. I said I didn't - with trepidation. He put on a jazz station. Not fusion. Jazz. Not Andreas Vollenweider. Thelonius Monk. I was a fan. I didn't know much but I knew what I liked. Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, Sun Ra, Ed Blackwell, Coltrane, Monk...many of whom I got to see play live at places like The Village Vanguard, Continental Divide and Town Hall. Monk played on the radio and Richie mentioned the fact that Monk was pretty much self-taught on the piano. I think he even said that Monk could not read music.

Richie had a soft way about him. I looked at him from behind and guessed him to be about 55 or so. Checked his eyes out in the rear view mirror. They looked clear and blue although I'm not sure. He wore his jet black hair in a sort of DA - slicked back. He also wore a black leather biker jacket. And still, he seemed soft. The car smelled like coffee and occasionally I would see him take a sip from the cup he had tucked away between his legs. There was something about the way he spoke that made me think he had peanut butter or a cookie stuck to the roof of his mouth. In a good way. It made me want to eat...well...peanut butter...or a cookie.

Richie soon became "my" driver. Every night when I called Brownstone, he would be the one sent over to pick me up. I loved it and began to rely on it. It was my favorite way to end my night of work. He'd have the radio going and a story at hand. I soon found out that Richie was, in fact, a drummer. And that he'd played with many jazz greats including Chet Baker. Richie regaled me with stories about music and food. He'd talk about his apartment and the little Italian joint up the street that he went to often for a bowl of spaghetti marinara with fresh basil and warm, crusty garlic bread. He was one of the first people I'd met that seemed so, so present.

One of the great stories he told me was about a time he was touring with Chet Baker - probably in the late 50's, early 60's - They were in Italy in a hotel lobby awaiting the arrival of Romano Mussolini (yes, Benito's son), who was an acclaimed jazz pianist and slated to join Chet Baker and his band on this leg of the tour. Before Romano arrived, Chet's bandmates talked to him about Romano and pleaded with him (though he was high on heroin at that moment) not to make any mention, WHATSOEVER!, of Mussolini's infamous father.

When Romano arrived, Chet was in a full junkie nod in one of the hotel lobby's cushy chairs. Richie said he elbowed Chet just as they all stood up to greet Romano and introduce themselves. They all shook hands and said their names and when they got to Chet, Richie introduced them -
"Romano Mussolini - Chet Baker. Chet Baker - Romano Mussolini."
And, he said, without missing a beat, a weary and very high Baker extended his hand and said -
"Wow, nice to meet you. Drag about your old man, huh?"

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

My mother spends a fair amount of time with me these days. She lives with my sister and her husband in Staten Island but comes to Brooklyn for her "meetings" at the local Knights of Columbus every other Friday. Recently, her sister Katherine was in a local Brooklyn hospital so she stayed with me so she could vist my aunt daily. I encouraged her to stay with me this week, too, even though Aunt Kay was discharged, because my brother-in-law is home on vacation for the week and I thought it might be nice for them to have a little privacy.

One of the conversations I have wth my mom every morning is about the weather (she's obsessed with the weather) and it always - always - always - goes something like this -

"hey mom, what's it like outside?" (I ask her this because she goes out for her coffee and the paper every morning at about 7am)

"well, it's cool...but not too cold. They said it's going to be 70-72 degrees today but then get verrrrry cold at night. It's not too cold but it's cool. You should bring a jacket but maybe take it off later because it's supposed to be very nice later. It's supposed to be a little cool, but not rain...partly cloudy. Sun and then no sun - low 60's and then Friday a chance of rain and then Saturday a possibility...a little sunshine...they're not predicting much rain...and then Sunday is supposed to be not the best...rain...on and off...expect more rain on Sunday. It could change. That's what they could change."

And then I say...

"Should I take an umbrella?"

Monday, May 12, 2008

It is what it is. People are saying that all the time these days.

They're also clipping their fingernails on the train and, as of late, applying make-up. Seriously, I saw a woman curling her eyelashes on the subway the other day right before she applied a generous coat of mascara. She was totally unabashedly doing her thing as if she was at home in her own bathroom. And that's far from the first time I've seen that. I'd actually have to say that I see some form of full make-up application on the trains at least once a week.
When I was a young girl I used to love to sit in the bathroom at our lake house while my mother, my Aunt Dot and my cousin Maureen stood at the long dressing table with the big round mirror in front of it and applied their make-up for the big Saturday night beach party down the road. The three of them smoked cigarettes and whenever they were excited about something, applying make-up and, especially, in the smoke-y company of each other, they would smoke like maniacs. The thing is - there they were - all three leaning forward towards the mirror - all at various stages of their make-up application - all drawing and painting and coating themselves while the cigarettes dangled in a yet-to-be lipsticked lip or burning away in the ashtray just beneath their faces - all three squinting in an effort to see their reflections through the smoke. They loved to take big, long drags right before they were about to speak because I think they liked the smoke that accompanied each word as they spoke them. And, just so they'd have alot to say, they'd preface those smokey sentences with catch phrases like "So, as I say..." or " So, whozzeewhatsis..."
I sat behind them and a little to their right on the toilet. They'd cap off all the making-up with the the final teasing of the hair followed by a generous spray of Aqua Net. Smoke, Aqua Net and eyeliner. It is what it is.