Saturday, December 23, 2006

Sharing and Caring

Sarie is visiting for the holidays. She is trying to convince me to move from Deacon's apartment, and live with Tina, who is looking for a roommate. Tina has an apartment in midtown NY...she also has an ENORMOUS dog. I like dogs but this one is too big. The story is that many years ago, Tina went to buy a puppy -- a chihuahua, actually.

However, once she locked eyes with this other cute puppy, she was hooked. It turned out that said cute, little, puppy grew up to be an ENGLISH MASTIFF. It's huge and it's mouth spews out streams of slobber, just like Fang in the Harry Potter movies. As a matter of fact, Tina has baskets of rags throughout the apartment. She calls them slobber rags and uses them to clean whatever the dog soiled with his Lovely.

SARIE: Don't worry about the dog; he doesn't slobber all the time.
ALICE: Oh? It sure looks like it.
SARIE: No. It will be fine, you'll see.
ALICE: Another thing. When I went to visit them, the apartment smelled, too much dog.
SARIE: Pshaw. That was because Tina hadn't been cleaning in a while.
ALICE: What? So you think I would enjoy being with a roommate who doesn't clean?
SARIE: Don't judge. She hasn't been cleaning because she's depressed.
ALICE: What? So you think I would enjoy being with a roommate who doesn't clean her dog's slobber AND is depressed? Why would that be a good situation for me?
SARIE: Well, she thinks you're fun and wants to hang out with you. It's not all bad. I mean she likes to go out and oh yes, she would sit around at night with you sharing a bottle of wine. That would be cool, no?

Well, I guess I've had worse offers, so I am considering it. But then, an image comes to mind of me -- being an excellent roommate -- walking the dog AND using a big ole garden shovel to scoop the poop.

Now a chihuahua! THAT would have been a no brainer.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

This Little Piggy

So, Alice here had three hours of sleep before it was time to return to work. Deacon had a holiday gathering last night and his friends brought their friends and so on and so forth. So it was a very late night -- or, rather, an extremely early morning.

It's not so bad arriving to work with a hangover. Really. It gives one a unique perspective on the mundane. And my office mates decided that the only way to shake off the boozetastic lethargy was to drink more. So, yep, that's what we did at lunch...finished off the eggnog -- without the doctors.

All was well; I was feeling better and alert and I was rushing to finish the day's paperwork. Then Office Mate #1 came running into my room to pick up some files.

OFFICE MATE #1: MAN! I have to be in turbo mode right now. I mean, the pig is high and I still have to get the blood.

Apparently, it isn't enough to know how to use a computer in this office -- even though we don't have a computer in this office. It seems not to matter whether one knows how to unjam belligerent copy machines. No. As far as I can tell, other duties as assigned apparently include some sort of sacrificial experience. Which I don't have -- yet.

So I decided not to worry about my office mate, a high pig, or blood. After all, I had to locate a file, which turns out to have been stored in the bathroom. I climbed into the tub and found it after five minutes.

I'm really good that way. Not for nothing, but that should count for something.

Yes, I am going to sleep very early tonight. Why do you ask?

If it had grown up,' she said to herself, 'it would have made a dreadfully ugly child; but it makes rather a handsome pig, I think.

--Alice in Wonderland

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Spending Quality Time

EGGNOG! That's the best way to get through a workday -- well at my office, anyway.

Office mate #2 brought in a big ole container of the stuff, which she had made just before she came to work.

Office mate #1 broke out the little cups used for urine samples-- yeah, pretty ugh, I know -- and we did a taste test. It was POTENT. Just like we needed it to be.

Office mate #1 offered some to the doctors and one accepted and the other declined. When she saw that we were laughing and a little too happy, she acted alarmed.

DOCTOR #2: I hope there is no alcohol in that eggnog!
OFFICE MATE #2: What! How can eggnog not have alcohol?
OFFICE MATE #1: Is it even called eggnog if it doesn't have the booze?
ALICE: Yeah, it would just be an egg float--or something.

Doctor #1 is very proud that he knows a lot about...a lot. So after taking seconds, he decided to impart some wisdom to us.

DOCTOR #1: You know eggnog is a shortened form for what was originally called "egg and grog in a noggin".

ALL OF US: Yeah, o.k. No more for you.

Then, it was time to stop the nogging because patients started arriving. As a matter of fact a couple was sitting in the waiting room -- holding hands.

OFFICE MATE #1: Alice, you don't know them but they are the sweetest lovebirds.
OFFICE MATE #2: Yeah, I love them.
ALICE: Oh, are they both here to see the doctor?
OFFICE MATE #1: Yes. You see, the woman is taking steps to change her gender; she will be the man.
OFFICE MATE #2: And her boyfriend wants to change his gender; he knows that he IS a woman.
ALICE: But...
OFFICE MATES #1 AND #2: Yeah, don't even worry about it.

So the buzz didn't last all afternoon -- as I had hoped. An hour, and probably 6,000 calories later, we were all back to a pre-inebriated state. Pity.

But there's enough left over for tomorrow, if we want to share some again.

Hmm. Well, is the pope...well, you know the rest.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Blameless in NY

Alice has finally fallen before the power of a severe cold. She put up the good fight but the cold brought in a reinforcement. Deacon's newest Warm Body has been coming over...too much...yeah, I m saying it, and she has always been sick. I mean in the congested, coughing, germ-y sense. But Deacon does not believe that Warm Body is the culprit.

DEACON: Oh, come on! Why is she to blame for your illness?
ALICE: No reason. I mean, I'm sure it doesn't count that every time she's here, she's coughing out green gunk.
DEACON: Well, that doesn't mean that she passed on the germs, right?
ALICE: Or that she's the only one I know who is sick right now...
DEACON: That doesn't mean anything...
ALICE: ...Or that I suspect that she has been using my toothbrush and my towel...
DEACON: Now, I think you just have it in for her. She's not sick. She told me she's o.k.
ALICE: Or how about that she always says, I'm so sick, instead of hello.
DEACON: Oh, she's just trying to be amusing.

Is it true love? No. It's just an annoying example of a sentiment expressed in a song which had these lyrics: If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with.

Oh wait! Warm Body is here. Again.

WARM BODY: Gah! I'm sick! I've been sick since September!

Alice looks to Deacon who is busy trying to find the cold medicine.

Alice just hopes that she can convince Deacon to insist that the next Warm Body after this one pass a medical exam from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

One Never Knows

Charlie is one of my building's doormen. He is affable and it is very easy to spend an hour chatting with him. One morning he had stopped me and we had a long talk, love, the pursuit of happiness. You know, the usual.

Charlie has been divorced for two years and was telling me about the new woman in his life. She is very special to him, he said, but if it came to choosing to keep a date with her or rushing to his ex-wife's house to take care of his two children, he wouldn't hesitate to do the daddy thing. His girlfriend is seemingly understanding. So far.

CHARLIE: After all, what woman wants to be number two, or three, or whatever in a guy's life?
ALICE: Well, she knows that you are a good father and if the kids need you to drop everything, she probably is happy that you are such a hands-on parent.
CHARLIE: Yeah, she's cool that way. And very secure. I really like her.

Charlie then told me a story about a long-ago tenant who was socially awkward and finally--at 42 years of age--spent a night with a woman.

No comment.

CHARLIE: Yeah, check this out! He met her one week. The next week he slept with her...
ALICE: How do you know this?
CHARLIE: He told me. He used to tell me everything. You know, doormen are like bartenders or therapists. Without the booze or the couch, of course.
ALICE: Yeah, I figured...
CHARLIE: Anyhoo, a few months later, he told me that she was pregnant and was taking him to court for child support. She didn't want to get married. She actually hated his guts! But he was very rich and she just wanted a piece of the money.
ALICE: Well. She slept with him just to get pregnant and get him to support her and the kid?
CHARLIE: Don't look so surprised! Don't be so naive! A lot of women would do that.
ALICE: I don't think that I could just...sleep with someone I loathed for money. I mean...
CHARLIE: Yeah, you probably are the type that believes in passion, romance, and
ALICE: Well, some sort of love!
CHARLIE: Good luck, baby. You could probably do a lot of things if you had to.
ALICE: No. For example, I could never eat those revolting wormy things that those people swallow for money on that television show.
CHARLIE: You wouldn't eat crap for lots of money?
CHARLIE: Well, I guess then that you really wouldn't sleep with someone that you didn't care about. It would be...
ALICE: Like eating worms! Yeah, just like that.
CHARLIE: You're weird!
ALICE: No kidding!

Then, for some curious reason, as I rode the elevator to the apartment, I kept on hearing this little refrain in my head: Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, guess I'll go eat worms...

Well, I do remember that I tasted a deep-fried cicada once. But I did have a feeling of affection for it. Yeah, I did.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Clearly Obscure

One of the more unpleasant tasks at work is filing. It would be alright if the patients' charts were computerized but the doctor has been following the same system for forty years and it's been working fine, thank us very much!

System? As far as I can tell, if one needs to find a file one can:

1. Look in this pile over here;
2. Look in that pile over there;
3. Look in those piles under here and there in the doctor's examining room;
4. Forget about it and make an new file.

So, whenever I or my co-workers find a file--on the very first try--it is always a bit of a celebration for us. Yes, I know, we're lame and stupid. But you take your successes wherever you can get them, at least in this office.

The other day co-worker #1 was frustrated. She had been looking for a file for ten minutes and she had been here, there, everywhere. As she has been doing for the last couple of weeks, she was loudly commenting that she needed to find a job in a normal office.

CO-WORKER#2: What constitutes a normal office?
CO-WORKER#1: You know! A place where one can hit a few keys on the computer and information pops up immediately and...wait, hold on! Oh my God, I found it!

After a few seconds of happiness, we got back to the serious matter at hand. Co-worker#1 was thinking about breaking up with her boyfriend of ten years. She had expected him to put a ring on her finger by now, but this is what he tells her: He likes the way things are. He's comfortable. He's content. He's not getting married. Maybe soon, but not yet. He can't find a good reason to commit himself at this moment. Maybe soon, but not yet.

I didn't know what to say to her so I followed co-worker#2's lead and joined her in murmuring what, apparently, co-worker#1 wanted to hear: oh, we're so sorry that you are sad after being mistreated by that man...for so many years. You deserve better.

Co-worker#1 thanked us for our undivided support. We paused for a few seconds to mourn the possible demise of affair. Co-worker#1 then looked at us and smiled.

CO-WORKER#1: But, hey, things are not so bad. I found the Parker file!

I really need to find another place to work. Soon.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Reductio Ad Nauseum

`How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
`You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'

--Alice in Wonderland

I went out for shampoo this morning and ended up spending several hours shopping for the holidays. I really didn't want to shop today; I just wanted--needed--shampoo.

But I passed a store and thought about the person who would love a gift from that very place, so I went inside. This lead to thinking about other people and other "insides" and before I knew it, I returned to Deacon's apartment laden with packages. And frustrated -- no shampoo.

Before I left the apartment this morning I had gone upstairs to make coffee and noticed...once again...that Deacon's cats had left a mess of throw-up. There were two rubber bands and one small square of cellophane mixed in with the yuck. I usually just clean these messes but I also noticed a certain opened feminine "product" that was lying on the wood floor with its short string seemingly pointing to the cat's gifts.

Now Frisky and Fatty are girl cats but...

So the latest warm body to grace Deacon's room is just a bit too comfortable and free-spirited for my sensibilities. Someone else had once mentioned this person's proclivity to leaving such things around the place. So I just decided to let all the girls just clean up after themselves. Which is how I found myself forgetting the shampoo. I guess that I had received one too many presents this morning and subconsciously felt that it really was better to give than to receive. This morning anyway.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Just Needed A Greek Chorus

Deacon was expecting a visitor from the past, a young man of Greek heritage who was eager to rekindle a friendship that had existed about five years ago. We had always called him Adam, though he was born a George. When the doorman announced his arrival, he said that a "Jason" was coming upstairs.

Anyway, Adam/George/Jason hadn't changed much, although he was now the father of a two-year-old daughter. After sharing a pizza, we decided at midnight to go to a bar in the East Village where a friend of a friend was having a birthday celebration. We arrive and it is PACKED with people. Adam/George/Jason doesn't look comfortable but I stay with him as we stand flattened against a wall, as the press of people make it difficult for us to follow Deacon to the bar. We wait for him to come back with drinks.

Birthday Girl and friends miraculously find me and I introduce everyone to Adam/George/Jason. Then they disperse...some to go outside to smoke, others to the bar to replenish their drinks. We wait for Deacon.

Adam/George/Jason is muttering under his breath.

A/G/J: I'm too old for this.
ALICE: For what? Being at a bar?
A/G/J: Yeah, it's too crowded and noisy and...not fun.
ALICE: We just got here. We'll find a place to sit and have our drinks and talk to the friends.
A/G/J: Yeah. Sounds good.

I see that Birthday Girl is coming back inside, her friends are following her, and Deacon has appeared with drinks in hand. We find seats at the bar and everything is now cozy except... Adam/George/Jason is gone.

We think that he went outside. No. We think that he's in the men's room. No. Wherever Deacon looks, no Adam/George/Jason. He doesn't answer his phone or his text message.

We stay at the bar for a while and when it is time to leave, Deacon does one last look around the place, in case his friend was playing a rather perverse game of hide-and-seek. But -- nothing. No Adam. No George. No Jason. We have misplaced all three.

He was supposed to have spent the night with us at the apartment, but when I arrived there, I saw that his car was gone. I can only surmise that his unhappiness at being at the bar caused him to go loco and run away, without saying goodbye. It has been three days, and Deacon has not been able to reach him.

All the world 's a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances...

Last night, Harry and some friends were visiting and Deacon was telling them the baffling story of Adam/George/Jason. Harry was very tired and he was sporting a rather odd haircut.

ALICE: Did you have your hair cut because the job demanded it?
HARRY: My friend cut it. I know it's uneven.
ALICE: Why did you let a friend do that?
HARRY: Well, you see, we got drunk and were fooling around and things got hot and heavy, so he cut my hair.

So. Here we have it. One friend doesn't know how to say goodbye. The other one doesn't seem to know that hot and heavy should lead to an "s" word -- and it certainly isn't scissors.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Telling It Like It Is

I was returning from the local bodega when I passed a young man who was talking on a cell phone. He was leaving a message for his lucky girlfriend -- or boyfriend.

SWAIN: HEY! Pick up or I'll shove the phone up your ass when I see you!

Now how can one resist such a lothario, yeah?

Not too long ago, a woman I don't really know was showing off her engagement ring to a group of friends. At some point during the evening, she came over to me and stuck out her left hand for me to admire her ring. It was lovely. However, the man she is marrying is not. They always seem to be arguing. Furiously. Violently. Long-termly. But, I murmured the proper words that included congratulations, so happy, lucky you, at last, and run for your life! No, those last four words were not uttered--aloud, anyway. After all, it was best not to tell her the truth of the matter because, as Oscar Wilde once wrote, A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.

I looked around for the husband-to-be. She saw this and told me that he had stayed home while she went out to celebrate her engagment with her girlfriends.

BRIDE-TO-BE: He's so cute! He was so nervous that he had to drink-- a whole lot-- and get into a big fight with me before he got the nerve to ask me. He got down on one knee and when I said yes, he jumped up and fell over. He banged his head on the table and knocked himself out. So he's home sleeping it off.

Now that is the most romantic proposal I have ever heard.

Bride-to-be then asked me several questions:

1. Do I have to wear the ring every day?
2. Do I have to return it if I don't marry him?
3. It's too big. Should I go have it fixed?
4. Can I just stay engaged? Forever?

Hmm. This is a woman in love. So, I offered advice.

1. Yes.
2. Yes.
3. Uh, yeah.
4. Yes. No. Maybe.

Bride-To-Be's best friend then told me that for her wedding, she wanted The Women to get really dressed up in beautiful 1940's-type dresses.

ALICE: Oh, of course. When are you getting married?
BEST FRIEND: Well, I don't have a man in my life, yet. I'm just thinking ahead. So remember to keep the date open.
ALICE: Date? When is it?
BEST FRIEND: Well, one year after I get engaged.
ALICE: But you just said you don't even have a boyfriend, let alone a fiance.

She walked away and left me with Bride-to-Be, who was still asking questions.

BRIDE-TO-BE: But, Alice, why should I give the ring back if we don't get married?
ALICE: Because. It's a promise that you made when you accepted...
BRIDE-TO-BE: Excuse me, I didn't promise him nothing, okay?
ALICE: Well, not in words, but in action. You took his ring and...
BRIDE-TO-BE: It's not his. It's mine. He gave it to me.

I realized that this group had been drinking for too long before I came along so it was best to just tell her what she wanted to hear.

The truth. It is rarely pure and never simple. That's what Oscar would have said had he been there. Actually, that's what he did say. Once.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Perchance to Dream

"That he's mad, 'tis true, 'tis true 'tis pity,
And pity 'tis 'tis true."

--From Hamlet

Eddie called me up to say goodbye. Goodbye? Wherever are you going? That's what I asked. It turned out that he and some friends were driving to Virginia where they were going to skydive -- his very first time. His father had tried to lure him away from this folly. Money. A trip to Europe. A tantrum. A faked heart attack. Nothing swayed Eddie. He was going to throw himself from a plane while attached to an experienced jumper. So he was saying goodbye to case, you know?

ALICE: Well, Eddie, you have called me before...when you were going bungee jumping, when you were going to run with the bulls in Pamplona, when you were going spelunking, and when you were going to learn how to scuba dive in Egypt. When does this end?
EDDIE: Don't worry, I thought long and hard about this and I had a plan to back out of it, if I needed to do that.
ALICE: What plan?
EDDIE: Well, when I went to sleep last night I promised myself that if I had a dream of Calpurnia urging Caesar to stay away from the Curia, then I wouldn't go.
ALICE: THAT was your plan?
EDDIE: Yes, because had Caesar listened to the little woman, he wouldn't have been stabbed all those times. He should've listened.
ALICE: THAT was your plan?
EDDIE: Yes. But, I didn't have that dream, so here I go. And it isn't March 15th so that's good, too, right?
ALICE: What does your girlfriend have to say about this?
EDDIE: Oh, she's right here! She's doing this too.
GIRLFRIEND: Hi! Isn't this exciting?
ALICE: Incredibly. Did you also have an "exit" plan for this outing?
GIRLFRIEND: Oh, yes! You know that pillow crease on the cheek that one wakes up with some mornings?
ALICE: Uh, yeah.
GIRLFRIEND: Well, if I woke up with one today, then I would have insisted that Eddie and I stay home.
ALICE: THAT was your plan?
GIRLFRIEND: Yeah, because every time I wake up with that line on my face, something bad happens to me.

So unlined Girlfriend and Calpurnia-free Eddie jumped, and lived to tell the tale.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


On my way to work, I stopped to pick up a green tea latte at a shop. There were three people ahead of me. Three women. Friends. They were discussing someone named Mitch.

1ST WOMAN: Oh, he's so much fun! I love him!
2ND WOMAN: YEAH! I do, too.
3RD WOMAN: He's wonderful! He's gay, you know.
1ST WOMAN: Gay? He's not gay. You think he's gay?
3RD WOMAN: Yeah. I do. In fact, I know it.
2ND WOMAN: He's not gay! He's just ... peppy.

As I was walking to the office, I saw a man--a rather disheveled man--coming toward me. He was singing. Loudly. Joyfully. These are some of the words: AMERICA IS GREAT! NEW YORK IS THE BEST PLACE! Actually they were the only words.

He sang these, er, lyrics three more times before he reached me. Then, still singing, he leaned over me and pretended to be biting my left shoulder. He incorporated this gnawing at me into the song, which now went: AMERICA IS GREAT! NEW YORK IS THE BEST PLACE! NYAH, NYAH, NYUM!

As I reached the front door, my cell phone rang. It was Harry. I love hearing from Harry. He's wonderful.

He's friend.

Just a sample morning in the world of Alice.

An author doesn't necessarily understand the meaning of his own story better than anyone else.

--Alice in Wonderland

Monday, November 13, 2006

'Keep your temper,' said the Caterpillar.

After several days away from the office, I returned to find that the phones weren't working. That is, incoming calls weren't getting through, though we could call people if we wanted. I didn't. I liked that the phones weren't ringing off the hook. I liked that we could catch up on all the work without interruption.

What I didn't like was that the doctors wanted us to listen to the messages. There were seventy of them. Yes. And this was before the afternoon. Seventy people with questions, complaints and garbled messages. Those that weren't incomprehensible were strident.

PHONE CALLER: I want to make an appointment. Where are you people? Don't you know how to answer the phone? Anyway, I'm feeling tired and I think I need a blood test. I expect to be called back! I mean it! It's a workday, so why aren't you answering the phone?

My office mate told me to disregard the cranky voice because it belonged to a woman who was a hypochondriac.

OFFICE MATE: And, she also drinks her urine.
ALICE: What?
OFFICE MATE: Yeah, we have a number of patients who drink their urine.

I had no words.

A very nervous patient, who calls all the time, left a message that he had an appointment tomorrow, but wanted to be called back to talk about another possible date to come in.

NERVOUS PATIENT: BUT DON'T CANCEL MY APPOINTMENT! I'm not asking you to cancel. I just want you to call back and tell me if there are other times. DON'T CANCEL!

A few minutes later, a fax comes through. It's from the nervous patient. It said: DON'T CANCEL MY APPOINTMENT! CALL ME BACK!

So, that's what I do. Nervous Patient says he is so happy to hear from someone because he wasn't sure if we would get the message. Oh, we got the message alright. Calls, faxes...I was surprised the guy didn't owl us with the news.

ALICE: So, how can I help you?
NERVOUS PATIENT: Does the doctor have another day and time when he sees patients?
ALICE: Yes. Next week?
NERVOUS PATIENT: Great! I'll take it!
ALICE: So, you were calling because you wanted to cancel your appointment and reschedule?
NERVOUS PATIENT: No, that's not what I wanted. But since you offered, I might as well take it.

His call was number three. I had sixty-seven more to go.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

No Room...No Room!

I was invited to dinner with family friends who were visiting New York City. I was to meet them at an Italian restaurant in the Village. When I arrived, expecting to see only two people seated at a small table, I was shown to a large one where seven were sitting and polishing off a second bottle of wine.

FAMILY FRIENDS: Ah! Alice! Sit, sit, sit!

I managed to squeeze into a chair at the end of the long table. One of the men at the table looked at me and asked, Who are you? It's a good thing we weren't at a hookah bar, that's all I'm saying.

FAMILY FRIENDS: Everyone! This is...Alice. Alice, this is...everyone!
ALICE: Well, this does make it easier to remember your names.
EVERYONE: Hello! How are you! Happy to meet you!

They spoke as one and I was marvelling at my first encounter with synchronized speech. Then they returned to the conversation I had interrupted. Now, they spoke one at a time. It concerned losing bone mass as one ages. Well, I've heard worse dinner conversations.

FAMILY FRIEND #1: Well, I know that I have shrunk at least two inches in height since I was a teenager.
FAMILY FRIEND #2: You always say that! But I think you're wrong.
FAMILY FRIEND #1: No, I'm not! I'm not as tall as I was. You can't tell me it's not true.
FAMILY FRIEND #2: It isn't! You're just walking humped over like some old thing. You're not old yet, so stand up straight, for fuck's sake!

The women at the table agreed with Family Friend #1. They said they also have noticed they aren't as tall as they once were. The men scoffed and laughed at their wives. I had nothing to say on the matter because I was still trying to figure out who these people were, and I'm still the height I was...forever. The battle raged on.

FAMILY FRIEND #1: And just think, in twenty years, I'll probably shrink even more.
FAMILY FRIEND #2: Yeah. It's called decomposing!

One of the men at the table looked at me and saw that I wasn't drinking.

MAN: Do you want more wine?
ALICE: More? Well, I haven't had any yet.

He seemed to lose interest in me then and turned back to the others and added his two cents to the osteo-centric conversation.

I ordered lamb chops, as did the man who offered me the non-existent wine. Everyone else ordered osso bucco. Yeah. They did.

MAN: What! We both ordered the same dish? Why, we have a bond!
ALICE: Er...o.k.
FAMILY FRIEND #1: See? I knew that you two would get along!

The dinner lasted two hours, and at one point I felt that Family Friend #2 might suddenly announce, Clean glass, clean glass, move one seat down! Yup. It was that kind of night.

And, I never did get any wine.

'I've had nothing yet,' Alice replied in an offended tone, 'so I can't take more.'
"'You mean you ca'n't take less,' said the Hatter, 'it's very easy to take more than nothing.'

-- Alice in Wonderland

Monday, November 06, 2006

Running Around

So many people who are members of my local gym, seem to have been in the crowd running in the NYC Marathon on Sunday. And they were proud--as they should be. One man walked in and shouted, 3:51, baby! Someone had to clue me in about the number being the time it took him to run the full length of the marathon.

I am impressed. I was running on the treadmill and I wanted to stop after three minutes. Killer Trainer said no, keep running. I said something like, MAKE ME...and she did. Two minutes more. Yep, I amaze myself at how I exceed expections! I think I'm getting the hang of this gym business...

So all the talk of running reminded me of something I had read about last year. It seems that a female track star from Zimbabwe, who had won a gold medal from a competition that had been held in Botswana, was a MAN. Named Samukaliso Sithole.

One of female friends was told about this by another friend who knew the truth, and she freaked. She went to court and Sithole was chared with crimen injuria, or psychological offense. The former friend complained that her sexuality and dignity was compromised because she had told Sithole secrets, even feeling comfortable enough to be talking and walking naked around her. Er, him.

Sithole defended himself by telling the judge that he was born congenitally deformed and that his family had taken him to a witchdoctor, who gave him “female status” through a spell. But the spell didn’t work because Sithole’s family didn’t pay the full fee. I hate when that happens.

So Sithole, still thinking he was pulling off being a girl, was getting ready to travel with a group of women to a track meet in the city of Bulawayo, when the jig was up. Police were summoned. S/he decided to make a run from the police but was caught. The police then checked his bits, and bob’s yer uncle!

So, these things come to mind:

1. I have several female friends that I trust enough to tell them secrets--of sorts. But would I actually prance around in front of them naked, all the while chatting about this and that? Umm. NO!

2. So Sithole was a track virtuoso. But he sprinted from the train station and the police CAUGHT him. Easily. Man, how fast is considered fast in Zimbabwe? That gold medal must be sh*t.

3. Can’t shake the feeling that the dude’s name is missing a letter.

4. Jeez. The Sithole family should have saved their money. That witchdoctor sucked. Maybe they should have gone to Harry Potter. Now, he knows about spells!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Paper Covers Rock

Adele had been away on business for two days. As soon as she returned from Connecticut last night, she came over to the apartment. Deacon, his girlfriend, and I were watching a movie…at least Deacon and Girlfriend were because I was lying on the couch wiped out from staying out very late the night before, getting up early, and getting pummeled by the trainer at the gym. So I was watching and snoozing.

Adele looked quite pulled together, wearing charcoal trousers, grey sweater, and polished three-inch boots. I summon non-existent energy to get up and greet her.

ADELE: I have decided that I am now in my looking for a husband mode.
ALICE: Again?
ADELE: Well…yes. I go in cycles, you know. Adele cycles.
ALICE: So, we are back to the beginning.
ADELE: Yeah, when I first met you, I told you I was looking for a husband. Now, this minute, I’m doing the same thing.

Deacon and his girlfriend each rush off to different parts of the apartment. They are very familiar with this cycle of Adele-ness, and just don’t want to talk about it. Again. Adele then tells me all the reasons she wants a husband. I am so tired – it is midnight – and I really am trying to give her all my attention. But, I apparently fall asleep while she is talking, though she doesn’t notice because she is still talking when I wake up. I nod and make all the proper noises that a person who is keenly following someone’s discussion makes.

ADELE: So, after hearing all this, what do you think?
ALICE: Well. Um. Hey! Are you hungry? Do you want to get some samosas?
ADELE: Oh, god, yes. I would love some!

I know my Adele. Yes, there is her looking-for-a-husband cycle. But the I love samosas probably more than I love looking for a husband trumps it. Every time.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

One, Two, Three...OW!

This morning was my first meeting with a trainer at my local gym. She turned out to be amusing, charming, and helpful. Oh, yes. She also did not listen to me when I told her that I wanted to go very slowly with this exercising business. So she is also a KILLER.

Just sit on this bike for a little bit, she said. The little bit was not little. Just lie on this mat for a few little movements, just to get you started, she said. They were not a few little anythings, and I wanted to get ended!

After crunches, squats using a Swiss ball, and lifting humongo weights--o.k. they were only three pounds, but still--she made me lie down on a slab and began a few minutes of stretching me. Now I can imagine what people in the Middle Ages felt when they were sentenced to the rack.

TRAINER: O.k. Alice. Can you feel this stretching here?
TRAINER: Great! How about here?
TRAINER: Excellent! What about this? And this? Oh, and here?

When it was all over, Trainer walked me to the front door, gave me a big hug, and told me that I was to meet with her three times a week. Yeah, sure.

TRAINER: Oh, Alice?
TRAINER: So, just want to let you know that today I was being real nice and going real slow because you're new at this, but from now on, it's gonna be hard work, baby! No more mercy for you!

A killer. And I get to pay her for it, too.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

"We're All Mad Here"

When I arrived at work, I found out that I was to spend the day working without my two office colleagues. One of the doctors had decided not to hire a temp for the day because, as he told me, It won't be too busy today. We can handle it without extra help.

Yes, yes, of course. I knew right then that we would have a Who Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest type of day.

All the phone numbers were ringing at the same time. There were so many patients, we ran out of chairs. Well, how about that. We really hadn't needed a temp...we should have hired a beefy bouncer named...oh, I don't know...Bruno, to stand at the door and make decisions about who came in or not.

And then there were The Questions. Oy!

A PATIENT: How long before the doctor finishes talking to the patient that's in there? How many minutes? I'm impatient.
ALICE: Oh, sorry, have you been waiting long?
A PATIENT: No, I'm early for my appointment.
ALICE: Oh? What time is your appointment.
A PATIENT: Three o'clock.
ALICE: But, it's one o'clock.
A PATIENT: Yeah, I know. I don't have anything better to do.

A Phone call:

CALLER: I want to see the doctor. I'm a new patient. It has to be next week-- on a Tuesday -- and it's gotta be at noon, you know?

When I told this caller that there were no appointments open until December, he didn't speak for a few seconds.

CALLER: Nah, nope, can't wait that long. So what do I have to do to get this appointment? I'm a busy man so I need fast action. Who do I talk to about getting it?
ALICE: Well, I guess you could talk to Bruno.

Then someone came in who only spoke Korean.

Enough said.

Finally, toward the end of the day, a patient calls and says that she is scheduled for blood tests tomorrow and was told that she couldn't have any tylenol.

PATIENT: You know, I have a BIG headache. Could you ask the doctor if I could take anything else, like morphine or opium. Or should I not take anything and just writhe all night?

At last, an intriguing question.

I researched this...which meant asking the doctor. Then I called her back.

ALICE: Hi! Does your boyfriend live with you?
PATIENT: Yeah, why?
ALICE: Well, so that it shouldn't be a total waste...

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Feel the Burn

Earlier, I went to sign up at the local gym and Wonder Woman was the person who took all my information. Then she turned me over to Blackbeard the Pirate who tried to sell me on the idea of hiring a personal trainer for ten weeks.

PIRATE: Hey! First, how often have you ever worked out in a gym?
ALICE: Um...never.
PIRATE: Well, how often have you ever worked out...not in a gym?
ALICE: Never.
PIRATE: Hmm. Well, how often have you just done a little exercise?
ALICE: That would be...never.
PIRATE: Have you ever just stood in a gym?
ALICE: Only today. Hang on, though! I am sitting not standing, so the answer is...never. Are you getting the whole picture?
PIRATE: Yeah. Okay. Well, why now? Why are you in this gym?
ALICE: Oh, I don't know, really. Sometimes there are no good answers to questions, you know? For example, has anyone ever come up with an acceptable response to, Why is a raven like a writing desk? Heck, no. Let me tell you, if I knew all the answers I would lead a different life, eh?
ALICE: Never mind.

So, it was decided that I should have a trainer help me, for a little while anyway, because left on my own, I would probably just do two jumping jacks and call it a day. After that I was turned over to Beelzebub, who explained all the small print and then handed me a pen.

BEELZEBUB: Now sign here for me, sweetie. Sign here and forfeit your soul to me!
ALICE: You people do take halloween a little too seriously around here, yes?
BEELZEBUB: Just sign on the dotted line, already!

I did. I was also a bit worried that I would need to give blood to seal the deal, but Beelzebub didn't bring it up and I wasn't going to remind him. As I left, Little Red Riding Hood was standing by the door with her basket filled with candy.

Honestly! As if trying to tempt me with sweets while I was at the gym was a good thing. I didn't cave, thank you very much.

I waited until I was a block away before I looked for a drugstore to buy chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate.

I'm seeing the trainer on Saturday. She'll know what to do with me.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Be Still, My Heart

Well, I thought that I could get away without having to go to this year’s haunted house extravaganza in downtown New York. Last year’s experience was bad enough, but this time, I KNOW what to expect -- and it isn’t good, for the heart or the nerves. I don’t like to be scared! I don’t want to be scared! But my sister is the one who arranged this newest excursion to Psycho Clan’s 2006 production, and I can’t say no to her because…well…because it would scare me to do so. Yup. I’d rather die of fright in that haunted environment than tell my sister that I won’t do it. She wouldn’t accept it anyway.

SISTER: Well, don’t forget about tonight!
ALICE *pretending*: Forget? Oh. About what?
SISTER: Going to the Nightmare show! You forgot?
ALICE : Oh, is that tonight? Well, I’ve read that it’s so popular that it’s impossible to get tickets, so I guess we’ll have to wait until next…
SISTER: Don’t worry! I’ve already gotten them and we have to be there at 7:30. I’m so excited. Aren’t you?
ALICE: Yeah. Excited. That’s me, alright.

It doesn’t help that this show is new and improved with better ways to horrify even the most jaded New Yorker. My sister promised that afterwards, our group would go to a bar to have a drink and laugh about the experience. Maybe I can convince her that it makes more sense to go to the bar before the show. And laugh during the experience.

But, on second thought, it’ll be better to have a level head. After all, I’ve seen those movies – with lots of people around me – where some dumbass group walks through a haunted house and, believing that it’s all a joke, meet their doom because their spidey senses are not functioning. That won’t be me. Nope. I will on full alert, and if our group finds itself in a situation where all bets are off, I’m handing over my sister to the ghouls and running out of there like a bat out of hell.

Wait! What am I saying! I’m afraid of bats!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Michaelangelo Never Had to Do This

I went to stay with my friend Jane in Washington, D.C. because we were going to attend an art opening of her work. We were going to drink champagne and eat really cute food and talk to lovely artist-y people; I really wanted this.

We left an hour before we had to be there because Jane was driving and it's only fifteen minutes away. Well, we spent fifty minutes--yep, that's 50 minutes--looking for a parking spot. We were resigned but not defeated. We knew that we would find one...soon. Actually, we prayed that we would find one...soon. Then we could rush into the building, throwing kisses and laughing with everyone about the PARKING SITUATION, as the gallery manager pressed champagne flutes into our hands.

However, no spot opened up. Hmm. Plan B was for me to drop Jane off and I would park the car. Somewhere. We drove in front of the building and we saw that it was dark. What? Where's the champagne? Where's the food? Where's the lovely artist-y people? Where's the art?

Next week. That's where.

So we drove home. Not really speaking because what is there to say, except, thanks for bringing me here from New York City so we could be driving in circles for an hour. I feel rejuvenated.

Because of an accident, there was a traffic bottleneck on Jane's street; it was bumper to bumper and we were ANOTHER hour just...sitting. Then it began to rain. Yeah. Then it began to thunder. Uh huh. Then there were very bright, sharp bursts of lightening. Alrighty. Then it began to hail. Of course. I was expecting locusts but they apparently were busy somewhere else. Then the winds picked up and later we found out they were almost 50 mph gusts. I mean, where is a cellar when you need one, huh? Great! So this is how the end of the world ends for me. Stuck in a car in a traffic jam. And we were NOT going to be singing and dancing with munchkins at the end of it all. How pedestrian an ending.

Eventually, we began to move -- an inch or two. We were only five houses away from Jane's house, but 40 minutes later, we were there. We had called her husband to let him know of our troubles. He was waiting for us with a large shrimp and pesto pizza, and he had white wine and he looked a bit abashed and said that while it wasn't the gallery, he hoped that it was alright.

So here I was. Wine, food, and talk with lovely people; one of them actually an artist. And she does have art all over her house. It was perfect.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Take Two Aspirins

I am always learning on the job, every single time.

One first phone call of the day was from a patient I knew was expected to come into the office later in the afternoon. It was news to him.

PATIENT: Hey, I want to cancel my appointment for tomorrow, alright?
ALICE: Your appointment is for today.
PATIENT: No, it isn't, it's for tomorrow. I wrote it down. Here it is, yeah, it's at 2:00 on Thursday.
ALICE: Well, today IS Thursday.

Then I hear him shout to someone.

PATIENT: Ma! Did you know today was Thursday?
MA: Wha? Yeah, I did!
PATIENT: Why didn't you tell me?
MA: What am I, your mother?
PATIENT: Yeah you are! Cut it out, Ma!

After Alice, patient, and Ma get all this sorted out, the phone rings again. It's from a young woman who wanted to leave a message for one of the doctors. Apparently she had forgotten to tell the doctor about one long-standing problem she has been having for weeks.

It seems that every morning at 5 a.m., this patient wakes up burning hot. So hot that she is sizzling. So hot that she wakes up her boyfriend.

HOT PATIENT: So, what do you think this is?
ALICE: I can't answer that, I really don't know.
HOT PATIENT: Well, you know, my boyfriend always says, why are you so freakin' hot?
ALICE: And he doesn't mean it in the good sense.
HOT PATIENT: Yeah! Exactly!
ALICE: Well, I'll leave a note for the doctor and...
HOT PATIENT: Wait, I haven't finished telling you.
ALICE: There's more?
HOT PATIENT: Yeah, I am so hot that I jump up from the bed and tear off my clothes.

At this point, I wanted to ask something along the lines of, and does hot sex ensue?

But, I am at the doctor's office and I do have to maintain a professional demeanor, and why is the boyfriend annoyed?

I promised Hot Patient that I would leave an EXPLICIT note for the doctor and moved on to another call. Apparently, people are asking for me by name because...well, I don't know why they want to talk to me.

This third patient starts out with a lowered voice.

THIRD PATIENT: Hi, sweetheart. You know, I feel like I can confide in you.
ALICE: Oh, well, please don't that.
THIRD PATIENT: Oh, no, sweetheart, it's important that a patient feel comfortable and I do. But, listen, I seem to have a problem with going.
ALICE: Going? Where?
THIRD PATIENT: You know. To the potty.
THIRD PATIENT: Yeah, sweetheart, sometimes it seems like it's stuck. You know, in there. And no matter what I do, it won't come out.

Well, I never wanted to be a doctor. And now I really know why.

THIRD PATIENT: Sweetheart. My late grandma had a recipe for this. She told people in her village who had this problem to swallow a tablespoon of oil. Wait a bit. Try again. That's all. Do you think I should do this?

I promised Third Patient that I would leave an EXPLICIT note for the doctor.

Yes, yes, I am learning plenty on the job.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Double Indemnity

The medical transcriptionist came to the office to pick up the latest batch of files she has to...well, transcribe. Her name is Marjorie and I was in for a surprise when she arrived. Her manner of dress, her long wavy dark hair, her makeup, her dominant jewelry, and her demeanor suggested film noir.

Why, even the office lost its colors and became a world of grey, black, and white. The venetian blinds on the windows were drawn and closed, which is amazing because the windows don’t have blinds.

Marjorie walked in languidly and I think that the doctor said to us:

DR: She has the look of a dame who spells trouble, with a lower case “t”. She could make men murder from love and then pay the price.

But maybe I misheard.

Anyway, Marjorie did not have a sultry voice; it was rather worn and raspy, as if she had spent too many years smoking and…um…well, doing other things that annoy the throat.

She only had eyes for the male doctor in the group, and he smiled and gave her the files and smiled some more.

When she left, she stopped to smooth out her stockings and didn’t even say goodbye. I think the doctor said to us:

DR: I didn’t get the money and I didn’t get the woman.

But maybe I misheard.

Now that I think of it, that probably is a line from some movie. Yeah. I’m sure of it.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Sticks and Stones

A friend had been at an LSAT class in the neighborhood, so she stopped by the apartment afterwards late last night. I am always happy to see Dana because we can talk and laugh about anything and everything. This is how she started the conversation:

DANA: My mother is a liar, and a whore.

We heard about the liar part…something to do with money that her mother had said she didn’t have but really did. But Deacon and I were waiting to hear about the other part; Dana, however, didn’t continue.

ALICE: So…um…what about her being a whore?
DEACON: Yeah! How did you figure that?
DANA: Oh, she is such a liar.
ALICE: But that doesn’t make her a whore, you know.
DANA: Yeah. But that’s what I want to call her. Because she’s a liar.
ALICE: I see.

So my logical friend then started talking about her ex-boyfriend, Tate. She had phoned him recently, after not speaking for over a month. She told us that she missed him terribly and that she needed to see him.

ALICE: Well, when are you two meeting again?
DANA: Oh, I can’t see him until I lose ten pounds!
ALICE: What?
DANA: Yeah, I gained ten pounds since he last saw me and I don’t want him to see me fat!
ALICE: But, that could take some time, and Tate will think that you aren't interested. Just having a texting relationship is not…satisfying, no? And you are NOT fat.
DANA: Do you have any cookies?

Right before she left, Dana looked at herself in the mirror.

DANA: Ugh. I’m so fat. I’m a whore. I’m a fat whore.

I think that for her birthday, I will buy a dictionary for Dana.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Went Out to Buy Milk, but...

I was with Val all day yesterday. We had been walking around and had decided to visit a tiny store that only sold headwear and accessories. Val was seriously shopping for a hat but I was just playing around, trying on different ones on and running over to her and speaking in the voice of the character that would have worn such a hat. So I was Rocky--Bullwinkle's squirrel friend--Sherlock Holmes, Nanook, a 40's flapper, and a jockey, among others.

We were laughing and the owner of the shop was staring at us, displeased that we were not showing the proper reverence for the "toppers".

The last hat Val tried on was really cute and it looked great on her. A man standing next to us looked at Val and said that in that hat she reminded him of a certain celebrity.

ALICE: Oh. Who?
MAN: What's her name. You know. The one with the eyelashes.
VAL: You don't mean Liza Minelli, do you?
MAN: YEAH! That's her!

Val doesn't look even remotely like Liza. She doesn't even want to look like her. Remotely or not. She was rather insulted and decided not to buy the hat.

VAL: Why does that fool think I look like her?
ALICE: Oh, maybe because of the spikey eyelashes you wear?
VAL: Yeah. Or maybe because of the dependence I have on drugs and alcohol.
ALICE: Or maybe, just maybe, it's because of your unbridled need to be married to a gay man who makes a very good punching bag. Or so he says.

We were still laughing loudly as we headed for the door. The owner of the shop cleared her throat and caught our attention. She's probably going to say, have a good afternoon, I thought.

OWNER: Thank you, ladies, for visiting.

But she couldn't keep the fuck you and never come here again tone out of her voice.

So. We didn't belong in that store. We were contrite, really we were. Then we decided to go to another store where we really didn't belong: Prada.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Mutant Power!

Last night Vicky and Harry came over to “hang out.” As soon as they arrived, Vicky turned on the television and began watching some forensic science style of show. This kind of visit is difficult because Vicky seems to only want to speak in tongues during her programs: psst, shush, tsk, shh, SHUSH! Even during commercials; she does NOT want anyone talking to her. Nope. No interruptions or interactions, or you get the talk that only snakes can understand.

Except for one thing.

A few minutes into the program, she falls asleep. As does Harry. Why do they visit? I guess they need the rest.

Last year, they both came to spend some days with me in Washington, D.C. and I couldn't wait to see them. Once they arrived, they asked to go sightsee at the Smithsonian Museum. They begged—begged—me to agree to see a 20-minute show in the planetarium; it cost $8.00 each. I was skeptical that they really wanted to see this but they insisted.

So, $24.00 later, we were seated. I was in the middle, Harry to my left and Vicky to my right. The lights dimmed and this absolutely fabulous show of night sky with stars and planets and moons zooming across assaulted the senses. Loudly. Laurence Fishburne was the narrator and during a spectacular look at the canyons on Mars, I said to my friends, "How nice that Morpheus is speaking to us about space." I looked at Harry and saw that he was...sleeping. I looked at Vicky and saw that she was...sleeping.

After 15 more minutes and $16.00 worth of sleep, the show was over.

Apparently, just being near me is a great soporific event. Why, that could be my superpower! Think of the possibilities. Anywhere hostilities break out, send me. Oh, yeah. Although the sounds of war would be loud and clear, they would be something like this: Zzzzzzz.

Friday, October 20, 2006


The end of the week is always an extremely hectic time in the office because patients seem to wait until Fridays before it occurs to them to get prescription refills. They also try to lure the doctors to the phone to make allowances for them after they are informed that an appointment won't be available for a month or so. When they can't get the doctor to take the call, they want to shoot the breeze with us and ask questions that only a doctor could--and should--answer.

PATIENT: Listen, sweetheart, I know the doctor can't come to the phone but have you ever heard of this procedure: a needle is stuck in one's throat. This is for a thyroid test. Have you ever heard of this? Hah?
ALICE *not wanting to think about this*: Only on CSI.

So I was losing my mind trying to keep up with the patients who were on hold on the phone when the very last number that had been free, rang. It was my office mate's boyfriend. When told that she was stuck on a long conversation with a woman who spoke Ukrainian, the boyfriend was surprised.

BOYFRIEND: But Joanie doesn't speak Ukrainian.
ALICE: Don't we know it.

After hanging up with the boyfriend, the phone rang again. This time it was the mother. I got worried because I thought something was wrong at her home, so I slipped a note to her and she handed me the phone and went to speak to her mom. It was alright because even though I don't speak Ukrainian either, the woman was shouting and complaining about the doctor and the insurance company so I didn't need to say a word.

When Joanie came back and took the phone from me, I asked her if everything was alright.

JOANIE: Oh, yeah. It's just that my mom had to tell me about the woman who sells me cigarettes.
ALICE: What do you mean?
JOANIE: Well, I buy boxes of cigarettes from this woman who gets them...shall we say, cheaper...on the internet. My mom was calling to say that the woman was arrested last night at the Bingo parlor. That's all.
ALICE: Arrested? At the Bingo parlor?
JOANIE: Yeah. That's where she sells them. I think the Bingo manager sold her out.
ALICE: Well, what are you going to do now? For cigarettes, I mean.
JOANIE: No biggie. She'll be back on Sunday.
ALICE: Won't she stay away from the Bingo parlor now that she's been arrested there?
JOANIE: Nah. She'll be back. Hey, do you smoke?
JOANIE: Well, if you ever decide to, let me know. I can get them for you wholesale.

The Ukrainian woman had stopped shouting and the only words that we had understood were: doctor, bad, stupid, why, never, in mother tongue, and do it now.

Joanie and I entertained ourselves for a little bit rearranging the words to form this kernel of brilliance: Stupid, bad, doctor! Why it? Now never do tongue in mother.

Yes, yes. That was part of my day. A big part.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

"A Tree is Known by its Fruit”

It is now that time when my family unit spends too many moments talking about where to meet for Thanksgiving. So far, it has never been quick and easy conversations, but rather fraught with the emotional agitation that brands family members who know that despite it all, they will never get kicked out of the group, no matter how much they fuss. Well, so far, anyway.

One memorable year, my mother was on the phone and she was not happy to learn that we wanted to go to my sister’s in Brooklyn for the dinner.

MOTHER: What? No! I had this planned for ages and you all have to come here.
ALICE: Well, wouldn’t you like to take a rest and be waited on hand and foot…
MOTHER: Not if it’s Brooklyn! I don’t want to be on the road with all that traffic.
ALICE: Well, it will be harder on everyone else to go to you.
MOTHER: NO! You will all come home. We will sit down to a lovely dinner that I am cooking—and you should be grateful that I’m doing this at all. You know that I can’t cook. We will be together like the loving family that we are and WE WILL BE HAPPY AND ENJOY OURSELVES! GOT IT?

Well, Matt Groening certainly knew what he was talking about when he said, families are about love overcoming emotional torture.

This year, particularly, everyone is where everyone else is not. The D.C. family members want the New York contingent to travel there. The New York contingent wants the D.C. ones to come here. And the New Jersey member, who is my mother, now doesn’t care where it’s held as long as someone comes and gets her.

I don’t know why, but I am usually the one who is chosen to speak to everyone and get them to sign on the dotted line. I hate being the go-between because in my family one DOES shoot the messenger.

So the family members have now begun to call.

FM#1: Where are we having Thanksgiving? I hope you're going to say at my place because that’s how it has to be.
ALICE: Well, I thought that we might…
FM#1: NO! Whatever you’re going to say, no! I missed out last year on being with the family and I can’t travel this year, so I want to have you all here.
ALICE: Well, let me find out from the others.
FM#2: What? No, it has to be here. I can’t travel there. It must be here.

Today, Deacon and I were discussing this and I was lamenting that this year some feelings might get hurt because I can’t figure out a way that would satisfy everyone. And mind you, we are not speaking about organizing dozens of people. No sir. Just eight. I told him that we might have to stay in New York with my mother. The D.C. three will have to be together, as will the Ithaca two. I also told Deacon that I was putting off having to relay this bit of news to the family.

DEACON: Yeah, I feel for you. They are a prickly bunch.

Well, how about that. My family tree is a cactus.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Reading Lessons

I was in one of those mini marts that one finds in the rest stops along the New Jersey Turnpike. I had bought the usual assortment of junk that one needs to stay awake from fatigue and boredom. While waiting for my driving companion to find me, I was looking at the paperbacks on sale. There was not much of a selection. In fact the titles were not new ones at all! Here are three that were right next to each other:

1. He's Just Not That Into You
2. There is No Prince Charming
3. Living Successfully with Screwed-Up People

Later that afternoon, I was in a grocery store with my sister and we were marching along looking for the things that were on her list. Just those things. I, on the other hand, am the sort of shopper who goes up one aisle and down the other, stopping to look at this and that, reading whatever product catches my attenton...sometimes murmuring things such as wow, no kidding, it really does this?

It's not that I don't follow a list. I guess it's just that I want a trip to the grocery store to be...AN EVENT. Something not so routine.

Anyway, as my sister and I were finishing with her list, we were coming upon a little girl who was holding open a children's book and obviously pretending to be reading. As we approached we heard this little girl say in a singsong lisp, and so the beautiful princess married the handsome prince and they lived happily ever after!

As we passed the little girl, my sister muttered, "And so the lie continues."

ALICE: WHAT! You mean that there really aren't Prince Charmings who are totally into us and have us live in castles with people who have their heads screwed on right?
SISTER: Is there such a thing as a Santa Claus?
ALICE: WHAT! There is no Santa Claus?
SISTER: Oh, grow up!
ALICE: WHAT! Haven't you ever read Peter Pan? paraphrase Douglas Adams, there was a point to this story. But I've quite forgotten it.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Sentence First – Verdict After

I was trying to help Deacon with an online purchase from a computer store. We were using my credit card because…well, it just needed to be done this way. Anyway, the amount WAS rather larger than my usual purchasing practice, but still well within the realm of possibility. The transaction was completed and one second passed. I went to say something when my cell phone began to ring.

DEACON: Ha! It’s probably your credit card company saying, “What the…”
ALICE *running downstairs to answer it*: Ha, yourself! They can’t be that fast and anyway, why would they be calling to find out if my card was stolen. As if I were some deadbeat who could never buy a computer with my own card!

Yes, it was the company. Seconds after the purchase. It must have gone like this:

COMPANY SNOOP: HANG ON! I see activity on Alice’s card. Oh my God! It’s a computer sale!
SUPERVISOR: What! This card must have been stolen. Definitely. Alice doesn’t spend money like that. She’s not capable of it. She’s a…deadbeat…you know.
COMPANY SNOOP: Well, she does have a job now. Sort of. It doesn’t pay much, but it IS a job. And we all have been waiting a long time for her to find one.
SUPERVISOR: Yeah, I know. It’s been years.

So, I was subjected to a range of questions to verify that it really was me, Alice, on the phone and that it really was me, Alice, who had used the card. There were too many rapid-fire questions. All we needed was a rectangular table, handcuffs on my wrists, and a very bright light assaulting my eyes.

DISEMBODIED VOICE: What is your mother’s maiden name? Where did you work before you got this low paying, part-time job? How do you expect to pay bills with a part-time salary? What are the names, ranks, and serial numbers of anyone you have ever known? How much wood can a woodchuck chuck…?

I did my best. I almost confessed to the crime but, eventually, the person helping me found me not guilty and let me go free.

I am grateful, truly, that the credit card people spend hours trawling the waters of fraud. Yes, I am.

I am also astounded that they work in nanoseconds. Truly.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Wedding Scenario

To keep your marriage brimming, 
With love in the wedding cup, 
Whenever you're wrong, admit it; 
Whenever you're right, shut up.

--Ogden Nash

I attended a friend's wedding yesterday. It's her second marriage and it was an Irish gathering with laughter, stories, food, and set dancing. Lots of set dancing. We were seated at a table that included two people who introduced themselves as Randy and Vane. Ah, a lovely and amusing adjectival couple.

Before all that, there was mass at the church. When it came time for communion and drinking the wine part, it seemed that only the people seated on the groom's side lined up to partake.

LOLLY: Hey! How come WE don't get any of the hooch?
ALICE: Ssh! For starters you haven't been to confession. Ever. Secondly, you've never been baptized. More importantly you're Jewish.

He was mollified when I reminded him that he could get bread and wine at the reception. Then I told him that I didn't go up to the altar because, after all, I haven't been to confession in a long, long--make that long to the tenth power--time. Some of the friends I keep aren't good role models, either. For example, I found out recently that Pepper had gone to see a Dwight Yoakum show at the New York Society for Ethical Culture, which she said looked to be in a converted church. The seats were even pews. But, before she sat down, she had STOLEN the show poster out of the sandwich-board display.

Now I know that in the Ethical Culture there are no rules, per se, just "expectations" on how to act in a given situation. But I'm sure they don't expect thievery.

Hello, Hell. Here I come AND I'm bringing friends.

Back to the reception. The bride is the daughter of very dear family friends. The father of the bride had died last year. He had been a wonderful husband, father, grandfather, and friend. He also had been a conscientious, capable, and trustworthy employee. His job was what ultimately killed him. The nature of his work many years ago had exposed him to copious amounts of asbestos, and there had been nothing the doctors could do to keep his lungs from sharing space with grapefruit-sized tumors. His widow was there and said that she wanted to talk to me about him.

WIDOW: I have to tell you something really important about Mack. I talk to him every night.
ALICE: Oh. Of course you talk to your prayers, right?
WIDOW: No. He comes to visit me--he's invisible so no one else knows he's there-- and he told me wonderful news!
ALICE: Uh, okay, what is it?
WIDOW: Mack is God. And he's given me a choice.
ALICE: About?
WIDOW: He said that I could be the queen of heaven if I want. But I can't be married to him, then. Or I could join him in heaven and stay married to him, but I can't be the queen.
ALICE: Hmm. Difficult choice, that.
WIDOW: He is sending a bucket tomorrow night for me to use.
ALICE: What?
WIDOW *nodding vigorously*: I have to sit in the bucket and I will be pulled straight up to heaven where Mack is waiting for me. So I have to know what to do. What should I do?

Well, for all the years she has been a family friend, I have known her to behave like an absolute diva. But she was so charming and amusing in her diva-ness that we all forgave her behavior and loved her despite it. I knew how to advise her.

ALICE: Well, I think you won't be happy unless you are the queen!
WIDOW *nodding slowly*: Yes, yes. That's what I'm thinking.
ALICE: And you would get to see Mack anyway.
WIDOW: There is that.

Lolly interrupts and asks what we're talking about.

WIDOW: Oh, well, you see...

I jump in quickly.

ALICE: Oh, nothing really, just about job opportunities.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Best Served Cold

Deacon has two very pampered cats, Frisky and Fatty. He didn't want to deal with the soiled litter issue, so he bought them a Litter-Robot which is an automatic self-cleaning litter box. It's an enclosed dome-like structure that has a large waste drawer; the only thing Deacon does is change a bag every few days. No poop ever touches his hands.

Except the day it broke. While waiting for the replacement part, Deacon had put a kitchen plastic bag inside a cardboard box, filled it with litter and introduced the kitties to their new "bathroom." They hated it --and us-- and really, REALLY, used it. Just to show us that they were willing to until they got back their private and very high tech facility. Deacon would pretend that he couldn't see the mess, but it was see-able as well as smell-able so I took on the job of cleaning out the box. God, it was messy and no matter how many times I cleaned it out, the cats would go as soon as fresh litter filled the box. They looked at me as if saying, "See? We will make BIG messes as a protest against this pedestrian potty."

So, yesterday, before I left for work, I had to clean the box again. I could swear that Frisky and Fatty were sneering at me as they ate breakfast.

Of course, I was running 23 minutes behind schedule. Once I reached the building, I saw that the front door was decorated with decals of black cats. I knew that in honor of Friday, the 13th, Joanie was bringing a special treat to the office for us to share. At least I had that to look forward to before the patients would arrive. So I entered the office and Joanie, Liz, and the doctors were waiting for me. The treat? Well, it looked like a kitty litter box--a well-used kitty litter box--placed on the entertainment section of the newspaper.

ALICE: Uh. Uh. Uh.
LIZ: Isn't it great ? It's a kitty litter cake!
ALICE: Yes. Yes it is, isn't it?
DR. #1: It's really delicious.
DR.#2: Never mind what it looks like, you'll enjoy it.
ALICE: It looks like...poop...lots of poop.
JOANIE *laughing delightedly*: Yeah! I really tried to make it look like the real thing. See? This here is German chocolate cake mixed with white cake and vanilla pudding. That over there are vanilla sandwich cookies, some mixed with green food coloring. And THOSE are melted tootsie rolls. Here try it.

She picked up a serving with a real pooper scooper, managing to get the tootsie roll turd that was hanging over the edge of the litter pan. I took the plate from her and stared at the concoction. I could see green specks embedded in the roll.

I. Just. Couldn't.

ALICE: Uh. I think I'll pass on
JOANIE: What? You don't want any?
ALICE: NO! I mean... no thanks. As it turns out, I already had some this morning.

Friday, October 13, 2006

"If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense"

Oh wait. That's how it's been so far.

The alarm clock in my room is relatively new and--just like the White Rabbit's watch--it doesn't show the correct time. It's not two days slow, though, just 23 minutes behind schedule. No matter what I do, I can't get the minute hand to move to the proper number. I suppose the only way to fix it is in the tool box, though I have looked and Deacon does not own a mallet.

So every morning, I try to remember that I don't have 23 extra minutes to faff around the apartment while watching the Today show. I do miss Katie Couric, by the way.

Yesterday, I was running so late that I was dashing through the park and surrounding streets, not really that attentive to whether the lights were actually green... until I saw a city bus coming from the left. I didn't want to be involved in an urban version of running with the bulls, so I stopped. Of course, the bus had the light so I wasn't being accomodating, just not eager to be flattened.

As the bus stopped in front of me to pick up passengers, I looked at the people seated by the windows. They all had similar expressions of resignation, not the look of happy tourists eager to explore a new city but, rather, the condemned demeanor of workers headed Then I saw her. A woman with a rather thin face, slightly protuding top teeth, and short hair with wispy ends that were fanned out from under a grey oversized top hat. She was smiling at me and winked.

When I finally arrived at the office, Joanie was waiting for me...with a cup of tea. She knows that I prefer Earl Grey in the morning rather than the dregs of coffee the doctors drink, but she has never made tea before.

I sat down, drinking my tea and thinking about the woman on the bus. I should have looked to see if there had been a 10/6 on the side of the hat.

Nuh uh. Not with the prices in New York City.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Total Perspective Vortex

Overheard at a coffee shop in the West Village early this morning.

CUSTOMER#1: Hey, Georgie, wadda think about that plane crashing into that apartment buiding yesterday. Scary, huh?
GEORGIE: Yeah, when I heard about it I was, like, holy crap, here we go again, ya know?
CUSTOMER#1: I know it! I couldn't believe it.
GEORGIE: Yeah, me too. Here we thought it was a suicidal terrorist. Who knew it would turn out to be a Yankee pitcher.
CUSTOMER#1: Yeah. Who knew?

The two men were quiet for a minute and then apparently decided to change the subject.

CUSTOMER #1: Hey, the Yankees suck. Big time.
GEORGIE: Yeah, that they do.

After spending a few hours in the office, the last patient comes up to my desk and I notice that he seems to be feigning confusion. He is 76 years old and he stands over me -- hovering -- not speaking, just breathing heavily and contorting his face in a pantomine of violent thinking. I thought of that line from Douglas Adams: "His eyes seemed to be popping out of his head. He wasn't certain if this was because they were trying to see more clearly, or if they simply wanted to leave at this point."

ALICE: Alright. How can I help you?
PATIENT: I need a prescription. Tell the doctor that I need a prescription for... what's it called? You know. What's the name of that medicine for men? On those commercials?
ALICE: I'm sure I don't know.
PATIENT: Yeah, you do. You know. The one for men.

Then he plasters an "aha" look on his face, as if he just managed to comandeer the brain cells to the right track.

PATIENT: You know. The one for sex.
ALICE: I see. Do you mean viagra?
ALICE: I'll make a note of it for the doctor.
PATIENT: Wait. Tell him that I don't want the bottle with 50 pills. I want 100.
ALICE: I bet you do.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Self-Inflicted Nonsense

My office mate, Joanie, was waiting for me to arrive. She was pacing and frowning.

JOANIE: Oh, good, you're here!
ALICE: Is something wrong?
JOANIE: No. Yes. Well, perhaps.
ALICE: Well, you've covered all the bases. What is the calamity of the day?
JOANIE; You know that Meatloaf song? The one called Two out of Three Ain't Bad?
ALICE: Of course. What about it?
JOANIE: Well, it was just on and I'm sad. I mean, she wants him, she needs him, but she's never gonna love him? I mean, why the fuck not? That song always distressed me.
ALICE *not knowing what to say*: Well, maybe she changed her mind and Meatloaf never updated the song.
JOANIE *happier*: Yeah, maybe.

The doctor is away for several days attending a conference in Arizona. He telephoned to let me know his number at the hotel. I asked him many truly important questions, such as, what is the name of the hotel? He seemed reluctant to tell me. He pretended he didn't hear me when I persisted in asking him.

DR: Er, it's a Sheraton...
ALICE: *wondering why he hadn't wanted to say*: O.K.
DR: ...Wild Horse Resort.
ALICE: Excuse me?
DR: It's the Sheraton Wild Horse Resort.
ALICE: You're at the Wild Horse? Attending a conference?

Now this doctor is nature, so I just had this image of him sitting primly among a group of drink-crazed physicians who are yahooing and wearing cowboy hats as they try to lasso each other to a post.

DR *primly*: Well, the meetings are serious.
ALICE: I'll bet.
DR: So! Is there anything important you want to tell me about the office?

Yeah, I thought to myself, there is. You should computerize the records, have a smackdown with some of those hostile patients, and make sure we don't have six-year-old boxes of chocolates sitting in the refrigerator. But I didn't say this because, you know. I tried to think of something important and interesting, but there really wasn't anything to tell. Unless he, too, was pissed off by the woman who didn't love Meatloaf.

I felt the same way I used to feel whenever I was forced to go to confession. I always felt I never had done anything that would warrant an absolution from Father Tom. But I didn't want to disappoint, so I would make things up.

ALICE: Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been one week since my last confession. These are my sins. Well, let's see. I disobeyed my mother, um, three times; I hit my sister, many, many times. And, of yes, I didn't do my math homework. Once.

Jeez, why didn't I ever think of really, really, BIG sins. Go out in a blaze of...evil.

FATHER TOM: Well, my child, your penance is to say ten Hail Mary's and one Our Father.

Then he absolved me of my terrible, terrible, going-to-hell-surely sins and I went to the altar to fulfill the punishment.

I always felt so much better.

Yeah, I know. I lied. Frequently -- to a priest, no less. I mean THAT would have constituted a big, old black sin right there, not the tiny boring morsels I was offering him.

Why didn't I just tell him? Come clean? Throw myself at his mercy? I mean what was the worse that could have happened? More Hail Mary's? O.k. tons more Hail Mary's. Washing the classroom floors -- for the rest of my life? Ten smacks with a ruler? Uh, yeah. I forgot that one.

Well, I guess that I subscribed to the Oscar Wilde dictum that, "there is no sin except stupidity."

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Three Bottles of Wine

There were six of us at dinner last night. It was an Italian restaurant in the East Village and we were waiting at the bar for seats outside in the garden. Mule's girlfriend was in charge of choosing the wine and she chose well. It was a bottle of ... it was red, that's all I really know. Deacon doesn't do wine, so five of us were sharing three bottles. Yeah, I know. After working very hard on a project for school, Mule was eager to relax and break out the cigar. We knew there was no smoking in the restaurant, but since we were going to be outside, we figured that it wouldn't be a problem. Until, that is, Mule decided to ask the bartender and was told that he couldn't smoke it.

MULE: But, dude, it's a CUBAN!
BARTENDER: Sorry, no. This is, after all, an ITALIAN restaurant.

Yeah, that didn't make sense to us, either.

The food came and the women in the group talked about what all women talk about when they've had two bottles of wine on an empty stomach: sex.

The subject of nuns and sex education came up. Okay, I brought it up. We were laughing about the first time we were told about what happens between a man and a woman.

ALICE: Well, our Sex Ed teacher was Sister Regina. She only said one thing to the girls: Never, never, never, let a boy touch your breasts because then you will get pregnant! She said only one thing to the boys: Never, never, never touch a girl's breast; she will get pregnant!
MULE'S GIRLFRIEND: Well, in my Catholic school, we were shown, The Miracle of Life. When I came home, my mom asked me if I saw it, I said yes and she said good. That was the discussion.
FRIEND #1: I saw the Miracle of Life, too. That's all.
FRIEND #2: My mother WAS a Sex Ed teacher and she couldn't wait until I was old enough to tell me all about it. As a matter of fact, she didn't wait. I was seven years old and she said that she just had to tell me something important. She interrupted me in the middle of my playing with my dolls. When she told me--quite excitedly-- about sex, she asked me if I had any questions. I said that I did. She was so proud and asked me what I wanted to know. I looked at her with a frown and said, Do you know where my Barbie is?
MULE: My parents still think that I don't have sex yet. And I'm in graduate school! They say that I'm still a "good boy."

Deacon wasn't adding anything to the conversation. Maybe because I was sitting right there next to him.

Friend #2 continued telling us about her mother's job as a sex educator in a Middle School setting. She loved her job, even though talking about sex to soon-to-be-unrepressed thirteen year olds was not the easiest assignment.

Especially since her name was Mrs. Weener.

Monday, October 09, 2006

No Ice Time

My work colleague was explaining to me her belief that it is not a good idea to drink wine without adding ice.  She said that diluting it helps prevent the most annoying side effect that always,  She even wrote a formula for me to remember: wine minus ice equals drunkenness, or W - I = D.  Her formula for the other was: wine plus ice equals drunkenness...but  much, much later, or W + I = DbMML. Wow. Remember when we all had to study algebra and grumble about it, asking each other, are we EVER going to have to use this when we're adults? Well, yeah.

So while walking to work, I was feeling pretty cheerful. I cut across Washington Square Park and then walked down Tenth Street and saw ahead of me a landscaper finishing up his watering of the flowers that were planted in the front yard of a brownstone. He was sweeping up some clippings and had placed the water hose on the iron fence. I don't know why, but when I passed the spot, the hose fell off the fence and landed on the handle. So I and another passerby were sprayed by a heavy mist of water. My hair. My trousers. My blouse.

The landscaper cursed and ran over and started hitting the handle with the broom. Hmmm, I thought, that's an unique way to turn off the water. Of course, all he managed to do was to cause the hose to gyrate wildly, all the while spraying water at us. I asked him to stop beating it with a broom and just bend down and turn the damn thing off.

ALICE: Why not?
LANDSCAPER: I don't want to get wet!

The rest of the day, while drier, was just as bizarre. Phones ringing with people needing...everything. People coming to see the doctor needing...everything. Folders and papers needing...everything.

I ended the day the way I began it: at the mercy of circumstances beyond my control.

When I said goodbye to my office mate, we looked at each other and gave each other that look. The one that said, tonight it's going to be a WID night.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Tremendous Energy to be Normal

Our temporary "roommate" Mule was having a party in his downstairs bedroom last night. They were laughing, and drinking, and shouting, and slamming doors. I was trying to sleep on the sofa upstairs and it was 2:00 a.m. Then 3:00 a.m. Then at 4:00 a.m., I went to use the bathroom next to Mule's room. When I was washing my hands, a girl opens the door and just comes on in.

O.k. I'm pretty friendly but I would have thought that if I open a bathroom door in an unfamiliar apartment, and see the light on and hear water running, and know that a stranger was using the facilities, I would probably say something like, "Oh, sorry!" And wait for the person to come out. But, no. This girl just closed the door behind her and sat down to pee.

GIRL: Hi! I'm Mule's friend!
ALICE: O.K. Well, I'll just go now.
GIRL: Oh, no, don't worry. I don't mind.

But, I did. I was TIRED and I had to go to work later that morning, and I just wanted at least one minute of sleep. I went upstairs to my sleep sofa and there were two guys sitting on it. They were dressed like pirates. Very elaborately. I just looked at them and said, "Walk the plank away from here!"

"We're pirates!" they yelled to me.

"And very realistic ones. Good job. Now get out," a very grumpy Alice responded.

So finally everyone was gone -- the pirates probably left to go back to the ship. But... no surprise there...the girl stayed in Mule's room. I could hear her talking and then...not. I think she even took a pair of my pajamas to wear. I went to lie down for some sleep, at last. Except half and hour later, the alarm rang.

Of course, when I arrived at the office, I was hoping that the pace at work would not be as frenzied as it has been. Every single day. But one can hope.

Or not.

Yeah. The day was as crazy as ever, with files, phones, and patients all out of control. Before I left at the end of the day, I answered a call from a patient who was demanding to speak to the doctor.

PATIENT: Let me talk to him. It's important. He called me this morning and we spoke for about five minutes. But, I gotta tell you, I wasn't really awake, sooo I know I spoke to him but I don't remember anything he said. Or anything I said, for that matter. I want him to tell me what he told me this morning, and what I answered him. Got that?

Yeah, I got it.


When I got back to Deacon's apartment, beaten down by the lack of sleep and the lack of rationality exhibited by many at the office, including myself, Mule's Girl was sitting in my, er, his room and talking on the phone. Apparently, she's staying another night.,

There is a lesson to be learned here. What it is, I don't know.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Dynamite Roommates in NYC

The young man who owns the apartment that Deacon is subletting is visiting. He is studying abroad and it was prearranged that whenever he was in town --basically just twice a year-- he could stay in his own room downstairs. Of course, Deacon agreed to this before he realized that sweet Alice was going to knock on his door with bags in hand. But Mule doesn't care that I'm here, even though I thought it best to sleep upstairs on the sofa and let him have his privacy.

He was arriving yesterday morning and I had awaken early so that I could take my things from the room and change the bedding and etc. etc. We expected him in late afternoon. At seven a.m., he walks in the door. I needed to get ready for work and dashed around trying to vacant the room; he was here too bloody early! This made me think about how a year ago, I was toying with the idea of sharing an apartment with Harry, a friend whom I adore. Some of my friends didn't approve.

KAT: Alice, dear, what happens if you two get into a tiff and then can't bear to share the same space?

I was highly amused by the word.

ALICE: A tiff? What constitutes a tiff?

KAT: You know. You fight over the toothpaste, or the messy bathroom, or the sharing of beauty products and before you know it, KABOOM! It's over.

Other friends warned that friends shouldn't share apartments because they'll get sick of each other and won't want to be in the same social settings anymore.

I thought about this logic.

ALICE: So, let me get this straight. If friends shouldn’t share, then you’re saying that my best bet is to room with an enemy.
KAT: NO! That's not what we mean.
MELENA: Yeah. If you find a roommate, and then over time become friends, that's something else because first and foremost you are roommates.

They then told me that my problem really was that I was "infatuated" with Harry and he would not be a perfect match for me.

ALICE: Oh really? What gave you that idea. The fact that he's younger? Or the fact that he's gay?

My friends hemmed. My friends hawed. I assured them that Harry would be a perfect match for me. Well, if I were way younger. And a man. And gay. Or if he were way older. Still a man. And not gay.

ALICE: Anyway, no worries. There will be no kaboom. We've already spoken about this and Harry is not keen on us being roommates.

My friends gave me a why-the-hell-not look.

ALICE: He said we would get sick of each other and it would ruin our friendship.

I admitted this sheepishly.

FRIENDS: What! Well, you would SO get sick of him first!

So here I am with Deacon, his girlfriend, and Mule. A happy little family in an apartment in New York City.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

First Steps

The news about the recent shootings at the one room Amish school house in Lancaster, Pennsylvania was horrifying. I read that the phone call alerting police to the siege took some time because a teacher had to run to a farm house to find a phone, since there wasn't one at the school. Amish custom restricts the use of such technology.

I know this firsthand; one Sunday evening, when Deacon was 11 months old, our car broke down right in front of an Amish farmhouse. Lolly was driving and my mother was in the passenger seat, while I was in the back with Deacon. Before we even had time to think, "Crap! What do we do now!" a large contingent of Amish men came running across the field. We had been told, at a lecture on the Amish ways earlier in the day, that the area we were driving through included Old Order Amish fellowships. So that meant that they followed strict rules on dress, behavior, technology, and relationships with the "English" as the outsiders are called.

Looking at the people who were coming toward us, and seeing the women who were waiting in front of the farmhouse, I just knew: we had to get help from members of the Old Order. We didn't know if they would.

When the men reached us, they said that we would have to wait until Monday for one of them to run to a neighboring farm to use a phone, since the garage was closed. I was worried. Where were we going to spend the night? We were on a rural road, Deacon was getting hungry and I did not have any extra bottles for him, and my mother was sobbing that she wanted to get home to my father because she "can't sleep well in a strange bed."

Well, we stayed there, at that farm. The men led us to the women, who took one look at Deacon and took him from my arms. The next thing I knew, they had milked a cow, washed out his bottle, and had him seated in Grandma's arms happily drinking away. I was gratified, but also worried because he had never had unpasteurized milk before and I didn't know if that was going to be a bad thing.

This Amish family welcomed us into their home without hesitation, and at the dinner table we all talked and laughed and tried to ask each other questions that would quell the curiosity we each harbored about the other.

The head of the household looked at Lolly and asked him his religion.

LOLLY: I am Jewish.
HOH: Ah, you are a Hebrew!

The food was plentiful, but bland because no spices were used (including salt). There was a big bowl of what looked like mashed potatoes and Lolly was helping himself, putting two hearty scoops on his plate. I noticed that our hosts were staring at him bemusedly, and then at each other.

ALICE: Um, sorry. Is there something we are doing wrong?
HOH *laughing*: Oh, no. It's just that we have never seen anyone who loves butter so much.

We all went to bed early because on a farm, everyone gets up with the rooster. We spent Monday morning helping. Lolly went to the fields to pick watermelons that would be sold later in the day at a roadside stand for tourists. My mother and I were cleaning in the kitchen. Deacon was with the many daughters of the house who cooed over him, played with him, and carried him around.

Toward the end of the day, the car business had been sorted out and we were getting ready to leave. We were standing in the kitchen and Grandma came in carrying Deacon. She looked at me and smiled, and then placed him on the floor. I was going to tell her that he didn't walk yet, but I saw that Deacon was standing and I was surprised into silence. Then, right before us all, Deacon put one foot in front of the other and slowly walked over to me and held up his arms to be picked up. Grandma laughed and clapped her hands.

GRANDMA: There! He's walking! Now you will remember us. You will remember that Deacon took his very first steps in an Amish kitchen, in Grandma's kitchen.

So much kindness from strangers. Their life is one of devotion to the teachings of Jesus, devoid of violence and fear -- until it was brought to a tiny one room schoolhouse.

And from what I have read, the people from this community are still turning to their religious beliefs to help them through this: it has been reported that all the people in Nickel Mines want to forgive the man who committed the murders of the young school girls, and while reaching out to their neighbors who have lost their children, they also want to reach out to his family.

So today, while I read the papers, I remembered. Deacon took his first steps in an Amish kitchen. In Grandma's kitchen.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

There's No Business Like...

I went out yesterday morning and when I returned four hours later, I found that my street had been transformed into a movie set. Oh, I thought to myself, another movie is being filmed. Another f@#$%^& movie. But I just wanted to get to the apartment so I didn't stop to gawk as other people were doing. Traffic was stopped on the surrounding streets and cars were honking. Buses were honking. Taxis were honking. Even people who didn't have vehicles were honking. Well, it sounded like it anyway. I was walking quickly when I was stopped by a young man who waved a small orange flag in my face.

YOUNG MAN: Miss, you can't walk down this street. Thank you.
ALICE: Sorry, no can do, I want...
YOUNG MAN: MISS! This street is closed to pedestrians. PLEASE!
ALICE: Look, I live in that apartment building there. So I will walk down this street because as far as I can see, no filming is happening at the moment, so I'll just dash in and that will be that.

My logic was impeccable, apparently, so he let me go.

I was stopped three more times. How much do these little orange-flag-waving minions earn, anyway? It seems like fun. You get to boss people around with an air of fast paced authority, AND you get to wave little orange flags . I mean, just think of the power.

When I almost reach the front door of my apartment, another flag waver is blocking the door. I look at him and start to tell him that I just want to go inside, when I hear a bellow from across the street: GET THOSE PEOPLE AWAY FROM THIS AREA, NOW!

Well, there weren't "those" people in the area. Just me. Is Megaphone Guy insinuating that I'm as big as a house? That my one little body looks like a crowd, a herd of bison, from across the street?

Fortunately, the doorman came to my rescue; he opened the door, grabbed my hand and pulled me inside.

DOORMAN: We're prisoners here, Alice.
ALICE: Gah! It's always something, isn't it?
DOORMAN: Well, it's a big budget movie, you know. It's gonna be called I am Legend. It's a remake of the Omega Man. Remember that movie from the 70's? The one that Charleston Heston was in?
ALICE: Oh, wow, another remake. Hollywood is really firing up those brain cells.
DOORMAN: It stars Will Smith, you know.

I kept on hearing all the pissed-off drivers honking non-stop, and I could see the impenetrable traffic bottleneck through the glass doors. Plus I could hear Megaphone Guy shrieking orders.

ALICE: Will Smith, eh? Well, when it's over, I hope that he remembers how to do that deneuralizing thingy. Or he could ask Harry Potter how to obliviate.

DOORMAN: Yeah, whatever...

So when I reach the apartment, Deacon is home and I tell him about the stuff happening outside.

DEACON: Oh, I was wondering what all that noise was about. I heard honking, and yelling. Someone yelling. So you were making friends out there,..
ALICE: Yeah, right.

Two hours later, I am seated at the kitchen table when I see that an orange cherry picker is bringing a guy up just outside my window. I mean, I am on the 8th floor and there are many apartments in this building, but Cherry Picker Guy has to park himself right in front of my very eyes. He's talking on the phone and bright lights are illuminating his workspace. This is what I'm wondering: What if Cherry Picker Guy has to go to the bathroom? What if he's hungry; he can see me cooking dinner. What are the etiquette rules in this situation, huh?

Well, maybe he just doesn't see me. Yeah, maybe. But then, he looks over and catches my eye and smiles and waves.

It's going to be a long night.