Saturday, September 30, 2006

Did you hear the one about...

Some conversations that occurred in the Doctor's office on my third day working there:

DOCTOR: Oh, Alice, just want to tell you that there will be a discrepancy in your paycheck this week.
DOCTOR: Yes, but don't worry, the problem will be fixed next week.
DOCTOR: Yes. Sorry about this. But, you see, it's my accountant's fault.
DOCTOR: Yes. I have an accountant who can't add.
ALICE: Well, then. How...lucky for you that you were able to find such a one; they're very rare, you know.
DOCTOR: Yeah, well, I try...

Later in the afternoon, I answered the phone and a Bishop McCormick was calling for an appointment. When I told him that there were no openings until November, there was silence. I became nervous because here I was, telling a man devoted to God's work (hmmmm) that he had to stay sick until several months from now. I was not happy about that. He was even more...not happy.

BMc: Well, young lady, I have been a patient for over ten years and I cannot believe that the doctor cannot make room for me in his schedule. Is this what you're telling me, my child?

Oh. I was back in Catholic school, having to defend myself again.

ALICE: Oh, no, your ...

I was quickly thinking about what to call him.

ALICE: ...Bishopness.

Well, fortunately, he had a bit of a sense of humor. But in order not be told that I had to say many Hail Marys as penance, I told him that I would talk to the doctor and try to get him an earlier spot.

BISHOP: Bless you, my child.

Well, I certainly need plenty of that! I was pleased when an hour later, after much shifting appointments around, the doctor was able to find the bishop a place next week. I call the bishop, happy in the knowledge that he would bless me again! When I told him the date and time, there was silence.

BMc: No. No. I cannot make it there on that day.
ALICE: WHAT! But you were so...adamant...about needing to see the doctor right away.
BMC: Yes. But not on that day.

It all got sorted out, eventually. I wasn't blessed again, and I was thinking that maybe working in a doctor's office was not really a good place for me. The phone rang.

ALICE: Doctor's Office.
PERSON: Hello, this is Rabbi Kaplan and...

No, no, no. I will not be a part of a joke that starts with a bishop, a rabbi, and a doctor...

Friday, September 29, 2006

Working Girl...Again

O.K. I am getting ready to go to work again this morning. It's early. When my alarm woke me up and it was still dark outside, I relived a memory of my waking Eddie up on his first day of kindergarten. He was astonished because he thought it was the middle of the night and he wondered what kind of school wants people to come in when the moon is still out.

But off he went and when he returned in the afternoon, he was full of wonderful stories about how much fun it had been, what great snacks the kids had shared, how nice the teacher had behaved, and on and on. I was so relieved because even though I was the one who had burst into tears when Eddie left on the bus, I just was worried that he would be unhappy with the whole thing. I mean, it was school, you know?

Anyway next morning, when I awakened him again in the dark, Eddie turned over and looked at me with wide eyes.

ALICE: What's wrong, sweetie?
EDDIE: What! I have to do this AGAIN?

It turns out that while it had been a great experience...for one day...making a habit of it was not on his agenda.

Yes, my alarm woke me up and it was still bloody dark outside. I thought of Eddie.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Working Girl

I am finally gainfully employed. My family would put the emphasis on finally! Part-time, though. I work in the office of an endocrinologist from Wednesdays through Fridays. The doctor is someone I have known over the years and when he called and asked me if I would be interested in helping out in his very hectic office, I said yes. At first I thought it wouldn't be such a great idea because he is a friend and all, but I was there yesterday and it will work out fine for all involved.

One of my office mates is a woman named Liz. A lovely woman who owns three cats. So throughout the day, while she brought me up to speed about what needed to be done, she also told me about her three cats, especially her favorite who is a Maine Coon and weighs 20 pounds. Because Liz spends most weekends at her second home near Woodstock, New York, she is afraid that her cat would be run over by a car so she walks him on a leash. Many times, she said, men have stopped her to admire the cat. One man told his girlfriend that he wanted a Maine Coon cat, too. She was astonished because he always told her that he hated, just hated cats. The man looked at Liz and said, "I don't like those stupid little balls of fur. I like a cat that looks like a ... dog. If your cat were a man, he would eat red meat and curse. Yeah, that's what I like!"

Oh, the cat's name is Puff Snooty, and he is also an actor. Yes, an actor. He has an agent, a groomer, a handler, and Liz. He has done a commercial for Bounce, though Liz said that only one paw and his tail appear in the spot. But more exciting is that he snagged a role in a movie that will be shown at the Sundance Film Festival called Murder Party. Liz told me that when he had to film his part, she stayed on the set with him to make sure that he was happy. The human actor in the lead was playing the role of a killer, and he was dressed in a suit of armor that was made out of cardboard. Puff Snooty was playing the role of Sir Lancelot. Yep, that's what Liz said.

Anyway, when everyone was setting up for Puff Snooty's big scene, Liz came across Cardboard Killer as he walked past her. His cardboard armor was totally covered in "blood" and he looked at her and said, "I had a bad night." Then the director called for quiet on the set. The next thing Liz heard was the director saying, Will Puff Snooty please come and take your place on the set?

LIZ: So, Alice, I was just tickled by it all.
ALICE: Hmmm.
LIZ: Then, guess what? It was time for my Snooty's big scene with the killer.
ALICE: Oh, no, did Snooty have to die?
LIZ: No.
ALICE: Oh. Did Cardboard Killer get murdered by Snooty?
LIZ: Oh, no, no. What happened was that Cardboard Killer walked over to Snooty who was sitting in a very comfortable chair. Then Cardboard Killer leans over and says to Snooty, "Sir Lancelot, I beseech you to give up your seat!"

Apparently, the cat's BIG moment was to stare down Cardboard Killer with a look that said, "Hell, no, bitch, you ain't getting my seat!"

ALICE: So, did Puff Snooty do it in one take?
LIZ: YES! He was such a trouper! He is a natural in front of the camera. Everyone was impressed.

Liz was watching her cat through a monitor and she saw how the camera kept on moving in for a closeup of Puff Snooty's fierce look.

LIZ: You know how a mother always just knows when her child is going to do something?
ALICE: Um, yeah...
LIZ: Well, as the camera got so close that you could see nothing but Puff Snooty's face, I just knew he was going to do it.
ALICE: What? What did he do?
LIZ: Well, he narrowed his eyes and opened his mouth and said, rrrrrrrrrrrrooow. Brilliantly, I might add.

Well the director was taken aback. He yelled CUT and then Liz heard him shout out: "WHO gave Puff Snooty lines?"

So, that was my first day at work.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Pounding Hearts

Oh, no. It’s back again. I read that for many New Yorkers, it’s time to gather up the nerve to join other freaked-out people for another evening at Nightmare, an interactive production by Psycho Clan, which runs through Halloween. This is a guided tour through what Psycho Clan describes as New York’s most “horrifying haunted house.” A thirteen-room tour that is “guaranteed to rattle the nerves of even the most jaded thrill seeker.” This house of horrors is touted as an experience more ala David Lynch than John Carpenter.

I remember this time last year when my sister invited me to join her and her friend, Celeste, for this thrill. I hesitated because I do not love to be scared, especially when I don’t have to be. Sister was being very convincing, though.

SISTER: So. Are you coming?
ALICE: Aahhh. Well, let’s see. The brochure says that one will never sleep well again.
ALICE: And you do remember that my doctor says I am stressed and need peace and no…er…horror?
SISTER: In for a penny, in for a pound!
ALICE: What? That so does not make any sense!
SISTER: 8:30 tonight, right?

So Celeste, Sister and I were there. I was timidly ready for it all. Yeah, I was ready for the horror, the nightmares, the haunting dreams. Who was I kidding? I was there because Sister made me go and a happy Sister is…well, anyone who knows her knows the ending to that!

We were allowed through the rooms in groups of ten. Let me just say that there were no cute little witches and goblins going boo at every turn. Oh, no, my pretties. This WAS more David Lynch than David could ever dream up.

We all had to walk in single file down very dark passages and grotesque people would appear suddenly and shout at us or try to grab our arms or legs when least expected. At one room, a distraught young man was fighting to not place his arm into a large fan that was turned on. He lost the fight and as he yelled and plunged his hand into the rapidly spinning blades, the lights went out and we were splattered with liquid. Everyone screamed, even the burly young men. Well, especially, the burly young men.

The next room’s scenario: A young girl anxiously asking us not to go “beyond the black line on the floor.” She was in pajamas and she went to lie on her bed when suddenly we all heard loud thumping coming from a window over her bed. We all thought that some creature would come in from that window. Nuh uh. When the girl jumped out of bed to look out the window, something GRABBED her leg from under the bed and pulled her away through a hole in the wall while she thrashed and screamed ⎯ loudly. Our nerves WERE rattled!

Then a door burst open and a woman looking manic, feral, and dangerous turned to us and, with a look that promised a slow and painful death, waited. One of us, apparently, was to tell her where the hell her “daughter” went. How did I know this? Well, maybe because she kept on moaning, Where is my daughter, to us. If nothing else, I catch on quick!

Sister decided at this moment to shake her head at the woman and say, “You’re a bad mother!” HUH? What the hell was Sister doing? Shut up! Bad Mother looked at Sister in a very menacing way and started walking toward us. One of the men in the group gasped and said, “You shouldn’t have antagonized her!” Yeah, no kidding. We all started moving a few steps back and left Sister to her fate.

Well, the rest of the 20-minute walk through hell had us buried alive, subjected to a madman in his blood-splattered bathroom pulling out his teeth because of the voices in his head, being unsuccessfully grabbed at by gargoyles, as we walked slowly through directed passages, seeing a nurse smothering a baby in it’s crib (just a doll, of course) and then turning to us, hissing that we were next and chasing us after the group decided to run like bats out of hell.

Of course our group had bonded at the start of the tour. We had no other choice because each one of us walked together holding on to one another. I had misplaced Sister and Celeste almost at the beginning, so I found myself holding on tightly to the shirt of a guy in front of me. A very cute Asian guy with long dark hair was following me and I so wanted him to be my “savior” but he was super glued to my back and was not in the hero business.

Yes, it was unsettling and it was a rather shaky group that left the building. A quote about fear has been attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt:

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.

Our next thing? We went to a bar.

Apparently, this year the haunted house will be even scarier. The production group polled thousands of New Yorkers to list their top 13 fears, and then incorporated these fears into the new design of the rooms.


One of my fears? Rats. I’m sure there will be plenty of those running around. I’m not going to say anything else because I don’t want to give Psycho Clan any more ideas. Just in case Sister calls me up and tries to get me to go again.

Maybe she won’t remember this year. Yeah, maybe.

Hmm. O.K., here’s another fear: Sister never forgets. Anything. EVER.

Monday, September 25, 2006

At Long Last...Love

A dear family friend was married several days ago. This was truly momentous because Anthony had been trying to find someone to share his life for many, many...ahem...many a year. Oh, he dated, but he was truly awful at hooking up with people who were at least on the road to mental health. Oh, yeah.

There had been Camille, who reapplied makeup frequently throughout the day and added more mascara, eyeliner and lipstick before she went to sleep. Whenever Anthony and Camille would spend the weekend, I would say goodnight to Camille and good morning to a crazed raccoon. I think she would wash her face once a week. Not sure though.

Then there had been three others who lasted mere months. Stalker, Daddy's Girl, and Kleptomaniacal Lesbian. Yes, that pretty much explains everyone.

Melissa came next. She was a bit older than Anthony and had a rather colorful way of conversing. You could count on one hand the words she would utter that would belong in the category of things you could say in polite company. Though I never understood those two terms because most of my company is bloody... oh well, I digress.

Anyway, this is how a note to Anthony from an angry Melissa might look like to the naked eye:

Dear %$*+@#,

You &?$#%^! Don't even think, +&^%$%, that you will ever &*%$ me again, %$*+@#!

&*%$ you!

As if that's not enough, Melissa would punctuate her comments with punches to my arm. Hard ones. So, it would be: Well, what do you &*^%$#@ think about that, Alice? BAM!

Finally, Natalie came along. Anthony had placed an ad in the Personals section of his local newspaper. It was titled, Take A Chance, and it was short, sweet, and charming. When he first brought Natalie to meet us, I liked her immediately. I mean, what's not to like. She didn't spackle on her makeup, she didn't dog Anthony's every step, her father was dead, she paid for things, she didn't have a girlfriend she was trying to make jealous, and she didn't like to punch.

A few of us were walking with Anthony one balmy evening; Natalie had stayed home so that she could do the dishes. She had insisted. Really, she did. So on our walk we were singing her praises to our Anthony.

FRIEND #1: So, Dude, you finally are gonna do it, eh? Marriage!
FRIEND #2: I am sooo happy for you. Natalie is great!
ALICE *dreamily*: How romantic! How ...
FRIEND #1, FRIEND #2, ANTHONY *in unison*: Magical, yeah, we know.
ALICE *irritated*: Shut up! Well, yeah, I was going to say magical. But just think, Anthony, if you hadn't taken a chance and written that ad, you wouldn't have found that someone that you wanted to...
ANTHONY: I just wanted to get laid, O.K.?

Alrighty. This did not make me to laugh, as the aged Italian great uncle of my dearly departed friend used to say. And to set the record straight, I did not kill her, even though many people heard our argument when she told me to go to hell and I answered, You first! I mean, haven't people ever heard of sticks and stones...

I will confess, however, that after Anthony' comment, I did take a page from Melissa's book of how to make friends and keep them. BAM!

Anthony was joking. I'm sure of it. Yeah.

The wedding was lovely, Anthony and Natalie looked elegant, joyful, and very much in love. Romance and magic, oh yeah. At our table, I overheard Lolly talking to someone who had been running around taking billions of pictures and now was sitting down with our little group. I was talking to a Bill on my right, so I didn't pay attention when this person sat next to me.

LOLLY: Ah! The photographer is joining us.
PERSON: &*%$ you! I'm not the photographer. I'm a veterinarian, %$$*+@#! Isn't that right, Alice?


ALICE: Hey, Melissa. Long time no see. You haven't changed one bit.
MELISSA: &*%$, yeah, it's true, bitch.

I'm sure that there's a Mr. Right out there for our Melissa. Yeah. I'm sure of it. If anyone is interested, just email her at Good luck.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Where there's Smoke...

I went with my mother to have lunch with her best friend. After spending the first moments hugging, kissing, hearing things like, how long has it been, you look wonderful, how are you, good to see you, we sat down to eat. Beba, the friend, invited my mother to an evening gathering at Tati's house later on in the week for food, wine, and conversation. Tati was planning on making this type of gathering a monthly event, maybe even spending some time talking about favorite books. Listening to them discuss the proposed book club meetings, for that's what it really was, reminded me of the only time I participated in a similiar event.

It was a year ago, and I was staying in the house on the Eastern Shore. At first I did not not really want to go because I was fighting what I knew to be an ultimately doomed tussle with a head cold. But off I went because I did not want to be a party pooper. As further inducement, I was told that the evening would not consist of just staying in the house and quietly reading, but rather included an invitation to a soiree.

Hmm. Soiree. Eastern Shore. Did not compute. It seemed that a local friend of my host had a friend who pined for the literary salons of 19th century France, and decided to gather people for an evening of food, drink, intelligent conversation. Now, the house I was staying at in the Eastern Shore was an agreeable 50 degrees when we first arrived. More importantly, the main heat was NOT GOING TO BE TURNED ON. Only the kitchen had heat; the bedrooms would rely on those portable radiators. So my thought was that the visit to this other house would give me some time to warm up because surely that house was hot.

It wasn’t. Oh, the heat was on. But all the large windows were opened and it must have been an agreeable 60 degrees. However, the hostess was friendly and there was wine and sandwiches. After getting pleasantly tipsy the, um, intelligent conversation part of the evening began in earnest.

HOSTESS: I was married twice, for ten years each time.
ALICE: Ten years? Each time?
ANOTHER GUEST: Why the number ten?
HOSTESS: Well, I was happy for the first seven. Then put up with the husband for the last three. They cheated, so that was that.
ALICE: You managed to marry two people who made you happy for seven years and then cheated on you? For three years? Each time?

Murmurs of so sorry came from all those gathered, but I didn't know if it was a so sorry you had bad luck, or so sorry you were an idiot. Twice. The hostess was smiling benignly at us.

The conversation turned to a scandalous occurrence that had transpired several months before. It concerned a man, his daughter, her boyfriend, his wife, and her boyfriend. Holy balls! Never mind salon francais, this was getting good!

So the man, named John, was once the owner of the local tavern and he and his wife were just not getting along. Hence, the boyfriend in the picture. So Mrs. John is telling everyone one afternoon that she was going to ask Mr. John for a divorce…that very evening… and if he would not agree, then she would make sure that he would change his mind.

Apparently, he didn’t think much of the idea, so on to Plan B -- the changing his mind part. They thought it was a foolproof plan; it consisted of daughter’s boyfriend and Mrs. John’s boyfriend going to see Mr. John and convincing, er, whacking him. Yes, Mr. John was bludgeoned. Repeatedly. And for good measure, they set the house on fire, with him in it.

We all stared at our hostess with horrified expressions and gaping mouths.

HOSTESS *looking shyly at us*: Now, promise you won’t laugh if I tell you something?

I privately thought that whenever you hear something like that you know that not only are you going to laugh, you're going to cough up a lung doing it!

ALL OF US: Oh, of course we won’t laugh. Just tell us!
HOSTESS: Well, my friend and I were coming to my home early in the morning after a long night out, and we were riding in my convertible when we smelled something. Yummy, I said to my friend. Someone is barbecuing ribs and it sure smells good!

I began to get uneasy because I just knew where this was headed.

HOSTESS: We finally saw the fire truck and the ambulance and I found out that it was John’s ribs that were cooking! Later on, people at the bar had a laugh about that. They poked fun at me.

We didn't laugh. We didn't smile. Basically we stopped breathing. And eating.

When we left, hostess told me that she thought she wanted to continue meeting monthly at her house because she really had had a lot of fun.

Well, that was some salon evening. Maybe we should call it a saloon evening and leave it at that.

Though barbecue is a word that comes to us from French, n’cest pas?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Saint Me

I am visiting my mother in New Jersey and we were talking about my sister and how she never likes to stay in her apartment; she always loves to go places. I decided that once I return to New York City, I will plan on going to a museum with her.The last time we did this was in January. On a Friday night, my sister, her friend and I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, ostensibly to look at the Rauschenberg exhibit. As we waited and waited for her friend, Mary, my sister decided that the very first thing we were going to do was to have a drink before we quenched our need for art. When Mary arrived, I went with her to check our coats. A young man called out to us and in a singsong voice asked me if I wanted our coats to share the same ticket.

ALICE: Um. O.K. Sure.
YOUNG MAN *singsonging away*: AH, GOOD! Because it will be a happy thing! You two will be happy to share the same hanger, right?

Mary looks askance and I am not because . . . what the hell . . . I know what my role is and I do it.

ALICE: YES! We will share! We will be happy!
YOUNG MAN *inordinately pleased*: GOOD! When you come to get your coats you will be happy because you were together!
ALICE: Well, what if we break up before we come to get our coats?
YOUNG MAN *in a stern tone*: Then it will NOT be a happy thing, no?

Mary wants to leave -- quickly.

So before Rauschenberg, it’s off to the second floor, to the Great Hall balcony for wine (New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc) and live classical music. We talk. And talk. And talk. We drink. And drink. And drink. No food, except I ate all the olives. It turns out that we only had 40 minutes left before the museum closed so we paid and dashed off. Mary did not really want to see Rauschenberg anymore. She’d rather look at religious paintings.

So, do you know what it’s like to look at Fra Angelico’s work completely drunk? It’s the first comprehensive presentation of this Renaissance painter in half a century and I was so tipsy that I managed to walk into a wall. Mary was enraptured. She wanted to see everything. My sister was not enraptured. She muttered at one point, “Good grief, Fra Angelico definitely doesn’t know how to draw children. This baby looks atrocious!”

Sister was referring to the baby Jesus. Mary hushed her as if she expected thunderbolts to strike us down for our blasphemy. I almost fell down some stairs.

My sister has had it with the religious experience thing and we must go. As we try to find our way to the coat check place, Mary said that she hopes we don’t get that “unbalanced young man.” I assured her that he probably went home. He hadn't.


Of course, in my state of . . . well, you know . . . I could not find the stupid little ticket.

ALICE: Well, you must remember our coats?
ALICE: They are sharing, remember? The happy coats!
YOUNG MAN: Yes, your coats are happy but I would be happier with the ticket!

All gets sorted out, eventually. Time to head back downtown. Of course, my sister and Mary wanted to stop somewhere and get a drink!

I didn't do this. I go home. Happy. . .maybe too happy. . .and a whole lot of holy!

Friday, September 22, 2006

"A lost battle is a battle one thinks one has lost"

Now that cooler weather is coming to stay, I am happy that I am no longer in my very small, very overpriced East Village apartment. Not too long ago, I had been exhorting the landlord of the apartment to please, please put in radiators. I mean the pipes were all there and such, but he kept assuring me that when “the time was right” the actual radiators would appear.

After several really cold mornings, the Ukrainian Super appeared with two radiators of different lengths. He was not comfortable speaking in English. I didn't mind if he spoke to me in Ukrainian, but I was sure that he wanted to be understood, so he plunged into my language.

US: Please, miss? Can I put this in bedroom?
ALICE: Of course, of course, put it wherever it belongs.
US: I know you want 24 inches in bedroom, but only 19 inches for you there.

Ukrainian Super spreads his hands apart and shrugs in a there's only so much I can do gesture.

US: 24 inches won't fit there. Too big.
ALICE: Well, you're the expert so...

Perhaps I looked crestfallen, though I really didn't care which radiator went into my bedroom as long as the heat came on right away. Anyway, the Ukrainian Super furrowed his brow, pursed his lips, and thought for a few moments. Then, he made his decision.

US: Maybe I try to get 24 inches to fit in bedroom. You want?
ALICE: No, no. It's not necessary.
US: Is alright, then?
Me: Yes, yes. 19 inches is o.k. in the bedroom. Really. More than enough, actually.

So the radiators were installed; Ukrainian Super was pleased that I did not have a meltdown about the size in the bedroom; all was fine. Well, except for one small hitch: the lovely radiators, looking quite spiffy in their new coat of white paint, did not radiate. Not even warmth. Nothing. Niczoho. No Ukrainian Super on the premises, either.

So, size really didn't matter. At that point I would have settled for even six inches of really hot…well, anyway, I had to track down the Ukrainian Super and tell him that the radiators should be useful not merely decorative. Of course, he told me that he was too busy to come over and "fix trouble." I told him that he did not need to fix anything, just go to the basement and push the bloody switch from Off to On.

I had been in this dance with him before; he was always unable to fix things right away. He probably thought, then, that by waging little wars with me, I would hang the white flag from the door.

I do not own anything white.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Douglas Adams Understands

Arthur felt happy. He was terribly pleased that the day was for once working out so much according to plan. Only twenty minutes ago he had decided he would go mad, and now here he was already chasing a Chesterfield sofa across the fields of prehistoric Earth...

Douglas Adams - Life, The Universe and Everything

Before I moved to New York City, I was a slave to a large house that was filled with too many things. Books, furniture, clothes, etc. etc. I wanted to get rid of it all, and while it was hard to do, it's been done. Now, I am staying in Deacon's apartment and I have brought some clothes and one sofa, though not a Chesterfield. A few family members ( mother and sister) are probably saddened by the thought that their Alice is basically homeless and living in a son's apartment. A real live Blanche Dubois, my sister described me to me recently. I do not think that is a compliment, right? I mean...

The difficulty with this that it is very different from most of the ones I've had of late. Which, as I explained, have mostly been with trees. --Arthur Dent

Douglas Adams - Life, The Universe and Everything

Family conversations tend to revolve around the what ARE we going to do about that Alice dilemma. It seems that my out-of-orderness only seems to make sense to me. My conversations with them are never satisfactory, at least for them, I think. But that's because I'm out of practice, and I don't really know what I'm doing. More importantly, no one truly listens to anything I have to say. That's because I am wrong many of the times. But once in a while, I get it right.

What was that?" hissed Arthur.
"Something red," hissed Ford back at him.
"Where are we?"
"Er, somewhere green."
"Shapes," muttered Arthur, "I need shapes."
"This your sofa?" said a voice.
"What was that?" whispered Ford.
Arthur looked up.
"Something blue," he said.
"Shape?" asked Ford.
"It is shaped," he hissed at Ford, with his brow savagely furrowed,"like a policeman."

Douglas Adams - Life, The Universe and Everything

The other day I was sitting in a car with Lolly and we were waiting for Sarie to come out of work. Lolly was parked in a No Parking spot, and I was trying to tell him that it was a fire lane and we had to move.

LOLLY: Nonsense! We can stay here for a bit. We are both in the car and no one else is around so it's okay.
ALICE: No. Sarie warned me that we were not to park or even stand here because we can get ticketed, taken away in chains, and eventually drawn and quartered. That's what she said. No lie.
LOLLY: Rubbish! You are always so anxious and wrong about the silliest things. Just calm down and don't say anything more about this. You are NOT going to make me move with your hectoring!

Yes, yes, the professor said hectoring.

ALICE: Well, then. I won't tell you that a cop is tapping your window...
LOLLY: What? Where?
POLICEMAN: Sir? I've been tapping here for the last few minutes. Don't ignore me. Can't you read? This is a fire lane. No stopping, standing, or parking! Move it, please.
LOLLY: Sorry, Officer. Will do.
ALICE: Sorry , Officer. Please forgive him. He's deaf.
POLICEMAN: Deaf? Then he shouldn't be driving.
LOLLY: I am not deaf! She is saying that because she doesn't have a job and hasn't made, what I consider, a good faith effort to find one.
ALICE: Sorry, again. He's also dumb.
POLICEMAN: Look, have you two been drinking?
LOLLY: No, of course not. It's four in the afternoon, you absolute . . . er, officer.
ALICE: He's not blind, though.

Sarie arrived at just that moment and we were allowed to drive away because she knew him. Before she got into the car she gave him the look that suggested, just think how I feel having to be related to them.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Breakfast Not At Tiffany's

Lolly is visiting from D.C. and as such he burst into the NYC apartment bringing two dogs, two fax machines, stacks of articles to edit, two overripe bananas, and talking rapidly and loudly on the cell phone. He could be descended from the whirling dervishes. Except for the fact that he has no bloodline to the Ottoman Empire. Or the Sufis. Or Turkey. But aside from that, definitely. So this morning we had breakfast at the local Ukrainian “soul” food diner. Lolly was reading the paper and I was just minding my own business when in walks a young man, wearing a dark blue suit, carnelian-toned tie, tasseled loafers without the pennies, trimmed dark hair and beard. He was carrying a mattress. An air mattress. Not in its packaging. Totally pumped with air and expanded to its twin- size dimensions.The restaurant was not crowded; it was rather early. Too early for me since I had gone to sleep only scant hours before. Plenty of room to find a table that was NOT NEXT TO ME.

MAN WITH MATTRESS: Excuse me, but can I get past you to that table?
ALICE *startled out of believing that she had made herself invisible*: You mean, here? The table right smack dab next to mine?
MAN WITH MATTRESS *looking at me with eyes that said, Move it, bitch*: Yes. Thank you.

I looked over at Lolly whose narrowed eyes screamed WHY CAN'T GOING OUT WITH YOU EVER BE NORMAL?

ALICE: Uh, of course, let me just move all the jackets, books, papers, messenger bags and sundries that are in your way here and make room for you and your, er, companion, to reach that other table.

We were so close to each other that it looked as if I, Lolly, man, and mattress were out together for a leisured breakfast. I just knew that somehow the mattress would be trying to share guffaws and affectionate insults.

MATTRESS: You know, Alice, you are such a cheap slut!
ALICE: Well, look whose talking! Except for right now where you are propped against the chair, you spend all your time on your back!
MATTRESS: Honey, you’re just jealous that I gots me a man who appreciates my sophisticated nanofiber shell that is breathable, repels liquids, and minimizes stains.
ALICE: Hey! It’s too early in the morning to hear dirty talk!

Man and mattress ate quickly. Well, man did; mattress was probably dieting and had nothing but…air. Then off to pay the bill. Of course, I had to move again to let them out. After they left, Lolly looked at me.
LOLLY.: How much do you pay?
ALICE: For what?
LOLLY.: To always pull off these lunatic stunts to make me feel that you are in dire need of an intervention.
ALICE *quite airily*: Oh, well, you know, sacrifice here, sacrifice there and…
LOLLY: If you spent half as much time using your brain and finding a job instead of convincing your out-of-work actor friends to play parts in your juvenile skits, you would be ruling several countries!
ALICE: I so did not know that man and his mattress. This IS the East Village, after all. Strange couplings should not be judged. They should be…you know…celebrated.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Idiot's Guide to Sex Ed?

Recently, I have found that some of the people who call me friend are in various throes of lovelorn-ness. One in particular was at Deacon’s apartment when I arrived. I had gone there needing to be caught up in eddies of gaiety and tipsy camaraderie. But, guess what? No gaiety. No tipsy. No camaraderie.

Said friend had come to Deacon’s place because he was hiding from his girlfriend. He was not happy, he said. Had not been for some time, he said. Wasn’t even physically attracted to her anymore, he said. Got more enjoyment wanking than having her lips…well, you know the rest. He was glum. He was in a drinking-many-beers-and-I-won’t-stop-soon state of mind. He wondered how something so good had become so…not good.

I thought that maybe being arrogantly pedantic would bring a smile. I wanted to spout Dante. I wanted to say impeccably: essum maggior dolore, che ricordarsi del tempo felice nella miseria. Of course I would not say it with an italics accent. But since I do not speak Italian, then I would settle for: There is no greater sorrow than to recall in misery the time when we were happy. (Again the italics would be missing from my voice).

Maybe I should stop thinking.

That was the plan. However, I remembered that I am not, nor have any reason to believe that I will in the near future, be any sort of solace in the bruised heart department. No expertise there. No disciples can come to my temple and walk away satisfied that I made Pythia proud and that they got their money’s worth. Hell, I still believe in the romance and magic nonsense that causes my friends to choke with laughter and belittle what they call my Pollyanna tendencies. So I turned to my friend and said…nothing. Words failed me. His eyes were so woeful. He was staring at the floor.

WOEFUL EYES: It was her birthday recently. Know what I got her for a present?
ALICE: Flowers? An intimate dinner for two? A ride through Central Park where you spent time not looking at the city, but rather breathlessly exchanging murmurs of love and kisses?

He kept on shaking his head no.

ALICE *getting desperate*: A blouse? A ring? A wok? A pneumatic drill?

Woeful Eyes shook his head. No. No. No. No. He looked up at me, prepared to confess.

WOEFUL EYES: A vibrator.
ALICE: A vibrator?
WOEFUL EYES: Yes. What does that tell you?

I was a bit stunned but, hey, while it would not be on my wish list, it was the thought that counted. No?

ALICE *trying to lighten the mood*: It tells me that (here I quote Sherlock Holmes, pedantically, of course) when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.
DEACON *shouting from the other room*: It tells me that she ain’t getting anymore! From you anyway.
ALICE: Yeah. That’s what I meant.

Another friend had joined our little group and was adding his two cents. He talked about being with a girl he liked and was lucky enough to find himself making out with her when they were both tipsy. He wanted more, more, more. She…did not. So, he says, they spent several hours kissing and grinding. I love this bragging friend!

ALICE: Several hours? Kissing AND grinding?
BRAGGING FRIEND: Yep! Let me tell you that after I finally…well, you know what … my bits were dried up to raisins.

So this is what love was reduced to for one small moment in my little world. Vibrators and raisins. No romance there. No magic, either. Nuh uh.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

I think that I shall never see...

I was going to do laundry this morning when I passed a tree across the street from my apartment. It had been pruned and had a sign on it. I had a flashback to a conversation with a neighbor in Washington, D.C. She had been pruning the tree in front of our houses and spent many minutes explaining to me that even though her pruning had made it look puny, bald, and not cute, it would be well worth it when Spring came around. I listened to the specific gardening jargon about how this thinning would allow penetration of light and air throughout, resulting in even growth of the foliage. She discussed how vertical branch spacing and radial branch distribution are also important.

So on and so forth. I remember an hour of dazed listening until another neighbor came by and stopped to admire first neighbor's work and I was able to leave -- fast.

So this morning I saw the tree on my block. It was puny, bald, and not cute; no person was standing in front of it. There was, however, a note tied around its circumference. It read:

This tree will thrive and become stronger come Spring.
Now it looks like shit.

So. That's all my neighbor in D.C. had to say. I would have understood that!

"Ever seen a leaf - a leaf from a tree?"


"I saw one recently - a yellow one, a little green, wilted at the edges. Blown by the wind. When I was a little boy, I used to shut my eyes in winter and imagine a green leaf, with veins on it, and the sun shining ..."

"What's this - an allegory?"

"No; why? Not an allegory - a leaf, just a leaf. A leaf is good. Everything's good."

-- Dostoevsky, The Possessed
Dialogue between Kirolov and Stavrogin

Friday, September 15, 2006

Afternoon Vignettes

Soho. Rainy. All day. My sister wanted to buy a new chair and I was along for…whatever. We were walking and talking and began to pass a bistro. Two people. Man. Woman. Sitting outside under a very small overhang that needed to grow a few years before it could be called a proper awning.

They were eating late lunch, or early dinner. Pasta, I believe. The man was checking out his companion with a look that proclaimed YES, I know it’s fucking raining but I have PLANNED this all week AND we ARE going to enjoy this if it’s the last thing we DO, dammit!

She pulled her dampened fringe from her eyes and swallowed.

Ah, love!
* * * * * * * * * *
At one store, my sister sat in a chair that was sage-y in color and attitude and she told me that it was quite comfortable. “Is it?” I asked her in a distracted way because that’s how I am many times.

A young man was seated next to us and he was talking on the cell phone.

YOUNG MAN: Yeah! It’s really comfortable!

I realized that he was speaking to me. “Is it?” I asked, distractedly.

YOUNG MAN: What do you think?
ALICE: Well, I don’t know, I haven’t sat on it, yet.
YOUNG MAN: Not talking to you. Talking to the person on the phone.
YOUNG MAN: Shouldn’t you try it?

I say nothing.

YOUNG MAN *looking at me*: I am talking to you!
ALICE: Oh. Sure. I’ll try it, someday.
YOUNG MAN: Are you sure?
ALICE: Not really.
YOUNG MAN: Not talking to you. Talking to my girlfriend.

My sister and I go upstairs.

SISTER: Do you absolutely HAVE to talk to anyone who talks to you? Especially whackos?
ALICE: “Is it?”

* * * * * * * * * *

Our last stop of the day is to a paint store where my sister buys a gallon of paint called Poppy. She plans on painting one wall in her living room. The wall behind the sofa.

ALICE: That’s a great wall to pick to paint! Especially with a Poppy color!
SISTER: Glad you like it.
ALICE: I mean, think of it! The couch is there and anyone can find it easy to nap there. After all, in the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy, Tin Man, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion and Toto, fell asleep in a field of poppies and…
SISTER: Shut up. Please.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Bringing Down the House

I was packing when I smelled something burning, and saw smoke wafting up the stairs. Oh. My. God. I was on the third floor so I started to run down the stairs investigating every room, thinking quickly about what I had managed to leave on that was now going to be the destruction of the house. Damn, I thought, if the house is going to burn down why didn't this happen BEFORE I killed myself packing!

Nothing on the second floor. I rush to the first floor and with heart thumping madly, called out to Lolly.

LOLLY *sounding quite befuddled*: What?
LOLLY *sounding thoroughly annoyed*: Nothing is burning. I’m cooking!
LOLLY: Do you want some?
ALICE: Uh. No.
LOLLY: It's good. You'll regret not having some.
ALICE: What is it?
LOLLY: Liver.

Of course, I always try to be a polite creature, so I keep an impassive look on my face. You know, one that doesn’t scream ewww! My face probably looks like it would be saying, Oh, thank you no, I am not hungry right now. Maybe later. But my mouth doesn’t seem to want to play along.

ALICE: Oh. Uh. Ugh. Yuk. Nooo. I don't think that I want to eat burnt liver.
LOLLY: It is NOT burnt!
ALICE: Oh. Well. I don't eat liver. It's against my religion.
LOLLY: Really? Since when did the Pope forbid eating liver?
ALICE: Well. O.K. But, you see, I'm a vegetarian. Yeah. That's what I am and that's why I can't eat your liver.
LOLLY: Really? Well, what about that steak you had last night?
ALICE: Er. It was my goodbye-to-meat dinner.
LOLLY: If you say so. What are you having later for dinner then, huh?
ALICE *hating what she has to say*: Well, I was planning on having lamb chops.
LOLLY: Oh? Still saying goodbye?
ALICE: Yeah. Something like that.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Hanging Out with Doc

It probably doesn’t help that I have been attacked by a severe case of hives, for far too long. I am so itchy and I have scratched so much —legs, especially— that I had to see a doctor because it just got too ugly. This doctor had the best bedside manner.

ALICE: Well, you see, I am so itchy and I’m hoping that you can give me something to…
ALICE: Er. Scratched? Itches? You know?
ALICE: That’s why I’m here. I need some cream or something to help me…

Now, I’m thinking that I’m not loving the super-capitalized words bellowing from his mouth. But I keep my cool; after all, I need his medical acumen to help the hives go away.

ALICE: Doctor! I did not just put nails to skin that was unmarred by little raised bumps of itch, you know. These bumps all over my legs ITCH. MADDENINGLY. RELENTLESSLY. CONSTANTLY.
DOC: Your leg looks like it has a second degree burn

Oh good, he stopped shouting. But somehow that was more alarming. He has been hinting that the hives are due to horrific stress. And madness. According to him, I have "chosen" a form of self-mutilation as an outlet. What utter rubbish! He also told me that I need to go to the gym to work off things. This is annoying. I wanted some happy pills or something so that this stress will disappear. I don't want gym. I feel like some bloody 19th century woman who suffers from the "vapors". What a stupid thing to be erupting into itchy, bumpy, burning, scratchy nonsense.

Anyway, he did prescribe some things, and he glared at me for a bit and told me that when he sees me again, things should be better.

DOC *shaking his head sadly at me as he leaves*: Next time explain to me why you feel that you have to “punish” yourself with this incessant scratching. I know, I know, the hives make you scratch. But people generally don’t scratch that hard or that much. You will explain to me why.

Well, Doc, take a bit of comfort in Mark Twain’s statement: When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.

So I went for a third visit recently and he tells me I am “better.” My second visit there he had observed that I was “good.” While he kept on examining and talking I zoned out and had this flashback to my Catholic school days when Sister St. Cornelia, trying to get some people not to use “bestest” in a sentence, would have us all intone, under penalty of ruler smacks:

Good, better, best
Never let it rest
When the good gets better
And the better gets best.

I do not want to be better. I want to be finished. Basta with this whole nonsense.

However, I am to return in several weeks. I do hope he will declare me officially “bestest.”

In the meantime, I am to use a new topical medicine.

DOC: Wear this ONLY at night right before bed. Wear your most ratty, ragged clothes.
ALICE: What! Why?
DOC: Well, this cream, which I assure you is very effective, is basically…tar.
ALICE: Tar? What! Is it thick and black? Does it smell tar-y?
DOC: Yes and yes and yes. That’s why you should use it at night when you’ll be alone.
ALICE: Thanks, Doctor. This will DEFINITELY ensure that I’ll be alone at night, alright!
DOC *thinking aloud*: Hmm. Maybe you should put on gloves, too. You may be scratching yourself in your sleep.
ALICE *bitter*: So you are telling me that I should put on tar, wear rags AND gloves, and smell like Eau de Freshly Poured Asphalt? And this will “cure” me?
DOC: Well, it will cure you of the itch and unsightly hives.
ALICE: Unsightly? Well, what do you think I will look like as a ragged and gloved hunk of tar, huh?
DOC: You’ll be asleep. What do you care?

I’m leaving and paying. Yes, yes, I think to myself, I have to pay for this, too. I hear my name called. It’s the doctor.

DOC: Oh, one more thing. Stay away from feathers.

I hate my life.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Southern Romances

I went to visit friends in Gloucester, Virginia, and after a day spent picking blueberries, boating, and drinking shandies on the porch, a local friend of my hosts came to visit. He had been born and raised in Gloucester and had never left the area. He stood before us – a group of six – in a stance that left no doubt he was uncomfortable being with strangers. Lolly, trying to put him at ease (I think) smiled at him. And asked him questions. What kind? Oh, here’s a sample:

LOLLY: Ah, so Allan is it? Well, Allan, we would love to get to know you better so tell us: what is your essence?

Allan looked flabbergasted and his mouth moved in guppy-like puckers.

ALLAN: Well, my girlfriend says that I don’t talk much.
LOLLY: Ah. Not a talker.
ALLAN *thinking and puckering*: And ... she’s the boss.
LOLLY: What? Is she your boss? Or is she a bossy girlfriend?
ALLAN *puckering and thinking*: Yeah. She’s my boss. Not in a job, you know? Cuz I work for myself. But she’s the boss.

ALL OF US: Ah, yes, we get it.

ALICE: Where do you live?
ALLAN: Right next door. I have two horses that are riding horses and...that’s all.
ALICE: Well, that’s enough, no?
ALLAN: Yeah. I guess.

We stayed up very late talking, laughing and drinking, and my male host then told us that a month ago, he had put an ad in the pet section of the local paper. It seems that his guinea hen, Cesar, was pining for his wife, Marsha; she had been killed by a neighbor’s dog several months before. So since these hens are flock creatures, my friend wanted to end Cesar's suffering so the ad read: Widower Guinea is looking for two companions.

Apparently, the next day he answers a phone call from a woman who questions him about the “two” companions requirement. My friend insists that the guinea needs two. At least. Maybe more. Woman tsks and says that she really is not into threesomes, or group orgies.

MY FRIEND : WHAT! This is for a guinea hen! You know – a fowl!
WOMAN *disappointed*: Oh, well that was false advertising. I thought it was a gentleman.
MY FRIEND: It was in the PET section!
WOMAN: I’m just saying.

Later that day, my friend’s wife answers another call.

CALLER *quite brusquely*: Is he there?
CALLER: Aww. That’s alright. He don’t have to be afraid of me!

Well, my friend may have his pick of kinky, lusty Gloucester womenfolk, but poor Cesar is still a lonely bachelor.

And after spending some time with Allan, we found out it was true: he doesn't say much and his girlfriend IS bossy. And he does have two horses. And...that's all.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Hello, again

I spent a great afternoon yesterday with a friend that I see a lot, but only at night. So we decided that since we are not vampires, we could venture out into the sunshine and meet for shoe shopping. After an hour of looking but not buying, my friend announced that she was feeling "peckish" so we went for a late lunch. Conversation was, as usual, wonderfully intense and she told me of a date she had been on recently with someone she had not wanted to see again, but thought another chance was in order. Actually this would be his third chance.

They met and at some point he stopped in a bar because he had to use the bathroom. He asked her to wait outside because he was just running in and coming out so that they could continue to wherever he was taking her. My friend waited and waited. Finally, she looked through the window and saw her date sitting at the bar. Drinking. She kept on looking at him and saw him drink away, then pay, and then come outside to her.

FRIEND: WHAT? You were drinking? I was out here? You were drinking?
DATE: I felt guilty.
FRIEND: Guilty?
DATE: Yeah. After I used the bathroom, I was going outside but the bartender gave me a look so I felt guilty not buying anything. I had to get a drink so the bartender wouldn't think that I just came in to use the bathroom.
FRIEND: But that's exactly what you were doing!
DATE: Yeah, but I felt guilty.

I was astounded that her date did not feel guilty about leaving her outside while he assuaged his anxiety over an anonymous bartender. I mean, if his feet couldn't or wouldn't lead him to the door, why didn't he just beckon her to join him in that guilty drink? My friend ended the date early – very early – and went home, disappointed at herself for getting involved in another bad date.

Apparently, he wants to see her again. He has sent her a text message asking her to join him — for a drink. She sent back an am not interested reply, though she is known for changing her mind again, and again, and again, after a cooling-off period.

And she has. Changed her mind, that is. She will be seeing him again tonight.

Douglas Adams knew it best, it seems. He has said that Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Just call me...Pythia?

Questions. Yesterday was filled with questions. All directed at me. Here’s a sampling:

HOMELESS MAN: Uh. Miss Lady. Can you spare some change?
ALICE: *startled out of daydream*: Umm. Sorry?
HOMELESS MAN *bit put out that I wasn’t paying attention*: I SAID, can you spare some change?
ALICE *not loving the tone*: Maybe.
HOMELESS MAN *waiting*: Well. When?
ALICE *cheerily*: Soon.
HOMELESS MAN *frowning*: I want it now, Miss Lady.
ALICE: Don’t we all. Alright. Here.
HOMELESS MAN: Took you long enough, didn’ it?
ALICE: Not bloody long enough.

Back at the house:

REAL ESTATE AGENT: Where’s the electrical box?
ALICE: In the foyer.
REAL ESTATE AGENT: Why there? Why not in the basement?
ALICE: Umm. No clue.
REAL ESTATE AGENT: Where’s the plat?
ALICE *thinking hard*: Umm. No clue.
ALICE *interrupting quickly*: Umm. No clue.
REAL ESTATE AGENT *narrows eyes*: I didn’t get to ask the question. How can you have no clue to a question that wasn’t asked?
ALICE: I’m good that way.

Later, my friend Jane telephones:

JANE: I have a question for you.
ALICE: Okay.
JANE: What do you think the diameter of a cherry tree would be?
ALICE: Umm. No clue.
JOAN: Well, think about it. I need the answer.
ALICE *thinking and then deciding to google it*: Ah, here it is. It says from 1 to 2 feet.
JANE *quite irritated*: THAT can’t be right!
ALICE: Oh, why not?
JANE: That is way TOO much, don’t you think?
ALICE: Umm. No clue.

Then my friend Debbie calls:

DEBBIE: Hey, remember I was going to visit you today?
DEBBIE: Well, I don’t have the car because Aaron took it.
DEBBIE: So, I thought I’d take a taxi. Whadda think?
ALICE *thinking that this one is easy*: Sure. That’s great.
DEBBIE: But, I can’t take the taxi, you know?
ALICE *thinking, what did I miss? *: No. I don’t know. Why?
DEBBIE: Because I don’t have any cash on me.
ALICE: Oh, well, that’s alright. I’ll pay for the cab. Just come over.
DEBBIE: That’s great. But…no can do. You know why?
ALICE: Umm, no clue.
DEBBIE: Because I need to be here. Know what I’m saying?
ALICE: Ah. Sure.

I know understand what Tom Stoppard meant when he said, My whole life is waiting for the questions to which I have prepared answers.

Friday, September 08, 2006


Had to take another break from job hunting. Nothing but job hunting. So I was quite pleased when a friend called me to chat. Yay! A break from writing cover letters, and sending resumes, and never hearing from anyone. I get to have a conversation with someone other than myself. friend. She is telling me that several days ago, she had gone to a gathering. Since I am living vicariously through her, I am all agog that she got dressed up and went out and had drinks and stayed out late. Just like a big girl!

Friend: I am NOT HAPPY!

Alice: What happened?

Friend: A man fell on me at the party and I sprained my neck.

Alice: A man? Fell? On you? And, you SPRAINED your neck?

Friend: Yes, he was smashed. We were at a wine tasting party and, get this, he brought a 12-pack of beer. He drank them all. So, 180 pounds of drunk fell on me.

Alice: Did you know him?

Friend: No. I only know that he's a dick.

Alice: Did he offer to pay for your medical bill?

Friend: No. He's a dick.

Alice: Did he apologize?

Friend: No. He's a ...

Alice: Yeah. I get it. A dick. Are you alright, now?

Friend: Don't know. All I can tell you is that my doctor was standing behind me, crinkling my neck back into alignment and he was marveling over how bent out of shape I was. He was almost...laughing when I told him the story. I hate him. He's a dick, too.

Then she changed the subject. Told me about this guy that she had thought she was madly in love with and had been thinking about sharing a place with him.

Friend: Oh, he broke his ankle.

Alice: What! He's injured, too? Did it happen at the party?

Friend: No. He broke it while wearing clogs and doing Tai Chi.

Alice: Clogs and Tai Chi. Umm. Why?

Friend: Why was he doing Tai Chi?

Alice: No. Why was he wearing clogs? I mean, honestly...

Friend: Well, it was a choice between buying an earring or clogs.

Alice: He should have chosen the earring.

Friend: Oh, well, he did get one, too.

Alice: And you love him madly because...

My friend told me that she doesn't think she could live with him because he is too compulsive about many things. I privately thought that compulsive is not a word that springs quickly to mind. Schmuck does.

Friend: When we were discussing moving in --he nursing his ankle, I nursing my neck -- he handed me some sheets of paper.

Alice *laughing*: Pre-nup?

Friend: No. It was a household budget. He told me to please follow it carefully. Don't make any changes, he ordered. If you need to change a category, let me do it, he said.

Alice: How utterly, undeniably...romantic that is. I can see the attraction for you.

Friend *tsking*: Don't worry. I said thanks and when he hobbled out of the room, I dropped it into the trash. I don't think it will work out because...

Alice: You're not into clog-wearing, earring-wearing, obsessive compulsive tai chi-ers who are...dicks?

Friend: Something like that.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Ya Learn Something New

I was talked into taking a writing class called Starting the Novel. I never thought that I would ever sign up for such a course but…what the hell. I should start a novel and…again, what the hell.

My classmates lacked spark, but maybe it was because they were tired having come from work. It seems that I am the only one that does not have to leave for a job in the a.m. -- yet -- and that sucked when we had to go around introducing ourselves and tell a bit about what we do. Do? I do…lots of things but do I get paid for it? Anyway, when it was my turn I said rather too brightly that I am, um, um, busy looking for a job. Yes, that's right, that's what I am doing. And also that I am trying to write...something. There was interest. “What’s it about?” asked Michael. Ummm. Well, I muttered that it was still in planning stage but that it involved a woman who kept a weblog. Jeez. Total fiction, that story.

Then the instructor asked us what we do to get ourselves in writing mode, how do we write those first words. When it was my turn, I tried to be very honest and say that usually I need a title. Then I said that once I have a title, I can start that first paragraph. The instructor said something along the lines of that’s a good way to go. Well, a Richard then spoke up.

Richard *huffy*: Well, that might work with short stories but having a title for a novel right away? That’s not a good idea. I mean a novel is long. A short story is…short.

Alice: What are you saying…um…Dick?

Dick: I mean, it’s hard to think up titles. Hell, I think that it’s hard to think of first lines. You should just call it Draft One and at the end of the novel, then think of a title.

Alice: Are you working on something right now?

Dick *surprised*: Yes.

Alice: And you found it easy to begin writing?

Dick: Yes. After all, I learned in college from my writing instructor that all you needed to do to get into writing was to follow the bing, bang, bingo formula.

Alice: What?

Class: What?

Instructor: What?

Dick: Well, you think of something and then add detail to it. That’s bing. Then you think of something else to go into the middle and then add detail to it. That’s bang. And you think of the ending and…

Alice: I know. Add detail to it.

Dick: Yeah. And that’s bingo!

So now I’m thinking that I have eight weeks of class and I am fervently praying that we will not be binging, banging, and bingoing the whole time.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

There are no Words...

My friend Tiggy has telephoned me early this morning. Too early. Everyone in this little household went to sleep very late last night -- or very early this morning, if one wanted to be accurate. She wants to meet and walk around the park many, many, many times because she claims that she has spent the holiday weekend eating everything in sight and needed to exercise. We had been celebrating David's birthday all weekend and while eating and drinking were great things to do, walking didn't make my list, but Tiggy hinted that she had something fun and interesting and necessary to talk about. So I went.

Tiggy is wearing her customary pair of black yoga pants, and a much beloved green tee shirt that has written in front: What kind of socks do pirates wear? And on the back: Arrrgyle! She also has on her grandmother's strand of pearls and a pair of long beaded earrings. Quite the look. As long as I have known her, she always wears the pearls and while her earrings are varied, they are always long enough to almost brush the top of her shoulders. I once joked to someone that I bet she wore this jewelry to sleep and, sure enough, she came over one night to borrow my camera and was wearing pajamas (she lived next door) and the pearls and gold filagree danglers.

So here we are, me with three hours of sleep and Tiggy chirping about this and that when, at mile two of our walk, she starts to talk about values, morals, and standing up for what one believes. God help us.

Tiggy: You know, I sometimes see a program on television that concerns itself with values and such…by the way, you should see it too.

Alice: Alright. Which one?

Tiggy: Well, I don’t remember the name.

Alice: Oh. Well, what channel is it on?

Tiggy: I don’t remember, though I think it’s channel 35. But I’m not sure.

Alice: Oookay. When does it come on?

Tiggy: Actually, I don’t remember. Maybe Sundays?

Alice *quite irritated*: How in hell do you see this program if you don’t know the name, don’t remember the channel, and—more importantly—can’t remember what day it’s on? HOW DO YOU SEE THIS BLOODY PROGRAM THEN, HUH?

Tiggy: Well, it’s usually by accident. I turn on the t.v. and then, all of a sudden, it’s on and I always say to myself: Hey, I love this program, gotta watch it more often.

Alice: How many times have you seen it?

Tiggy: Oh, just twice. I think. I’m not sure. Maybe. But anyway. It’s a great program.

I know when to surrender. I look over at Tiggy and vow, absolutely vow that I will make it my mission to watch the show.

Tiggy: Great! Remember to tell me when it's on exactly. Okay?

Monday, September 04, 2006

On the Road...With Sarge

So I was standing around in Washington, D.C. waiting for the Vamoose bus to arrive to return me to New York City. We were supposed to begin boarding at 8:30 a.m. for a 9 a.m. departure. At 8:53, one of the potential passengers called the company on her cell and the person who answered was...unconcerned. He told her that the bus was NOT late since it wasn't 9 a.m. yet. When she told him that the instructions on the reservation asked that passengers arrive 15 minutes early in order to be guaranteed a seat, he answered, "Do you always follow the rules to the letter?"

The 17 of us gathered together, and quite bonded by now, looked at each other sheepishly and realized that we probably do succumb too much to authority. I spoke up and said that we should really learn to be rebels about some things. As a group we decided that since the Vamoose organization seems to be so lackadaisical about timetables, we would make sure to have an authority-free good time on the bus because our driver probably would turn out to be a cool laissez-faire sort of guy, given his apparently cavalier relationship with the clock.

At 9:05 the bus arrives. Then we meet McNeil. Once we were all seated, he spoke into a microphone and spelled out the, er, rules that we were all to follow. To the letter. He had a deep, booming voice that did not really need that microphone.

McNeil: My name is McNeil. I am estimating we will arrive in New York at 1400 hours. Sooner, maybe. Depends on what the police are doing today on the road. We have three movies to choose from. Ocean's Eleven, Shark Tales, and Maid in Manhattan. If you don't want to see a movie, just say so. My feelings won't get hurt.

Us: *appalled at selection*: Well, no thank you. We don't want to see a movie.

McNeil *scowling with...hurt feelings*: Fine! You will see Ocean's Eleven. Anyone not in agreement?

Us *thinking this would be a good time to rebel* Uh. Yes. Yes. Ocean's Eleven is fine. Thank you.

McNeil *still scowling*: You may use your cell phones. ONLY FOR A MINUTE OR TWO! If you stay on longer than that and I have to hear your conversation, I will ask you to turn it off. If you do not get off, I will call the police. I have the right to do this. And I will do this, I promise you that!

Us *not getting the hang of the rebel thing yet*: O.K. No cell phones. Thank you.

McNeil: We will stop at a rest stop for EXACTLY 20 minutes. You get 20 minutes because that's what I get. If you are not on the bus, I WILL LEAVE WITHOUT YOU! Understood?

We nod. Hey at least we get two more minutes than we got during the drive down to D.C. And we didn’t have to hear a repeat of the Bob’s Big Boy story. That’s something.

So off we vamoose, headed for boot camp NYC. When we stopped, McNeil announced that it was "11:07 and I am leaving at 11:30. With or without you."

Well, that actually made it 23 minutes that we were stopping for, but I wasn't going to say anything to McNeil. I didn't want to have to drop and give him 50!

Back on the bus, we are in the middle of watching the movie when my cell phone rings.

Holy shit! I answer it quickly. My bus mates look over apprehensively at McNeil. He has not heard. Whew. I end the call very quickly and think to myself that when I finally, finally, get this rebel thing going, I am going to be such a force that people will live in fear of me. I mean, right?

We did arrive at 1400 hours. Apparently, even the police know to turn a blind eye to a speeding Vamoose bus with Sarge McNeil at the wheel.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

On the Road

Traveled to Washington, D.C. for the weekend. Took the Vamoose bus and it was packed. The last few times I’ve done this, I have always had chatty males as seatmates. Very chatty. Five hours of chatness. But I was heartened to see a female sit next to me, ipod headphones firmly in place.

“So,” I thought, “she’ll listen to music and I can watch the boring movie and no problems.”

After the requisite megaphone-quality greeting by the bus driver telling us what conduct he expects on his bus, how we shouldn’t throw crap on the floor, and how –in effect– he is the boss of us, we are on the road.

About an hour later, non-chatty seatmate receives a phone call and after hello she says that she had had a nightmare last night and that she had awakened with “red swollen eyes and sobbing hysterically.” However, she continued, she “couldn’t remember the rest of the dream.

End of phone conversation. Phone rings again; she says hello and then she is relating the nightmare story again. In exactly the same manner, with the same wording as before. This happens FIVE more times in one hour.

I am now quietly going mad with the boredom of hearing this story. In fact, if she needed a bathroom break, I could easily have taken over for her.

Fantasy Sequence

Phone rings. Alice answers.

Unknown Person: Hey!

Alice: Hey, yourself! Guess what?

UP: Who the hell are you?

Alice: Doesn’t matter. I can tell you all you need to know. She woke up this morning after a terrible nightmare.

UP: So?

Alice: It was awful. She woke up with red swollen eyes. Sobbing. Hysterically.

UP: Who the f**k is this?

Alice: Anyway, the poor thing can’t remember what happened next but…

UP: Did you steal this phone?

Alice: Well, she’s back now so here she is. Let her tell you the story with more detail. Oh, right. There ISN’T more detail!

End of Fantasy Sequence

When we arrived in Delaware the driver announced that he was stopping for fifteen minutes for us to go to the rest stop and do whatever we needed to do.


He told us that on his earlier morning run, he had stopped to let the riders out for fifteen minutes and apparently a young man had decided to have a sit-down breakfast at Bob’s Big Boy. He was left behind.

So all of us ran out of the bus, and we were parked so far away that it would take five minutes to even reach the buildings. We all had the same idea because after a trip to the bathroom, not one person went to buy anything. No coffee, no snacks, no stopping at Bob’s Big Boy.

Though I was curious to know whether the guy was still seated at his table. Eyes red and swollen. Crying hysterically.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Calling Gordon Ramsey

Was packing yesterday, something that I didn’t want to be doing but I had to move, so there I was throwing things in boxes and vowing that I would look through them later and decide what to keep. I should have just thrown the stuff out right then and there but one never knows when the stuff will be needed. Of course, it’s been close to ten years since I’ve looked at some of those things, but still…

My cell phone was ringing! Yay! A phone call. Not too many people know my cell number, so I was sure that I would be happy talking to whatever friend was calling. A break from packing!

I ran to answer it, jumping over several boxes, hitting my shin on the metal edge of my bed, cursing and hopping around until I managed to croak out a hello; I heard a male voice.

Male Voice: Hey! It’s Nathaniel! What’s going on?

Alice: Nathaniel! Just packing.

Nathaniel *confused*: Packing?

Alice: Yep.

Nathaniel: Umm. Whatcha been doing today? Aside from…packing, did you say? Why the hell you packing?

Alice: Well, a lot of things. For example, I was in the grocery store with Larry this morning and he ran up to me in the dairy aisle and he was carrying two bags of potatoes, both 5 pounds of weight. And he excitedly told me that if you buy one 5-pound bag, you get the other one FREE! He was so excited. I wasn’t. I told him that I did not really eat potatoes and that 10 POUNDS of something that I really didn’t eat, was not saving anything at all.


Larry: Oh. Well. I'm sure that you could think of a recipe that could use…

Alice *interrupting very quickly*: 10 POUNDS? No. After all, I am not trying to feed Ireland during the famine. They will SPOIL. They will develop those eyes and those gnarly thin, white, stringy, wormy tentacles that look as if they belong in an Edward Gorey drawing, and…

Larry: Nonsense! It’s a good sale.

Alice: NO! I don’t want POTATOES! Or, Spam for that matter.

End of Flashback

Alice: So, Nathaniel, we didn’t get the potatoes though Larry was pissed about it all day. What do you mean why am I packing? It’s obvious, isn’t it?

Nathaniel: Er. Umm. Sorry. You see, the thing is that I think that I got the wrong number.

Alice: Yeah. You did.

Nathaniel: Oh. You’re not Penny, then?

Alice: Nope.

Nathaniel: Oh. Well. Sorry.

Alice: I bet you are!

Nathaniel: Well, I want to hang up now.

Alice: I bet you do!

Sadly, I had to return to packing. And Larry came back with the potatoes because it was too good a deal to pass up.

Okaaay. Well, if I remember the recipe correctly, one can boil 'em, mash 'em, stick 'em in a stew.

That's just what I'll do with 'em.

Friday, September 01, 2006

"Every absurdity has a champion...."

The doorbell rang yesterday in a blaringly, insistently, not giving up until this portal is opened NOW kind of way.

So when I finally unlocked and opened, I saw standing there a...ladder.

Now one would think that I would be absolutely taken aback by this but no, no I wasn’t. Earlier that day, I had to kill time while a house inspection was taking place where I live so I went to several stores. The first, a run of the mill food market. So, of course, true to form, I was walking about all the aisles, letting Larry do the serious shopping while I entertained myself looking at things such as fresh ostrich meat, ugli fruit (and yes, it WAS rather unattractive!), and anything else that amused me.

Then...peripheral vision alerted me to a tall man walking toward me. He had white hair styled ala Elvis, was wearing tight jeans, white (!) boots, and a silver blue wife beater. His eyes were cerulean and the most amazing thing about them was that they did not sit centered in his face. The left one looked off to the left, and the right looked to the right. My first thought was how could he walk a straight path? My second? Of course, his eyes may not work together, but one of them is going to see me and he WILL talk to me.

He did.

He reached me and turned his head so that his right eye was facing me and smiled, a beautiful smile, and then greeted me -- joyfully is the only adverb that fits the reality. I returned his greeting -- hesitantly. After all, I did not know him though he was acting as if I were a long-lost friend who had been finally located by a private detective he had hired, and because I had been truly found, now thought that the money had been bloody worth it.

We talked for a few minutes. The how-are-yous, the isn't-the-day-great-so-far (well, actually, Elvis, no, the day has sucked for me but I'll play your little happy game). You know, all the words that strangers utter that pass for civil murmurs of conversation. Then I told him that I had to push on. We said our goodbyes and he moved forward, each eye scanning either side of the aisle.

The second place I went to was a food specialty shop. After entertaining myself for about half an hour, it was time to go to the checkout. Larry and I were waiting in a not longish line when, again, peripheral vision showed me a cashier standing about 4 registers over. She was pointing my way and speaking loudly.

Cashier: Excuse me, Miss, I need your help!

Alice *startled*: Me? Are you talking to me?

My Brain: Well, genius, she is looking at YOU, she is pointing at YOU, she is talking to YOU so I can understand why YOU are confused. Not enough information, is it?

Cashier *impatiently*: Yes, YOU! I need YOUR help. Come HERE!

Alice *chastised, and eloquent*: Um. O.K.

Before I walk toward her, I look at Larry and ask him how I could possibly help a cashier?

Larry *looking up from a pamphlet he was reading*: I don't know. But, think of it this way. Someone is offering you a job. Finally. Count your blessings.

All righty, then.

When I reached Cashier, she looks at me, and smiles. A beautiful smile.

Cashier: Sweetie, you must bring your purchases over.

Alice *confused*: Oh. But we're in line over there. *waves in an over there way*

Cashier: Yes. But I am open and NO ONE is in my line and I need you to help me by bringing your cart over so I can be earning my pay.

Alice *mouth open, nodding slowly*: Yes. I'll go get it, shall I?

Cashier *looking pleased that I got with the program*: I'll love you for it, sweetie.

So, of course, later, when I opened the door to an insistent ladder, I didn't think how odd that a ladder is visiting me; I just opened the door wider and waited for it to come in.

Eventually, it did.