Wednesday, June 29, 2005
"I have an idea that is so crazy, your brain is going to dissolve," I said. "What is located next door to Chipotle on 34th street?"
"The movie theater," he replied. I knew he would know.
"And what movie opens up today in wide release?"
"War of the Worlds."
"Yes. And that's all I'm going to say," I said. I was anxious to get off the phone, afraid to get my hopes up, afraid this impossible dream might somehow come true. "Two words for you: 1:15 and 1:45. But that's all I'm saying."
Well, today, Wednesday, at 1:10 pm, you would have found me in a darkened movie theater waiting for the movie to start (we enjoyed a string of previews all having to do, oddly enough, with island mishaps. Moral of the story: don't go anyplace new). It was an extremely odd assortment of people sharing in our midday moviegoing experience, a typical Manhattan cross-section. Old people, teens, ratty people, smartly dressed people who seemed like heads of households. "What's with these people?" I thought contemptuously. "Don't you have jobs? Shouldn't you be working?" Perhaps they were illiterate. I don't know.
I was back at my desk by 4 pm. No harm, no foul. The movie was great, and a major component of my enjoyment came from the illicit pleasure of playing hooky. It didn't feel like I was skipping my job; it felt like I was skipping algebra class. I had even tried to make a hall pass before I left - I wrote a note of explanation to my boss and left it on her chair (she happened to be out of the office, too). I showed the note to a colleague. "Why are you even writing this? What do you want me to do, initial it? Just go. Have fun."
So I did. I shed the usual business-casual shackles and submerged myself in the idyll of a summer afternoon, like back in the days when the only elements of happiness were a driver's license and a warm day and the confidence and bluster to walk away from whatever you let confine you.
Monday, June 27, 2005
I've been gone for a week, to San Francisco and its environs. L and I went to visit some friends out there and we had a great time in the city, Napa, Yosemite. The big thing, though, is that while we were there we got engaged - I asked her to marry me and she said yes, so now that's where we stand: affianced and loving it.
Even writing the words down is odd - the formality of the language of engagements and proposals and marriages. This whole process has made me feel very old and very young all at once: old enough to envisage my life, in all of its turns and twists until my death, in the company of another, old enough to consider joint checking accounts and naming children and caring for in-laws; and young enough to dive into this venture with optimism and maybe some naivete about what a life-long partnership entails, young enough to be brave enough to even try. But now that it's done I am much happier with the word 'fiancee' than I was with 'girlfriend,' and the prospect of living my life with this woman makes me joyful on a profound level. Before we used to talk about marriage and weddings in a painfully abstract and distanced way: "when I become engaged to someone," "when I have taken a bride," "when I have the occasion to plan a wedding." The relief - the relief! the gratitude! - to talk about our wedding, our life, our children. They will be good-looking, smart, dark-haired. Perhaps even athletic.
I bought the ring a couple weeks ago, through an amusingly blog-worthy process that I couldn't even discuss back then. Since I bought the ring I've been playing with it and admiring it almost nightly - infusing it with love and my touch, listening to the most romantic music I have (Jill Scott, Coldplay, Ginuwine, Stevie W) and blessing the ring with it. I knew the day I would propose on this trip - Tuesday, June 21, the summer solstice, when we were going to do a 17-mile hike up Half-Dome in Yosemite.
The night before we were staying at the Little Valley Inn, in Mariposa, 40 miles beyond Yosemite. We meant to go to bed early in order to wake up at 4:30 and drive into the park. I couldn't sleep, though, tense with anticipation, not even doubting my plans but enduring a rush of butterflies all the same. I couldn't stray too far from the bathroom, either. I lulled myself to sleep thinking about my friends and family, imagining telling them and enjoying their reactions. On the hike I wasn't sure when I would ask the question, but about a quarter of the way in we found ourselves eating breakfast on some shady rocks atop the breathtaking Nevada Falls. There were few people around, mostly a very aggressive breed of fat and short-tailed squirrel, as well as a smattering or curious blue birds who were not shy about mugging for some spare trail mix.
Asking the question reminded me of improv, and of how it felt to decide to kiss a girl in high school. Once the course of action was set, there was no turning back, only commitment. As we got up to leave I said, hold on, and pivoted onto one knee as L stood before. There were about eight points that I wanted to cover as I spoke, points dealing with: our love, our potential family, what she means to me, the hike as metaphor, etc. I remembered maybe three of them. She was shaking and turning a little bit red, so I held her steady as I talked. I was very aware of the situation and felt surprisingly detached. Finally, with lots of hems and haws, I finished my opening statement and asked the questions. She said yes and I showed her the ring and slid it on her finger, and she loved it. We got up and the squirrels scattered. Someone took our picture and then we kept moving up the mountain - there was a long ways to go yet.
A long ways to go but we were floating. Before I left for the trip I felt like Moses leaving to climb the mountain to receive the ten commandments. I was aware of the trip as an important hinge in my life - I was on a pilgrimage where things would change in a profound way. Now I have returned, yoked to this woman for the rest of time, and it brings me nothing but joy and love and gratitude. I am a changed man now, and I think for the better.
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Newsflash! . . . I'm reading Ha Jin's novel "War Trash" and I really like it! But I bent the cover in my bag and I tried to blame L for it. Not appropriate . . . We're going to California on Saturday for a week, to San Francisco and Yosemite National Park. Hiking, reading, driving in a rental car, west coast city life. This country of ours is huge . . . And finally: a friend of a friend was reading this blog, and thought I was a chick. And just when I was feeling confident about my gendered identity . . .
This style is tiresome. But I wanted to at least put something out there. More later.
Monday, June 13, 2005
In eighth grade I wrote an English paper about Michael Jackson's arrested development, his efforts to recover a childhood from within his gilded cage. When I was very young I used to go crazy when my parents played "Beat It" - I developed a foot-stomping, furiously aerobic dance dubbed the Boothead Shuffle by parents and relatives, a state of mind into which I would plummet whenever I heard those first guitar licks. I did this on birthdays, anniversaries, family reunions, and at least one occasion in which a video camera was present.
All this to say that my relationship with Michael Jackson is long and multifaceted. Today I can't even listen to him on my iPod. I see how the prosecution couldn't prove anything beyond that pesky reasonable doubt, I see how the accuser turned out to be a total wackjob with the reliability of a narcoleptic doing air traffic control, but something is not right. He should have been found guilty of something. If not a crime, then at least squandering a life of wealth and influence.
Honestly, he should have died tragically in a plane crash in the late 80s. Or even, say, 1993 - I'd give him "Dangerous" just for the joys of "Remember the Time." But think how he would be remembered if he left this earth before all of this came out. In some ways it may have been better - and that is a sad and deflating idea to consider.
Friday, June 10, 2005
Sitting in the boats is a somewhat grimy experience. Your ass ends up a little damp - lake water? Sweat? Residual moistness? The oars squeak horribly and you sit facing the rear of the boat to propel yourself forward, gazing into the face of your companion as you try not to get mad by her seemingly-constant litany of course corrections. You can push the oars forward, leading with the rear of the boat, and it feels kind of like a chest press. You can spin yourself around with the oars or just float aimlessly and enjoy a view of nearly uninterrupted greenness, the grass, trees, shrubbery, doubly seen through a lens of water. Towers and apartments rising from behind like an old species of tree.
It felt good to row her in a boat in Central Park. We will do it again, I am sure.
All that, and the new Coldplay CD is spectacular.
Thursday, June 09, 2005
Anyways, the week has been good. Stifling days make for pleasant evenings. The reading on Monday went very well - a smaller crowd, but everybody was into it. A few people came out to see me, and I was grateful for that. I ended up reading last, and I did this piece on Little League and playing softball with my friend's Olympic coworkers. I had pecked it out over the weekend for the "Sports Night" theme, and I tried to write it in the vein of one of the New Yorker's "Personal Histories," which I love. I wasn't sure how it would go over, but it got a really good response and I felt great about everything in the world.
However, last night I confronted a problem that has been creeping up on me like - well, like a mold on your feet. ATHLETE'S FOOT. I went on WebMD.com, a site I will not even link to due to the miserable compulsion I feel to go there and identify new ailments from which I suffer, and I learned all about this condition and why I'm such a bad person for getting it in the first place. After two weeks of ointments I should be all cleaned up. In the meantime, I'm deciding if burning all my footwear, rugs and bedding is enough, or if I need to immolate myself alongside them. Today, the first full day of treatment, my feet feel like they are on the rotisserie, because I am thinking of them a lot. And the empathy and support I would expect from friends and family is nowhere to be found, instead I suffer the usual derision and indignities. Well, good for me for at least getting "Athlete's Foot" - maybe someday I could get "Jock Itch," too. Or maybe even "Stud Burn," except that's just plain ol' herpes. No thanks, WebMD.
Sunday, June 05, 2005
Ashesh and I were talking and suddenly two girls were standing before us. They were looking at us expectantly and I felt a moment of pride. The tall blonde who looked like the muscles in her face weren't entirely under her control was covering Ashesh, and I had the slightly mousier brunette (maybe she would be smart-cute in the light?). Well, well, I thought. But of course. And how are you ladies tonight? They were both emissaries of the bachelorette parties, and they were both wearing candy necklaces. "Bite off a candy . . . a dollar?" was all I could hear over the music. We sort of dumbly agreed and I soon found myself gingerly trying to bite off a single candy from the strand, while fastidiously avoiding touching the girl's skin and trying not to snap the twine. She didn't smell particularly good. I finally succeeded and was unclear about what kind of transaction was taking place until Ashesh took out his wallet and gave his girl a dollar. I did the same and they wandered away. "That was weird," I said. "That was not worth a dollar." "I got her hair stuck in my teeth," Ashesh said.
As the night continued more and more girls came up asking us for a dollar to bite a piece of candy from their necklaces. What was this money for? And wasn't a dollar kind of steep for such a wretched prize? The girls were sadder and sadder as the night progressed. The more prudish ones wouldn't wear the necklace, so one came up with the whole thing wadded into a damp napkin. One twirled it around her finger, and another dropped hers onto the floor and then picked it up and offered it to us: "Do you want a piece of candy for a dollar sorry it fell on the floor?" They completely divorced the "sexy" aspect of the process, and thus bled it dry of the last shred of appeal. Would I pay a dollar to take a Pez from somebody's sweaty fist? No, madam, I would not.
These were not sexy girls but they were trying to be. Near the end of the night the eventual bride came up and asked if we would sit down and hold her drink between our legs. It was the saddest thing in the world. We both said no, of course, but then we soon saw her consuming her drink from between the legs of a random seated guy, a veritable piece de resistance for the evening. Woo!
Friday, June 03, 2005
Thursday, June 02, 2005
Yesterday I walked out into the main area of my workplace and mentioned that a new show was going to be on TV that night, a show that I was mildly interested in watching and that would provide some structure for my night. The show was on Bravo, and it was called “Sportskids Moms and Dads.” (In hindsight, I see how pathetic this sounds, and why it was never a fruitful topic of conversation.) One of my coworkers, a woman I consider a friend, said:
“You’re such a TV whore!”
I retreated into my office thoroughly chastened as everyone else laughed ruefully. As I returned I could hear someone mutter, “Dang, that was harsh.” My face turned all kinds of red, and I was surprised at the wave of humiliation and shame that coursed through my body. TV’s not the only thing I do, you know. I read books, magazines, newspapers. I exercise. I can talk about music and film. I’ve done improv, I write some. I’m going to school soon. Yet beyond all of that, I think this woman hit a deeper truth, one I find myself afraid to confront.
But what’s wrong with watching some TV as long as you’re well-rounded? I feel the same ambivalence and guilt about watching television as I think I would if I, say, chewed tobacco regularly. And the damnedest part is that I did watch the show, and it wasn’t even that good.
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
Well, I’m back from ten days in
We woke up very early and went to bed very early, we walked slow, we took our time. I felt frustrated at every turn, like the kid in “The Incredibles,” but a lot more sullen. At different points I got frustrated with everyone in my family and everyone in our tour group. “Why can’t you even try to speak Italian!” “Why do you shuffle so slowly! Does that cane even do anything?” “Why are you so diabetic all the time!”, etc. This was not a healthy attitude, and so I don’t think I managed to really relax on the trip. It was a very task-oriented vacation, which has its own set of peculiar charms, but it was a rough way to live for ten days. I mean, we woke up at six every day – we didn’t even get a weekend. It was worse than working.
Here are some of the positive things about it: quality time with my family, great reading, beautiful country, hiking up Mt.