Relevantly Speaking

I read an essay in today’s paper by a woman in her forties looking for employment after years of being out of the work force. The theme of the piece seemed to be resentment that the writer’s work experience doesn’t go far toward getting her a job right now. She was whining about the advice she was given by company representatives at a job fair she attended, professionals who told her to drop work experience gleaned twenty years ago from her resume. They said that potential employers would only focus on experience that could translate into current workplace needs, and her long ago jobs in retail were more or less irrelevant.

More than that, the lack of any entries for the last two decades would send up a red flag to prospective employers. Better not to list any work experience at all and just state her job objective and related education. She felt diminished and insulted by their feedback. What about her job as a mother? Didn’t that count for anything? Her assertion that raising two children to adulthood requires more multitasking than a company president made me cringe. And not because I don’t agree with her. It just doesn’t belong on a resume. The purpose of a resume is to present oneself as a valuable asset, not validate one’s life.

The writer was proud of the fact that she had no smartphone, Facebook account, or LinkedIn profile. She somehow believed this would recommend her as more reliable and serious than a young person who was constantly updating their status and texting covertly in meetings. Is that what her adult children do? The lady doth protest too much, methinks. If I could stand in front of this essay writer, I would try and disavow her of such a negative opinion of all young people. It makes her sound threatened and insecure, to say nothing of old-farty. Then I would encourage her not to wax poetic about her days of typing on an IBM Selectric when she could get empowered learning Microsoft Office.

I would tell her that the world won’t change even if she can prove the old days were better. And that employers seek candidates with energy, flexibility, and a positive attitude. Skills are a must, and experience a plus, but the applicant who closes the deal needs to show something extra, regardless of age. A curious mind is a beautiful thing. One that is anchored to the past and dismissive (or afraid) of what it takes to stay current is likely to sit through a bunch of interviews with nothing to show for it but a cranky essay.

If this writer asked me, I would suggest that if she has no recent work experience, she could start volunteering. Nonprofits will give a reference for good work just like a corporation. Not only that, volunteers are more likely to be hired when positions open up. If that’s not appealing, she could take some classes in a local college’s adult education program, or audit university courses that interest her. If she is a college graduate, even from twenty years ago, her alma mater probably offers workshops to help alumni develop skills the present workplace requires. I just attended one that helped me refine my LinkedIn profile and understand the realm of endorsements. Workshops on every topic exist everywhere, starting at the local library.  Step number one is leaving the house.  Step number two is embracing the present.  Step three is to just suck it up and move forward.  The future will come, prepared or not.  And it won’t hesitate to leave anyone behind.

Daughter’s Featured Fotos travel the globe in 2013, New York to India

(S)HOEGASM, W. 23rd St.

(S)HOEGASM, W. 23rd St.

Tiruvannamalai

Tiruvannamalai

every face tells a story, NYC

every face tells a story, NYC

faces, India

faces, India

wall smile, Chelsea

wall smile, Chelsea

Pondicherry street art

Pondicherry street art

sunset, The High Line

sunset, The High Line

marketplace, India

marketplace, India

vegan sushi, Sadhana Forest

vegan sushi, Sadhana Forest

relevantly 10 pobodyisnerfect

HAPPY NEW YEAR ONE AND ALL

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After Leo

In the following scene, which was written last year for a graduate Playwriting class, the direction (BEAT) indicates a brief pause and (SR) means Stage Right. The assignment was to illustrate conflict in a closed environment with two characters. Technically there are three characters, but the baby doesn’t have any lines. Yet.

JENNA and STEVE are new parents who brought their baby boy home from the hospital several days earlier. They are both college-educated; Jenna is on maternity leave from her job and Steve took a week’s vacation after the birth.

The SETTING is a one-bedroom apartment in an urban area. The IKEA-furnished living room is cluttered with a bassinet, changing table, baby swing, etc. and there are pastel-colored blankets and stuffed toys strewn on the sofa and chairs.

JENNA and STEVE are in their pajamas in the softly lit living room in the middle of the night taking turns holding baby LEO who is fussy and crying.

STEVE

(HANDS LEO TO JENNA. YAWNS AND DROPS ONTO COUCH PUSHING ASIDE A STUFFED BEAR)
You think it’s colic? He slept the whole time in the hospital. Why isn’t he sleeping now?

JENNA

(PACING BACK AND FORTH ROCKING LEO IN HER ARMS)
Everything is new to him. He has to get used to the environment.

STEVE

(LOOKING AROUND)
What’s not to get used to? It’s all his stuff. This is now Leo-land.

JENNA

Shhh. He’ll think you resent him.

STEVE

(MAKING ANNOYED FACE)
What? Where did that come from? Some article in Parenting Magazine?

JENNA

Shhh. I mean it, Steve. You say things that you don’t realize are negative. We need to be positive around Leo. Then he’ll grow up to be positive.

STEVE

He’ll grow up to be a spoiled brat if he thinks everything is about him.

JENNA

Everything IS about him.

STEVE

You always have to have the last word. Isn’t that our pattern? Well, we’re parents now and I get an equal say. And I say that Leo isn’t going to be raised like a little prince.

JENNA

(DEFENSIVE)
You mean like I was a little princess?

STEVE

Was?

JENNA

(WAVING AWAY HIS SARCASM)
There’s plenty of time for the real world. He can live in wonderland for a while. That’s what childhood is.

STEVE

Yeah, childhood in this city. (BEAT) I’ll tell you what I won’t do and that’s start applying to elite nursery schools we can’t afford when my son is six months old. Leo can go to public school like I did.

JENNA

(HUGGING BABY CLOSE)
We’ll make whatever sacrifices we have to so our child has the best.

STEVE

(WARY)
And that includes letting your parents pay for private school, right? I don’t think so. Leo will learn how to make his own way.

JENNA

(SNIFFING)
That sounds like a commandment.

STEVE

Maybe it should be. The eleventh commandment: Thou shalt fend for thyself.

JENNA

(ROLLING EYES)
Thank you, Moses, Jr. Perhaps you haven’t noticed, but the goal nowadays is not to struggle.

STEVE

A little struggling builds character. I’m proud of my working class roots. Leo needs to be raised with values.

JENNA

(SITS NEXT TO STEVE AND HANDS HIM LEO)
We can give Leo values and things. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. We’re supposed to give our children better than we had. (SILENT PAUSE) Why can’t my parents help?

STEVE

Jesus, we’re not going down that road again.

JENNA

(GESTURES AROUND ROOM)
How many times have they offered to give us the down payment for a house so we wouldn’t be so crowded here?

STEVE

This is what we can afford. If we start living beyond our means —

JENNA

We’ll be what? Comfortable?

STEVE

No. Beholden to people who want to control our lives.

JENNA

(ANGRY)
That is so not fair!

STEVE

Not fair? I’ll tell you what’s not fair: you “forgetting” to take your pill when you knew I wanted to save more money before we had kids. THAT’S not fair.

JENNA

It’s always about money with you, isn’t it? How much is enough, Steve, tell me. Twenty thousand dollars? Fifty? A million?

STEVE

(GENTLY SHIFTING LEO IN HIS ARMS)
How about when the student loans were paid down? We’re over our heads in debt. We agreed to wait.

JENNA

That was two years ago. I’m over thirty. We both agreed we wanted to have more than one child. If we didn’t start soon — I wanted our kids to be healthy. My brother was a preemie because of my mom’s age. He still has all those breathing problems. The older I get . . .

STEVE

(SOFTENING)
The better you get.

JENNA

(SHAKES HEAD)
. . . the more problems the baby can get. I just couldn’t wait any longer. I wish you’d see that.

STEVE

I hear what you’re saying. I know things can go wrong. But that doesn’t mean it would happen to you.

JENNA

Why should I take the chance? You’re a perfectionist, Steve. Do you think you could deal with a child who’s not perfect?

STEVE

(FEELING AMBUSHED)
Wait, you’re making this about ME? I’m trying to be supportive here. You stopped taking the pill without telling me. Now I’m the villain? You’re the star of this little drama.

JENNA

So why drag my parents into it?

STEVE

(WEARILY)
They were out of it, Jen. You brought them back in. (BEAT) Why do you always do that?

JENNA

The same reason you speak in blanket generalizations. Nothing is always, Steven.

STEVE

(DEFEATED)
Oh, so now it’s Steven. Okay, Jenna. (TAKES A DEEP BREATH) Look, I know how exhausted you are. It’s late and Leo’s finally asleep. Let’s go to bed. We always do better in the morning. (GIVES HIS WIFE A PLAYFUL SMILE) Or is that too much of a generalization?

JENNA

(PATTING LEO IN STEVE’S ARMS WITHOUT TOUCHING STEVE)
I’ll let you know in the morning. (RISES) Remember he goes on his back in the crib.

JENNA exits (SR). STEVE sits looking straight ahead holding LEO, his shoulders hunched forward. The lights dim.

END OF SCENE


As the snow falls here in New York, Daughter’s Fotos regale us with Summer

after leo 1 Botanic11
after leo 2 Botanic21
after leo 3 Botanic31

after leo 4 Botanic41

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Happy Black Friday

I am a lifelong New Yorker and I have never shopped in Manhattan on Black Friday.  Even though it’s only a short train ride away from our suburban town, it always seemed like an idea akin to swimming with sharks.  I just don’t have that predatory shopping gene.  I don’t even like shopping in the suburbs on Black Friday.  I remember back when Daughter was in preschool and Cabbage Patch dolls were the coveted toys, one of the mothers offered to stand in line on Black Friday and secure one to give away as a holiday raffle prize.  She said she would get to Toys ‘R’ Us at 5:00 am and not leave until she had one in her hands, even if she had to do battle.  I recall thinking she was either very brave or quite insane.  Possibly both.

This year, the first day of Hanukkah fell on Thanksgiving, something that won’t happen again until 2070.  I’ll be 116 by then and still waiting for the hot flashes to pass.  As it happens, this was also the first Thanksgiving I ever spent without my children.  They were both visiting close relatives in other states, so it was a bittersweet holiday.  In an effort to cheer me up, Husband made reservations for a delicious Thanksgiving meal at a swanky restaurant with a wine room as big as your average Starbucks.

happy 1 enoughwine

It was the loveliest dinner.  I awoke on Black Friday with a need to do something besides continue to digest the sauteed butternut squash and grilled asparagus of the day before.

OSV:  Hey, I think I’ll take the train into Herald Square and visit Macy’s.

Husband’s eyebrows went up as he faced me.

HUSBAND:  You?  In the city on Black Friday?  What are you shopping for?

OSV:  Nothing.  Pictures of the Macy’s windows.  A hot salted pretzel from a vendor on 7th Avenue.  Little kids getting photographed with Santa.  You know, like that.

HUSBAND:  (hugging me)  I hope you find what you’re looking for.

The MTA added extra trains for us Black Friday shoppers, and the 11:05 am express I boarded to Penn Station was packed.  Even so, nothing prepared me for the sea of humanity I encountered at Herald Square.  Macy’s “doorbuster sales” were on until 1:00, which meant wherever you were in the store’s 2.2 million square feet, you were elbow to elbow with mankind.  The view down on cosmetics from the mezzanine resembled those mass exits at South American soccer games, the ones where people get trampled and make the 11:00 news.

happy 2 Macys1

I quickly realized that this was target shopping.  You had to designate one department to visit because it just took forever to move down an aisle.  Any aisle.  I headed for menswear to get Husband something for being so sensitive about my Thanksgivukkah state of mind.  The sweater department was mobbed.  What are the odds a huge crowd would be looking for a wool-blend, shawl-collar cardigan?  You’d be surprised.  I found one I liked and set it down on a display while I adjusted my winter coat and scarf.  A male shopper picked the sweater up and started to walk away.

OSV:  Oh, that sweater is mine, sir.  I just set it down for a second.

MAN:  Is it on sale?

OSV:  I believe everything is on sale.

I waited, but he didn’t put it down.  He appeared to be fingering the sleeve possessively.

OSV:  Sir, that sweater is an XL.  I don’t think you wear an XL.  May I have it back, please?

It was the last XL in blue on the rack and I wasn’t giving up so easily, especially to someone who clearly wore a medium.  After a few seconds, he reluctantly held it out and I made a grab for it as the never-ending swarm of shoppers knocked into both of us.  Clutching it against my chest, I pictured giving Husband his new cardigan unraveled into a ball of wool-blend yarn.  I fought my way to a checkout station with three cashiers and a long line in front of each of them.  They kept calling out, “Form one line, please!  You need to all move into ONE line,” but no one budged and the cashiers continued to take care of each customer in turn.  Mob rule.

Outside in the seasonably cold sunshine, the line to view the traditional holiday window displays snaked inside the velvet ropes.  Everyone pointed and smiled and posed their kids against the backdrop of universal Christmas.  Muslims, orthodox Jews, Asians, Indians, you name it, Christmas was the name of the day.

happy 3 window1

happy 4 window3

happy 5 window4

happy 6 window5

happy 7 window2

Not satisfied with photographing other people’s children in front of the window displays, I moved on to other people’s family posing with Santa.

happy 8 Gals

It was a really good day, and just what I needed.  Alone in a throbbing horde, I had a chance to reflect on the things I am truly grateful for: my family and friends, my memories and dreams.  As time passes, there will be many occasions when my adult children will be elsewhere, no matter how much I’d love them to be home.  It’s all part of growing up.  And by that, I mean me.

Happy Thanksgivukkah.

happy 9 empire2

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Vegas, baby!

One day several months ago, I went to return something at Marshall’s, and when I got back I discovered we were going to Las Vegas.  I had never been to Vegas and never even considered going, but while I was out Husband picked up a phone call about some time share offering and he figured, what the hell.  Since I wasn’t home to say, “Vegas?  No way!” we were booked.  In response to my incredulous look, Husband said, “Everyone should go to Vegas once in their life.  Let’s go for our anniversary this year.”  I’m writing this the week before Thanksgiving, and we just got home.

I had a ball.  Neither Husband nor I drink or gamble, so I’ll have to elaborate on why it was so much fun.  First, we arrived during the Las Vegas Marathon, so the entire Strip was closed to traffic.  This made getting to our hotel on the Strip practically impossible, so we drove around Vegas for two hours and ate at Dickie’s Barbecue, which was insanely delicious.  When we finally found a back way to reach the hotel, the front desk said, “Really, you couldn’t get here?  We’re right on the Strip.”  We told them about the marathon, and they said, “Oh, right.  Then the Strip’s probably closed.”  Probably?  This was a big, fifty-floor hotel with a circular shopping mall inside.  Las Vegas IS the Strip.  It’s shut down with 30,000 runners on it and you don’t really know?  It was my first taste of the strange insularity of Sin City and the tempo that exists nowhere else.  What other place holds a marathon at night?

vegas 1 Vegasrunners

When we got up to our room, this view was waiting.

vegas 2 nightview

We went back downstairs to watch the race, and in no time a woman came up to us and asked if we were happily married.  She was holding a mini keg of beer in one hand, so it was easy to figure out that this wasn’t an official survey.  We said yes and she asked if she could hug us.  She pointed to a group standing off to the side, also with an arsenal of drinks in their hands.  “It’s on a dare,” she explained.  “The two couples I asked before you said no, they weren’t happily married.  Please?  Can I hug you?  It’s a dare.”  We looked at the woman, the group of friends, and then each other, and shrugged.  “Okay,” we said, and she gave us a big drunken hug and a woozy thank you.  The friends cheered.  Being New Yorkers, we felt for our wallets as we walked away.

The next night we attended the Marc Savard Comedy Hypnosis Show and I volunteered to be hypnotized onstage.  Sadly, I was among those eliminated when I failed to go under, but in the end it may have been a blessing since the participants onstage wound up pole dancing, scratching their crotches, and acrobatically Riverdancing.  It could have been a memorable YouTube moment to share with my friends back home, or an ambulance trip to a Vegas hospital; we’ll never know.  The show was hilarious and highly recommended, albeit nothing you’d want evidence of on your Facebook page.

Back out on the street, Vegas continued to entertain.

vegas 3 metalman

vegas 4 girls

vegas 5 starwars

There was a normal-looking young man standing in normal-looking clothes holding a handmade cardboard sign that said, “Kick me in the nuts for $20 (no cup).”  It’s hard to imagine the wisdom of making a living that way, cup aside, and although I had no desire to kick him, I would have liked to take a picture of him and his offer.  But I felt loathe to encourage that kind of enterprise, so I gave my tip instead to Cupid, who represented something slightly more altruistic, although just as bizarre.

vegas 6 cupid

After a nice meal and an annoying time share presentation that we happily ignored, our next venture was to appease me and visit the Pawn Stars shop featured on The History Channel, which is clearly now fresh out of real history and speaking more to absurdity.

vegas 7 pawnstars

The line to get into the shop was around the corner, so I struck out on my own to visit some of the well-known hotels like the Belaggio, with its amazing lobby ceiling.

vegas 8 bellagio

It also turns out that Nevada has more than Vegas to recommend it.  There’s the Hoover Dam and Red Rock Canyon.  Husband and I traveled to the Valley of Fire State Park with its colorful vistas and strange rock formations known as the beehives.

vegas 9 beehive

We found some ancient petroglyphs to satisfy Husband’s archeology jones, and then headed back to Vegas, which was unchanged since we had left it that morning.  The characters were all out on the Strip, the lights waiting to be turned on, and the line at the pawn shop gone.  I strolled inside and had my moment of History.

vegas 10 chumlee

Thank you, Las Vegas.  You are tacky and gritty, splendid and entertaining, disturbing and strange.  You really did make it hard to leave.

vegas 11 paris

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The Real Sounds of Silence

Several years ago when I went back to school for my BA, I wrote an entry here about taking a class in American Sign Language, or ASL.  It was a total immersion class, so there was no speaking allowed.  A mighty undertaking for a roomful of hearing students who were desperate to ask questions.  In retrospect, the course, although enjoyable, was only partly successful.  It is now four years later and only a shadow of that knowledge has remained.  Since I graduated last semester with an MFA in writing, my university dance card has been looking kind of anemic, so I enrolled this fall for a series of courses leading to a certificate in ASL.

ASL is an amazing language that was created nearly two centuries ago at the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut.  Today, Deaf citizens in America do not consider deafness a disability, rather more of a diffability.  They may communicate differently than their hearing counterparts, but their language is just as effective, and they don’t feel they’re missing anything.  ASL can convey the most complex intricacies of thought and philosophy as nimbly as the spoken word.  Just like with every other language, smart people communicating in sign are having smart conversations, and fools still come across as fools.  Gossip is gossip and arguments can get heated, even overheated.  That being said, if you happen to come upon two people signing in what seems to be a very agitated manner, don’t jump to conclusions.  The frenetic-appearing gestures and facial expressions might deceive you.  With only the upper body and immediate personal space surrounding the speaker being used, every single movement in ASL means something.  And not always what you might think.

For instance, a Deaf person signing with his hands while raising his eyebrows is asking a yes or no question.  This is important to know because it is the difference between, “She is over there,” and “Is she over there?”  Signing while pulling the eyebrows together into a frown signifies a “wh” question: who, what where, etc.  This alerts the one receiving the signs that an answer beyond yes or no is required, for example, “Who is she?”  True, there is a specific sign for ‘who’, but the receiver takes in the entire package; the hands, face, and body motions of the signer.  Facial signals and movement intensity are important to meaning.  They’re the difference between, “She’s right there,” and “She’s way over there.”

Signing is dialectic, the same as English, and it’s interesting to imagine signing with a Southern accent.  Just as parts of the country have different words for soda and pop, hero and hoagie, so does ASL have its regional idioms.  Some can even be specific to one school or community.  Our teacher, who is hearing, is a TOD, or teacher of the Deaf.  She showed us the sign for garbage, which is one hand forming a pouch under the opposite arm, and then she shared the sign her students have for it.  They touch the heel of their palm against the side of their head.  Garbage-head.  What began as a playful taunt between students became the accepted sign for the trash can.  The same way slang makes the rounds in English and catches on, so it does in ASL.  Is there a sign for “Whassup?”  Absolutely.

You may have noticed that I write Deaf in this entry with a capital D.  This is how the Deaf wish to be considered.  For them, being Deaf means belonging to a particular culture, the same as you would refer to Asian Americans.  They are Deaf Americans and members of the Deaf community.  A community in crisis now with the advent of new technology that allows for hearing where none before existed.  It is called the cochlear implant.  Whereas once there was only the hearing aid, now there is a cutting-edge procedure in which a receiver is implanted inside the skull and a processor is worn on the outside of the head.  With microphones and a transmitter located behind the ear, it is possible for Deaf people who are good candidates for the surgery to hear environmental sounds and human voices.  For some, it is seen as a miracle, an entry into the hearing world.  For others, it is feared to be the death knell for the Deaf way of life.  The end of the cohesive and proud Deaf community.  Can one person live in two worlds?  The future will tell.

Daughter’s Featured Fotos take us to the Woodward Gallery and all Around Town

Nick Walker

Nick Walker

Woodward Gallery

Woodward Gallery

Stikman

Stikman

NohJColey

NohJColey

street seen

street seen

Richard Hambleton

Richard Hambleton

Skewville

Skewville

Dorothy gone bad

Dorothy gone bad

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Positively Posh

I cannot vouch for how men’s minds work in relation to their physical appearance, but I do know something about women.  As Billy Crystal’s fictional talk show host, Fernando, used to say, “It is better to look good than to feel good, darling.  And you look marvelous.”  Every day, women of all ages go to great lengths to be fashionable while maintaining some level of comfort.  They commute in sneakers and tote their high heels to change into at the office; they shop for outfits that can make the transition from workplace to date night without a trip home in between; they struggle to incorporate current trends into existing wardrobes without annihilating their budgets.  And sometimes they employ magical thinking when it comes to fitting their size 14 thighs into skinny jeans designed with size 4 in mind.  It’s times like these when egos are the most fragile and the herd mentality is driven front and center; times when the communal dressing room can become an arena of madness in search of a designer deal.

I recently volunteered to assist at the three-day POSH Fashion Sale to benefit the Lighthouse for the Blind.  This is a famous event now in it’s 40th year, and still drawing a crowd that could fill a stadium.  To prepare for it, a dedicated committee of volunteers canvasses designers, manufacturers, and the closets of the wealthy and well-dressed for donations year-round.  Items are examined, sized, and priced with color-coded tags to make it easier for the scores of volunteers to get the clothing back onto the racks from the dressing room.  And the minute the sale is over, the work begins anew for the next year.  I’m told that there have been times over the years when the line to enter the building trailed down the block between Lexington and Park, and admission was $10.  For the times when the event is held at the Plaza Hotel, a whole new level of posh comes into play.

But it’s posh with charity in mind.  All proceeds go to serving the blind and visually impaired, and an air of excitement and communality permeates the event.  The clothes are sublime, the deals extraordinary, and the shoppers hungrier than vegans at a bean farm.  I worked like a maniac for three days.  Schlepping heavy wool suits and overcoats from the dressing room back onto the floor tortured my shoulder muscles to the point of drowning out the leg cramps.  The average load toted in to be tried on was about a dozen items per woman.  Hundreds upon hundreds of women filed past that dressing room curtain with their arms piled so high they could barely see where they were going.  It was up to the volunteers to get all the discards back onto the floor as fast as possible so they could be tried on again and ultimately purchased.  Hundreds times dozens times three days: you do the math.

I found the psychic element even more challenging than the physical one.  Women want to look great in their fashion finds, but sometimes the mirror refuses to agree.  So they turn to the volunteers in the green aprons for a second opinion.  An opinion other than what the mirror says.  One woman in an Armani jacket a size too small asked me, “Can I get away with this?”  I gave her an honest answer as kindly as possible.

OSV:  It seems snug.

WOMAN:  But can I get away with it?

I figured maybe I was misinterpreting her question.

OSV:  What do you mean by ‘get away with it’?”

WOMAN:  Does it fit?

OSV:  Well, the sleeves don’t reach your wrist, it pulls across the back, and it doesn’t close.

WOMAN:  That’s the way I wear my jackets.

OSV:  Then this one’s a keeper.

Apparently, a $40 price tag on an Armani jacket induces insanity.  Another woman asked me if I thought the Givenchy dress I was putting back on the rack was a true size 8.  I’m an 8, and she was four inches shorter than me and about thirty pounds heavier, so I assumed she was hoping I would say it ran large.

OSV:  (holding evening gown away from rack)  I’m 5′ 5″ and a size 8 and this looks like it would fit me, so yeah, I’m thinking it’s a true size 8.

WOMAN:  (grabbing it from my hand)  Oh, good!  That’s my size!

I don’t have endings to these vignettes, like whether the women actually bought the items or not, but the sanest words were spoken by a shopper in the dressing room who turned around and asked me if the Ralph Lauren stretch jeans she had on made her butt look big.  She followed this loaded question with the remark, “Tell me really because a steal isn’t a steal if it stays in your closet.”  I took a deep breath and said, “Ralph isn’t celebrating your butt here.”  She turned around slowly and I braced myself for the inevitable river of denial.  Instead, she flashed me a big smile.  “Thank you,” she said, with a knowing wink.  “Really, thank you.”

Daughter’s Fotos record her summer in India’s Sadhana Forest, a volunteer community dedicated to reforestation and environmental awareness

entrance

entrance

hut

hut

dorm

dorm

kitchen

kitchen

dishwasher

dishwasher

spa

spa

solar panels

solar panels

tree saplings in the nursery

tree saplings in the nursery

wick irrigation

wick irrigation

banyan trees

banyan trees

traveler

traveler

the way home

the way home

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Nothing but time

The condo complex upstate that Husband and I don’t get away to often enough uses a system of robocalls to alert homeowners to maintenance issues.  Since we’re part-time residents, most of the calls don’t affect us to a huge degree, and I listen to them on my cell with a combination of amusement and detached interest.  At this moment, our entire community, let’s call it Sunnyview, is being repaved.  Sunnyview is composed of ten buildings with about twenty units per building – uppers and lowers – kind of like the Orient Express, but stationary and without the murder.  We’re in an upper.

Each unit is over a little driveway that leads to a garage, and there’s a communal parking area beyond that.  There’s also a clubhouse, swimming pool, and tennis court, and it’s all meticulously maintained by the management company, let’s call them Skippy Management.  The folks over at Skippy are so efficient they often forget that we on the other end of their automated messages are not robots like them.  I sized them up ten years ago when their agent showed up at a homeowner’s meeting in a tweed suit.  At the end of August.  A woman in wool in eighty-degree heat has to be part amphibian.

I’ll cut to the chase and tell you that the robocall I received on my cell Tuesday afternoon informed me that the garage to our unit had to be left open starting at 6:00 in the morning on Wednesday.  The paving equipment needed access to the entire area or the homeowner would be fined $250 for holding up the project, to say nothing of displeasing the Blackie Construction Co.  With traffic, it’s a three-hour drive to the condo, so I called a neighbor who I gave a spare key to a few years ago in preparation for just this scenario.  She’s a widowed or single woman, an indeterminate number of years older than me.

OSV:  Hi, Dotty?  It’s your neighbor from two doors down.  We won’t be able to come up on Wednesday, so would you do me a favor and open our garage when you open yours?

DOTTY:  Oh, you’re not here?

OSV:  No.

DOTTY:  I thought you were here.

OSV:  Uh, no.  In fact, we’ve hardly been up all summer.

DOTTY:  Are you ill?

OSV:  No, just busy.

DOTTY:  Well, I’m ill.  In fact, I’m in bed.

OSV:  Oh, I’m sorry.  I won’t bother you then.  I just don’t know how Skippy expects those of us who don’t live in Sunnyview year-round to get there on a day’s notice.  I just got their automated message today.

DOTTY:  But they’ve sent so many notices in the mail.  Don’t you get them?

OSV:  Skippy keeps sending them to the condo.

DOTTY:  Well, you should ask someone here to mail them to you.

OSV:  Umm…I did.  I asked you.  You had me give you a stack of stamped addressed envelopes.

DOTTY:  Oh, that’s right.  I’m in bed.

OSV:  Yes, I’m so sorry.  Feel better.

I decided to throw myself on the mercy of the court.  I bit my lip and called Skippy Management to see if they had any suggestions.  They suggested I make some friends in the community so I don’t find myself in this kind of bind.  Really?  It was a guy I spoke with, and I bet he had on wool underwear considering we’re in August again.  I wanted to tell him that we do have friends in the community, we have lovely friends who are also weekenders like us, SO THERE.  I hung up and got in my car.

A hundred and thirty miles later, I went to bed upstate and set the alarm for 6:00 so I could open the garage for Blackie Construction exactly on time and not incur their displeasure, whatever that would look like.  Maybe their full name is Blackie Construction & Gun Running and they’d seal me in a drum and drop me in the river if my garage door was even slightly closed.  Then they’d FedEx my pinky to Skippy Management as proof that I was out of compliance.  The people at Skippy would put my finger in a jar with all the other severed pinkies and have a raffle at Christmas to raise money for woolen orphan clothes.

The paving went without incident.  Wednesday night on the way home, I got a follow-up robocall from my pals at Skippy.  Since I have Bluetooth, I listened to it in all its amplified glory from my Harman/Kardon speakers:

Hello, this is Skippy Management.  Residents of Building 7, remember that you cannot walk on the blacktop until Sunday and you cannot drive your car on it until Tuesday.  Tomorrow we begin on Building 5; if you live in Building 5, you must leave your garage open starting at 6:00 am.  Residents of Buildings 1 and 2, you can begin driving on your blacktop Friday.  Residents of Building 5, you will not be able to walk on your driveway until Wednesday.  You can begin driving on the blacktop next Saturday.  Residents of Buildings 8 and 9, we will be doing your areas on Monday.  You must make alternate arrangements for parking your car until a week from Thursday or the next solar eclipse, whichever comes first.  Residents of Building 10. . .

Daughter’s Fotos say Adventure Time in NYC, so come on along and get happy

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Why not offend everyone?

Here we are again, at the crossroads of political worminess and voter insult.  I hate to say I told you so, but two years ago when New York Congressman Anthony Weiner was forced to resign amid a lurid sexting scandal, I wrote the blog entry Spare us a Weinergate.  I remarked to Husband, “He’ll be back.  Eliot Spitzer and his whoring on the taxpayer dollar will be back.  They all come back.  New Yorkers love to give second chances.  It’s what shields us from believing we’re rude.”  Even while I was saying it, I was hoping I was wrong.  Alas.

New York is now in the midst of a mayoral race, courtesy of Michael Bloomberg’s inability to extend his term limit (again).  Among the candidates is Weiner, aka Carlos Danger, if you happen to be one of his sexting buddies.  One 23-year-old buddy, with the unlikely name of Sydney Leathers, says she feels disgusted and betrayed by Weiner because he told her he had changed.  He wasn’t prone any longer to the dubious behavior that brought him down in 2011.  Considering she was in the midst of an eight month phone sex and texting relationship with a married man, it’s unclear at what point these righteous emotions overcame her.  Leathers’ advice to Weiner’s wife is, “Don’t trust him,” a warning on a par with “Don’t lick a steak knife.”

Huma Abedin, Weiner’s lovely and loving wife, has publicly krazy-glued herself to the ground at her husband’s side in a display of marital support not seen since the Clinton era, that heady time when the term “windowless hallway” found its way into the cheater’s dictionary.  No surprise that Abedin is a longtime staffer of Hillary’s, and the former First Lady has even said she thinks of Huma as a daughter.  If that’s true, may I never hear the motherly pep talk Chelsea got before senior prom.  Since people in these circles are never agenda-less, if Huma’s stand-by-her-man show is laying the groundwork for her own political aspirations, she might want to hire a speechwriting tutor.  Her statement that their current situation is “between us and our marriage” borders on grammatical hilarity.

Eliot Spitzer’s prayers have been answered.  His return to the political arena after exiting in disgrace as governor had all the earmarks of being high profile.  But thanks to his fellow democrat, the Amazing Mr. Danger, Spitzer is skipping along the path to city comptroller so far under the radar he could be a mole.  Although both politicians shared a clever split cover this month on a New York Magazine,

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the latest New Yorker belongs to Weiner alone.

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Right about now, alone sounds pretty good.

Daughter’s Fotos represent the 4th annual Welling Court Mural Project in Queens, NY

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Out of Vogue

It has come to my attention that fashion trends have cycled again without my knowledge.  This is not something new by any means.  Many times in the past I have cleaned out my closet and donated everything with flared legs, padded shoulders, stirrups, platforms, pointy toes, etc. only to open the latest issue of Allure at the hair salon and see all the starved models wearing something exactly like I just discarded, with the heading above their blank expressions announcing, “Catch the Latest Trend!”

Then Husband has to listen to me stomp around our bedroom moaning, “Damn!  I just gave away my Diane Von Furstenburg wrap dress and wrap dresses are back.  For chrissake, Kate Middleton’s wearing one right there on the news.”  I point at the TV in frustration, and Husband attempts to console me.  “She’s pregnant, babe.  It’s probably just in style for maternity.”  Even he knows he’s wrong.

Recently I had cause to attend a fundraising event on the Upper East Side.  It was in the early evening on a rainy work day, so I put on my favorite art gallery opening look (unlined dress pants and slouchy silk sweater) and headed off for my train trek downtown to catch a subway uptown.  When I arrived at the venue, a quick sweep of the room revealed a sea of tight sleeveless black sheaths, bare legs, and taupe patent leather heels.  There was barely a sandal in sight, or even a classic ballet flat.  And certainly not another pair of Nine West black ankle boots like mine.  Just those neutral-colored high heels clicking across the marble floors.

How did I miss the memo?  When did pale beige shoes start to be worn with black dresses?  Apparently everyone else was in the loop.  And clearly not coming straight from their day jobs, or jumping over the gap on an E train platform.  When I got home, I went on Google and found pictures of various celebutantes walking into movie premieres and exiting rehab centers in black dresses with taupe pumps.  And lovely Kate Middleton, too, waving to the crowd from high above her baby bump, neutral heels gleaming in Britain’s fog-shrouded sun.

As a little girl, I remember watching my mother get ready for a party and carefully lay out her black dress, dark hose, and black heels.  I once asked her, pointing in her closet, “What about those white shoes, Mommy?” and she shook her head patiently.  “Oh, no, honey, you can never wear light shoes with a black dress.”  She paused a moment and bestowed on me one more piece of fashion law.  “And you can only wear white between Memorial Day and Labor Day.”  For years I thought fashion designers invented the calendar.

This clothing trend obliviousness might be because I went back to college several years ago and have come to accept flipflops and Uggs as interchangeable footwear suitable for any occasion.  But it may actually go beyond that.  The other night I was walking home from a community meeting with a neighbor from down the street who is younger than me and works in landscaping.  As we paused in front of my house to say goodbye, she glanced around at our shrubbery.  “How long have you lived here?” she asked.  “Twenty-five years,” I answered.  Gesturing across our front lawn, she asked, “Were all these big hedges here when you moved in?”  “Yes, they were,” I responded with pride.  She smiled slightly and shifted her weight.  “These kind of shrubs are pretty much out of style.  You might want to think about putting in some airy, modern ones.”  Really?  My shrubs, too?  I almost asked her if they should be taupe.

Daughter invites us to FIGMENT 2013, the annual interactive art festival on Governor’s Island

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They Started Without Me

I recently attended a public reading by a working playwright who also happens to be the director of the MFA creative writing program I graduate from next month.  It is this program that has opened my eyes to the power of dialogue, point of view as social comment, Aristotle’s Poetics and Bertolt Brecht.  Any one of which would have been worth the price of admission.  There is a well-known saying that those that can’t do, teach.  And those that can’t act, direct.  Then there are individuals like our director who prove these words wrong by presenting evidence they are capable of doing it all well.  I’m still looking for the writer who can’t drink, but until I locate that elusive unicorn we’ll go with what I know.

At the aforementioned reading, Director read from his latest work in progress, a play engagingly titled We Started Without You.  I overhear conversations all the time between writers who confess they struggle with titles.  Once I even heard an author say an entire book had been completed and even received an advance, but still had only its working title.  The writer revealed that the publisher was pressing for a better one or else they’d come up with one on their own before publication.  I can only speak for myself, but the thought of someone who isn’t me naming my work would clear my mind quicker than Miralax clears a colon.  That’s not to say I haven’t spent my share of time staring at a blank computer screen.  I’ve just never experienced that particular blockage where my writing is concerned.  It makes me wonder if maybe there’s a niche market to be exploited where one can earn a living thinking up titles for blocked writers.

The title of Director’s play refers to words in a note discovered at the scene of a suicide.  The play’s protagonist is unable to sleep since her neighbor plunged to her death from an open window, and the cryptic words left behind form one more enigma surrounding the tragedy.  The great thing about the Director’s reading was that despite the seemingly dark theme, the portion read aloud was hilarious, vivid writing that consistently hit its mark.  Sitting in the audience I couldn’t help but identify with the character’s plight even while laughing at the surreal mayhem.  It served to remind me that it is in the writer’s hands to create a universe that is at once recognizable and yet wholly apart from everyday reality.

Such is the thrill of writing.  It’s clear that as technology soars, it is a thrill more and more people seek to feel.  In this current golden age of self-publishing, anyone with anything to say has the ability to unleash their thoughts, platinum or tarnished, upon the reading public without censor or limitation.  Sidestepping the traditionally competitive world of agents, editors and literary journals, a motivated writer can still find a platform.  Or many platforms.  This is a boon for self-expression.  The anti-boon is that too often quality is upstaged by quantity.  There are no filters to sift out the banal, the derivative fluff, the pompous manifestos.  For serious writers, the challenge to reach hard-copy print is upped.

As school ends and the next part of my future begins, I am attempting to enter print publishing at a time when bookstores are closing faster than Apple releases new iPhones.  The next big thing might very well be reducing literature to condensed versions which readers can use to consider themselves well read or determine whether it’s worth their time to read the complete work.  I fear that too many will decide the short version is enough.  Sadly, writers that register complaints about this state of affairs run the risk of sounding curmudgeonly.  Like oldsters talking about how deep the snow was in their day and how many miles they had to walk in it to get to school.  Nobody wants to hear that.  Unless it’s worded hip and clever and published in the only book it can be certain everyone is reading, Facebook.

On a spring break trip to Tucson we discovered San Xavier Del Bac, a 17th century mission that rises out of the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation in southern Arizona

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