Thursday, December 2, 2010

Metal and Red

(fiction class 'group' story - each person to write a story referencing kevin bacon - yes, 6 degrees of kevin bacon - and yes, just kevin, or just bacon could be used) ;) enjoy!

Kevin stood nonplussed over the warm fleshy body and watched transfixed as the blood pooled underneath Mr. T.’s shaved scalp, darkening the red rug. The metal picture frame tumbled end over end, image back image back, from his hand in a suspended eerie slow motion. It was the clatter of the metal as it bounced off the plush onto the hardwood that jolted Kevin out of his reverie.

He blinked his amber eyes, and looked up and around Mr. T.’s sparse law office, which felt no more or less impersonal than it always did. Sleek, sharp -- corporate -- lines and manicured dark woods. The kind of office that was too stoic to concern itself with the personalities it harbored, a structured tabula rasa which housed any new executive with the same masculine malaise, and remained unaffected by the dramatic disturbance it now witnessed.

The only scrap of deviation from this elegant vacuity was the ruby rug that had been delivered earlier that day. The chicano and Black man wore blue jeans, and buttoned-down short-sleeved shirts embellished with a patch expressing their first name, and printed on the back with their company’s. Mr. T. had peeked out of the corner of his eye to note two things. Firstly, to ensure the delivery men didn’t scrape the metallic and black leather chairs across the richly-oiled floor, and secondly to observe that the young black man reminded him vaguely of a photo he’d seen of his nephew in the holiday newsletter his mother sent each year to the seven children and the spreading branches of half, step, and full grandchildren.

Mr. T., unlike his office, had had to learn to be remote and unemotional, to be the aggressive shark instead of the Black black sheep prosecuting the White white-collars. Such voracity allowed little room for compassion, or appreciation of the subtle or often passionate gifts of human relationships. The last woman he’d involved himself with was during his first year of law school, almost twenty years before. Ruby, he almost smiled nostalgically.

This brief and rare reminiscence therefore seemed apropos when later that evening Mr. T. rose to approach the same young Black man who had been in his office just hours before. And as he crossed onto the red carpet, he realized it wasn’t the newsletter photo this man resembled—it was his own mirror, twenty years before. The broad and proud nostrils, the heavy eyebrows that masked seclusion but could blaze scorn.

Mr. T’s final coherent vision before clutching the striking and sudden pain in his wide chest was the name patch on the man’s chest. It read, Kevin.

December 2, 2010

Friday, July 23, 2010

My Fair Shagitz*

*non-Jewish male

I've recently begun dating a WASP.

This new adventure has swept me into a world quite unlike the one I've known. Stranded in his finely decorated Marina-district apartment, I ventured out one afternoon for food. Nearly delirious with hunger already, it was a like a cruel version of "Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink." Passing chic cup-cakeries, high-end boutiques, and hip one-name eateries, I finally fell into a crepery for a very affordable lunch.

To be clear, I did not grow up financially deprived either. A product of a middle/upper-middle class environment, I enjoyed sleep-away camp, the mostly latest Barbies, and family vacations to Cape Cod. But, nonetheless, my recent exposure to opulence has me questioning what the ramifications and place of class are in a relationship.

The film "My Fair Lady" ends with the newly glitzified Eliza visiting her old, poverty line neighborhood. With her newly acquired fine linens and regal accent, she is treated as an 'other' by the same peers with whom she shared bawdy camaraderie and upward classism at the beginning of the story. And so, she returns to the upper-class community she now more closely resembles.

As my first date with Mr. Marina unfolds at a golf tournament dinner party, I am not of these people with their orange tans and glittering fingers. As I stand in my new $200 of-the-moment shoes, erect with posture (and posturing), I have an Eliza moment. I am not steeped in the heritage of yachts and hedge funds, but nor am I unaware or uninformed of their habits - I too can laugh demurely, smile pleasantly, and choose the shrimp fork.

The rub is, I really like this guy. He can laugh at his Polo-clad style, and I can rib him about how most of the world is unfamiliar with the halls of a private boarding school. By the same token, I can laugh at my "Tarot for Beginners" book, and he can rib me about my Jersey accent peeking through.

By all accounts (pun intended), we are not a match. So how does this work? And...can it? The very structure of our upbringing is starkly different. (I still pick up pennies, whether it's the Jew or the human in me, I don't know.) There is a sense of hesitancy as again we go out to eat at a place with cloth napkins and wine lists. An inbred fear of scarcity, my familiar internal voice that creens, "This is wrong! Don't take too much! There's not enough [xyz] in the world!" And, too, I find myself gently acknowledging a twinge of inadequacy.

I had a nightmare the other night about meeting his family - they were all laughing to a joke told in a language I couldn't understand, a language he'd learned from the nanny who helped raise him. Sometimes my psyche is not very subtle.

And so, I ask again, Can you bridge the gap between people raised in starkly different classes, who have lived by different codes of money, responsibility, and normalcy? Can I be humble enough to believe in my value as a woman, no matter my tax bracket? Can our honesty about our fears and humor about our differences add color and dimension instead of shame and division?

So far, my answers are, "I am having fun" and "We shall see." And to pair my $200 shoes with my $20 thrift-store dress.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Moving: An Ode to Cole Street

Katie and I are both moving in August. I wrote a poem in February ("Acquiring Things") about finally adhering myself to my apartment, to San Francisco, to solidity - in the form of putting up a single curtain. If you've seen my place, you'd know that it is certainly mine: black&white checkered linoleum in the kitchen & bathroom; sand colored walls and dark woods in the living room; a chocolate velvet couch with fuzzy pillows of pale blue and cream; a kitchen of country greens, hand sewn chair covers, and a garden trellis with fake ivy hanging from the ceiling; and finally my bedroom saturated in deep crimson walls and black and white accents. Yes, this place is me, through and through. Country, edgy, cozy all beyond the entrance of one door. However, there are ways that I have not allowed it to become whole - no curtains, no desk, no art space. Missing are the pieces that would create a home. Those that indicate security, stasis, and an ability to work, to sink and spread into the environment. So, finally, one evening in February, a year and a half after I'd moved in, I screwed one curtain onto one window in my living room. It was a big deal. If I were to leave, I would have to pause, to remove slowly, not rush off in the middle of the night, as I've been apt to do. I would have to sink in and spread out with the idea and the mechanics of moving. Moving is a big deal. "Home" is a key foundation block of the human psyche, and to move it is disruptive. Last year, I used to drive by a house that was being lifted off its foundation in order to pour a new one. I watched each week as the scaffolding was laid out, as the framing went up, as the house was wrapped in pulleys and levers and care, and finally, as it was hoisted out of the ground, wood wedged underneath to create a temporary support structure. Although I never saw the house laid back to the ground, I will assume it followed the course it had been preparing for months: it gently settled down onto its now firm, concrete footing. Safe, and stronger than ever. As Katie and I float somewhere above where we were, but not where we will be, I ask your help to provide a temporary support structure. And when I land, firmly planted, I will put up curtains, because it's time to be safe - so that I can be bold.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Choose Your Own Adventure

I awoke this morning with the words "Choose your own adventure" echoing in my head. You remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books from the 80s? You would come to a point in the chapter when the character is presented with two or three options on how to proceed. To follow your choice you turn to either page 31 or page 36. And depending on which page you turn to, your destiny, or the character's, will change. Perhaps page 31 was a positive destiny landing in fruit tree-lined palace entrance; perhaps it was "and then you tumble into a dungeon and are eaten by a hemoglobin-starved goblin As a pre-teen, I was not prepared for an ending I didn't "like," and am here to admit -- I cheated. I would turn to page 31, read the next few paragraphs, and if I didn't like what it said, I would go back and choose the other adventure, creating the destiny for myself and my reading experience that I wanted, instead of accepting what was presented to me My life emerged to much the same pattern. Whether it is the Libra in me, weighing the pros and cons, and sitting at the crossroad brow furrowed with pro and cons lists strewn around me, and thusly moving nowhere. Whether it is the result of the pattern my life and its series of disastrous choices, I hate making decisions without knowing how they will turn out. Give me the few pages of each choice, and I'll make my decision then. Unfortunately, life is not in the habit of handing me the answers. Therefore, I have come to learn to rationally consider my choices, but, in the end, to simply take a leap. Whichever road. Any decision, any action, will give me a different result than sitting, chewing my nails, and wondering what's past the bend. Life does let me go back, in part. If the decision leads me to a result I don't want, I can return to the intersection and sally forth to the other destiny with newly acquired clarity about my desires, needs, and values. Sometimes I don't know it's the road I don't want to go down until I've actually gone down it. As I've been making decisions around the course of my life lately, I've had to remember very clearly that each path has merit, but to choose one, ANY one is better than standing still. This is very hard for me. I want to know the outcome, I want the answers, and I will pout and stagnate if you don't let me know that I will be okay if I take this road. What I've learned is that either way, I will be okay. That I must choose one adventure. Today, I choose things like, moving to the East Bay instead of back to New Jersey. I choose to attend grad school instead of plodding along in a safe, but uninspiring, job. Today, I choose things like finishing the five-foot flower painting, because no matter how it turns out, it will be done, and I get a sense of accomplishment. I awoke this morning with those words, "Choose your own adventure," in my head. I am the agent of my own change, and I can, today, trust that my decisions will lead me toward a positive ending, even if it's simply learning that there's a goblin down that way.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

too much to ask

when is something too much to ask? i asked my landlord when i should give 30 days notice, and he said no need for notice, to move when i'm ready. i asked my dentist if i could get a reduction in my dental implant cost, and he gave me 10% off. i asked my friend to keep an eye out for a bookcase, and she brought one to my doorstep the following week. this abundant universe is scary. every time i ask for something, i seem to end up getting it. or, i get a no, but am still glad i asked. sometimes ~ like grad school admission ~ i get something i never would have let myself imagine possible. i begin to feel like perhaps, i'm asking too much. perhaps i'm taking too much from the universe, and i should stop asking for my needs to be met. perhaps i'm being greedy in thinking that there is enough, because in fact, perhaps, there's not. there are starving children, and homeless people, and families living in cars. who am i to ask for what i need, for what i want, to put in the action and get the results? who am i to test the universe back? for years, i've heard people talk about god testing them, to see if they'll succeed or fail, to see if they're strong enough, humble enough, brave enough, faithful enough. i don't believe in that kind of a G-d, or that kind of a universe. I don't believe in a machismo warlord, making me do tricks to earn treats. it's not about earning treats, it's about working for what i want, and being brave enough to ask for what i need. that's it. why not put my money, literally, where my mouth is? (well, not literally literally, cuz who knows where it's been.) why not ask to be given the things i need, and then work toward making them happen? if god helps the man who helps himself, can i help myself to the abundant all-you-can-eat buffet of life without feeling like a horking early-bird special, middle-American glutton? can i allow myself to receive?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Willingness without Action is Fantasy

Katie and I have been talking about writing a joint blog for almost two years. Mostly because we spend half our work days writing back and forth some of the most hilarious, honest, inane, and poignant thoughts we have. Therefore, we're putting our words into action, for our and your benefit. We have hope that we'll actually use this as a portal for our nonsense, but that too will need action. Hearts & Stars, M.