Archives for category: Thinking about life

It’s been over a year since we left the steamy, summer stoops of Fort Greene, Brooklyn to settle here in small town Brookline, Massachusetts.

That summer we left, we made the most of the fleeting remainder of our days in the Big Apple, spending money we didn’t have on meals in East Village bottegas and drinks overlooking the High Line.

On one such night, traveling home from a drunken trip down memory lane where hubby and I trolled Avenue A, privately reminiscing about my carefree twenties … mojitos every night, fridge bare but for takeout, cavorting with Latin men … we stopped for  frozen yogurt from my favorite hole-in-the-wall hot-dog/magazine/fro-yo emporium run by an adorable, toothless Polish man  and then hailed a cab home on the Bowery.

Here's the place

Here’s the place

Here's the Polish man. He's showing me his citizenship papers.

Here’s my beloved Polish purveyor of fro-yo. He’s showing me his citizenship papers.

Know the Bowery? Formerly occupied by flophouses, it’s now populated by trendy hotels and dominated by a giant contemporary art museum. Still, it retains its gritty origins, especially inching downtown to Brooklyn Bridge, where we were headed.

I stepped into the cab, and I have no idea how this happened but in closing the cab door, my arm brushed against my ear and my diamond earring flew off my earlobe and onto the street.

I stopped traffic — yes, like an aggressive traffic cop who’s had too much to drink– and desperately scanned the shiny turfed road for the earring I’d worn every day for so many years. Made by my mother for me from  a cocktail ring my Great Auntie Suzanne — a chic Frenchwoman who frolicked with Fernand Leger in the lavander-scented French countryside as a young girl — had left me in her will.

And now I was searching for the diamond on the gritty streets of downtown New York. And wouldn’t you know — I actually found the earring back?

But light turned green and I couldn’t stop the roar of cars impatient to arrive at their next stop — club, bar, rumpled bed.

My diamond? Not to be found. Blending in with the glittering rock embedded in the asphalt, it was indistiguishable. Maybe a flophouse holdout would find it, cash it in, heralding a brighter future.

I remained remarkably calm, as hubby noted. I knew from leaving New York once before, that it takes things from you when you leave. As if taunting you, saying, “See what’ll happen to you when you leave your dreams of glittering success behind? Don’t be a fool. Stay.”

The last time I’d left New York — to go study writing in Maine — on moving day, I stepped on a nail,  got pulled over by the cops and sacrificed my debit card to an angry ATM machine. But then, leaving New York also brought me my husband, who lived in Boston, allowing our knowing-each other to blossom at not such a long distance. And hence … my children … my life today.

Life began again.

So what if New York took my diamond? Big deal.

Because guess what I got in return?

A cozy new home we can actually afford. Oodles of fleece. Smart wool socks. Peace of mind. Good schools. I know … yadda yadda yadda … it all sounds so boring to my former, New York party-girl self. But today, it matters.

I may not have this:

A blurry Chrysler building -- my favorite NYC landmark

A blurry Chrysler building — my favorite NYC landmark

But I’ve got this:

Post-nemo snowman with the kiddies -- rivals the Chrysler any day, don't you think?

Post-nemo snowman with the kiddies — rivals the Chrysler any day, don’t you think?

I know diamonds are a girl’s best friend and all, but I really would rather have fleece. At least here in Brookline. At this stage of my life. It’s soft. It’s cozy. Forgiving. It won’t fall out of my ear. And what better way to stay warm, than to wrap up in a fleece blanket, snug in bed with your loved ones?

[Never mind that they’re nagging you to watch Yo Gabba Gabba or asking for their 10th glass of milk … hush now, hush now … let’s go with the fleece imagery…]

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On the eve of Sandy, I gather you here for a cozy fireside story.

Remember Rapunzel? How she lets down her golden braid so the Prince can climb it and rescue her from solitary confinement in her hilltop tower?

There are many such fairy tales of women sitting and waiting to be saved by a dashing suitor. Cinderella’s glass slipper whisks her from the clutches of her evil Stepmother to her new life as Princess (and in those days, summer holidays in France weren’t likely to be captured on film by roving paparazzi. Lucky her.) Sleeping Beauty was woken from a hundred year’s sleep (and, what would today, constitute a contemporary art installation) from another kind Sir.

But Rapunzel. It was her hair that saved her. That thick, lustrous hair that could take the weight of a grown man without her screaming out “Get down, you Fucker!”

How I wish I had that hair. Perhaps all women do. Unfortunately, my hair tends to be thicker on my legs than it is on my head. I recently, when taking the train to work, stood next to an older woman with obvious alopecia on her head. “That’ll never happen to me,” I said to myself, gazing at her scalp with a mixture of empathy and judgement.

Yes. Judgment. I tend to get judgey on the morning train. Thrust up against all those commuters with their dorky backpacks and circa 1980s pagers as they travel to their Brookline clinics. I know they are probably saving the world through cancer research, but can’t they at least drop the backpack and give me a little more breathing room?

But the universe has a funny way of teaching you a lesson just as you think you’ve got things nailed.

After all, after years of waxing, shaving and laser treatments on my body … as well as conditioning treatments and hairdresser-tips on how to maximize my natural curls so I don’t leave the house looking like Diana Ross … I thought I had this hair thing down. Keep it off the body, keep it ON the head.

And then, I went to the gym. And after my shower, while I put on some moisturizer under the mirrors that are lit far better than our bathroom mirror at home … I saw it.

The 3 strands of hair, dangling from a single source, like a maypole. Or a braid in waiting.

Only the strands weren’t coming from my head.

They were coming from under the right side of my jawline.

And I jest not when I say that these hairs were almost 3 inches long.

Horrified, I pulled them out instantly. How could I have not seen this?

And had people been staring at these hairs, just as I’d been staring at the balding woman on the train, thinking “Geez, does she not know?”

Or, “Poor woman, she must have some condition.”

Or, “Perhaps it’s a cultural thing.”

I mean, there’s facial hair that’s pretty bad — like hairs sprouting out of moles and grey moustaches sported by ancient old ladies — but this? This?

Unlike Rapunzel, there is no Prince on my horizon. Just my darling children, hubby and neglected cat. Perhaps if I’d let the hairs grow to their natural end, they would have trailed down to the ground, and I might have been rescued by some traveling hair removal expert who’d zap me with her laser gun.

But one thing I know is this. I will never, never, judge another for their facial hair. Even a pretty girl with a dark hair growing unceremoniously from her chin.  Though I might do her a favor and tell her to pluck it.

Lately, I’ve been trying to de-digitalize. See more art. Hear more live music. Read more books. Feed that spark in myself that connects me to the throb, the messiness of life.

Recently, hubby and I went to see the boychild’s guitar teacher give a small, classical guitar recital at Gore Place. It wowed me. Not only to think that this fabulous musician is teaching my son, but because watching him play made me think about the dedication musicians have to their craft — and how they are just so in the moment that the music literally seems to radiate from their bodies.

When our teacher, who is from Mexico City originally, arrived for the boychild’s lesson that week, I told him how much I enjoyed hearing him play.

“Thank you,” he replied, ever polite, adding, “It’s good for the soul.”

Too right, my man. Too right. Little did I tell him how hooked I feel, sometimes, to the screen. I mean, watch me now. Fingers tap-tap-tapping on the keyboard. Or that my latest late-night activity consists not of writing my memoirs or painting a woodland scene, but watching back-to-back episodes of Revenge on Netflix.

Oh, the horror.

Inspired by his words, however, I took the boychild to visit the Institute of Contemporary Art, my favorite museum in Boston. He loves making art, so I thought his six-year-old self would appreciate the surprising, sometimes silly, often provocative manifestations of contemporary art.

Here’s a sampling of the goodies we saw.

A cube made out of pins. Cool!

A floating sculpture by Josiah McElheny representing the universe’s magical make-up of planets, stars and black holes

An adorable painting in the Os Gemeos exhibit — Brazilian twins who mix street art with surrealism. In my mind, this painting is just plain cute!

Yes, I have officially outed myself as the Britney Spears of art critics. How cuuuuute!

But it’s not the critique of art that really counts, does it? It’s the experiencing of it. The process of standing or sitting in front of a piece of art, opening all the senses to its aesthetics, and ruminating on the artist’s intention. There’s something meditative about it all — a bit like the process of writing — but certainly different than interacting online. It’s sort of like an encounter with humanity and your best self. You know, the one that is capable of being real, and of creating, and of recognizing the struggle and sweat that goes into putting an authentic piece of yourself into the world and making something beautiful.

Do you ever feel the need to de-digitalize? What are some of the things you do to feed your soul?

Has it been so very long since I posted last?

Oy vey. I shall be donning a hair shirt in due course.

Don’t they sell these at Prada?

As if I don’t feel bad enough.

Every day, I’ve said to myself, “Dude. Write a post.” And as time has elapsed, that sinking feeling that always accompanies the nagging tasks I don’t wind up accomplishing, reared its ugly head. Causing more procrastination. And unrealistic expectations. Like, “Gee…If I haven’t posted in so very long, this next post better be BRILLIANT.”

Sigh.

In truth, I have some very good excuses for my absence.

I started a new job — albeit part-time — writing for a very cool non-profit. Which has, in turn, led to greater sanity in my home life. Instead of growling at the thought of making dinner AGAIN, I’m now quite happy to be chained to the stove, seeing as how I get to spend two whole days with adults. Absence from the kiddies does make the heart grow fonder after all.

And, August was busy busy. I went to BlogHer. And spend quite a bit of time at the wonderful Institute of Contemporary Art, working on a project for them.

We had a beautiful family sojourn in Maine, my all-time favorite State:

Sunsets on a spring-fed lake

And spent late August/early September getting the kiddilies ready  for the new school year (hurrah!).

Anyway, my peeps, it’s good to be back, and I do promise to try to post more often. After all, it’s not just for you that I polish my writing chops. It’s for me too. It’s fun. And if it’s fun, I need to keep at it!

Ta ta for now…

When I was 27, I broke up with my boyfriend, a brilliant but possibly unhinged (in retrospect) Spanish psychiatrist. I’d met him at a bar two years earlier, and was drawn to his Latin charm and aura of omniscience. He called me his “queen,” and we’d cavort till all hours of the wee morning, knocking back tequilas and smoking pot, collapsing at dawn in his East Village apartment. It was fun, until I began to think about the fact that he was 36, and wasn’t he too old to be doing this every night?

Breaking up with him unleashed me. For the next 5 years, in-between some longer-term boyfriends and before meeting hubby, I made the most of being single in New York City, dating a range of men from different countries and walks of life, who wined and dined me, kissed me and sometimes dissed me, intrigued and beleaguered me.

There was the Italian Video Artist and Composer,  for instance, whose music sounded like a rapid succession of cellphone beeps and told me I reminded him of a UFO (a compliment, he assured me). The Mexican Mogul, who after he bit my arse in bed, cried out, “I am the best lover you have ever had, no?” And the Real Estate Developer from the Upper East Side, who wore Hermes ties with cute little umbrellas on them, but who kissed like a washing machine on spin cycle.

Meeting hubby was a relief. Though I enjoyed the ritual of dating — ruffling my peacock feathers, coquettishly displaying my wares — I was ready to put away the accompanying second-guessing, unrequited yearning for intimacy and the self-conscious dance of it all.

Eight years into my marriage, therefore, I find it unnerving to be thrust back into the dating game, this time with 2 kids in tow.

Don’t worry. My marriage with hubby is going strong. I’m not secretly trawling the pages of Match.com.

But I am, each time I go to the playground, engaging in a sort of mating dance, in my quest to find new mummy friends.

As I encounter both new and familiar faces at the playground, my inner monologue runs something like this:

ah, she looks like a kindred soul. i’ll approach. phew, introduction over. does she think i’m interesting? am I guffawing a little too loudly at her jokes? ok, i’m coming on a little strong here….oops — I’ve lost sight of my two-year-old as we’ve been chatting about potty training….I have to cut off our conversation to make sure my daughter hasn’t run into oncoming traffic…was that a deal breaker? oh well, I’ll ask for her number anyway.  is it too early to call her tomorrow? will she think I’m desperate? coming on too strong? a loser?

Where has my dating mojo, formerly brimming with confident estrogenized hormones, gone?

Alas, here are the six key differences between dating then, and now:

1. A decline in personal grooming. 

Then, I was dolled up in Prada, wrists dabbed with unguent perfumes, lips plumped with enticing gloss. Now, I’m sporting a straggly chin hair, and am trying to keep the odor of unwashed armpits at bay.

2. The body’s southward momentum.

Then, my boobs were perfect. Seriously. My best feature. Now, they resemble those of an African sorceress.

3. An uptick in aggression (though some would call it confidence):

Then, I usually waited for the guy to make the first move. Now…Watch out, bitches, as I stuff my Blackberry with emails, cellphone numbers and enough female contact information to make a pimp proud.

4. Am I still hetero?

Then, it was men I was after. Now, men are useless in my quest. Do men understand the secret of spanx? Or the particular angst we feel when we’re falling short of succeeding at both parenting and our careers?  Methinks not. Hence, my quest for the perfect mummy mate.

5. Lack of subtlety

Then, I might sidle up to a bloke who caught my fancy and ask, “Have you got a light?” in the hopes that lighting my cigarette would lead to flirting. Now, my popular pick-ups include, “I like your crocs” and “What’s your favorite Summer Camp?”

6. An alarming ability to tolerate violence:

Then, safety mattered. If I got any kind of whiff of violence or disturbing behavior, either in or out of the bedroom, all further communication was aborted. Now, I’m on the prowl for partners who understand and at times, even condone, violence. All potential mummy mates must be comfortable with ninja battles and light saber jousting.

How have your efforts at the playground been going? Please chime in!