Archive | August, 2006

I lost myself in Manhattan, in about the year 2003 – have you seen me?

28 Aug

Tonight I met with an actress I know to talk about a play I wrote. I used to do this sort of thing on a regular basis. Meet with friends, actors, musicians, writers. Talk about projects. Dream. That sort of thing. Here are some other things I used to do:

I used to take acting classes, step classes, an occasional dance class, and I once tried a spin class because my roommates said the instructor was hot. (He was. But not hot enough to make me want to go back to that strange and unusual form of torture a second time.) Meet in parks to rehearse scenes. Stay up all night, on an electric roll, writing, and when the sun came up, walk to my corner Starbucks, get a grande no water extra chai chai latte and keep on writing. Go to plays and readings that my friends were in/directing/producing. Be in plays and readings that I wrote/directed. Spontaneously go out on a Monday night to a somewhat-famous dive-y blues bar down the block that now I have to think really hard to remember the name of. At said bar, do shots of Jack Daniels ’cause Monday night was Ladies Night, and the alternative was cheap wine in probably-plastic cups. Go to comedy clubs, once to see a boy I had a crush on strut his stuff. (It was bad, in that painful way that stand-up can be bad, but my crush endured.) Act in improv shows in a basement theatre on St. Mark’s Place. Memorize lines and go to rehearsals. Waitress. Cook for myself and my roommates, chicken Caesar salad and baked ziti. Have Dawson’s Creek & (homemade) chocolate chip cookies & lactose-free milk parties. Send out headshots. Act in independent films, host a cable TV show, produce a documentary, interview Matthew Broderick and The Fonz, walk the runway in the fashion show of a young Brooklyn fashion designer strutting my stuff. See a musician who has since become famous pound on his piano and belt out his heartfelt tunes while I sipped red wine at Wilson’s on the Upper West Side, which doesn’t even exist anymore. Flirt with boys and kiss them in bars. Go on dates to places like De La Guarda and Penang. Go to work hungover and throw up in the bathroom, and talk with my roommate all day on the phone, between vomiting, about how hungover we were, and how we couldn’t wait to get home. Go to movies by myself on weekdays for no reason at all. Was a game show contestant (and won (!) with the answer ‘Dorothy Parker’). Spent my entire tax refund/life savings on a yoga retreat in Mexico. Smoke Camel Lights with my friend from yoga class. Quit jobs. Put my dreams and desires first. Trust. Never wear a bra. Dated an artist with a sketchy past. Dance on the subway and smile at people on the street. Get into a “punch”-served-in-a-fishbowl drinking contest at Brother Jimmy‚Äôs. Dance on the bar there. Bartend. Go to parties. Parties that required costumes like ‘genie’ or ‘school girl’ and were at friends’ apartments in neighborhoods like Harlem and Gramercy. Try new things. Have adventures. Use credit cards with abandon. Have spontaneous dance parties with friends that involved dancing in a classroom or jumping on my bed. Get excited about things. Be not angry (less angry?). Take a chance. Pitch freelance story ideas and even with no experience, get assignments (!). Meet new people in coffee shops. Take noon yoga classes and then stroll around Manhattan in the middle of the day, and maybe sit on a bench in Washington Square Park to read The Artist’s Way. Wake up with energy, even when I quit caffeine. Blast Janet Jackson first thing in the morning and dance around my apartment. Smile (freely, frequently, generously, liberally). Relax (sometimes. This has historically been difficult for me, but in recent years, it has become more difficult). Walk. Sometimes for 100 blocks at a time. Breathe deeply. Practice impracticality. Follow my heart. Believe that I would be famous, or at least ridiculously, deliriously successful. Believed in having it all.

Laugh.

Say Yes.

Feel Free.

Have Faith.

When I was walking to the subway after this meeting, I took the long way to the subway; I turned up my recently re-discovered Lucy Pearl cd to maximum volume, added an extra spring to my step, and spent a moment with the me that got lost somewhere in 2003. And I realized, or rather remembered, that I can’t forget that wonderful, courageous girl I was – I have to bring her (minus all that drinking, smoking, angst, and debt) into the woman I am becoming.

My Shower is a Dream! (An Epilogue)

26 Aug

On Wednesday morning I showered in my very own shimmering shower.

On Tuesday, the morning after the clog, I showered at my neighbor’s, and I think she sensed my jealousy-mixed-with-gratitude because her shower was a pristine white, and drained with ease.

But Wednesday, ah, Wednesday, it was all my own again. My shower is cleaner than it has ever been, and like my neighbor’s, now drains like a dream. Like it hasn’t since over a year ago when I first moved in. I have apparently become desensitized to showering in a pool of standing water mixed with a striking combination of soap, conditioner, and shaving cream residue three-fourths to my knees. As appealing as this sounds, please do not try this at home. I forgot how good, how clean it feels to shower and not do that, but rather have the water stop where it’s supposed to, neatly under the palm of my foot.

And here’s the thing. The reason my shower is so clean is this: I did not resist-slash-avoid it. I did the opposite; I did that ever-so-elusive next indicated thing. I came home on Tuesday night to a clear drain, and a bathtub full of caked-on-not-going-anywhere-anytime-soon gunk. I bought a very strong cleanser that contains bleach. I scrubbed. I went through at least 3 pairs of latex medical gloves, while simultaneously, dizzy from fumes, I watched a really great (one of my favorites, in fact) episode of Sex & the City where Carrie has a panic attack while trying on a wedding dress, and then, after one last night curled up with Aidan, sleeping on the floor together, heart-wrenchingly breaks it off with him (Oh, Carrie, I hear you, Sister). It was up there with that moment in Good Will Hunting where Matt Damon and Minnie Driver are fighting in her dorm room at Harvard and she’s all like: “I love you. I want to hear you say that you don’t love me, because if you say that then I won’t call you, and I won’t be in your life.” And Matt Damon looks at her, stone cold, and says: “I don’t love you,” and then walks out, while Minnie Driver doubles up crying like she’s been punched in the stomach, which really, if you think about it, she has. God, that gets me every time.

But back to my shower – it (like life!) is not perfect, but that’s okay, as I’ve pretty much come to terms with the fact that perfection is just this giant myth and that chasing it is, at best, a giant waste of time. There are some small tenacious flecks of ew/goop/muck here-and-there, but those fumes were strong, my scrubbing elbow was starting to ache, I couldn’t face a fourth pair of latex medical gloves, and I just felt so bad for Carrie. And now that I am on this kick of doing my next indicated things, I feel confident that I will get them off in the next go-round in the not-too-distant future.

And overall, it’s like a commercial for dentures, whitening strips, or breath mints, where that sparkle of light glints (ding!) off some exceedingly good-looking person’s third-from-center tooth. That first morning, reunited with the good and pure essence of what my bathtub was always meant to be, under all that dirt and debris clouding its true nature, I left 15 minutes late for work because I kept ripping back the shower curtain to gaze lovingly at its pearly whiteness.

Overall, things are looking good.

My Bathtub is a Metaphor for My Life

21 Aug

This is what is going on in my bathtub right now:
It is clogged, and the standing water is scarily dark and murky, and there’s tons of chunky black (there’s no other word for it) shit floating around. Like, a swamp creature could emerge from its depths, dust itself off, and sludge out my front door and down the street to get a beer, and I would not be (that) surprised.

My shower drain has been backed up for a while, as long as I can remember in fact. The label on the back of an almost-equally scary bottle of de-clogging chemicals that has an ominous POISON symbol on the front, calls this a “Slow Drain,” which is half a step less serious than my current problem of “Clogged Drain.” I had “Buy Drain De-Clogger” on my To Do list all last week, sensing the increasing urgency of this problem with every passing day and the higher water level it would bring, and then I bought the drain de-clogger and graduated to having “De-Clog Drain” on my To Do list for a few days, but the process requires letting the poison chemical sit for 3 hours while it eats through whatever disgusting shit is down there, in the depths of the drain, causing this mess, and I never had the time, or I was too tired and/or emotionally drained for the task. So I let it slide. Like I sometimes have been known to let other issues slide in my life, you know, all those (as Victoria Moran calls them in her wonderful book “Creating a Charmed Life”) next indicated things, the things I have to do to take care of myself, one after another, in order to attend to my life. The things I sometimes turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to, in a strong pattern of what I like to call resistance-slash-avoidance.

The shower always drains eventually, and I had planned to come home today (I swear!) and take care of the matter of de-clogging, and then do a lot of other productive stuff after that. But. Tonight was different from all other nights. The drain is completely backed up, the standing water is just sitting there, and all my efforts at unclogging (plunger, anyone?) only served to kick up the aforementioned disgusting (but persistently buoyant!) chunky black shit. Where it now sits. Or um, floats. In my tub.

So. I sat on the edge of my bathtub, staring into this murky pit of despair, knowing I would not get to anything I wanted to do tonight, and the reality was unavoidable. I started to cry, and then feel bad about it, in that way you feel bad and kind-of-crazy when someone cuts in front of you in an aggressive-slash-shove-y manner while getting on the subway, and then you immediately burst into tears because you’ve just had the worst day and everything that could possibly go wrong has, and why can’t New Yorkers have more manners and just be nice??? Why can’t things just be easy? At least, that happens to me sometimes. So it wasn’t exactly all about the clogged drain, murky stagnant starting-to-smell water, and chunky moldy-old floating debris. Only. It was.

I can’t help thinking, at this point, about my moldy-old beliefs (which, who knows, maybe they are chunky, too; I have never really given much thought to their texture) about what I think is possible for myself. Beliefs whose time has come to be forcibly snaked out of the pipes and tossed into the trash.

Lately, it feels like nothing I do works in the areas of um, you know, relationships, career, finance, yeah, that about covers it. As a for instance, last month, I got the same writing rejection emailed to me twice as a result of some sort of email glitch, and I read the entire letter two times, hoping for what? a happier ending the second time around? (P.S. – There wasn’t one.) And I’m like: I get it. I’m trying too hard. I’m pushing too strenuously. With everything and everyone. And. I’m not going anywhere.

I’m stuck.

I often have that feeling like I am banging my head up against a brick wall (so not fun), and then I remember what a friend once told me, years ago, when I was in the middle of possibly the unhealthiest relationship disaster of my life, and a play I wrote, that I was in love with, got a particularly hard-hitting rejection, and I had a negative balance in my checking account and I had to do that thing where you pick which bills not to pay in any given month, and then I got kicked out of my apartment. She said: maybe you aren’t banging your head up against a brick wall. Maybe it’s just one brick, and if you take a step back, you can just…walk around it. My response to her then was: “Who the fuck put that brick there?” But the years, and my bathtub, have taught me to see the wisdom in her words.

I am much better off now than I was then. Exponentially so. And my wonderful Super stopped by to survey the situation, and he will call the plumbers tomorrow, and they will professionally unclog my drain once-and-for-all, and I will no longer be resisting-slash-avoiding the situation of reality, and this will be very very good. I won’t have to use those scary chemicals that I am potenially opposed to anyway, and maybe I can return them to the hardware store from whence they came, and buy some cute, colorful, upbeat sponges instead. I can (permanently, I hope) take “De-Clog Drain” off my To Do list. My neighbor said I can use her shower tomorrow, so I will get to relive my college days by walking down the halls in the early-morning hours in my bathrobe and flip-flops, wire shower caddy (if I still had one) in tow. By this time tomorrow, there will be some small movement. The murk will dissipate, and the water will start to flow. Surely, the next time I shower, I will be flooded with a whole new appreciation for my drainage system.

And things will start to be. And maybe I will start to be. Unstuck.

Math Applies to Real Life

18 Aug

Remember in high school, when you were forced to take Algebra and Pre-Calc, and they told you that this was an important part of your education, that this applied to Real Life? Or in college, when Calculus was part of a required “Liberal Arts Core Curriculum,” and you needed to use these big complicated graphing calculators with functions like sin and cosin to even start thinking about working out the problem, and if this was really, in any way applicable to Real Life, then wouldn’t everyone, all those blissfully math-free adults walking around, have to own graphing calculators, and maybe strap them on their belts where their BlackBerries now rest? Wouldn’t this be required?

I will tell you something: they lied. I hated math then, but even I can’t hold a grudge for that long. Now I am old enough to know better, and possibly too mature and spiritually advanced to hate (and also: worn-down – all that vehement, anti-math negative energy is so exhausting, and impossible to maintain, at that degree of intensity, for any length of time), so instead I have developed a mild-to-medium distaste for it, with a (strong) tendency to avoid it at all costs. Which is not hard to do. Because it is not necessary for Real Life. The only time I actually use math is in the case of tipping, and I generally like to tip 18%, which strikes some degree of anxiety in my heart because this is slightly more complicated than 15% or 20%, but the anxiety is only momentary and therefore, by definition, dissipates within moments after I have left the restaurant. And it’s not like I have to find the sin of x, if x is equal to [one Outrageous California Burrito, plus 1/2 (an order of made-at-your-table-mild-to-medium guacamole)] to the large Diet Coke power.

I have one friend who insists that she uses math all the time, and cited the time she had to figure out the dimensions of a window she was embedding within her front door, but I will argue that this is an incredibly rare example of an exceptional person who may be too handy for her own good. If this was me, I would figure out how much I had to pay the person to figure out the dimensions of the window I wanted to install in my front door.

I will concede that there is an argument to be made for using math to balance your checkbook, but I will not tell you where I stand on this argument.

And ok, I often use Venn Diagrams to figure out scheduling, like:
This is my Venn Diagram – I am free Tues, Thurs, and Sat
And this is your Venn Diagram – You are free Fri, Sat, and Sun
So let’s hang out where our Venn Diagrams overlap, on Saturday!

And since I am coming clean here, I will admit that I do like to frequently employ the word ‘exponentially,’ in my writing and my everyday speech, as it adds a sort of left-brain-gravity and/or authority to my otherwise right-brain-skewing self.

But overall (because none of my aforementioned examples truly require any of the math I was forced to struggle through in 10th grade), I have done the proofs and my theorem – Math Does Not Apply to Real Life – is pretty set in stone. Alas, in math, as in life, there is often a statistical outlier.

Here’s an equation I recently discovered that does apply to (my) Real Life:

I Want More + He Wants Less = It’s Over

I am not in a place to comment on his mathematical issues, but I will say this: if you take the square root of my abandonment issues, factor in some codependency, and multiply the whole thing by my extreme sensitivity, you’ve got a doozy of a problem to solve, and not even a graphing calculator will help with this one.

They never teach you how much math can hurt, when you miscalculate.

Me Against The Roach*

14 Aug

It was not what I had planned. This is how I anticipated my Sunday night shaking out: first, I would write something (and possibly, it would be brilliant), and then I would snuggle down under my covers with either my current self-help book or fiction selection, and read cozily and peacefully by the light of my new (super-cute!) bedside lamp until I drifted into a peaceful sleep. The following is an account of what actually happened:

I was feeling very satisfied like ahhhhhh, and a bit sleepy, as I snapped my computer shut. Trying to decide which book I should momentarily snuggle down with, my eyes fell upon my kitchen table, where the most ginormous roach ever (really, without an actual photo to do it justice – it was approximately the length from thumb to forefinger when almost fully extended, and that doesn’t even count antennae-span), a tangible (malevolent) presence I could feel in my apartment, doing this: strutting between my water glass (I was just drinking out of that water glass!) and my Brita (um, ew); then strolling around on my pretty placemats as if it hadn’t a care in the world; and then it cruised over to my tax forms, and rested on top of a thank you note from a friend. Now. There are very few (i.e. no) places that a roach would be welcome in one’s home, but there are more and less acceptable places to discover one, and let me tell you that seeing a giant one on my kitchen table next to my Brita left me feeling particularly vulnerable.

Ok. I freaked. I started shaking. I had difficulty breathing. Then, I grabbed an old copy of Oprah magazine and tried to ease it onto the floor where it would meet its end. However. Roaches aren’t slow. And this one didn’t like, or appreciate or whatever, Oprah Magazine being forced upon him/her. So he/she ran, like roaches are known to do. And then I saw a roach-maneuver I can honestly say I would be happier not knowing existed. It made this sounds like slurp! as it flattened itself out to paper-thin status and slid into the tiniest crack between the wall and the floor. I had a moment of “Maybe it went into the one-bedroom next door?” but I knew I would not be able to sleep unless I had a confirmed insect body count. So I stalked it. And I stared at the crack. And I stared.

Around this time my Dad called to make plans, but who can concentrate under circumstances like these? I was beyond-jumpy, seeing the roach in each shadow, and every clothing tag, and my frequent screams proved to be somewhat of a barrier to organized, coherent conversation. He kept saying, “Spray the crack! Spray the crack!” only, I don’t own anything to spray it with. I had to get off the phone and focus.

15 minutes later, an antenna started to wiggle out from the almost-invisible crack and probe around. 4 more minutes later and the sucker was out in plain view again. I lunged at him once more and he bolted behind my cds, and I had visions of him squiggling up with Mary J. or Chaka Khan, because my Soul Favorites mix was a) close to ground-level, and b) not very well protected in a paper envelope-looking case. And also at this point I started to worry that my neighbors were going to think I had developed some kind of rare, spontaneous Turrets because every time I missed it I shouted (although this implies intention, and the act felt out-of-my-control), “MOTHERFUCKER!!!” which is not even a curse-word I ever employ in my daily, non-roach-killing life; it is not even one of my top five favorites.

Anyway, my friend called me from a bar and I was about to give up, hit the bar (even though I don’t really drink, this MOTHERFUCKER was driving me to drink), and then pick up some Raid and roach traps on the way back and hope for the best. I sort-of-not-optimistically thought I’d do one final check before leaving, and as I looked in the corner, I saw it squatting on the furthest edge of my brown meditation cushion (another place that one would not hope to see a roach), camouflaged within the meant-to-be-soothing stripy pattern. This was it, this was my moment: Me Against The Roach.

I ran to the one-bedroom next door (where the roach had not gone) and knocked frantically on the door. No answer so down two doors. He answered, and he was being friendly but I was shaking and convulsing about Raid, so we skipped the small talk and he came back to the door with a bottle, and as I was running back into my apartment for the final showdown, the one-bedroom opened her door and then the second guy came running down the hall behind me with super-sized roach motels instructing me to “Put them in key locations!” and “Get them at their source!” and the one-bedroom was shouting: “Get it!” and I felt that my mission had taken on epic proportions and I was killing this roach to protect all the inhabitants of my entire building.

Basically, I sprayed the shit out of it and doused my meditation cushion, which became a blameless casualty and promptly went in the trash because who can relax thinking about the roach and all that Raid that had been there before? Then I left the roach to sit in a pool of Raid and covered it with a plastic takeout container to hold it there so it could think about what it had done.

There were a few things I took away from this 45-minute incident (after which, by the way, I did get that drink):
1) Um, did anyone know roaches were that smart (see: flattening maneuver, camouflaging itself)?
2) My neighbors really went above and beyond the call of duty, standing behind me with roach-killing chemicals and moral support in my time of need
and
3) Yesterday, for the first time, I changed a light bulb in my really complicated light fixture by myself, and then later, in a showdown between me and the roach, I am the one left standing to tell the tale. Motherfucker. I guess this is what growing up is all about…

*As inspired by Britney Spears’ “Me Against The Music” (feat. Madonna); sort of a bug remix, with a beat you can dance to…

To read the story of Me & The Bat (I was not so victorious in that encounter) check out http://www.zulkey.com/diary_archive_081606.html

Did Anyone Else Live for Sweet Valley High?

7 Aug

Before Sweet Valley High: The TV Show, there was Sweet Valley High: The Very Fabulous Young Adult Novel Series by the Incomparable Francine Pascal. Yesterday when I was strolling back from my morning coffee ritual, I happened upon a box, filled with books, sitting on a curb. I vaguely remembered a stoop sale in this exact location the day before, so I guessed that these were the leftover books. I stooped down myself to have a look. And what I found transported me to 1983-86. To my own childhood bookshelf. This stoop sale woman, whoever and wherever she was, had placed chunks of my exact childhood book collection (and my favorite ones at that) in this box on this sidewalk.

I was completely mesmerized. She must have been close to my same-exact age (and she clearly had my same-exact taste), because the editions of these books were the editions I had owned, and read, all day long and late into the night, in my room, my backyard, at my dad’s apartment, on airplanes, and wherever I went. Flipping through them, I saw copyrights from 1983, and yellowed pages, and a child’s precise bold handwriting declaring her name, her middle school’s name, and her classroom number. I saw growing-brittle covers with illustrations of guys in high-waisted slim-fitting jeans and feathered hair leaning languorously against lockers, and the women who loved them.

In this box, there were the classics: volumes of Sweet Valley High, Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield adorning every cover in their blond perfection; barrettes to distinguish straight-laced Liz (remember her preppy boyfriend Todd?) from party-girl Jess (I obviously related to Liz and envied Jess for the duration of my entire adolescence). (And also, when I started reading SVH as those of us in-the-know used to call it, Francine had only written up to volume 4 or 5, which I quickly breezed through, so after that I was reading them as she was writing them like kids do with Harry Potter today, only she churned them out so quickly (although never fast enough! Waiting for the next volume was always agony…) it seemed very faced-paced and exciting, and I remember going to my local small-town bookstore to put my name on a list to be called when the new one arrived.) The only slightly-less-obvious Sweet Valley Twins, detailing the girls’ younger, middle school years. The lesser known (underrated!) selections: LOVING (Caitlin, Love Trilogy #1), Created by Francine Pascal of Sweet Valley Fame (which, I sort of recall that although she was the creator of many books, someone else wrote them, and I’m still not exactly sure what that means re: what she did do, but what I am still sure of is that I don’t care if she ever wrote one word – she will always be a Young Adult Genius in my book); You’re Going Out There a Kid, But You’re Coming Back a Star! by Linda Hirsch; and more, so many more, it was overwhelming.

I was lost in this book world for who-knows-how-long, and people would pass, and would assume, rationally, that there must be something really good in this box because here is this girl (me) who is so super-absorbed in its contents. First a punky-slacker teenage boy walking his dog passed, and asked if there was anything good as he started looking through the box before quickly realizing, “This isn’t my genre.” Then an elderly woman approached and I thought she may have some granddaughters so I started enthusiastically semi-shouting: “Do you know any 8 or 9 year old girls? Because these books are amazing, they really are just, just–” and this is where I sort-of lost my breath at the degree of amazingness contained within this little box. Apparently, she didn’t know any 8 or 9 year old girls.

I went on Amazon today to look up some of the titles, and many of them are out-of-print, and most don’t have “cover images available.” I don’t know where all my copies of these books are – maybe they are in some storage box growing moldy at the back of my mom’s closet that has been designated for excess stuff; maybe I donated them to the local small-town library when my parents sold the house I grew up in; maybe when I was a little older than I was then and not quite old enough to appreciate them, I threw them in the garbage to make room for some important adult book or high school memorabilia, like a cheerleading trophy, or an academic achievement award.

But here’s the thing. All those books remind me of a time when I could get so absorbed, literally lost, in a story. Which doesn’t happen so much when you are an adult who pays bills, and has other adult-type responsibilities and concerns. And here’s the other thing. All these stories, what they mostly had in common was a basic storyline similar to the Growing Pains episode where Carol Seaver comes back to school after summer break and she is suddenly, to her classmates’ shock and surprise, simultaneous cool, and hot; she has metamorphosed from her former dorky caterpillar self into a new and improved beautiful butterfly self.

I took one of the books home. It is called The Terrible Truth and the cover looked familiar, but when I read the back of the book, I knew. It is a story about a girl who is about to start sixth grade, and she has matching shoe-and-purse sets for each day of the week, and she vows to act like a grown-up. I remember reading this book the summer before I started sixth grade, and Middle School. I remember lying on my bed reading this book, planning my first-day-of-school outfit, and wishing that I had matching shoe-and-purse sets for every day of the week, and hoping that I would turn into a grown-up and get all the things that went along with that – popularity, a boyfriend (who would maybe have feathered hair? and maybe we would slip our hands in each other’s back jeans pockets, and walk down the halls that way, amidst lockers, in between classes, and before pep rallies); I might even be a cheerleader one day, or class president, like the characters in my books…it seemed to me that sixth grade, that Middle School, meant everything was possible.

I took that book home to remind me of me. Of who I was and who I still, deep down, am. Of how much I loved to read, and how I could get lost in a story. Of that pre-Middle School feeling of hope, restlessness, anticipation, longing; that feeling that everything was, and can still be, possible.