Archive | April, 2008

You Gotta Fight…For Your Right…To Paaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr-tayyy

30 Apr

Carter just took a hit off his catnip cigar

Last night I went to a cat’s birthday party.  This wasn’t the first cat party I’ve been to.  It was my fourth.  Two of my friends throw birthday parties for their cats.  It’s kind of funny and kind of serious, kind of a joke but kind of for real.  It’s partly an excuse to get together with friends and partly, it’s somebody’s birthday that needs to be celebrated.

Last night was Carter’s 9th Birthday Party.  I’ve been to Carter’s 7th & 8th birthday parties, and also to Oliver’s 3rd. 

Two years ago for Carter’s 7th birthday, his Mom (also known as my friend K), invited a couple of us humans over for take-out and Scrabble, because “Carter would’ve wanted it that way.”  I think I had a couple of sips of beer and I know I won at Scrabble, and Carter spent the night sprawled and spaced out on the easy chair, drunk on catnip and looking bored.

This year, Carter’s birthday party was highly anticipated.  He wanted to play Scrabble yet again (he never seems to get tired of it), and wine and cheese was on the program.  Some emails went back and forth between the hostess K, and the attendees, me and L (who is Oliver’s Mom) about what we were to bring.  L joked that she was going to bring a birthday hat to put on Carter’s head, and K responded to “bring it at your own risk.”  Carter has a good heart, but due to some early childhood trauma that took place before my friend K adopted him, he is emotionally unavailable.  Known in some circles (at his vet’s office) as “The Baddest Cat in Brooklyn,” Carter needs his own space and has some boundary issues, so getting too close to him is often a mistake.  Especially if you are holding a paper party hat aimed in his direction.

The past weekend, excitement was running high.  My friends L, K and I went out to a bar with some other (human) people for L’s (human) birthday, and there was much talk about Carter’s festivities.  K’s boyfriend wasn’t invited to Carter’s party for obvious reasons.  He wasn’t upset.  He is a Manly Man, and expressed his “disappointment” like this:  “If I told my friends I was going to a Cat Party, I would get punched in the face.”

This reminded me of when my boss asked me what I was doing for the weekend on a Friday afternoon in January.  Oliver’s birthday party was that night, so I told him I was going to a cat’s birthday party and he said:  “You must never speak of this again.”

The day of Carter’s party finally arrived.  I was unofficially bringing dessert because I unofficially bring dessert to almost every function I attend.  I may not be a Cat Person, but I am definitely a Dessert Person, and after work I went to Whole Foods to pick up some mini-vanilla cupcakes (because Carter would have wanted it that way). 

When I arrived at K’s there was a gorgeous spread of baguette and three different kinds of cheeses (cow, goat, and sheep), olives, little pickles, artichokes, tomatoes, and marinated white beans, and a bottle of wine.  Carter seemed quite pleased.  K told us how she had gone to a fancy gourmet market and the cute guy behind the counter was like:  “Is it a special occasion?” and she was all:  “Yeah, my friends are coming over we’re having wine and cheese and playing Scrabble and hanging out and, you know…it’smycat’sbirthday.” 

Oliver enjoying a birthday cupcakeOliver was also in attendance and he and Carter alternately ignored each other, played nice, and beat the shit out of each other.  L brought a gift for Carter (usually I bring gifts; I got Oliver two different kinds of Pounce® Treats in January, but I had an appointment after work and didn’t have time for a trip to the pet store, so I made due with just the cupcakes, and hoped that Carter would understand.  He did.), and he tore into the tissue paper and had a ball with the ribbon.  Jackpot.  A catnip cigar and a side of extra catnip.  Now Carter was ready to party.

It turned out that Carter was too tired to play Scrabble and wanted to talk about boys and watch American Idol, so that’s what we did.  Carter got wasted as usual and the cigar went right to his head. 

It was Neil Diamond Night on Idol and Carter was pretty bored, so it was an early night and we all turned in around 10:30.  I was glad the party wasn’t a rager, because I “spoke of it again” and told my boss that I had another Cat Party to go to, and it wouldn’t have looked good to come in late to work all hungover and shit today. 

'Dude, 9 is gonna be the best year ever.' -Carter B.I was about to drift off into sleep last night, full on cheese and baguette and micro-pickles and mini-cupcakes, when the phone rang.  It was K, calling to tell me that she was just washing the dishes when she heard a thud.  Carter had fallen off the easy chair.  I think he may have a problem.


 Copyright © 2008 by Jennifer Garam

When It Rains It Pours

28 Apr

Admittedly, today was a total gloom-a-thon.  I worked from home for 9 months last year, and my first thought when I woke up was:  “I wish I worked from home today,” and I longed to spend the day in my pink velour drawstring pants, pink fuzzy socks, and (yes, pink) hooded sweatshirt, put on a pot of coffee that would make my whole apartment smell like “heaven” (aka Sumatra Starbucks coffee beans), and curl up under my covers with a book, John Mayer’s “Continuum” playing softly in the background, while the rest of the world trudged to midtown through slushy subways, getting whacked with people’s drenched umbrellas, winter white pants turning dingy gray and sticking, soaked, to their legs.  In fact, when I did work at home and I woke up to a day like today I would think to myself smugly:  “Damn, I’m glad I work from home and don’t have to go a-n-y-w-h-e-r-e today.”

But.  What are you going to do?  A)  There’s nothing you can actually do to change the weather and B)  April showers bring May flowers, right?

A few weeks ago I wrote about how, on a beautiful day, some people will focus on how it won’t last and complain about that, rather than bask in the brightness of the actual (nice) day.  This morning, on the elevator to work, I overheard this dialogue:

“I can’t believe it’s pouring.”

“That’s how it goes, it’s nice when we’re at work and not on the weekends.”

“We only had one week of nice weather and it was cold this weekend.”

Then they got off the elevator and I continued on to my floor, rolling around and taking apart what I had just heard.  I had two main problems with it:

A)  It doesn’t make sense.  Lamenting that it is only nice weather when we’re at work during the week while complaining that it is pouring outside.  While we’re at work.  During the week.  So following that logic they should have been saying:  “It’s raining and crappy outside but we’re inside at work!  Yipppppeeee!  Save the nice weather for the weekends, Baby, and bring that stinkin’ downpour while we have to be inside anyway!”

B)  We only had one week of nice weather (?!).  What????  Like we only get one week of nice weather in 2008 and we used it up so it’s gray skies from here ’til December?

And OK, my third problem with it which is C)  I remember it being gorgeous and summery on Friday, and warm-ish on Saturday, so “it was cold this weekend” doesn’t entirely nor accurately capture the reality of things.

It really got my goat, as these types of conversations often do, because they are about more than just the weather.  This casual Monday morning elevator conversation mirrors the default setting of society at large, which is to focus on the negative.  Even if there are a million magnificent things going on, that one negative sucks us right in and holds our gaze, as all those great goodies are jumping up and down, trying to get our attention. 

How can you complain that it’s raining while simultaneously complaining that the weather is always nice when you’re inside at work and you miss out on all the good stuff?  There is a vortex in those statements to find a place for the positive – like, for instance, it’s raining but it’s a workday anyway so you’re not missing out on frolicking in the park. 

Or, it’s a rainy day, so there is water pooling in my boots, my commute just sucked, I got whacked by 3 umbrellas whose owners had no sense of where they/their umbrellas end(s) and I begin, my hair is frizzing, my pants were white but now they’re spattered with gray splotches and sticking to my legs, but, it’s kinda cozy.  I feel kinda contemplative.  I’m treating myself to a hot chocolate, or an extra cup of coffee, or a steaming mug of tea, and I’m gonna plug in my headphones and listen to my Norah Jones cd all day long.  Tonight when I get home, I will be so happy to be home and appreciate my bed and blankets like I never would on a sunny day.  I will hang my work clothes out to dry, and curl up in my drawstring pants and fuzzy socks, and listen to the pitter patter outside my window, and the cars whish and slosh by. 

And, another positive:  rainy days are always good days to write.

The moral of this story is twofold:

A)  When everywhere you look is gray and gloomy, and this is starting to feel like a default setting, look somewhere else and see what you see.  It might be a whole different landscape.  It might be a surprisingly colorful vista.  Or, you might turn just a hair to the left and see all those goodies jumping up and down, desperate for your attention and think, “How the hell did I miss those guys?”

and B)  Don’t complain about the weather in front of me because it annoys me and I will blog about it!!!

Painfully Perfect

23 Apr

I just went running in the park and it was so beautiful it hurt.  Like, I would never be able to take all that amazingness in, you know?  I’m not equipped to handle it; I’m wired for depression and anxiety, worry and struggle, repetitive obsessive thoughts and endless list-making.  My senses are so dulled from the craziness and hectic pace of day-to-day life that I barely notice the new baby leaf buds uncurling themselves from tree branches.  Just barely.  And if a lightening bug happened to flit by me, I might notice it in my periphery and sort of maybe register it and then keep walking, thinking about what I forgot that I forgot to do that day, or what I have to remember to do tomorrow.  I likely would not pay its alighted form the kind of attention I would have when I was a kid, and spent an entire dusky summer evening with friends, but lost in my own world, chasing them around my yard, mesmerized.

After my run I sat on a bench facing the water and breathed.  My mind was empty, calm and clear, and I could feel all 360 degrees of my beautiful surroundings.  I wanted to soak in this moment, to swim and swirl around in it; to do somersaults and backflips and underwater breathless handstands, but I climbed out before I had even adjusted to the temperature and feel of it.  I climbed out thinking, “What a perfect moment, I should write about this moment,” and then I started drafting it in my head, “I’ll start like this and it will go like that and this part over here will be really great.”  And that’s how I lost my moment.

I walked home as the sun was setting wrapped up in my inner monologue and missed 99.7% of all the beauty available to me on the way.

Whenever I take a dip in a perfect moment it feels like falling, to let go of my anxious thoughts that anchor me in the existence I know so well.  And I almost immediately realize that I can’t stay there long before the thoughts return.  In some weird way, constant thinking stands guard, and protects me from painfully perfect moments, because how scary and powerful would that be, to let go of everything and just feel quiet, calm, connected, peaceful and…happy.

But I’m glad they took a break and abandoned their post, maybe to grab a quick cup of coffee or smoke a cigarette, and left my mind unguarded, even if for just a fleeting moment.

Texting: A Status Update

22 Apr

So, I’ve been texting for a little over a week now, and I thought it was time to check back in with a status update.  I think it is safe to say at this point that I am past the honeymoon phase, meaning that I am no longer texting everyone in my Contacts to say, “Hey!  I can txt now!!!” or staring at my phone watching for a new incoming text.  

However, lest you think I am jaded and blase about texting, I would define this new stage of texting I am entering as the blissful newlywed phase; I still get a giddy jolt from the beep that announces a new text in my Inbox, and my heart wells up with appreciation at the convenience of texting someone to tell them that I can or can’t make a plan.  In short, some of the novelty has worn off, but me and texting have fallen into a comfortable routine, and a familiarity and security have developed that makes our relationship deeper and more meaningful than a fly-by-night fling.

Also in the update department, my friend gave me a snappy nickname associated with my new habit.  To backtrack, last week I had a multiple-text exchange with her during my lunch break in a very short period of time, and she marveled at my mad texting skillz.  This weekend we were possibly going to meet up and she texted me “Where are u mt?”  I saw the ‘mt’ but my brain just breezed over it and without thinking it out too much (as if I had I would have realized that this didn’t make any sense), I thought that maybe it was a typo for ‘now’ as in “Where are u now?” or perhaps something having to do with Mountain Time.  But the next day she pointed out that it stood for Mad Texter, and hence, my new nickname, which is really catching on.

And speaking of Mad Texting Skillz, my co-worker C has become my texting inspiration/mentor.  She is 23 and just graduated from college, so she is a card-carrying member of The Texting Generation.  As a Level 5 Texter, she told me that sometimes, when she wants to show off, she will text, without looking, while crossing the street.  And she doesn’t even have the kind of phone with a full keyboard (training wheels) like I do.  She also has to clean out texts from her Inbox 2-3 times a day.

I am a fast learner but I’d place myself more at a Level 3, on the Advanced Placement Track, excited for what this next phase will bring.

Copyright © 2008 by Jennifer Garam

That Pile of Papers

19 Apr

I will not let myself be intimidated by that pile of papers.  You know the one.  The one that’s been shuffled around, from table to desk then back again, occasionally making a guest appearance as a stack on top of a shelf, or next to a file cabinet, or on the floor.  The one that breaks off and sprouts out from back corners of dark closets.  The one that has traveled with me, from apartment to apartment, since maybe about approximately 1998, yet never goes away.  It temporarily diminishes but never quite disappears, and then grows strong & bold again.  No matter how small it gets, there are always one or two sheets that have nowhere to go, that still have to be dealt with, that sit there, unresolved, taunting me endlessly.

And then there are the Post-Its.  I write every slip and scrap of an idea I have on a Post-It.  And phone messages, addresses, directions, reminders to myself to remind myself to do something I have to do.  Like clear up the Post-Its.  What happens is, at some point, I have to organize the Post-Its.  As to not be overtaken by the Post-Its.  Consolidate the Post-Its.  Translate and transcribe the Post-Its.  Decipher the hastily scrawled Post-Its I can no longer read, because what if they are trying to remind me to do something absolutely necessary for me to do, and because I can no longer read my writing, I forget?

There is the laundry, the piles of clothes to be washed and clothes that need to be taken to the dry cleaner, keeping the piles of paper company.  The clothes hanging listlessly in my closet and bunched up in my drawers, that no longer make me feel “fabulous;” they only make me feel 19, and not in the good way, demanding to be looked at, sacked or bagged and then hauled to The Salvation Army.

There are the dishes, the stacks of dirty dishes and soaking pans.  The receipts to be itemized and filed, in envelops or accordion files, or maybe thrown away.  The “desk organizer” that needs a good organization of its own.  And one of these days, my over-the-shoulder bag must be addressed, the change pooling at the bottom, the business cards here and there.  Not to mention my two email accounts, bursting at the seems, begging to be organized, categorized, perged, and merged.

There are the dustballs already starting to re-form in the corners and under the table, sneering at me, even though I just swept last week, and who has the time to sweep more than once a week?

The last thing I want to do after a day of work is deal with any of these piles, so here I am, face to face, eyeball to eyeball, nose to nose, with piles upon piles on a gorgeous, sunny Saturday April afternoon. 

Don’t mess with me.  I will not let you get the best of me.  I will conquer each and every last dusty, crumpled, rumpled, restless inch of  you.

But not today.  It is too too nice outside for pile-conquering today.  I will save you for a rainy day.  Don’t get too comfortable, too relaxed, too at ease.  Because I will be back.  To take you down.

Copyright © 2008 by Jennifer Garam

Back That Thing Up!

18 Apr

This morning, as I was stepping off the subway on my way to work, I went flying in one direction while my left flip-flop went flying in quite another, and this was before I was even fully awake, and had only had a half a cup of not nearly strong enough coffee.  My first thought was, “Oh, shit, my flip-flop probably fell in between the subway and the platform and I’ll have to hobble to work on my right flip-flopped foot and left barefooted toe (Ooops!  There goes my catastrophic thinking again!).

What really happened was, a woman was walking right up behind me and stepped on my flip-flop and held it down unbeknownst to me, while I continued to walk.  I then found myself in a position I never wanted to be in:  barefoot on an NYC subway platform.

My flip-flop did NOT fall between the train and the platform, and while I was still totally startled and pre-caffeinated, this woman handed me my shoe, mumbled, “Sorry,” without ever making eye contact, and kept on walking.

And now, a word:  if you TAKE SOMEONE’S SHOE OFF, YOU ARE WALKING TOO CLOSE BEHIND THEM & YOU NEED TO BACK THAT SHIT UP!  Why is everyone in such a rush and invading others’ personal space/shoes?  Why can’t we all just slow down, be civil, and not run each other over before 9 (OK, 9:15) am?

And don’t even get me started, DON’T EVEN GET ME STARTED on the guys that spread their legs and sprawl over seven seats on the subway while I have my arms & legs crossed, am curled up in a little ball, and balancing on one/eighth of one butt cheek.  Although lately, I have been observing that some woman are now doing this spread-eagle sprawled thing on the subway, too, and half of me is like, “You go, Girl, claim your territory!” and the other half of me is like, “Um, could you give a Sister some space here, the other seven/eighths of my booty would like a place to rest!”

 Copyright © 2008 by Jennifer Garam

Just Enjoy It!

16 Apr

Last weekend was supposed to be cold and rainy and I had planned on spending Saturday filing.  Or.  Avoiding filing.  But I woke up to a room filled with sunshine on Saturday morning, and my apartment was a little almost-hot and stuffy, like that temperature it gets when you know it is time to put your air conditioner in your high-up window, no matter how scary this prospect might be, or how much it reminds you of the story your 4th grade teacher told about what happens when someone drops a penny, a penny, off the top of the Empire State Building, and forget the fact that your apartment is not actually that high up (or that time of year to call your handy neighbors and ask them to put your air conditioner in for you while you “supervise” and provide “moral support”).

Anyway, as someone who has self-diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (me), spring and summer are really my seasons; I am a much better person in these balmy months, and I was totally psyched about this unexpected sunny turn of events.  I bounded out of bed and took a nice, bask-y type of stoll through the beautiful bright Brooklyn streets, ambling to the bank to take out some cash for my morning Starbucks/reading/writing ritual.

I approached the bank door at the same time as this other women did, and she said, sort of to me, “I hate this weather!” 

I did a double take.  WHAT was she talking about?  Did I hear her right?

“What?” I said.  “It’s gorgeous out!”

“Yeah,” she explained, “but then tomorrow will be cold and rainy again.  It’s one day nice and then back to being cold.”

OK, I’ll admit that this winter, while not particularly chillingly cold, has been dragging on for a particularly chillingly long time, and it would be nice if it would just get warm already and then, stay that way. 

However, this was the farthest thought from my mind on Saturday, when it felt like (could it be?) it was in the 70’s, and perfectly, perfectly sunny.  I leisurely strolled through my morning errands, went for an invigorating run in the park for the first time in a year (the last consecutive 12 months calculation, not the kind of year that started in January), got a flavored ice coffee with a splash of whole milk in it, ambled to the park with a good self-help book in tow where I sat on a bench and read, people watched, and basked some more, got a cup of ice cream that turned out not to taste very good but that was neither here nor there because I could eat it as I walked outside, basking in the warmth of the sun still some more.  When inside my apartment at intermittent intervals throughout the day, I threw open my windows, turned on the radio and blasted  pop music, and took in deep, full breaths of the warm, sweet, summer-smelling air.

But on one of my ambling strolls, I encountered this negativity phenomenon once again when I passed two women and overheard one say wryly to the other, “Enjoy it while it lasts!”


I wanted to turn around and scream at them:  “Just enjoy it, period (exclamation point)!  Just fucking ENJOY IT!!!”

But I didn’t.

I am one to skip out of the present moment and leapfrog into some future imagined catastrophe (and perhaps I would benefit from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as a result of this, as I recently learned that it addresses changing patterns associated with catastrophic thinking, but this is somewhat besides the point).  In fact, to bring this back to my AWESOME NEW CELL PHONE, this is something I did this weekend when I was setting it up – I imagined it was going to be a huge, complicated ordeal and that my phone wouldn’t work, that it would be a faulty, broken, useless phone sent to me (deliberately?  maliciously?) by Verizon, and that I would then have to go through this whole (imagined) rigmarole to replace it.  And then I accidentally put the battery in backwards and my phone didn’t work, which was somewhat, if not totally, a self-created, self-fulfilling prophecy. 

But this is one of the things that most annoys me about myself.  And it most annoys me about our society.  Something totally phenomenal could be happening in the present moment and people are already out of that fantastic, glimmering moment and onto:  “It’s not going to last!  Better get ready and brace yourself for how shitty it is all about to get!”

It’s like, when you ask someone how they’re doing and they’re like, “Getting by,” or “Making it through,” or “You know, I’m surviving.”  Don’t we want to do more than just get by, jumping from one anticipated disaster or shitty circumstance or cold, rainy day to another, without taking any time to stop and smell the roses on a beautiful, warm, sunny spring day?

I’ve been checking the forecast, and it’s supposed to be 74 degrees on Friday.  I’ve already picked out my outfit; I’m going to wear my black summer sleeveless sundress and open-toe shoes, and I have plans to meet a co-worker at lunch and I anticipate that we will sit outside on a bench in midtown Manhattan, sipping ice coffees and basking in the sunshine.  And I don’t care what the forecast has in store for Saturday, I haven’t even checked.  But either way it won’t take away my enjoyment of warm, sunny Friday, even if Friday turns out to be not so warm and sunny, which would be annoying, and then I’d have to last-minute pick out another outfit that morning, which could throw my already precarious morning groove off (I’m so not a morning person) and possibly cause me to be late-ish to work, but this would not be a catastophe worthy of devoting any advance time to dreading.  And it won’t take away from tonight when soon I will throw on my winter wool coat over a spring top because there is a chill in the air, and meet a friend for dinner and drinks, and not think about to do lists and errands and things that could go wrong and phones that could break, or potential cold rainy days in the future, and instead choose, make the choice, to just enjoy it!

Copyright © 2008 by Jennifer Garam