Thursday, November 30, 2006

Forced Perspective

As my feet hit the pavement tonight and I scooted home in the darkness, I realized that even though it felt like I had lost everything today, I hadn't.

It was unseasonably warm, I had three dollars in my pocket, I had a home to go back to and keys to get inside, a friend had graciously bought me two drinks and I was healthy and safe, just a little dehydrated.

The future stood before me as untainted and regal as it always had and New York spun along unchanged. The cello music in the subway lifted me and carried me for a few steps and I wasnt hungry or lonely or in pain.

My phone wasnt there to ring and my wallet was with another tonight. I am sad for my loss and for the people who stole it because I am sure that their life is not as steady and full as mine.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Coincidence Sandwich

On Thanksgiving my Dad was telling us about a play that my parents saw, and that he thought was terrible. They went because my Dad’s sister, my Aunt, was friends with a cast member. As my Dad was explaining details of the set, Joe got a far-away look in his eye. The exact element in the set that my Dad was trashing, was the part that Joe had helped build. Joe works with the director of the play, who is also a carpenter. Joe smoothed it over with some hearty chuckling and we resumed eating.

Two days later I was in New Hampshire visiting Joe’s family. We were going to brunch and I ran into a woman who I used to work with at the lab. I must say that I was very surprised to run into her there and have still not fully recovered from the coincidence of seeing her. I went over to say hello to her and she introduced me to the table of people who she was with.

After some blah blahing, she mentioned that the people who she was with were cast members in a play in New York. Joe was standing beside me at this point. She explained a few things about the play and it was the same play that Joe had helped build the set for, the play that my Aunt knew a cast member in and the same play that my parents went to and that my Dad did not care for.

I was amazed, everyone was connected. It was not really the kind of coincidence that warms your heart though. The kind that you slowly shake your head at while smiling steadily and repeating the word WOW, it was more like the plot of a bad movie, or a bad play I guess.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Eternal Flame

At 5 in the morning on Thanksgiving day I heard the horn of a car blowing outside my window. It was a constant sound as if someone’s head had fallen on the steering wheel. Hoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooonk.

I am getting really sick of this neighborhood I thought, as I lay there and imagined the chaos outside the window. But even my most embellished dreamy thoughts could not have conjured up the image that I was faced with when I looked outside.

There was a car on fire on my block. It was engulfed in high and aggressive flames. The blaze grew and danced wildly like seven angry tigers reaching for the moon. And even though I was safe on the fourth floor of my building, I was scared.

Billows of dark opaque smoke rose from the fire lit by the oblivious orange street light. I watched as the fireman came, they walked right up to it with the hose, and I was afraid it was going to reach the point where it exploded, but it didnt.

And I could not sleep the rest of the night with the insane new image still smoldering in my head. And even tonight, three days later, I am having trouble forgetting it.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Fumbling Towards Thanksgiving

It all started yesterday when I spilled coffee all over my hand while speed walking to the bus. I always do this and I don't understand how others don't. The coffee then runs down my hand to my wrist and the plastic top of the coffee is a mess. I shudder with anger at my ungracefulness. I have had a frustrating two days.

I dont like any of my clothes, they are all dorky or frumpy and I cant figure out why I purchased them in the first place. My nose has been itching slightly, not a full blown cold or allergies that you can really sink your tissue into, just a persistent tickle like a little man shuffling around in your nostrils.

I cant find anything I need in my purse, it is a dark and cluttered abyss. I keep missing phone calls and when I call others they are not there. My shoes are not comfortable and my hair is uncooperative. And the time has come to wear the poofy coat, so I feel like a kid swallowed in awkward puff, my movements are compromised and I feel large and bulky.

I need a vacation, and here it is. Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Color Vision

I saw a friend the other day who has always loved the color combination of pink and red. When we were young, I foolishly and violently hissed at her and told her that pink and red clashed, and was solely meant for the sugary tackiness of Valentines Day.

And like many other things in her wardrobe and her philosophy, she was ahead of her time.

The other day I realized that absolutely any color combination can be successful in design, clothing, painting or decorating of any kind. A balance of two colors can be achieved by adding the right amount of each one, in the right texture, value or composition.

And while liking certain colors or certain combinations is purely personal preference, I cant help but think that there is a direct correlation between how many color combinations you are willing to accept as successful and how open you are to other unique, unfamiliar or odd combinations in the rest of your life.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Coffee and Deserted

There is this completely charming elderly couple that gets on the same bus that I do almost every morning. They get on right in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The woman is always impeccably dressed in a skirt/suit ensemble, her makeup is somewhat heavy and her hair is pouffed out in an immovable orb. The man has small squinty eyes and longish grey hair ala-Einstein, he wears a tweed coat and shuffles along behind his wife. They both smile often, but sometimes she is slightly cold, he is certainly the warm one. They seem too old to be going to work but I imagine that they volunteer at a charity to keep themselves busy and their money to good use. They are the royal couple of the M4 limited at 9:08.

She always boards the bus before him. On Monday she got onto the bus and the same bus driver as usual greeted her with a hearty good morning. The old woman remarked “you are early this morning!” and then as the woman walked to her seat the bus driver joked loudly “do you want me to stop for coffee, since we have some extra time?” The old man then sat down in his seat with a thump next to his wife and waved his hands and said “coffee is on me for everyone!” The whole front of the bus heard this and I smiled at a New York that was perhaps even too corny and sweet for a movie, but I liked it.

The following morning, the bus driver was different but the couple was there again. The old woman got on the bus and the driver abruptly closed the doors behind her and began moving. Where is he I wondered? I looked out onto the sidewalk and there he was-tweed coat, small eyes, grey hair blowing his hands up in surrendering pose. The old woman looked back at him on the sidewalk and then took her seat and starting reading The Times. The bus drove off and left him.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Waiters, Artists, Actresses, Lawyers and Losers

I dodged a judicial bullet yesterday. The jury I was called for was a Special Grand Jury and the term of service as a juror would last 6 months. I was not picked.

A small part of me was thinking that it might be interesting to get on the jury and then meet a whole group of random, potentially interesting people. And then we would all reluctantly meet each day, sigh loudly and often, shift in our seats, furrow our brows and complain and shake our heads the whole time but end up bonding, like a mishmash of The Breakfast Club, 12 Angry Men and Gilligan’s Island.

The first boy I sat next to starting talking to me about graduate school because I was reading a book about it. He was applying to art school for grad school and makes jewelry from old plastic medicine bottles and works as a waiter on the lower east side. He and his teeth were perfectly white, but only his teeth were straight.

Then I sat next to a girl who asked me what my book was about when she noticed a cartoon in it and she mentioned her dad was a cartoonist. Then her name was called and I realized that she was Jules Feiffer’s daughter, who is a well known cartoonist. And she is an actress and was in that sweet movie called The Squid and the Whale. So we talked a bit and then I was called in to speak to the judge.

I told the judge, who looked a little like a poor man’s George Clooney, that I was the only full time employee in a small research facility and that I absolutely needed to be there. Then he asked me what kind of research it was and I said, “primate genetics” and one of the lawyers present let out a small guffaw and a smile. He was laughing at me I believe, but because he was uncomfortable with my profession and also of his own primate status I am sure.

Then I left and walked all the way to the subway and as I was swiping my card I heard someone say my name and then I turned around and there was this doofy guy explaining that we were in the jury duty waiting room together and so I said to him, “I am glad I was not chosen, that case looked like a real loser.” Thinking the whole time that the case was not the only thing that looked like a real loser.

And I walked off knowing that one day of jury duty satiated my random-people quota for a while.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

One Big Old Night

I was speaking to an old friend yesterday and we were trying to remember a particular night in the past a little over 10 years ago. It was the night of the Fordham Prep High School senior prom. The gears of our minds were grinding, our eyes were squinted and in a far off place and we threw out some stories that were hopelessly funny but completely off the mark.

I tried to remember what we were wearing in hopes that the still snap-shots that we poured over for hours in plastic flowered photo albums would come alive and yell to us, with obnoxious teenage confidence, the story of what had happened.

And so the stories of nights rushed in.

Pink sequins and drooping corsages, and he really meant well even though he picked out feathery amateurish carnations for me. Sweating beer bottles and endless exuberant dancing to Billy Joel. Every time we heard the song it was like we found water in the desert. Snippets of conversations like confetti falling steadily around us. Someone stepped on my foot. In the bathroom fixing hair and makeup, asking how you look even though the person responding never takes their eyes off of themselves. Misunderstandings, loosing purses, forced dramatic conversations. Watching his every move. Sweating, grabbing, laughing. Trying to hold it together. Cash in bunches in your wallet like a 10 year old at the candy store. Lights are too bright, I cant believe you said that! I will have a glass of water. Its so late its early again.

And we realized that about 5 years of our lives had blended seamlessly into One Big Night, there was virtually no distinction, it was one hazy, buzzing, foolish, funny bundle.

And we laughed.

Thursday, November 9, 2006

The Longest Day

Have you ever had one of those days when you come home at night and you feel older than you were in the morning? You feel like you dont even know the person you were this morning because it was so long ago. If your day were a painting, there would have to be hazy blue atmosphere painted in to show the distance from the morning mountains to the clear night sitting before you.

Nothing groundbreaking even happened today, I didnt graduate or have a birthday or experience some such poignant moment. It was just a day like any other, rode the bus stared out the window onto the pond at the top of the park, sun fell on the last moments of perfectly colored fall foliage as it stood poised precariously at the end of its reign on the trees.

I met up with a friend and we talked about our progress and we have talked a lot about our lives, but tonight I got a sudden sense like we might really be going somewhere. Even though we sat in a diner, like any diner around the city, harsh lighting cast on our not-so-great food, sturdy dishware, encylopedic menus, nothing special really. But the waiter never rushed us with the check, so there was time for relaxation and sincere reflection.

And even though I am not hyped up on too much caffeine or woozy and idealistic from too much wine, I can say with certainty tonight that I am excited for the days ahead.

Patience Rules

I learned a lesson yesterday. Never get angry with anyone until you have all the facts, and even then—patience is probably the best option if you want to accomplish anything.

I had requested information from a venue we are interested in having our wedding and they never sent it. So I requested it again, they never sent it. Again I asked for it, never sent. I was beginning to get really angry and wondering how they could be so flaky. Didnt they want our business?

Then yesterday I had absolutely HAD it, so I wrote an email that was on the cusp of angry, just ever so slightly assertive. And they called me, they had tried to send it to me 4 times already and I guess it was going to my junk mail folder, which I dont check, and then I deleted it. I felt like a bit of a fool, so I apologized and thanked them.

So, two lessons were learned actually, the one stated above, and the other: check your junk mail folder peroidically there might be more than junk in there.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Work on Paper

Yesterday I was asked to send my resume to someone who will be writing a recommendation for me for graduate school. I was calm at the thought of this because at the ripe old age of 28, I have a well thought out resume that is up to date and has been spell checked 14 times. I have spent countless hours making sure the Goudy old Style font is just right and that the word spacing allows for my internships to be included on the bottom, without anything looking cramped. I am really growing up.

Until slowly, like a foul smell blowing in, I reached the conclusion that the resume that I have polished and honed for 6 years, no longer applies to my current aspiring scientist situation. I don't think that resumes define people, but I felt a jolt when I realized that its finally time to reinvent myself, on paper.

It is strange to think that I woke up so many mornings and got myself to work and tried to look presentable for meetings, and tried to fix the computers as best I could and made sure all the lines of text locked to the guides. And now, aside from a general idea of compentence, none of it matters. Although I suppose leaving any job is leaving behind the feeling that the details of it matter.

My old resume is a time capsule and I can roll it up with and place it in a box with a bunch of other musty and dusty trinkets. I know that those design years helped me get where I am today and helped shape me as a person, but it just feels scary and sad now that it is over, really over.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Unfinished Things

The other day I was in the museum and I noticed an unfinished painting and it intrigued me. I love to see process, even if the progress of the piece is now frozen in time.

I thought about unfinished things and why I like them and then I realized it is because we are all unfinished paintings, some of us at different stages than others,

Friday, November 3, 2006

Inside the Machine

When you first take a job, you are interested in how things work and what tasks you are responsible for. This is only the first superficial level of understanding how a system like an office or a studio or a lab are run.

It is so important and illuminating when you figure out how things REALLY run. As in: how the unspoken hierarchy of people is arranged and how it influences facts and progress. I have always found this a difficult thing to figure out, but some people are geniuses at it and it can make up for miles of deficiencies in hand and brain.

Last night I was reminded of someone who is extremely cunning and deceptive but, to my astonishment, manages to engender respect and adoration from everyone she encounters. She worked at my last place of work and, needless to say, I hated her. But it did me no good, she had a one way ticket to the tower of power and I was just, well, a loser in comparison.

This woman was evil, green slime leaked out of her pores, practically. But she was a magician, things happened before my eyes that could not be explained by logic or science. I hated her and her ways with such vengeance, but I admired her too. She had the only skill that matters in the end, people skills.

Again, I am reminded of how people skills trump even the most refined quiet skill. I am hit with this realization time and time again but I don’t always know what it means to have people skills. It does not mean you are honest, it means you talk a lot but you don't have to have anything worthy to say, it means you smile a lot and kid around with the people above you and it means you are confident far beyond your means.

I like to find out how these internal political systems run, and about the people who exploit them, but it takes me a while and once I have figured it out, it is usually too late for me. I have already been branded, and it is all but over.

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

A Peony is a Poem

A friend wrote this line to me in an email on the topic of peonies and I thought it was a perfectly worded ode to the flower:

“I love peonies, they are too beautiful for their own good, they cant even hold themselves up- they are so soft I just want to pet them like an animal.”