Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pink Trees

An hour ago we sprinted with our neighbors V & G back from the playground because the sky was suddenly black. I have great memories of sprints like that from childhood--usually from more foreboding places (the pool, or better yet, the ocean, once even the Plains of Abraham in Quebec, just about as flat and treeless a stretch of land as you can find apart from Iowa). There was also the time my parents didn't realize Charles Island was actually an island and went racing with us on shoulders for the half-mile sweep of rocks and sand as the tide came in. 

Today both boys were in strollers which made it easy, and of course they loved the panicky ride, shouting “Fast again!” whenever we came to a light. Plus they were already soaking wet from playing in a puddle at the park, so there really wasn't much of a rush. At one point Wally's therapist Jules had been about to stop him from jumping (with socks, shoes and falling-down pants) into a puddle and then stopped herself, realizing -- of course he's going to want to jump in a puddle, I would have done the same thing at his age. G. did too. So for the rest of the time there Wally and G. were pretty soaked and sandy and dirty, crashing into each other and playing with big-wheels, a game that appeared to be a cross between bumper cars and chicken. Not to classify by gender but across the playground, the only other kids there were two little girls in lovely spring dresses pouring juice smoothies into each others' cups. (I mean I'm not classifying by gender, merely describing what happened, and happens all the time. Although Wally's also very into his baby doll Arrow and gets upset when the doll's diaper falls off (see picture below)).  

V, the mom, was actually a high-school sprinter so it was only thanks to those missed lights that we were able to stay roughly together for the race home. Once inside I grabbed my camera inside and came back down with Wally because I wanted to capture these marvelous pink trees in the yard next to our building before the rain pulled down all the flowers. When we got to the lobby there was a crowd of wet cranky neighbors gathered there saying they hoped I wasn't taking Wally outside.
"Oh, it's raining?" I had thought we still had a minute to spare.
"It's not raining! It's pouring," they spat out, with a how-dare-you look I think aimed more at the sky than at me.

Wally and I did go out, and it was only a light shower. I don't know if we just missed the downpour but either way I hope he learns never to trust a wet cranky person who tells you it's pouring out and that you should stay inside. I did at first leave Wally just by the door, under the watchful eye of Adriano peering out from the laundry room.

And then I snapped a few shots of the trees, as planned.

Periodically turning around to check on Wally who was making steady progress toward me.

And then I gave up and deciding to revel in the rain and the last hurrah of pink flowers.

Kids are so much easier to take care of when you let them be kids.

I wanted to say something about how I'm glad I caught those pink flowers; they're here for such a short time. But that's such an obvious, unimaginative metaphor. Still, I'm glad I did.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A big town that lately feels like a small town

I feel bad that I didn't do much of anything for Earth Day today, nothing to help the earth that is. Alex did buy some basil and tomato plants. (He also bought curtains which means for the first time in my adult life I won't have people spying on me. Or rather people won't have the option of spying on me; I highly doubt anyone ever did. I'm so tired of blinds with missing slats and the sheer purple curtain (pictured above). I end up doubling it up with a towel and just generally adding to the dorm-room look from which my family seems incapable of escaping. I think my parents, in their mid-60s, are actually starting to. Dara has my old futon so she's still a long way off.) Anyway here's the view from where I'm typing. The palm trees on the screen-saver clicked over at that exact second. Kind of an odd touch. There has been a helicopter circling above for the past 2 hours. What are they doing when they do that? Alex always says, "They're looking for something," but is that what it is? 

The Empire State is super bright green, so that's one thing I did in honor of Earth Day. I looked at the Empire State building which is a ludicrously super bright radioactive shade of green. [Sorry, is that insensitive to say radioactive given what's going on in Japan? See this is the kind of mis-firing that goes on in my neural pathways. They're always looking for something, or rather not looking, but finding, something incredibly tangential and related only in the flimsiest way. See section on why I get so little done in post from April 1. That's why I was so good at Taboo.)

This is such a funny neighborhood. I walked down the block today with some guy shouting "Fucking pieces of sh*t. You're all f*cking pieces of sh*t." Over and over;  raging, maniacal. I didn't want to cross to the other side for fear of aggravating his mood even further. But then two minutes later I'm on 6th avenue and everything's fine and three women get out of a cab and start screaming, "That's the Empire State building!" And at the local playground you always see people you know and keep having all these coincidences like 3-degrees of separation or less. You keep thinking, "What? How is it possible that you (a mom I just met) are a speech pathologist for one of a kid that has the same SEIT as Wally?" or" What are the chances that you (my cousin) would be in Trader Joe's at the same time as I am?" Or a girl on the subway who I just started talking to who grew up a town away from me. On and on and on like that. It shouldn't be surprising anymore, it's so common, but every small world confirmation in NY seems like some kind of lucky break. We live in a big town that feels in many ways like a small town. Strange how in a big town you have pretty much everything, but still you're always looking for something. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Maybe every mom sometimes feels like Everymom

This is so odd. Searching for some tax info and came across this outrageously prosaic "Everymom" stuff written in 2009.

No matter how many dishes you do, they're never done, no matter how many meals are prepared, someone's still hungry, no matter how many clothes you pick up off the floor, it still looks like a group of 1st-graders went tearing through your house with a costume parade. The things that always used to fit into the in-between, never-think-about-it, this-doesn't-matter-at-all moments, that minutiae, has become the center.

I don't remember feeling that, really, or at least not in a despondent, is-it-noon-yet-so-I-can-have-a-vodka-tonic way? What I do remember feeling (and still often feel) is how odd it is that I think about things now like: grocery shopping, laundry, errands. I make To Do lists. I wonder what we'll have for dinner tonight (not that I usually go much further than that). I sigh at the dishwasher being clean again. HOW SPOILED CAN YOU POSSIBLY GET IN LIFE? I mean really. Really. That is appalling. But I often find myself thinking--I just unloaded that thing. It's so friggin' annoying to unload and Wally alternates between climbing on it or yanking the bottom shelf out as hard as he can so he can hear a big, loud, crash and me going "Oh Sh----". Most people turn sh*t into shoot or I remember "sugar" was popular when I was young but I do this annoying thing, "Shikes". Hate it. It annoys me so much when I say it. 

How did I live nearly 32 years without ever ONCE thinking about when I'd do laundry, shop, cook, eat or clean? Never once. It just happened or didn't or I picked up a slice of pizza on the way to the studio or whatever. And now how is it like a daily, hourly concern? I mean it's not hard to figure out why but I remember a few years back how some friends with kids had the "laundry on Tuesdays" thing or weekends spent putting Christmas ornaments away or Sundays dedicated to errands and housework. And I was always like, "What on EARTH is going on?" And they had to leave early from drinks nights. And you're like -- come on, you can't you spend one night away from your kids? Would it really kill you? But maybe it wasn't even the kids they didn't want to spend the night away from, maybe it was themselves. Maybe they got so little space to themselves, just fifteen minutes or less every day, after the kids had gone to bed, maybe to give even that up was too much of a sacrifice. (Also hangovers are one thing in an office but they don't work with dishwasher crashing.) 

It’s the old don’t judge someone before you’ve walked a mile in their Birkenstocks, I guess. 

On the back of that page in my journal is a rather amusing list..banana slugs, annual hot dog eating contest, length of intestines, waterbugs, cockroaches, dust mites. It was a book proposal. I don't know if anyone ever ended up taking it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

There's something wrong with this picture

Wally is lying in our bed right now watching Sesame Street. I have never seen him do this (lie down while awake except last July 9th when he was throwing up and glommed onto my mom). He's been there a good five minutes, totally comfortable with his head on the pillow and the blankets pulled up. I hope he's not sick while meanwhile I'm relieved thinking that he's finally learning to "regulate" his body, whatever that means. 

It's raining and I'm drinking this great cocoa coffee from Trader Joe's. I know it's not too great to be happy that my toddler is lying there like a sloth watching television, maybe not Worst Parent of the Year category, but far from best. And I've just been reading Susan Linn's The Case for Make Believe and Susan Gregory Thomas' Buy Buy Baby and all kinds of stuff on how terrible television is, especially for kids, how insidious, how Reagan deregulated children's media in 1984 making it okay for advertisers to target kids under 8. How now companies are targeting infants, starting to develop brand loyalty with newborns. How those licensed character toys don't allow kids to use their imaginations. Not to jump into an alarmist camp--I really don't think TV "in moderation" is all that bad, and even with Wally's bizarre youtube subway-train addiction it's nowhere near the American average (6 hours/day -- is that real?). I haven't seen the studies that led the American Academy of Pediatrics to recommend no TV before age 2 -- like I really don't know what it does to the brain, have no authority there. But I tend to think the dangers are mostly in what it takes away from (family time, reading, playing, relationships, physical activity). Still, taken together with over-scheduling, achievement fixations*  the widespread misconception that it's more dangerous now for kids to play outside than it was when we were growing up--it adds up to an assault on childhood. I hope that doesn't sound melodramatic. It really is horrifying the way big corporations have inserted themselves into schools by providing free resources using characters kids recognize in curriculum. They are now a major influence in education. Surely their best interests lie with their own bottom lines. As Susan Gregory Thomas points out, they are legally obligated to stockholders to put profits first. These are the people designing educational curriculum? I know I asked if the possibility that the universe might be infinite bothered anybody (it didn't seem to) but DOES THIS BOTHER ANYBODY?

What TV broadcasters want most, as David Foster Wallace points out in E Unibus Pluram: Television in U.S. Fiction, is not even for viewers to buy the sponsored products, but just to keep watching more TV. (He's not necessarily critical of TV, in fact he's rather impressed with its mastery of post-modern irony and self-conscious reflection. Read the essay, it's brilliant.) 

People designing educational curriculum want you to watch more TV. There's just something wrong with this picture. And there's something wrong with this picture here today--this quiet rainy Wednesday morning, hanging around in pajamas, drill sergeant conspicuously absent. Makes me think of one of those pictures where kids are supposed to circle rain falling down on only one person or the upside-down clock.

*Kristin told me that Susan Linn was the whisteblower who exposed Baby Einstein as a fraud.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

It's not that complicated

We had tried to see It's Complicated once over the summer at my parents' but turned it off part-way through because it didn't seem appropriate for my 12-year-old cousin Charlie. Then last night Alex and I tried to watch it again but this time he passed out before me. I was amazed that he even agreed a second time to watch it but really impressed when he kind of sighed and winced at Meryl Streep surveying her big, empty kitchen (which she for some ridiculous reason wanted to renovate so she could have a "real" kitchen) after the youngest daughter left for college. But at that point I don't think you realize she wants to renovate what is already a stunning, luxurious room, you just kind of feel bad for her being left alone (oh yeah, she's also divorced). I kind of half-smiled to myself thinking Alex felt bad enough for her to actually sigh when he followed it up with, "I just realized that I packed my lunch for tomorrow but now I'm going to have to carry it around all day because I'm going to that school." [He's going to visit a preschool on East 139th; I'm going to another, nearby. Wally is in South Ozone Park with his grandmother presumably wrestling the dogs and consuming endless amounts of orange cheese.] My grandmother Miriam who schlepped to Brooklyn every week to visit Dara and the girls even in her 90s would have shut him up immediately (and loaded him down further, of course, with several cans of V-8, a bag of almonds and several oranges, (already peeled)). 

We have one more preschool tomorrow and then will hopefully make a decision, although currently Wally's Special Instructor is trying to get his IEP changed to a smaller, specialized classroom as the schools that have met him said they'd never take him in an integrated (half "typically developing" and half delayed). Not necessarily that he's so delayed but that he's so disruptive and would not get enough one-on-one time. 

Alex doesn't mind carrying things like amps or bookshelves or couches but he doesn't like to schlep. It's really weird. Even just a big water bottle he considers a nuisance on the subway. The lunch would have been kind of awkward to bring today (don't know if he did or not) because it was leftover pizza he made last night. He buys the dough from Luigis, a pizza place on 26th, and then makes a sauce and adds sauteed veggies. I don't know if I reported on this blog that he became a vegetarian recently (3 days after Thanksgiving, but as far as I know bearing no relation to the event). People say this all the time but he really is the LAST person in the world I would have ever expected to become a vegetarian. I remember BBQs I went to with him (true, mostly all teeming with Brazilians) where no one consumed anything BUT meat. No carrot sticks, no potato chips, no macaroni salad, no pickles, nothing but chicken hearts and blood sausages and God knows what else. There was one birthday at his cousins' where I said I'll just eat whatever else they have, can always fill up on sides or dessert or whatever but there was nothing else to eat in the entire house. Not even bread. His aunt did offer me fish and I still can't get the sound of her shrieking voice out of my head when Alex said that wouldn't do either.

So anyway he made this great veggie pizza, though he told me on the phone as I schlepped back from Queens (I am always schlepping an absurd amount of stuff, often w/out good reason) that he had made a nice bulgar lentil soup with potatoes and carrots. I was disappointed, having pictured a more festive meal rather than "It's hot and there's plenty of it" (Where is that from again? Three Stooges or just something my dad used to say?) but tried to be grateful and open-minded though I couldn't picture bulgar in a soup and thought he'd probably confused that with barley. Alex is  a great cook, just instinctually, but I think to be that way you have to be willing to take chances and he's ended up with some doozies (Baking Soda in Pad Thai once to "thicken it up"...I won't go into further detail). 

So I don't know if Alex brought the cumbersome lunch with him today up to 139th. Though picturing it reminds me of my dad working as a pizza delivery boy and not realizing you had to carry the pizzas flat. Schlepping up to the 5th floor of a 5-floor walkup was no problem with the pizzas tucked tidily under his arm. He may have lasted no longer at that job than at law school, where the requirement that everyone wear a suit was met with immediate withdrawal from the program. Sometimes I think I should just blog about my dad's stories but maybe I'm conflating them all with episodes of the Three Stooges or more likely the Marx Brothers

This is one of those rambling posts that doesn't end up connecting or winding back around like an episode of Seinfeld but I gotta go. But one question I just thought of: Do Jewish people like to schlepp so much because it's sort of encoded in their hard-wiring to be homeless starting way from the Babylonian Exile? Or does it have more to do with so many comedic role models? Marx Brothers, Three Stooges, Seinfeld, Larry David, Adam Sandler...Jackie Mason, I know there are others. Or maybe they just so feakin' neurotic that they can never decide what to bring.

Anyway I invite any further thoughts on the Jewish-schlep factor and also any spoilers on It's Complicated are more than welcome. There's no way I can't sit through Meryl Streep's "Oh-isn't-life-funny-and-sad-and-wonderful-and-can-you-believe-I'm-doing-this-at-my-age and I-just-want-to-enjoy-the-moment-but-it's-all-such-a-mess" guffaw or that unclear sibling/husband or is he invisible? Jim from The Office playing a less-funny Jim from The Office for one more second (awake or asleep).

Friday, April 1, 2011

[Update: Not one further word written on post in question @ 11:06 AM]

At Night My Eyes Turn Into Videos

By the way that last one-line post wasn't meant to sound clever, paradoxical, Steven Wright-ish or anything like that. (And it didn't.) But just so I know that you know that I know that you know that I wasn't trying to sound clever or paradoxical (and I succeeded). 

(This is one of the many reasons I get so little done.)

Another is that I worry when pulling into the empty driveway of a business to turn around that the person who runs the business might get his/her hopes up that I am coming in (a natural assumption to make) when I'm really just using the driveway to turn around. This happened last week in Hudson, Massachusetts across from Hannaford's Grocery. The thought flashed across my mind--oh no, should I stop the car and go in so they don't feel bad? But then I'd have to buy something, it being an empty store and all. Until I realized it was a Psychic/Astrology place (didn't know they had those in Hudson, Mass) which meant that whoever was inside peering desperately out knew what I was planning to do and would be as non-nonplussed by my pulling out of the driveway without stopping as by the fact that the laws of gravity remained intact.

Where I realized this worrying about others' feelings had gone too far was when I was watching The Social Network later that night and felt distracted by the sandwich that the twins had given the Mark Zuckerberg character because he wasn't eating it and I was afraid they (the twins) would feel bad. The other distraction during the whole movie was this sense of familiarity about the actor who played Mark Zuckerberg (as well as the bizarre inability to separate him from the real Mark Zuckerberg, as if I had not previously watched a movie and lacked even a basic understanding of what a movie is). Finding an actor familiar is obviously not unusual, but it was a familiarity I couldn't place that somehow nagged at me. 

He was so incredibly good, he made the movie, and towards the end I finally thought I had it -- Juno! He was the nerdy boyfriend in Juno. Google: Jesse Eisenberg. Nope--not him. The Squid and the Whale? I thought maybe that was it. I loved that movie, and it's one of the few I've seen in its entirety since Wally's been born. Now whenever I peruse movies at the library or hear about them, instead of the usual categories--seen it/haven't seen it but want to/don't want to--I catalog the ones I've seen by what portion I remained in an upright position. Did I get halfway through? (Rare). 20 minutes? Opening credits? When we watch a movie Alex watches and I sleep. In most cases the part I see doesn't warrant watching the remainder. This past Thanksgiving I even took a deliberate nap (as in, removed myself from the premises) during some God-awful Gerard Depardieu number and then got up at midnight and played The New Yorker game with my cousin Charlie. I thought that was a pretty cool thing to do and proved that I hadn't entirely jumped the shark as a mid-30s SAHM. Although perhaps bragging about taking a nap during a Gerard Depardieu movie and waking up to play a board game at midnight is irrefutable proof that I have, in fact, jumped the shark many times over. My 12-year-old cousin Charlie, on the other hand, like his brother and sister, is irrefutably cool and no matter how brilliant will likely never find himself in the Mark Zuckerberg position of feeling so left out and uncool and having so much to prove. 

Back to the puzzle of why Jesse Eisenberg was irritatingly familiar. I remembered him from The Squid and the Whale, but that didn't solve it, didn't put the nagging--Where do I know him from?--feeling to rest. For nearly a week it slightly gnawed at me every now and then, I mean a really small percentage of my waking hours, but it was there.  Until yesterday when I was crossing 8th Ave at 24th street and had that breakthrough moment of clarity like George Costanza when he remembers having lost his keys in the broad jump on 86th Street. Alex, Wally and I been crossing 8th Ave at 24th street a year or so ago when that same J.E. had crossed in the other direction. Now the weird part is he kind of stopped and looked at us and seemed to be about to say hello, as if he recognized us. 


Up-and-coming actors do not stop you on the street to say hello because *they* vaguely recognize *you*. But just after it happened Alex said, "Why was that guy looking at us like that?" And I said, "Do we know him?" 
"Isn't he an actor?" 
"Is he?" 
"I think so."
"Or is he someone we know that looks like an actor?"
"Or an actor that looks like someone we know?" 
"Why is he acting like knows us?"
"Is he acting or does he know us?"
"Were we acting like we knew him?"
 "Do we know him?" 
"I don't know."

Ping-ponging back and forth like that; the mystery man, meanwhile, long gone. And it was that visual tip-of-the-tongue sensation for the rest of the walk that day until we came upon a poster of Adventureland on the side of one of New York's few remaining phone booths. That solved the puzzle of who the mystery man was, but it didn't explain his behavior. Though we'd only run into him once, not three times like the tall African man the character Jason Schwartzman plays in I Heart Huckabees (a movie I made it nearly halfway through) runs into three times. Perhaps we had both misunderstood his expression. Maybe Jesse Eisenberg had simply at that moment patted his pocket and realized he had dropped his keys, that they were in fact lying in a pothole 62 blocks uptown. That way you stop dead in your tracks when you realize you lost something. Not slow down, or turn around, or move out of the way of other people, just stop. Waiting for a psychic who knows you will move to tell you to keep moving, for fear the laws of gravity collapse.

Yesterday the minute Alex got home I pounced on him and said. "You know the guy who plays Mark Zuckerberg?" But before I even got it out he said, "That's the guy we saw that time--" and before he could get that out I said, "That's him! That's the guy!"

So I could have saved myself a fair amount of time if I had simply called Alex from the town next to Hudson, Mass that night last week after having watched the second half of The Social Network (having fallen asleep halfway through on the first but in the intervening day having forgotten to google Jesse Eisenberg) and said, "You know the guy who plays Mark Zuckerberg?" 

And what's weird is I had a sort of similar incident once with Eric Gaffney from Sebadoh. A few years ago I was crossing that part of Park Ave that turns into Union Square East when I saw someone sort of weirdly familiar crossing the other way and by the time I got close to him I realized who it was and said, "Sebadoh." He put out his hand with a kind of bewildered look and said, "That's how I know you?" I said, "Well that's how I know you." He told me about his show the next night at Southpaw and I went with my friend Lauren. I'm trying to remember if he said hello after the show or not. I don't think he did. 

Of course you don't even know people you supposedly you know let alone people you think you know because you've seen them play people you don't know in movies you don't remember because you fell asleep partway through. And you certainly don't know people just because they think they know you or because they read your blog and know that you know that they know that you spend an inordinate amount of time letting people know how little you know and prefer you just get back to posting inventive recipes for Bok Choy. And of course most of my celebrity run ins aren't like this. Most are more like Jude Law buying avocados in Belsize Park paying us absolutely no mind at all, even though Jeannine and I were right there and Monica's hand was on an adjacent avocado. Paying us even less mind than that Hudson, Mass psychic peering out from the narrow window of her dark purple room.

Maybe I spent too much time playing pretend as a child. Maybe I spend too much time making up stories as an adult. Maybe I've been woken up from the middle of dreams so many times I no longer have the ability to separate reality from fantasy. Maybe it's that old truth being stranger than fiction magnified by the truth of lives so mediated and media-saturated we can no longer tell the two apart. It's Sean Parker saying we're going to live our lives on the internet now. It's my niece who, at three, described her dreams this way: "At night my eyes turn into videos." It's the fact that in the daytime, our lives turn into them too, ones that get immediately posted on Facebook. It's little kids looking up from brand-new toys to smile for cameras and then shouting, "Let me see it." See what? See themselves one second before. 

The problem is that if you don't get enough sleep, and maybe also as you get older (and start qualifying a nap during a Gerard Depardieu movie a a cool thing to do) and unless you live in a cave without TV or movies or billboards or the internet, it's getting harder and harder to remember what you saw and what you thought you saw and what you dreamed and what you imagined and what flickered across the screen before you fell asleep and what flickered across the videos screens behind your eyes before you woke up and what a psychic told you would happen and what you hoped would happen and who looks famous and who's famous but looks like they're not and who's acting and who's being played and who went to the same college and who transferred out and who has a twin and who looks like someone who would have a twin and who just looks really similar to her sister and what you wanted to say and what you thought you meant and what you were going to tell someone and what story you already bored them with many times and who was in your band and who tried out and who just kind of always hung around the edges of gigs and who oddly showed up at Pianos (Michael Imperioli) but who you mistook for Alex's friend (Dario) and what you read about déjà vu in The Future of Psychic Sciences and what you thought was déjà vu but which you had actually already seen but even at the time it was happening you had asked yourself--is this really happening?

And a note to famous people who aren't all that famous*: you're confusing matters when you go around treating not-famous people who don't (intentionally) play anyone other than themselves for a living as if they are people you might know.

(No longer applies to J.E. who is pretty huge right now.)
When there's something you can't write, there's usually a reason why you can't write it.