life, People (Unreal life)

Elvira

There’s a place between Namibia and New York called Monotonyville. It’s not a charming little town; there’re no “hot spots” that one must check out. In Monotonyville, there are no quaint inns, no interesting residents, and no entertainment of any sort. To write about Monotonyville makes me sleepy, but it’s important to spread the word about this place, so you never wind up here. If you ever visit, it’s next to impossible to leave. It’s rumored that in 1832 a few runaway slaves wound up in Monotonyville, and one was heard to have remarked, “I’d rather have my feet disintegrate while running to Canada than rest for one more nanosecond in this place.”

On the surface, one would think that Monotonyville’s a great place to be, as all its residents wear smiles. Empty smiles that convey nothing, but smiles nonetheless. The men and women always greet each other with one of three salutations: Good morning, Howdy, Good day!

One of the rules of the town is that throughout the day it’s necessary to maintain a steady stream of small talk. Failure to engage in meaningless chatter leads to either exile or unsolitary confinement (unsolitary confinement is where multiple residents of Monotonyville surround the accused in a wall of conversation about exercise/fashion/weight loss/child-rearing/weather/reality shows and ending any and all  conversations with a final outlook on weather conditions, “Yep, it’s raining cats and dogs. Cats and dogs I say.”

A few days ago, an amazing 68 year-old Argentinian woman rolled into town. Her name is Elvira. I know the word “amazing,” by mandate, is only superfluously and superficially used in Monotonyville, but I’m being sincere. She had a smile with something behind it, zest and blood-red nails. It seemed she had made a wrong tun on her way to Buenos Aires and wound up here. She asked for my help in getting out, with a guidebook or a map, to which I responded, “Lady if I knew how to get out of here, would we be talking now?” She looked at me gravely, and said “There’s still hope for you.”

Hope. In Monotonyville, we don’t speak often of hope, as we think “This is how things are supposed to be.” Like religionists, we believe that our lives are carved out in rocks, and hope died with John Lennon. This blood-red-nailed woman, Elvira, informed me that hope hadn’t died…it was indeed alive, and at the moment sipping Ketel One martinis with Jesse Jackson in a neighboring town.

Let me tell you a little about Elvira: she told me that she’s 68, but she looks 50. She’s obviously had a face-lift (maybe many). She got married two months ago for the third time; this time to a “fun-loving” guy and not a “stick in the mud like the last one.” She’s never had kids, and never wanted any. She divorced her first husband, because he wanted to move to California. She thinks California is “one big suburb,” just a tad more interesting than Monotonyville. She divorced her second husband after less than a year because they “didn’t click.” Her best advice was “Girl, you have to live because you’re only promised death.”

Elvira brought the promise of hope to Monotonyville, and told me to spread the word that hope’s alive. She got out of this one-policeman-on-a-horse town, but she left her magic, her energy, and her wisdom that life’s not to be simply endured half-asleep, but to be truly lived.

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life

Bella

 

(previously posted on Vox 10/11/09)

“According to the pain is the gain” – Rabbi Ben Hei Hei

In the Karate Kid, as Daniel’s bully struggles to stand, his coach clucks, “No pain, no gain,” and ever since that day I’ve wondered is “no pain, no gain” nonsense or is it true? Often it seems the phrase is an aphorism that serves only to make some poor fool feel better about pain, either self-inflicted or imposed. All across this country physical trainers are saying, “Don’t worry about the fact that your leg just fell off from too much treadmill time, your thigh looks awesome. After all, no pain, no gain!”

Lately I’ve really taken the idea of no pain, no gain to heart, as two out of three of my beauty rituals are less than pleasant. In my quest to be less hirsute, I’ve befriended a pain specialist named Bella. Bella’s not so “bella,” but she is a lovely, middle-aged woman who inflicts pain out of love. I imagine Bella’s from a little Russian town where all the women dye their hair platinum blode, regardless of their skin tone, and beat their husbands with strings of sausages (or ham if it’s fifty percent off at the local deli).

Bella’s sweet. She calls me her “little darling,” pats my head (like a kid or a poodle), and gives me an edible treat (once again, like a kid or a poodle). Despite Bella’s sweetness, she takes great professional satisfaction in torturing me. If Bella were Native-American, her name would be Mother Beautiful Pain Giver.

For years, I’ve wanted an easy, razor-free, “Oh God no more hot wax there please” life; so a few weeks ago, I searched the internet and found a star laser technician that could take me from Jubaka to forever swimsuit ready. Boldly, I walked to where multitudes of women had gone before– Hairless Land. I undressed and asked Bella to “do her thing” everywhere except my eyebrows.

With Bella there’s no time for bashfulness. No modesty. She works fast. A visit to her is like a visit with a high-class prostitute. A sadistic prostitute. First, she whips out a blue Gillette razor. “Take off your clothes.” “Put your leg in the air.” “Raise your arms.” “Higher.” She turns the machine on 40. It emits arctic air. Russian coldness in midtown. Zap. Zap. Ouch. Zap. Zap. “The other leg. Higher.” Oh my God, why am I here? “Was that a tear?” Oh God please. I always find religion on that table. It hurts! Cold, pricking jabs. Tiny samurai swords slashing my bikini line. Whack whack zap. Then it’s over, only to recommence in eight weeks.

As I lie on the white-tissued cot, I think, “This probably would make sense if I ever needed to be swimsuit ready, but I don’t.” Each day is colder than the last, there’s no beach in sight, and I’ll be fully wrapped like a cheap, Christmas gift for months, so why all this pain? Am I a masochist at heart (thigh, arm, and bikini line), or am I just an optimist with “a thing” for middle-aged Russian women? Who knows, but what I do know is that I’ll be seeing Bella until our affair’s completed.

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People (Unreal life)

Dinah

Whatever happened to Dinah? For some days now she’s been on my mind. Am I the only one thinking of Dinah or are we as a collective concerned that Dinah has been forgotten in the annals of history?

Dinah’s sister Jemima, as we know, left her humble roots in the South and became a superstar. We see her face in aisle six of the supermarket, peeking out of pantries, and gazing at us from the freezer. Ah, that Jemima, always smiling and concerned about our nourishment. Jemima’s focus on one thing– breakfast– propelled her to such fame that we began to consider her family (kinda like how God became our father, Jemima became our aunt). By concentrating on pancakes, waffles, and the requisite syrup, Jemima became the best in her field of breakfast. Many black women today count Jemima as a role model, alongside Oprah, the black singer in Josie and the Pussycats, and the journalist who got fired from ABC in 1971 for wearing her hair in its natural state.

But, the refrain remains whatever happened to Dinah? After a stint as a hat model (reputedly for her perfectly shaped head), Dinah decided to become a full-time cook. Her reputation as the best cook in Eatonville spread all over the South, and multitudes would come from far (as far as the North) to sample her fried catfish, honey-braised ribs, fried turkey wings, and homemade chili stuffing. Dinah’s hands led her to an acclaim that her head never could. Her nicknames piled up: honey-handed Dinah, sweet-fingered Dinah, Dynamite Dinah. Her little sister Jemima admired her, and hoped one day to cook like her (that never happened, as Jemima soon realized that she could only make carb-based breakfast foods). Dinah outshone every woman in Eatonville with the the sparkle in her eye, and the glaze on her babybacks.

So whatever happened to Dinah? Well, Dinah faded into obscurity after she met Sam and moved out west to Lakeport. Sam, the very epitome of tall, dark and handsome, swept into Eatonville (on a broom), and Dinah knew immediately that her life would change. She told her best friend friend Janie over biscuits and tea that she was moving to Lakeport to work for a “nice family of kid detectives;” and in two days she left town.

It seems that Dinah had the Midas touch, because everyone who came in contact with her became celebrated: her sister Jemima, her best friend Janie C. memorialized in a novel, and her young charges touted as the best, smartest kid detectives ever (The Bobbsey Twins are pretty impressive, aren’t they?).

But what happened to Dinah in Lakeport, alone in the kitchen, standing quiet in the shadows? Is she still with Sam? Is she still the best cook around? Are her hands still “honey?”

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life

Wallace

At around dinnertime, I’d like to conjure the ghost of Wallace Stevens, and ask him a few questions. I can’t think of a better ghost to meet, and discuss life and the poetic mind. Though I have tried contacting other ghosts in the past, they’ve all been so busy, and frankly rude. Would it really take so much time out of one’s ghostly day to return a phone call?

For my seance, I’ll need candles, a fringe scarf to wrap around my head, and at least one other person to bring him to earth (I hope that’s all that’s needed; should’ve paid more attention when watching The Craft). With the other ghosts, won’t say names but think “bread and fish,” I simply used Skype… Sadly, I’ve lost my Skype account and have been called an internet ghost stalker.

This is what will happen at around five-ish: the lights will begin to flicker (computer screen, etc.), an ominous rumbling will be heard (my hungry belly), a chill will sweep the room, and an old white man will appear (not my boss)– the ghost.

Wallace: Why’ve you called me here, I was in the middle of bridge?

Me: You play cards?

Wallace: No, London Bridge, helping with construction. What do you want?

Me: So, that’s what you do now. Is the after-life pure drudgery?

Wallace: The after-life for us all is ever present.

Me: Is this the beginning of a poem. How do I write one?

Wallace: Reject reality.

Me: Don’t I reject enough things everyday…and am thereby rejected?

Wallace: You asked for my help, and I’m giving it. Also, conjure the divine.

Me: God?

Wallace: God and the imagination are one.

Me: So, what’re you saying…live in a fantasy world, and pray? You sound like MC Hammer.

Wallace: What can I say?

Me: Wally, you’re not being helpful.

Wallace: Ok, a challenge then– write a poem using the words: bowl, field, berry, deathdark, quagmire, connect, risk, scarlet, rejection, sweater, thin, chair, bloom, harlequin, despair.

Me: Oh Walls, thank you! What about love… will I fall in love soon?

Wallace: Dear, you’re going to have to conjure Rumi for that one.

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life, People (Unreal life)

Lazarus

I recently read an article about a Japanese man who has spent approximately $16,000 on plastic dolls for companionship over the past decade:
http://www.reuters.com/article/2007/07/18/us-japan-sex-dolls-idUSSP10422420070718.

I was feeling a little sorry for the guy (as in “He’s pathetic!”), until he said that he was tired of dating. My feelings went from “What a weirdo” to I think “I’m turning Japanese”… I really think so.

Strangely enough, just this week, my co-worker Sonia laughingly showed me a clip for the Inflatable Husband. The Inflatable Husband is an email joke, but it has the hamsters in my head turning. I need a rubber doll! My rubber doll would not only be my inflatable husband and life partner, but my support. Literally.

Lazarus, my future doll/hubby, would be always by my side. He’d listen to my daily gripes about work without complaint, always smile, never complain about the pitch of my voice, and agree with everything I say. When I ask him “What kind of cheese is the moon made of –cheddar, goat, gruyere?” He’d let me figure it out, and not rush to answer.

Lazarus would also substitute as a pillow, and a flotation device at the pool and beach (when, and if, the weather heats up), and be great back support for sit-ups. Lazarus would completely understand my extreme bitchiness, and smile and think “Oh, she’s so precious when she’s pms-ing.” The more I write about Lazarus, the more I kinda love him, and can’t wait to put my check for $18 in the mail. The best thing about Lazarus is that he’d never die, ’cause my lips would always resurrect him when he started to get a little squishy.

Imagine: (Lazarus deflated on the bed…  “He’s dead” then a few puffs, “He is risen!”)

Inflatable Husband

Inflatable Husband

  • Size: 8″ x 5″ x 4″
  • Weight: 12 oz
  • Brand: Klutter
  • Price: $12.99
  • Gift WrapGift Wrap: $4.99

I’m turning Japanese– had my hair straightened straighter than a homophobe, had eel and rice for lunch, and was extremely polite to all. This is so much better than my ruder Jamaican self…I won’t even feel the need to call anyone “Sket” today.

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life, People (Unreal life)

Jimmy the Greek

(previously posted on Vox on 12/1/09)

Jimmy the Greek sells bagels, gyros, sodas and chips from a truck in front of my office building. Every morning from nine to three, Jimmy’s truck is stationed on MLK Jr., Blvd. Rain. Snow. Sleet. Hail. He’s as constant as the running of a coke head’s nose.

No other truck on the boulevard can beat Jimmy’s prices. A bagel costs .75 cents and a coffee’s the same. When it’s a drag to walk farther than ten steps for breakfast or lunch, Jimmy’s truck is the best choice.

However, though he’s cheap, I avoid Jimmy for weeks at a time. His nosiness, which is sometimes cute, can also be just plain annoying when all one needs is a toasted bagel slathered with cream cheese. When one doesn’t want to entertain prolonged conversations about sugar daddies, Jimmy’s truck is not the best choice.

Like an old Greek father, Jimmy has always seemed genuinely concerned about my well-being, and often gives me discounts on already cheap things. When I buy a fifty cent bagel it feels like 1954 all over again (not that I was alive then). The problem is that he, also, offers unsolicited advice on my dating life every single time I see him. It seems my social well-being is a major concern of his.

Over the months, Jimmy has urged me to date his married brother-in-law, a few of his regular customers, and even the policeman who patrols MLK on his horse every afternoon (how is a policeman on a horse effective?).

This afternoon, I went to the truck for an egg and cheese on a roll, and Jimmy was in rare form. When I went to the truck, I was determined that Jimmy wouldn’t sidetrack me and get on the subject of available men in New Jersey. I was almost successful, like New Edition without Bobby (a good idea anyway). Let’s take a look at the conversation:

Me: Hey Jimmy, how was your weekend?

Jimmy: Good. My wife, she cooka everything.

Me: You’re a lucky man. Have you been married a long time?

Jimmy: Twenty-three years. My wife is perfect. I never lift a fingers at home.

Me: Great (in my head–lazy bastard). Do you have kids.

Jimmy: Yes, a boy and a girl. You hava kids?

Me: Nope.

Jimmy: You need a man to give you a kid.

Me: Like a stork?

Jimmy: You need a man. You remember the sex?

Me: What?

Jimmy: The sex.

Me: I think so.

Jimmy: I bringa bottle of wine to your apt and show you.

Me: You’re kidding.

Jimmy: Why you say that? I show you.

Me: No thanks Jimmy. Um, can I have my sandwich.

Jimmy: ( hands me the egg and cheese) We talk tomorrow.

Me: (in my head) Come on Jimmy.

 

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People (Unreal life)

The Decision Fairy

The Decision Fairy lives on the same street as Santa Claus and Jesus, and like them, if you call on her, she makes life-changing decisions. Word on the street is that she’ll make up to twenty-five decisions a day for each person, but the truth is she’s tackled up to forty for me today: what I’ll eat/wear/say/should I type this/etc./etc.

Choices and opportunities are overwhelming, and lately I need her help more than ever. The thing I love about the Decision Fairy is that she doesn’t claim that her decisions are the right ones, but she does step up to the plate and make one. In the past, and by “the past” I mean fifteen minutes ago, I haven’t always been the best at making decisions. If I were, would I have ordered three different types of rolls at the sushi restaurant when I could only eat and afford two sets?

So the latest decision that I’ve been grappling with ad nauseam is whether I should move to Jamaica or not. I’ve been swinging between definitely yes, yes, and why don’t you travel a bit before settling down in one place for a lengthy period? Oh decisions, decisions. Nice to have, hard to make.

For the last ten minutes, I’ve been calling on the Decision Fairy.  Another word on the street is that she’s involved in a biq quarrel with the Tooth Fairy and a low-watt kid who intentionally pulled out four of his teeth. Finances are always the number one reasons for arguments, aren’t they?

In my time of my need, my lovely co-worker has told me to “forget it all and become a flight attendant.” I like that advice… when DF shows up, will she say the same?

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